Before pressing play on The Wound and the Bow, there are a couple of key points to highlight concerning Geryon‘s lineup. The duo falls somewhere between a supergroup and side project, as Nicholas McMaster (bass/vocals) and Lev Weinstein (drums) comprise Krallice‘s rhythm section and can claim membership and collaboration with a plethora of other bands, including Castevet and Woe. This alone should perk the interest of discordant metal fans who weren’t aware of the duo’s solid self-titled debut, a four-track EP/mini-album that, while brief, produced intrigue in what a lengthier follow-up might entail. This was primarily due to the descriptions stated above: Geryon is a bass and drum take on a notoriously guitar driven genre; essentially a Krallice rehearsal session prior to the arrival of Colin Marston (who produces The Wound and the Bow) and Mick Barr. But while this was certainly and interesting concept with which to compose an album, whether or not it translates into a successful project will be up to the listener’s discretion. What ultimately plagues Geryon is the fact that that McMaster and Weinstein don’t adequately address the elephant that isn’t in the room.
This is in no way meant to belittle their performances on The Wound and the Bow; to the contrary, the album allows listeners to fully appreciate how integral McMaster and Weinstein are to Krallice’s success. Thanks in large part to Marston’s production chops, McMaster’s bass has a resonant, mystic tone that accents all of his notes and riffs with a a foreboding ambiance. He capitalizes on this sound with some incredibly dense compositions that range from vibrant journeys around his fretboard to grotto-level, low-end dirges. Weinstein truly provides the backbone for all of this with drumming that knows when to be precise and when to annihilate the snare. Together, the duo produces a heavily Gorguts-indebted take on progressive tech death that remains intriguing for those willing to zone-in on the musical murk that unfolds across the album’s tracklisting. Unfortunately, herein lies the album – and Geryon’s – primary flaw.
In no way is the following argument meant to discredit bass and drum groups; bands like Om and Lightning Bolt have found incredible success with nothing but a rhythm section for their core membership. But while neither of these bands fall anywhere near the genre which Geryon operates within, both of their approaches to composition capitalize on minimal instrumentation much more effectively. Om’s stoner and psychedelic tendencies are admittedly more fitting for a guitar-less style, but they’ve been able to grow their sound to incorporate a myriad of additional instrumentation and varied vocal deliveries. Al Cisneros (Om, Sleep, etc.) also experiments with bass effects quite a bit, though not nearly as much as Brian Gibson of Lightning Bolt. He shifts the sonics of his bass to such an insane degree that it’s often unclear if he’s actually playing a guitar or some other bastardized stringed instrument.
While Geryon shouldn’t make any enormous leaps in sound, the general tactics utilized by Om and Lightning Bolt are clearly absent from The Wound and the Bow. Most importantly is the indisputable gap in Geryon’s lineup that neither McMaster nor Weinstein adequately fill. Sure, the group adds in brief ambient passages between several of the album’s tracks, and McMaster does provide some decent vocals to add a bit more variety. But the duo does nothing else to shake the album’s sparse feeling; the sense that The Wound and the Bow is an incomplete album awaiting the addition of guitar tracks and some beefed up soundscapes. And though McMaster’s playing is undeniably excellent, this doesn’t change the fact that his instrument is typically one associated with structure rather than showmanship. If the listener zones out for any length of time, his playing immediately fades into the background, only to resurface when the listener refocuses in to search for a guitar-line that the album desperately needs.
The Wound and the Bow is truly a case study in excellent parts not amounting to an adequate whole. Taken on their own, McMaster and Weinstein are exceptional musicians and an asset to any record they appear on. Yet, while there’s no harm in venturing outside of traditional band rosters, neither part of the duo does enough to compensate for Geryon’s glaring instrumental absence. What made Geryon’s debut special was its unique take on a beloved genre, but now its clear that length was a key contributor to its acclaim as well. For when the band roughly doubles the track list on The Wound and the Bow but wades in the same waters, the listener begins to realize how shallow of a pool the band resides in.
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Geryon’s The Wound and the Bow gets…