Chapel Perilous by GnodRelease date: May 4, 2018
Label: Rocket Recordings
I remember the first time I heard the menacing pulse of ‘Donovan’s Daughter’ gliding like a raptor through The Garage at Rocket 20. At first, I thought it was perhaps an improvised or only loosely planned intro into the show or another track, perhaps an older one I was less familiar with, but as soon as the vocals kicked in, I was resolutely certain that this was a gnew Gnod track because no one would forget this and no Gnodhead would, having heard this, let a newer fan miss it. My mind was totally blown at that show and I still consider that set to be the best thing I’ve ever seen and a large part of that was the mammoth 15-minute debut of ‘Donovan’s Daughter’. An instant classic instantly falling in with the likes of ‘Tron’, ‘Genocider’, ‘Bodies For Money’ and ‘White Privilage Wank’. And there, one year later, as it had been before, Gnod were back and holy fuck, was it amazing.
On the record, the opener (along with other tracks) is sang by Neil Francis which helps bring a diversity to the record from the past few Gnod releases as well as creating a nice knot around the new and old of the band to create something fresh whilst also staying true to the fluid identity and character of Gnod. I remember the first time I listened to the single as a record and getting a buzz of frisson and a rapid shiver as Neil’s opening vocal came in and I can also pinpoint the moment I felt my brain split apart tripping on LSD at Rocket 20 as Paddy screamed the track’s crescendo vocal “into the sky”. I still feel those tectonic plates of thought shifting when I hear the song now, like pulling a plaster up and poking around inside for the adrenaline rush. I feel a lysergic sense of reinvigoration when I hear the climax, like things are falling into place as the song builds, like things are making sense, as though my thoughts is a room of snakes writhing energetically through a hall of mirrors and all the reflections are my own ideas intermingling as they start to make sense and take form until I find a sense of freedom; some questionable sense of calm. Maybe that’s just me but, Gnod make me feel alive and artistically and even, spiritually invigorated. I’d even say alive…
The sophomore chamber of ‘Chapel Perilous’ is ‘Europa’; a brooding, sample-driven electronic piece reminiscent of the Infinity Machines-era of Gnod. String-like passagse surf through an ominous wall of foreboding, cutting through the dread with a seductive allure. The use of motif carries the doom from track to the next, is that what the concept of this album is? To worship one’s own peril? To embrace danger as an agent of change? A driving force? Gnod are clearly no strangers to peril or change for that matter; with a mantra like Got No Obvious Direction and music that consistently sounds like a mind travelling at lightspeed through a wormhole, who would else could curate such an accurate picture of harmony in chaos? ‘Voice From Nowhere’ seamlessly barks the narrative into an oppressive, brutalist take on its formers, the pulse manipulated into bell tolls and kraut-esque industrial-sounding beats that are by this point almost classic Gnod, if there is such a thing. It’s always hard to pinpoint what it is that remains consistent with a band constantly moving in all directions. I really wanna see what happens when Gnod and The Body collide, either that or maybe Boris, I can imagine Chip King screaming over the top of this track. That’d be fucking ridiculous.
‘A Body’ brings a change in tone. We’re in the realms of science fiction now with dystopian-malevolence and futuristic synth flutters at the helm. Neil provides a sermon of disassociation and self-mutilation; a spoken-word tour through existential horror. Trapped in the cage of human flesh and bone. It sounds terrifying in the literal and yet, so few are afraid of that as a figurative statement. You are your ideas, you are not your body. There in-lies the terror. The stabs of electric guitar charges distortion through the song like a defibrillator screaming “wake up”. “Wake up, you’re alive!” But, I doubt anyone’s really listening closely. We’re all stuck in the machine watching Gnod climbing out the cave into the light, “into the sky”.
Guitars takes further focus in the album’s closer ‘Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down’. No need to dwell too hard on the etymology of this track, it’s chief component is a monolithically face-melting riff comprised of one thunderous bassline and I’d guess two pissed-off electric guitars providing both riffage and whirling psychedelic webs. Peppered with screams that I’d guess are also performed by Neil; the resulting maelstrom solidifies Chapel Perilous as one of the most formidable Gnod releases thus far and in a seemingly flawless discography, that’s certainly something to behold.