Released: 2015, Unique Leader Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
France’s Gorod have been described as “thinking man’s death metal” over the years with good reason. Despite starting under the youthfully crass moniker Gorgasm, Gorod’s conceptually minded, jazz/funk-flecked, uber-technical death/prog metal has evolved into something that seems much more than just the stuff of music school nerds run amok.
The band’s impeccable instrumental skills and ambitions were typically matched by crafty songwriting so that despite the music’s inherent turbulence it usually had some sort of hook to reel you in. And with the lineup changes of recent years that introduced vocalist Julien "Nutz" Deyres and guitarist Nicholas Alberny in 2010 and drummer Karol Diers last year, Gorod have gotten that much tighter and smarter.
A Maze of Recycled Creeds builds on the groundwork laid on 2012's A Perfect Absolution, mixing mind-boggling complexity and wild stylistic shifts with the sort of groove, texture and guile that makes things less intimidating and more absorbing. Indeed, not only is there a greater element of accessibility, with moments of genuine melody and prominent hooks, there is some downright catchiness to be found here.
“Inner Alchemy” has a Swedish death metal riffiness to it - well, at least a good part of it. And “Dig Into Yourself” boasts straight-ahead, speed metal brevity and nifty fiery lead tradeoffs instead of the Alberny and Mathieu Pascal's more typical flamenco-like finger-walk harmonizing.
That's not to say Creeds qualifies as Gorod's “Black Album,” so to speak. Far from it. The catchier aspects are treated more as just another element of the band's expansive overall sound – one more arrow in the quiver, as it were. There is certainly nothing calculating about it, and it fits seamlessly into the overall mix, which, again, is as much a testament to the considerable skill and savvy of the band as musicians and writers as the jaw-dropping displays of pyrotechnics that surrounds it.
“The Mystic Triad Of Artistry,” “Celestial Nature” or the crazy-quilt “From Passion To Holiness” deliver all of the prog-metal razzle-dazzle you could possibly handle, as Alberny and Pascal's guitars engage in one high-speed chase after another over the roiling basslines of Ben "Barby" Claus and Diers' limber, athletic drumming. The elastic “Rejoice Your Soul” drifts into Latin jazz-metal territory with its buoyant, shimmying rhythm and unorthodox scat-like cadence, and stands as the album's most adventurously weird tune.
Despite everything that's going on here, the performances on Creeds are refreshingly loose and natural, seeming almost effortless, which is a nice change from the often clinical tech-death rigidity. The production is even a bit messy, which makes it seem all the more real and not so cut-and-paste precise. Gorod sound more accomplished and confident than ever with Creeds and show that brains, brawn and dexterity can work together to make some real magic.