Of all the bands to have caught and surfed the current wave of psychedelia that’s been cleansing third-eyes and frazzling brains across the globe, Gnod are perhaps one of the most difficult to pin down, while remaining one of the most satisfying to encounter. With so many psychic explorers happy to find a groove and mine this for all it’s worth, the Salford collective refuse to be pinned down as they twist and turn, reacting to the slings and arrows that modern life continually throws out. Each of their releases have been an individual statement that morphs from one to the other, often necessitating a fluid attitude to line-ups, collaborations and deliveries. Whereas their 2014 triple album, Infinity Machines, found Gnod stretching out into truly epic proportions, so the following release, this year’s Mirror, at just three yet substantive tracks, is a relatively short, sharp shock in comparison.
For tonight’s gig, Gnod have expanded into a sextet to accommodate two drummers on stage. Working in tandem with the two guitars, bass and electronics that themselves defy conventional usage, the overall effect is an uncompromising sheet of brutalist sound that’s an untrammelled howl of rage and disgust at a world seemingly fuelled on hypocrisy and lies. If anyone needs an apposite musical reaction to the headlines of tax havens and the increasing societal divisions then this is it.
Yet within these pummelling waves of sound lies much subtlety. The title track from the new album is characterised as much for the space it utilises and creates as the grabbing of the lapels that it evokes. Marlene Ribeiro’s bass is a bowl-quaking weapon, to be sure, but its deployment here is redolent of the low-end that emanated from Lee Perry’s Black Ark studios in the 70s. Similarly, the use of echo and delay on the guitars weave in and out to create textures that simultaneously attract and repel.
Paddy Shine’s vocals aren’t so much buried in the sound as mixed to have them act as an instrument in their own right. You’d be tempted to take him at his word during Learn To Forgive were it not for the palpable and recognisable rage at the heart of his performance, accompanied by slashing and dissonant chords and a rhythmic power akin to clenched fists relentlessly beating an immoveable wall.
As their evolution over the years has proven, Gnod have been many things to many people but they’re not for the faint-hearted. This is nothing less than a totally immersive experience that at once challenges and satisfies in equal measure and is unreservedly recommended.