Tuesday 11 August 2020

GoneZilla - Sang Noir (2020)

Country: France
Style: Gothic Doom Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 19 Jun 2020
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Given all the other Apocalypse Later things I've been doing recently to cut into my music review time, I've had this on repeat for so long that I don't need to actually press play any more for it to rattle around my skull.

It's an EP from France, sent to me by GoneZilla bassist Clément Fau, and it features doom/death with that balance weighted more towards the former than the latter. It reminds me a lot of early Paradise Lost, not least because of a heavy gothic influence, but with a layer of atmospheric texture that rings of a different French band, Winds of Sirius.

The vocals are primarily female and clean, melancholy and emotional, full of gothic splendour. I liked this from my first listen, but when lead vocalist Céline Revol injects an extra level of emphasis into her voice a minute into the opening title track, I knew this was going to be for me. She doesn't do that unless she needs to, but when she needs to she can always turn it up an extra notch and that's a real benefit here.

Two minutes and change into that seven minute opener, the band add an extra voice, a harsh male growl from guitarist Florent Petit that works well as a counter, especially during darker sections. Sometimes it feels like there's an ongoing battle between the elegant gothic doom side of this band and its twisted death sibling. Revol leads the former while Petit brings the latter to the battleground.

This is generally lush rather than sparse, but there's a breakdown a minute or so from the end of Antitaktai that highlights how they sound with all the atmosphere turned off, especially as the response to that breakdown is to go right into an atmospheric section with textured layers. Check out the intro to Dexter-ity II, because many bands might feature a cool guitar like that, but it's the spectral keyboards floating around it here that help to define the GoneZilla sound.

In instrumental sections, that Gothic era Paradise Lost sound springs to the fore, not that it's ever far away. That's especially the case in the second half of Dexter-ity II when the vocals give way to instrumentation. It has a more intense Gregor Mackintosh-style lead guitar, but I have to call out the rhythm section for praise here because, while I was enjoying Julien Babot's solo, I was also adoring the vicious bite of Petit's guitar and Fau's bass, not to forget the admirable patience of Florent Olivier. Babot gets more and more intense and Olivier steadfastly resists the urge to follow him.

While I like Sang Noir and Antitaktai, they're relatively immediate songs. I can't remember how many times I've listened through this EP but there was a point where I realised that Dexter-ity III is easily my favourite. It simply took longer to let me know that, growing and growing on me until I couldn't ignore it any more. The same happened with Amor Tenebris but not to the same extent.

The only negative comment I'd throw in here, beyond this being an EP rather than a full length album (and I want more, dammit), is that the best song is presumably a reworking of a song on their debut album, which came out a few years ago in 2016 and was called Chimères. Now, that's hardly a major issue and it just makes me want to track that debut down even more, but hopefully GoneZilla are keeping safe over there in Lyon and working on a new album to release in the not too distant future.

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