Here's something interesting from Greece. How many times have I said that over the last few years? I should thank Gynoid guitarist/vocalist Sypros Tsalouchidis as much for underlining once more just how vibrant the scene in Greece seems to be at the moment as for sending over his band's debut album for review, but I'm thankful for both. They describe what they do as both noise rock and sludge metal and that seems fair, even if it sometimes seems like the two genres are battling each other for supremacy in the Gynoid sound, albeit never to the death.
The Collar, which is the opening track proper, shows their commitment to metal, with strong riffs that are inspired, almost inevitably, by the Black Sabbath playbook. These musicians can definitely be tight when they want to be, which they are in the metal sections of The Collar and especially in Scissorman, which feels like a garage punk band covering Voivod. It's intricate and tricky and it's very tight except when it doesn't want to be tight at all. Sometimes Gynoid want to be really loose.
This is epitomised in breakdowns that sound like everything might fall apart but never does, because the band always know where they're going next and they're just keeping us on the hook. Usually these points are pause moments in songs when my imagination tells me the mobile musicians are prowling around, stirring up the pit by almost creating one themselves on stage. This works really well, but it's less effective when it's a whole song, like Garbageman (Apeman). In the briefer pauses, we know this is the calm before the storm and, sure enough, that storm promptly arrives all the more effective for the buildup. It never arrives on Garbageman.
The loose aspect is also epitomised in the vocals, which couldn't be any further from *insert favourite Sabbath vocalist here*. They're equal parts Serj Tankian, Jello Biafra and Fred Schneider of the B-52's, with perhaps a side of Blaine from the Accüsed, which boils down to very alternative and very punk. It fascinated me to see how the tight metal aspect found a way to co-exist here with the loose punk one, and I have to say it that way around because the punk side of this band's sound clearly couldn't give a monkey's about the metal side in the slightest. It drives Gynoid wherever the hell it wants, leaving the metal side to figure out ways to support it.
Sometimes they're so loose that the sound goes to very strange places indeed. My Mirror, My Master wraps up the album in a way that sometimes feels like that same garage punk band who was covering Voivod earlier is now taking on Crimson Glory but ending up more in Jandek territory instead, which is not remotely what I expect when I throw on a sludge metal album. I'm not sure if I like this song or not but Gynoid are never conventional or predictable and I know that I like that.
While it wasn't hard for me to identify favourite songs—Scissorman and Mannequin are my highlights with My Pet Worms and The Collar not too far behind—it was a heck of a lot harder to figure out what I liked about them most.
I like the fact that they're a trio, because it makes for a sparse sound with an incredibly obvious bass playing an important role, occasionally taking the lead. Panos Dedis often reminded me of Tony Sales, who was the utterly reliable bassist behind Iggy Pop when that singer was at his most unpredictable. I like the guitars on My Pet Worms a lot but I love the parts where the bass takes the lead. I like when Tsalouchidis riffs. I like the more unusual rhythms that Nikos Dimitriou finds on The Collar. But that's me.
In the end, I think whether you'll like this band or not will come down to whether you like the vocals. I can't say which are Tsalouchidis and which are Dimitriou, but they're wild and they're unrestrained. If you like the idea of sludge metal played by a punk trio with vocals that could go absolutely anywhere at all at the drop of a hat, so keeping you totally on the hop, then Gynoid might be the favourite band you haven't heard of yet.