By now, you’ll have learned about/salivated over the prospect of Gorguts‘ new EP, Pleiades’ Dust, which looms on my horizon like a shining oasis of pretense. If you’re unlucky enough not to have the privileges of an AMG staffer and still have to wait to listen to it, then boy do I have good news for you. The Obscuran prog death trend is still picking up steam and kicking up dust, now most pertinently in the form of New York two-piece Geryon. The side project of Krallice‘s Nicholas McMaster and Lev Weinstein, Geryon are a band I’ve overlooked, but The Wound and the Bow struck me immediately.
Geryon elevate the bass even further than Gorguts or Beyond Creation, bringing it not just to the front of the mix, but to the front of the band; guitarists be damned, this duo makes death metal without them. “Silent Command” quickly establishes what kind of album The Wound and the Bow wants to be. Through its jagged Krallice-isms and Lemay-esque buried shrieks, it dispels any anticipation of transparency, weaving distorted bass riffs in upon themselves through busy drumming, it’s unapproachable and abstract as they come, yet the band restrain themselves to relatively few riffs, instead delivering subtle variation in between repetitions. While it’s technically impressive, the song’s tedious repetition of its final riff makes for a somewhat tiring listen. The following song, “Dawn,” uses the same formula, but works much better due to its more straightforward heft and brevity.
But heft and brevity are scarce resources for travelers through The Wound and the Bow. These songs might have the prerequisites for technical death metal, but they lack the energy; sauntering at mid-pace and bereft of the drama and kineticism that listeners crave. While there’s no question as to the skill of the duo or the quality of bandmate and exemplary producer Colin Marston’s rendition, the material is severely lacking in emotion and attachment. Perhaps that’s the point – after all, Obscura is a far cry from the gory theater of Cattle Decapitation or the operatic pretensions of Fleshgod Apocalypse – but there’s a certain dreariness to this record that other detached avant-garde groups usually avoid. Even the jarring ending of the title track fails to truly impact the album, seeming like a gimmick.
“Dioscuri,” is a last-minute turn for the better, and its spacious midsection is the album’s best feature, melodic and foreboding. It’s here that Weinstein puts out his most tasteful and interesting drum performance, which unfortunately casts the rest of the album in shadow. I’m not very fond of Weinstein’s drumming style in particular, and The Wound and the Bow sees him in familiar territory, switching between one blast beat and another for the most part. Coupled with the requisite lack of polyphony in a two piece like this, and you have a pretty sparse record, sonically. Marston’s production is excellent, but half a band is never going to hit as hard as a whole band, especially when their writing is this cerebral.
Ultimately, The Wound and the Bow‘s failure is being too caught up in itself and its idol to make truly memorable music. Ulcerate‘s Everything Is Fire catalyzed interest in dissonant and experimental death metal, but it’s important to note that the album was anything but derivative, playing as much off of Immolation and Isis as off of Lemay & Co. Geryon play too close to their inspiration, and their sprawling compositions lack the immediacy of even some of their most outre counterparts such as Ad Nauseam and Baring Teeth. As art-house death metal grows towards greater saturation, it’s becoming easier to separate innovation from nostalgia, and despite Geryon‘s idiosyncratic arrangement, The Wound and the Bow fares rather poorly in the former.