Ǥứŕū – Nova Lvx Review

Francisco Goya’s career was vast, touching on myriad styles and cementing him as one of the best-known Spanish painters of the 18th and 19th centuries. His final years were marked with illness, political alienation, and misanthropy, and he secluded himself in the Quinta del Sordo outside of Madrid. Although he died in France in 1828, his time in “the house of the deaf man” will be remembered as his final chapter, thanks to what would be called his “Black Paintings,” a series of fourteen untitled works that starkly utilized ominous figures, horrific themes, and madness as primary elements. One of these paintings, A Pilgrimage to San Isidro, graces French quintet Ǥứŕū’s debut Nova Lvx.

Just as the painting focuses on a spectrum of blacks, earth tones, and distortion, so Ǥứŕū does with their fusion of black metal and doom metal. Expect the typical unholy blackened trinity of shrieks, tremolo, and blastbeats, alongside the dramatic and full-bodied baritone and thicker tone of doom. Debut Nova Lvx, constructed mainly by genre newcomers (save for guitarist Rudy Chapuis of Tonantzin), is as ominous as it artwork suggests. Distorted blackened flavors with a touch of blackened death metal punishment a la Belphegor and Darkthrone screeches meet Saint Vitus laments and longwinded heaviness. The result is competent at best and boring at worst, and feels like the most milquetoast of both black and doom with uneven performances.

At times, Ǥứŕū does a good job making black/doom, and buffers their somewhat shaky debut with solid songwriting, utilizing motifs throughout. With each of four songs built around a single riff that is revisited throughout, the versatility between blackened fury and boisterous doom is not forgotten. The bookends of intro “In the Crimson Smoke” and conclusion “Nova Lux,” in particular, offer the unholy trinity of shrieks, blastbeats, and tremolo transitioned smoothly into more plodding sections of thicker riffs and baritone yells and back again. These tracks feature ominous central riffs that you will be glad to be revived, as they are reliable tethers to both styles Ǥứŕū professes. “In the Crimson Smoke” dares to fuse the two, as the baritone blares over insane blastbeats, and the start-stop punchy riff of “Nova Lux” is as ominous as it is punishing. The guitar tone is a blessed middle ground between the two styles, allowing the scathing flayed feeling of black metal without neglecting the heft of doom, resulting in a blackened death edge not unlike Belphegor. The two bookends, although never quite exceeding expectations associated with black/doom, are well-written and solid examples of the style reminiscent of The Ruins of Beverast or Woods of Ypres.

The problem with Nova Lvx is its midsection. While “In the Crimson Smoke” and “Nova Lux” follow Black/Doom for Dummies to the letter, Ǥứŕū establishes “Pilgrims on the Path of Tears” and “Bathed in Sunlight” on faulty riffs, giving little purpose to the proceedings. The former features a great dynamic swell but the riff that punctuates it feels anticlimactic, as the chord progression feels way too major for its own good. Toss in a few awkward tonal shifts, between dissonant leads and punky power chords, and the track withers under its own length. Similarly, “Bathed in Sunlight,” while not blatantly bad, is frankly underwhelming; the longest track of the album at nearly ten minutes, it never gains traction as it mumbles and groans between doom slogs and uninspired cleans for eight minutes. It finally ignites beyond, but it feels too little, too late when the blackened blastbeats do better in anticipation for the closer “Nova Lux.” Most notably, and hinted here throughout, there is nothing on Nova Lvx that sets Ǥứŕū apart. The quartet just does a good job making passable black/doom metal that feels like a crossover rather than a fusion, but little else screams unique.

There are moments when the atmosphere Ǥứŕū conjures summons the horror of Francisco Goya’s last works or A Pilgrimage to San Isidro, but too often the majority of Nova Lvx is bogged down by faulty riffs or similarities to other acts to make an impact. This is a damn shame, because they are clearly skilled at their craft, concocting their songs with a strong sense of motif and a tasteful blend of Saint Vitus-esque doom and second-wave black metal a la classic Darkthrone. The problem is they very rarely strive for anything beyond it, and too often settle for what’s passable rather than challenging. With two solid but unspectacular tracks and two lackluster ones, we settle for a pilgrimage to Santa Mediocridad.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sleeping Church Records
Websites: guru-ritual.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/gurublackmetal
Releases Worldwide: May 26th, 2023

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