Way back in 2015, the great Al Kikuras gave a review of The Third Eye Gate, the debut album from Floridian black metal act Gnosis. In that review, he eloquently explained the tightrope balance of empathizing as a musician, how difficult it must be to watch someone rip an album you worked on diligently to shreds, as well as the hard work of being a reviewer doing said shredding. It’s a complete and utter duality that, as a fellow part-time musician, I can completely relate to. After all, it’s never fun to put your heart and soul into something, just to watch someone tear it to pieces. And with that, three years later, they return with The Offering of Seven and I am the man-cat to review it. Have we seen marked improvement for these worshipers of the Hellenic altar of all things black?
In short, no. That’s not to say that it’s abysmal, though. Gnosis still look back at the halcyon days of early Greek black metal, especially early Rotting Christ and Varathron. Album highlight “Golden Wings” features the album’s tightest playing between all members, especially in drummer C.V.’s fills and double-bass work. Towards the end of the song, bassist R.P. plays an interesting (if slightly sloppy) bass melody, carrying the song towards a powerful ending complete with synthesized timpani that closes the album out on a weird-yet-still-cool note. Preceding track “Dark King on the Mount” also evokes a murky, opaque atmosphere that would fit right in on Non Serviam or His Majesty at the Swamp.
But just like The Third Eye Gate didn’t deviate much from the formula laid bare by their forefathers, neither does The Offering of Seven, and it doesn’t help that some of the performances on here are sloppy besides the aforementioned bass melody on “Golden Wings.” Second song (and proper opener) “Devils and Spirits” suffers from a slightly off-time drum fill near the beginning that’s not song-killing, but still noticeable and a bit annoying. That opening guitar melody also outwore its welcome after the first few bars, and yet it’s the focal point of the song. Also, for some inexplicable reason, they covered Running Wild‘s “Evil Spirit.”1 I get the intent behind why, but it still killed the momentum nearly dead, leading proper final track “The Great Storm” to desperately try to gain higher footing.
Even the production is a throwback to olden days. Vocalist J.S. still sounds like he’s being recorded in the murkiest, most spacious of hallways, with enough echo and reverb to fill up a cavern. Also, the bass, while not hefty or all that powerful, still maintains a presence which, as a bass player myself, I greatly appreciate. But the guitars and drums suffer as a result, with the former lacking any real power or depth, and the latter sounding flatter than one of my pancakes. I get the urge to go as lo-fi as possible, but you also need the compositions to help balance that out, and sadly, those are mostly not there to accomplish such a feat.
Which sucks, because I wanted to like this more than I actually do, just as Al felt on their last album. Three years is a long time between releases, and a lot of growth can happen during that time, but even with the hint of promise and potential, the songs mostly don’t build to anything of note. Sadly, I’m just not convinced that Gnosis will get themselves out of first gear after hearing The Offering of Seven. I want to be proven wrong though.