Gomorra – Divine Judgement Review

At last week’s regular AMG staff shaming re-education session, TheKenWord and I stood in the center of the writers’ circle and explained that our problem with thrash, despite all the riffage, had always been the vocals. Our Steely overseer prescribed a crash course in early Destruction, with the more unusual vocal delivery of Marcel Schirmer, aka Schmier. Having taken my medicine—and enjoyed both Infernal Overkill and Eternal Devastation, it should be said—I was stoked to find that the thrash promo I’d picked up on a whim actually included at least one member of Destruction. It turned out not to be the vocalist but rather their current (since last year) lead guitarist Damir Eskić. The band in question is Swiss riffsters Gomorra with their debut, Divine Judgement. Let the judging begin!

Well, strictly speaking, Divine Judgement’s only a debut if you read the promo blurb and dig no further. On closer inspection, Gomorra appears in fact to be a re-christening of the unfortunately-named Gonoreas—a theory rather supported by the fact the band’s email address is listed on Facebook as [email protected]. Gonoreas’ debut dropped in 2003, to be followed by another five full-lengths, before becoming Gomorra, with Eskić and drummer Stefan Hösli coming across to form the core of five-piece Gomorra. And right out the gate—well, after pointless atmospheric intro “Canaan”—vocalist Jonas Ambühl dispels any illusions that Gomorra are going down the well-trodden thrash route of slightly nasal, hoarse shouts that I so often struggle with. On the contrary, he’s straight off into power-esque early Iced Earth, and even Judas Priest, territory. His delivery ranges from deep, throaty cleans, through hoarse barks to a rough, faux operatic falsetto.

Ambühl’s bandmates are not far behind. Although thrash a la recent Destruction or Sodom is, unsurprisingly, at the core of the sound on Divine Judgement, Gomorra’s two guitarists, Eskić and Dominic Blum, are out to enjoy themselves. Galloping riffs and soaring leads see them at times getting perilously close to not only Iced Earth but also, occasionally, something like Gloryhammer. Album highlight “Flames of Death” canters along, dueling leads and lightning drum triplets making it impossible to do much other than bang your head and grin. “Brother We’re Damned” and “Gomorra”—although I do find bands that name tracks after themselves slightly irritating—are similarly riotous numbers that never let the pace drop. “Out of Control” and “Children of the Land” slow things down somewhat, settling into a mid-paced heavy metal chug and allowing you to catch your breath a bit.

Gomorra manage the act of balancing heavy, thrash and power metal fairly well across Divine Judgement’s 42 minutes. While at times it borders on parody, with Ambühl’s vocals somersaulting through numerous styles, it never descends into farce. No one could accuse Gomorra of a suave new take on thrash but Divine Judgement is a fun record, packed with headbangable riffs. That said, few of the riffs are that memorable and, on each listen, I found that by the time album closer “Never Look Back” wraps, I was very ready for the record to be done. It’s also a loud record, with little subtlety in the sound, making it a slightly exhausting album to listen to and, much as I enjoy Ambühl’s vocal athletics, they are too high in the mix for me.

On balance, I found Gomorra’s ‘debut’ to be a slightly mixed bag. On the one hand, solid thrashy power riffs…or powery thrash riffs perhaps…either way, plenty of riffs abound and I am on board with the vocals. On the other hand, the lack of variety, a compelling narrative, or truly memorable moments across Divine Judgement’s runtime makes it a solid, rather than classic, outing. It’s also not a huge departure from Gonoreas’ last record Minotaur, leaving me confused by the rebrand—apart, of course, from the fact that Gonoreas is a fucking god-awful name for a band.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Noble Demon
Website: facebook.com/gomorraband
Releases Worldwide: May 22nd, 2020

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