I first heard of Gorgon several years ago, when someone posted their song “From Red to Violet” in a forum thread titled “Worst Metal Songs Ever.” After listening to the song, I found I actually liked it,1 leading me to download their album The Jackal Pact2 and do a bit of research on the group. It turns out Gorgon were a cult3 French black metal act who released four albums in the 90s before ceasing activities in 2001. After “From Red to Violet” fell out of my listening rotation, I all but forgot about the group until I saw The Veil of Darkness pop up in our promo bin. By Jørn, is this the same Gorgon of olde?
It is, resurrected by vocalist and guitarist Chris Chatelet after a whopping 18 years of inactivity. Interestingly enough, while The Jackal Pact harbored a melodic and galloping riffing style reminiscent of Arghoslent, the first thing that comes to mind with Veil is rock music. First proper track “Still Six Six Six” breaks in with a vibrant, rocking guitar tone and a riff I swear I’ve heard in a Rise Against song. Nonetheless, the frantic drumming and Chatelet’s garbled rasps are firmly entrenched in the world of black metal, as are the rest of Veil’s songs. Follow-up “This is War” keeps up the ferocious energy while solidifying Gorgon‘s formula of basic songwriting, punky drumming, and aggressive riffing. Imagine Gorgoroth infused with the simplicity of modern Darkthrone and you have a good idea what these 11 tracks have in store.
As we’ve seen before, simple music lives and dies by the quality of its riffs. Fortunately, Veil‘s are pretty damn good. Chatelet has a knack for writing riffs that are catchy and assertive, as aforementioned “Six Six Six” and “War” show. “Border of the Forest” and “Depraved Conception” take this headstrong quality and infuse it with early Mayhem eerieness, while “Burned for Him” adds more variety in the form of a loping melody and a quick thrashy riff. “The Veil of Darkness” and “The Roots of My Fantasies” mix it up further with stomping Viking progressions that proudly hoist the war banner of Bathory‘s Blood Fire Death.
While most songs only possess a handful of riffs and repeat them often, Chatelet keeps things engaging by knowing exactly when to switch to a new idea. “Posthumous Bewitchment” is a prime example. Initially it feels like it’s going to be Veil‘s only filler track, until it breaks into a slow Iron Maiden-esque gallop that makes it one of the album’s most unique songs. Sadly, this doesn’t always work so well. “Six Six Six,” for instance, features a chunky reinvention of its main riff that doesn’t stick around nearly long enough before the song reverts to a previously introduced idea. Adding to the quibbles, the final riff of “Path of Doom” feels tacked on and disconnected from the rest of the song, while closer “Our Crusade” repeats the line “It’s our crusade!” almost to the point of annoyance.
Nonetheless, as the triumphant ending of “Crusade” hammers home, the song (and record as a whole) manages to succeed in spite of this. In a way it’s incredible, because Veil could easily have been a letdown. The songwriting is as basic as it comes, guitar solos (and even blast beats) are nonexistent, and the riffs are hardly the freshest out there. Yet at the same time, The Veil of Darkness possesses such a fiery spirit and simplistic charm that it’s almost impossible not to headbang along. It’s telling that the 43-minute run time goes by far quicker than you’d think. Even the somewhat loud production works surprisingly well, especially with that warm and rocking guitar tone that makes Veil stand out from other records in the style. In all Gorgon have given us an inspired, angry, fun, and surprisingly varied comeback album that’s sure to please fans who don’t need long run times or lofty concepts in their black metal. Sometimes, simple really is best.