While other bands focus on heavy hits and constant pummeling, Gorod have made themselves the Muhammad Ali of death metal: light on their feet and surgically precise, and incredibly fun to bear witness to. Unlike many of their peers, Gorod have always had a fantastic understanding of flow and dynamics, making all of their stop-and go riff switches and snappy progressive interludes flash by with the smoothness of a well-greased porpoise. Their unique brand of jazzy tech-death hasn’t been seen since 2012’s A Perfect Absolution, which I will defend as one of the best tech-death albums of the decade thus far. Now death metal’s wine-drinkingest, cheese-eatingest surrender monkeys are back to dazzle and defy, with the beautifully-fronted A Maze of Recycled Creeds.
Like A Perfect Absolution, the album begins floating like a butterfly through the airy temple audience that bears whispering witness to “Air de l’Ordre” before the band stings like a bee, flying away with “Temple of the Art-God.” It’s a dynamic and impressive song with a catchy chorus (“now let your trumpets blow!”), but only serves to further whet the palate for better material, and as you may already know, the following single “Celestia Nature” is just that; Gorod at their top, manning a chariot pulled by flaming guitars that spills notes onto the road at every jump and jostle. “Inner Alchemy” follows in the same vein but with a swaggering verse riff that’s a great example of A Maze of Recycled Creeds‘ unique personality.
Whereas A Perfect Absolution was cinematic and grandiose, loping across a huge swath of musical ground, this album is less adventurous but more focused, exploring a fast-paced crystalline riffing style. The songs are more immediate, but have to trade off individuality in order to do so. That’s not to say that the band have abandoned wacky hi-jinks, though. There’s plenty of head-scratching to be done over excellent songs like “An Order to Reclaim.” Led by Benoit Claus’ funky bass, it’s one of the catchiest songs the band has ever written and somehow manages to be incredibly heavy while flipping the bird at anything resembling traditional death metal. Not only is the bass theme ripped straight out of some cheesy Bossa Nova song, the chorus features off-beat guitar strums a la my least favorite genre, Ska. Only Gorod could conceive of this sort of absurdity, and only Gorod could pull it off.
What’s more, A Maze of Recycled Creeds is sonically unique; Gorod‘s guitars have been getting progressively cleaner since Leading Vision, and this is their least distorted tone yet; the album has tons of space in the mix because the guitars don’t dominate the low-end frequencies, which makes the bass shine and the drums pop naturally. It doesn’t sound heavy unless the band is playing something heavy, so the album feels very dynamic and taut.
After a few listens, A Maze of Recycled Creeds had me both intrigued and slightly disappointed; the songs aren’t as memorable as those on the last album, but the band’s sense of fun kept me coming back, and every time I listen to the album it gets better. Only time will tell whether I come to love it as much as A Perfect Absolution, but given the rate at which I’ve been coming back for more of it, the album will soon be tied with its predecessor for second place in the halls of Gorod release quality. Right after the Transcendence EP. Fight me.