Saturday, 23 November 2013

Gnaw - Horrible Chamber

New York extreme noise terrorists Gnaw feature such disparate luminaries as Khanate's Alan Dubin and acclaimed sound designer Jun Mizumachi, so when their debut recording This Face stuck sharp aural objects into everyone's ears a few years back, no-one was really too surprised at how unpleasant an experience it was. With their follow up album Horrible Chamber, released via Seventh Rule, they're back like a recurring nightmare.
Even if you think you know what to expect, nothing can prepare you for what lurks within...

Opener 'Humming' is comprised of some of the most unpleasant sounds imaginable; atonal piano, monolithic mechanical crashes, harsh industrial noise, and Alan Dubin's voice. Yes, that's the sort of company his piercing shriek deserves. His vocal style could loosely be described as the midnight rantings of an entire psychiatric ward filtered through a single acid-gargling larynx. It is not an enjoyable sound.

Even when they take things into more 'traditional' territory on 'Of Embers', there is still an abrasiveness that almost all modern heavy bands lack. Well, it's not that they lack it, it's just that Gnaw sound genuinely dangerous compared to the endless parade of staid metal bands fucking around in forests with makeup, or mistaking 'slow and unimaginative' for 'atmospheric'. When was the last time you feared for your life on a nature hike, or felt threatened by some stoner showing off how loud his Orange cabs are?
Gnaw are the sound of urban decay and the horrors wrought by humanity.

'Worm' writhes just as slimily as it's namesake, while 'Widowkeeper' is even more unsettling for the fact it is mostly whispers and noises so faint you'd swear they were audio hallucinations. Not for the first time you may question the toll this album is taking on your mental state. When almost halfway through the colossal cymbal crashes and buzz of distortion arrives, you'll be thankful just to be hearing anything you can define as 'definitely not my slowly crumbling psyche'.
The remainder of the track lurches wildly around like the heroin slaves on the 3am bus out of whatever dark city you live in. A pretty apt analogy, as just like in that scenario, you'll be drawing your knees up and cringing into your seat praying that the track doesn't notice that you're there.

When the sparse guitar introduces 'This Horrible Chamber', the fact it has something approaching tuneful quality is suspicious. Gnaw are lulling you into a final false sense of security, so you have time to brace yourself for whatever lurks within the chamber. The sense of unease builds and builds until it's almost unbearable. You'll beg before the end, to be put out of your misery, however, over the 12-minute running time, it feels like that misery is destined to be interminable. Howls and moans, dissonant creaks, ghostly echoes, feral feedback, all expelled with the intensity of grindcore, but far more punishing than that genre could ever hope to be.

Horrible Chamber is an experience I have no desire to repeat any time soon. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Stalk these maniacs on Facebook, and visit Seventh Rule to pick up a copy of the album.

This review originally appeared at Echoes And Dust, head over there to read the full unedited version...

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