Gorod – Aethra [Review]

France doesn’t exactly have a massive metal scene. The notable example is, of course, the exemplary Gojira, but they’re the main heavy musical export to speak of. Digging deep will reveal a few black metal bands, but very few really make waves outside of their country. It’s got nothing to do with lack of quality, simply a result of a lack of history. With their sixth album Aethra, Gorod are showing us a little more of the brilliance France has to offer.

 

The album’s influences are apparent. From the off it’s clear they share a sonic kinship with Gojira, especially in Julien Dyers’ vocals, as they expertly segue between apocalyptically heavy and gently ethereal. Merging these two seemingly opposed styles together is intricately played guitars that call Mastodon to mind. It’s wonderfully executed melodic, progressive death metal. If that doesn’t sound appealing your ears need testing. The album falls somewhere between Gojira’s Terra Incognitia and Mastodon’s Remission: heavy as all hell, but with an undercurrent that suggests a comprehensive knowledge of melody to fit in to the brutality.

 

Caustic rhythms and labyrinthine riffing create a beastly spectacle. There’s an element of Meshuggah’s jazz-fusion styling on the solos making the songs that much more complex. Surprisingly for such a technical album, it’s incredibly catchy. The groove doesn’t let up here, and the rich thickness of the string section of the band create a weighty punch that brings the project together wonderfully.

 

Highlights are plentiful on this album. Opener, Wolfsmond is a Mastodon-sequel journey into crushing heaviness, with an oppressive sense of rage serving as a backbone. And the Moon Turned Black has mechanically precise guitars from Mathieu Pascal and Nicolas Alberny, while Karol Dier’s percussion is so fast it threatens to flay the listener with its speedy intensity. Finale, A Light Unseen, serves as a fittingly morbid end for the close of the album. Bursting with passionate cries, it feels more of a death than a beginning of an end. Musically it holds the emotional weight of bereavement. A tremendous ending to a fantastic listen.

 

Gorod are clearly as talented as their peers, and given the right platform they could ascend to great heights. With their sixth album they have proven a proficiency in their technicality, but also an understanding of songcraft. There is dark emotional heft, brutality and meticulous care on offer, all wrapped in the guise of melodic progressive metal. Wonderful.

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