Gnawed – Devolve (C24, Phage Tapes)

Drone, Music, Noise, Review

Devolve is angry power electronics at its finest. Five tracks of powerful, driven vocals, so much so that depletion of the listener’s energy is inherent after the relatively short run tape of this cassette. The cover of this set features x-ray photos of appendages; the J-card features a bashed-in skull and spine, and the tape has a nice print of a spinal column on both sides.

“Scum (Origins)” starts with a meandering electronic buzz and a foreboding sense of destruction, rumbling in a rhythmic, tense soundtrack of demise. Then “Evolve” smashes into the mix with an unnoticeable shift, a throbbing pulse of bass that ebbs and flows, with sudden spurts of voluminous blasts. There’s a continual drone of buzz in the background, and the occasional electronic outbursts add to the building of a very tense track, the drone surging forward and picking up momentum until the ultimate climax, where Gnawed’s distorted vocals break through the chaos. This is a fantastically-organized piece, using rhythmic blasts to generate a suffocating experience. And it also knocked a bunch of CDs off of my stereo shelf. Ending side A is “Unnatural Selection,” a squeaky track with another rhythmic bass pattern along with saw-like feedback as Grant Richardson delivers his epic vocals overtop of it. Another pummeling track that emphasizes the rumble and tumult of industrialism, and it makes me wish the J-card came with a lyrics sheet.

On the flip side, we have “Devolve (Filth)” and “Lamenting Ruin (Perdition),” two longer tracks to finish off the C24. “Devolve (Filth)” starts with a harsh feedback pitch and some crumbly bass until explosions of rumbling fuzz assault the ears with aplomb. The track is most notable for its limited bursts of noise, maintaining a somewhat rigid background texture of rumbles while electronics and filthy vocals rip the foreground to shreds. A haunting, escalating siren sound peals in the distance, while the spurts of noise pulsate and writhe under Richardson’s yells. It’s easy to fall into a trance with the slow, oscillating textures, nodding your head in worship. “Lamenting Ruin (Perdition)” continues in the same vein, bass rumbles with rhythmic static feedback squeals, along with a windy echo of electronic drone beneath it. After the destruction of “Devolve (Filth),” it’s difficult to follow up with another track, and so “Lamenting Ruin” lacks some of the grit of the previous track, but instead drones with another ominous track of distant clanging and swirling electronic peals. It brings the adrenaline down to equilibrium, and concludes the tape with much-needed release.

Devolve is exhausting to listen to with so much happening at once, and surely it was just as exhausting to create a piece so full of dark fury and tension. Gnawed’s work on this tape is some of the best noise I’ve heard this year, with ritualistic beats and driving vocal performances, along with a fascination for pairing harsh sounds with distorted rhythms. Absolutely a must for power electronics fans.

Pick it up from Phage

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