You know Gnawed. Envision the world ending, trains derailing from their moors on tracks; skyscrapers crumbling into the roads; planes falling from the sky in a terrifying and beautiful display of defeat. That’s Grant Richardson’s project, a layered feast of power electronics and hatred assaulting you aurally via looping drones and pounding bass. His latest, Purge, is very reminiscent of Gnawed’s previous output, with Richardson’s tortured howls forming a sort of middle ground between the snaking coils of electronics and the the thumping bass tones, yet there’s a sense that Richardson has tried to limit the ferocity of Purge with some occasional droning textures.
The tape opens with “Purge,” with loops of staggering synth lines, rearing sizzles and hitches in sound accompanied by background bass. It’s a rather droning piece that nicely layers these pieces together, carrying on for a few minutes as an introduction to “Culturing the Virus”. The opening loops linger a bit too long, their force not quite taut or tense enough to carry the noise into the riveting following track. What “Purge” lacks in its meandering suspension of aggression is made up for in “Culturing the Virus,” a heavy, marching track with lots of bass and the squeaking of wheels behind the whole thing. Siren-like wails of electronics filter in, along with very distorted and wavery vocals by Richardson – and it’s a good thing the liner notes give us the apocalyptic lyrics, because otherwise deciphering them would be near impossible. The vocals are interesting and add a nuance to the track, but their loopy sound can become cartoonish on this track, like a vision of Richardson trying to yell out these destructive words while submerged underwater.
“Contempt” and “Feeding” round out Side A, the first without vocals and the second including them. “Contempt” is a faster-paced affair with double-bass-like rumbles, high-pitched squeals of sound, and occasional whirrings that come and go. There’s not a clear rhythm at first beside the continuous churning of the bass, which gives the entire thing an off-kilter jive until the whirring pulsates and some echoing electronics take control to drone out everything else. “Feeding” pulses slowly with bass, and then alarum calls repeatedly break through, echoing higher and higher, then lower and lower as background howls of electronics work their way in. It’s all very tense, especially the consistent escalations of the noise alarms; everything’s wavering like the moments before a storm is ready to let loose. We’ve got those rippling vocals from Richardson again, but this time the underwater feeling is okay because it’s as if the noise is surging over his head.
And to move on to Side B, there’s a very similar sound as “Feeding”, as if each track is moving onward in a layer of rotating sound. “Bricklayer” continues the vocal onslaught, and again there’s a constant bass movement with feedback squeals behind it. Fast moving, and this is a good thing because there’s really no gap in intensity from the A and B side, no real way out of Gnawed’s aggressive disgust – and when the scraping electronics come in it’s really just icing on the powerful cake Richardson has baked (or some proverbial phrase like that). “Saturation” continues the movement, squeaking electronics, powerful bass, and those similar feedback lines oscillating with a rumble that seems like a marching band has taken residence in your house.
Simply, Purge starts out somewhat slow for a reason: it needs somewhere to build to, a climax of noises that must begin somewhere and makes it difficult to end. But Gnawed really hammers home with the sprawling last few tracks, heavy on the rumbles, with an explosive amount of bass and synth arrangements that are breathtaking in their anger. Especially “Human Vermin” – that track has a magnanimous amount of filth behind it. But then again, Gnawed always brings that special finesse that makes you hate life and love it at the same time.