If Brighton’s Gorse were neither plant nor band, they would be a tree; and an enormous, centuries-old oak tree at that, ten-men thick. The sound on their second release ‘Twisting Nature’ is as solid, inpenetrable, unwielding and dense as this implies.
Legendary in the south-east UK hardcore scene, Gorse’s sound takes in every permutation of intense guitar rock from four decades, and throws it into a swirling cauldron of circular power; no track on this six-track album is under five minutes long, and most nearer ten – Gorse are a band who let the music roll at its own speed, undulatiing and moving with it as it grows, and let’s face it, pummells.
With Jennie Howell’s rhythms seamlessly interlocking with Olly Thomas’ rumbling, ominous bass, James Parker dominates the top end, with Godspeed! You Black Emperor dynamics allied to Mars Volta charges, while his Ian McKaye (Fugazi)-esque suppressed keen rages against often indecipherable injustices. Lyric-less opener ‘The Last Battle’ is a powerful statement of intent, its hypnotic Mogwai-isms suddenly giving way halfway through to a fantastic Tubular Bells-interpreted-through-Tony Iommi coda. It’s immersive brilliance, leading the listener into distorted grace.
Elsewhere, ‘Isandlwana’ surpises with touches of sublime prog keyboards – deployed subtly and quite ingeniously into the mix. The timely ‘Suspension Of Belief’ hints at late-Cure (abrasive Rick Rubin version) and on ‘Tunnel Vision’ Gorse edge towards hummability, with echoes of QOTSA and Black Sabbath sounding through the insistent riff. ‘Humpback’ recalls a suspended Ozzy Osbourne wail, while Rollins watches nervously stage-left. Surprising guitar heroics territory looms here, Parker coming over all Jonny Greenwood towards the track’s climax.
‘Funeral Jazz’, at nearly a quarter of an hour long, is an excercise in sludge-rock insistence, testing the listener as much as being made to walk through a small town in the Scottish highlands with only Rothko paintings making up the house frontages would. It is something of a post-metal march, vocal harmonies colliding, call and response screaming, letting you know you should be aware – but of what, Gorse are too canny to tell.
I’m not pretending this album is for everyone. It is a gruelling, absorbing, exhausting test of endurance. This is presumably exactly what Gorse are aiming for: through Gaga to Facebook, The Voice to Spotify, you are given everything you think you want, as soon as you want it. Essentially a post-metal masterpiece, ‘Twisting Nature’ lets its beauty out slowly, eventually revealing itself as a confident, knowing, utterly precise beauty – after all, there was never truly anything worth having that was easy.
Sean Bw Parker
Gorse is available here.