As a reviewer you receive music in a variety of ways – from the (sometimes) uninspiring download link to the excitement of a physical 12″ coloured vinyl with full cover. At times this can say a lot about the album you are about to dissect as it allows you to see into the artist’s vision. When Gorse’s Old Certainties hit the mat I was blown away by the time and effort that had gone into creating such lavish packaging, from the moody black and white photographs in the gatefold cardboard to the handcrafted lyric book. Using culinary terms, if the first bite is with the eye then Gorse are a feast to behold.
Fortunately this continues on to the music and Old Certainties sees them continuing on from the groundwork laid by their 2009 The Slumber of Artemis EP (the review for which you can read here) as they build on the challenging noise/alt rock cacophony they so carefully honed for that release.
Like their previous effort this is a hard album to pigeon hole as they have more to offer than your average Stoner Doom/Sludge band, sure they have references like Black Sabbath, Kylesa, The Jesus Lizard etc littered throughout the album, but on the strength of this release Gorse are not a band who are interested in standing still musically.
Much has changed in the camp since 2009 with Mothertrucker man Charlie Butler departing in order to concentrate on his main gig. He has been more than ably replaced though by Jennie Howell, whose impressive drumming not only underpins the whole musical landscape, but helps propel each track forward and allows guitarist and vocalist James Parker and bassist Ollie Thomas to explore all the avenues they want.
Much like the earlier EPs this is not easy or catchy listening by any stretch of the imagination. The music is a wall of noise tempered by considered intelligence. At times the album reminds me of the dearly departed (and recently resurged) Earthtone9 with its hardcore Neurosis style and Parker’s vocal delivery at times sounding similar to the midlands band’s screamer Karl Middleton’s balance of bark and melody adding flavour to the brooding remorseful music.
When they do break out into more indie and accessible passages, such as on Ramifications, the band showcase a deft touch for crafting melodies that was slightly lacking on earlier releases and addressing the lack of memorable hooks that Ollie mentioned last time out. Make no mistake – these are still challenging songs that they swirl around you in a beautiful and dense way, dropping idea after idea into the mix, but somehow this time out they seem to fit together a little bit better. This coupled with better production makes the whole experience a more digestible package – even on epic length psychedelic tracks like the eleven and a half minute closing title track.
Old Certainties is a further journey down the rabbit hole of Gorse’s heady vision and in many ways is probably best enjoyed alone in a darkened room, immersed completely in the experience, but sometimes that is no bad thing.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden