Small Stone Recordings have one of the most enviable rosters in metal and a catalogue bursting with classic albums by classic bands so any new band entering the Small Stone world has big boots to fill and a strong legacy to preserve. Fortunately for Gozu not only do they earn their place in such illustrious company with this debut album, they kick the asses of many of their forebears!!!
Imagine if Nick Oliveri had been given free rein in early Queens of the Stone Age to display his true insanity while Chris Cornell takes some testosterone shots to sing!!! Whether tearing along as on opening track “Meth Cowboy” or holding back into a big riffed groove on “Mr Riddle” Gozu hit a stride that is equally heavy as it is melodic. The QOTSA comparisons are particularly evident on tracks such as “Reagle Beagle” with it’s four to the floor mechanical drive and high harmony vocals. Gozu are no mere 70 revivalists and incorporate twists and turns in their sound that many of their contemporaries would shy away from for not being “pure” enough. The 90’s grunge of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains makes its presence felt as much as punk rock and the classic 70’s tones of bands such as Montrose and, dare I say it Molly Hatchet on “Jamaican Luau” where the vocals could almost be Danny Joe Brown in his heyday!!!
The Devil, as they say, is in the detail here. Marc Gaffney’s lead vocal is strident and passionate but as much thought seems to have been spent on the proliferation of backing vocals and harmonies that abound throughout each track as on the lead melodies. Similarly with the guitars they are keen to experiment with tones and sounds to lift this above the norm and while for the majority of the time the band display a muscular wall of fuzz, it’s the effects that add the highlights. Some bands excel in recreating their live vibe in the studio but Gozu have used the tools at their disposal to give each part of each song the ideal sound and identity that makes this a thrilling ride through its nine tracks. As much as this album will provide the soundtrack to a few beers and a lap dance, it’s also an album that will demand you listen to it and only then will it reveal its true colours.
Small Stone’s reputation remains intact on this release. With only a few small exceptions they’re a label that has a knack of sniffing out talent and quality and Gozu look set to take their place within their revered roster…and if there’s any justice they’ll be sitting near the top of the pile!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall