Gaza: Is The Swans Still there?

Today’s I’m going to write about one of my favorite albums, an under-appreciated classic. Actually, I’m not surprised it hasn’t seen enough acknowledgement. I’m even hesitant about writing the recommendation, because I have mixed feelings on subjecting anyone else to  such a crushing assault on your soul. But it’s worth it. That was the power of Gaza: the ability to create a strange mix of excitement and dread normally only felt by someone who has shouted that they want to get off the rollercoaster, or sexted Danny Trejo for a dick pic. They wrote music that didn’t want  to be your friend. It  was like being attacked by a hobo with a rusty syringe, barely coherent gibberish and spittle flying from his mouth as he attempted to perforate you. But then, when you looked in his eyes, you realized he was completely sane. That he was smarter than you. That maybe you were the monster. It was this sense of existential horror that Gaza’s music captured perfectly, especially on their bludgeoning first album, I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die.

Attempting to fit Gaza in a genre would require a research grant and six months, but they do share a lot in common with the earlier metalcore bands like Converge. Indeed, core genres constitute a lot of their lineage. Heavy shades of mathcore and grindcore can be seen in the album’s dark color palette, but also a sense of disappointment curdled into rage which is closer to crust  punk. What I just wasted all those words attempting to say is that Gaza’s sound is unique, defined more by a  mood than a pre-drawn musical template. And all the sludgy, angular, dissonant riffs, queasy drones and sickening gurgles on the album serve it perfectly. Hope never pokes its head out for a moment, as the album constantly lives up to the nihilistic promise of its title, and the visceral, ugly song names like Hospital Fat Bags. This is what commitment sounds like. The only catchy hooks the album has are the ones it stabs you with. It is a piece of art, built on integrity, truth and a twisted but brilliant sense of musicality.

Of course, the harsher truths of life are boring. Entertaining art is truth filtered through a sense of creativity and the creativity on show here is spectacular. There may be no hooks but there are hundreds of  incredible ideas, beautiful in their expression of misery. Often, the most noticeable, fascinating riff will have a stack of little extra  details piled on top of it and even more submerged beneath. It is an album that rewards close listening with its almost  fractal nature, extending all the way  up from the spider-like drumming  to the endlessly brilliant guitars and the abrasive vocals. Atmospherics are everywhere, little human noises of pain and suffering tucked into the  backdrop of songs to accentuate the nauseating feel of the vomited-into-the-mic vocals. This richness lets the album survive many listenings without giving up all its secrets, and makes  the process of discovering them an absolute joy, even as the heavy mood bears down on you.

I’m hitting my word limit, but I can’t say enough nice things about this nasty, nasty album. Gaza may have went their separate ways, but we can still admire the stark majesty they  created with their violent masterpiece of a debut. Album opener Calf is embedded below and you can experience the full album on Gaza’s iTunes.

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