30 May 2018
GNOD's Chapel Perilous in The Quietus monthly Psych column
There has been a debate waging in the field of popular philosophy over whether things are, in very general terms, getting better for humanity. Members of the glass-half-full brigade include Steven Pinker and Peter Singer. Look at the medical advances we've made, they say. Violence is less common than in previous ages. Cruelty towards women, children and animals appears to be on the decline. We're generally more altruistic than we used to be. The new Arctic Monkeys album has got some quite interesting bits in it if you turn your head to one side, squint a little, and inhale paint fumes. Challenging all this is the cynicism of John Gray. Borrowing heavily from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's counterattack on the Enlightenment, Gray believes that the progress of civilisation is a dumb fallacy. If fear of nuclear weapons use has helped prevent mass armed conflict, great powers have fought one another in numerous proxy wars and the deaths of non-combatants has steadily risen. The bulk of major technological advances have been a double-edged sword. Rationalism is a utopian delusion. Alex Turner's talent as a lyric writer has become steadily worse and it's now apparent that a tranquilised otter could do a better job.
Judging by the trajectory of their output, it'd be fair to assume that Gnod sit in the latter camp, albeit coming from a more anti-capitalist stance than Gray's cheekily provocative liberal-baiting one. Last year's album was called JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE (in full caps on a blood-red background, no less). In contrast to the swirly-whirly playfulness of some of Gnod's early psychedelic handiwork, it was a bleak, angry and nihilistically Swans-like affair. Fifteen minutes long, Chapel Perilous' opening number starts off like the first note of 'Purple Haze' being struck over and over again, steadfastly refusing to break into Hendrix's euphorically funky full riff, then builds and builds into a metallic symphony of cranking harshness. "There's no space for meeeeeeeeeeee," bawl the vocals as if John Lydon and Jaz Coleman had birthed a lovechild and then left it in dustbin with nothing for company but a second-hand copy of Thomas Hardy's bleakest tome. At the tail-end of the album sits the equally fierce if punkier 'Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down', the main riff for which is kinda nu-metal if you think about it, albeit used for far more noble purposes than Coal Chamber ever mustered. In between sit more abstract numbers loaded with droney throbs, foreboding chimes, trip-metal crackles and clattering Einstürzende Neubauten percussion. It's hard to think of a better accompanying soundtrack if the world really is becoming steadily more fubarred.
See the full piece here: The Quietus