Dutch post-rock/electronic outfit, GGGOLDDD, stunned the music world with the power of last year’s This Shame Should Not Be Mine LP. Scream Blast Repeat did not escape the intoxication, either. ‘A place on the end-of-year lists in the trendy alternative magazines looked like the limit to their potential, but This Shame Should Not Be Mine will open them up to new audiences,’ we remarked. Not for the faint-hearted, the band’s acclaimed masterpiece of 2022 recounted the experience of a traumatic event in the life of singer, Milena Eva, at the age of nineteen. As a survivor of rape, she put her private suffering in the public domain for all to see. It was a remarkable act of candour – even in the brave #metoo era – but it left you with the feeling that it could do irreversible damage to the woman whose words left nothing to the imagination. How do you escape people’s perception of you as a victim when you see yourself as a survivor?
There’s no doubt that GGGOLDDD’s career blossomed last year. They toured Europe with Amenra, hit the road with Mono, and shared stages with everyone from Belgian black metallers, Wiegedood, to French blackgaze pioneers, Alcest. This year, they spent most of it in the UK, whether performing at the Portals, Arctangent and Beyond the Redshift festivals; supporting This Will Destroy You and The Ocean; or hopping on the Cult of Luna tour that ended in October. It’s a wonder they found time to record a new five-track EP.
PTSD is a thank you to the fanbase that watched them grow over the last two years, but it also offers a glimpse of where they might be heading. Opener, ‘It’s Over’, could easily slot into their 2022 album. Sample bass sirens issue danger warnings in the opening bars as the curtain unfurls and the disorienting lights flood your eyeballs. A pounding drum beat clatters against you in the confusion. Milena’s voice shivers under a strong exterior. Is her ordeal over? Perhaps not on the evidence of this animated slab of industrial trip-hop. It’s never over, is it? The scalding electronics and percussive loops in the middle eight remind you that Björk’s Homogenic is the main inspiration on this music.
‘He is Not’ first appeared on the band’s 2019 album, Why Aren’t You Laughing?, as a jangly guitar saunter with a Joy Division pulse and a melancholic post-punk sense of melody. Here, it’s the complete opposite – Milena ditches the contralto monotone of the original in favour of a tortured Dido voice that clings to a melody the way a baboon clings to its mother in infancy. The guitars stay rooted at the pedal board rather than strummed. High-reverb snares crash in careful digital formation. Though not as good as the original, it still emphasis the wonderful line, “I’ve become so used to darkness / I’m surprised to see the light.”
‘Let’s hope the new-found attention does not destroy the woman who put her life on the line for this record,’ said Scream Blast Repeat last year. It seems like ‘Silence’ is the relapse she wanted to avoid. This transports Milena right back to those winter days in the aftermath of the crime, when it felt like the tranquil beauty of the world ignored her pain. Thomas Sciarone programmes the synth bass like syncopated metal guitars, yet Milena goes higher towards the soft croon of her soprano range. This contrast between aggressive electronics and fragile vocals will pull you in two different directions. That’s the point. PTSD is a rupture, a torment, a threat to one’s serenity.
GGGOLDDD’s decision to reinterpret ‘Old Habits’ from 2015’s No Image album is a risk they brush off like a fly on their shoulder. The original seeped through the amps like a sludge metal take on Americana music; this one retains the noisy guitars but strips out the intro in favour of a windchime sequence. Emma Ruth Rundle comes to mind in the original and in the new version. Enhancing the noise rock of Boris with the mystical introspection of Björk serves them well here even if you end the experience feeling like a civilian desensitised to war.
“My body and soul, collecting dust / I sit still with my thoughts,” laments Milena on closing track, ‘I Let My Hair Grow’. This is the standout composition that dares to imagine Massive Attack as an atmospheric post-rock band with glittering pianos and menacing bass loops. The wailing backing harmonies at the finale will widen your eyes and tighten the skin against your skull. You don’t need loud guitars to create heavy music. GGGOLDDD are proof of that. Will they abandon them entirely on their next record?
One has a feeling that this EP closes a chapter on the appalling atrocity carried out against GGGOLDDD’s singer in her youth. The group’s future musical direction could be a difficult evolution now that people know their music for its harrowing subject matter. Can Milena Eva face the prospect of reliving her trauma in her music and charting her recovery for the next ten years? Kristin Hayter’s decision to retire her Lingua Ignota project suggests the catharsis works for a finite amount of time in a struggle that will continue until death.
Release Date: 13/10/2023
Record Label: Artoffact Records
Standout tracks: It’s Over; I Let My Hair Grow
Suggested Further Listening: Björk – Vespertine (2001), Arca – Arca (2017), Ianai – Sunir (2022)