The English underground will know TJ Fairfax and Craig Paul as members of Sheffield progressive sludge group, Archelon. That band reached their logical conclusion in 2020 when they released their final nineteen-minute EP just one month into the first national lockdown. Gozer grew out of this and evolved into something far beyond what its three new creators intended, almost as if the strange emasculation of public life at the time influenced the evolution of the music more than the tastes of its members. Ask the trio how they ended up in a post-metal paradigm, and they’re not even sure. Either way, An Endless Static is a fascinating debut record tormented by anxiety and the pain of false hope.
The first thing Gozer do is disabuse you of the notion that good things come to those who wait. A more accurate aphorism would be unexpected things come to those who ruminate. Yes, this is a bleak affair and the anguish burrows into your chest like a virus, yet Gozer understand the need for respite and solitude for those that want to live but feel condemned by life’s vagaries. Opener, ‘Into the Grey’, is far more textured than its title suggests, waiting for a full two minutes to step on the distortion pedal. The solemn beat and introverted bass groove provide the backdrop for the low-volume scream deliberations. Clean guitars only add to the relief that comes with expunging one’s burdens. Neurosis don’t sound like this. Neither do Isis. Not until 03:40 seconds do you feel the tension turning into aggression. Palm-muted guitars add to the oppression at the five-minute mark. Novelists often say that the story writes itself. The same applies here.
The feeling that Gozer allowed an outside entity called momentum to drive their music rather than long hours in the practice room is always at the back of your mind, but you can also identify the parts where more cerebral thinking guided the process. ‘Augur’ builds from a cinematic clean guitar contemplation and rouses into a gut-spilling rage. The faster drums and flirtations with blast beats show a clear science behind the composition. It’s doubtful they had a viola in mind when they first wrote this track, but Ba’al’s Richard Spencer does a fine job exposing the delicate nature of the song with his bow. You’ll catch occasional epithets that do nothing to embrace an optimistic future. “Lights out/ The sun is gone,” is the chant towards the end. You can feel the draught creeping underneath the door. This music is like an unwanted breeze. It demands a scarf. Maybe also a more serious contemplation of what it means to survive and subsist.
With unease comes claustrophobia. The eight minutes and fifty-one seconds of ‘A Fading Light’ are just like sitting in a chilly basement room with a dying light bulb to keep your eyes functioning before the darkness extinguishes them. The band include a French horn here, but not in the way you’re used to with a Celtic Frost or Triptykon menace. Indeed, Gozer are the masters of subtle minimalism, perhaps a bit too subtle with this monstrous instrument when its sole purpose is to send a shiver down your spine. No wonder their fellow Yorkshiremen in Ba’al proved to be ideal touring partners in 2021. Both bands inhabit a lonely alcove of their own that will never shelter them from the vicious gale outside.
Yet Gozer are not without groove. How strange that their music can still make you circle your head in that slow motion often reserved for a Massive Attack album. Listen how they explore the Swans/Joy Division vibe and add a layer of unhinged aggression to the dead landscapes on the excellent, ‘Desiderium’. This band are the masters of contrasting dynamics. How do they unearth such poignant beauty underneath the oppressive noise levels? You can even hear the imaginary voice of Jarboe in the intro to closing track, ‘Wintercearig’. Does this song not cry out for a tragic female soprano? Mmm… Not when they lean into the doom metal and model their chord changes on Slayer’s ‘Season in the Abyss’. Then you forget about missed opportunities. Close your eyes and Craig Paul’s riffing will entangle you in a rotating head movement that you cannot control. In case you needed reminding, Gozer are a metal band. They write heavy music. Sometimes, you want to fret the air guitar.
This reviewer saw Gozer on their 2021 tour and could not remember much from their set. Let this review be an apology. An Endless Static is an enthralling listening experience that sweeps you up in the despair of overthinking. The future is not so bright, and we’ve always known that.
Release Date: 17/06/2022
Record Label: Trepanation Recordings
Standout tracks: Into the Grey, Desiderium
Suggested Further Listening: The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic (2018), Ba’al – Ellipsism (2020), Novere – Soulless Elements EP (2021)