In the Guise of Men
As an increasingly large number of people find themselves utterly enthralled with French metal stalwarts Goijira, it was only a matter of time until other bands emerged out of the woodwork with similar takes on the notion of heavy music. Though In the Guise of Men might be from France just like their larger, more recognizable peers, ITGOM have taken some of Gojira's ideas in startlingly new directions on their 2006 demo.
If you were to ask someone about what it is that makes Gojira so distinct an entity in the first place, the answer would most definitely be the band's sense of absurdly psychedelic groove. Though angular and deep in ways that recall Meshuggah, Gojira has a certain doom aesthetic to them that makes their songs that much more crushingly epic. In stark contrast to this stands ITGOM, who have taken Gojira's trippy, glacial riffage and fused it with soaring hooks and radio-friendly catharsis. Though the music is often absurdly low, ITGOM is charting relatively new ground with a sense of oft-kilter groove that could still possibly appeal to less brutal musical tastes.
The majority of this surprising quirk stems from the work of frontman Heitham al-Sayed, whose unique set of strong pipes recalls Warrell Dane of Nevermore, Bruce Dickison of Iron Maiden, Serj from System of a Down, and Brandon Boyd of Incubus, all at once. Behind it all is a mix of riffs every bit as uncompromising in their sonic punishment as they are in their textured catchiness. Always jarring and borderline surreal, never once will ITGOM ever escape their bizarre tendencies on this demo (and most likely plenty to come) but there is a certain mainstream appeal to it all.
"Dog to Man Transpositions" starts off with a wavering guitar passage before stomping riffs and stop-on-a-dime chug sandblasts your face. Sayed lets his voice flow in-and-out of the riffs, alternating between hypnotic sing-songs and transcendant wails. The song soon enrupts into a spacious, out-there breakdown with plenty of interstellar disturbance; a punishing cascade of beatdown riffs brings things back into another soaring chorus, followed by a rhythmic breakdown that sways with all the grace of an intoxicated elephant. Unruly, massive, and joyously on edge, this is what energetic and innovative music should sound like.
"Drowner" goes right for the jugular with jarring guitar stabs and repeated swells into cosmic ambience. Sayed displays marvelous range on this song, alternating between outright singing to melodic crooning and back again. The song has a great way of shoving you off a precipice and into awkward silence, only to pull your bungee-chord snapping back and torso-first into a world of brightly-flasing choral hooks. "Drowner" isn't afraid to indulge in quiet, more harmonious passages either, but has the tendency to surprise you with tripped-out groove everytime your ears adjust to it too much.
"Metastasis in the Corpse" is an alright song, but it suffers from what I term "Meshuggah syndrome". The band weaves mesmerizing percussion and weird effects around the same angular, choppy guitar parts for an entire song; yeah, it has plenty of groove and sounds bizarre as f***, but that doesn't make things particularly interesting. It is nice sometimes to listen to this and let one's mind wander aimlessly, but for the most part, this is just technical expertise played at the expense of the listener. The stream-of-consciousness, staccato rhythm vocals are mildly intriguing, and the band does occasionaly reign in their mathematically precise musical sledgehammer for some kinder swells of open sound, but for the most part this song is a little long-in-tooth and could have been trimmed a bit.
"Sewn Receptors" redeems this quickly with a punishing and angular breakdown that sounds like the collapse of undiscovered geometries turned into brutal and dissonant music. Hallucinogenic notes hover over the horizon as vocals croon in the void and the rhythm section leads repeated charges obscenely deep into one's eardrums. Slamming yet memorable, the song balances songcraft and slaying in equal measure, the delicate balance between aggression and melody realized and subsequently exploited. Stuff like this will get ITGOM noticed sooner rather than later, and definitely establishes every single member as a whirling dynamo behind their instruments. Oh, and don't forget to check out their brain-freezing mindmelt of a breakdown midsong, leading into one of the demo's largest and most pissed-off beatdowns.
Closing cut "V is for Victory" ends things on a bang. Trance-inducing notes weave in-and-out of the listener's conciousness all while spasms of muscular and gargantuan guitar pulse rock them to the very core of their beings. In a weird twist, the quieter passages vaguely recall Incubus while the heavier sections harken to the aforementioned Gojira and/or Meshuggah. I have no idea how it works, or what forced such a distinct aural signature, but ITGOM have it and comparisons be damned, this is one original act.
To close, In the Guise of Men is a strong but short demo of post-thrash and modernist groove. Airtight and mechanical in its grinding, factory-accident like brutality, as Computer Age as this sounds neither song-writing nor staying power have been neglected. At times a bit too schizophrenic for its own good, In the Guise of Men nonetheless marks the start of an incredible journey---the first footsteps taken by a strange beast every bit at home in catchy fun as they are in violent, pummeling rage. I can't wait to see where this goes next.
In the Guise of Men's In The Guise of Men
1. Dog to Man Transpositions
3. Metastasis in the Corpse
4. Sewn Receptors
5. V is for Victory
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