When it comes to this band, forget the past. Forget their first album and their first few years on stage. Not to say that they “sucked” or weren’t worth much before, but based on personal experience, this band is a completely different animal now. When I first heard GAWD, I classified them as metalcore almost immediately. The riffs were weird, but catchy and the vocals were hardcore/metalcore in nature (ultra aggressive in the mid range), but consistent and commanding. Now, however things have changed, and ultimately for the better in our opinion.
Two key lineup moves are almost solely responsible for this change: Travis Coffman on drums and Aaron Helfor on vocals.
Again, not taking anything away from anyone, but listening to the drums on the first GAWD album compared to their current situation is like being on a different planet. Travis is precise, fast, groovy and makes very smart decisions when it comes to the riff. Since he joined the band, he’s helped GAWD immensely with timing and heaviness, by being right in the pocket each song from beginning to end. Furthermore, Aaron Helfor’s vocals on this album soar and add a whole new dimension to GAWD’s sound as a metal band. Over the last few months, he’s really come into his own after a series of shaky, but crushing live performances. Aaron is replacing Mike Zamerski (guitar) as lead vocalist; a decision which has thrust the band firmly into the death metal realm. His punishing and consistent gutturals along with lightly sprinkled shrill highs throughout the record are pushing GAWD into new categories. Musically, they haven’t lost any of their melodies, but their heaviness is certainly covering a greater percentage of the new album.
Here’s a brief rundown of our highlights on Suicide Contagion:
Track 2, “Knife”, has a nice balance between brutality and catchy hooks. Zamerski does a lot of cool higher register fills amidst low, heavy riffing, all of which Travis and Simon (bass) compliment nicely. There’s even a cool homage to The Black Dahlia Murder early on in the song, via a quick note packed melodic thrash riff. There’s no way it was intentional, but the riff I’m referring to ironically comes from TBDM’s song, “Contagion”.
Track 4 is the title track, “Suicide Contagion”. This is easily the most brutal song on the album musically, as well as vocally. There’s nothing but straight savagery on this track for all 3 minutes and 52 seconds. Overall, it’s just a great collection of death/doom parts and quick Abysmal Dawn style death metal with dark melodies.
Track 5, “Breaking the Conditioning” (instrumental), has a great anthem style melodic riff kicking in at about the 1 minute mark, that I love. It’s ridiculously catchy throughout and carries a lot of weight in addition to its heartwarming melodies. There are also plenty of yummy heavy chord progressions in this one with some catchy dissonant feels. Zamerski’s lead play is also pretty impressive towards the end of the track, which rips into a nice fade out. Generally speaking, David Davidson could’ve easily written this song for Revocation. It cooks.
Track 6, “Thoughts and Prayers”, is a pretty deceiving one. For roughly the first 2 1/2 minutes, you’re expecting something close to brutal death metal for the entire track, but at 2:34, things get very melodic and melancholic. Zamerski likes to throw in subtle lead play that tugs on your heart strings. I’m thankful for stuff like that, because it really mixes things up and keeps certain sounds and tones from becoming stale.
Track 8 is called “GAWD Emperor”, which is easily the best song title on the album. Another thing I really enjoyed about this record was how each song had it’s own unique vibe, but was consistent with all the other tracks at the same time. GAWD have a funny way of classifying themselves despite their diverse spread. “GAWD Emperor” toggles between hoppy chord progressions and slow epic sounding doom sections. It makes for a very interesting headbang worthy blend.
The album concludes with “Exploit All Weakness”, a 5 minute epic that reminds me of a solid cross between Revocation and Rivers of Nihil. It’s jam packed with lots of low end heavy riffing, great dissonance, fast guitar and drum fills, and subtle, ambient progressions.
I still can’t believe this is the same band I saw open for Battlecross at Waiting Room in 2014. But in a lot of ways, I guess it isn’t. If you’ve written these guys off in the past for whatever reason, I’d say give Suicide Contagion a try. It’s truly a very different beast.