Last year, Jay Gambit surprised fans of his long running Crowhurst noise project by turning it on its head. Gambit recruited a full band and released Crowhurst, an adventurous metal record slated to be the first of a trilogy. II (appropriately named as the second record of said trilogy) features new players and an even more malevolent sound than Crowhurst.
In a recent interview, Gambit cited visionary Swans founder Michael Gira as an influence for his process of enlisting and directing a new band for each successive album. II consists of Gambit as well as two heavyweights of the extreme metal underground: Andy Curtis Brignell of Caïna and Matron Thorn of Ævangelist, both of whom have new and well received albums out. II is not just the sum of its parts, however. It’s not the forward thinking black metal of Caïna or Ævangelist’s psychedelic madness.
Like II’s predecessor, even pinning down the exact genre of II is difficult. Since Crowhurst has been playing heavy metal, they’ve been called black metal, post-black metal, doom metal, and II is certainly a combination of those elements. It’s extreme metal filtered through post-hardcore. Like on Crowhurst, Gambit plays synths and adds little splashes of noise throughout. These add subtle textures at times, and at others they become the primary focus of the record. Switching from producer Jack Shirley (of Deafheaven/Sunbather fame) to Seth Manchester/Keith Souza (The Body, Daughters) has given II a different sound and feel than Crowhurst. Gone are the lush, rich tapestries of sound which dominated that record; II is bleak, gritty stuff, really earning that “blackened” tag that’s bandied around far too often when discussing music that isn’t. II has drawn comparisons to bands ranging from Krallice to Altar of Plagues to Blut Aus Nord. Sonically, it shares little with the first two. It’s more organic and less robotic than Blut Aus Nord’s work of that nature.
Like Crowhurst, II has a brief introduction and a blown out finale. The structure is exaggerated on both the front and the back ends. It’s brief run feels split into two halves. The first five brief tracks run roughly twenty minutes; they flit by with the desperation of a starving animal, just as dangerous when cornered. Gambit’s take on heavy metal may seem straightforward compared to his history working on noise; nothing is conventional about the music contained here. It lives up to the track titles (“Cold Sweat” and “Take This Pain Away” are two) that read like an autobiography on addiction and mental illness. Gambit lends versatility to his vocals. He screams from the depths of physical and psychic pain. His deep, gothic singing has improved since Crowhurst, and repeated phrases have an entrancing effect alongside spiralling guitars. Gambit has also cited Today Is The Day as a big influence; “No Saviors” doesn’t sound too far removed from the darkest parts of their catalog. As my pal Christian put it “Dried Blood and Old Earth” is electric Miles Davis, nearly fourteen minutes of a distorted improvisational jam session. The avant-finale is a trick we’ve seen from other contemporary artists like The Body and Imperial Triumphant; in this case it has a bewildering, mind bending effect.
II showcases the skills of Matron Thorn and especially multi-instrumentalist Brignell, who is credited with playing drums, bass, guitar, and programming. II backs up the statement made by last year’s Crowhurst. It also shows Gambit’s continuous growth as an artist and now director of his records. Gambit’s noise output has always had an intensity, and both heavy metal records share that quality. It appears there is already a new lineup in the works for III. Crowhurst has set a high bar to end this trilogy, and we can only hope he carries on afterwards.