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The Goslings - Occasion

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Artist: The Goslings

Album: Occasion

Label: Not Not Fun

Review date: Jun. 17, 2008

There's a point at which you realize the most frightening music out there is often not the most visibly aggressive. You realize, for instance, that the brutal cartoon gore-metal of Cannibal Corpse and the ballsy riffs of post-hair metal Pantera have their charm, but don't have that ability to evoke unknowable, cosmic terror, or plumb the darkest alcoves of human psychology. In the fullness of time, music that offers a more otherworldly, restrained sort of darkness is the kind that remains chill-inducing. To give examples from two different musical eras; the raw, calculated builds and explosions of early Swans and Throbbing Gristle remain evocative of real psychological damage, while Black Sabbath's funereal blues riffs and maddened vocals still retain their apocalyptic punch, even after Ozzy's transformation first into big-haired glob of rock'n'roll excess, then first-generation Reality TV clown.

There's been no shortage of bands in the past few years, many of them Swedish, who've taken to aping Sabbath with varying degrees of success. Some of these bands are good, but they never manage to sound convincingly foreboding. The legacy of those early canonical Sabbath albums lies not in those bands that copy their sounds, but in bands that––through different means––create the same horrific, Lovecraftian atmosphere. The Goslings are a band that perpetuates this legacy. Sometimes termed "psychedelic" for the scrambled wall of fuzz that blares over everything they do, their sound is a churning, howling apocalypse that sets your skeleton ringing and rattling with discomfort. With Occasion the band continues their exploration of how to most brutally grind to dust simple melodies, creating Hieronymus Bosch soundscapes that remain imminently, sickly tuneful.

The crushing static underpinned by the faintest hints of oscillating treble on "Mew" find The Goslings expanding on the same ideas as their previous release, Grandeur of Hair. The vague whispers of treble emerge momentarily from the static, revealing themselves as voices, then dive back into the morass as high pitched electronic screams. An impossibly overdriven churn of a few guitar chords thunders underneath like Holy Money-era Swans played through a broken speaker. Just as those sounds finally emerge at the forefront, the track drops out completely, leaving only soft twangings and barely audible, breathy mutterings––morbid whispers discomfiting in their quietness. The metallic clangs of "Parsley Halo", the black mass choral howls of "Vitium" (another song steeped in the mutually antagonistic misery and warped beauty of Jarboe and Gira circa 1986) and the inhuman whines of "Brohm Bramin" all serve to create entrancingly apocalyptic moods.

Occasion aspires to something transcendentally, extra-spatially horrific. If it's not apparent enough in the music, it's there in the golden calf iconography on the cover and the cryptically antediluvian lyrics. If there's a downside to Occasion it's only that music this evocative could be used in the service of exploring the immediate, all-too-human rages found in the seminal work of Swans and TG. That aside, though, the album explores gaping abysses with a superlative ear for terror, making Occasion a far more compelling and serious listen than albums by any number of Sabbath rip-offs or Floridian death metal bands.

By Matthew A. Stern

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