GNOD are something of a enigma for me. Looking back over their discography few can deny that there have been significant highpoints, but I have to admit not all of it has landed with me. This conundrum, I guess, comes with what seems to be a constant desire to move on, and to try something different. If you’re going to be experimental then not everyone is going to get the results all the time. So it was for me with the collective’s last album ‘Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine’, an album whose sentiments of the title I could fully subscribe to, but overall felt to me just a bit too obvious and unimaginative. Don’t get me wrong I think ‘Bodies For Money’ is one of the best tracks of last year, and stands out as a high-point in the GNOD oeuvre, but while I acknowledge that the album was intended to be a stripped back statement it really didn’t strike a chord with me at all, and it is a set of tracks that I’ve come back to on more than one occasion to try to rectify.
What I guess I’m trying to say here in what is, for me, an unusually negative introduction; is that I don’t automatically assume that anything that GNOD does is going to be something that I rave over. What I will attempt to do though is approach the band’s music with as open a mind as I can… so here goes…
Well what I can say straight away is that ‘Chapel Perilous’ has had a much more immediate effect on me, it seems to me that there is much more going on here, right down to how the album has been put together. ‘Donovan’s Daughters’ is a massive fifteen minute track which opens ‘Chapel Perilous’, apparently honed through live performances during the bands long 2017 tour. Setting off simply it is not long before the hallmark GNOD guitar starts kicking in, angular and sporadic… you’re left in no doubt who this is. Then when the vocals come in I’m struck how much this iteration of the collective are indebted to post punk. There’s definitely something of the early eighties about this track… and I mean this is a good way. There’s PiL, Wire, Gang of Four… but then as ‘Donovan’s Daughters’ continues to intensity you get a sense of that being subsumed by noise to a certain extent, although the Lydonesque voice persists even though it struggles to be heard.
There is something wonderfully all encompassing about this… something that I pretty much felt I got on the third run through, and from then on its just been building inside my head as the noise becomes more industrial before taking a pause… almost a bridge… but if it is a bridge it’s somehow one that’s being built as you travel over it. No so much spontaneous, as taking the listener somewhere nebulous. Then BANG! Into the final movement with a massive riff just flying off into the stratosphere… into a heavy and dark cloud of unknowing.
These ideas take us into the heart of ‘Chapel Perilous’, a term which appeared in literature as early as the fifteenth century, and could be understood as a liminal state where we are exposed to experiences that disagree with our perceptions of reality; whether they be it spiritual, philosophical, social or even physical. A state which you could argue is at the heart of psychedelic music, and is central to this album. So while ‘Donovan’s Daughters’ may well take us to this state the following three tracks take us over the threshold. Tracks which it seems are developed much more in the studio with the involvement of Neil Francis who has returned to the GNOD collective for this project.
First up is ‘Europa’ a dark and unsettling piece that utilises some unusual percussion involving scrap metal and blacksmith’s tools, giving it something of a low realism underneath the vocal samples that advocates responsibility ‘towards the European system’. The sense of fracture here is obvious, the ‘Chapel Perilous’ for me here being the unknown future of the European Project.
‘Voice For Nowhere’ is equally bleak and anxiety driven, this sense of stepping into the unknown a clear and constant theme for the mid-section of the album. Here the post-industrial mantra hammering out a raised sense of consciousness that is anything but meditative and relaxing. Quite the opposite, the more you become subsumed by the rhythm that more uneasy you become. From what I’ve read about it there’s a danger that when you enter the ‘Chapel Perilous’ you may never leave… ‘Voice From Nowhere’ certainly draws you in to this liminal space, but the essence of the meaning here is that it’s up to you to get out again…
This is a state that is exacerbated by ‘A Body’ the third of the three ‘studio’ tracks, and probably the one that sums up the album for me. The vocals here are, to say the least, chilling and add a nuance that really takes this album to another level for me. This is a massively intense and destabilising track that personifies what I think GNOD are seeking to get across with the ‘Chapel Perilous’ motif… a place that confronts and collides with our sense of reality… it is a track that does not so much act as a siren voice guiding towards the liminal as pulls us straight into the heart of our unknowing…
Taking us out the other side is another number that has been honed on the road. ‘Uncle Frank Say Turn It Down’ is a heavy uncompromising noise track that snaps us out of our reverie and brings us back to the ante-chamber of perceived reality… we’re by no means back into the everyday, that’s never going to happen with GNOD, but we are back amongst the familiar this pummelling track being a welcome respite from the dislocation of the three central tracks of the album.
I won’t call ‘Chapel Perilous’ a return to form because there are plenty people whose opinions I value who thought ‘Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine’ was a great album. What I will say though is that through ‘Chapel Perilous’ I have come back to GNOD. For me this is an album that is far more subtle than its predecessor, an album that takes you into and out of the liminal void of the ‘Chapel Perilous’ through the bookending tracks, and then provides anyone willing to listen closely enough with an experience that is bleak and auto-confrontational, an experience that is weirdly meditative yet has that opposite effect. This is not an exploration of mindfulness, neither is it one of mindlessness. Rather it takes you into a nihilistic realm and rather brutally leaves you there… kicking the props of reality from under you… forcing you to confront your own truth… your own reality… enter at your peril!
‘Chapel Perilous’ is available to pre-order now from Rocket Recordings here.