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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: GGU:LL - Dwaling


Ggu:ll is a hypnotic drone/doom metal band from Tilburg, the Netherlands that has been active with the current line-up since 2009. This line-up, in true obscure metal style, consists of four guys known by their initials only: DvB on bass, BW on drums, GJK on guitar and WvdV also on guitar and vocals. In 2010 they released a demo called ‘Man dies when he wants’, followed by an EP in 2014 called ‘Waan:Hoon’ (Delusion:Scorn). Now it’s time for their first full-length called ‘Dwaling’ (Fallacy). In between releases they weren’t exactly sitting on their hands. Not only did they keep on writing songs, only to discard many of them because they did not meet their ever higher demands, they also kept polishing their sound by playing a lot of live shows, earning them quite a reputation in the live scene. Mind you, polishing is only metaphorically spoken, polished is probably one of the last words you’d use when you had to describe GGU:LL music. Their aim is to make you feel. Instead of just listening to it, they want you to lose yourself in their music. That is why they never write any lyrics, lyrics offer you guidance which prevents you from experiencing their music cleanly. Sounds highly complicated, but also highly interesting, so enough leads for a review here.

As with many drone/doom metal songs, the basic riffs are minimalistic, simple and effective, but never truly innovating or particularly striking. There is no doubt they are played with skill here, but they in themselves are of course not enough to grab hold of the listener and submerge him or her in the feelings of despair the way ‘Dwaling’ does. ‘Dwaling’ is a 49 minute long oppressive, burdensome journey through the darkest corners of your musical mind and awareness, split into six equally unnerving songs. Exactly what GGU:LL’s intention was with this album. Their drone/doom metal is slow, grievously heavy and, most important, drenched in darkness and evil, obviously aiming to invoke as much feelings of unease, depression, sadness and despair within the listener. This conclusion of course raises the question what exactly GGU:LL have done to achieve such a throat-grabbing atmosphere and the answer to that is a s simple as the basic riffs are: entourage!

The solid, uncomplicated basic rhythms merely are the backbones of the songs and they provide the perfect base for GGU:LL to create layer after layer of elaborate structures on, culminating in complex, haunting melodies built on amazing guitar work. Opener ‘Hoon’ (Scorn) is a bit misleading, because it does not show the band’s full potential nor the path they are about to follow. It’s a good song, but a bit on the average side in my opinion. It picks up a bit slow and has no really striking pieces or arrangements, although the slow, stretched grunts in the song are a harbinger of what lies ahead of us, which becomes clear in title song ‘Dwaling’. The screaming, haunting, black metal-esque high pitched grunts, the peculiar soundscapes surrounded by a ditto guitar sound, the church bell-like bass, everything is set to create a feeling of extreme unease with a variety of faces.

The next song, ‘Het smerige kleed van de ziel’ (The filthy gown of the soul) only adds to this. It has clean vocals for the most part, distantly reminding me of King Diamond at times, but the grunts are well represented as well. It’s those clean vocals that make this song stand out. ‘Waan’ (Delusion) takes us back to the screaming grunts and the slow, heavy pace that gets under your skin, with a leading role for the awesome bass lines here. ‘Het masker vande wereldt afgetrocken’ (Old dutch, meaning ‘The mask pulled off of the world) appears to drift along the same path until halfway through the song the guys decide to up the speed. Don’t misinterpret this, it is still a very long way from speed metal, but it proves GGU:LL has more to offer than just slow, heavy songs. Again great bass lines here, and the drum lines in the end are noteworthy as well. The album’s end is a massive, lingering piece called ‘March 28 1941, drowning’. I’m not sure if it’s intended, but the way the song is build up towards a dying end perfectly fits its title. I can imagine one experiencing something like this when drowning. Creepy.

It’s safe to say that GGU:LL’s goal to make people lose themselves in their music can easily be achieved with ‘Dwaling’, which by the way is a striking title considering all this. Their music is not easy to digest and it can create quite an oppressive atmosphere, which limits the number of people who can appreciate this type of music. A shame really, because even though there’s a distinct aim to create such an atmosphere it all comes down to how you as listener interpret the music. I think ‘Dwaling’ is a great album within the genre, with its thoughtful, complex song structures and ever-changing, yet always eerie atmosphere, that shows the considerable skill and craftsmanship the members of GGU:LL have. Doom or drone fans have no reason to hesitate, and for those new to the genre: try this for size.

Written by Henric van Essen

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GGU:LL Official Website

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