Rock CD Review: Boston’s Gozu — The Dark Side of Being Born Again

With its new album, Revival, Gozu finally unleashes its own demonic roar.

gozu revival cover art

By Scott McLennan

Gozu’s first two records are solid hard-rock offerings, but they also fell short of staking out a distinctive identity for this Boston band. The tunes were good, the musicianship was spot on, but try and find a review of those records that didn’t quickly slot Gozu in with Queens of the Stone Age or some other heavy band with a trippy edge.

With its new album, Revival, Gozu finally unleashes its own demonic roar. Easy comparisons to other bands won’t cut it any more — the group now claims an individual place in the history of bands that specialize in delivering blissed-out riffs and dank menace.

Gozu’s first album for the Ripple Music imprint is a relentless 41 minutes, its eight tunes containing loads of unexpected detours. The quartet of singer and guitarist Marc Gaffney, lead guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto, and drummer Mike Hubbard leavens what might have been too much overarching heaviness with plenty of subtle flourishes; it’s that attention to musical detail that makes Revival not just a good album, but a freakin’ fantastic album.

Gozu still makes its home in the stoner rock camp; its songs are gloomy, foreboding, yet intoxicating. To create such an ominous sonic universe, Gozu depends on its powerful rhythm section. Grotto and Hubbard combine to come up with what sounds like a jet engine thundering though your speakers. There’s no escaping them; there are variations in tempo, but not in bulk and hulk.

With that garish beat for a foundation, Sherman and Gaffney forge the melodies and riffs, staying true to Gozu’s devilish sound, but finding fresh textures and dynamics within these restrictions. Yes, the music calls for strong, insistent guitar grooves, but Sherman never sounds like a machine or boxed in when he plays the requisite riffs.

Gonzu -- Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Gozu finally comes into its own. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Most of the songs run 5-to-8 minutes long and come with some sort of extra punch, such as the elegant guitar part woven into the diesel chug of “Oldie” or the ethereal finale that unexpectedly pop ups out of an otherwise energetically played “Big Casino.”

The album is well structured, its pace deliberate and effective, its eight tracks cut into two four-song album sides. “Nature Boy” provides the hot blast of a kick off every album needs while “Tin Chicken” makes for a chilling psychedelic closer that makes you want to go back to the beginning and listen through the entire song cycle again. You can’t get too much of Gozu’s spiritual crisis.

Though Revival serves up plenty of grand gestures, there is also “Dee Dee McCall,” a rumbling torrent of punk energy that rips through the melodrama of the other tracks. Still, “By Mennen” is the album’s centerpiece — the tune is full of distortion and speedy guitar picking, its rough sound filled with fuzz. And the track is highlighted by a vocal performance that warps the redemptive power of gospel and soul into a tormented howl. Revival puts a dark spin on the merits of being born again.

Scott McLennan covered music for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from 1993 to 2008. He then contributed music reviews and features to The Boston Globe, The Providence Journal, The Portland Press Herald and WGBH, as well as to the Arts Fuse. He also operated the NE Metal blog to provide in-depth coverage of the region’s heavy metal scene.

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