Heavy Metal Album Review: Enjoying the Bleak Emotional Seas of Gozu’s “Remedy”
By Scott McLennan
On Remedy, Gozu sharpens and refines the strengths in its earlier recordings as it infuses into these new songs a finesse that doesn’t undercut the power of the music’s brute force.
There’s a lot to love in Gozu’s misery-filled album Remedy. Longtime fans of this heavy-groove stoner-leaning rock band will welcome what is the group’s strongest record to date, and that’s saying something, considering how high the bar was set with 2018’s Equilibrium and 2016’s Revival. On Remedy, Gozu sharpens and refines the strengths in its earlier recordings as it infuses into these new songs a finesse that doesn’t undercut the power of the music’s brute force.
Gozu has been a fixture on the Boston music scene since 2008 and has steadily grown in national stature, especially since joining the roster of Metal Blade Records.
Singer and guitarist Marc Gaffney and guitarist Doug Sherman have been part of Gozu from the beginning, while bass player Joe Grotto joined during the Revival era. Drummer Seth Botos arrived for the creation of his new album, and he delivers an outstanding performance — it is like he’s been manning the kit for these guys all along.
The one thing pretty much unchanged on Remedy is the liberal use of irreverent and funny song titles that have nothing to do with the mood, texture, or subjects of the songs.
Gozu sticks to its penchant for abstract and impressionistic lyrics in this batch of tunes, but they coalesce, at times overlap, around some central themes: abandoned hope, rattled faith, and sinister betrayals. The emotional seas in Remedy are bleak, but Gozu’s delivery keeps you hooked.
“Tom Cruise Control” opens the nine-song album with a frantic guitar riff (more homage to than theft of Tony Iommi’s classic “Paranoid” riff). A maniacal drum pattern locks in for a bit before Gaffney enters to dispense what sounds like a sketchy description of a hanging.
Gaffney is gifted with a supple voice, and that gives him way more range than your typical heavy metal singer. As a singer, he’s not afraid to apply plenty of theatrical flourish. He’ll even drop falsetto into the mix.
Sherman is the perfect foil for Gaffney. Whereas the singer tends to be the chilling and ominous presence, the guitarist can be depended on to whip things into a frenzy with dynamite solos and fierce lead work.
The record proceeds with “CLDZ,” a standout track that plunges further into the depths of despair. While Sherman, Grotto, and Botos are relentlessly — and rhythmically — beating the bejeezus out of their instruments, Gaffney seems to emerge atop a cresting beat like a surfer catching a wave and howling, “Gone away, for so long, where you been hiding.” The song seems to be intended as a thuggish admonition, especially because the band stretches out on this track, building a bleak soundscape that sets the stage for the rest of the record.
Not that every tune thereafter mirrors the sound of “CLDZ.” In fact, with barely a breath of a break after “CLDZ,” Gozu launches into “Rambo 2,” which immediately ratchets up the tempos, deploying an overall more thrashing dynamic overall. This song oozes a cold emotional emptiness; Gaffney wields the line “Those who can run never stay” like it’s a club.
“Joe Don Baker” is all spiky texture, a showcase for Botos’s furious drumming as Sherman responds with a similar rat-a-tat guitar riff.
Gozu moves into its version of the blues with “Pillow Talk.” This supplies none of the light romantic banter implied by the title. “Pillow Talk” has Gaffney and Sherman blasting off into an ether of sorrow and doubt.
“The Magnificent Muraco” alchemizes the classic metal of Black Sabbath and vintage grunge of Alice in Chains into new heavy gold, complete with Gaffney’s dead-on falsetto vocals on the song’s bridge.
Gozu dives back into the deeper psychedelic sludge with “Ben Gazzara Loves No One.” Here is one of its lyrical gems: “When I lost my mind, I found my soul.”
The band lifts the main riff from Blue Oyster Cult’s “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” for “Ash,” reworking it with lots of dynamic push and pull. As elsewhere on the album, the tune nods to the past, but it moves the sound of heavy metal forward.
Gozu goes for broke on the sprawling closer, “The Handler.” Clocking in at more than nine minutes, the song’s various segments recap many of the stylistic turns heard on the album’s other tracks. It’s a dark, trippy, and morose track — but its cinematic scope and ambition make it so much more than a dirge.
Heavy music of the sort Gozu traffics in is about delivering an immediate, palpable punch. And you definitely get lots of visceral thwacking on Remedy. But far more admirable is that the album resonates — it leaves a lasting impact.
Gozu is back on home turf June 10 to round out an outstanding metal show with Yob and Cave In at the Middle East in Cambridge.
Scott McLennan covered music for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from 1993 to 2008. He then contributed music reviews and features to the Boston Globe, Providence Journal, 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.