BELIEVER TEST YOUR FAITH WITH GABRIEL
Now it seems to me that Believer have done it all wrong. We’ll get to the actual content of the album later, but for now let’s just talk about band reunions for a minute. What we’ve seen over that last couple of years especially is that metal bands usually reunite for the purpose of touring only; the bands do a couple of tours state-side, play top slots at European festivals where they get to rock the biggest crowds of their careers, prove that they’re not too old and that their music is still relevant even to a new generation, and then they slip off the face of the earth again after being handsomely rewarded in cold hard cash. Touring is hard work for old farts, you didn’t think they’d do it without some financial compensation, did you?
If you record a new album after a successful tour you’ve typically outstayed your welcome to play off of recent enthusiasm. If you record a new album before touring, however, there is an opportunity to retain artistic credibility. Conversely, the skepticism is doubled because nobody knows whether you’re even a coherent live act anymore of whether the one lucky bastard with the rights to the band name is trying revitalize his career because it might seems a tad more attractive than installing dry-wall to the grave. I’m convinced that the early-on-set-mid-life-crisis has inspired more than a couple of old farts to pick up the axe again.
So Believer have chosen the second path; decided they still had something to express with their music and recorded Gabriel sans headlining tour, sans really any kind of buzz besides word of a new album and a brief collaboration with Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage ( “Non Sense Medicated Decay,” which is the worst song on the album by the way).
Unfortunately, with only two original members on the saddle, without external guidance in this self-produced effort, and, as Kurt Bachman has expressed to us that they have no immediate plans of large tours, it is pretty hard to get excited about Gabriel.
While Extraction from Mortality and Sanity Obscure were both exciting and underrated tech-thrash albums that I would encourage anyone to check out today, Gabriel takes it’s cues more along the lines of the (previously) final release Dimensions. Musically they’re very different, but they both share distracting production. This is ultimately the biggest downfall of the album: a guitar tone put through a gas-powered compressor, an annoying arrangement of samples and keyboard beeps and bloops that jump out at you from the mix and some largely buried drums. I’d never thought I’d have to complain about the drums being too quiet in a metal record in 2009, because it’s usually the opposite. The biggest musical cue seems to come from Pantera, with simpler, more groove oriented riffing replacing the thrashy excitement of the early days of the band. They’re trying to be heavy but unfortunately it doesn’t sound an awful lot like Believer.
The fact that they’re a Christian band doesn’t concern me. This is rock and roll. You can be a sober-rover in the House of God, but in the House of Roth you better be ready to party. It’s a shame Believer couldn’t have taken their reunion exclusively on the road, met some fans, had a few beers, and then politely exited stage left instead of working in a claustrophobic studio environment just to make a record that doesn’t even sound like them.
(2½ out of 5 horns)