Saturday 22 July 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: God Root - "Salt and Rot"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: July 11, 2017
Label: Horror Pain Gore Death (Digital) &
Independent (CD)

God Root have managed to craft one of the most ambitious, progressive, and emotionally harrowing offerings of 2017.  The cosmic journey of “Salt and Rot” is one that will leave you shaken to your fleeting, human core.

“Salt and Rot” CD//DD track listing

1. Reclamation
2. From Hounds to Silent Skies
3. The Peak is Our Threshold
4. Conscious Disease

The Review
Deep time is one of those concepts I return to over and over again, hovering between meditation and obsession.  In short, deep time (or geologic time) is the scale with which we measure planetary, galactic, or universal history.  It’s the point at which humanity becomes a fraction of an instant, where the movement of tectonic plates becomes the respiration of the Earth, where the lifetimes of stars and their clustered masses indicate the inevitable decay of those things we view as eternal.  This type of timeframe literally exists outside human understanding, and breaks down into various metaphors.  Two years, for instance, is infinitesimally small – a fraction of a fraction of a second to a planetary consciousness.  Yet in human reckoning, empires collapse, dynasties ascend, species go extinct.  And, for God Root, in a brief two year span, they’ve managed to follow up an impressive debut with a masterful LP that balances human struggle with transcendent melodies. “Salt and Rot” is a shamanic expedition into the heart of entropy itself, a pitch black encapsulation of universal decay, a record written in the altered consciousness of deep time.

Like their self-titled first release, “Salt and Rot” opens with a nearly instrumental piece: “Reclamation”.  Between the tribal drumming and monastic chants, the track begins like an ascent from primordial tidal pools.  Yet with Jordan Stiff’s electronic manipulations and feedback, timeframe becomes fuzzy – harsh noise melds the prehistoric and apocalyptic while the beat crawls toward dissolution.  From Hounds to Silent Skies” refocuses the collective around a churning sludge riff.  The tremolo lead is a chilling counterpoint to the sonic and emotional heft that bursts from the speakers.  This ineffable sorrow is by design: as part of a project dubbed “Let Go”, God Root’s friends and family entered the studio to contribute their most personal thoughts and memories, which were manipulated to preserve anonymity.  These ghostly echoes through “From Hounds to Silent Skies” transform the song into an exorcism rite.  Ross Bradley’s repeated bass figures highlight the unbearable tension and chaotic tightening of Grabosky’s drum fills, culminating in complete tonal collapse.  God Root gives their nameless vocal revenants and feedback free reign before a reprise that, with its clear lead harmonies, is triumphant and transcendent.

“The Peak is Our Threshold” is a noisy, textural freak out that recalls Wayne Bell & Tobe Hooper’sTexas Chain Saw Massacre soundtrack” – another momentous work that evokes corporeal and cosmic decay.  Grabosky’s drumming, like some of the best metal drummers, is equal parts pound and swing, and here he really gets to rip.  In fact, it’s jazz as fuck.  The relative excess leads perfectly into the measured precision of album-closer “Conscious Disease”.  A delirious mix of drums, bass, restrained vocals and spoken word builds for nearly two minutes before kicking into pure sludge head banger mode.  Once again, the unpredictable lead guitar work serves as perfect counterpoint to the earthy riffing (think Celtic Frost at their most avant-garde).  In its final two minutes, “Conscious Disease” aligns around minor key guitar harmonies and propulsive rhythms that feel like some final, terrible elevation beyond the merely human into some boundless outer realm.

Simply and without reservation, “Salt and Rot” is one of the best records I’ve heard this year, and a uniquely disorienting listen.  With its balance of inhuman tones and ritual chant, it feels simultaneously outside of history and utterly indebted to it.  Packing such epic arrangements into a 33 minute record feels impossible, as lesser acts have failed to pack similar ambitions into double disc efforts.   This paradox got me back to that concept of deep time.  For some reason, the writers and artists who have captured its essence are masters of economy: H.P. Lovecraft, Ursula K. Le Guin, and the musical mystics of God Root.  They have managed to craft one of the most ambitious, progressive, and emotionally harrowing offerings of 2017 and left me craving their next revelation.  God Root will be touring the US throughout August in support of this milestone with fellow northeastern sludge masters Sunrot.  If their live ritual approaches the sheer menacing power of their recorded output, quite a few people will be singing their praises this autumn.  Whether or not you manage to witness their dark magic in person, the cosmic journey of “Salt and Rot” is one that will leave you shaken to your fleeting, human core.

“Salt and Rot” is available on CD here and digitally here

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