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Gorslava : Chromatic Ritual Magic

Gorslava's colour-themed Psych/Stoner visions prove to be an interesting retro-occult experience, best deciphered in a '70s frame of reference.

Irony? Perhaps. I'm not enough of a musicician to pronounce definitively on whether this adheres to the chromatic scale, but - given that its fuzzy, lo-fi presentation reminds me of the wilful and unconventional progressions of Sky Shadow Obelisk (or perhaps the exploratory, genre-unspecified musings of Thera Roya) - I suspect it's probably drawn from somewhere more left-field than that. The "Chromatic" of the title, I would suggest, refers solely to the colour-themed nature of the track names, and it's not really clarified in any way by the Bandcamp description of: "A fuzzy doom transliteration of some kind of weird proto-sorcerer's field notebook digging deep into the cosmology and geography of the self". And if that isn't one of those "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" moments...well, using the auditory nature of music to convey such a purely visual image must be about as close as you can get to it.

I'll leave you to look up the exact spectral references for yourself, if you're that interested (or just buy the LP, as below). But it did amuse me to find 'meline' there, which I'd previously only encountered in its role as the single most useless word in the English language, meaning "badger-like". Well, really, even within the mustelid family, what is there that's anything like a badger, except...another badger...? Well, it turns out that it also means "quince yellow in colour", which may be a little easier to drop into casual conversation, assuming you're all clued up on what a quince actually looks like.

Anyway, whether or not you're fussed about learning new stuff like this, or defining exactly where on the pantonic scale each song fits, that's what you're getting, and the album cover gives you a clue by printing the brief, terse and allegorical lyrics in the right shade. The name Gorslava, one would guess, comes from the 1961 William Castle horror film "Mr. Sardonicus". From the sleeve, you can discover it's a solo project by Kristofer Lee (owner of Medusa Head Records), supported by a guest bassist and vocalist, and mixed and mastered by James Plotkin. I say 'sleeve', because the only physical version available is old-school black vinyl LP, being sold for a great value and probably commercially unfeasible $5 per copy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what you'll find here in a musical sense is an album of loosely occult-themed blunt, downtuned and guitar-led Stoner progressions, dripping with fuzz and feedback, and partially mirrored and counterpointed by laconic, slightly nasal, mostly clean vocal inflections. There's a percussion dimension, through bass, and half-buried drums - which sometimes sound synthesised, sometimes not - containing enough variety to keep the underlying rhythms interesting. If that all sounds a bit seventh-son-of-Electric Wizard, don't panic - the overlap is more in shared influences than actual execution. To my ears, the core guitar/vox dynamic owes more to the harder psychedelic proto-Doom of the '70s - bands like Buffalo, Bang, Dark, Wicked Lady etc. (and if you don't pick up the occasional "oh, Sabbath!" moment, you really haven't paid enough attention to the nuances of the Ozzy years). It's quite notable, and credible, that the tone of that approach, appropriately enough, shifts slightly for each track, all of which are linked by a fairly consistent and unremitting degree of heaviness, and individuated by the varying arrangements and degree of non-linear progression within the rhythm shifts. But, for sure it definitely makes me think Marshall rather than Orange (or 'nasturtium', as it's presented here...).

I'd have to concede that this sort of occult/ritual Stoner vibe is far from unique: Gorslava offer quite a tight, unfussy, yet unexpectedly twisty take on it, but nonetheless it's very much a jamming psychedelic axe attack at its musical core. If I had to place a small wager, the counterpart driver of the vocals - in the way clean Doom vocals always do - will provoke some fairly polar opinions. But, from where I'm sitting, there's absolutely nothing wrong with any of it: it's equally obvious that, where those could be considered criticisms, they're equally earnest, genuine and no-expense-spared realizations of that vision, unfettered by artificial restraints and clearly crafted with a love of the music involved. You may be on its visible-light wavelength (380-700 nanometers, or thereabouts), you may not; and I would guess either is perfectly fine as far as Kris Lee is concerned.

Personally, I rather like it, as much for attitude as anything else, and that's in a genre that seldom grabs all that much of my attention. As something heavy, fuzzy, quirky and personal, its modern-retro vibe sits well alongside both the older, original, cousins and the more contemporary practitioners of that style already in my collection. Tune in, turn on, and - in the words of The Church - "Let the colours take you down...".

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Incarnadine
2. Eau de Nil
3. Glaucous
4. Meline
5. Porphyrous
6. Thulian
7. Smaragdine
8. Nasturtium
9. Sable
10. Celeste

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes

Visit the Gorslava bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-02-05 by Mike Liassides
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