- by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2016-09-02 Label: Dissenso Records
As far as I’m aware Labirinto is yet to play the UK; a great shame considering how spectacular their explosive post-rock would sound in a cosy venue like the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds (a heavy hint there if you’re reading this guys). Gehenna follows on from 2014’s one-track epic Masao (a sprawling piece dedicated to the memory of the Fukushima 50) and sees the Brazilian post-rock collective continue their impressive run of releases.
The band first came to my attention way back in the halcyon days of 2011. Anatema saw the band use violins, cellos, guitars and even the occasional banjo to create a textured and multi-layered masterpiece. An undeniable urgency ran through the albums compositions as well as a sweeping, blissfully melancholic tone that made it such a refreshing listen. Years later and Gehenna finds the band exploring somewhat heavier territory with an equally ambitious zeal.
‘Mal Sacre’ sets the tone with a dark, monstrously heavy bombardment of riffs. The bands previous releases certainly showed an affinity with metal but it’s here that the band put their devil horns in the air and unleash something truly heavy. This is the kind of all-out riff-fest that would give the likes of Pelican a run for their money.
The album cover should have been a giveaway. There’s a rather striking image of a scorched, alien world compete with a deathly, oversized wraith wondering around with skulls affixed to his waist like the ultimate death metal accessory. This was always going to be a seriously heavy record. Gehenna is, of course, far from death metal though. The band’s sound remains one filled with light and shade, drama and tension.
The track lengths are significantly shorter than on previous releases yet as one riff ploughs into the next, it becomes clear that Gehenna is an album to be enjoyed whole. The opening, triple-attack of ‘Mal Sacre’, ‘Enoch’ and ‘Qumran’ don’t let up for a second and stand as a clear statement of intent. This is an album that shows a band stripping back some of the extra instrumentation at their disposal and simply revelling in the joys of guitars and amplification.
There are, naturally, a few moments to catch your breath. The ambient drone of ‘Locrus’ sits at the centre of the album, a contemplative yet no less apocalyptic piece that could adequately soundtrack an episode of end-of-the-world Netflix drama, Black Mirror. Come on Brooker, you know I’m right.
The riffs are back with a vengeance come the brutally heavy, ‘Q’yth –El’ before the band unveil the suitably colossal, 12 minute title track. ‘Gehenna’ is a driving, ominous epic; combining strings with the albums characteristically heavy guitars to stunning affect and bringing the curtain down in the process. Gehenna stands as a darker, somewhat angrier release for the band and reveals a group of musicians keen to explore all aspects of their sound.
As always, the band has created a breath-taking album that can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any post-rock/post-metal (post-whatever) band you could care to mention. It’s clear that if Labirinto were from the UK or the US than they would almost certainly have gained wider recognition by now. As it stands, Labirinto remain one of the finest bands you’ve quite possibly never heard. Get listening and spread the word and maybe, just maybe, they’ll come and play somewhere a little closer to home.
The album cover had me thinking 'Disturbed', but damn! Not at all indicative of how choice the music is! Great review!