Gloom of Thrones.
What do Defeater, Coheed & Cambria, and My Chemical Romance all have in common? They're albums were and are conceptual releases; whether individual entities or a small, new piece in a much larger story. This also applies to The Gloom In The Corner, whose Section 13 universe (or "The Sect", as they call it) is the lyrical backdrop for all of the Melbourne metalcore bands releases. It's all inter-woven stuff, with the band teasing new characters and story twists and turns long in advance. Which now arrives at its latest iteration with new EP, 'Flesh & Bones'; their heaviest, darkest offering yet; coupled with the tightest production and largest vision they've ever had.
The universe of The Gloom In The Corner is a dark, violent fictional world filled with dark, violent fictional characters; lore built around supernatural abilities, paranormal happenings, deception, betrayal, suffering, bloodshed, and more revenge than you can poke a stick at. Of course, all of these individuals and stories are more or less metaphors for life experiences and real world issues, but the world that The Gloom In The Corner have crafted does separate them for the rest of the pack in Australian heavy music currently. Throw in good rhyming schemes and well-placed Easter eggs - like references to previous key phrases such as "God Abandoned Me" and second song 'Peace' re-stating the opening lines of 'War' - and these guys are trying hard to make something unique with their music and art. And I respect that.
This second EP's narrative focal point is about the man siting upon the front cover's throne, detective-turned-bloodthirsty-madman, Sherlock Bones. Sherlock's always been there in the story's background, but is only revealed now, technically entering with 2018 single, 'Villain', which teased this EP's title. Said track helped allude to Sherlock (AKA the Devil of the Sect, Fist of Doom, and Hellhound for the Devil’s Throne), as well as his lover, Clara Carne, (the Queen of Misanthropy), which that particular song focused on and who is seen standing next to Sherlock on the cover.
[caption id="attachment_1107194" align="aligncenter" width="760"] 'Flesh & Bones'. Artwork by Sam Mayle.[/caption]
Volatile opener and lead single 'Misanthropic' re-asserts all of these details and brings everything up to speed with the weight of a bone-crunching right hook. Starting out with some Spanish - "Las Plagas de la mente/Yo soy a quien temes", which hints at a later plot twist in this EP's narrative, in English reading "The Plagues of the Mind/I am the one you fear" - 'Misanthropic' kicks down the door as a gritty introduction to Sherlock and this EP. This opening cut has just one proclamation to make: "my name is Sherlock Bones, Hellhound to the Devil's Throne." Hail to the king, baby.
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With drummer Nic Haberle's well-done rhythmic lashes and tempo changes, and in executing some seriously killer riffage, horror-movie dissonance, tight breakdowns and a few surprising gang vocals acting as the choir to Sherlock's confessional sermon, the song's demented energy is well-maintained. Despite it being just over four-minutes, it goes by like a breeze, never stagnating. It's the band going for the jugular and promptly gorging themselves on the crimson with a furious track like this. This is probably the best TGITC tune so far. Nearly every thing about it is fucking sick and you cannot change my mind. It's a great start, showing Gloom at the top of their songwriting game; quickly becoming a personal favourite.
The story then jumps ahead with the slightly slower and cleaner style of 'Peace', written about Sherlock attending the funeral of Ethan Hardy, the protagonist of their last EP, 2017's 'Homecoming'. Here, Kadeem France of Loathe gives a hefty guest vocal feature that marks the songs heaviest, best part (out-shining the band too, honestly); acting as a message from Ethan. Thematically, it's about understanding someone else's trauma, depression, and PTSD; as Sherlock finally realises what Ethan went through, how he wished he could've helped one of his only true friends before his suicide, and how he mourns Ethan. I also quite liked how frontman Mikey Arthur screams "loathe" right before Kadeem is handed the vocal reigns. A fitting passing of the baton to one of the best heavy vocalists in the game to do his thang on a new Gloom track.
'Survivor’s Guilt' reflects on Clara and Sherlock after 'Villain', with the song almost taking on this argumentative back-and-forth tone between the pair; discussing their relationship, their issues with one another, but also their love and respect for the other side as well. It's kinda cute... in a fucked-up sorta way. The song is a solid balance of the heavy and melodic sides of Gloom; showing their love for freaky, dissonant guitar work, unadulterated mosh parts, and brief yet meaningful melodic respites that don't feel jarring. (Unlike 'Peace'.) Similar to Kadeem's guest part, Weeping Wound's Dylan Torre gets a quick spotlight, name-dropping his band into the mental lyrical ravings, before a hectic "fuck it" breakdown drops on your head like a bag of blood-soaked bones.
Simply put, third track 'Bleed You Out' is stupidly heavy, with Gloom pulling themselves down into this wretched, darker, deathcore-esque sound. However, whilst a little generic and heavy for the sake of it, they do pull it off: showing they're always keen to move from section to section at an engaging speed. It's by no means a stretch to call this fourth track the angriest, riffiest and filthiest the band have sounded outside of their best, most wicked tracks: 'Rodent' and 'Witch Hunt'. There's also a goddamn M1 Garand ping-reloading sound heard during the breakdown... cause why the hell not? In terms of the narrative sequence, this is the first-point of contact between Clara and Sherlock, with her originally requesting his detective skills to help find out who or what is behind a string of grisly murders in her home town. (Hey, the bloke ain't called Sherlock for nothing.) Oddly enough, it doesn't get that specific about their meeting or the details of the actual case either.
'Deer Hunter' is all about agency, as per the Bioshock-alluding line of "If a man chooses, and a slave obeys" during the intro. It's about Sherlock's choices and his place within the Sect, his love for and protection over Clara (even though it doesn't matter and she still dies in the end), and his deeper connection to Jay Hardy, the protagonist from debut album, 2016's 'Fear Me'. That last part is where Gloom's narrative takes it's biggest turn yet, but more on that shortly. Musically, this is probably the weakest song of the seven for me, with the Southern-tinge in the eerie spoken word parts and guitar motifs being the only interesting angle of the entire arrangement. TGITC have excelled at providing differing sections, shifting tempos, slick rhythmic syncopation and subtle melodic changes before, like how 'Villain' so confidently did. Hell, they do it elsewhere on this EP, as per 'Survivor's Guilt'. Yet this one just isn't up to scratch as a great example of what they can achieve.
'D.I.M.A.', however, is where Gloom try new things, melodically and dynamically, and it goes down a treat. Unlike 'Deer Hunter', it comes together in a better, more concise and cohesive manner, with their hookiest chorus yet. A key part to this is how Mikey's sister, Amelia, provides a beautiful vocal addition in the second half, creating a lovely sibling duet. Most importantly, 'D.I.M.A.' reveals that Jay and Sherlock are actually "Two minds, made as one; one of violence, one of love" Which is a HUGE reveal; that Jay and Sherlock are two-sides of the same coin; that they're the same person; Sherlock being a physical manifestation of Jay's "Gloom state'. (Where the bands name comes from in-universe). The disassociative, good-guy-was-the-bad-guy-all-along plot-twist is definitely overused to say the least, but it works. For die-hard fans and for those super invested in Gloom's narrative, this a massive revelation on the story and it changes a lot about the perspective of their past material too. Like it or not, it's a real shake-up for the story, propelling the arcs and writing forward.
The greatest achievement of closer 'Can't Reach The Sun' is how it feels so finale; a fitting climax for not just the EP musically, but also for the narrative hitherto. With some djenty guitar bends and the band completely nailing a dynamic push-and-pull between their lighter and heavier elements, Gloom might've just made one of their most subversive deep cuts yet. With some more alternative vibes and the inclusion of keys, and Mikey not phoning in an American singing accent like so many other Australian bands do, it's an honest and interesting send-off for 'Flesh & Bones'. It's a competent moment of songwriting and an echo of what this band is doing; showing that they're so much more than just another nu-metalcore clone. It also contains a real emotional pay-off. For just as how 'Misanthropic' made us shake Sherlock's hands with it's smirking opening lines, 'Can't Reach The Sun' ends with him fading; a final past-tense utterance of "They called me Sherlock Bones; Hellhound to the Devil’s Throne." After all, there's no light or heaven for a demon like him, only the fires of hell.
[caption id="attachment_1107211" align="aligncenter" width="760"] The Gloom In The Corner, 2019.[/caption]
Gloom get so much right here, with EP's left-turns towards layered, clean vocal-driven moments working wonders, for the most part. 'Can't Reach The Sun' and 'D.I.M.A.' best exemplify this: the former having so much emotion and character in the vocal performances. Mikey has definitely been working hard on his voice, with his diverse range of screams sounding the best they ever have, and his cleans coming a long way too. However, sometimes I found his timbre, pronunciation and phrasing to not fully gel with the rest of the arrangements, with 'Peace' sticking out the most. The band have implemented his singing quite tastefully and effectively before, like 'Thirteen Six (Paramour)' or right here with 'Survivor's Guilt' and 'Can't Reach The Sun'. Yet there's just something about the way 'Peace' all comes together and is structured that never once clicks in my mind.
Another small jarring moment occurs at the end of 'Deer Hunter', where this Southern-guitar plays underneath a brief character narration: with a distorted voice representing Jay, informing Sherlock that he knows who he really is and that he's the one who killed Jay's lover, Rachel. Theatrical, sure, but the delivery and placing is all a little cringey, pulling me right out of the EP's listening experience every time it comes around. Yet the band pull-off these little spoken word "scenes" elsewhere on the EP to a much better degree, like the talking parts on 'Misanthropic' that have really grown on me. Ergo, I'm just going to chalk up that 'Deer Hunter' example as a one-off for what is mostly a consistent narrative delivery.
However, most of The Sect's characters do feel quite one-dimensional at times. They're either psychotic dicks who kill with reckless abandon, or are victims of other psychotic dicks; now grieving murdered loved ones, eventually driven to commit acts of revenge. Just look at Sherlock. He's a man who sits atop a mountain of corpses; a killer who sleeps upon a bed of bones; a detestable and un-relatable creature, no matter how many IRL themes Gloom square him with. Or look at Jay. He's a character set on a somewhat generic revenge path; someone who was once wronged and now must go on a mad killing-spree. These characters only ever seem to exist to kill others or to be killed themselves - whether by their own hands or by those of another. I suppose a grim and brutal world does beget grim and brutal individuals, and no one would give an ounce of a shit if a Gloom release was just about Jay having a quiet night in with a warm cup of tea and a good book. That being said, I do wish there was some added depth to these characters, more songs or maybe more moments to better flesh them all out.
Sherlock encountering alien feelings (for him, at least) of remorse and guilt over the course of this EP during 'Peace' and 'Deer Hunter', and the grey-area relationship between he and Clara is a good step in the right direction to deepen these characters and their motives. And I feel it's important to remember that Gloom are quite a young band. Outside of 'Villain' and a couple B-sides, they only have one LP and two EP's. It's not like they're Defeater, now releasing their 5th LP and making a simple story too convoluted with terribly mixed vocals. So there's still room for this story to naturally grow and mature.
No other band in the Australian heavy music scene currently is taking it to the level that The Gloom In The Corner, conceptually speaking. Which is what makes the Melbourne-based metalcore quintet amidst their 'Flesh & Bones' era a unique act in the local metal community: building up a living, breathing world with their lyrics, now visually starting to bring it all to gritty life with their music videos. Coming with this growth is Gloom mostly stepping it up in the songwriting department, creating some brooding, violent and awesome new mosh-anthems like 'Misanthropic' and 'Survivor's Guilt', as well as reaching new dynamic heights with surprising, subversive and musically dense cuts like 'D.I.M.A.' and the epic 'Can't Reach The Sun'. Not all songs come out the best ('Peace') and not all narrative deliveries land well either (the end of 'Deer Hunter'), yet Gloom prove they're creating something special with 'Flesh & Bones'. They're trying hard to take care with the symbiotic relationship between their lyricism and characters, and the hard-hitting, emotionally-fuelled music that weaves and pushes their bleak stories to life.
The only question remaining now is: what will become of The Sect following this latest, revealing instalment?