Arts & Entertainment Editor
For many, screamo was a phase, one that fortunately died out in the mid-2010s. While screaming is almost universally considered to be one of the most unpleasant sounds in existence, there is a reason people like it. Angst is endemic to the human experience, so it is natural that screaming — and listening to the screams of those who are the best in the world at it — can be cathartic. Fortunately, for those who enjoy the genre, the hardcore punk band Gospel is still stoking its flames and has released some of the hottest material of the past few years.
Their new album The Loser puts them in the category of bands in which every member shines individually while still beautifully coming together, something easier said than done. Though screamo may be associated with chaos (something this album has plenty of), the use of well-thought-out vocal control breaks the stereotype of screamo being “just noise.”
One unique element rarely seen in chaotic, manic metal bands is the heavy use of keyboards, especially synths. Gospel incorporates them into their music so gracefully that it is almost surprising not more metal bands are doing the same. The opening track, which begins with 20 straight seconds of slowly changing organ chords suddenly joined by a fast, rolling, tom-heavy drum beat and distorted guitars, suggests the feeling of some semblance of order and comfort suddenly ripped away by chaos and anxiety. After some of lead singer, Adam Dooling’s, screams, the track switches to a time signature and riff that creates a feeling of being repeatedly forced to jolt oneself up and keep going — akin to life itself.
The track’s lyrics reflect similar feelings, with vocalist Adam Dooling’s opening cries of, “Joy and horror / I feel so alive / But life ain’t that fun anymore,” explaining the terror and anguish present in his voice. Frustration with life itself, rather than individual matters of enduring, is uniquely terrifying but difficult to approach given its nebulosity. Dooling’s voice is perfect for the subject, and plainly-stated lyrics like, “How can this be real? How can this be okay? Well it’s not okay, man. It’s not okay,” make the song sound less like a musician shrieking in a recording studio and more like an aging man screaming in existential agony as he unloads his troubles onto you.
Each track seems rigorously structured in instrumentals, with a song having multiple motifs that the band naturally switches between. Though Dooling only chimes in at the appropriate times, his vocals are truly resemblant of an angry, confused man rambling aimlessly. The closest thing to a lyrical chorus or bridge is an occasional recurring line. The instruments in both “Deerghost” and “Hyper,” a cryptic song about fighting drug addiction, emulate the sense of being jerked back and forth and, again, having to force oneself to push forward despite an uncontrollable, confusing environment.
The drums do not miss, which is impressive considering their incredible speed. Were the band less manic-sounding as a whole, the drummer would sound like a show-off, with his crazy patterns and fill-heavy riffs. Instead, the drums feel like a constant centerpiece representing Dooling’s feelings. They greatly contribute to the themes of real, genuine viscerality that Gospel builds upon.
Thus, the album does not leave much to criticize. Though the tracks all have a somewhat similar sound, each track feels like its own separate journey as it plays. The tracks’ similarity does not make the project feel bloated at 40 minutes. Lyrically, Dooling’s attempts to move away from his human experience and tackle politics feel overly superficial and unoriginal, though fortunately, his vocal delivery makes listening to the lyrics optional.
Few bands are as capable as Gospel at creating an environment of slightly organized chaos underpinned by feelings of anger, terror, and mania. With its consistent themes of confused dissatisfaction towards life and intense, controlled chaos, the album feels like a strong, cohesive, visceral expression of raw emotion. There is simply not a single bad song on this album.