Formed by Khanate's vocalist after the demise of the legendary drone band, Gnaw doubled down on the extreme sound of Khanate, filling the drone/sludge hybrid sound with noise injections and industrial pacing. This post-apocalyptic vision was first introduced through This Face, a wretched work of heavy, experimental music, containing all the extreme weight, glacial pace and misanthropic philosophy the band could muster. This path was further explored with the follow-up album, Horrible Chamber, another testament to the band's sadistic approach when it came to extreme music and sonic tolerance.
Cutting Pieces now arrives, signaling Gnaw's return after four years. With the line-up extended now to feature the great Dana Schechter (Insect Ark, ex-Angels of Light) on lap steel guitar, next to usual suspects Alan Dubin, Brian Beatrice, Carter Thornton, Eric Neuser and Jun Mizumachi, the band returns with a record that expands on their scope. With the main elements of Gnaw's sound still holding their ground, from the drone soundscapes and the noise injections, the cutthroat vocals and the heavy riffs, there is an abundance of information that stands into the light more predominantly this time around. The industrial touch feels more present, with its continuous beating forcing Gnaw's touch to become more mechanical and colder, while the noise injections alter the perception of the band's sound, casting a shadow over the already dim setting. Ambient passages arise, in the case of “Fire” where industrial and noise bring forth a dark ambient setting to completely devour the dystopian world they have created.
It is the extended instrumentation that really plays the key role in Cutting Pieces, and even though this has been a practice of Gnaw in the past, its effect is astonishing this time around. The whole record sounds like the soundtrack to an experimental horror film, one too hideous and sick to even attempt to describe. And the array of instruments is able to morph through all the different scenes the band is meticulously constructing, from the usual doom/drone mayhem and the excruciating noisescapes, to an enigmatic dark jazz touch that certain tracks begin to explore.
This is the major leap that Gnaw has performed. They have given room to other elements of their sound to breathe, something that was not possible in their previous days where the conviction to the drone/sludge element was unyielding. Doom influences take shape in Cutting Pieces, unfolding a psychotropic direction, and no-wave aesthetics are at the same time applied, allowing the DNA of Swans to affect the rock perspective of the band, resulting in more complex structures. It is even the case with Dubin's vocals, which instead of retreating to the usual high-pitched screeching menace or to a deep, guttural monstrosity, display a wider range. Clean vocals appear, even leading the way to some impressive hooks.
Cutting Pieces is an album of progress for Gnaw, with the band opening up its sound and allowing further elements to flourish within their wrecking vision. This results in an album that might be giving way to the band's previous edge, but it makes up in depth of composition and variation, resulting in a horrifying trip through a devastated world.
8.0 / 10
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