Gorod - Aethra
Overpowered Records
Technical Death Metal
10 songs (44:03)
Release year: 2018
Gorod, Overpowered Records
Reviewed by Goat

For a band to stand out in the fractious genre that is tech-death, they have to be unique in some way or another, and French unit Gorod managed to bend ears with a canny mix of skill and catchiness, making albums like Leading Vision and Process of a New Decline that near-flawlessly matched jazzy instrumental skills with a keen sense of when to throw a hook in. That ability with hooks is really what elevated Gorod, yet coming down from that peak and seeking to create something fresh and new while retaining that impressive technicality is where many tech-death bands slip a little. Really, the only fair way to judge a band as long-running as this (Gorod have been active in one form or another since 1997) is against their own past works, and accordingly Aethra suffers a little from comparison to Leading Vision et al. It's nowhere near as instantaneously catchy and impressive, lessening the hooks, ditching the jazziness, and seeming less mind-bogglingly technical as well.

Yet despite this it still makes for a fascinating, if difficult listen. The first thing you really notice is that vocalist Julien has a wider range of styles, from growls to yells and even some clean singing here and there, which makes it a little harder to push into the background and focus on the (outstanding) guitar playing. Opener Wolfsmond has plenty of the typical, almost Aborted-like chugging, but mixes it up with some high-pitched meandering lead playing which is the closest thing the song has to a hook, albeit more ominous than catchy; a vibe continued into the following Bekhten's Curse. This is the first track that feels like a typical Gorod song at first with that widdly guitar and smoothly technical backing drumming catching your attention, yet it soon changes into something approaching recent Behemoth territory, slower and groovier with snarled vocals very alike Nergal's. It's still recognisably Gorod, albeit one far more willing to push their sound in different directions, just as on the title track's slower-paced and more proggy and melodic approach with something quite close to a clean-sung chorus, then turning groovier in the second half of the song, more Gojira running through their veins than Gorguts at moments but enough distractions like that burst into blackened speed to keep things moving.

The more listens you give Aethra, the better it gets. Initially it doesn't seem that there's a great deal of difference between songs, yet they're always different enough to keep you entertained. And it's when the band kick off their chains and allow themselves to let loose they're terrific; the faster sections of The Sentry sounding like Voivod on meth while the slower, clean-sung sections are nicely atmospheric. They explore the blackened tone a little more in depth on Hina, surrounding it with melodeath and technical guitar wizardry, then turn up the groove on the thrashy And The Moon Turned Black, and while they're perfectly above-average tech-death songs they are a little lacking compared to past glories. Still, Gorod are a very tight band and always enjoyable to listen to, and the vast majority of tracks here are the sort of thing that it's hard to not appreciate - the twists and turns of Chandra and the Maiden, for instance, or the aggressive Goddess of Dirt with its weird electronic effects over the vocals. The more time I spend with Aethra the more I like it, and it doesn't at all grow dull with repetition; looking back over their discography they haven't made a bad or even poor album, and although probably the least brilliant to date, this is still a brilliant album from a fantastic band.

Killing Songs :
Wolfsmond, The Sentry, Goddess of Dirt
Goat quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Gorod that we have reviewed:
Gorod - A Perfect Absolution reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Gorod - Process Of A New Decline reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
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