It’s been three years since Gaza unleashed the very poignant He Is Never Coming Back, an album as lyrically unapologetic as it is musically punishing. Fast forward to 2012, the often toted year supposedly bringing the end of the world. Gaza has returned with a new LP, this time divvying up their influences a bit finer and sneaking in a few surprises along the way. No Absolutes in Human Suffering has its ups and downs in tempo, texture and execution. But now seems like no better time for an album as crushing and deliberate in nature; if the world is truly meant to end later this year, Gaza will have made a soundtrack fitting to the chaos and disorder such an event is sure to trigger.
Continuing much of their already blazed path of forward-thinking metal, the emotional triggers of this album are not without basis in the quite varied approaches of this record. Whether it’s hardcore structures (“This We Celebrate,” “Skull Trophy”) or doomed processions of stretched abrasion (“Not With All the Hope in the World,” “Routine and Then Death”), Gaza keeps us guessing throughout without much of a hitch in the proceedings. That being send, the blistering bread and butter of this band remains in the fits of doomy, technical bits of metal slammed into our ears like a railroad spike. “The Truth Weighs Nothing” is pure fury based much in the band’s religious lyrical questioning – the track was nicknamed ‘Tebow’ – sliding injections of hardcore-minded riffs and brain-rattling drumming in to make this a standout amongst many a gem. The gruff sways of “The Vipers” are hypnotic in a way that is tough to deny as well, bolstered by grimy melodies that serve as a second blade to Jon Parkin’s refined, yet still gritty vocal slices.
Yet in all of the abrasion, there is an underlying bed of progressive minded acts to behold throughout. While not a math-metal record by definition, Gaza weaves their strayed arrangements with little to no preparation – both inside and outside of regular meter. “Not With All the Hope in the World” begins with a constantly shifting path of guitars, while “The Crown” drops any notion of a normal meter right from the get go with a wacky riff tethered to much more standard pummeling. The latter is quite jarring at first, with a groove that is anything but normal as the band dabbles in guitar textures before slowing down into something that is still heavy but strangely uplifting at the same time.
The jarring shifts are much less frequent though, as the band’s effort to tighten things up in the songwriting department leaves things a touch less abrasive and purely chaotic this time around. However, the crushing finale of “Routine and Then Death” is fitting enough, summing up the album’s angst and crushing nature in six minutes of exploratory textures in a pattern that builds and swells with guitar-led emotion straight to the end. I would also say that while this record feels much more cohesive, it doesn’t quite have the instantly memorable moments that say, the riff for “He is Never Coming Back” has. While certainly not an issue for a record of this nature, it makes for a second or third listen to truly take in some of the frenzied riffs the band brings to the table this time around.
Gaza doesn’t exactly have the wide appeal to be the future of metal, but for those of us seeking a challenge who perhaps don’t subscribe to the ideals of religion, this band proves it can still push us and themselves in this batch of tracks. No Absolutes in Human Suffering does what I’m sure it intended to do – bury us in dissonant sound and pissed off lyricism while providing us a shimmer of hope otherwise. The fact that they can do it with such confidence and vigor is only a testament to their noted improvement as songwriters.