There’s a median of change in the music world that often divides musicians and fans. An artist’s level of progression can alienate old-school listeners or aim directly at a specific audience. Linkin Park is a good example, moving more and more into an electro-infused rock sound over the past decade, with hardcore Hybrid Theory fans always screaming for the band to “go back to their roots”. The same can be said for Bring Me The Horizon, who went from deathcore to metalcore in just a few years. But in the genre of hardcore, it’s often rare to see bands change. Most groups’ ideals are rooted in being “real” and keeping a raw sound that plays to the intimate, energetic live shows the scene is known for.
That’s where Gideon has managed to hit this median perfectly. On their third studio record, Calloused, they polish their punishing sound where they need to, throw in sophisticated riffs often, and tie in memorable clean vocals wherever possible- all while maintaining the root rigor and unadulterated style that makes their live performances so exciting. The product: an album that adds onto the crushingly-heavy, domineering feel of Milestone by honing in on the band’s strengths – specifically ultra-tight writing and emotion-filled call-to-action lyrics – and upping the production value.
The record begins in complete Gideon fashion and hardly lets up throughout its short, 32-minute runtime. By “Gideon fashion”, I mean a balance of speedy hardcore and catchy metalcore to make up a melodic hardcore mixture, one that specifically hints at For Today and The Ghost Inside. Yet these guys stick out due to their bristly instrumentation and unique voice- that is, Daniel McWhorter’s enraged, convicted screams. In “Calloused”, vocal layering and riffage attacks from every corner help the band hit extremely hard. “Survive” is destructive in similar fashion as the opener. Guest star Caleb Shomo of Beartooth brings his A-game, and the versatility of his vocals only thickens the song. The assortment of screams, cleans, and melodies rumbles forward like a tank until the cannonball of a breakdown closes it out with the convoking lines “Adversity devours the weak!” and “Be relentless!”
The mosh calls have only grown stronger throughout Gideon’s career, and so has the group’s overall impact. “World Of Hurt”, a track that tells a powerful story about depression, and “The Limit”, a more mellow offering that showcases a catchy chorus and still manages to provide some of the album’s biggest riffs, blend reflective messages with brute force. The main takeaway is that the songs connect- even if buzzwords like “fight”, “overcome”, and “pain” sometimes get in the way. McWhorter shouts “The sky’s the limit / we’re gonna tear it down!” at the end of the latter-mentioned song, leading into the ambient-instrumental “The Pulse”. Calloused is inspirational in every one of its dynamics, and the religious convictions that make up its passion are more tangible than ever.
The third time’s the charm, and Gideon’s third full-length album is more than that: it’s dazzling. By expanding their hard-edged sound and perfecting dynamics from clean vocals and guest spots to instrumental tracks and devouring breakdowns, the group brings together the best of both worlds. New listeners looking to get their feet wet in the genre should love the polish and abundance of stick-out tracks, and so should more old-school hardcore fans who enjoy the gritty, reckless side of things. While the release falls into a formula at times, its diversity and balance makes it the band’s strongest effort yet. If you’re looking for empowering metal anthems, Calloused is for you. But even if you’re just looking for some motivation, this record could get you through the week — or the rest of the year for that matter.
Melodic Hardcore | Facedown Records