Overall Score: 8/10 Musicianship: 9/10 Performance : 8/10 Longevity: 7/10 Pros: Masterfully crafted | Blends two seemingly disparate genres with ease Cons: Grows tiresome come the finale
GosT as a term refers to a number of things. It is a set of technical standards, a Russian cryptographic harsh function standard or even a Soviet/Russian national standard block cipher. It is also the name of a synthwave act breaking the subgenre’s boundaries of heaviness in a bold and daring way, influenced by the likes of horror maestro, John Carpenter. Much like the above definitions, GosT is difficult to define and their work hard to dismantle, all done with a mechanistic panache. Synthwave has seen an inexorable rise in the last few years through the mass expansion of the popularity of Carpenter Brut and Perturbator – to name just two examples – and you can add GosT to the pantheon of the best of the subsection of heavy and interesting music. With the new album, Valediction, GosT is looking to push further into the macabre and unsettling.
A particular talking point of the previous album, Possessor, was that of the gabber (or Rotterdam hardcore) influenced track, Garruth. It hits you like a ton of bricks with its intense, blasting beat and unrelenting, stabbing pace, with Metal Hammer claiming that it would “make your eyes hurt” just to experience it. Not one to rest on laurels of prior conquest, GosT opens the latest album with a torrent of black metal influenced screaming and blast beats, with wiry guitars swirling in a serpentine mass as they are attacked by the musician. This motif occurs as a form of bridging chorus throughout the song, and is surrounded by an almost Duran Duran meets Depeche Mode verse that bears the hallmarks of synthwave in a more traditional sense. It is a disarming juxtaposition that, in the hands of a lesser artist, wouldn’t work, but GosT pulls it off with ease making the track feel cohesive in its genre-blending rather than an assortment of ideas.
Synthwave can be seen to draw parallels with 80s B-movie sci-fi more often than not, and the popularity of Netflix’s Stranger Things seems an apt accompaniment to the genre’s growth. Where GosT differs from its contemporaries however is that it takes on the mantle of 80s horror, perturbing the listener and looking to frighten rather than simply entertain. The album’s structure can, in fact, be read like that if a horror film: It begins with an act of brutality to set the scene before songs like Dreadfully Pious administer a much-needed dose of relaxation as the dread and promise of a return to such violence grows. True to conventional form, following track, Timeless Turmoil is a return to the abhorrent, attacking the listener with an assault akin to the opening song. The ebb and flow of intensity across the album makes for an exhilarating listen, allowing for moments of levity that can be pleasantly enjoyed before the sanguine cowl descends over the experience.
Unfortunately, despite the excellent musicianship and head-spinning genre mixes, the album grows a tad wearisome. Come Ligature Marks, it feels as if GosT has done everything they can do with this particular project, and the final two tracks, while wonderful in their own right, feel a damp squib in the context of the album. This is a relatively minor critique of an otherwise brilliant piece of work, but perhaps some editing wouldn’t go amiss when it comes to album six from the enigmatic master of the dark arts.
For Valediction, the mysterious producer teamed up with Jamie Gomez Allerano for the recording, mixing and mastering processes. Allerano is famed for working with the likes of Myrkur, Paradise Lost and Sólstafir to name a few, and the result of this collaboration is a visceral and extreme record filled with musical secrets to unpack. It can be enjoyed for its extremity in the likes of the aforementioned opener, Relentless Passing, or as an electronic album with The Call of the Faithful (Faithless) and She Lives in the Red Light (Devine) injecting a hearty dose of groove and danceability. What is certain is that this album is, on a surface level, and wonderful blend of two seemingly disparate styles acting under the moniker of synthwave, but as a deeper exploration it is an ode to horror cinema and all the vile beauty that lies within. In a world where subgenres seem to grow more and more homogenized, GosT stands out from the crowd with their own take on the wonder of 80s film making, uniquely assaulting the listener with the ugly side of art.
Valediction is out via Century Media Records on October 4th 2019.