Review: Gnaw Their Tongues – The Cessation Of Suffering
Ever-prolific, The Cessation Of Suffering is the latest release from Gnaw Their Tongues, a project that has already had a busy year, putting out two split records during the first half of the calendar—one with sludge metal outfit Sator, another with black metal project Déhá. While the roots of Maurice De Jong’s musical output stretch back to the early ’90s, it’s with Gnaw Their Tongues first handful of releases—Reeking Pained And Shuddering specifically—that his name became a force in the underground, a purveyor of pitch-black, sick-death extremity.
The past decade has seen the project shift its priorities from warped black metal and noise to a more ambiguous sound that touches the edges of multiple swathes of musical extremity, from power electronics to musique concrete. A decade on from a release like Eschatological Scatology, the sound of Gnaw Their Tongues has changed immensely, more closely related to Atrax Morgue than it is Forgotten Woods. It’s been a period that’s seen Gnaw Their Tongues development from effective pastiche—unique but ultimately just gnarled, horror-themed black metal—to a project with an affinity for looser composition and more insular expression.
Following the meditative, choral-cum-noise of opener “Dreamless”, “The Veneer” slams the album into gear fully with a surprisingly ostentatious synth line, delivering the albums’ first meaty track with pomp and circumstance. “Salvation Body” is decidedly more structured—massive, monosyllabic drum beats building around piano breaks and tortured vocals who’s effects envelope the track.
Title track “The Cessation Of Suffering” is reminiscent of a lot of the haunted-house pastiches found on Gnaw Their Tongue’s earlier material, but is indicative of the project’s progression in the past decade—horror synth and once-derivative sample-work now gives way to composition that’s more dynamic but no less deranged. The looseness of the project’s earlier material is retained while also maturing sonically.
The fuzzed-out 808-worship of “Mesenlucht” is perhaps the most accessible track on The Cessation Of Suffering. A heady but more clearly-parsed mix of vocal samples, swirling wind-like synths and a more immediately discernable rhythm makes it a highlight on the record.
“Vengeful Spit” returns to a liturgical motif often explored by Gnaw Their Tongues throughout the project’s discography. Their combination of themes of sexual avarice, religion, and eschatology all come to a head when making tracks like this. An ascending synthetic bass backdropped by a crystalline, angelic synth imbues the track with both sexual and religious candour. I’m immediately reminded of Jeff Buckley describing his version of “Hallelujah”, comparing the rise and fall of the song’s action to orgasm. “Met Huid En Haar” then blazes in with massive blast-beat flavoured drum bursts that awakens the listener, shocking them back to life after the more contemplative “Vengeful Spit.”
“Throatrot” is gargantuan. Monolithic bombs of distorted bass explode violently, accented by more syncopated instrumentation than you’d expect from Gnaw Their Tongues. A midway melodic break features a single vocal phrase that’s among the most pained things I’ve heard in a record this year. An odd but excellent track, “Throatrot”‘s frenetic, fuzzy production belies a deeply structured piece of— ultimately—killer electro industrial.
“The Departure Of Light”‘s start-stop musical architecture makes it the most rhythmically gripping track on the record, a piece that exudes this muscular, mechanical sensibility—audio of a sermon overwhelms the sounds of percussive machinery, reinforcing the project’s interpolation of unanswered faith and cold, bloodied machinery, colliding together.
The closing track, “Messen”, introduces a gentler pace to finish the album. There’s a feeling of lethargic inevitability from it—the burning hot, emotive cries from earlier have here been replaced by funereal, dirge-like instrumentation and a dour, distant vocal performance. For a record dealing in death, “Messen” feels like a track accepting its realities. It’s a track that feels inevitable, but also final. In a way it’s most similar to something like Saturday Night Big Cock Salaryman by The Gerogerigegege, a piece that juxtaposes wild delivery with an undercurrent of tiredness, of being defeated. That “cessation of suffering” alludes to death directly, Maurice is here ruminating on both suicide and annihilationism.
That The Cessation Of Suffering was going to be one of the year’s darkest releases was probably obvious before it even came out—that it was going to be a major highlight in the Gnaw Their Tongues discography, let alone one of the best records of the year, was less so. In many ways it’s the record Gnaw Their Tongues was always meant to make, encapsulating the project’s disparate influences into a unique, vile package. Unrelenting, unflinching, uncompromising, but essential.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
The Cessation Of Suffering is out November 24th via Consouling Sounds.