Reviews

Gulch, Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress (Closed Casket Activites, 2020)

I’ve been listening to Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress for a few hours on repeat now. Normally it takes a few days for an album to fully set in and grab me by the spinal cord; not this time.

My usual method of digging deeply into a new release is to listen to it stone cold sober like your grandmother on Christmas morning. Then I like to get absolutely blasted on some fine Tetrahydracannabinol Delta-9 and give it a few more spins. I make my assessment as a stoned couch pillow eating Doritos in my underwear. 

This time I’m a 29-year-old unemployed musician trying to pass the time raking up funds to fight against the fascist state and police brutality. I’m sober, and pissed off about it.

What if I’m missing out on something? What if I’m missing out on a feeling? What if I’m missing out on that one last ounce of anger it would take for me to chuck a cinder block through a starbucks window all because for my recent attempt at becoming sober.

Fuck I miss weed. 

Maybe it was the Siouxsie and the Banshees cover, maybe it was the Kahlo-like album art by Boone Naka, or maybe it was the fresh takes on older tunes from 2019 that did it for me.

Whatever it was, I’m hooked, once again, on hardcore cult leaders, Gulch, from Santa Cruz, California. Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress is about 16 minutes of fury up and down, front to back. There’s absolutely no bullshit here; no fillers, no drawn-out-for-no-reason feedback, and no distracting sound clips just for the sake of fuck. 

1. Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress 1:44

Straight out the gate, they aren’t fucking around. You’re immediately inside of a nightmare you’ve lived through before, maybe as a 9 year-old kid running frantically through a Resident Evil game on the earlier Playstation… idk. It’s a perfect introduction to the album is all I’m saying. 

2. Cries of Pleasure, Heavenly Pain 1:56 / 3. Self-Inflicted Mental Terror 2:09

These rippers were released on the 2019 Promo. I’ve heard some negative feedback regarding the placement of these two songs on the LP and I can’t help but wonder if these folks have ever heard of a band before. This is not a new practice. The tracks rip, and they’re different versions, so just buckle up and keep your arms inside the fucking vehicle at all times. 

4. Lie, Deny, Sanctify 1:30

This track is absolute filth. It’s 1:30 of everything you want in a good hardcore track, IMO. There’s some sick riffs, quick licks, and even some blast beats which my friend Eli really enjoys. The slower ending had me bobbing my head, I’m not going to lie about it. 

5. Fucking Towards Salvation 1:50

I used to think you could only “blecht” and “oolcht” in one or two songs per record until I heard Gulch. Gulch does a great job at diversifying their guttural onomatopoeiae… I honestly hope I get a swirly for that. This song paints an accurate picture of the perfection of tones engineered by Jack Shirley at Atomic Garden. 

6. All Fall Down the Wall 1:57

This is some scratch of the wallpaper content. If you think the vocalist is just another dude in hardcore, you just don’t get it. The lyricism in the past few albums have really set the stage for this record. It honestly makes me wonder if Gulch’s vocalist is some sort of sadist doctor of Psychology or maybe the leader of Psychonauts. The guy smokes weed is all I’m saying. Damn I wish I could smoke some weed rn. 

7. Shallow Reflective Pools of Guilt 1:18

I want to use the word thrash without getting anyone all worked up, but I won’t. This song is a perfect hardcore song, plain and simple. Short and to the point, and well written. Did I mention how the riffs in this record are unmatched? Where the fuck did these guys learn how to play music. 

8. Sin In My Heart (Siouxsie and the Banshees Cover) 

Listen to the original, and then listen to this track please. This is the best cover I’ve heard all year. 

Photo: Daniella Dombrowski

I hate to call this AOTY so early in the year, but it is definitely AOTY material. As of July, this is my AOTY. I wanted to specifically mention the album art created by Boone Naka, who has done the art for this release and Burning Desire to Draw Last Breath. I can’t help but feel like their work is influenced by my favorite artist, Frida Kahlo. I highly recommend checking out the artist’s work.

For me, for the most part, I have always allowed for the album art to affect my opinion of the music. I don’t know if this is constructive or maybe it is negative; all I know is that for me it influences the overall aesthetic of the subject at hand.

Seeing the art by Naka makes me wonder if Gulch writes their music based on the imagery of the album art, that is how truly fascinating it is to me. Definitely go to their page and scroll through all the way to the bottom. I am not knocking the music at all by any means, but I must say, my favorite aspect of the album is Naka's artwork. Swirly me later, I probably deserve it. Over and out.

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Tagged: gulch

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