GONGA: Concresence – album review
CD / LP/ DL
Release Date: 7th October 2013
“Clawing their way out of the dank blackness of their riff research laboratory and hungry for the flesh of new twisted listeners, GONGA bring forth a new offering, Concrescence.” For Louder Than War Philip Allen reviews this remarkable & soon to be released epic album.
Formed in 1998 by brothers, George and Thomas Elgie, GONGA have carved a unique sound over the years, often considered ‘heavy stoner rock’ but more eloquently described by George as:
“Thick beefy caveman and gentle passing butterfly contemplating a majestic landscape and coming to realise in their conversation the mechanics of the universe. Heavy but not really doomy”.
Or as he more succinctly put it:
“Instrumental HeavyRock for the Philosophical Connoisseur”.
Many band members have come and gone over the years, most notably vocalist, Joe Volk who for six years provided the lyrical hook to their fearless riffs. Signed to INVADA Records in 2003, GONGA have produced a string of EPs and singles as well as two albums; their eponymous debut and 2007’s ‘Precession’. Both cemented their ability to create a dark textured sound that grooves and flows like the best of Sabbath or Rainbow.
In 2007, Volk left the band to pursue a solo career and Matt Williams of Team Brick and currently BEAK stepped in on live vocal duties only to leave a few months later. Since then GONGA have become an instrumental three piece with the help of bassist, Latch Manghat. His incredibly adept bass work has made GONGA one of the tightest and heaviest outfits in the South West. Their new album, ‘Concresence’ (which translates as “a region of complexity in comparison to it’s surroundings”) is set for release through Tonehenge Records on October 7th in the UK and Europe.
During our journey through life, we are make many choices that affect the path in which we walk. Choices that can test and break our resolve depending on how we view these options. Many try to limit potential by limiting choice, but it is our free will that informs and creates our human reality. Others of us are seekers of the eternal, searching to connect on a non-verbal level of understanding that experience and enlightenment can reveal to us. To transcend the physical and enter a new realm of spiritual understanding.
So, now GONGA have lost their lyrical vanguard have they lost any of their semantic content? Well, no is the simple answer. Their ability to make every note speak with as much ferocity and significance as any singer can bring is their crowning glory. It is as if they have achieved the transcendental by doing away with mere words, opting for the eternal. The album opens with ‘MIASMA’. The heavy phasing mountain of feedback and tension leads a Sabbath-esqe riff of contagious power as George’s guitar takes the helm, speaking as if the god’s themselves had decree it. Half way through this ten minute opus they shift up a gear and take the tempo on a joyride through their desolately beautiful terrain, taking off to the higher ground of George’s lead, which to the very end, raises its body up to the stars above to give us one of the most dynamic tracks I have ever heard them perform.
Second tune, ‘CALUMET ALTER’ is classic GONGA also. The beautifully decisive riffs are expertly underpinned by Thomas’ ceremonial drumming and Latch’s thunderous bass which plays lead as much as the guitar creating a taut fabric of sound, sealing a covenant between them that twists and ripples through to it’s ascending finale. Its lack of vocals is never an issue as each instrument keeps the attention due to their collective virtuosity. ‘ANOTHER DAY GONE’ presents us with one of the catchiest riffs I have heard in ages, leading the song into some great tempo changes and developing into some very deft finger work. This is bound to be a ‘live’ favourite for sure.
The epic, ‘MOUNT GONGA’ coming in just shy of eight minutes, climbs to such heady heights during it’s incline, sucking the air from your lungs with its daring musical crevasses and peaks that it becomes impossible not to be moved. It’s familiar terrain, but given fresh perspective since the music has space and time to move and groove from summit to summit. Crushingly heavy at times but always with one eye on the philosophical, allowing the doom to enrich one’s being rather than crush one’s spirit.
‘TUNGSTEN GOLD’ is one heavy slab of stone. Grooving hard and with such intense physical properties that its presence seems to punch a hole through to the fourth dimension. The band’s playfulness and malleability throughout the track doesn’t let up until all densities are merged into a scorching hot white light of being. Not bad for three long hairs! The wisdom and love these guys bring to the table is astounding. You can hear every fiber of their being vibrating and pulsating to the music that obviously is their ultimate salvation.
Last track, ‘SOLAR MAXIMUM’ begins it’s cyclic theme, rising in concentration until the guitar flares and spits it’s riffs causing the poles of your mind to wobble in response. Throughout the nine minutes the track explodes, the magnetic fusion of the bass and drums forging a rhythmic heliosphere for George’s charged particles of riffs and tones to permeate and explore. Not for one second do they let up until finally we reach the termination shock. The end of what I can only describe as their best body of work to date and with no vocals to dictate the narrative, we the listener are left to ponder its, and our very own, existence.
When words fail us, we must search inside our unconscious for the answers and sometimes, just sometimes the answers are so obvious and intrinsic that the feelings of joy and wonder for the natural world, as well as the artistic and musical world we as humans create, instill in us a purpose so real that by our very act of participation and discovery, we find the answers we have been searching for.
GONGA will be performing at their album launch taking place at the Exchange, Bristol on Saturday 28th September 2013. Support comes from Welsh Stoned Merchants, SIGIRIYA & Heavy Doom Creators, GORILLA.
Forthcoming tour to be announced.
All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.