CD, Ant-Zen, 2006
Sometimes we reviewers get lucky. Periodically we get our hands on albums like Gjöll’s “Way Through Zero.” Unlike 75% of the same old, recycled garbage out there that passes for industrial nowadays, this album still manages to evoke emotion without reeking of cheesy manufactured angst for angst’s sake.
“Part 1” brings the calm before the storm. It sets the tone of the release, which I interpret as dealing with despair and isolation (perhaps feeling invisible, even in a room full of people, or screaming at the top of your lungs while no one is listening); being disconnected from the modern world, despite forced assimilation into a life we don’t necessarily want, as a means of survival. Drones and spoken word dominate this composition, while the pads add warmth and bring forth mental images of the sun parting the clouds, shining down on the endless, desolate plains of the arctic tundra – or one’s soul. Pick the more dramatic option and run with it. The end of the track foreshadows the eruption of contemporary man’s inner rage, assaulting your mind and your ears, making them tremble like a trailer park in a tornado, and prepares your senses for the aural Ragnarök that is “Part 2.”
Enveloped in a perfect cacophony of controlled chaos, here we have grown-up power electronics at their finest. With “Part 2” all the anger, frustration and desire to tear down humanity as we know it, for the sake of being able to start over from scratch, is crystal clear to me, and yet I don’t understand a word of Icelandic. The crude emotion packed into each instant of this seven-and-a-half-minute powerhouse extends beyond the boundaries of something as trivial as language. The tribal beats interlaced with melodic elements cause me to swing my hips inappropriately every time this track is played. At the moment no clubby EBM tune has the same power over me. This proves that disgruntled Icelandic rants about the sad state of modern civilization are made of 100% pure sex. Don’t you wish your girlfriend liked noise?
Wind sweeps and distorted, yet still spoken, vocals take us on a journey through “Part 3.” The layers of sound act as guides on a pilgrimage deep into the center of the speaker’s soul. The discontent brought to an apex in “Part 2” is now more subdued, and there is a sense of cold detachment in his voice. “Part 4” sounds like something one might hear when crossing a mythical river of the dead. From Norse mythology, Gjöll is the river that flows closest to the gate of the underworld, and it is said to be freezing cold, with knives flowing through it. This track has the grotesquely ominous monotone calmness that one experiences only upon reaching the point of no return. “Part 5” concludes the journey through Gjöll’s personal hell. Walls of noise assault the listener from the very first second, but ease after the twelve-minute mark, progressing into soothing ambience that may or may not cause one to feel like they have finally reached the gates of Elysium after enduring thirty minutes of a blistering, noisy inferno.
I’m sure by now I have summed up my thoughts on this album to the point where no concluding paragraph is needed. So I will say one more thing, and one thing only: if it were possible to give it an eleven, I would.
— Bea W.