Feb. 1 saw the surprise release of No Love/No One, a ferocious two-song EP from work-tough nü-rockers Gideon. Loaded with the barbed-wire laced title track and backed with the additional blast of “2 Deep,” it follows the band’s last studio effort, 2017’s Cold.
If there were a current tournament bracket for metalcore, it’d be easy to see Gideon as a crimson-colored title contender. At one time one of Facedown Records’ Christian metal flagships, the Alabama-based convoy has been throwing fisticuffs against the dismal tide for a decade now. Staying scrappy and lean, the band has honed in on its strengths since the 2011 debut Costs, and each successive release has a tougher, more streamlined sizzle than the last.
But while once lighting an underground entry point for church-metal scenesters, the outfit adjusted its image on Cold, swapping Facedown for Equal Vision and maxing out the aggression meter on the hyper-realized set of stomp-jams. The change seemingly sensed most by diehards, however, was that that fourth full-length forewent any hamfisted thematic spiritual notions for a more straightforward and vengeful affair. It wasn’t all that different – yet somehow it was.
It was also a first for Gideon, a line in the sand for listeners. Gone were the days when vocalist Daniel McWhorter literally asked for God’s forgiveness on “Gutter,” a track from 2012’s Milestone. By the time of Calloused, the band’s final bow on Facedown, any purely deity-driven message had morphed into general
It’s a path trod by many similar artists – that is, the laying down of even softcore evangelicalism for a more “worldly” worldview, if the Christianese still holds. In this instance, Gideon’s records have always sounded, well, barbarically triumphant. It’s just that now, instead of being fueled by the psychological fire and brimstone of its religious and provincial provenance, the riff-laden bricks that Gideon lays are forged by a rage that comes from within.
“For us, this EP is about getting more in touch with yourself and taking the oftentimes difficult steps that it’s gonna take to make that happen. ‘No Love/No One’ is first and foremost about letting go of people that are sucking the life out of you or killing the parts of you that make up who you are. ‘2 Deep’ is about taking the next step. Be honest with yourself, be true to yourself, and work hard to earn your happiness. If you’ve put in the work, you’re already in too deep to give up now. Take what’s yours and nothing less.”Gideon, via press release
Consequently, the group’s light has never shined brighter than on this unexpected dual-song assault to kick off 2019, both textually and texturally. While McWhorter uses his trademark hardcore growl to warn he’ll “see you in hell” on “No Love/No One,” a rebuke previously unimaginable from the frontman, Riley paints an audio picture that’s blinged-out with coordinated layers of guitar thwack, chock-full of sinuous, shimmering, and often spooky trimmings.
The stringwork’s assisted by new bassist Caleb DeRusha, the musician joining the ensemble from the sorely missed Those Who Fear. And it’s all held down by drummer and main lyricist Jake Smelley, whose savage playing has only gotten more in-the-pocket since the band’s beginnings. Songwriting-wise, Smelley’s lyricism continues to improve as Gideon ramp up the laser-guided aggro-rock that got them to this point, doing it their own way, in the present, instead of continuing down a path once explored in the past.
In context, it all makes sense. In fact, it’s really not even that much of a shock. What avid music fan doesn’t expect a dedicated artist to evolve as their career extends? And in the sea of heavy music, Gideon – like the best metal and hardcore bands – is like a shark. It has to keep moving to survive.