By Laina Dawes
When you (or at least I do) think about Utah, religious fanaticism, polygamy (thanks in part to HBO’s Big Love) and an overall sense of sexual and emotional repression come to mind. Perhaps because of the above preconceived notions, Gaza’s He Is Never Coming Back is a tumultuous collection of powerful, almost too emotional songs that are heavy – not for simply being dudes from Salt Lake City who want to show who has the biggest balls on the block, but simply because they have something very powerful to day. And perhaps because of where they are from, the young quartet’s views on life are a tad harsher than from many of their contemporaries.
What makes this album is both the distinctiveness of vocalist Jon Parkin’s roar, whose honesty is clearly defined in his exceptionally powerful delivery, and the sheer force of the music, courtesy of a Today is the Day meets Oxbow – esque experimental yet sludgy, blues-influenced vibe. Drums are heavy but tempered with their careful precision. “Bishop” is a standout with its doom-laden, hypnotic bass line and rhythms that are broken up with the jazzy high-hat taps.
The (relatively) quiet interludes of “The Biologist,” the acoustic “The Anthropologist” and “The Astronomer” seem to be there to break up the dense yet electrifying “Canine Disposal Unit” and “The Meat of a Leg Joint.” Both tracks and “The Astronomer” apply overlapping vocals to create what sounds like a chorus of madmen, and both clearly display Parkin’s talent as not only a phenomenal vocalist, but one who can sincerely convey what he wants – or in this case – what he has to say. This band does not need the flourishes of sampling or vocal tricks to make a point, but there is an unbridled anger that weighs this recording down and depending on your mood, you are either going to find the beauty within this, or dismiss it.
This album is not for those who are looking for a musical landscape while washing the dishes or having a few friends over for drinks. Gaza’s second full-length makes you want to sit in a dark room and think about the lyrical content and let the music take you over. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a swipe of the band at all, but rather a positive aspect of what they have accomplished. There is a level of wounded pain that is honest and makes the relatively young-ish band stand out from their musical counterparts.
9 out of 10