The long wait for Get Your Gun’s sophomore LP is finally over this Friday, with the release of Doubt Is My Rope Back To You. Let’s cut straight to the chase readers; this is an astoundingly mesmerizing piece of work. As the title suggests – this is a record that is set in a world of dark betrayal, grey Scandinavian skies and turning your collar up to the windswept dying of light.
Their 1st full-length, The Worrying Kind (2014), was an essential document from a rising underground band. It was always difficult to pigeonhole GYG – even from their earliest shows a few years before. They easily fit on bills for neo-psych shows, had a broad appeal in the heavy-rock community, yet had a framework of sound laid over concisely written songs that had an almost Americana or gothic feel. Whatever you wanted to call them – the band was hard working and toured the living shit out of the album for damn near 2 years – finding success especially in the Baltics and even performing in Russia. Some time off was spent before working on new GYG material – but the brothers Andreas (guitar/vocals) and Simon (percussion) Westmark formed instead an improvisatory collaboration (super?) group with members of Narcosatinicos, Døde Blomster. Their first show together (I believe) was the day after the tragic Copenhagen shootings in February 2015, in a Church just blocks away from the incident. They seemed really affected by the violence. It darkened an already bleak tone possibly in both bands’ work. Keep that in mind when diving into this record.
I approached listening to this record almost paralyzed by fear. Being such a huge fan of the group since their early beginnings, I knew it would be a great record – that I was certain of. What would I find though tucked beneath the tracks? “The Worrying Kind 2”? Immediately evident from the get-go’s “love Like Feathers” is a notable change in feel. Dark arpeggiated chords snake over mallet-helmed toms before vocals come in: “Starving eyes/aiming for/the promise of more”. Immediately inferred when reading along to the text that the song was something in the political anti-gun vein. It’s maybe me reading too much into the lyrics given recent events in my home country (USA), or maybe that the band themselves are called “Get Your Gun”. The track builds to a frightening climax before swiftly tapering off seamlessly into the second cut, “Stray”. This time – plodding into a chugging half-step groove – picture if Tool did a rendition of Ravel’s “Bolero”. A song this time possibly on betrayal and war (“leave your wars behind/And I leave mine”). Dark swirling organs underpinned by a subtle baritone sax provide a heaviness not purveyed by muscle, but by orchestration. In fact, that is really the amazing feat of this record already put forth in a nutshell: going heavy without pressing the distortion button or muscling their way into it – a much more clever weight achieved.
“Haywire” is another dark chugging number – featuring again different darker colors from the palette, this time coming in the form of slide guitar (possibly even lap steel). This time we hear Andreas’ voice weave and break through yet more concisely phrased dark text on betrayal and fear. Haywire comes to several crescendos before launching into evil dives on the tremolo arms- reaching a final climax and resolution you’d almost expect to hear in a mid-period Nick Cave work – just without the crazy preacher character. It’s hard not to draw allusions to Cave in fact at times, but Westmark’s lyrics here are heaps more concise and metered than the often-rambling pen of Cave.
Another quick transition takes us to the conclusion of the 2nd side – and what might be my personal favorite track on the LP – “Joy Of Recognition”. More toils of war, sadness – ruminations on a depressing time to be alive (if you have a soul…) and reckoning the dark past with a bleak future. Here, the narrator seems almost drunk with “indignation” and gazing at himself in a shattered mirror of memory. It’s bleak.
The Second side opens with the woozy synth-laden “You’re Nothing”. It’s evident through the record at this point, as well, that the band never quite has to lean on traditional drum lines to achieve what they need from the songs. Instead – Simon Westmark employs what sounds like mallets on un-snared drums – only reaching for the cymbals to mark an exclamation or signal movement. Very clever and understated. Andreas’ lyrics – coupled with the way all the elements of the songs hang together – is their real party piece. His voice sits perfectly in balance with stabs from the rising orchestral cacophony the GYG builds. Again, this is truly heavy without employing the same old tricks a conventional band would. “You’re Nothing” builds on our central characters worthlessness (or the listeners) and leaves one broken and defeated by its conclusion.
From the crazy swirling highs of “You’re Nothing” now arrives the gentle delicate flickering of “Open Arms”. I’m detecting notes of war and climate change here – again, just what I can infer from the included lyrics – purveyed passionately by Andreas’ welcoming but expressionistic voice, adept at wrapping simple but effective melody lines around tightly metered lyrics masterfully. The flame of the song slowly fades into a cinematic sound of humming. I hope one day to see a huge crowd waving flames in the air as a chorus of thousands bid this song farewell.
The record concludes with the warm intro of synths of “Enough For Everyone”. Thoughts of the afterlife – or lack thereof – pervade the peaked senses now. The final gambit in the record is a rising wave of sound, built on a hypnotic passage, interrupted by flails of distorted dives on the guitar – finally tapering off to a virtual whisper. So, the needle skates to the run-out of this fine record.
This is everything I hoped for from this album and more. I’d hoped that they’d evolved and gotten bleaker – both in their sound picture and content. That’s an affirmative here. Doubt… is an astoundingly involving listen. There is a perfect balance here between weight and darkness – it seems almost as if there is very little hope for the heroes of the songs here – and the listener is just riding along watching every battle lost and eventually the war. Heavy best describes it for me. Not heavy in the metal sense, but in the romantic sense, in its weight and overall worth. It truly is a masterpiece.
I laid awake last night thinking of how I was going to write this very important review. I couldn’t help thinking of Star Wars for some damn reason, so indulge me here; if Get Your Gun’s first album was “A New Hope”, Doubt has to be their “Empire Strikes Back”. All the central characters are fucked, they’ve been betrayed and it seems like the darkness has all but swallowed up the light. This reference doesn’t quite work, though, because that means that whatever the band does next is “Return Of The Jedi” and I’m not ready to accept that GYG would employ some kind of comic relief and finish up on a high note with a party. I just can’t see that happening.
Without a doubt, this is so far, the best record I’ve heard all year. The only reason I am selfishly not giving it a 6/6 score is simply that I wish that there was more of it.
Doubt Is My Rope Back To You is out this Friday (the 13th!!). The band performs at Radar 23.11 in support.
The wait is finally over, and this masterpiece from Get Your Gun has been more than worth waiting for. There is a perfect balance here between weight and darkness – it seems almost as if there is very little hope for the heroes of the songs here – and the listener is just riding along watching every battle lost and eventually the war. (5.5/6)