Ever since I saw Gideon on their tour of Australia with Polaris, I’ve been curious about what the band had to say via their music. The recent release of the purring and no-holds-barred “BITE DOWN” sealed the deal for me. Coming in new by way of the band and their discography so far, I’ve learned that the Alabama based hardcore act have been going through a gradual identity shift behind the scenes. Gideon have been questioning their motivations and creative directions to date and finding and expressing who they are. Formerly recognised as a Christian metalcore band, the members of Gideon have become enamoured with the concepts of acceptance and open-mindedness due to their travels as a band, and they’ve shared that they’ve embraced these more powerfully than other previously held ideals.
So with all of this in mind, it’s exciting to immerse into Out Of Control to see where greater freedom has led the band to. Opener “welcome to S town” (Gideon’s lowercase stylisation) is an unexpected pull into a nightscape featuring crickets, frogs, and the sounds of tyres on gravel. With distant voices and bird calls, it’s like we’ve arrived to an evening social gathering, and your surroundings are established by sound as you pass through a squeaky metal gate while a harmonica echoes somewhere in the distance. It’s a cool opener, even without context.
Whether it’s the beat of a heart or a pulse of music playing, “SLEEP” then follows, with a pensive melody joining the pulse. “Where’s the hardcore?” I wondered, while also enjoying the journey. More nu-metal than hardcore, rap-rhythmed vocals and bass growls pull us into an emotional state of disappointment, with the trust put in others being abused. Not even a minute in, the building frustration is as palpable as much as the easy groove is, with buried vocals and threatening riffs coming together and opening into a huge chorus.
As menacing as “Say good night / SLEEP” is when roared at the listener and coupled with alarming riffs, it comes across all too feelgood and funky to be truly intimidating. But it’s serious in terms of subject matter, with Gideon sharing how their creative process has been challenged and questioned. Their “I’ve had enough” response is a real one, as much as it’s infectiously celebratory by way of sound. My experience becomes a combination of fawning over the delectable rounded tones and moving my body to this beastly tune. Guitar is applied thickly to the canvas of this song, as are electro pulses and other quirks.
Second track “TAKE ME” is more sonically ‘serious’ to match its lyrical sentiment. Cataclysmic beats take us into a raw experience that I’m going to assume is grief (or the aftermath of a similar loss), matched by violently aching vocals to feel something more than they do. Guitar stings join in the recklessness before diving into a cavernous breakdown.
The open spaces and clarity of sound are impressive to me, and almost distracting from what’s being shared lyrically. In contrast, the chorus seems muddled and busy, but all is forgiven at the breakdown and its thunderstorm of delicious tones, accents, and crushing density. It’s the last effort of “TAKE ME” that hits for me, with a final urgent attempt to connect with what’s lost.
The beefy intro of “2 CLOSE” takes us back into groove town, reminding me of a classic hip hop tune, setting me off on a Google hunt for a nameless tune for around half an hour before finally giving up. [If you can place it once this album releases, please tell me!] “2 CLOSE” is a modern twist on that similar vibe of grandeur and heft that the nameless song carried for me. There’s a “fuck you” sass to all of it, shaking at the internal cage that’s keeping them withheld. With that cage broken, there’s a lighter moment of confession, that they’ve been “feelin’ every bump in the road”.
By the time “2 CLOSE” meets its minute and a half mark, it’s such a different place to where we began. There’s more of a smooth and anthemic tone to this from the chorus onward than any kind of energy of rebellion, even when that initial groove reappears. Stray From The Path‘s vocalist Drew Dijorio/Drew York joins then, and “2 CLOSE” drops into a moment of sharpened guitar, bringing a porcupine-esque barrier of defense to the entire sonic picture (spiked animal pun not intended!).
With the car in mind that appears on the album artwork, “2 CLOSE” is a loner’s roadtrip song; humming and thinking, and swallowing down the isolation, effort, and sacrifice that is needed for them to persist in their own way. To me there’s unfortunately something a little ‘tacked on’ about the vocal feature, as much as I like Stray From The Path, and even though I appreciate the bass and oozing of frustration that comes. The song gets more and more hectic until it ends.
Beginning as relatively light, with colourful riffs and a bass undercurrent, fifth track “LOW LIFE” gets dark pretty quickly. It takes ownership of being a disappointment to others, and mirrors that experience in an open letter of a song. Oppressive and wearing down, the blunt breakdown (with sharpened claws) expresses something dire and dark, where figurative stabs inflict as much pain as physical ones. In amongst these persistent blunt djent strikes is a raw question of “What more do you want from me?”. This seems to break a barrier of obedience/oppression with a percussive shift and a lift into something that sounds and feels far more empowered. The kaleidoscopic climbs and circles via guitar are so very satisfying.
As “LOW LIFE” progresses, I feel like this could virtually be the soundtrack to a documentary of someone taking their life back. Their internal struggle to create more for themselves is expressed via guitar sparks and trepidatious rhythms. But the determination runs out, and fire to change becomes nothing but a flicker, and a steady and flat path (in that car) and dejectedly musing on their “low life” self is all that’s left.
It’s hard to know where Gideon are taking us, buckled into the leather-clad back seats with them at the wheel. “SOUTHWIND” has us steadily rolling forward which a smooth acceleration into something that’s aggressive as well as nostalgic. A no-frills riff fest is sobering in conjunction with this nod to the past. The ‘pretty’ and quick chorus is a bit of a surprise before the story continues.
Though I’m not entirely sure what’s being shared in “SOUTHWIND” aside from an affection toward the roots of home, the track’s pinches, rises, and collapses express a difficult relationship with what “home” means. There’s a sweetness to this, but I think it mostly goes over my head. A light melody combines with a guitar solo, and any other sound or influence we’ve already heard in this album seems to not exist. So the arrival of record scratchings with djent feels like a waking up. My parents were fans of Eagles, so noticing a “Take It To The Limit” reference comes as second nature. It’s interesting that the Eagles song relates to the subjects of restlessness and leaving that Gideon have shared too.
When the twinkly and retro hip hop stylings of “STYLE” land, I just feel like laughing at how unexpected this is. I’m left a little lost wondering what Gideon were going for. Did someone hijack the car stereo? A muffled and persistent bassline is the only kind of connection that I feel this song has to the rest of the album.
“OUTLAW” is menacing in contrast, setting a scene of shaking off the weak; first with stomping force and then with driving and unrelenting pace. But with the arrival of those kaleidoscopic riff-runs, record scratches, and muffled groove, “OUTLAW” is surprisingly more joyful than mean. Shifting more analytically, I’m wondering what Gideon were intending on sharing with this, recognising it packing a (polished) punch with flare and buoyant style instead of an expected bluntness. It all has me wonder, are Gideon taking their sentiments of frustration and ownership of survival and just playing with them musically?
Moving on, guitar squeals wrap around a slow-motion moment of someone seemingly dying. Within 30 seconds or so, “LIFE WITHOUT” is already kind of doing my head in, really feeling perplexed as to why this scene of something so bleak is coupled with a relatively dancey groove and beat. It feels so wrong to be bouncing my head and smiling along with “I need to know you’re alive”!
With the pre-chorus and chorus, “LIFE WITHOUT” gets more fittingly sombre and serious with its anthemic feel and aching guitar that runs through it. But as the song continues, the bounce and groove again doesn’t feel congruent with the picture that’s being lyrically painted. I do however like the moments of sharp dissonance and tumbling and stutters of rhythm. A breakdown that oozes alarm also works really well, as does both the pained call to the abyss of “I saw no light / Became a memory” and the guitar solo.
When “DENIAL” arrives, I’m craving something more immersible by way of lyrics, as there’s been a lot of tough guy one-liners through Out of Control. But regardless, “DENIAL” is an urgent track that feels as dark and fearful as the one before it should maybe have been more like. And then the chorus hits..
Like, I’m loving the bending and piercing guitar accents and bounce, but it seems like we’ve jumped tracks from where we were and landed into something else that was running parallel. I’m digging it, wondering if this was the intention behind something that’s coming at my ears with a roar of “This hell won’t take you to heaven”. It’s like I need to mentally jump tracks too, and join Gideon with a shackle-shedding, cage-breaking moment of fury that’s also celebratory and sees them stomping forward into somewhere new. The last minute or so of “DENIAL” has the listener (unexpectedly) drift into an otherworldly space.
Muffled and 80s-esque with its lighter and almost pop beats, the title track creeps in before the full Gideon arsenal is revealed in a thick introduction. Tight rhythms and a swift shift of pace has the listener on their toes, which is enjoyable enough for me to not get distracted by the country-vibing lyrics, like “I’ve been catchin’ hell / Rollin’ with the devil”. It’s easy to get swept up in the high energy of “out of control”, before it crunches into a djent stuttering patch of tension.
At times through “out of control”, I can see why Gideon toured with Polaris; matching their combination of guitar that soars high above a heavier intensity and driving pace. But as we’ve come to expect with Out of Control, we are to expect nothing at all. There’s an ever-changing path forward through the song that soon trips up on more flares of tension. The listener finds themselves facing ripples of synth, and meeting the facesmash G-force pressures of an acceleration of pace.
When “out of control” shifts again into something dreamy and synthy, taking a guitar melody and ‘decorating it’, I’ve all but lost grip on attempts to understand what’s being lyrically shared. The dreamier section leads into something confrontational and dense, before the melody again picks up, carrying through to the end alongside a menacing riff.
To end the album, “BITE DOWN” is the perfect choice. It’s one last punch, one last reminder of what has seemingly gone into the endurance and survival of the guys of Gideon. The pings (for lack of a better term) throughout the track and the steady undercurrent of bass through to fade-out ending have “BITE DOWN” go down very smoothly for my ears. Though the lyrics don’t inspire much by way of introspection, it’s an aggressively clear and solid line being drawn with no frills to speak of.
Out of Control was an album of contrasts for me. Though there were congruent moments of hard and heavy strength, at times unflinching statements of resilience were delivered along with more experimental and lighter instrumentation. A no-nonsense delivery of voice came with smile-inducing grooves. As a listener attempting to hook into the band’s intention or message, it was tough to find one persisting thread of sorts that encompassed the album as a whole.
I’m going to assume that with each song, Gideon took an attitude of experimentation, like “What if we….?” and then went for it. While I admire a good adventure of creativity, it was tough for this listener to follow along with. I ended up deciding to just take this in with a nod of respect that the band have done exactly what they intended to do, and we don’t necessarily need to understand their choices. Some of their choices may even be deliberately jarring if they are trying to shed previous weight of expectation of how they should sound. So be it.
For this review, the chopping and changing along the way through Out of Control unfortunately made it tough for me to stay present with the album. Rolling into the crickets and tyres on gravel of “S town”, I would have loved to have stayed buckled into this purring muscle car as Gideon shared their frustrations, nostalgia, losses, and endurance. Instead I got tripped up on moments where I seemingly had to split into two to fully take it in. There were definitely times when the metaphorical roadtrip offered breathtaking views, but the feelgood tunes were turned up too high when my car companion was sharing a sad story, and “STYLE” being bumped out of the speakers made me wonder who had the wheel.
Creative wings are thoroughly spread on this album, veering into completely unexpected areas for this hardcore crew. Clearly talented musicians, Gideon explored every possible sonic nook and cranny over Out of Control's duration. The title is perfectly suited to what we hear. Infectiously joyful moments where Gideon hit the mark are sprinkled throughout.
Literally 'out of control', this album has no tight leash of style of sound, continuity, nor flow of songs, making it something the listener has to work to maintain focus.