[-] by Eduardo Rivadavia
Every once in a while, a rock band comes along that defies categorization while somehow sounding familiar in oh-so-many ways. Boston, MA's Gozu is one such band. With their 2010 debut album, Locust Season, the relatively new group made up of wiley veterans from the local scene filters hard rock, stoner rock, grunge, and a few other less obvious influences into a bludgeoning blueprint boasting the tight, instrumental discipline of heavy metal. Or at least those air-tight, ultra-compressed Soundgarden records produced by Terry Date. (Think we're reaching for the rolodex here? You ain't seen nothing yet! This CD requires a lot of digging before revealing its secrets.) Meanwhile, awe-inspiring singer Marc Gaffney has simply spectacular pipes; on par with Chris Cornell in terms of range, but actually more reminiscent of Little Caesar's Ron Young (told you!) where a soulful feel is concerned, and, unlike most bands' taxiing along this particular runway, Gaffney's not afraid to fly above the guitars/bass/drums mix, to avoid getting buried in its turbulence. And so we come to the goods: stampeding numbers like "Meth Cowboy" and "Regal Beagle" are urgency defined; others like "Jan-Michael Vincent," "Jamaican Luau," and "Rise Up" groove harder than Clutch and Pantera arm-wrestling over who has to pay for the last round; and shit-eating grins abound when the band introduces "Meat Charger" with the same cymbals pattern as AC/DC's "Back in Black," or references Queens of the Stone Age and Hawaii Five-O, respectively, with the quirky falsettos and title of "Kam Fong as Chin Ho." Further highlights include "Mr. Riddle," featuring some of the fiercest staccato riffing of the decade, and the closing doom-blues "Alone," which raises ghosts of stoner rock past via Gaffney's powerful wail and smoking wah-wah pedal, then coasts to an evocative finish on psychedelic waves of ‘90s alt-rock (think Screaming Trees, Monster Magnet, etc.). In short, Gozu manage to both entertain and keep their listeners guessing on this endlessly intriguing first album -- here's hoping the second will follow in short order.