Review: “To Be Alive” by Gutlocker

Four years and one Godzilla sized cover since their debut EP “Cry Havoc“, the inevitable return of Gutlocker is finally upon us having been recorded with producer Lewis Johns (Employed To Serve, Conjurer, Funeral For A Friend), the choice to work with him seemingly fuelled by the bands desire to write something not only different but also bigger and better than their previous works. From those aspirations what they have created is something that is open, honest and connects on a far more personal level that anything they have done before without losing any of the deep rooted Groove upon which their reputation rests.

The album opens with “Send Them All In“, a spitting, snarling venomous affair that signals the bands intent with crushing fury as if the band have just taken a can of petrol and thrown it on a fire. If there was ever a question about whether vocalist Craig McBrearty, guitarist Pete Tucker, drummer Dean Walker and bassist Ben Rollinson could capture their infectious live energy in a studio setting then they answer the question here with an iron fist, knocking the listener out in the first round. Rather than virtuoso solos and vibrant leads, Gutlocker plough their furrow with staccato riff breaks in the rhythmic powerhouse that is “Make My Day“, opting for a different style of finesse in a bulldozer of a cut that it is damn near impossible not to get whiplash when listening to. “Sink Or Swim” finds McBrearty joined by Kieran Scott of Ashen Crown and the way in which their vocals have been intertwined works incredibly well because the Gutlocker vocalist has a shriller style to that of his guest and it ends up taking the band into Lamb Of God territory. There won’t be many on Gods Green Earth that won’t listen to McBrearty’s lyrics on the album title track and not find them resonating with them in some way, shape or form. We all felt during two years largely spent gracing the sofa that we needed to feel what it was like to be alive and here those feelings have been voiced to a T. The result is pure catharsis, a scream along rant before “S.F.S“ kicks in with a narrative that is similar to that found in the Michael Douglas classic “Falling Down“.

Each of the cuts pulses with electric energy, the bands pulverising rhythmic gymnastics second to none with intriguing little nuances to be found over multiple listens. They’re as addictive as a designer drug with earworm riffs from Tucker that simply will not get out of your head as the band play with texture while keeping the tempo high, the aforementioned “S.F.S” having favours of Hardcore Punk baked in for good measure. There are times listening to the record that you are reminded of bands like Dry Kill Logic thanks to the huge bass sound on cuts like “Once A Snake” which is the perfect foil for the bands huge drum sound, one which Lewis Johns has captured perfectly. Fans will know that a rendition of “Temporary Bliss” has existed in one form or another since 2018, however this new version is 30 seconds longer, a swirling monster of sinister darkness with shafts of light appearing through black clouds overhead thanks to a melodic closing that is almost cinematic. There can be no question that not only the musicianship but also the writing capabilities of Gutlocker have improved since their debut EP with a willingness to embrace elements that create atmosphere rather than being reliant to simply ripping your face off. Then you have the epic and quite majestic “A Man Too Proud“, a near 13 minute affair that flips the script for the band who use their new found confidence to experiment with something almost entirely different. Progressive with early Mastodon vibes, clean vocal moments and some interesting changes in tempo it’s one which is ambitious to say the very least and yet is carried off in style as if it were nothing [8.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Send Them All In
2. Make My Day
3. Sink Or Swim (ft. Kieran Scott of Ashen Crown)
4. To Be Alive
5. Out Of Sight
6. SFS
7. Absence Of Change
8. Interlude
9. Once A Snake
10. Temporary Bliss
11. A Man Too Proud

To Be Alive” by Gutlocker is out 9th July 2022

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