To deserve the term ‘timeless’, an album really does have to transcend the era in which it was created. Equilibrium unequivocally achieves this. With roots in 60s psychedelia and classic rock, the fuzzy stoner riffs of the 70s, the grit of 90s grunge and the winning dirty rock n’ roll that has in recent years made a resurgence, Boston, MA’s Gozu have been churning out killer records since 2009.
With 2016′s Revival they took their sound in a somewhat new and more aggressive direction, and in doing so, dropped the most compulsive, exciting and downright badass release of their career – and Equilibrium has only raised the stakes. “We wanted these songs to hit a nerve, make people shake their ass and enjoy simply being alive,” says vocalist/guitarist Marc “Gaff” Gaffney, who founded the band with lead guitarist Doug Sherman.
Much of the record’s strength stems from the unit growing since Revival, the first full-length featuring drummer Mike Hubbard and bassist Joseph Grotto. “I would have to say that the band is sounding the best it ever has right now,” Gaffney states plainly. “It takes a bit of time to feel everything out. When you are serious about it, you have to work as a team, and we are four guys that dig the same kind of music and love to play, but we all bring in different elements that give us our sound. It is not just one person channeling, it’s the four of us bringing in the ingredients and together making it a delicious meal.“
From the moment the opening riff that heralds the arrival of “Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat” erupts until the final feedback of closer “Ballad Of ODB” dies away, there is not a wasted moment on Equilibrium. Having reunited with Revival producer Dean Baltulonis (Hatebreed/Goes Cube/The Hold Steady) at Wild Arctic Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the record is certainly the catchiest and most instant music dropped by the quartet, embracing their love of pop music but without compromising on any of the other vital elements of their sound.
“We specifically focused on songwriting as a whole on this album, looking at past albums and wanting to focus on creating earworms: big choruses, solos, huge vocals and melodies,” states Sherman. “Gaff is a true force in the studio and his vocals are simply incomparable, and Joe and Mike also communicated musically on another level during the sessions, which makes for a more cohesive album.” It is more or less impossible to listen to the likes of “They Probably Know Karate” or “Prison Elbows” and not find yourself humming the refrains hours – if not days – later.
At the same time, the former also wields one of the most crushing riffs you’re likely to hear in 2018, and the heavily and gorgeously layered outro passages of the latter serve to take the listener to a whole other place. While the existence of a song that could be described simultaneously as “Alan Holdsworth meets Fuze” and “Neurosis meets Jeff Buckley” seems doubtful, this is exactly what they have realized with the eleven-minute sprawl of the aforementioned “Ballad Of ODB”.
“It was the first song we wrote for Equilibrium, and the way it originally started was much different than what you hear on the album,” states Gaffney. “For me, it took a superb journey of open space and almost a meditative stance in the verses, and the intro simply morphed into something rather organically and we let it ride.” Indeed, “letting it ride” is something that serves the band well, and every song pulls its weight. Furthermore, defying those that proclaim the album a ‘dead format’, there is a true ebb and flow to Equilibrium that is only possible through quality songwriting and the passion poured into everything that they do.
While a broad range of tones and emotions wind their way through the record, and many of the songs boast a profoundly uplifting feel, the lyrics are largely informed by grief experienced by the vocalist, who lost his father in June 2017. “I am not a muscle car aficionado so I do not have any tunes about mufflers or rolling on the dirt freeway. I am not into dragons or swords so I tend to write about what I know. With Equilibrium, I wrote most of the tunes in a twenty-minute sit down two weeks after my dad passed, on a Monday morning. They simply wrote themselves. I wasn’t thinking about anything as I let my mind run on autopilot, I needed to get these feelings out or I was going to honestly lose my fucking mind. Grieving is not something I would say I am good at, nor am I someone that can simply turn a switch on and off, so when these lyrics came out, a held breath inside of me came with them.”
Dealing with such a universal experience, Gaffney’s lyrics are very relatable, though he pointedly avoids clichés, and nothing is forced. Likewise, there is no ‘hidden’ meaning to be found, succinctly conveying himself in a manner that is brutally honest and cathartic along with it.
“My dad was the sturdiest and best person I knew, who was so kind but could also with a glance let me know I might want to stop what I was doing and get myself back to neutral. The songs on the album are about dealing with being at a funeral and wake, how you will never be able to call someone again to discuss a song you wrote, a hockey game you watched, or getting pissed about Notre Dame Football and Syracuse sports. It’s about riding home from wherever and thinking you could pick up the phone and simply have a chat – and guess what? You can dial and no one will be on the other end of the line, and when that hits you, it’s a motherfucker. All of a sudden you feel a part of your strength and bodily foundation crumble underneath in the worst erosion known to man. It was comforting that the three others in my band got that and let me do my thing, and once the songs were written they were done, and I felt better because it was what I needed to do.“
With 2018 marking the tenth anniversary of their self-titled first demo, Gaffney makes it clear that this really feels like only now are they getting started, and with Equilibrium they are doing so in style. That it’s their first release for Blacklight Media, the hard rock and heavy metal label founded by Chris Santos, has only served to further energize the four men of Gozu. “It is an absolute honor to be working with Metal Blade’s Brian Slagel – who is an absolute man amongst men in the metal scene – and Chris, who is a master of so many trades, but the thing that rises above the rest of his accolades is that first and foremost he loves music. Right now, we feel like we can take on the world, and we have the backing of not one but two amazing men and companies.”