This is a fantastic thrash/industrial metal album. A common refrain in the reviews I’ve read is that it gets better with each listen, and that’s been true for me as well. I liked it pretty well the first time I heard it, but now I count it as a hands-down favorite. There are many layers that you’ll not notice until the 10th spin or so. The addition of a keyboardist/programmer really makes a difference. The lyrics are interesting even if mostly indecipherable. There are no overt Christian themes on this album, so far as I can discern at least. This is a departure from past albums, all of which had pretty clear references to biblical themes. I was a little disappointed at this aspect of Gabriel, but then again I know Kurt Bachman (lead vocalist, guitarist) has said that being labeled a “Christian metal band” had a huge downside, not the least of which came from detractors who thought some sort of compromise was afoot in the pairing of Christian themes and metal. Oh well. The lyrics on most songs on Gabriel are nevertheless tinged with worldview and science issues that recall themes from past albums. Bachman has a Ph.D. in cancer genetics and runs his own cancer research laboratory (I’m not kidding), so naturally his lyrics are deep, provocative, mysterious, and a little off the beaten path. That should be a big bonus for many listeners.
As for the music itself, it’s fantastic. The trademark placement of slow, jazzy riffs amid laser-fast war tones is back and better than ever. So are the abrupt changes of pace. In my opinion these are the elements that mark Believer off from every other band on earth. The strings element from past albums is minimized but inserted often enough to be pleasing (cf. the end of A Moment in Prime and early in Redshift). No opera this time (for those of you who are unfamiliar with this aspect of Believer, listen to Dimensions). I really liked the opera and strings in previous albums, but Gabriel is not lessened one bit by their absence. Redshift is about the big bang and possibly elements of the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence, but again, the religious connotations are kept faint on this album. Redshift includes several cool effects and is one of the best thrash/industrial songs of all time. History of Decline and Moment in Prime are also among the best metal songs I’ve heard from Believer or ANYONE. Medwton and Focused Lethality are great as well, though the chant at the end of Medwton is overlong. Nonsense Mediated Decay is a very unique tune that closes out the ten listed tracks. It’s based on a short story written by someone named John Boden. Very creative. I pick up a little more of the story each time I listen. I’d like to see the full narrative posted on the internet someday. Boden writes well and Bachman and the guys build a nice tune around his work. There are three hidden tracks after Nonsense Mediated Decay. Not much music to them, but I find them enjoyable nevertheless.
The haunting, Christocentric, Theology 101 lyrics from Extraction from Mortality (Believer’s first album) are gone now and perhaps forever. The extension into Christian philosophy and environmentalism witnessed in Sanity Obscure (2nd album) and Dimensions is also mostly gone with this 4th album. Possibly I’m correct to say that there is more angst on Gabriel than previous albums. Bachman seems to be the chief lyricist, and so I imagine the angst (if I’m correct in detecting it) stems from his unusual journey as a Christ-follower, a metal musician, and a bona fide scientist whose education has shown up the problems with some of the science positions current in American Evangelicalism. In my opinion this makes him one of the most interesting fellows out there. I hope he keeps writing about his journey. I know I’ll keep listening, and so should you if you love complexity in your music and lyrics.
Jeremy Royal Howard