By rights, Jesse Smith should be an underground legend given that he was the founding father of pioneering but criminally underrated thrash/metalcore merchants Zao. Smith left Zao prior to the recording of their latest masterpiece, The Funeral Of God, apparently “bored” of playing drums and driving such relentlessly heavy music.
Two years on and it turns out he’s done a Dave Grohl by picking up his guitar, writing a bunch of songs, recording them with himself on drums and vocals too, and then recruiting a band to fill bits in and tour with (including his old partner in grime, Rob Horner).
I See You Through Glass is the result and anyone concerned that Smith being bored of playing extreme music would mean he’d come up with something soft and poppy can breathe a huge sigh of relief because GODS definitely rock.
Unsurprisingly, GODS are a very different beast than Zao, hurrying themselves through the gamut of goth-rock, the occasional hardcore beatdown, chunky metal, even ’90s heavy grunge, and all topped off with a lyrical misery that would probably even depress Trent Reznor, a comparison made all the more relevant by Nate Staats’ judicious sprinkling of atmospheric keyboard dust throughout.
Selected highlights include the angry, visceral and quickfire opener If The Bet Is Love I Fold; The Devil’s Tears, where the comparison to early Nine Inch Nails holds most weight; Love Is A Blister, which features a synth-like, looped drum beat in the verses before a wall of weighty guitars is ushered in on the word “Salvation”; the brutal but sensitive metal of Ephedra; and The World In Your Arms – an anthemic heavy rock hit that is waiting to happen.
In fact, out of the 10 tracks on offer here, there’s only one that’s not quite up to scratch. The Reflex (not the Duran Duran song – now a cover of that would have been interesting) features seven lines pretty much repeated over and over with a fast rock backing, and comes across as a half-formed idea.
Another area that may cause some concern are Smith’s vocals. In case you were wondering, this is a “clean” vocals album with few grunts and screams. It’s also fair to say that Smith is a better guitar player and percussionist than singer, from a purely technical point of view. However, he makes up for it in passion, lending a vulnerability to many sections that accentuates the moribund subject matter.
The closing (and title) track moves through haunting hard rock and a beatdown before a big piano and vocal, fade-out finale, during which Smith repeats, “I see you through glass” and also cries, “I would do anything to fade away.” Well Jesse, the view is pretty good from this side. It’s time for GODS’ star to burn more brightly, not the opposite.