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Gongzilla (International) - Overall View


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Prolusion. Gongzilla, co-leading by the former Gong members: bassist Hansford Rowe, guitarist Bon Lozaga, and vibraphonist and percussionist Benoit Moerlen, is the most integral and successful of Gong's offshoots - at least creatively. The band was formed about ten years ago and its discography features four full-fledged albums at the moment. (Which is not counting those released within the framework of >Project Lo). If you wish to read the review of Hansford Rowe's solo album "No Other", click > here.

DISCOGRAPHY:

1995 - "Suffer"
1996 - "Thrive"
2001 - "Live"
2003 - "East Village Sessions"


Gongzilla - 1995 - "Suffer"
(52 min, LoLo)

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TRACK LIST:

1. Gongzilla 6:36 (Lozaga)
2. Bad Habits 3:28 (Moerlen)
3. Sing 4:28 (Rowe)
4. Gongzilla's Dilemma 5:17 (=)
5. Mr. Sinister Minister 4:50 (Lozaga)
6. Almost You 4:12 (=)
7. Mezzanine 4:15 (Moerlen)
8. Hip-Hopnosis 6:48 (Lozaga)
9. Allan Qui? 7:22 (Rowe)
10. Senna 4:56 (=)
11. Camel 0:24 (Moerlen)

LINE-UP:

Hansford Rowe - basses
Bon Lozaga - guitars & e-bow
Benoit Moerlin - vibes & marimba
Bobby Thomas - percussion
Lionel Cordew - drums
With:
Allan Holdsworth - guitars (on 1, 2, 6, & 9)
Vic Stevens - drums (on 9 & 10)
Ben Perowsky - drums (on 5)
Samuel Rowe - vocalize (on 10)

Produced by Rowe & Lozaga.
Engineered by E. Bona & B. McMahon at "TMP", NJ.
Mastered by C. Muth at "Masterdisc", NYC.

Synopsis. Well, "Suffer" is the first album by Gongzilla, the band that was formed by the three out of four of the core members of one of Gong's classic lineups created the Classic Jazz-Fusion masterpiece "Espresso II" (1978). While Bon Lozaga, Hansford Rowe, and Benoit Moerlen work here as extremely diverse and virtuosi as always, Lionel Cordew's drums sound less diverse and more powerful than those of Pierre Moerlen. However, it's more than merely justified that Gongzilla have chosen a sound that is radically different from that on any of Gong's albums and anything else. "Suffer" is an all-instrumental album, the stylistics of which is very diverse. The music on Gongzilla and Mr. Sinister Minister (1 & 5) harmonizes with the titles of these compositions and represents a highly unique (and dark) union of Cathedral Metal and Classic Jazz-Fusion. Classic Jazz-Fusion with elements of Cathedral Metal is presented on Gongzilla's Dilemma and Mezzanine (4 & 7), and a pure, yet, still unique Classic Jazz-Fusion on Bad Habits, Hip-Hopnosis, and Camel. (Everything is unique on this album, though.) Most of the arrangements on any of the said compositions are in the state of constant development and are filled with all the possible progressive features. All four of the remaining compositions: Sing, Almost You, Allan Qui, and Senna (3, 6, 9, & 10) are also about Classic Jazz-Fusion. The musical palette of each of the first three of them is as rich in varied colors and shades as that on any of the aforementioned tracks, though the arrangements here are a bit less intricate and intensive. The latter of these pieces is somewhat of a concerto for bass and percussion instruments. There also are the fluid guitar solos, but they appear closer to the end of composition. The main soloing instruments on "Suffer" are electric and bass guitars and various vibraphones, including marimba. The parts of hand percussion instruments are notable on about a half of the tracks here, and the synthesizer-like passages of guitar-synth are really evident only on three of them (1, 7, & 8). While Allan Holdsworth's electric guitar appears from time to time on the tracks in the performance of which he has participated, I don't hear that immediately recognizable sound of his hand-made Synthaxe guitar on any of them. As for drums, these are such special instruments, the main task of which is to accentuate a wide-variety of musical events that go off the reel almost everywhere on the album. In all, "Suffer" is a masterwork, which, moreover, is of a rare originality. IMHO, it should be of interest to any of the 'classic' three categories of Prog-lovers: i.e. those into Jazz-Fusion, Art-Rock, and Prog-Metal.

VM: April 17, 2003


Gongzilla - 1996 - "Thrive"
(53 min, LoLo)

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TRACK LIST:

1. Suffer 8:31 (Lozaga)
2. Say It Loud 4:44 (Rowe)
3. Island 8:14 (Rowe, Lozaga)
4. Image 7:59 (Rowe)
5. Shaman 6:47 (=)
6. Les Vosges 5:01(Lozaga)
7. Listen to the Wind 6:58 (Rowe)
8. Image Reprise 3:04 (=)
9. Console Warmer 2:25 (Rowe, Lozaga, Husband)

LINE-UP:

Hansford Rowe - basses; vocals
Bon Lozaga - guitars; e-bow
Benoit Moerlen - vibes & marimba
Gary Husband - drums
With:
David Torn- guitars

Produced by 'Bonford Raga' (Bon & Hansford).
Engineered by C. Muth at "TMP", Berlin, NJ.

Synopsis. Although two out of the nine tracks that are featured on "Thrive" are songs: Say It Loud and Shaman (2 & 5), this album is stylistically much more uniform than "Suffer". Both of the songs and both of the boundary tracks of the album: Suffer and Console Warmer present the further development of that unique blend of Cathedral Metal and Jazz-Fusion which is one of the central hallmarks of the band's debut (and, thus, its style in general). Having written this, I've thought that the same words can be said about another central stylistic aspect of Gongzilla's music - a blend of guitar-based Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion that all of the other compositions on "Thrive" are about. (Well, the written word remains.) Accordingly, these are Island, Image, Les Vosges, Listen to the Wind, and Image Reprise (3, 4, 6, 7, & 8). While there are some obvious stylistic similarities between "Suffer" and "Thrive", the second album is more atmospheric and has a rather mysterious feel to it. Also, most of the arrangements here are distinctively dramatic in character. Back to the heavier compositions on the album, it must be said that Gongzilla's Cathedral Metal is far from any traditional forms of Progressive Doom-Metal and is based on a highly original (incomparable with anything) ultra-modern Gothic Rock, which, in addition, is filled with hypnotism. The alternation of merely dark shades and eerie ones, all of which, though, aren't that noticeable at the first (or superficial) listening to the album, is typical for the musical palette of any of the four tracks that I mentioned in this review first. The heavy, fat solos of Hansford's bass play a prominent role here, while those of electric guitars interlace with each other weaving intricate patterns like being laid-back from all the surrounding musical events. Amazingly impressive stuff! David Torn (see line-up above) is an ECM artist, and I heard a few of his solo and collaborative albums. Like Bon whose view on music isn't limited by any stylistic framework, David is also an open-minded guitarist, and in my view, his style of playing a guitar fits better the music of Gongzilla than that of Allan Holdsworth. There are no ballad-like pieces on "Thrive" and all five of the other compositions on the album are complex, diverse, and very intriguing. Here, the arrangements are based on a wide variety of interplay between all of the band members and most of them are in the state of constant development. Les Vosges (6) is the only composition on the album where passages and solos of an acoustic guitar are at the forefront of arrangements along with solos of electric guitars and those of bass. Listen to the Wind (7) is above all notable for the pronounced, highly inventive solos of bass that dominate the parts of the other instruments throughout the composition. Despite the fact that unlike "Suffer", Benoit Moerlen's vibraphones are involved in the arrangements on only about a half of the tracks on "Thrive", overall, this album looks more coherent than the previous one. Now, having acquainted with two out of the three studio albums by Gongzilla, I can assert that this is one of the best supergroups ever existed in the history of Rock music.

VM: April 23, 2003


Gongzilla - 2001 - "Live"
(43 min, LoLo)

******
TRACK LIST:

1. Mr. Sinister Minister 8:05 (Lozaga)
2. Bad Habits 5:34 (Moerlen)
3. Gongzilla's Dilemma 3:46 (Rowe)
4. Hip-Hopnosis 3:49 (Lozaga)
5. Image 10:03 (Rowe)
6. Gongzilla 4:39 (Lozaga)
7. Soli 7:37 (Rowe)

LINE-UP:

Hansford Rowe - bass
Bon Lozaga - guitar
Benoit Moerlen - vibraphone & xylophone
David Fiuczynski - guitar
Vic Stevens - drums & percussion

Synopsis. This album was recorded during the band's performance at the Festival du Beat Molson Dry in Quebec City, Canada, on May 27, 1998. Although Soli (7) is the only new piece on "Live", and five out of six of the other tracks here are from "Suffer", the album has a genuinely fresh feel to it in its entirety. (In fact however, Soli is a Hansford Rowe piece originally recorded on Gong's "Espresso II".) The 'live' versions of all of the band's earlier compositions at least slightly differ from the originals and are heavier than them, which is especially topical with regard to Mr. Sinister Minister, Gongzilla's Dilemma, Image, and Gongzilla (1, 3, 5, & 6). The style that the first two of them were here performed in is a confluence of Classic Jazz-Fusion and Prog-Metal, while both of the latter are about the band's very own and highly unique Cathedral Metal with elements of Jazz-Fusion and Psychedelic Rock. These two are just filled with hypnotism and magic and are rich in amazing tempo contrasts between the slow, pulsating solos and riffs of bass and mid-tempo and fast solos of guitars and vibraphone. The music on Bad Habits, Hip-Hopnosis, as well as on the aforementioned Soli, represents quite a harsh and hard-edged Jazz-Fusion in the best traditions of the genre, though Soli contains in addition a powerful up-tempo jam that all of the musicians are involved in. All in all, this album is a very important document that displays not only the band's great capabilities to play live, but also their constantly developing inventiveness.

VM: May 7, 2003


Gongzilla - 2003 - "East Village Sessions"
(41 min, LoLo)

******
TRACK LIST:

1. Haniface 4:13
2. Aquila 8:21
3. Lilly 7:31
4. Ging Gong 4:46
5. Thrive 4:03
6. My Doctor Told Me So 2:09
7. The News 7:16
8. No Pennies Please 3:20

All tracks by: Lozaga, Rowe, & Moerlen, except
6 & 8: by Moerlin.
	
LINE-UP:

Hansford Rowe - basses
Bon Lozaga - guitars
Benoit Moerlen - vibraphones
Gary Husband - drums 
With:
Phil Kester - percussion
David Fiuczynski - guitar 

Synopsis. "East Village Sessions" is the first new studio effort by Gongzilla for the last six years and features eight compositions. Although the contents of this album are almost free from heavy elements, those of hypnotism that are typical for the heavier compositions on "Suffer" and the second Gongzilla album, "Thrive", as a whole, are present on most of the tracks here. To be more precise, there are five compositions on "East Village Sessions" representing somewhat of an essence where the classic Jazz-Fusion nature of "Suffer" is combined with a mysterious atmosphere dominating throughout "Thrive". These are Haniface, Aquila, Ging Gong, Thrive, and The News (1, 2, 4, 5, & 7). The best stylistic definition of the music on them would probably be Classic Jazz-Fusion with the pronounced elements of Psychedelic Rock. Diverse, intricate, and constantly developing interplay between solos of vibraphone, bass, and electric guitar, both of the latter of which are often quite harsh, flowing to the accompaniment of drums and varied percussion instruments, are typical for all of them. Thrive (5) features the amazing solos and passages of acoustic guitar, interwoven with basic textures, and has something in common with the music of Project Lo. The News (7) is notable for elements of Indian music and the fantastic solos of electric guitar sounding very much like those of Sitar. All three of the remaining compositions: Lilly, My Doctor Told Me So, and No Pennies Please (3, 6, & 8) are about a highly original Jazz-Fusion without any stylistic 'makeweights' and are interesting in their own way. Especially since both of the latter of them consist exclusively of interplay between solos of a few vibraphones.

Conclusion. On the "East Village Sessions" album, Gongzilla have successfully continued the seemingly endless transformation of their originally unique style. Thus, they have once again proved that the concepts of a true creation and stagnation are just incompatible things and the proverb: "better to be safe than sorry" is still more than topical, as always. As for the band's creation in general, being not that much into both of the latest albums by Gong, I perceive it as a the only proper continuation of Gong's saga. If you aren't acquainted with the creation of this fantastic band, start with any of their albums.

VM: May 7, 2003


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