Gaza posses an inane ability to flex out beyond the fringes of transition: when matters seem most clear on He Is Never Coming Back—when the
riff and the pulse and the voice and the content are thundering straight-faced along as mallet-tight as ever—the drums appear as an old woman heading tits over teakettle down the stairs. Then comes Jon Parkin’s decaying hell-bellow across the continental ring of the puke-guitars and the listener is suddenly
dragged along in a lightning-slur through three octaves in different directions at once. Gaza perform their greatest work in such transitions, extending the boundary of harmony. By those terms is He Is Never Coming Back an achievement.
Gazanese for “angular guitar work” is defined by a riff grammar that is face melting, almost un-trackable, and for most of its peers, unplayable. The finger-tapping acrobatics of earlier works have been overshadowed by a degree, but only by a degree, a perfect measure of restraint which allows the twisted and fecund garden of their octave-spanning twin melodic figures to run its vines and tie its knots around the knock knees of their pollinators. Jon Parkin is a fucking giant, on stage and on wax; here he
sounds better than ever—more grumpy and more taller than you, and more straddle-legged.
Thank God (which they probably do not) that the Gazaites have held together through their recent lineup changes. The ideological content of He Is Never Coming Back is rightly a sector of study necessary in dealing with the record as a total work. But to make ideology the primary horizon in a criticism of He Is Never Coming Back would be misguided.
Two kudos to close, in reverse alphabetical order: Casey Hansen is a mind-wrenchingly inventive drummer whose performances are incessant
and who deserves more credit than he gets. The production and performances on He Is Never Coming Back stand up to anything in metal today, which is a tribute to the skill, character, and kick-ass barbecues of Andy Patterson. (Curtis Jensen)