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Gulch > Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress > Reviews
Gulch - Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress

They came, they saw, they conquered, they left. - 90%

JetMeestard, May 4th, 2024
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Closed Casket Activities

There’s something to be said about bands that hang it up when they’ve peaked in popularity. On one hand, you can’t help but wonder where they could’ve possibly gone as artists, both musically and commercially, but on the other, there’s a certain grace in acknowledging that your work is done and that you’ve said everything you wanted to. One such case is Gulch, whose short-lived existence left a mark in the extreme music scene, with their sole full-length work, Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress, making quite a splash upon release during the pandemic times. Turns out, it’d also be the least release of any substance we’d ever see from the group.

If there is one word to describe Gulch’s sound, it’d be “ferocious”. From the very first seconds of the opener, we’re greeted with Elliot Morrow’s delirious screaming, and some absolutely unhinged percussion driving the music forward. There is so much momentum built up throughout these tunes that every time they careen into a breakdown it’s devastating in how hard it hits, especially on the pit-ready “Self-Inflicted Mental Terror”, which delivers some of the most crushing riffs on the entire album. It’s 15 minutes of tightly paced and laser-focused intensity that knows exactly what spots to hit and how hard.

That’s not to say that all the band has to offer is fast parts followed by breakdowns, seeing as they’ve more than a few tricks up their sleeve. Whether it’s a surprisingly frosty tremolo passage like the one on “Cries of Pleasure, Heavenly Pain”, “Lie, Deny, Sanctify” and its dissolving lead, there’s always something that allows each tune to stand out in a different way. Special mention should go out to “Shallow Reflective Pools of Guilt”, whose winding and tense structure makes for a great penultimate song before the cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Sin In My Heart”, a song that the band twists into something completely new. Though the general feel of sorrow remains, Gulch injects a certain anger and anguish by way of the tormented vocals and the pummelling riffing between the verses. It’s a high note to end things on, and it puts a nice bow on this little package.

I’d be remiss not to give a brief shoutout to the production on display, seeing as it’s a foundational pillar of what makes the tracks here as punishing as they are. It’s full and really, really loud, yet somehow avoids sounding completely brickwalled. The guitars are muscular, with a grinding tone that is further bolstered by the roaring bass, and the drums sound as if they’re pounded with hammers, especially the toms’ booming. It’s so juicy, and that’s only made better by a mixing job that doesn’t feel too cluttered at any point.

Really, my only nitpick is that “Fucking Towards Salvation” didn’t stick with me as much as I’d have liked, something that considering the brevity of the record can be seen as a minor inconvenience at worst. Gulch really made something special with Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress, not only by showcasing an intimate understanding of what makes hardcore work as a genre, but also by letting a few external influences seep their way in. I cannot help but lament the fact that they called it quits, but at the same time I can more than understand why. Between there being too much hype around what they’d do next, and the fact that they more than achieved what they set out to do, as well as not wanting to tarnish their brief, albeit impactful, legacy, who can blame them? Like their music, they came in, blew everyone’s socks off, and disappeared just as quickly. Fitting, isn’t it?

Highlights: Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress, Self-Inflicted Mental Terror, All Fall Down the Well, Shallow Reflective Pools of Guilt