Musically, “Gabriel” could be labeled as “progressive” – not really technical, mind you – but progressive. There are some CYNIC-isms and MESHUGGAH-esque moments here and there, all wrapped up in what could probably be appropriately called post-Thrash. While name dropping, BELIEVER also shows some hints of cult acts SACRIFICE (whose guitarist makes a guest appearance) and ANACRUSIS, with occasional nods to the Bay Area scene. So, when it comes down to it, the elements that make up BELIEVER’s fifth full-length endeavor aren't exactly what you’d call original, but when taken as a whole “Gabriel” has it’s own, unique sound.
Unfortunately, at least to these years, unique doesn’t necessarily equal good. While “Gabriel” has it’s moments, they were a bit too few for my short attention span. If my Metal doesn’t pummel me over with sheer brutaility, it had better catch me quick with some tasty hooks (either instrumentally or vocally – doesn’t matter which). As a whole, “Gabriel” rarely offers either. Instead, the listener is treated to off-time drumming, atonal leads, and quirky, quick-change riffing. The vocals of Kurt Bachman could also be a sticking point for some, as his voice is on the grating side, but without the pissed-off vigor that makes vocalists like Blitz Ellsworth and Mille Petrozza so effective. In fact, the vocals are simply kind of dull.
However, despite the criticism, there are some stand-out moments on “Gabriel”. The third track, “Stoned”, is a burner with nicely done double-bass runs and a more memorable structure. It’s definitely the album’s strongest track. The mix/production is also strong and clear, keeping all the instruments separated enough to hear what exactly is happening in even the most progressively-minded moments. Purists should also appreciate the fact that BELIEVER has kept nearly all modern influences (with the exception of the production) in check, leaving “Gabriel” sounding like it could have come 1992, rather than 2009.
Not having ever heard any of BELIEVER’s past releases (going clear back to 1989), I have no idea how “Gabriel” compares. That said, fans of Progressive Thrash with a definite early 90s bent should enjoy “Gabriel”, and are encouraged to check it out. If, however, you are like me and prefer your Trash more to the point, listen before buying.
(Online April 21, 2009)