GOG- Ironworks

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, August 26, 2013

Ambient and drone are genres that can truly suck the listener in when done well. Considering that both tend to be a bit more freeform in structure than most genre, the difference between scattered noise and sounds that take listeners on a journey can be very small. GOG, the project of Michael Bjella, definitely falls into the latter category as his most recent album Ironworks utilizes walls of static and other elements to create soundscapes that explore darker, desolate ideas and threaten to completely overwhelm at times. It will likely take more than one time through to fully take in everything Bjella has laid out on this album, but those who take the opportunity to do so will find Ironworks to be an intense experience.

This was my first time experiencing GOG’s arrangements so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve listened to drone/noise/ambient of all types, ranging from stretched out field recordings to waves of static and what I found on this release was a combination of these different styles. The first word that comes to mind as I made my way through Ironworks was “industrial”, but I don’t mean that as a genre description. Bjella recorded this album in a 19th century blacksmith shop and the material seems to have soaked in this atmosphere. I’m sure that each listener will have something slightly different come to mind, but what I came up with as I listened was a tired, beaten down worker struggling to survive in a harsh world as this is what I could think of as the waves of sound washed over me. When drone and dark ambient are able to create this type of vivid imagery for the listener that’s a sign that it is done well and not just a random burst of aimless noise, and what GOG has put together is very dark and introspective.

One of the main reasons that Ironworks has stuck with me is that each of the six tracks were able to reach truly powerful levels without falling into the same pattern. There are a lot of subtle elements on each song, and the implementation of piano and vocals play a significant role in building the atmosphere. Bjella starts things off more subdued, as opener “1870-1906” has waves of guitar feedback and droning mixed with piano and environmental sounds that ebb and flow in a softer manner. It’s a great way to lead into the longer pieces, which is where the noise level increases significantly and vocals are added into the mix. There are clean vocals on “Tasks Which Destroy Body And Soul” that are very soft and just barely break through the wall of sound and much harsher black metal style screams on “God Says To Love You In Chains.” After the whirlwind of sounds and instruments on the first four pieces, Bjella ends with two numbers that are closer to traditional dark ambient and drone as the soundscapes are much more minimalist yet still just as tension filled. While I really enjoyed diving into everything Ironworks had to offer, the moments I kept returning to were the peaks in the earlier tracks where the soundscapes reached an overwhelming level. In particular “Tasks Which Destroy Body And Soul” really stood out to me, as it created mechanical and abrasive sounds while still having a personal side that invited me to explore further.

A lot of ambient and drone seeks to build an alien or mechanical soundscape, but what Bjella has created on Ironworks maintains a human element and I believe that’s part of what made it feel so powerful and kept me coming back. This album originally came out on vinyl last year via Utech Records, and it’s great to see Season of Mist give it a CD and digital release and get the material out to a larger audience. GOG stands as one of the most intriguing acts of this type that I have come across recently, and I may have to see if I can track down some of the project’s earlier releases as I am curious to find out what themes and stylistic elements Bjella has tackled outside of the ones explored on this release.


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