Kastasyde’s latest record, Gnosis, is a great example of how innovation doesn’t always equate with quality or excellence. The Chicago-based band carries a sound that is part progressive melo-death, part Mastodon-style stoner prog, part groove metal, and part Opeth-style prog (both old and new style Opeth). It’s a similar sound that made Canadian band Anciients (with two i’s) so damn appealing, but the real problem for Kastasyde (besides that silly name) is that they don’t really go all-in on the innovation front. If the songs themselves had that interesting musical gumbo all stirred up, you’d have yourself a neat prog stoner metal stew, seasoned with a generous helping of riffs and solos. Instead, Kastasyde goes for each song having a distinct style. “Natural State” feels like a meeting between The Black Dahlia Murder and Lamb of God, which is to say it’s a Hell of a lot of fun. The title track has an Opeth meets Mastodon feel, and “Blackheart” is an odd but interesting marriage between thrash and stoner.
All this is leading to my main conclusion. The songs themselves are all fine enough, minus the poorly executed acoustic number “In the Spiral”; however, they lack a necessary cohesion or underlying theme. It’s mostly well done; the guitar work and drumming are good to great throughout, and the vocals are able to work harsh and clean vocals in well. Honestly, it’s a pretty damn good release, but this haphazard genre-jumping both works in the band’s favor and detracts from the overall listening experience. It’s like Kastasyde wanted to combine all their favorite styles of metal, prog, and rock and just didn’t mix it thoroughly enough. So you have one cookie that’s more peanut butter and another that’s more chocolate. It’s full of good ideas, but you get the sense that a better and more consistent mix would be very beneficial. Kastasyde is definitely onto something here, as Gnosis is both fun and full of promise, so hopefully the next release realizes that potential. (Nicholas Senior)