Gideon Have Something to Say — And Some Listeners May Not Like It
It’s been a long road for Gideon, the Alabama-based metal act that have grown legs beyond the primordial ooze of their Christian hardcore inception. In ironing out their past inconsistencies, however, the ruthless quartet have arrived at a turning point surely primed to ruffle some feathers. Following that contention, it should come as no surprise that the band’s fifth album Out of Control — out this Friday, Oct. 11 — marks their boldest personal and professional statement yet. In forging their own path, Gideon have finally bulldozed their former selves.
Locale usually plays a part in an artist’s religious initiative, if not the potential abandonment of that devotion down the line. Although Gideon handed in their evangelism for a broader worldview, the group founded in Tuscaloosa a decade ago aren’t giving up on their Southern roots. No, they’re hewing even closer to some iconic performers that crystallized the sonic nature of the late American South. Namely, the game-changing hip-hop duo OutKast and that pair’s early insistence on letting Southern music speak for itself. This time around, Gideon themselves have something to say.
Not that they didn’t speak out before. But the focus has massively shifted. The heavy band’s early run on the gospel-focused Facedown Records concluded with 2014 breakthrough Calloused, and Gideon’s 2017 Equal Vision debut Cold created a conscious schism in the group’s fanbase. That gulf only deepened with February’s surprise No Love/No One EP. On that two-song sledgehammer, the outfit’s once-biblical worldview fully developed into hellish realism, the open cut even laced with a pointed expletive.
This week, the capstone Out of Control crystallizes Gideon’s album trilogy that began with the musicians faithfully finding their crux on Calloused, no matter the bitter mental costs subsequently outlined on Cold. They’re extending an empathetic hand to fans in much the same way they did in Jesus’ name. But instead of giving listeners a religious charge, they want to assist interested parties in locating their true inner light. That exalted energy that lies underneath external religiosity, internal anxiety or other pressurized forces.
The renewed drive was put in sharp focus when, during the recording sessions, guitarist Tyler Riley pulled up a YouTube video of OutKast’s now-legendary acceptance speech at the 1995 Source Awards. After being booed by the audience members for winning New Artist of the Year for a group, OutKast member (and later “Hey Ya!” hitmaker) André 3000 denounced ignorant listeners with a proud punctuation: “The South got something to say!”
As Gideon drummer Jake Smelley recently told Loudwire, “OutKast is one of those Southern influences where we really love what they talk about and how they approach it. Hip-hop's always influenced our music, but now we're just being ourselves to the max. We were watching them go up onstage with everybody booing them, feeling like we're kinda experiencing the same thing. When André gets up there and he's saying how he’s tired of all these close-minded folks… it just stuck so hard. We were just like, ‘That's going in a fucking song.’”
Riley cut in, recalling rapper Killer Mike’s comments on the incident for a VH1 Rock Docs episode. “They're coming out and saying, like, we don't have to impress you guys, we don't even have to be influenced by you.” The parallels between OutKast’s vintage surroundings and Gideon’s current position are noted — not to mention the similar effect of Southern sounds on a culture hinged on East Coast versus West Coast dichotomy. “We were already through a good portion of the record when we started talking about this,” Riley added. “But it almost brought me to tears how passionate OutKast were to push that forward and just be that brave to speak out.”
Fortuitously, the proclamation did end up on an Out of Control tune. The bouncy title track runs through an audible laundry list of metal and hardcore cues while vocalist Daniel McWhorter uses OutKast’s then-novel decree as a battle cry for Gideon’s individuality. Elsewhere on the record, the recently released “2 Close” features guest vocals from Stray From the Path’s Drew York in the album highlight that combines nu-metal touchstones with classic rock swagger. (Hear it below.) Other songs issued ahead of the release include the affected blast of “Sleep,” the violently sputtering “Bite Down” and the atmospheric anthem “Take Me.”
All of them benefit from the addition of new bassist Caleb DeRusha, formerly of fellow Facedown alums Those Who Fear. Interestingly enough, DeRusha brought the bulk of guitar riffs that laid the groundwork for Out of Control. From there, Gideon’s remaining members molded those melodic hooks into the album’s final compositions, complete with lyrics mainly penned by Smelley. DeRusha’s writing strategy doesn’t stay pinned to any particular sound or genre, which lends the album a timeless air that transcends the band’s previous work.
“When we were writing past albums, we always tried to focus on making sure things just grooved,” Riley explained. “But when Caleb came to the table, there were so many parts that just had the groove in it already. It was like, ‘Man, you're taking this another step.’”
But the sinuous grooves that give the record its alluring aural topography underscore thematic material that may not go down so easy. While listeners who claim a Christian philosophy may be averse to Gideon’s worldly trajectory, the band members involved aren’t hedging their bets on a doctrine. They’ve seen the damage religion can do, the psychic prisons it can create. With that in mind, they’re owning up to their upbringing and doubling down on their renewed mission.
“There's a lot of pain down South where we come from,” Smelley spelled out. “People try to go on their own journey, but they're stuck in this little community and they don't have any escape. So they start turning to drugs or… we've lost a lot of friends to suicide. Because they can't open up and just say how they feel inside. They’re just lost.”
The drummer continued, “So we're influenced by a lot of different music when it comes to illustrating this. Even besides OutKast, a lot of the '70s and ‘80s outlaw country speaks to us. Back when country music was very straight-laced, you had all these guys coming out and breaking tradition. They were being who they wanted to be and living the way they wanted to live. That's something that Kacey Musgraves does a lot, too. She’s also a big influence because she's someone that embraces where she's from but also talks about how people need to open their mind to things. And we used that inspiration to talk about things that needed to be talked about.”
Indeed, Gideon won’t be fenced in by genre tropes or other restrictions when it comes to speaking their minds. The barbed wire adorning Out of Control‘s album cover— shown in detail on the preceding No Love/No One EP — represents the constraints the group has surmounted, both literally and metaphorically. You can’t go a stone’s throw in the band’s Cotton State breeding ground without coming up against some jagged, metal barrier. And their mental environs in childhood were just as restrictive.
“This band started when I was still in high school,” Smelley remembered. “Growing up in church and going to a Christian school, it’s all I was ever around. And it's something we truly believed, you know? But we’ve always sought the truth, and we recently felt like we were at a spot where we started questioning a lot of things. And I think traveling a lot outside of our community, and all these fences we were around our whole life, really made us form our own opinions as people. Not even just as a band, but individually. We just want to be as open and honest and as personal as we can be.”
That quest for knowledge and connection informs all of the band’s actions. It doesn’t matter if they’re influenced by other metal bands, country artists or OutKast. The South is still speaking.
“For OutKast, at the time, it was East and West, and that's all anyone cared about,” Smelley reiterated. “And they just came up and obliterated that. We just thought, ‘Damn guys, we've got some shit to say, too.”
Gideon, "2 Close (feat. Drew York)" Music Video
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