I don’t keep a secret about how much I love Gel.
This band got on my radar after seeing the now-infamous video of their set at a Sonic Drive-In, but it wasn’t until I got the opportunity to see them open for High on Fire and Municipal Waste in December, a night that made my top 10 list of shows from last year, that I truly fell in love with this New Jersey 5-piece (specifically, that moment was when I heard “Bitchmade” live).
This band plays a style of hardcore punk that has been injected with so much groove that I struggle to listen to this band without throwing a chair out of a window. This sound and energy has been perfected from their new album “Only Constant” released March 31 through Convulse Records.
“Only Constant” starts out strong with a slow groove on “Honed Blade,” the second single released to promote the album. This track builds in intensity throughout its duration before ending on a powerful breakdown, however this song only gives a taste of what’s to come on the rest of the album.
Where the album really spreads its wings is the third track “Attainable,” that incorporates an almost jazz-like drum beat on the cymbals before coming back in with pure d-beat goodness to remind you that this is indeed a hardcore album.
From this point the album does not let up, going into my favorite song “Out of Mind,” that has a massive sound and intensity that winds down into a groovy breakdown. This continues through songs such as “Dicey,” which features a slightly more upbeat tone in the chorus but still retains the aggressive character of this style of music, as well as “Snake Skin,” that progressively slows down over the course of the track into a stomp-inducing finale.
The closer of the album is “Composure,” a track that clocks in at just over 3 minutes long, making it the longest song both on the album and of the band’s whole catalog of songs. While this song is likely my least favorite of the album, it is by no means a bad song and works excellently as a bookend to this otherwise phenomenal album.
A discussion of this album wouldn’t be complete without addressing the vocal tracks from singer Sami Kaiser. In all honesty, hardcore vocals are very hit-or-miss for my ears, but I firmly believe that Gel is a band that has hit the mark on them.
Sami delivers the vocal lines with enough grit and aggression in their voice to fit the music, while also maintaining clarity and enunciation. That aspect of the vocals I think is necessary when it comes to having politically and socially relevant lyrics as punk music often does (especially where an artist’s lyrics aren’t readily available online or even in physical media inserts).
In the case of this album, the lyrics appear to be more introspective and focused on personal experience and thought rather than commentary. This shines through on “Snake Skin,” which discusses committing to being in control of one’s own life rather than submitting to the expectations and desires of someone else.
This message of personal empowerment rings throughout the record, and I think it’s a great way to remain fresh and feel new to the music.
Overall, this album shows an upward trajectory for Gel, following up 2021’s impeccable “Violent Closure” and last year’s sonically unique split EP “Shock Therapy” with an incredibly strong release. It’s a gut punch of a record from start to finish, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is faster and groovier than their other releases. If in-your-face punk rock is something you enjoy, this album will certainly be up your alley.
I implore you to not only give this album a listen for yourself, but also to find a chance to see Gel live to get a full feel of their music, as well as supporting them, the bands they play with, and the independent venues they perform at. The phrase “it takes a village” is one I think applies strongly to music scenes, especially those that are more underground such as the hardcore punk scene.
“Only Constant” from Gel can be found on streaming services, with a digital purchase available through their Bandcamp, and is still in stock as of writing this through Convulse Records on CD and cassette.