Crowhurst’s Bandcamp page is overwhelming. A living depository of the work of prolific Los Angeles artist Jay Gambit, it represents several years of releases, issued at an average rate of about one per month, with few ideas repeated more than once. Gambit’s primarily an artist who creates via electronics, and pretty abrasive ones at that—some of his earliest releases comprise piercing and wretched noise, the type of thing that takes a particular ear and stomach to withstand, though there’s an evolution that unfolds from the bottom of the page on up, showcasing an increasing focus on collaborative efforts, a remix compilation here and there, and an occasional glimpse at Gambit’s sense of humor (there’s a release called Fuck You Bono, for instance). But right at the top is where we find Crowhurst completing that evolution from prolific one-man noise machine to proper band, his most recent release II revealing what happens when a team of ringers joins him in the studio to produce a proper metal album.
Metal is a fairly general term for II, which features Gambit collaborating with members of Caina and Aevangelist. It’s tortured and raw, rife with grinding chords and shrieks of distortion. In that sense, it’s a natural extension of what Gambit does. The slow trudge of opening track “Cold Sweat” evades any easy melody, building up a heady steam of feedback and drone, with a rapidly quickening drum pulse to heighten the intensity, even when the visibility remains low. With “Take This Pain Away,” however, Gambit and company fully give themselves to doom, the track’s lurching rhythm and menacing minor-key groans drawing parallels to the best of Thou’s recent paeans to pain.
Crowhurst aren’t averse to pursuing more accessible, melody-driven dirges, however. In fact, when Gambit’s songwriting instincts draw him closer to real hooks, the results can be pretty awesome, be it on the goth-industrial vibes of “No Saviors” or the Unsane-style noise-blues of “The End.” The album’s true stunner, and undoubtedly scariest moment, happens in the final 13 minutes, titled “Dried Blood and Old Earth.” It’s a slow moving creature, menacing without being so outwardly aggressive. It takes time to fully take shape, but when it does, it’s more of an avant garde piece of dissonance than outright metal. It’s both horrific and beautiful, more Scott Walker than Sabbath, and it takes a rare and special sort of metal act to attempt something so brazenly weird and complex. Then again, depending on how you care to classify Crowhurst, their identity as a metal band is only one small piece of an intricate and mysterious mosaic.