Gradience- Ironsight (EP Review)

May 29, 2024


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One of the exciting parts of being a music reviewer is discovering bands that bring together genres that don’t seem like they would mesh well on paper.  Danish duo Gradience is a perfect example, as they take elements of hip-hop, nu-metal, deathcore, and metalcore, and fuse it with black metal to create a sound that’s both nostalgic and fresh at the same time.  While a few decades ago black metal and nu-metal couldn’t have been farther removed with polar opposite fan bases, recent years have bridged the gap with plenty of crossovers and Gradience’s debut EP Ironsight showcases there’s plenty of room left to further explore.  It may not be for everyone, but listeners that like all variants of heavy music and want something that’s aggressive and catchy at the same time will get some mileage out of this release.

What drew me to Gradience was how seamless the transition between the hip-hop and metal side of their sound is.  Opener “This Abyss” is a great example, as the first few seconds establish a darker melody and speaker rumbling beat but things explode without warning into a flurry of blast beats and abrasive black metal riffing.  Each of the five tracks has this regular back and forth between smoother hip-hop and destructive metal riffs, but how it gets there varies by song.  The title track opts for a darker, moodier melody that reminds me of hip-hop and late 90s nu-metal alongside some guitar sweeps and breakdowns that have more of a deathcore or metalcore feel, which is amplified by the guest inclusion of Cabal on “Blindsided”.  “Love Me and Lie” returns to the explosive black metal transitions, but the moments in between these gives off more of an alternative rock or hard rock vibe circa the mid-2000s.  Sometimes Gradience reminds me of Linkin Park and GHØSTKID, but with a bit more deathcore and black metal baked in, and the way they fuse everything together still makes for a unique sound.  I particularly love the collaboration with Cabal on “Blindsided”, as the slower, moodier parts get under your skin and then the destructive riffs hit as hard as possible.  But as much as I enjoyed this EP and what it’s going for, the two-to-three-minute run time for each song sometimes made it feel like Gradience was cutting themselves off prematurely.  There are a few moments that seem to be hinting at even bigger peaks that didn’t quite arrive, and it feels like some untapped potential remains in terms of further fusing these musical elements together.

As much as I appreciate the cinematic qualities of the melodies and crushing black metal and deathcore/metalcore riffing, the fact that Gradience is heavily hip-hop inspired makes the vocal work overshadow the instrumentals a bit.  Thankfully the band doesn’t disappoint in this regard, and there’s that same mix of calm and explosive in the way things transition between rapping and screaming.  The rapping has this much smoother flow to it, which is where I’m reminded the most of Linkin Park, while the harsher pitches really lean into it and go for a lot of distortion and intensity.  It sounds like this shouldn’t work, but the balance between the two is infectious and a lot of sections get stuck in your head over repeat listens.  “Love Me and Lie” flips the script with a more alternative rock singing pitch that has the same smooth flow as the rapping and showcases that Gradience is always trying something different.

Ironsight is an EP that has been a regular part of my listening rotation for the past week and a half, as it combines nu-metal/rap metal with other variants of extreme metal and hardcore in ways that feel genuinely unique and catchy.  At the same time, it also feels like Gradience is just scratching the surface of what is possible here, as some of the songs are almost too brief to let the atmosphere or most intense moments reach their full level of impact.  The group recently announced their expansion from a duo to a full lineup, and if they continue this type of experimentation and seamless moves between hip-hop and metal then we’re in for something truly special in the future.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg