Gideon is a band that has seemingly had trouble finding their identity over their 15 years of existence. They started off as a Christian melodic hardcore group, with the decent debut that was Costs, followed by the excellent and beloved sophomore LP Milestone. From there, the band pushed further into the metalcore direction with following albums Calloused and the gargantuan Cold. It’s from here that we finally got to see Gideon start to truly find their voice, with 2019’s two-track EP No Love/No One tearing the band free of the Christ-core shackles, and proving to be some of the band’s best work in the process. Then, in the same year, came the polarizing Out Of Control, which saw Gideon taking a harshly sharp left turn into nu-metalcore territory.
So, why exactly did I just walk you through a very brief history lesson of Gideon? That’s because their journey is a vital piece of information heading into the band’s brand new 2023 effort, More Power. More Pain.. It’s necessary to understand the identity rollercoaster that the band has gone through to understand why they have ended up here, and to understand the story of evolution and resistance to said evolution that is told with this album.
Now let me officially kick off this album review by letting this one simple fact be known; I am a huge fan of Gideon, and I adore nearly everything that they have ever done as a band. Gideon so happens to be one of the very first bands that got me into heavier music, back when Milestone came into my life in my freshmen year of high school. While many bands of the late 2000s and early 2010s have long since left my playlist rotation, Gideon has been a consistent part of my listening habits for going on ten-plus years now. So, with that, it is expected that I am almost certain to find some sort of enjoyment in every piece of music that this band puts out. However, I could not have possibly expected them to release what I truly believe to be their best album 15 years into their career.
The brilliance of More Power. More Pain. lies in its ability to tie every era of Gideon thus far into a cohesive and sensical unit that flows perfectly as a magnificent and addicting piece of music. This album feels like Gideon has finally shed themselves free of every past reservation, and finally made something that they have been trying to make for a long time. Not only is the band finding their ideal sound on this record, but they’re exceeding every way in which they have tried these sounds before, improving on almost every front. In all reality, this could have easily been a self-titled album, as this album truly feels like Gideon.
The tone of More Power. More Pain. is set immediately with the earwormy, chugstorm goodness that is Locked Out Of Heaven (which, I’m sorry to disappoint, is not a cover of the Bruno Mars song). This cut is immediately notable for its instantly memorable intro riff, as well as its eerie, spacious chorus that drops like a bomb to the eardrum. On immediate showcase is this album’s incredible production by the masterful Randy LaBeouf, with intricate layers of ambience and atmosphere on full display in every section. Nowhere is this better seen than on the album’s massive titular track, which features stomping grooves, ominous backing siren leads, and a breakdown to put all breakdowns to shame. Seriously, the ending of this track is one of the coolest moments I’ve heard in any song in recent memory, with a colossal switch up in its midpoint that will shake you to your very metal-core.
There’s huge moments all over this record, in damn near every song here. Another clear standout being the menacing and viciously fast Off The Rails, which has got to be one of the most pissed songs the band has written thus far. The squealing ambience and pounding chugs of the songs finale are truly something to behold, made even better by an excellent example of the ‘bring it back, but slower’ trope. Elsewhere, Take Off features a blazing 2000s nu-metal chorus, which makes you feel like you want to hop in a ‘68 Mustang and do 120 on the freeway. This track is heavily reminiscent of SLEEP from the band’s previous record, only greatly improved upon in almost every aspect.
It would also be criminal not to mention the performances by both drummer Jake Smelley and vocalist Daniel McWhorter on this album, both of who deliver their most masterful showings thus far in their careers. I’ve always stood by the fact that Smelley is one of the better drummers in the metalcore scene, and he proves that all over this entire record. Whether it be the cymbal switch up on the ending section of The Final Nail, which I hereby deem Bad Blood 2, or the brilliant closed hi-hat licks of the groove fest that is Back 2 Basics, Smelley always seems to be extremely thorough in the intricacies and details of his drumming. Vocalist Daniel McWhorther is also a massive highlight here as well. While he may not have the most diverse range in the game, McWhorter’s true talent is in his incredibly menacing delivery of every line he screams into your ear. Whether it be his slick, hip-hop-like flows on the grimy Damned If I Do (Damned If I Don’t), or the fiery “again, again I try to forget the knife in my back and let you back in” in The Final Nail, McWhorter always somehow finds the perfect way to deliver a hard line.
Alas, I haven’t even mentioned what is perhaps my favorite song on this whole record, that being the brilliantly sorrowful I Will Carry You. When I mentioned earlier that this album ties in every era of the band, this is the kind of song I’m talking about; this is straight up a song off of Milestone. The great thing is it doesn’t feel cheaply done or made for nostalgic purposes; the guitar leads are intricate, the chugs are gut punching, the chorus is soaring, and the china hits are explosive. This song musically feels like a spiritual sibling to Still Alive, with its high-emotion delivery and instantly-memorable chorus.
Lyrically, More Power. More Pain. paints a picture of persistence and bravery in the face of adversity, taking the themes of breaking free of family expectations set on Out Of Control and further exploring the effects that that struggle can have on your mental health. Where Out Of Control delivers a ‘no fucks given’ attitude when it comes to the opinions of others, this album gives us a deeper look into how these massive lifestyle changes have actually affected their relationships with their families, peers, and hometown.
Locked Out Of Heaven explores the difficulty of Gideon trying to find peace in their craft, with lines such as “tear myself apart just to play the game” depicting how it feels to force yourself to write music in a particular way that won’t upset any of the folks back home. For years, Gideon played the Christ-core role perfectly, avoiding inherently political song topics, or even something as simple as cursing. While I’m sure they were faithful early on, this song tells the story that the band may have been writing like this mostly to keep their friends and family rooting for them.
Elsewhere, the emotional If You Love Me, Let Me Go opens a conversation on the deterioration of mental health due to societal pressures. While on the surface, this cut might seem like your average ‘I want to leave this town’-type song, paying close attention to the placement of certain samples on the record leads me to believe that this song is telling a much darker and much more powerful story. The sample that ends the song just previous to this one talks about a suicide attempt, and those same themes are seen within the lyrics of If You Love Me, Let Me Go as well, with lines like “Living in the unforgiving shadows of my mind / If you love me let me go” painting a gut-wrenching picture on the detrimental effects of feeling like an outlier in the society you were raised in. This can be something we’ve all felt at a time, but given the context of the shift in their writing, this one hits especially hard.
Now, I know I’ve talked an awful lot about what I love about this record, so I suppose I should also mention my very few critiques for More Power. More Pain.. While I do think the majority of the tracks here are golden, there are definitely a couple that could have been left for B-sides, especially given that this thing is 14 songs long. Midnight Blue is the first contender for cutting, with its more melodic nu-metal flavors not quite reaching the level of quality of its peers. Damned If I Do (Damned If I Don’t) also feels like it doesn’t quite belong either, sticking out like a sore thumb in the tracklist despite being mostly enjoyable.
Another aspect to note of the less positive is the sheer amount of palm-muted, open-note, chug-chug-chug breakdowns all over this thing. This is nothing new for Gideon, however, you do start to feel as if you’re being beaten over the head a bit. There are a few breakdown sections that feel as if they could have been written with a bit more style, rather than just some plain ol’ chuggy-chugs.
Regardless of these nitpicks, I do feel strongly that More Power. More Pain. is Gideon’s best and most exciting record yet. The level of detail and passion that has gone into this album is definitely not unnoticed, with seemingly every section having something new finding its way into my ears with each listen. There are so many instant classics for the Gideon discography on this record, and I do feel as if a great deal of the band’s best songs come from this album.
For fans of: Kublai Khan TX, Orthodox, Varials
‘More Power. More Pain.’ by Gideon is released on 17th March on Rude Records / Equal Vision Records.
Words by Hunter Hewgley