Dave Davidson's playing on Gargoyl’s self-titled debut gears down from the high-speed ferocity he’s prone to delivering with veteran death metal outfit Revocation, but that doesn’t make his new project any less unsettling.
Take the intro to first single Electrical Sickness, where he and Gargoyl co-guitarist Luke Roberts unfurl a series of demented and augmented arpeggios above a jacked-up samba beat, each chord pairing more dizzyingly kaleidoscopic than the last.
“The more tension you stack into a chord, the more intriguing it could potentially sound,” Davidson says about the beguiling piece, which Roberts wrote.
“It’s got these really dissonant, augmented triads that are harmonized, [creating] this really unnerving, super-tense sound. But behind it is this really grooving drum beat and a hypnotic bass line... I’m tapping my foot to it, but it sounds like an insane person wrote this. It’s maddening, in an infectious kind of way.” Altogether, the 11-song Gargoyl makes for a rather brooding bedlam.
Davidson and Roberts’ shared love of '90s grunge brings a noticeable Alice in Chains-like gloom to Cursed Generation, though they also delve into jagged power blues (Plastic Nothing) and discombobulated chamber rock (Waltz Dystopia). Davidson partially credits the record’s eclectic tone to its equally amorphous gear list.
While often slinging his signature Jackson Warrior in Revocation, he and Roberts continuously passed around Les Pauls, Teles and a cobbled-together “Frankenstrat” during the Gargoyl sessions; Davidson tracked his clean sections with a ’69 Gibson ES-335.
Though full of offbeat transitions and curious chord phrasings, Gargoyl generally shies away from Davidson’s knuckle-busting solo style. Arguably, this makes rare expulsions like the wide intervallic movements he brings to Nightmare Conspiracy even more bombastic.
“There’s a pattern in there that, to me, is reminiscent of a saxophone line – something that wouldn’t be thought of as a ‘guitarist’ thing to do,” he says. “The cool thing with pull-offs and weird pentatonic sounds? [I’m] trying to emulate other instruments.”
That’s a telling reveal from the Berklee-trained Davidson, whose influences run from jazz pianist McCoy Tyner to obscure Norwegian metal act Virus.
Gargoyl’s two-song Asomatous demo from 2019 featured a blazing solo on its Acid Crown, but the newly recorded album version scraps that stringed approach in favor of passionate skronks from Boston-based saxophonist Erik Van Dam – something Davidson admits he had wanted on the demo in the first place.
While the virtuosic talent can cut it up with the best of them, Gargoyl’s songcraft has Davidson re-evaluating when best to employ a shredfest.
“I think with every young guitar player, you try to prove yourself and come out guns blazing with a million notes a second. I like to have some technicality to my solos, but for me it’s more of a storytelling element now – to create the peaks and valleys of a solo rather than, ‘Look what I can do.’”
- Gargoyl's self-titled debut is out now via Season of Mist.