Six Paths is a brutal album, as demonstrated in the first and last titles: “Abyss” and “There is Nothing on the Other Side.” Gorgonn is inspired by Japanese Buddhism’s Six Paths, while leaning more toward the terrifying than the uplifting. Four such paths lead to potentially delightful incarnations, one to ghosthood and the last to jigoku, ruled by Emma-ō in torrents of ice and fire. While one may escape such a shadowed existence, the timeline – hundreds of millions of years – is particularly daunting. The music of Gorgonn is suitably dark and bleak, a soundtrack to what some would call damnation and others karma.
There is, however, a silver lining, a saving grace. Six Paths may look south, but it is also danceable. On the one hand, the album represents an imagined hell; on the other, it presents music that would never be played in such a hell, for even a plodding tempo is a tempo, a pulse, a sign of life. The chief ingredient is instead drama: the thought of missing out on the other five paths, or at least the first four, forced to relive the actions and the consequences with complete clarity. When a bell sounds in “Greed,” it sounds so distantly it seems like a phantasm, an unattainable thread, the chance of escape so thin as to be nearly invisible. The factory clanking of “Without Beginning or End” implies a factory with no break time and no recourse, a mechanized, dehumanizing fate. The alarms and warning sirens of “Deadman” go unanswered.
“Not Yet Surrendered” is the most resolute track, as if one has turned one’s shoulder to the grinding wheel and decided to plow forward. What are hundreds of millions of years in the eye of eternity? If the piece is still not hopeful, neither is it resigned. “Life as a Beast,” the end of the album proper (which will continue with two bonus tracks) suggests that even a perceived demotion to the animal realm might not be all that bad, considering the alternative.
What sort of music (if any) does play in jigoko? Six Paths provides no answer, merely a warning. (Richard Allen)