Album review: GEL – Only Constant

Ten tracks, 16 minutes, unlimited thrills: GEL deliver one of the most exciting hardcore albums of recent times…

Album review: GEL – Only Constant
Nick Ruskell

We’re fewer than 100 days into the year, and already 2023 is turning into a banner year for punk and hardcore. Already we’ve had killer offerings from Canadian legends Fucked Up and joyous LA powerviolence crew ZULU, the righteous fury of Ukrainian trio Death Pill, and homegrown aggro from The Bar Stool Preachers and Going Off, plus the promise of new noise to come from Jesus Piece, Scowl, Knocked Loose, Dying Wish, Militarie Gun and Fuming Mouth.

Even among company so numerous and esteemed, GEL stand tall and proud as one of the finest in their field. The New Jersey quintet’s name has been gathering weight over the past few years, particularly since 2021’s Violent Closure EP and last year’s scathing contribution to their Shock Therapy split EP with Cold Brats, for reasons that quickly become self-evident. Theirs is a hardcore that’s often caustic, abrasive and scaldingly visceral, but also frequently a thing of joy and a more positive release, music for a collective kick-off, rather than simply lashing out. It's an absolute riot that'll make you want to burn off your anger by skidding on your knees like a hyped-up child.

What they do on this pulse-exploding debut full-length (a relatively leisurely 16 minutes long, rather than the blurry 10 of Violent Closure) is exhilarate and excite by making going hard sound like both a hoot and chaos. Opener Honed Blade and Fortified both deal in fat, stompy, heavy riffs that bounce like a basketball on a pneumatic beat, before the latter suddenly changes gear and speeds ahead. Out Of Mind is a speedy bit of D-beat-fuelled speed that’s absolutely irresistible, a trick they repeat on the tumbling The Way Out and vicious Worn Down, while Attainable throws a thunderous, hard groove into the mix.

Other than closure Composure, rarely do these songs venture north of a minute and a half. But they don’t need to. Everything is so packed with vitality anything longer to make their point is gilding the lily. Throughout, GEL play as if they’ve been set on fire and the only hose is at the other end of the songs, throwing absolutely everything they have into it until you can hear the sweat in the riffs.

If you want references, there's a scoop of The Bronx's rock'n'roll wild-outs, a little of Turnstile's high-kicking swag, the sort of musical melee Trash Talk used to incite. This, though, is all tied up in a vibe and an energy that's completely this band's own. It makes for a refreshingly fresh burst of noise.

Already, much has been made of how good GEL are. In a quarter-of-an-hour here, they double-down on their early promise, and become one of the most electrifying new(ish) bands on the planet, hardcore, punk or otherwise. Exciting, exhilarating, cathartic, joyous, and impossible to resist, Only Constant makes being in GEL sound like the most fun a musician could possibly have.

Verdict: 5/5

For fans of: Turnstile, The Bronx, Death Pill

Only Constant is out now via Convulse

Check out more:

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?