Gorguts | ‘Coloured Sands’
It’s at this point a relatively regular thing – another month, another album from a reformed death metal band. Whether motivated by cash, midlife crisis, or sheer boredom who knows, but the current death metal scene is saturated enough without the oldies coming back from the dead.
It’s a nostalgia trip that’s starting to feel like the show band circuit for people who dress in black and remember the track listing of “Monsters of Death” by heart.
Of course some returns are more credible than others. Which is why the pressure is really on Gorguts right now – we’re not dealing with a by the numbers, also ran 90s death metal band hopping onto festival bills to earn a few bob here: we’re talking about the return of a band who went from enjoyable of generic beginnings to pushing the genre forward light years courtesy of the still staggering ‘Obscura’ and their last album ‘From Wisdom To Hate’.
It’s 12 years since the latter now. Things have changed.
Bands have taken the influence of that particular purple period, and the warped guitar playing style of those albums has become almost commonplace – oft imitated but never bettered. Certainly the announcement that this new Gorguts lineup would see main man Luc LeMay joined by tech metal wunderkids Colin Marston and Kevin Hufnagel, with blastmaster John Longstreth behind the kit lead many to wonder where this new album might go. More technical? More brutal?
Who cares. The main thing is that LeMay has engineered a situation whereby he has surrounded himself with technically agile players, and channeled their talents to create a stunning set of songs.
Not just sonic pyrotechnics although they’re there too, but labyrinthine, detailed hulks of songwriting that sound great the first time, and even better multiple spins later. This is as substantial a work as you could have asked for.
Within 58 seconds of the opening “Le Toit Du Monde” we’ve gone from a thunderous, catchy opening ornamented by some excellent Voivodian bass work from Marston into a brief spell of quiet unease and back into a double bass driven assault. It’s the musical equivalent being on a fucking massive trawler at sea during a storm, thrown around on giant black waves beyond your control.
We’re tossed through jagged waves of moods and dynamics (by the 4 minute mark we hit a stretch of dissonant violence for a couple of bars that is terrifyingly intense) before settling on an eerie slow section that closes things out on an unsettling note.
As an opening song, it’s a more thrilling and compelling piece of work than most of these reformed acts’ recent albums. Oh hai Trey Azagthoth,
It’s instantly clear that this is a reinvigorated Gorguts we’re dealing with here. All the hallmarks of those two previous albums remain, but we’re in slightly new terrain. And it’s much darker than I remember.
Maybe it’s the 7 string guitars allowing a stupidly low tuning as always, but the motivating factor behind “Colored Sands” seems to be creating an atmosphere, and an almost tangible heft.
These are long songs that twist and turn through layered and complex instrumentation but always seem to have a core that reigns them in from becoming total nonsense.
“Oceans of Wisdom” has a weird high guitar line/bass hook that turns up from time to time and helps you navigate through its’ barbed guitar lines and seemingly ever shifting drum patterns.
Shifting – that’s a word that describes this music,and I wonder if that’s where the “Sands” part of the album title comes from. It’s always moving, there’s always something subtle changing at any given time. Gorguts trade in density as much as they do dexterity here.
But enough of the armchair musicologist talk here – the most exciting thing about “Colored Sands” is that in addition to all this musical sophistication, it also, thankfully, happens to just be a fucking superb death metal album.
It has the heaviness, the morbidity, and when it’s called for the brutality that the genre demands. If you’re after the latter, “Enemies of Compassion” is an absolutely merciless piece of headbanging death metal, and is the track to go to if you want to hear Longstreth push his own boundaries when it collapses into warp speed about a third of the way through.
“The Absconders” on the other hand is a gloomy epic that on first listen passed me by, yet drew me back over and over again on further spins. It ranks as possibly the heaviest song to grace a Gorguts record thus far.
The balance of the guttural with the cerebral is perfect here, and on a song like “Reduced to Silence” the mix is perfect. Blasts colliding with angular guitars at light speed before breaking into a repeated headbanging phrase.
This song sounds utterly current but is also the one where the ghost of Gorguts past is most present. Listen carefully and you can tell this is still the work of the man who wrote the songs on the comparatively simplistic “Considered Dead” album all those years ago.
We’re given a slight respite from the controlled chaos in the form of a well executed orchestral piece, “The Battle of Chamdo”. It’s as strong a piece as any of the other songs on the album, and while providing a breather from the clanging guitars and rampaging drums, it bears as equally ominous a mood as the rest of the record.
And that’s no surprise given that LeMay has composed classical music before. Indeed, it’s that compositional approach perhaps that has given us the Gorguts we have now – his skill in creating abstract and harsh lines of sound, combined with a knowledge of how to present them in a pleasing manner.
It’s why Gorguts still stand proudly above many of their peers – not just from the aforementioned burst of rehashed bands, but above many a newer act.
“Colored Sands” sounds like a dark star collapsing towards earth, and our planet dying in flames in its’ wake. Bleak, destructive and all engulfing.
If you weren’t a fan before you won’t be now realistically – but for top class, challenging and modern death metal that isn’t any less ugly or obscure sounding than any young guns you’d care to mention, this album is pure gold. And may well be the one to beat this year.
Welcome back sirs. Your thrones await.
4.7/5 – Jamie Grimes ::: 08/7/2013