On Obscura and metal albums as song collections

May 6, 2015 –

obscuraTracklist

Arising from modern popular music, underground metal has retained many vestigial traits that several artists have consciously tried to erase and that some observers have started to question as detrimental to the effective expression of the genre. As the title of this article reveals, the case in point is the matter of albums as song collections. A good example of this becoming a hindrance to the message of the music is Gorguts’ Obscura.

Clocking in at one hour, Obscura consists of twelve songs, a little over the typical ten tracks of metal albums since the mid 1970s. The number ten has traditionally been associated with wholeness or completeness. In the most mainstream heavy metal circles it is considered only right to fill that exact number. No more, no less. A lot of death and black metal albums have veered slightly away from this rule and tend close their albums with eight or twelve tracks. Grindcore degenerates have never let numbers stand in their way and have completely given the finger to this rule as Repulsion, Napalm Death and Blood have shown us with their two-digit track lists.

The reason why more original and progressive-minded artists pay no attention to these unofficial guidelines is because whatever the artist has to say in an album should not be restricted by too many tracks. Even worse than being limited by the number of tracks is having to fill up tracks in order to reach the required number. This is precisely how we get the albums with “filler” tracks. Tracks nobody cares for but which make the album more “meaty” for those who care about such things.

More important than the adherence to a particular number of songs or tracks in an album is the fact that most bands produce precisely that: individual tracks bundled up in collections. This is Gorguts’ worse enemy even on their classic of classics. Every one of the songs up to the sixth track, Clouded, expresses a very distinct message in its method. After that, we basically get more of the same. The songs aren’t bad at all, but they do not add anything more to the album except extra minutes and more good songs whose essence is not any different from the ones before them. It’s basically thesaurus recitation.

Some propose that metal needs to look beyond the number, both as a rule and as a kind of indulgence. Just because that you have more songs does not mean you have to put them in the album. Just because you have more riffs does not mean they need a song to contain them. It is suggested that the album format in underground metal be exchanged for the classical opus format, where we have movements belonging to a coherent whole work, in which saying the same thing again and again is unnecessary and highly discouraged but in which consistency in style and voice is required to a healthy but not over-restrictive degree. Metal is not young anymore, the time to consciously take the step to the next level has come.

Obscura and Osho

May 3, 2015 –

obscura

If, like me, the reader has also purchased the latest reissue of Gorguts’ Obscura, he will find that the booklet’s back side is graced by the following quote by Osho:

The journey is long and the path is pathless and one has to be alone. There is no map and no one to guide. But there is no alternative. One cannot escape it, one cannot evade it. One has to go on the journey. The goal seems impossible but the urge to go on is intrinsic. The need is deep in the soul.

Although definitely not typical of a 1990s death metal record, these lines describe the drive that produced this almost accidental album. But aren’t all such savant releases at least partially accidental?

The spiritual and existentialist atmosphere that this quote evokes actually reflects the nature of the album as a whole and are in perfect alignment with its lyrics.

Some metal albums have beautiful lyrics accompanying the music. But the best albums bring sound and word together to shape a living entity that takes lodge in man’s heart.

Latest being drowned
In fictive degradation
Coming depression revolved
Around an Earth
Nostalgia excludes the whole

As spleen takes over me
Resound, the echoes of my threnodies
And then the fact of being
Has no longer meaning
The hymns of light
They’ll sing once I’ll be gone

Reverie appears cause
Existence collapse

Nostalgia
Sadness shall obnuilate

Sadness, feels, the desolated

Desperately lost within
Lament, pain and misery
The more lies burden lives,
The more I am dying
The realm of light
I’ll reach once I’ll…

Latest feeling drowned
In lucid contradiction
Coming relation revolved
Around a heart
Nostalgia excludes the whole

Century Media re-issues Gorguts Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate

April 20, 2015 –

gorguts_-_obscura_and_from_wisdom_to_hate_reissues

Century Media Records has recently re-issued the death metal classics Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate by Canadian band Gorguts. The 2015 editions of these records were created in close cooperation with guitarist and songwriter Luc Lemay, who describes the history and context of these releases in accompanying liner notes. The re-issues are dedicated to the memory of former members Steeve Hurdle (R.I.P. 2012) and Steve MacDonald (R.I.P. 2002).

GORGUTS Obscura (Re-Issue 2015)

  • Gatefold black 2LP
  • Gatefold mint 2LP – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / Europe only – sold out in the US)
  • Gatefold lilac 2LP – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / US webshop only)
  • Gatefold transparent blue 2LP – limited to 100 copies (exclusive to GORGUTS’ current label Season Of Mist)
  • Standard Jewelcase CD (offered at mid-price)

GORGUTS From Wisdom To Hate (Re-Issue 2015)

  • Black LP+CD
  • Silver LP+CD – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / European & US webshop)
  • Transparent red LP+CD – limited to 200 copies (only available via CMDistro.com / US webshop only)
  • Clear vinyl LP+CD – limited to 100 copies (exclusive to GORGUTS’ current label Season Of Mist)

To order:

Gorguts re-issues Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate on Century Media

February 11, 2015 –

gorguts-reissues_of_obscura_and_from_wisdom_to_hate

Death metal band turned prog-core act Gorguts has re-issued the latter two albums from its classic period, Gorguts and From Wisdom to Hate, on industry powerhouse Century Media Records. The re-issues — on jewelcase CD, 2LP and limited edition 2LP — will be available in pre-order starting March 9, 2015.

Says guitarist/composer Luc Lemay: “I’m proud to announce that our 1998 record Obscura and 2001’s From Wisdom To Hate will finally be re-released! …For this re-issue, I decided to include liner notes that tell the story behind each record. How we got together as musicians, what was the composition process that made this sound possible and that made us grow as artists…I decided to change the logo because, with a step back, I realized that I never really like the original one on Obscura and I wanted to give the record a fresh look. I kept the same logo for From Wisdom To Hate, because it was created for this record…Thanks again to all our fans for their unconditional support through all those years.”

The re-issues see official release on April 6, 2015 in Europe and April 7, 2015 in North America. Both are dedicated to the memory of former members Steeve Hurdle (R.I.P. 2012) and Steve MacDonald (R.I.P. 2002). While Gorguts has deviated into progressive-themed *core territory with their latest, Colored Sands, this band helped forge the sound of technical death metal back when that term simply referred to death metal which required technical ability to play. While Obscura has often been imitated in style, those who have tried to imitate it have generally done so on the basis of style alone and missed the sublime composition within which made this album a classic independent of style.

Gorguts – Colored Sands

September 3, 2013 –

gorguts-colored_sandsTwo of the worst fates in the world: to not know why people like what you do, and to get thrown into the big bin marked “not bad” that contains 99% of human endeavors which are quickly forgotten.

Colored Sands, which sees release today, attempts to recapture the magic of Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate. On the surface, one would see these as a collection of techniques: off-time riffs, odd chord voicings, “deep” lyrics and an affinity for classical music.

Unfortunately, that’s all Gorguts took from their back catalog.

As said above, this reviews damns this CD with the faint praise of “not bad.” It’s much better than the rest of the tek-deth genre, but that’s sort of like saying that chainsaw dismemberment is better than Evola. The real problem with Colored Sands is that it’s transparent.

You can imagine a group of guys sitting in a room thinking, “How do we make a death metal album edgy?” For starters, they throw in the list of techniques I mentioned. But then they use very similar rhythms, song structures, riff types and even sequence of chord voicings.

We could call this “the Opeth effect”: for an instant audience, make music that sounds difficult but in fact is moron-simple and predictable, because it allows people to pose at being elite. It’s in full effect here, as bad as on the second Cynic album. It’s progressive music for pop fans.

Most of us had higher expectations because Gorguts traditionally held themselves to a higher standard. But what’s here is 50% traditional death metal and 50% tech-deth dressed up as prog, and it’s boring. The best part is the brief classical piece in the style of the Russians, which is both populist and not all that exciting in the convention of that style.

Gorguts – Colored Sands preview

June 20, 2013 –

gorguts-colored_sandsThe re-formed Gorguts today released the first substantial sample we have from their new album, Colored Sands, which will be available on September 3 in the United States and August 30 in the rest of the world via Season of Mist. The default medium will be the CD digipak but Colored Sands will also be available on vinyl LP, including black vinyl, yellow in red vinyl (limited to 150 copies), and clear vinyl (limited to 350 copies).

The big question for Hessians is whether Colored Sands will sound like nu-core, either frenetic Gothenburg-styling finger wiggling or breakdown-heavy antsy post-hardcore noise like the tek-deth noodlers. The answer is surprisingly that this band is in a three-way tie between slowed-down droning alternative metal like Gojira, technical death metal of the old school, and the new school of jazz-influenced indie-style progressive metal. Unfortunately, it’s not very exciting because as you can imagine, the focus is on form, and not content.

For example, “Forgotten Arrows” tries to hard to be about something but the music doesn’t match. It’s cut from multiple skeins of metal and alternative/indie rock cloth, but the song never gets a voice of its own. All of it is well-executed, and it avoided the irritating aspects of nu-core, which is commendable. However, it never really gains a spirit, like older Gorguts did.

That being said, this is only one track, and it’s a lot better than expected for the title (which may reflect a Vedic influence) and the addition of people like Colin Marston, who while he was a friendly and articulate fellow when I met him, is forever damned in metal for releasing the droning black metal imitation flavoring turd Krallice. The new guitarist and drummer seem to keep up admirably with grand old metal man Luc Lemay and his adroit fingers.

Track Listing:

  1. Le toit du monde
  2. An Ocean of Wisdom
  3. Forgotten Arrows
  4. Colored Sands
  5. The Battle of Chamdo
  6. Enemies of Compassion
  7. Ember’s Voice
  8. Absconders
  9. Reduced to Silence

Gorguts 2013 U.S. Tour Dates:

  • 09/05 – Springfield, Va. @ Empire
  • 09/06 – Raleigh, N.C. @ Hopscotch Festival
  • 09/07 – Wilimington, Dela. @ Mojo 13
  • 09/08 – Worcester, Mass. @ Palladium

Gorguts plan return with Colored Sands

June 6, 2013 –

gorguts-colored_sands_tourThe might Gorguts, who added atmosphere to thunderous Florida-style death metal before deviating into labyrithine riff progressive death metal on Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate, and then fading into obscurity with only one resurrecting as modern metalcore band Negativa, plan to return on September 3 with a new album entitled Colored Sands and a tour to follow.

If you don’t hear the heavy metal world pounding on the door to demand to hear it, here is why: the name is obviously of the type that is used by modern metal bands, including metalcore and “progressive metal” that is mostly indie with some progressive and very little metal, and thus, it’s unlikely that we’re going to get Considered Dead II, or even Obscura II. In fact, what it sounds like we are going to get is another modern metal album that, because it has abandoned what it is to be metal in spirit and composition, is a diverse collage of bits in the modern style, which means a giant indecisive waffle that leaves you feeling empty after consumption.

As the staff optimist here at DeathMetal.org, I am hoping otherwise, and putting my trust in Luc Lemay and team’s solid record in the past. However, the team is entirely different now, except for Lemay. Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia) is on rhythm guitars, Colin Marston (Behold… The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia) on bass and John Longstreth (Origin, Angelcorpse) on drums. This also makes metalheads uneasy, because no matter how much they “love true metal,” Marston and Hufnagel are from a hipster metalcore band.

Still, we preserve optimism. The hope is that Gorguts will make something interesting. That excludes technical metalcore. I would rather they released a rockabilly record that join the stupid and horrible trend of mixing Fugazi, frenetic 1970s jazz fusion, and a few metal riffs and calling it “innovation” when by definition it’s a recycling of past ideas. Time will tell, and we can only hope that Gorguts rise above the pack yet again and bring us a vision of something profound instead of something compliant.