Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (2016)

Gorguts is a band that for a majority of its career has resembled an act that is at war with itself artistically.  After a serviceable debut comprised of purely death metal notions and peaking with its most dense and progressive release in The Erosion of Sanity, the band chose to scale back its arrangements while imbuing its approach with a discordance that may have laterally trespassed its prior unsullied metal constructs but at the same time gave Gorguts an identity all their own.  With regards to their contemporaries, you cannot currently say a band “sounds like Gorguts” without indirectly focusing on the sound created on Obscura, and the band’s own knowledge of that most likely has controlled their writing ever since — to the detriment of their overall intents in each record from then on…

This struggle to mine their identity for compositional relevance culminated in the post-reunion release Colored Sands, which despite the guise of overall conviction through a grandiose concept album felt more like a midlife crisis for main songwriter Luc Lemay in that the tools utilized to create their most renowned efforts became the message itself- this is the band that popularized abrasive discordance in extreme metal, and they were going to give that to you.  They were going to sound like Gorguts in a world where now they weren’t the only band available to do such, and in that superficial manner their post-reunion efforts have been successful, but the music overall had become far too abstract and one-dimensional to be wholly effective.  Their current approach due to the lack of dynamic phrases removes the immediacy of their previous voicings and renders Gorguts’ sound as one of observers rather than participants, and Colored Sands fails due to attempting opaque music from abstract, transparent tropes.  Audiences still were receptive to the change, seemingly loving what Lemay was trying to say rather than analyzing the method in which he said it.

While Colored Sands was a disappointment overall, there were glimmers of hope in the record- the second half of the album had elements that reflected the confident immediacy the band used to wield, but you had to wade through the meandering first half to get there.  Releasing a one song, 33 minute EP after could hint at either one of two things: the band had recaptured its artistic foundation with brazen assurance, or they would succumb to the fallback of their superficialities while under-developing a proper musical statement.  Unfortunately, it appears Gorguts has done the latter.

Continuing the band’s love affair with historical narratives of cultures foreign to them, Pleiades’ Dust is lyrically centered around the loss of the House of Wisdom, a library in Baghdad containing much of the world’s knowledge prior to the 1200s Mongol invasion.  A band can effectively write about concepts that are intrinsically bereft to the author should he/she take the listener there confidently, however if you approach a theme with a timid command the effort rings much more hollow than one composed of ideas properly imbued by the artist.  A single track release is a confident idea, but once you realize just how meandering a lot of the material presented here is you find Gorguts resonates as a band dancing around ideas as if afraid to get their feet wet.  Melodic themes surface and immediately yield to shrieking discordance that eventually results in ear fatigue, and when reintroduced, instead of properly advancing a narrative, they serve as mere bookmarks in a sea of blank pages. 

Some of this fatigue is due to the tonal reliance on a very specific dissonant chord.  There is a musical technique called a pedal tone, where a tone remains constant as a bassline melodically shifts, or a bassline remains consistent as the rest of the phrase changes to present a progression in narrative through contrast.  A common example in this is the fourth note of each arpeggio in the verse riff of Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).”  When utilized properly, you can advance a musical story in a microcosmic way within a riff and eventually build to a greater resolve at a song’s conclusion.  Throughout Pleiades’ Dust however, the utilization of various forms of discordance throughout the record is eschewed for a reliance of the same pedal tone over and over, and instead of this technique advancing a narrative, it reduces the entire effort to an extremely limited tonal prison.  There are brief reprieves from this, such as the beginning of seventh movement “Besieged,” which begins with what resembles a traditional doom riff, but in what feels like a group decision to abandon all hackneyed metal tropes, the riff leaps out of register to achieve discordance completely inorganically, as if it was decided it “wasn’t Gorguts enough.”  This causes the often spellbinding musicianship to be more riddled with gimmickry than declarative essence, and leaves the listener wishing the band hadn’t musically painted itself into a corner.

What would be a true progression for Gorguts at this point would be to abandon the abstract and minimize the discordance, because the continued layering of high-register guitar wailing becomes more musical wallpaper than desired catharsis through contrast.  The extremity in such tonal abrasiveness has lost its effectiveness in the current incarnation of extreme metal, and the minimalist abstract passages that bookend the more aggressive parts aren’t fully realized due to lack of concrete melody to anchor any themes.  After such a storied career, Gorguts would be best not trying to sound like Gorguts and instead present a record that is confident in execution, deliberate in the wielding of concrete textures, and challenging for the right reasons.  Until then, the band will continue to operate as an act with a wealth of things to say, yet voiceless when forced to express it.

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23 thoughts on “Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (2016)”

  1. Ignorance says:

    Precise, accurate and no-filler review.
    The cold sharpness needed to balance this website.

  2. Seeing them live was a total mindfuck. They played maybe 3 songs of classic material and like 30 straight minutes of directionless dissonance-core riffing that made my head spin. Luc could tell I wasn’t into it when I went and got a patch and shook my hand a little too hard. What an asshole lol

  3. NWN Ladyboy Fister says:

    Gorguts became shemale metal.

  4. Mister Syre says:

    Seems like no band will ever release anything apt to please the reviewers on this site.

    1. War Metal Underground says:

      Chicks with dicks are the only thing that will please the reviewers on this site.

    2. NWN War Ladyboy Metal Tourism says:

      That’s because these albums are the sonic approximation of a video gaming experience. This is pompous art fag music made to sell into a mindset that needs to be explained what metal is through “buzzwords”.

    3. Finnish Death Metal was the pinnacle of death metal says:

      Did you not read what the author said about “The Erosion of Sanity”?

    4. MightyK716 says:

      Thank you, Mister Syre. I think you’re being kind in using the term ‘reviewer’ as it applies to this site. It’s more like the V & V SQUAD (venom and vitriol). Each column or ‘review’ seems to be an excuse to unleash a torrent of hate, or a release of some sort for these individuals under the guise of commentary on this particular style of art. I understand that every album that gets released isn’t fantastic each and every time, but this crew always comes across as if extreme metal exists only to piss them off.

      1. Jerry Hauppa says:

        In my reviews I attempt to give very detailed reasons why records miss the mark, which should elevate the synopsis to a place removed from personal bias and irrational perspective. My next review will be for a contemporary band that I do enjoy and feel has a lot of promise for the future.

        1. Finnish Death Metal was the pinnacle of death metal says:

          looking forward to it, i’m also looking to contribute something soon.

      2. Like an Everflowing Stream of Gatorade says:

        MightyK, you will find within the annals of this website many a positive review. The problem is that quality control has not existed in metal for a long time (since the mid 90s at least, and even prior to that time there were thousands of turds) and the DMU is probably the most reliable guide in terms of saving time (and perhaps money). Imagine if you will, working at a factory where the only machine has been broken for 20 years, and the product continues being churned out in various states of retardation. Is one supposed to hail the lesser retarded, because “relativism”? Or ought it be judged against the timeless standards set before.

      3. Rainer Weikusat says:

        This might apply to some reviews, especially the outright bizarre ones, but not here: Even just listening to all of this EP would be worthy of an award for outstanding bravery. This is an exercise in compositional technique which has itself as sole topic. I also really don’t understand why this bills itself as »death metal« as neither the topic nor the music support this claim.

        “A total fucking musterpiece”.

  5. desu metal says:

    Great review.

    Jerry obviously Erosion is their best record and Obscura 2nd best but what do you think of From Wisdom to Hate? Is it better than Considered Dead?

    1. Jerry Hauppa says:

      Tough question. They are similar releases in that they represent half-measures from realized forms on Erosion and Obscura, but Considered Dead is probably the better overall record. It has no real standout tracks, fairly complex arrangements and is consistent all the way through. Wisdom is very front heavy with obvious standout tracks, has simple yet at times questionable arrangements (“Inverted” derails hard), but some of the band’s most concrete melodic themes. Both have pros and cons and I suppose you have to be in the right mood for each, but from a completely analytical perspective, Considered Dead wins.

      1. horse shit says:

        >half-measures from realized forms on Erosion and Obscura

        Considered Dead came before Erosion. Or do you mean a half-measure backwards for that one lol

        Agreed with almost everything else there even though I prefer From Wisdom to Hate.

        1. Jerry Hauppa says:

          I know the order the records for sure, what I meant was Considered Dead was a half realized notion compared to the full vision of Erosion, and although Wisdom came after Obscura, it feels like Obscura-lite, and a more timid reflection of that style. The influence Big Steeve had on Obscura was emulated but impossible to recreate.

          1. Ryan says:

            Considered Dead is a more complex version of Leprosy.

          2. desu metal says:

            That considered, it only makes sense that Considered is better as it takes off from a steady foundation while From Wisdom represents the first of many steps downhill.

            Personally I actually like the hairpin turns in Inverted but trying to sit through the whole album is boring. Thanks for the response.

  6. Elephant Man says:

    Wow, more reviews like this please. Thanks to everyone involved in getting this site back on track, there may be hope yet.

  7. Trashchunk says:

    I’ve never given a fuck about this band, good review however.

  8. Best thing to come out of this site in a long time, dump the #MetalGate trash and the Brent Bannon Sloppy Stevens politricks and give us more decent metal reviews, recommends, and substantial criticisms…

  9. The Erosion of Sanity is their magnum opus. Even the best in the genre. Luc Lemay said that he was inspired by Breeding the Spawn and Atrocity’s Todessehnsucht (other two death metal milestones). Without doubt the influences from this two albums are evident, but Gorguts managed to create something unique with them. This album has everything: impeccable artwork, tasteful song structures, cool song titles & lyrics, interludes etc. Everything.
    Why this album is “condemned to obscurity” while experimental crap like Obscura it’s overpraised ? It is beyond me. I mean, even though Obscura has a great concept and they (or rather Steeve Hurdle) managed to transcribe all their emotions and concepts of life and death through their lyrics, the music itself doesn’t have anything special to offer. They have focused too much on dissonance. That’s why no label until ’98 didn’t wanted to release the album and fair enough. It’s not death metal, it’s an experimental album. Imagine if they were to create Obscura but with killer riffs like on TEoS…
    Maybe it would have been better if Luc Lemay was beaten by Black Winds from Blasphemy…

  10. ass bologna says:

    Obscura is alt-rock. The only thing difficult or experimental about is is the picking techniques and dissonance in individual riffs, but the way they’re arranged is still pretty much riff A -> – B -> C -> bridge -> repeat.

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