1991 – Considered Dead – R/C Records
It is hard to remember Gorguts as anything other than boundary pushing, avant-grade and unique purveyors of some of the most challenging music out there. But everybody has to start somewhere and their debut was a straight up death metal record. No evidence was shown in 1991 of much of anything in the way of technicality with the focus instead being on the release of the familiar sound that was infecting much of the metal world in the early nineties.
It was well-played stuff most definitely with the band having retained three quarters of the line up from the ’89 demo …And Then Comes Lividity barring the replacement of Chouinard on guitar by Sylvain Marcoux. Here there were catchy riffs like other death metal bands were knocking out as well as similar levels of frenzied intensity. But Considered Dead is by my own admission and underrated album of the death metal genre.
Yes, it reinvented no wheels but at the time there was no need to. Imagine if the debut sounded anything like Obscura; the band would probably have never gotten past one record. Intelligently Gorguts created a notch for themselves on the wall of death metal by just doing what others were doing really well and without bluster. No gore obsessed lyrics, no demon worshipping here folks, just some spooky looking artwork and a suitably extreme sound to back it up.
Whilst far from being my favourite release from the band, for a debut record there was little to argue with here. It was a solid foundation for some of the layers of avant-garde and challenging death metal that were to be built on top of it over the coming three decades and throughout all that experimentation and out of the box thinking the band never stopped sounding like a death metal band who cut their teeth with the best of them.
1993 – The Erosion of Sanity – Roadrunner Records
I often think that Gorguts grew almost too quickly for their own good. I mean an album of the ilk of Obscura getting dropped by a band just three records into their career is mind-boggling, even with a five year gap between its predecessor. Already by the time the band got around to their sophomore record you could practically hear the cogs whirring around in the heads of most DM fans wondering how a band could develop and mature so quickly in just two years. The Erosion of Sanity was a real beast to have to contend with as a standalone record, let alone a follow up to an already solid and very capable debut that had heads looking at the band already. When a band hones its art that quickly and that deftly you have to forgive those that get left behind in the fan base. If you got stranded at The Erosion of Sanity by Obscura I kind of understand it. I mean the second album from Gorguts is superb. Varied, dense and technical are just some of the words you could throw in its direction but overall it is still a solid, consistent and pummelling experience for the die-hards of the scene to lap up.
There’s an almost inevitable comparison with Suffocation here with the influence of that band painted all over the walls of this record. As a result the album has a constant weight to it no matter what the frequency of the tempo being played is. This density provides atmosphere for virtually the whole record, even on the acoustic strings that introduce the closing track Dormant Misery there is a sense of impending peril in the air. Yet at the same time the whole record has a rabid and urgent style to it that instils a sense of nervous anxiety in the listener as they track the intense and unrelenting delivery of some fine death metal.
The technical aspect to the sound goes slightly unnoticed at the first couple of listens making this an album that rewards frequent visits to it as you start peel back the initial layer of acute brutality that
you think is the sole purpose of the album to find further layers of textures beneath for you to assess and understand. Tracks like Orphans of Sickness are what true technical death metal is all about, shifting and surging like some turgid river in the midst of monsoon season. The song feels vile and putrid yet there's no doubt that fiendish and devilish hands were present in its construction to provide a masterful and unsettling edge at the same time.
I am slowly getting to owning all physical copies of Gorguts' discography because they are a band who have yet to put a foot wrong across a career that has seen them take a well-known genre with a distinct sound and direction and push the boundaries of it into the outer-stratosphere. The Erosion of Sanity is when the rocket boosters kicked in and took them clear of most of the competition at the time.
1998 – Obscura – Olympic Recordings
Enter the avant-garde, bass twanging, bone-jarring branch of Gorguts that seems to cause equal amounts of praise and revulsion across the death metal fan base. I sit firmly in the praise camp. Not that I don't get the challenges that people have with this directional shift from the bands previous releases (all respectable enough DM records), but for me what impresses me the most about Obscura is the sheer range and scope of the album. It isn't perfect by any means but, as per my love of Colored Sands this record likewise retains death metal as its core source, despite the multi-layered influences on display here Obscura does still come across as a raging death metal record full of energy and rampant angst.
Lemay's trademark demented shriek accompanies the instrumentation perfectly. I find the music twists and contorts brilliantly throughout, taking the listener on a real journey. The only real downside to that journey perhaps is the length of it. Clocking in at an hour in duration, the record does meander a bit unfortunately. Although it is stylistically refreshing it is not controlled enough in its delivery to be able to sustain a presence for such a long period of time. To compare it with the aforementioned Colored Sands is a fair contrast really as the latter album absolutely nails the delivery of the avant-garde/experimental aspect by integrating it into the overall sound better, even though the run time is more or less the same the 2013 album feels more palatable.
From reading the criticism of Obscura there's definitely a feeling of the album being something that is done to the fans as opposed to being something they feel is introduced to them. As full on as it is, the record is still fun and an entertaining enough curved ball.
2001 – From Wisdom to Hate – Olympic Recordings
At some point (may still be his view) Luc Lemay viewed From Wisdom to Hate as the natural progression from Erosion of Sanity as opposed to appearing after Obscura. What Gorguts' fourth album represents is a mellowing of some of the avant-garde elements that made the previous album more jarring and obtuse to some listener's ears and reverted to some more familiar atavistic death metal that has become pretty much the trademark songwriting of the band. Whereas Obscura was at times untidy amidst the rampant entertainment value of the record, From Wisdom to Hate offered a compositionally more grounded outing that relied on good songwriting as much as it did the challenging aspect of its predecessor.
There had been a three year gap since their previous release and the bulk of that time had been spent on tour as well as (for Luc at least) some intensive study taking up non-road time. The large gap and distractions proved too much for an impatient Steeve Hurdle and he had chosen to leave the band over the inactivity whilst Patrick Robert had vacated the drum seat for the returning Steve
MacDonald after the touring life proved too intense for Pat. Having poached Martyr's Dan Mongrain into the Gorguts' camp, Luc set about teaching him the band's back catalogue and quickly found that the guy was pretty much a natural (he learned 4 songs from Obscura in just one evening) and so Mongrain got straight onto the songwriting credits for some three songs of his own and one co-written with Lemay. Despite some pretty significant personnel changes, the band landed on their feet with a familiar face wanting to return and some highly-skilled, new blood to flex their artistry also.
The effect is obvious as the band bridged that gap between the inventive and eccentric nature of their last outing and the more familiar hue of more traditional death metal that charged the still pioneering direction band with an energy that most bands struggle to retain beyond their debut. Although arguably for me the album needs a tad more of the Obscura vibe, From Wisdom to Hate was a fine pre-cursor to the next stage of Gorguts where the real clever stuff started to happen and their ability to write structural and deeply textured songs really took off. Hearing what theof the band are putting out now can have those roots traced back to their fourth outing. As solid as it is, there's a real feel for boundaries still getting pushed, only this time it is more subtle in how it delivers that, abandoning the full-on assault approach for more strategic-based deployment of their forces.
For me there was some danger of this release getting lost in the discography as a lot of my attention has been on the third and fifth releases from the band. I am glad I revisited this (purchasing a CD copy along the way) because From Wisdom to Hate is an essential release in the Gorguts' catalogue. It takes the gold dust of Obscura and blends with the promise of Colored Sands and represents a band at the turning point in their career, fully-matured like some fine wine and ready to provide richness to the already plentiful dinner table.
2013 – Colored Sands – Season of Mist
Twelve years after their last full length, Gorguts returned as more or less a new band. Lemay was the only original member and he recruited three of the most gifted and adaptable musicians to record hands down the best record Gorguts ever made! Colin Marston from...well every band in the world seemingly picked up bass duties whilst the well-travelled John Longstreth joined on drums and with Kevin Hufnagel picking up guitar duties alongside Luc, the credentials of this line up were immediately obvious before a note was even recorded.
Colored Sands delivered on every level. Detailed and considered songwriting, variety in approach and delivery and skill displayed without arrogance or wankery. There are parts to the record that stay in my head for days, changes of pace that still catch me off guard after nearly seven years and moments of sublime tenderness that touch your very soul.
An assault on the senses like any Morbid Angel or Deicide album only with so many layers added to take that extreme sound and push the boundaries of this genre to even further reaches of extremity with a deftness that most can only dream of achieving. This wasn't garish and jarring like Obscura was, this was more refined, all of those off-kilter elements were there but had more precision and integration applied to their inclusion. At this stage, the songwriting capability of the band is unrivalled in the metal world as they draw up vast blueprints to near unfathomable structures that require lots of studious reviewing to really get the full picture and attempt to understand what it all means.
The above withstanding, I still find this to be one of the bands more accessible releases but I am now so attuned to Lemay’s thought process that I may actually end up on an album soon enough myself (I fucking wish). This was my gateway album into the band, and what an introduction it was. Imagine my surprise working my way back through their discography from this release to find all manner of further attempts at the avant-garde mashed up with pure, straight up death metal also.
2016 – Pleiades’ Dust – Season of Mist
The barrage of bass-heavy, spiralling, rarefied, abstract and arcane death metal that Gorguts create on Pleiades' Dust just happens to be one of the most well composed pieces of music I have ever heard. The fact is that the instrumentation on display here is sheer artistry, it isn't supposed to resemble much of anything else out there it is unique and distinctive without relying on being quirky or turgid to deliver its message.
If I am honest, I had my doubts when I heard that this album was going to be one continuous song. Even knowing the skill of the musicians involved I was dubious on how this could be delivered effectively without feeling bloated or bombastic. The result is nothing short of astonishing though, maintaining flow and storytelling whilst still showing that they are a band rooted firmly in the ground of death metal yet some two decades in to their career are now producing some of the most challenging and cabbalistic music in existence today.
Taking into account that it was recently announced that Gorguts are working on new material for their next release, you have to wonder exactly where the band are going to go next with this ever-evolving and increasingly eloquent brand of death metal. They are almost the band I wished Death had become (instead of morphing into Control Denied) as with every release they have pushed their sound forwards and with it the boundary of death metal as a genre overall. That having been said, they have never compromised or lost any of the aggression or extremity to their sound. Sustainably over their discography they have left that golden thread in their sound that can be traced all the way back to their debut which is now nearly thirty years old.
In my book there’s a handful of bands who can produce a solid run of albums and get better with each release, but eventually most of them fall after four or five albums (Metallica, Sepultura I am looking at you). The strata of bands that sit in the rarefied atmosphere for having nearly flawless discographies has even less occupants (hence I don’t write too many of these type of articles), with perhaps only Death being the obvious co-inhabitants of Luc and co. They might have lost fans along the way in some quarters but to me they have grown as a band over thirty years and used the downtime to their advantage, applying their understanding of music superbly, upping their game with each outing.
Constantly exploring stories within their own story the band show a knowledge of history not always taught in high school and revisit these times of old. Their music is insightful and conscientiously written and makes me wish History was this interesting when I was in school.