Gorguts – Colored Sands (Season of Mist)

This tech-death deity is a majestic all-conquering force: alien, but not alienating.
Release Date: 
30 Aug 2013 (All day)

There’s obviously something in the water in Canada. The amount of ground-breaking progressive bands hailing from the Canuck homeland is staggering. As well as the original prog-heroes Rush and current king of the crop, Devin Townsend, there’s tech-death elite such as Crytopsy, Augury and Neuraxis; hell, even the best thrash to come out of Canada — courtesy of Voivod  has a strong progressive edge.

And lets not forget Gorguts. The Quebecois-based brutallers released the brain-busting  Obscura (1998) and From Wisdom to Hate (2001) to great acclaim, landmark works of technical death metal; complex, challenging works with a sense of depth and vision. Those two albums in particular still stand up against anything released by current tech-death bands, despite the fact that the bar for technical dexterity and sheer ‘check this shit out‘-ness seems to be increasing exponentially.

After over a decade’s silence, sole remaining member of Gorguts, Luc Lemay (vocalist, guitarist and the only Canadian now in the band) has gathered together some truly A-grade musicians for new album Colored Sands. Drummer John Longstreth is the architect behind the ludicrously fast, yet immaculately precise and cleverly executed blastbeats and blistering double-bass drum work of Origin, Angelcorpse, Dying Fetus and Skinless. Bass player Colin Marston propels the forward-thinking compositions of Krallice, Dysrhythmia and Behold … The Arctopus (in this band Marston plays a 12-string Raptor Warr guitar that has to be heard to be believed). And Kevin Hufnagel, also of Dysrhythmia, (and 5 solo albums, and all the rest) is also on guitar.

With this kind of line-up, you could be forgiven for suspecting that Colored Sands is yet another self-indulgent note-fest consisting of complex time-signatures and conflicting key changes uncomfortably mashed together into songs that sound like the stereotype of free jazz: EVERYBODY SOLO!

Despite coming from a musical genre often defined by an inane desire to play more notes than anyone else with little to no regard with what the other guys in the band are doing, Colored Sands is an exquisitely composed album. It’s the way that the separate parts come together to create something that’s greater than the sum of its parts that raises this album far above your ‘average’ death metal album. There are dynamics here: Opening song Le toit du monde thunders out of the gates like some majestic conquering force, before transitioning through some subdued, swelling passages that build up to the song’s climax; at the midpoint there’s an orchestral piece, The Battle of Chamdo, that stands up well on its own, but functions so much more superbly to bridge the two halves of the album; and throughout the whole work there are moody atmospheric passages to match the best of Nile (a la In Their Darkened Shrines).

Sure, it’s chock-full of brutal blasting and complex musicianship that will keep the purists hooked, but its the elaborate song structures and overarching feel of the album — it sounds big, like some immeasurably powerful interstellar entity coasting through the measureless reaches of space; alien, but not alienating — that makes this such a standout. An album that is immediately intriguing, and which reaps continued rewards the more you invest in it. Top 10 material for sure.