Written By Hank Shteamer
GORGUTS: COLORED SANDS
Gorguts’ first record since 2001 features founding member Luc Lemay surrounded by members of Krallice, Dysrhythmia, and Origin. Colored Sands, an album of breathtaking detail and scope, contains some of the thorniest, most aggressive death metal ever issued under the classic Quebec band’s name, as well as moments of stunning textural beauty.
Like any respected underground band staging a comeback, Gorguts have a lot to live up to. In order to understand why expectations are unusually high for Colored Sands— the first new LP since 2001 from this Quebec death-metal institution– you have to look back to 1998’s Obscura, one of the most pungently progressive albums ever made, in or out of metal. Obscura didn’t just register as technical; it sounded downright excruciating, as if its shuddering blastbeats, doleful bellows, and deliriously inventive guitarwork were being torn straight from the chests of its makers.
But as brilliant as Obscura was, and as wide as its influence has spread– it holds a hallowed place not just among discerning death-metalheads, but in open-eared jazz circles as well– it wasn’t exactly a definitive Gorguts release. The band made their name playing in a very different style. Their first two LPs, 1991’s Considered Dead and 1993’s The Erosion of Sanity, demonstrated impressive tightness and a flair for involved composition, but they were very much of their time– unrelentingly intense dispatches descended from the bulging-vein aggression of 80s thrash. Conceived as early as 93, but not issued until 98, Obscura shocked longtime listeners, who couldn’t believe the madness the band’s lengthy gestation had birthed.
That chapter of Gorguts was short-lived, though, as guitarist/vocalist Steeve Hurdle– a key co-architect of Obscura, who died tragically last year at age 41– left the band in 1999. On the next Gorguts LP, 2001’s sorely underrated From Wisdom to Hate, founder and sole constant member Luc Lemay streamlined Obscura‘s demented sprawl, yielding a less outlandish yet equally distinguished statement. This was a wise move; there would’ve been no way to out-weird Obscura.