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The Giant Octopus with the Entangled Tentacles - 92%

bayern, May 19th, 2017

The 90’s brought a lot of changes to the musical canvas, some benevolent, some on the more detrimental side, and when the whole picturesque groovy/alternative/numetal carnival started subsiding towards the end of the decade, it became clear that what was left was another shot to be given to the old school... Sure thing, but some acts, mostly from the cold Canadian north, decided to add the most drastic alterations before going down in flames. First were these intelligent “psychos” called Voivod whose “Phobos” burst out the boundaries of thrash and progressive merging the genres with the chaotic, mechanical, dissonant, reverberating sounds of The Universe. Their compatriots Gorguts followed suit with “Obscura” which freed death metal of all restrictions and rigid confines adding a dash of brutality to the larger-than-life musical arsenal from out of space. And certainly, one of the leaders of the transformational campaign Meshuggah had to add something at the end as a logical conclusion to it; that was the “Chaosphere” opus. The title says it all…

It was interesting to see how the classic metal heritage was going to cope with this chaos, now that it was granted another mandate as the leader on the field. Well, there was no “witch hunt” in the new millennium, freedom of speech and musical preferences were granted to every single individual making the metal scene as interesting as it has never been before. Groove and retro power metal were walking hand in hand often put together into one single album, occasionally producing pretty listenable results. All was good until one day, in the mid-00’s, appeared this Giant… sorry, Gigan, three lads from Tampa, Florida, whose intention was to bring back the glory days of the Floridian death metal scene…

Kidding of course; you can’t expect a band named after a giant Japanese monster to produce something along the lines of Obituary or Morbid Angel. And indeed, the guys’ visions spread beyond the archaic old school death metal canons. In fact, they thought that the more chaotic, more futuristic metamorphoses from the late-90’s had to be elaborated on; so they put all the mentioned works into one “melting pot”, and since they found them too static and not energetic enough for their taste, they threw in a dash of grindcore and a couple of more dynamic death metal “breezes”. “Chaos” complete, and quite well organized, mind you, as evident from the excellent EP and the full-length after it which introduced the band’s complex, multi-faceted, larger-than-life style that still fell under the death metal banner without too many reserves.

We’re looking now into the album reviewed here that was supposed to consolidate the guys’ less ordinary position on the metal arena. If the previous instalment had some strict underlying discipline and order, here those frames are ephemeral at best the band intent on generating as much dishevelled intensity as possible, and marvellously succeeding in the process. The mechanized dystopian intro of the opener “Mountains Perched Like Beasts” throws the listener into the pit with the maddening jarring rhythms, the hellish guttural vocals, the sudden splashes of very technical dazzling brutality ala Cryptopsy, the thick industrial miasma akin to “Phobos” instilled in the middle, and the intriguing progressive build-ups towards the end. This microcosmos represents the album in a very evocative, depleting manner also giving the fan a very good idea of what to expect from the following numbers cause this isn’t going to be the easiest listen in the world. In fact, this will be one of the more challenging opuses the listener would come across in the new millennium so far.

If there’s any respite to be come across, it comes from the shorter tracks (“Suspended in Cubes of Torment”) which contain more speedy sections, most of them belonging to the grindcore circuit, but expect the rifforamas on them to be equally as undecipherable only presented in a much more dynamic form. A relative semblance of normality can be found on “The Raven and the Crow” which unleashes a great melodic technical melee at the beginning the latter by all means modified later, but preserved in one form or another throughout, turning this piece into a virtuoso-prone technical death metal symphony. The longer compositions are only marginally accessible as they are very labyrinthine puzzles of bizarre time-signatures, a myriad of hectic time and tempo-shifts, sprawling progressive vistas in the vein of “Obscura”, and loads of noisy abrasive riffs sometimes thrown on top of each other to a disorienting effect. The closing “The Fathomless Echoes…” alone is an encyclopaedia of mood and chaotic stylistic shifts the rhythm-section constantly switching from one pace to another, with surreal technicality inserted at the least expected places usually breaking the stride of a more linear fast-paced section.

And yet, somehow this diverse over-the-top cacophony makes sense in a very weird, characteristic way. One can’t help but marvel at this stylized mess which definitely makes much more sense as separate displays of genius which, when embedded into the whole, may pass unnoticed. In this train of thought several listens are mandatory for one to detect all the ingenious nuances although not many would be those to venture into it repeatedly. If there’s a seeming flaw to be pointed out, that would be the very boosted guitars which create quite a bit of noise and some kind of artificial industrial atmosphere. With warmer, less vociferous production, this album would have been a masterpiece; not it comes close, but only for those who could tolerate those futuristic unfathomable vistas.

The band are not alone in their fight; literally overnight the field filled in with chaos-prone technical death metal practitioners (Pillory, Psychofagist, Starring Janet Leigh, Psyopus, Fulcrum, The Gorge, An Isle Ate Her, Lost Sphere Project, etc.) who incorporated mathcore into the volatile death metal template, and made it even more interesting and less predictable. Many purists disagree with the spread of the death/mathcore epidemic, but in the case of our giants here they should have no worries: the third instalment toned down the chaos and the randomness, and was much closer to the progressive/death metal laws still retaining the elaborate riff-formulas and the spacey quasi-industrial environment. The guitar sound was less fuzzy and sharper, and there was bigger emphasis on melody, albeit of the surreal twisted variety. For some it passes for the band’s finest hour; for others this multi-tentacled “beast”, with the vast hallucinogenic landscapes, would be the (un)safe, but perennially surprising choice.