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The Sands of Time Persist - 87%

Vortic, April 20th, 2018

Lemay took his time. He REALLY took his time. Colored Sands is way different than Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate in its roots. The untrained ear will dismiss all three as "sonic orgies", dissonant primordial soup with no backbone for the music to adhere to. And here I come to tell you what differentiates all three. The former two were both born from the artists' desire to write some of the most intense, intricate and virtually unlistenable by normal humans record. Obscura perfected that, at the cost of, well, overall composition and sense of art. You see, music shouldn't be pure mathematical madness (i.e. most of Schoenberg's later works which I don't really dig that much), it should feature a fair amount of both theoretical thought (dodecaphony in the sense of expressionism) and emotions, arranged with the listener's experience in mind (romanticism). And Luc Lemay spent most of his life studying how to balance these two polar opposites, from listening to modernist composers like Dmitri Schostakovich to applying and graduating from a conservatory, the guy loves his music.

One thing Gorguts have always managed to nail on all of their records is the guitar sound. From the rasp and 100% overdriven tremolo-suitable one on their first two releases to the sharp and eerie on their 3rd and 4th, they know how to serve the music, with Colored Sands being no exception to that tradition. Except here Luc Lemay provided an "orchestra" of guitars. A multilayered approach to riffwriting with the guitar being used as efficiently as possible to provide very interesting harmonies. The combination of high-gain and clean passages creates an atmospheric flow which all their previous efforts lacked. The solos are not just "Hey, it's Kirk Hammet shredding again!" (that's a dumb analogy but you get the point), they are not as technically demanding as they are oddly-structured, placed accordingly wherever they are suitable (kinda like Opeth, huh?). This is also one of the few albums where I can't complain about the bass (at least not that much). The instrument is FUCKING AUDIBLE, FUCK YES! *cough* sorry, I lost myself a bit there... Colin Marston makes full use of his instrument, as is the case with Pleiades' Dust, although he obviously felt more comfortable with his incorporation in the EP, when he got full sense of Gorguts's modern musical drive. The drums in most of death metal are overshadowing, they leave no room to breathe for the rest of the band and are comprised of 80% blastbeats. Here, as with most Gorguts releases, the kit is used with proficiency, featuring well-mixed dynamic blastbeats as well as surprising and fitting rhythmic patterns (i.e. Enemies Of Compassion). The vocals are what I genuinely miss from the early works, they are not as captivating and harsh as they once were, but the growls are quite good and the technique is consistent.

I just want to take some time to write about the instrumental, The Battle of Chamdo. As I said in a previous review, Luc Lemay is a literal composer, with extensive knowledge of musical theory and songwriting dynamics. The fifth track of this record is a string quintet, a single movement written in the classical tradition. It bears similarities to the string works of Dmitri Schostakovich (from whom Lemay stated inspiration), his 8th string quartet in particular. The piece is an excellently arranged and not as atonal example of modernist chamber music, serving as a thematic bridge to the first and last four tracks of the record, the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the flaw in Tibetan philosophy.

And here we get to the concept of the record. Tibet. The first four songs serve as a summary of Tibetan culture and philosophy, mainly the no-violence aspect of it and the culture's isolation. Then comes the instrumental, the thematic transition and the beginning of Tibet's decline. The last four tracks portray how these people were slaughtered, tortured, enslaved and, overall, taken advantage of. And in the end, on "Reduced to SIlence" we get the quiestion "Was it worth it?". The track showcases the flaw of the culture's philosophy and how it led to their demise.

No gore and guts here, people, just pure genius. From the stereotypical tremolo and blast beats of the band's first two efforts to the ultimately chaotic and "disgusting" of Obscura and not that much on From Wisdom to Hate, and now - we get the output of a real composer. A metoculously crafted piece of art. Lemay threw out the excessive intensity of the first releases and replaced it with... music. Actual music, atmospheric, captivating and driven by the urge to create something new and interesting for the listener. The people calling this catchy need to seriously shut up and just stick to their atonal madness if they lack the brains to enjoy BOTH types of music.

The Wheel Of Time Churns On - 89%

televiper11, October 27th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, Season of Mist

Time moves on. There is nothing you can do. Time has often been the enemy of Gorguts. Their initial offerings came just as death metal was starting to tail off. They built some consensus as a strongly composition minded unit just before getting dropped and disappearing into a morass of scene and label politics. Long periods of dormancy mark this band (1993-1998, 2001-2012) yet due to their inventive song work, a lingering goodwill remained across the death metal underground. Unforgotten in some quarters, there were active calls for a return. When reunion season hit, it was only a matter of time. But whereas so many recently reunited outfits have squandered this renewed opportunity, Gorguts were too musically refined and committed to release anything less than another semi-masterpiece. In this regard, they were again successful, adding another excellent release to their already strong discography.

Musically, Gorguts was always in a state of flux. No two Gorguts albums sound quite the same and Luc Lemay has had a long time to woodshed his material, gathering a vanguard of younger, highly polished musicians to help execute his complex vision. Gorguts have always been technical, though not in a stand-offish, show-offish way. They are there to perform well constructed material at the highest level of proficiency but the songs come first, songs with vision designed to bring across a vast aesthetic ocean of theme and image. Not just show off how quickly they can run a fretboard or kit. This is an important distinction.

"Le Toit Du Monde" is instructional. The atmosphere is pensive and atmospheric, a sense of depth is immediate in the clarion guitar tones and textures. The onrush of blasting and churning guitar riffs offsets this, creating a vertiginous feeling of different worlds colliding. The song is dizzying, the haunted vocals layered in behind the music like a ghost intoning an end time invocation. The album builds from there, line by line like a sand mandala. The cold oceanic ambience at the end of "Le Toit Du Monde" explodes right into "An Ocean Of Wisdom," like a huge tidal wave swamping the silence with a crash that drags you deep into its undertow. "An Ocean Of Wisdom" surges with malignant energy, building to a dramatic crescendo of textured dissonance that is only topped by the crescendo of the following track, "Forgotten Arrows," the conclusion of which is so disgustingly heavy, with that bass drop just heaving your whole body around, such is the visceral reaction. The title track is dissonance embodied and very deliberate in its martial pace, getting the slow rumble of the wheel of time theme captured and delivered.

The interlude of "The Battle Of Chamdo" is Luc Lemay's classical tribute to the invasion, and defense, of Tibet and a chance for him to demonstrate the techniques he picked up while studying at the Conservatory. The theme is brisk and harshly dissonant, reminiscent of Stravinsky. It bridges into "Enemies Of Compassion," a direct critique of Tibet's invaders and the albums most powerful statement: an intense blasting affair with sick chunking riffage that is so insanely catchy, like a powder keg exploding in your brain over and over. Sadly, the album declines slightly from there. A deep run of sustained songwriting is difficult for any band and the last three tracks on this record don't resonant as strongly. This became particularly evident watching Gorguts perform the entire album live. The energy lull after "Enemies Of Compassion" was obvious, the album flagging towards the finish. Two things stick out as sore thumbs at this point: one being that the songwriting formula becomes just that, formulaic: chiming post-rock style guitar melodies amplified by second guitar harmonics, playful dissonance, and counter-point bass lines that are then submerged beneath heavy sustained riffs and blasting drums. What was powerful thirty minutes earlier becomes over-familiar. Tracks like "Ember's Voice" and "Reduced To Silence" are enjoyable on-their-own, isolated from the greater track list, but listless as part of the overall pattern. That and "Absconders," at almost ten minutes, is too long, remote, and dull.

The production is ridiculously exacting, letting all the instruments breath and sing. The guitar tone is sharp and the distinction between the two guitarists is apparent enough to allow dynamic interplay. The bass is an entrenched presence in the middle and the bass patterns are resonant throughout. The kick drum sound is a little too click-y and the drums sound a touch thin in the mix but the performance is so towering that it is easy to listen around these shortcomings. Luc Lemay's voice is often back in the mix, which gives his vocals a ghostly feel and hides his shortcomings as a somewhat one-dimensional vocalist.

Time will tell if Colored Sands is a one-off or a return to more regular activity. Time will also tell what the critical consensus will be on this record. It certainly registers as excellent and worthy of the band's previous discography. Gorguts have so often flirted with timelessness that it is refreshing to see them approach their songwriting from that angle. The wheel of time may turn but death is forever and Gorguts are deeply in the fabric of it.

Respect Due, But Left Wanting - 70%

Arjunthebeast, May 10th, 2014

Gorguts is one of the many metal bands that experienced a long period of inactivity and dissolution, only to reform and begin recording anew. Such hiatuses create a mythos for the faithful, a legend that can either be renewed or tarnished if further exploits are recorded. The problem with being legendary (and living) is the pressure to maintain the aura upon which admirers and detractors place upon you. It is much harder malign the dead, whom are usually forgiven of their missteps in favor of their larger journey and narrative. But what of the lauded Gorguts? A juggernaut of death metal in limbo and now once again active?

'Colored Sands,' the long awaited follow up to 2001's awesome 'From Wisdom to Hate,' was released on August 30 of last year, and has been subject to a number of varying opinions. What is clear from the start is that the work is more measured and subdued than some past records (not just 'Obscura'). One will notice that album opener 'Le Toit du Monde' spends some time in a pensive and atmospheric place not far removed from a great deal of 2000's post metal. Therefore, the production is an effort of detail and care, but feels somewhat removed and quiet with the surprising lack of clutter. The record moves forward without many surprises but does not feel lifeless either. 'Sands' is a strange album in this respect. As for the performances, each player soldiers along (unlike 'Obscura') for the greater good of the recording. That isn't the most exciting choice, but it works well enough.

There is a lot that has happened since March 6th 2001, the date of the last full length from the band. The metal world has experienced changes, as has the world beyond. Those once at the head of a genre are now relics of the past while other groups have taken their place. For example, Luc Lemay can be seen sporting a Deathspell Omega t-shirt in recent Gorguts photo shoots. That says a lot, because the characteristic caustic reverberating guitar chiming of Omega (in particular newer material) is similar to the more conventional chiming used on 'Sands.' Which is strange, because that same caustic melody was probably somewhat inspired by Gorguts' own use of the technique. However, Omega's recent works are of an absolutely stunning and shocking power, which isn't always the case here. One thing that can be said is that both groups work best at higher levels of aggression and/or despair, but this incarnation of Gorguts seems more anxious and perplexed (which works pretty well actually).

'Sands' still remains quite impressive. The title track contains one of the most grave and serious main riffs that this listener has heard in a long time. It makes a case for death metal remaining relevant due to the weight and power emanating from it. Like several other cuts, the running time is somewhat extended to allow for space and passages to flow naturally. In this way, the track commands attention as the centerpiece of the record. Other notable songs include Llead single "Forgotten Arrows." As the most direct of the bunch, 'Arrows' shoots some very, very catchy opening vocal phases our way (HATE. FILLED. MIND!!! Try to get it out of your head!) which shows that Lemay's pipes are in proper working order. They are probably worth the price of admission alone. 'The Battle of Chamdo' seems a bit unnecessary and listens a bit like an overlong intro to the next track 'Enemies of Compassion,' which is one of the better works on the record due to its sense of urgency. This sense of purpose seems to be missing in some other parts of the record, like 'An Ocean of Wisdom,' which ebbs and flows at a somewhat deliberate pace despite excellent vocal phrasing. The more unusual aspects of songs are the ones that seem to hit the hardest as well. The off kilter crunch of 'Absconders' central framework slams quite hard upon the skull, and perhaps should have figured into more songs.

The title of the album is an obvious reference to Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas and the mystique that surround them to many western audiences. As a result, spirituality and mysticism are prevalent themes lyrically, and it appears that the concept behind the album in general is Tibetan Buddhism. 'Le Toit du Monde ' describes the Himalayas as a place apart from the world in both geography and spiritual essence. A place where the famed monks can focus on their paths to enlightenment. 'A Ocean of Wisdom' reads like the search for the reincarnated Dalai Lama. The cover art is explained by Lemay's statements concerning his own critique of Buddhist non-violence (particularly on the concluding song 'Reduced to Silence') towards their oppressors. One set of hands prays with beads, while the same beads act as bindings to the second pair of hands. Such a reading and critique might be a bit nearsighted to the actual doctrine itself, but the intentions remain pure. Orientalism might also be a factor in the writing, but perhaps that isn't a fair objection to make.

In comparison to 'Obscura,' this record does play it safe and thus will be underwhelming for the listener looking for something totally adventurous and groundbreaking. However, there is an astute attention to detail that cannot be denied and the sense of care to the craft is also present. Therefore, it is impossible to downplay the album's merits as accidental, as the choices were made with purpose. It also would have been really great if Gorguts didn't have to take a break (due to tragedies and setbacks) and had been around when metal needed them. But we should appreciate the fact that artists do their best to enrich our lives with their creations. Respect due to Gorguts, the now resurrected living legends.

Answered prayers - 92%

RondofedoR, April 24th, 2014

More so than most years, 2013 witnessed an unheralded amount of hugely anticipated albums. There’s Black Sabbath’s 13, Satan's Life Sentence, Broken Hope’s Omen of Disease, Vista Chino’s (Kyuss) Peace, Wormed's Exodromos, Carcass’s Surgical Steel, and to other varying degrees, the fifth LP from Extol and BL’AST!’s Blood -- among many others this reviewer is coolly forgetting. Fans of seemingly every genre have had something to look forward to this year, but for many, topping this list may very well be Colored Sands, the return album from Canadian tech-death pioneers Gorguts.

Shortly after releasing their fourth full-length album, 2001’s From Wisdom to Hate, drummer Steve MacDonald succumbed to his personal demons and the band was put on permanent hold. Members went their own ways. Vocalist/guitarist Luc Lemay joined Negativa with former axeman Steeve Hurdle, and Daniel Mongrain continued playing with Martyr and is currently a part of Voivod. Now, 12 years later, Gorguts and front man Lemay have returned with an entirely new line-up and a brand new record that hears the band tackling the weird and the heavy, a template they damn near perfected on 1998’s landmark Obscura, but this time with a much tighter, far more mysterious result.

Colored Sands, a concept album initially inspired by the Mandala drawing process, but which ultimately evolved into much more of an overarching history of Tibetan beauty and hardship, may present a quandary for the listeners who so utterly adored Obscura. Gorguts have always had that label of ‘thinking man’s metal,’ but with Colored Sands the band have thrown on their glasses and are in full-on lecture mode. Obscura, on the other hand, seemed much more unpredictable, as if the band recorded mid-experiment, unsure if what they were playing would end up destroying the entire lab. This idea of ‘looseness’ seems to be a dividing point amongst critics, but, in the end, for those smitten by Lemay and his ambition, as I am, Colored Sands with all its thunder and calculation, feels, likewise, so much more imposing.

While Lemay wrote the lion’s share of songs on the album (the exceptions being “Forgotten Arrows” and “Absconders”), and, assuredly, he deserves much praise, the cast of musicians he brought with him are some of the best in the business. Dysrhythmia’s Kevin Hufnagel (lead guitar) and Colin Marston (bass) have joined the band, as has drummer John Longstreth, whose cephalopodian dexterity, heard previously within acts like Dim Mak and Origin, is on stunning display. These three bring to the table not simply unsurpassed power and technicality, but also a great deal of odd character and impossible urgency. Marston (Behold…the Arctopus, Krallice), most notably, adds a wondrous amount of multi-hued weight with his bass playing, a quality reminiscent of Obscura's Jeroen Paul Thesseling.

Still, though, there’s no doubt that Colored Sands is a look into the mind of Lemay. From the album’s lyrical content to its affinity for percussive madness and bouts of unnerving tranquility, Lemay’s patented Gorguts sound, beating like an armored dragon heart, is alive and well, comprised of a host of contemporary influence that were no doubt initially influenced by Lemay and company so many moons ago. The emphasis on contrast, on technicality, on suffocating atmosphere and precise, demented riffs, they all point to bands like Deathspell Omega or Ulcerate, groups so adept at intoxicating their audience with such genius, such wickedness, that losing yourself is a guaranteed aural occurrence. Vermis, the latest from the aforementioned New Zealand group, looms as a brilliant companion piece to Colored Sands, although, admittedly, considerably darker and more frantic in its execution.

A month or so back, when the album was finally released, a friend of mind inquired as to which song I enjoyed most. I told him, rather quickly, “Forgotten Arrows” and “Enemies of Compassion.” Now, and more than several spins later, if said friend asked the same question, I’m not sure I’d able to give him an answer without milling about, explaining how opener “Le Toit du Monde” (“Roof of the World”) kills with its incredible patterns and gaps of loud and quiet, or to how much I enjoy the leveling drums of “Ember’s Voice” and how it bleeds into this nightmarish guitar tango. There’s a lot to uncover with Colored Sands, and much of it is impossible to put into words. As most metal is, especially metal of such a delirious and multidimensional sort, believing and then trusting how the music you makes you feel, deep in your gut or far behind the lids of your eyes, that’s what makes an album a success, that’s what makes you come back for more, even if you can’t explain why.

Originally written for The Metal Observer

Astonishing - 100%

msupplier, April 23rd, 2014

My two favorite death metal bands reunited over the past five years and both promised that new material would surface. One of these two (we'll keep their name quiet here to retain the integrity of their past glory) massive forces of death metal legend has released three offerings since then, and sadly, save for a few tracks, really disappointed me as a whole. The other, Gorguts, has just released their long-awaited first offering since reforming and it is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, death metal albums that has ever graced my ears. This speaks volumes as I've been listening closely since said genres inception.

While past Gorguts lineups have been visionary and comprised of great players for the most part, I will admit I was unsure if this new lineup would be as cohesive as I was hoping. Well, I can safely say that Longstreth, Marston, & Hufnagel rose to the challenge of meshing with Luc's amazing vision in a way I couldn't have even imagined. The production is spot on, massive and crushing. The overall vibe is doused with a plethora of feeling and depth, all the while retaining just the right amount of clarity. Oozing from this record is four players who know exactly what they want to do and exactly how to do it.

Lemay and company begin with "Le Toit du Monde" and I can feel myself instantly being sucked in. The guitar tone is perfect and the bass sound - outstanding. All elements on display here are huge and very visible right from the start. Luc's vocals are what you'd expect from him tone-wise, but he has added an extra element of aggression as well as more enduring, lengthy howls that I greatly appreciate. The acoustic preludes to each verse on this track are built wonderfully and sway back and forth between grind sections and grotesque, slithering ones. I could not have asked for a better opener. The song chunks out massively and fades away into "An Ocean of Wisdom", which is an absolute monster of a song. Crushing walls of dissonance envelop the listener as Longstreth's abilities behind the kit amaze even the most cynical listener. Colossal sections of atmosphere merge with chants underneath a cloak of darkness as the band flawlessly constructs a masterpiece. Hufnagel's solo is utterly amazing and captures the absolute perfect guitar tone. The ending acoustic passage of this song is extremely beautiful, while at the same time so very ominous and foreboding. It is one of the many highlights on this album.

One of the two tracks here not written by Luc is "Forgotten Arrows". Colin Marston penned this song and it is among the best. Included are downright plodding and overwhelming sections interspersed with refreshing and creative bass slides that stand out in a profound way. Pain-stricken vocals and guitar dominance merge with towering drums that creep their way into your skin, then suddenly grind your brains out and all flow together seamlessly. This track also contains the most somber riff on the album. Through this riff you can completely feel the sadness behind the story being told.

The epic title track, "Colored Sands", is breathtaking. It opens with single plucked notes shimmering in mass amounts of reverb that morph into a great acoustic section and it grabs onto your soul. The build up through this opening section is undeniably perfect and leads into one of the heaviest moments ever. They continue forth through this expression, twisting and turning, yet never losing focus and keeping me on edge throughout. Intense vocals sustain while everything crashes at once. Everything coming down. Total collapse. Completely awesome.

Luc's lyrics here form and adhere to the music exactly the way I enjoy most - simple, yet refined:

"Winds of perpetuity
Through sails of vacuity
Shores of enlightenment
Are wished and found"

The other track on the album not scribed by Luc is "Absconders". This giant of a song was crafted by Kevin Hufnagel. It is the longest track on the album, clocking in at just over nine minutes and is also one of the heaviest pieces here. It is broken and disjointed in a bone-shattering way, intertwined with one of the catchiest riffs on the album. Odd timings are mixed with palpable vision and direction. A completely unexpected acoustic section emerges just before the mid-point of the song and leaves ample room for the massive re-entry to come. The song then travels on in a way that I would have been happy to endure for much longer if they they had so chosen to continue forward. All the while the word "Absconders" is repeated over and over. Devastating.

All that being said though, this album is an experience as a whole entity. All the compositions are phenomenal - nothing is weak. It is a journey into mammoth depths of sound and atmosphere. The Tibetan theme chosen by Luc for this opus works well with the dark and intelligent vibe of the music. The artwork and lyrics all reflective of this, yet it is not an overbearing concept, but a powerful one that comes through in the aura of the compositions quite fittingly.

As mentioned above, Marston and Hufnagel each composed one song for the album and they are two of the strongest tracks within. The quality, creative flair, and knowledge, along with their superb technical ability, is a testament to their flawless contribution to this release. Longstreth's drum display is perfectly crafted to fit the Gorguts sound and could not have been executed any better. This band was meant to play together and this album was meant to be.

As I sit here with my double gatefold vinyl in hand, I am completely and utterly satisfied and fully recognize this work of genius.

Highly creative, not as highly entertaining - 70%

Templar0220, April 5th, 2014

Gorgut's latest effort is really one that is created for the active listener. With its twisted, demented rhythms and licks complimented by Luc Lemay's classic vocals and obscure lyrical imagery, this is an album that demands the listener to go deeper than just the surface. The amount of detail in the different parts of every song is a testament to the extreme level of talent and musicianship this band possesses. This is not an album to thrash around to, no, this is an album that requires you to sit and listen.

With over an hour of carefully crafted songwriting, this album carries so much in terms of creativity its off the charts. Do not expect to easily digest the amount of diverse elements that are presented in many different forms. The riffs are a great mix of death metal aggression at points and brooding, obscure sounding atmospheres all at the same time. With the fast complex drumming John Longstreth backing all of this its really an intense, bleak world that is presented here. This is not an album to be taken lightly in terms of predicting what will happen next. With the average song length on this album being well over 5 minutes, this can make some of the songs feel that they are dragging at parts. This is, of course, a stylistic preference but it is something that I find myself in demand of every song being very entertaining through out. There are parts on this album that I feel rather bored listening to with the slow twisted lines, but then it suddenly sparks a great interest at times picking up with a heavy consistent groove that can sound so fulfilling that it makes up for it almost intentionally. The title track - Colored Sands, and Enemies of Compassion contain some of the best elements on this album and really shine through. The orchestral instrumental track The Battle of Chamdo is so beautifully well done and really allows for a great switch in style right in the middle of the album. So with all the gems this album possesses, there are still parts that really bore me. Track 8 for example, Absconders, I found to be very dull and not all justified to be the song length that it is. I should also mention that the guitar leads that are presented sporadically are fitting for the songs they are played in by bringing out the overall feel of the song perfectly.

Overall this album is extremely creative and detailed and if your willing to sit and listen for the amount of time and focus it demands then you are sure to find what you will find to be true art. I myself am a bit of a purist when it comes to metal, as I prefer my death metal to be thrashy, brutal, and consistent. But that's just my preference and there is still plenty of that on here. (Take the beginning to Reduced to Silence for example.) So for the slow, not as entertaining parts, there are still some very whiplash worthy sections here and there.

Favorite tracks: Colored Sands, Enemies of Compassion, Reduced to Silence.

Loyal to the Past, Mindful of the Present - 81%

GuntherTheUndying, January 12th, 2014

Death metal without Gorguts seemed like a shotgun wedding without the alcoholism. When Luc Lemay announced he'd be bringing life back into his old band, I don't think anyone was surprised: Cynic, Atheist, Autopsy, and countless others had all returned from the depths of obscurity with new recordings, and since groups like Ulcerate were paying homage to Gorguts, it only seemed practical. The greatest quality of "Colored Sands" is that it continues the Gorguts blueprint with a clarity untouched by the hands of time. The odd, disjointed chords and abstract song structures formed to focus on technicality without bloating the album with complex nonsense remind me of "From Wisdom to Hate," yet this is an entirely new product. After all is said and done, "Colored Sands" fits well into the Gorguts tale.

I think it's easy to overvalue this as a masterpiece that topples all of the band's remaining records based on how it sounds: "Colored Sands" is certainly the most digestible and retainable work within Gorguts' catalog. Everything released after "Considered Dead" is a challenging experience for death metal novices at first—Gorguts' abstract slaughter leaves little room for explanation, and it takes time to 'get' Gorguts. But given the path and popularity of technical death metal and the direction of "Colored Sands," it really isn't that shocking how accessible the album is. I'm not implying Gorguts left behind any of the faction’s trademark themes, as Lemay's tormenting howls and the enigmatic assortment of death metal remain untarnished. "Colored Sands" is simply loyal to the past but mindful of the present.

The record specifically sounds like a continuation of the instrumentation of "From Wisdom to Hate," which was more concrete than the tornado of music found on "Obscura." The technical riffs are generally, well, technical in that they're performed in calculated structures and move through methodological chord progressions, while the drums are stuffed to the brim with off-kilter rhythms, blast beats and zesty fills while the bass zips around underneath the chaos like a caffeinated kid running in circles. Nothing horribly surprising on paper, but Gorguts has many tricks up its sleeve. The enhanced tribal percussion section on "Forgotten Arrows" is an excellent addition to the creativity and power of the Gorguts sound, for instance.

Luc certainly did not lose any of his songwriting chops after twelve years of silence, however. The opening "Le Toit Du Monde" jumps right down into the disjointed instrumentation and ravenous intensity as if Gorguts had been around for the last decade; the atmosphere and color are both amazingly familiar. The same can be said about "An Ocean of Wisdom" and "Forgotten Arrows," both just excellent examples of the Gorguts blueprint prowling forward with foreboding force. The orchestral interlude, "The Battle of Chamdo," is an excellent piece: it captures the dark energy of "Colored Sands" without coming off as a pretentious addition. Superb.

The second half of "Colored Sands" works wonders but lacks the masterful prowess of its opening numbers. "Enemies of Compassion" and "Ember's Voice" are very well done, but "Absconders" and "Reduced to Silence," together adding up to over sixteen minutes, do little for me. There's too much being said without the powerful importance of "Forgotten Arrows" or one of its kin. As a whole comprehensive package, "Colored Sands" is certainly worthy of the Gorguts tag, although it's far from the timeless ingenuity of "The Erosion of Sanity" or "Obscura." However, Gorguts is moving forward, evolving, changing its genetic code at will, and I don't think there could've been a more natural comeback than this reawakening of technical death metal's godfather.

This review was written for:

Gorguts- Colored Sands - 55%

stenchofishtar, December 17th, 2013

The new album by Gorguts was more than ten years in the works. For a band who have tested the very extremes of musical expression, in terms of counterpoint, atonality and discordance, the legendary Quebec four are innovators in their own right. Along with ‘Nespithe’ by Demilich, albums such as ‘Obscura’ epitomize the creative genius that comes with surreal imaginations and an inverted, labyrinthine approach to counterpoint.

‘Colored Sands’ still has the hallmarks of atonality and disjointedness that you’d associate with them, but they are much more conventional here. Instead of following their own path they seem to have allowed themselves to be influenced by the various ‘avant-garde’ outfits that have made waves in metal circles since the beginning of the millenium. ‘Le Toite Du Monde’, the opening song sets a perfect example for this, with chugging, broken down riffs that vaguely resemble Immolation’s ‘Close To A World Below’ and some of the Steve Tucker-era Morbid Angel albums, interspersed with subtle harmonic noodlings that vary the songs out and seek to bring to them a sense of immersion and emotional depth.

The influence of Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord is most certainly discernible here, even the jangly, disjointed meanderings of Ved Buens Ende working their way through. For those seeking something that they can ‘relate to’ musically, this isn’t as challenging as their previous two albums. For the objective listener who values them by their most innovative work, it’s something of a regression, an example of following instead of leading. Many will welcome this new approach, but one feels that their new-found consonance is ill-suited, and even tiresome.

Experimentation with modern classical music also comes to the fore here, in the form of an instrumental string quartet piece “The Battle Of Chamdo”, which brings to mind the work of composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Bernard Hermann. It is an interesting experiment as it gives a vague idea as to how one would expect their music to come across under a different aesthetic. Though otherwise, the album as a whole fails to deliver the promise that over a decade in hiatus would have one expect.

Whilst ‘Colored Sands’ certain has a direction, an identity, a form to it, something which cannot be said for many of their current ‘tech-death’ peers, it lacks the sense of imagination that makes all their work up through to ‘From Wisdom To Hate’ endearing listening experiences. That said, this could yet prove to be a good introductory listen to those unfamiliar with their work, and for the keen listener, a chance to appreciate their musical adeptness, which despite a dip in quality, doesn’t totally sacrifice expression at the expense of musical virtuosity. But otherwise, a step in the wrong direction.

Gorguts the brand name, not the band - 0%

bitterman, September 4th, 2013

Strange dissonance, odd chord shapes, tortured vocals, and non-linear song structures are all Gorguts bring from their past to this album: a modernized, normed version of their previous album made palpable for the modern metal audience. It seemed a disaster was well in the making. First, the Negativa album was dismal - a watered down, compromised version of Steeve Hurdle's unorthodox approach to music making. It could be said his absence was the reason From Wisdom to Hate was a step down from Obscura, being a more straightforward affair in regards to arrangements and even an emphasis on more simple "hooks". Finally, there's the fact that Luc Lemay can be seen wearing a Tool shirt in a promo pic and recent interviews claiming Opeth and Porcupine Tree influenced the writing of this album. The fact that he began writing this album after temporarily disbanding the group to pursue outside interests suggest the passion was lost, and now he's trying to reclaim his position in the "dissonant, technical death metal" sphere after realizing Ulcerate and Deathspell Omega have become ever so popular.

The inclusion of the musicians from Behold... the Arctopus seemed like another nail in the coffin. These guys never released anything that wasn't a calculated, meticulously crafted turd. Sure enough, Gorguts have released a turd as well. An album that could snuggly fit in with the "edgy" death metal Unique Leader and Willowtip records have been trying to convince people was "the new thing" ever since 2007, but with the Gorguts brand name attached to it.

First, the concept of this album is just stupid. From a band that went from dumb lyrics (Considered Dead) to lyrics that embody a wide range of abstract emotions and a view dissociated from social norms (Obscura), this albums lyrics are the cheesy, P.C. type of lyrics one can expect Job for a Cowboy to write if they felt "artsy". From the rhyming words to the basic concepts about "the wheel of time" and "enlightenment" (borrowed from Tibetan monk ideologies), they come off as poorly stitched together thesaurus abuse from the teenage version of the Decrepit Birth vocalist attempting to be "deep" after reading the lyrics to Cynic's Focus. If you were looking for the lyrics to match the music, look elsewhere. This has Gojira-esque slacktivist propaganda peddling written all over it (look at the cover art). Words thrown on top of sound with no correlation.

The music seems like From Wisdom to Hate on the surface. Strange, eerie dissonance and unorthodox musicianship is only a mask for rather plain music with simple goals. Rhythm holds together a series of suspended notes into grooves, that while not chugga chugga, were clearly designed for head nodding. The blasting sections seem more akin to what Immolation did for a good amount of time on Close to a World Below, as a break between grooves and slowly lurching parts that seem more like what a "post-sludge" band would attempt. Now, this is the problem. The music moves in easily defined sections, a doomy groove, blasting, dissonance... and they feel hastily stitched together into a working structure. While Luc Lemay retained his attention to making these songs hold together somewhat, they don't feel like something that flows together, like the stream of thought that every song on Obscura can be said to be. This is a step down from previous Gorguts material's aspirations toward being seen as artistic statements and reducing any potential found here to being what could be expected from metal, reverting to the ghetto that the genre's song writing was outside of Gorguts and Immolation in 1998.

While all this would be bad by itself, it only gets worse. After a "classical instrumental", which feels grossly out of place (never mind lacking in comparison to, say, the short but highly evocative intro to Condemned to Obscurity from the Erosion of Sanity) next to the ill conceived simple metal masked in layers of dissonance in the most bratty and over demonstrative manner imaginable, comes the second half of the album. Here, Gorguts just get boring. The "post-sludge" elements are in full effect on these crawling tracks that feel more like the Dillinger Escape Plan covering Cult of Luna songs while doing tortured Lemay vocals over it. The songs have a lot of padding and really say nothing at the end of the day. According to Luc Lemay, this is his attempt to take the Gorguts sound into more "ambient" territory by utilizing his Opeth and Porcupine Tree influences. Unfortunately, it's just dressing up the music, not expanding it. Clean guitar interludes are thrown in haphazardly as well, bringing to mind bands like Ulcerate who came in to the music scene with Gorguts styled music that didn't approach their complexity. What's more alarming is that while you can separate the album into two halves, they are only distinct on the grounds that one is faster than the other. All the tracks share similar moment to moment song structures that give the whole package a uniform feel, making it seem like a small series of ideas divided unevenly between the 8 metal tracks.

Gorguts here is not a group of worth anymore. Before Gorguts made music out of layers of dissonance that sounded like abstract thoughts translated into sound - a full spectrum of emotion presented in an unorthodox work which transcended the standard death metal genre limitations, breathing new life into metal not just stylistically, but with its content as well. Here, Gorguts sound like a group of dispassionate musicians who treat their sound only as an aesthetic brand, and accomplish little more than making a highly polished piece of trash given the Gorguts surface treatment that gets really predictable and boring very fast. The instrumental skill is still there, but it all adds up to nothing worth listening to aside from a demonstration of unorthodox instrumentation. If this album didn't have the Gorguts name attached to it, it would just be another "post-death metal" album in the sea of them, with nothing to really set it apart aside from Luc Lemay's tortured vocal delivery. Vapid, but also another depressing display of musicians using a successful name but not keeping the standard of quality associated with it.

Gorguts - Colored Sands - 84%

Avestriel, September 2nd, 2013

And Gorguts takes the lead! Yes, after twelve years of silence (an EP by a surrogate band, Negativa, notwithstanding), the indisputable masters of death metal confusion have returned, and have a few things to say to the latter generations of avant-garde extreme metal, especially those who make fond use of dissonance and can be best described as "deliciously entangled".

Anyway, here's a go at Gorguts' shining return.

I cannot experience this album from any other perspective than that of a response; Gorgut's way of recognising the bands that followed their path, or indeed tread a similar one, and taking the challenge of having the old masters one-up their (brilliant on their own right) students. It's as if bands like Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, Virus or the numberless ultratechdeath bands that have plagued the past eight years attempting to imitate them, like Obscura, represented a challenge of sorts. To this, Gorguts said "nice attempt", and proceeded to show their alumni how it's done.

On to the music then!

While being familiar with the utter madness of Gorguts' previous two albums, and the works of at least some of the bands I've mentioned so far will surely soften the impact, the first five seconds are strong enough as it is to break any cynical spell of suspension of disbelief. Sharp guitars stretching far into the soundscape, always changing from grindingly harsh to whisper-like atmospheric, as Longstreth (a worthy occupier of the empty throne) weaves strange and exciting drum patterns all over the tapestry, as the bass dances the most maniacal of dances all over the spectrum, somehow twisting nonsense into making all the sense in the world, and finally the vocals appear as a spectral roar that does not give in at any point throughout the album. Not as marvelous as Obscura's otherworldly shrieks, but hey, you know.

Now, while it may seem at first instance that Gorguts mixed their famous avantgarde style with what they've learned from their alumni (especially DsO) in an attempt to fit into the newer generation like a dad awkwardly misusing his son's slang, the truth is that soon enough the music itself will reveal the truth: This is Gorgtus saying "we can do all the things you're doing, and we can do it better". Amongst the many surprises the album holds for the listener are perhaps the first well-done examples of the incidence of this post-rock-influenced wave of black metal bands in the death metal realm, which is usually reserved for the younger borderline deathcore "technical" bands, but is now refined and matured to the point of it being a compliment to the music, instead of a sore thumb or a boring, predictable formula of crescendos and flaccid technicality. Then there's the non-metal elements, chiefly The Battle Of Chamdo, a charming piece of chamber music with a certain late-romantic impetus to it, it reveals both a rather unheard of side of Mr. Lemay (assuming he was behind the actual composition and arrangement of the piece, which is probable) and an image of what the essence of Gorguts could sound like in a different medium. The music is actually far less complex than the metal present throughout the rest of the album, but it did remind me for a moment of a certain handful of R.I.O. bands, namely Art Zoyd and Univers Zero, with their manic, post-punk-tingled attacks of chamber music for a violently anti-norm youth back in the late 70's. Which is what I'd imagine Obscura would sound like had it been imagined in the Renaissance. Anyway.

More complex than ever, more varied than ever, more challenging than ever even (perhaps), Gorguts answers the call to arms of his descendants, and the result is a complete one-up to all the technical avantgarde within metal, be it death or black. It manages to be even more technical and entangled than its predecessors, yet it does so with such clarity and elegance that it makes it easier for the listener to hear the unhearable, to digest properly the labyrinthic paths of melody, atonality and dissonance that emanate from every single instrument in this release. It's a shining beacon of hope, also, to someone who, like me, has grown jaded of all the big, painfully disappointing and lukewarm comebacks that have defined the last five years in all of music, not just Metal. Truly, there's still work to be done. There is still room for improvement. For excitement. And yet, and yet...

The album is not perfect, and has one flaw that I painfully have to address. I'll drop the dramatic tone now. The only real downside, and the reason this album doesn't get a perfect score, is the inescapable fact that I mentioned early in the review: Being familiar with the band's previous output, and the eloquent ramblings of bands like DsO, Virus or any of the bands that have tried to capture the essence of Obscura takes a toll on the freshness factor, and doesn't exactly break any new ground. On the other hand, it's not the breaking of grounds what I celebrate about this album, but the utter perfecting of preexisting grounds. Hyeah.