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Colored Sands

Season Of Mist (2013)
Rating: 8.5/10

Gorguts are, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest death metal bands of all time. Their disconcerting brand of nihilistic, technical death metal has battered the senses since their inception in 1989. The outfit, hailing from Québec in Canada, began life as a punishing death metal act but one who matured at an alarming rate, resulting in their truly harmful 1998 opus Obscura.

The band, fronted by the harsh deathly rasps of Luc Lemay, took death metal into quite inhospitable terrain with their jarring rhythms and neck-snapping structures, terrain which at times bordered on oppressive doom metal, such were the discordant dynamics.

Despite the 2006 release of Live In Rotterdam, featuring a concert from 1993, Gorguts have pretty much remained in the shadows since 2001’s From Wisdom To Hate, but now the pretenders are safe no more, as Lemay and company have returned. Colored Sands is, as expected, another bone-shaking affair, and the first Gorguts record to feature guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Colin Marston and drummer John Longstreth.

I think it’s fair to say that Gorguts have always been an unpredictable beast, the sort of creature that rarely rests on its laurels in search of new horizons, and it’s to my utmost joy that Luc Lemay has sought even harsher climes for the band’s fifth full-length studio release.

This time round the tormented vocalist / guitarist has lengthened the songs to the extent that they almost become vast, barbed landscapes – a majority of the nine tracks on offer clock in at over six minutes.

Colored Sands begins with the surreal whispers of opener ‘Le Toit du Monde’, which is Gorguts immediately going for the throat. Lemay barks through a haze of jarring bass-lines, churning grey guitars, awkward sounding drum patterns, and schizophrenically inspired moody passages on the track, which bleed once again into the sort of non-rhythmic pummelling one would expect if experiencing a waterfall of scrap metal!

This is Gorguts under their new supreme reign, combining progressive, jazzed up and epileptic soundscapes with twisted, almost cartoon-like extremity before melting into the crushing ‘An Ocean Of Wisdom’. Beginning with phenomenal weight, ‘An Ocean Of Wisdom’ almost hints at a catchy riff before those triggered drums join forces with arrogantly cavorting bass and sneering guitars.

Gorguts have no intention of letting the listener bathe in their sound, such is the jolting superiority of it all as ‘Forgotten Arrows’ and the eight-minute title track grasp the audience like some type of pristine snare.

Each instrument is a jagged weapon of mass destruction on the ears, as the combo draws us into ominous soundtrack style melody before battering us with lead-weight guitars and those depressive cries of angst. There has always been something so ashen as well as gargantuan about Gorguts, but on Colored Sands Lemay has opted for drawn-out exercises comprised of tortured bays and pallid instruments of gloom.

The title track is so huge and yet suffocating in its grey glory, and we’ve not even entered the peculiar realm of ‘The Battle Of Chamdo’, a song which begins as a suspenseful soundtrack of violins, violas and cellos. The track is almost five minutes of those sweeping strings, bereft of vocals or head-mashing guitar, but yet as equally sombre and ominous as anything on the record.

This leads us into the seven-minute rusty juggernaut that is ‘Enemies Of Compassion’; featuring bizarre militant-styled drum chugs and mind-numbing chord changes and warped riffing, the only escape is the sombre strains of ‘Ember’s Voice’. If there is such a thing, ‘Ember’s Voice’ is probably the album’s least most threatening track, providing a hint of harmony beneath those throat-scratching barks.

It’s the rising serpent that is the nine-minute ‘Absconders’ and the closing seven-and-a-half minute ‘Reduced To Silence’ which take Gorguts to another level, however. The former is a slow, doomy jagged heap of a track that belches smoke, Lemay and company more or less sweeping aside any aspirations to be an old school death metal band, instead choosing slow, thunderous strains of angst and doom.

The final suicidal gasp is the monstrous ‘Reduced To Silence’, which finds time for shuddering pace within its seven or so minute framework. Of course, there is still that drone-type of grating of the guitars and those conflicting structures, which exist as grey tinted images from the mind of the psychotic.

The sound of Gorguts is one so hard to describe, such is the disagreeing nature of it all. Colored Sands will no doubt be a much welcomed return for fans who’ve been craving this type of deathly madness. Those new to this sort of inharmonious melodrama will suffer at its hands, but that’s understandable, because the sands that Gorguts have conquered are far from being coloured. In fact, such is the corrosive nature of this cacophony, it’s unlikely any life form can exist beyond the veil of grey that Luc Lemay has once again cast at us. Predictably formidable, but yet about as accessible as a forest constructed of barbed wire!

Neil Arnold

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