Gorguts, ‘Colored Sands’ – Album Review
At long last! After a 12 year gap between albums and three years of disbandment, Canada’s Gorguts have put together one of the metal underground’s most anticipated comeback albums. In 1998, their groundbreaking album ‘Obscura’ dropped jaws with its over-the-top intricacy and dissonant madness, setting the bar impossibly high along the technical death metal spectrum. Now, with the help of an all-star cast of musicians (Kevin Hufnagel of Dysrhythmia on guitar, Colin Marston of Krallice and Behold the Arctopus on bass, and John Longstreth of Origin and Dim Mak on drums), Luc Lemay has written the next chapter in the legendary band’s history.
‘Colored Sands’ is a stylistic departure from the previous two Gorguts releases in regards to the mind-boggling technicality. While this may initially make fans of the band skeptical, there is nothing to worry about. The album retains that definitive Gorguts feel with the trademark dissonance and atonal guitar terror. The opening track ‘Le Toit du Monde’ steamrolls with a familiar rhythm before breaking into a new element that is prevalent throughout the album. Softer guitar parts are thrown into the volatile mix, though they don’t stray from the path of dissonance with the bent and twisted notes still in abundance.
The first half of ‘Colored Sands’ is divided thematically with the concept revolving around Tibet and the process of selecting a new Dalai Lama. Lemay conveys this topic through his vocals, which sound like he is being stretched out on the rack while recording them. Sonically, these four songs have a lot in common, not venturing too far from the new Gorguts formula. ‘An Ocean of Wisdom’ boasts one of the album’s greatest and heaviest riffs, which is a quickly usurped title by the time the Marston-penned song ‘Forgotten Arrows’ comes to a close. This song is the most reminiscent of the previous album ‘From Wisdom to Hate’ as Colin has a firm grasp on the Gorguts sound and furthers his reputation as one of extreme metal's finest musicians. The lumbering Godflesh-like bass tone sways through the music before violently stomping around in the beatdowns in the second half of the track.
The title track starts off with a clean picked atonal bit that gets under the listeners’ skin and is then washed over by another mammoth riff from Lemay. In regards to the pace, ‘Colored Sands’ has a lot in common with ‘The Quest for Equilibrium’ off the previous album. The guitar solo is heavily influenced by John Zorn's spastic saxophone playing. It is with this song that Gorguts are definitively back and almost brings a tear to the eye, but there’s no crying in death metal. Following this song is the orchestral piece ‘The Battle of Chamdo’ which provides a much-needed break from the overwhelming dissonance running rampant on the band’s comeback record.
The second half of ‘Colored Sands’ deals with tragic events that have happened to the Tibetan people, and ultimately questions their non-violent philosophy. ‘Enemies of Compassion’ and ‘Embers Voice’ present a bit more technicality, but in the songwriting more than fretwork. There are some dizzying leads present here, but the serpentine structure and dynamics take the spotlight.
Hufnagel contributed ‘Absconders’ to the album and it's the most expansive song here. His touch for more spacious and droning playing works wonderfully with the new sound Gorguts have taken on. Splashes of Neurosis influence work there way into the busiest and most ambitious song on this album. ‘Reduced to Silence’ finishes things off, flowing with the pace of ‘Absconders.’ What these two songs have to offer is the depth to the guitar work, weaving in and out of the overlying themes with small nuances undiscovered before multiple listens.
‘Colored Sands’ exceeds the highest expectations. Gorguts have taken time to never write the same album twice and always change their sound and present something new. This record continues that mentality, delivering more rhythm playing than anyone had expected. Dissonance is the blueprint for this band and they have found a new way to go about this yet again. Luc Lemay has furthered his legacy as one of the most crucial innovators to the death metal genre with another titan album. Please don’t make us wait another 12 years, Luc.