Gorguts’ Luc Lemay Offers Track-By-Track Conceptual Breakdown of ‘Colored Sands’
We recently spoke with Gorguts mainman Luc Lemay at length about the band's new album 'Colored Sands.' In our previous interview feature, we learned about the musical approach Lemay took when writing the highly anticipated album, and now here is your chance to learn about the conceptual side.The artwork for the album is eye-catching, but what is it all about? Find out below what went into the process of defining the overall concept and what each song is about on the multi-faceted comeback album.
Can you expand on the concept of ‘Colored Sands?’
Sure. First the idea came to me because, you know, I got really intricate into the Mandala drawing process. These are Tibetan monks, maybe four to five monks and they’re gonna relay themselves until the whole drawing is finished. They’re gonna sit down on the floor and they’re gonna draw. It’s like a temple seen from the top with all these very complex signs. Its all drawn with colored sand, actually, and that’s where the title is from.
So the first idea - I wanted to do a whole concept record only on this ritual about drawing a Mandala because its very complex and there’s many steps to it and there’s many steps leading to the ritual about drawing a Mandala and stuff. But when I sat down and started reading books on that I realized that it was very, very ambitious to do and I would have needed to read books for maybe five years, ten years to really know what I was gonna talk about (laughs). So at some point I decided to hold on to this topic for one song, but by reading about Mandalas, by ricochet, I ended up reading more on Tibetan culture and their geography. They have a very specific geography there, you know, with the Himalayas, all the mountains; it’s the highest place on the planet. And then from there by reading about this I ended up, of course, reading about the Dalai Lama and why he escaped Tibet in the early ‘50s. Then the Chinese invasion of 1950 so I said, “Woah there’s way more to talk about.” Not that the Mendela is not interesting at all, but it was going too much on a documentary-like ... It would have been maybe a bit static and sterile, you know, poetic wise to write death metal songs about.
So, then I thought that their land and geography was very poetic so right there was an interesting topic to sing about. So that’s how the record opens with ‘Le Toit Du Monde,’ which means “roof of the world” so it brings the listener to where the story takes place. So I say, “Let’s go to Tibet and we’ll start from there.” So in this song, I bring the listener, through the lyrics, in this landscape and this mystic place, you know, which is very mystic; a very epic place.
Then, the second song ‘Ocean of Wisdom’ talks about the ritual and how they found the 14th Dalai Lama through consulting oracles. They have a ritual to do that, you know? They’re gonna look for hints by meditating to a very specific lake. A very specific lake, you know, lost in the mountain. They call it the Lake of Vision and then they’re gonna look for hints on the corpse of the previous Dalai Lama so he points in the direction where they have to look forward to find the reincarnation of the new Dalai Lama. You know, the same soul reincarnated in a younger boy, so that’s what this song is about.
Then ‘Forgotten Arrows,’ which is Colin’s [Marston, bass] song, speaks about the rules of causality that’s in the Tibetan philosophy, you know, that everything you do in life happens for a reason. Your action is gonna create other actions, its not about luck or it happened to be this way and for no reason. So, this song is about this.
Then ‘Colored Sands’ is about the Mandala ritual.
Then you get the orchestral piece (‘Battle of Chamdo’). The orchestral piece is very important on the record because it divides the concept in two because the first four songs are about the beauty of the philosophy and the landscape and the beauty of those people’s culture and everything which is very positive and then you get the orchestral piece which illustrates the Chinese invasion of 1950. You know, so that’s why the opening rhythm is a very military, very war-like rhythm, you know? And then that’s where the misery strikes Tibet in this music.
And then from there ‘Enemies of Compassion’ talks about the actual Chinese invasion. And I never say “Chinese” or whatever, you know, I take it to a second or third degree and people can add the one plus one and figure out what it's talking about. Plus, when they know a bit about this culture and the story of this country.
Then after, ‘Ember’s Voice’ is gonna speak about the way to protest the Chinese occupation by immolating themselves in public. Which is a very sad reality.
I’ve seen images of that and it is horrific.
It’s unbelievable. Then after, ‘Absconders,’ which is Kevin’s song, talks about the story that happened in 2006. There were mountain climbers, which witnessed Chinese border guards shooting on Tibetans who tried to escape Tibet by walking to Nepal. And one of the mountain climbers had a video tape and was able to film the murder on tape and so it’s about this story -- exile and leaving your homeland and those feelings.
The last song, ‘Reduced to Silence,’ is about questioning the non-violence philosophy which is in the heart of the Tibetan philosophy. But did it really help them in the long run? That’s what I question. If you wish love and peace to your enemies and then the other way they put you in prison and torture you and they’re in the way of extension at some point, you know? The Tibetan culture is, in the long run ... I would doubt they’re gonna last for another hundred years. So that’s the concept.
That’s interesting, you take it sort of from the history of it, then through the turmoil up through the present day and then lastly, a reflection on all of it.
Exactly, so because I finished the lyrics - the very last sentence is an open question: "Was that right?" I mean, from both points of view was that right to stay non-violent when your enemy is oppressing yourself and you decide to remain silent and wish them good? Or, should they have said enough is enough and put the fist on the table and say, “Ok, let’s declare war here.” But, I mean, they’re not known for being a warrior culture. You don’t see Tibetan people owning tanks.
Yeah, they’re not bred for violence or anything.
Not at all, but did the non-violent philosophy serve for their own good?
It’s a little abstract, but at the same time your music is sort of 'thinking man’s metal' and now you’ve taken that approach with the lyrics too, not that you haven’t before, but it is definitely more unified with the concept on here. It is a really interesting and a new facet of Gorguts.
Yeah, and that was a challenge for me too because, you know, for the first time I waited so that all the music was written and arranged and everything done, and then I sat down and I started reading books and sat down to think about the whole concept. You know, I had all the pieces of the puzzle there, but as I was reading the concept slowly took shape then I got the idea of dividing it in a positive side, the two sides of the coin so to speak, you know? I didn’t have the whole idea from Day One, it took a lot of time, but the title I had from day one, even from before I sat down to write a song. I knew it was gonna talk about Mandalas -- that was the opening. That’s where everything started and then it led to the non-violence questioning by seeing a documentary film about that, so it was a very rich topic, very flourishing idea-wise. Does it mean that I was very happy at some point because it’s very disturbing at some point? You see what these people go through? So I said, metal-wise, there’s something to shout about there. [Laughs] But not that I wanted to do a political record either, you know? I wanted to be more like a documentary. Like, “Okay, this subject really touches me and I have something to say about this,” so my approach is like, “Okay, that’s how I feel about those people beauty and philosophy-wise and that’s how I feel about those people’s condition.” So it’s from a personal point of view, its not like ok I’m gonna educate you guys about Tibet -- that’s not my approach at all. I didn’t feel like I had a mission to rescue those people either. I took the approach maybe like a movie-maker would have done it, to do an epic movie on Tibet or to do maybe a documentary. It could be taken from different angles.
Yeah, it seems like it sheds some light on the topic instead of being a history lesson through death metal. If you want to research it on your own and you’re interested in it then that’s cool, otherwise you can just take away a little bit, like you said even the last line you can take away and ponder it for yourself too.
Exactly. And also you’ll see when you get the record with the lyrics and everything, I put quotes from books that I’ve read which are about the songs. So, just by reading those couple lines you can nail the topic right away and it opens a reflection also in your mind, you know? And those are very beautiful and strong quotes that I thought, which bullseye the subject right away and bring reflection to you. Some are very beautiful quotes too, and they’re very strong quotes.