REVIEW: GORGUTS – “Pleiades’ Dust” [EP]
Ah, Gorguts. They are, hands down, one of my favorite metal bands. I am a huge fan of Erosion of Sanity and Obscura, and when the band released Colored Sands in 2013, the album stayed on repeated listens even until now. When I found out they were coming out with a single track EP in the summer of 2015, I was immediately hyped and excited to hear the upcoming material. When they announced that French Avant-Garde Black Metal masters Deathspell Omega was a dominant influence on their new EP, I could not contain my excitement and immediately had the band’s new EP as one of my most anticipated releases of 2016. I had high expectations for EP and was hoping for the band to deliver something beyond the capabilities demonstrated on their most recent two albums. Now, after listening to the EP, I can say that my high expectations and anticipation have been met and exceeded. ‘Pleiades’ Dust’ is a fantastic EP that builds on the band’s unique sound as the band continues to explore the avant-garde possibilities that Gorguts is known for and does very well in.
For those of you who do not know, Gorguts is a Canadian Death Metal band that plays a style of Technical Death Metal that some listeners would write off as “pretentious”, “too weird” and “chaotically messy”. Following their debut album Considered Dead, the band quickly developed a truly unique sound, highlighted by their magnus opus Obscura, that is technically complex, compositionally masterful, and beautifully dissonant with outstanding counterpoint melodies. The main engine behind Gorguts is Luc Lemay, my personal favorite guitarist and one of Metal musicians I respect the most (great guy to talk to). Lemay is also a violist and a classically trained composer (he went to a music conservatory for music composition) who has composed works like “Battle of Chamdo” and a viola sonata. As a classically trained violinist, classical composer, and metal music fan, I envy his capabilities of excellently blending of Modern Classical composition and Death Metal. Joining Lemay I would imagine many of their new fans were introduced to their most recent album Colored Sands or maybe perhaps From Wisdom to Hate, which again, are continued explorations of how the band is constantly evolving. ‘Pleiades’ Dust’, like their previous material, delivers a meticulously well-crafted slab of Avant-Garde Technical or “Gorgutsian” Death Metal that showcases exactly why I give this band so much praise and why their live performance has been mine all-time favorite.
Being a one-track affair, ‘Pleiades’ Dust’ is divided into various musical “movements”. Though they are not clearly defined, I will be going through this album chronologically by parts using time stamps to mention the specific areas of the 33 minute behemoth. This review would be more on the technical side of things, but don’t worry; I won’t get too technical and bombard you with pages of musical analysis, terminology, and descriptions. ‘Pleiades’ Dust’ starts off with an ominous intro and the band then comes in with heavy, weighted, full chords from the guitar and bass with bass drum and cymbals. The guitars then start coming alive into dissonant, crunchy, sometimes flurry, guitar licks. Colin Marston’s (Krallice, Behold the Arctopus) bass is much more prominent with his intricate bass lines that add a meditative vibe of the first five minutes (excellent counterpoint here). Lemay’s raspy, softer, style vocals really fit well with the whole atmosphere of the music. Around the 3:30 minute mark, the band progresses into a hypnotizing, dissonant, and winding instrumental passage that goes into a trance like solo section around the 4:30 part and onwards (“Wandering Times” starts around 4:00). This instrumental side of the song really brings out the compositional flare that Lemay has implemented. The usage of diminished chords, sometimes tritonal, combined with the polyrhythmic structure takes its sweet menacing time as the listener slowly digests it. The first part of this 33 minute track stops at the end of “Wandering Times” which is around the 10:00 mark.
The second section starts off with isolated guitar line that gives way for the guitars (and bass) to roam around with the harmonies while balancing the dichotomic phrases. The guitar work in this section is truly astonishing especially how they would switch from the interweaving moments and the moments when the band comes together for shorter, intense eruptions. This section really reminds of me string quartets written by modern Russian composers. Each instrument (including the drums) have their own individual part that really melds together and fleshes out the meditative and ethereal vibe this particular section has. When the band consolidates, the music explodes with energy from the build of the interludes. The dual usage of guitars (combines with 3rd voice of bass guitar) rivals and I might even dare to say exceeds what Svensson did on The Red in the Sky is Ours by At the Gates. The dynamics in this section (with the mixing’s help) really helps bring out the intricate musical lines (especially the passage around 15:40 leading up to the solo around 15:54 and how the band works around it).
The band then tones it down to the quietest part of the EP (17:20 with the awesome integration of cymbals to 21:00 with the single guitar intro) which is four minutes of ambient like and calm “intermission”. The beginning of this section has a lovely short guitar passage that really uses harmonics and isolated guitars to create a candlelight, magic, or even mysteriously supernatural blinks before the dark distorted ambient soundscapes takes over at 18:02. The ambient music has some type of industrial, noise, or even power electronic-esque elements to it that puts the listener on edge in anticipation and suspense. Oddly, the passage felt tranquil and calm but with some degree of anxious discomfort that the listener can’t quite place their finger on. Something is lurking and that something is coming.
The third section (“Besieged” starting at 21:00) starts with a lone guitar sound that gets built upon as more and more voices coming in with a crescendo. Metal wise, this section trail on the boundaries of Death/Doom Metal, something that was relatively explore on Colored Sands. What’s also different about this section is the atmosphere. The music sounds bleaker, more introspective, and conscientious. The music then moves into an interesting section where the guitars and bass guitar bounce of each other in sporadic dysrhythmic (faux-tempo) changes with what sounds like twos and fours playing along threes and fives. Though I wish the band took out the steady metronome (rhythm guitar) of this section for more ambitious compositional efforts. However, what’s going on in the rest of the instruments around the metronome is fantastic with the disjointed descending patterns coupled with the serialize movements underneath. The guitar solos at 28:58 are the finest off this EP for they are well written and truly showcase the musical genius of the band. With that being said, this section could have been made even better if the band added one or two additional layers to the sound. The band then slows down even further as the EP closes into a chaotic static (reminds me of “Forgotten Arrows” in Colored Sands) and settles into a calm and cleaner passage of guitars where eventually the electronic noise overtakes it and fades away, ending the 33 minute long epic.
‘Pleiades’ Dust’ felt like a music journey in the presentation form of a concert, all recorded into an EP. The long epic really benefits from both the faster and slower sections as they create a flow of ideas that blends and moves well together. With that being said, there’s a good amount of variance on this single track with the different movements and sections of the piece. If you are looking for a revisit to Obscura, this EP would not satisfy that need. This EP plays much more like a logical continuation and development of what can be found on Colored Sands and From Wisdom to Hate. However, there are still elements of Obscura on this EP. The biggest attraction of this EP is the instrumentation of this album, particularly the instrumental interludes. If you are looking for fast and aggressive Death Metal, this EP is not for you. This EP demands multiple listens to discover the multitude of nuances that can be found on this one single track.
The band is very self-aware on this album and efficiently plans out the whole 33 minutes so that the EP is much more dynamic and plays like a constellation or mosaic of enticing and captivating music. The EP fantastically demonstrates the high degree of musicianship when these musicians come together. Each individual member of the band is required to form the musicality presented on this album. Lemay kept the capabilities of his fellow band members in mind when he wrote the music on the EP. The incorporation of modern and post-modern classicism on this EP is truly excellent and acts as the foundation of the music with its melodies, music dissonance, and controlled chaos. These can be heard in the main guitar passages while Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Sabbath Assembly, Vaura) plays the majority of counterpoint and harmonic lines that balances the other guitar voice to create a tight, holistic sound. Marston’s presence in the bass is much stronger than what he had in Colored Sands. The bass was just as crucial as the guitars were in this EP, especially when the bass had the most interesting lines and contributed to the overall sound of individual passages. Patrice Hamelin (Beneath the Massacre, ex-Quo Vadis) provided excellent drumming that accompanied the music very well and played an important role in smoothing the seams of the various movements and sections. With that being said, there are a few small spots where I felt like the band could have stepped it up and added even more to this already packed and dense release.
Gorguts returns with ‘Pleiades’ Dust’, an unforgettable release that builds on their already amazing sound and brings the band in newer territories and highlights the musicianship of each of the members. From the finely woven instrumental interludes, to the hard hitting Death Metal tempests, Gorguts has surpassed themselves with a single track masterpiece that experimental hungry metal fans would devour with delight and digest over stimulating thoughts.