One of the most interesting consequences of the old-school death metal revival is the chance to hear what we all missed the first time around via myriad re-releases of rotting relics buried by time and dust. Naturally there are weak links that should’ve stayed forgotten, but Quebecois death metal band Gorelust’s 1995 debut Reign of Lunacy deserved its ungentle exhumation. Although released before both, it was essentially the missing link between None So Vile and Whisper Supremacy in sound and execution: a superb Pierre Remillard production job kept it clean and chunky, and the music was riffy, technical, bludgeoning, and concise. 20 years later, Gorelust has returned to the fold to continue in that vein, but will their sharp Quebec-death slit your guts with the best or merit defenestration?
Gorelust stumbles out the block with needless ambient intro “Lunacy Still Prevails…” (which is basically the first part of “Emaciate”), but immediately rectifies this with “Rape the Rapist,” a literal blast back to the glory days of Quebec-based brutality. Off-kilter yet strangely catchy riffs come in a flurry, and it feels like home if you cut your teeth on None So Vile and The Erosion of Sanity. Vocalist Jean Beaulieu is a boon on every track, and bringing a more guttural tone than Luc Lemay and more technicality than Lord Worm to the table gives him a winning presence over both the betcha-can’t-play-this insanity and the Suffocation-esque proto-slamming. A unique merging of these two elements is what made the Quebec death metal scene so special in the first place and Gorelust haven’t forgotten that, keeping this very specific sound alive and well when its two most well-known progenitors simply aren’t, having moved in their own (mostly) great directions.
A major reason for We Are the Undead’s time capsule-y nature is Gorelust actually resurrecting some material from writing sessions in 95/96 for a follow-up to Reign of Lunacy. While there are brand new compositions as well, they’re stylistically indistinguishable and quite good, showing some convincing signs of life in the old Quebecois corpse. “Farewell to the Flesh” successfully toys with the more straightforward melodic edge that Cryptopsy employed on “Phobophile” along with parts of Whisper Supremacy to great effect, and “Entering the Kill Fest” and “Decapitate the Holy Whore” embody the loose and unpredictable nature of None So Vile and Reign of Lunacy, sounding like they could fly off the rails at any second, and I mean this entirely as a compliment; this vicious, almost psychotic sound characterized the best of both Gorelust and Cryptopsy.
With nearly all of the members from Reign of Lunacy returning to the fold, it makes sense that We Are the Undead sounds completely authentic. Simon Durette handles production admirably, and while it’s not quite as thick as Remillard’s best work, the sound is razor sharp and clear albeit irritatingly brickwalled, giving Martin Fournier’s guitars and Pascal Chevrier’s bass their own space in the mix to showcase their top-tier instrumentation, but it’s drummer Francis Marmen who steals the show in both performance and sound. Electing to record everything from the floor with no cuts, quantizing, or triggers, Marmen gives a hugely energetic performance that rivals Flo Mounier’s None So Vile drumming in off-the-wall technicality and intensity, while sounding all the more impressive with its no-bullshit production values.
We Are the Undead is nostalgia done right, earning a spot at the table of one of metal’s finest and most short-lived stylistic movements. Gorelust has the experience and passion of the mid-90s scene, and they’ve used both to full effect in 31 lean and mostly filler-free minutes of music. Here’s hoping we’re not left waiting another two decades for a follow-up.