Let me know if you can find a metal band that utilizes dissonance and technicality to a large degree that doesn’t cite Gorgut‘s masterful work as an influence. I’ll probably be waiting a long time so I’ll bring a good book – it’s called “The Band That Pioneered Dissonance and Technicality in Death Metal” and it has the word ‘Gorguts‘ repeated over and over. But it’s that huge sense of respect for the band and the enormous anticipation for this release that made it such a tricky one for the legendary act. 12 years is not only a long time for hype to build around a record, but it also gives newcomers and pretenders a chance to overtake the legends should they prove unable to live up to their own mammoth legacy. After all, a lot of bands are remembered for their creative peak, even when they can’t maintain that level indefinitely. So perhaps Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate era was their peak and all they’ll really conjure up this time is a solid record, right?
Enter Colored Sands, the long-awaited opus that exceeded the expectations of just about the entire metal community and became the strongest death metal release of 2013 (so far). A record that doesn’t simply repeat the successes of Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate, but puts a completely new spin on it. No doubt the process was heavily affected by new members who brought their all to the crusade to defend the band’s legacy which was built with some of the most forward-thinking death metal records ever. The huge wall of dissonant lead work and dizzying rhythm riffs have been crafted into something far more atmospheric, but with the heaviness and weight only Gorguts could take to this level, making Colored Sands not only near-immaculately put together, but perhaps one of the most absorbing albums of their genre.
It’s almost difficult to wrap my head around just how perfectly everything came together on this album. Despite Luc being the only original member and the sole reason the band reunited, the new additions are amazing and everyone seems right at home in the swirling, abrasive murk that this album creates so masterfully. Taking this huge, crushing soundscape and pairing it with interesting and unpredictable song structures bordering on progressive was a great decision and it’s executed with pinpoint precision. The massive walls of rhythm guitar with the noodly, technical leads flying over it are immaculately done and create many layers to get lost in while keeping the album on an amazing pace.
The riffs are absorbing, dizzying and uncompromisingly heavy. Despite the sound palette being unusually airy for a death metal record, none of the heaviness is sacrificed for atmosphere thanks to the stellar production work of their bassist, Colin Marston. The mix is dynamic, well-balanced and above all, crushing. It may well be one of the best metal production jobs this year. The guitar and bass work are as impressive as you’d expect from members of Dysrhythmia and they have absolutely no trouble keeping up with the creative mind and guitar-work of Luc Lemay. The drumwork by John Longstreth is no small feat either. It’s a much more subtle affair than you’d find with many modern death metal bands, but it’s full of interesting beats that become absolutely huge when needed as they build up to the album’s many climaxes. The man’s experience in other technical death bands like Origins obviously puts him right at home here and he does not disappoint.
There isn’t a track here that isn’t interesting or doesn’t have a hugely memorable moment. The lead guitar near the end of “An Ocean of Wisdom” and the absolutely massive rhythm guitar explosion towards the end of “Forgotten Arrows” are simply brilliant. Even the purely orchestral track “The Battle of Chamdo” is far from a throwaway interlude and is an incredibly well put together string piece. After the interlude, the album takes what the first half had and ascends to even more dizzying heights, getting better and better until the brilliant closer “Reduced to Silence.”
Colored Sands is the album Gorguts needed to make to cement their relevancy among bands that have taken their sound and forged it into something new, but it goes even further and affirms their legacy as the best of their trade. Ulcerate have released some truly superb albums in their time, Portal have been arguably more dissonant and dark and Deathspell Omega did a great job of taking their riffing style into the black metal posture, but none are Gorguts, and they’re back and performing stronger than ever.