Gorguts: Colored Sands

Death metal mutants return to dazzle

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Some whispered it would never happen – for the course of Gorguts never did run smooth. The Canadian quartet emerged on Roadrunner in 1991 with a Scott Burns production and guest spots by James Murphy and Chris Barnes, but by 1993 death metal was losing ground to new underground trends; tucked away in Quebec, far from the nerve centres of North America’s metal elite, Gorguts were quietly dropped.

It was five years before they surfaced again, vocalist/guitarist Luc Lemay assembling an all-new lineup to reinvigorate death metal with the extraordinary, disorientating and divisive Obscura – an album that barely made sense in 1998 but which (in the wake of tech-death’s ascendancy and Portal’s take on experimental DM) has proved highly influential.

But shortly after 2001’s From Wisdom To Hate, drummer Steve MacDonald hanged himself and Gorguts fizzled out again. News of a reunion came in 2008, but has been delayed so many times it’s been tempting to wonder if this mercurial outfit really had a future. With Colored Sands – a copiously researched concept album about the Chinese invasion of Tibet – Gorguts confirm that the future is theirs for the taking. Assembling another new lineup, this time with ex-members of Angelcorpse, Skinless, Krallice and Origin, Luc has again proved himself to be a masterly headhunter.

Trump card is the propulsive, bonded chemistry that powers this fevered and brilliant album; Luc has spoken about the impact of Porcupine Tree and Opeth on Colored Sands, and its progressive dexterity is clear and marked, but although there is a more elegant, accessible musicality here than Gorguts have ever displayed, there are still brute-force barbarian riffs, blastbeats, jarring discordance and ripping, imaginative solos – often rubbing up against pensive dreamlike sections and triumphant, audacious melodies, as in Forgotten Arrows or Enemies Of Compassion. Jittery pummelling opener Le Toit Du Monde is appropriately the most immediate and visceral showcase for Gorguts 2013 and The Battle Of Chamdo is a five-minute martial chamber-orchestral piece.

A dazzling, distinctive and dynamic comeback from a true cult band whose time in the sun is, finally, right now.

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.