Gorguts - Obscura
Olympic Recordings
Death Metal
12 songs (01:00:30)
Release year: 1998
Official Website, Olympic Recordings
Reviewed by Charles
There is something very disturbing about this record. You could almost say that Obscura belongs in a slightly altered universe, in which metal developed in a similar but different way than on planet earth. Because it sounds like nothing else that has ever breathed the same air as us, and yet somehow it is here, coming out of my speakers. Listening to it, I feel like I’m Charlton Heston, on a beach, kneeling down in the sand in front of the Statue of Liberty. You murdering bastards, you have destroyed death metal as we know it; rendered it mute and unthinking by comparison. But I’m not angry at you… how could I be?

Conceptually, it fits alongside other pioneering tech-death records, such as the early works of Cryptopsy and the even-stranger Demilich (although that one is a story for another day). Whilst advanced instrumentalism and boundary-pushing compositions were not new to death metal, in the past they had entailed a slight mellowing of the sound, as if to make way for those elements, as on Death’s later works. But in the hands of these bands, they were being used to make the music more brutal, more uncompromising, and sometimes utterly horrifying. “Technicality” was not an ends in itself as it seems to be for many today, nor was it an interesting new element to be experimented with; it was simply another means to achieve the darkest and most warped sound imaginable. And Gorguts, for my money, came closer to achieving this than anybody else on Obscura.

It’s hard to describe what this sounds like. It differs from its more straightforward predecessor, The Erosion of Sanity in that their dense, heavy death metal sound has morphed into something other than a band playing riffs and solos. The entire group seems to move in tandem on this record, as if they were all part of one unutterably malevolent alien creature, that is unused to functioning in our atmosphere. The guitar lines are the sinewy arms, twisting themselves into inhuman and inhumane shapes. The drums are the creepy feelers that spill out from underneath it, the cackling solos its mocking laughter. And the vocals? They are its putrefied respiratory system, with Luc Lemay’s haggard, strangled rasp at times sounding more like it is gasping to take in air, rather than expel sound. What on earth is that riff that emerges 13 seconds into La Vie est Prelude? If you haven’t heard it, then it can’t be explained to you.

One track in particular is breathtaking, and as far as I am aware represents something that has never been attempted before or since in metal music. I refer to Clouded. It stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album in terms of its duration and takes the form of a ballad, but not in the sense that any innocent would comprehend that term. It is an abstract morass of awkward, grinding noise, that crawls slowly, painfully, and mesmerizingly. It builds, introducing melodic ideas, which in themselves are a rarity on this record. But these melodic ideas gradually gain precedence over this rhythmic obscenity, culminating in something that is, amazingly enough, incredibly sad, and which never fails to move me. It is a malevolent supercomputer with a terminal virus, its artificial intelligence finally starting to understand the concept of guilt in its dying moments. It may, possibly, be one of the greatest metal songs of all time.

You shouldn’t need to hear any more from me about this album. Obscura is a unique record and a death metal classic.

Killing Songs :
Clouded, La Vie Est Prelude
Charles quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Gorguts that we have reviewed:
Gorguts - Pleiades' Dust (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Gorguts - Colored Sands reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
Gorguts - From Wisdom To Hate reviewed by Paul and quoted 48 / 100
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