Review Summary: Let’s talk about innovators and innovations or “why iPhone was not the first smartphone”.
It was 19 years ago that IBM released the first smartphone, namely "Simon Personal Communicator" or as many of you better know it under the name IBM Simon. Now, granted, the term “smartphone” was coined as late as 1997, IBM Simon was a smartphone in a true sense, for its features were as follows (besides, of course, receiving cellular phone calls): send and receive faxes, e-mails and cellular pages. Simon also featured many applications, including but not limited to “an address book, calendar, appointment scheduler, calculator, world time clock, electronic note pad, handwritten annotations and standard and predictive stylus input screen keyboards”.
Now, taking that into the consideration, the trend of smartphones and now surely a standard of owning one came to fruition in 2007, when Apple’s first iPhone was introduced. People were astonished, mesmerized, fascinated and some even obsessed. Even though IBM won the actual war of smartphones, the true winner here is Apple with its late Steve Jobs at the head of the table. There’s a lesson here and that lesson is sour, bitter, but it’s definitely part of everyday life.
I’m of course talking about innovators, their visions and how well they perform. And within this scope, there are without one doubt Gorguts, one of the most influential and innovative bands in death metal history. Or, if I may reference the intro discussion, they’re no iPhone; they’re IBM Simon.
Surely I won’t bore anyone with overanalyzing how above average and ahead of its time “Obscura” was, because you already know that. As Allmusic suggested, Obscura was "one of the most challenging, difficult albums ever released within the metal genre" and "a work of great depth and vision". That cannot be said for many metal albums, or many music albums for that matter. Canadians not only rebooted death metal, but they brought the ever so needed freshness to it. While Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Deicide, Morbid Angel and of course, Death established a strong basis for the genre, Gorguts are rarely mentioned in this elite list. And that is a crying shame for both the band and us, the mere listeners. If anything, they should be at the top of the list for solely establishing a somewhat melodic structuring and bringing an interesting twist to the chaotic composition that is death metal. They reformed the genre, they distanced themselves from what was known and still remained so true to the core, that their influence just cannot be denied. Their legacy spawned bands, such as Ulcerate, Gigan and to some extent, even Baring Teeth. So, as much as Apple wants to hold the “innovator of the century” title, and as much as public is lead to believe that iPhone was the first smartphone, we know better.
Now, after a long layoff and some tragic events that reformed the structure of the band, Gorguts returned much rejuvenated and ready to teach the ever growing market of (technical) death metal bands what that exactly means. The beginning of “Colored Sands”, their latest offering, reaches back as far as 2008, when Lemay (vocals, guitar) himself confirmed the long awaited reunion. First, the demos begun, then more complications, then delays. But finally (and I do mean finally as it was way overdue) the record was released on September 3rd.
As stated by the band, their goal was to conduct longer, more progressive songs which is basically the review of the album in one sentence. However, there’s obviously a lot more to it.
From the beginning the end the band provides a typical Gorguts sound: heavy, chaotic yet somewhat melodic. Lack of traditional death metal riffs is present, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who ever listened and enjoyed their music. However, the much more progressive approach is evident already in the first song of the album, Le Toit Du Monde. The soft, almost post-metal-like melodies gently and subtly accompany the brutality of the song. The juxtaposition of calmness as well as beauty and roughness is mesmerizing and while it can sound (on paper at least) very post-everything (either rock or metal), it certainly does not play that way, at all. The textures are sound as always, vocals rough (even when whispered), drumming dynamic and more importantly, everything works in the best possible sense. When listening to this album, I was thinking “Ulcerate have so much to learn” and that’s from a die-hard Ulcerate fan.
But don’t be fooled: the already existing dynamic was brought to a whole new level, when The Battle of Chamdo caught its way into my speakers. Yes, the track is an absolute killer in a sense of releasing the tension of the album, in a way that is more than welcome. The song was written by Lemay on piano and recorded with a string quintet. Of course, as soon as we might enjoy the calmness and somewhat weirdness of it, Enemies of Compassion not only grab our attention (that might be fleeing in the soothing sounds of The Battle of Chamdo) but they damn near tear our dreaminess apart. It is easily the heaviest song on the album. Band once again reminds us why they’re ahead of the curve in Reduced to Silence, the last track on the album. It literally incorporates everything Gorguts has to offer, it’s almost like a monument to their design.