Review Summary: A brilliant hellish and insane masterpiece that truly lives up to the hype.
"I take a dive into discomfort"
We really don't need another Obscura review do we? Not really, but I've been meaning to write an actually decent review ever since my embarrassing debut as a music reviewer almost 3 years ago, so why not start with something that's taken me about a year to appreciate?
As somebody with keen interest in breaking my own boundaries and dazzling myself with different aspects of music, something many others do, I have had an interest in this album for quite some time. But not of the usual kind, an interest mixed with revulsion and a general hatred, some sputtering urge to vomit as I look at the name of this album. It is an album many will revere, many will hate and many will just plain say; "what the *** is this?". To that I say, this album is... Obscura, that is literally how you can sum the album up with ease.
What do we think when we hear the word music? Do we think melody, beauty, harmony, or do we think dissonance, horror, malevolence, emotion, bleakness, atonality, discordance? When we hear the word Obscura, what do we think?
Do we think; beauty, unimaginable creativity, timelessness, melody, intricacy, order?
Or do we think; chaos, otherworldly, abstract, unease, scattered, malignancy, discomfort? All of these terms are pretentious, as is the album, but what isn't in music nowadays? Even some of the most dismally boring and utter tripe grade bands and artists are preparing their "magnum opus" day by day and trying to show they have something others don't. Most of us say fiddlesticks, fiddlesticks to the mooncalves. You're all delusional, and we'll stick with true innovation, as we jerk off into our favourite albums liner notes and sleeves, and vice versa. We're all incapable of really accepting what music is, music is what we make of it, even noise is being considered music and... whilst I'm only just starting my foray into this genre with my recent appreciation for the band Swans, I definitely understand why somebody would listen to it, possibly out of want for pain, a masochistic endeavour of sorts, or even just trying to find some form of meditation out of blasting yourself with static. Who knows? Maybe some of the stranger harsh noise musicians are all part of this joke I've been left out on despite engaging in it with my less than intelligent aisles of entertainment, maybe I'm over-thinking everything. Whatever, it's just something we need to know; Music can be everything, and your opinion on music is basically the same thing except with a much less tangible grasp, as sad as it seems to say, everything that we're convinced isn't music probably is music.
Anyway, Gorguts are a near universally loved, respected and practically circlejerked band, just like ***ing Death themselves, yes, Death are ***ing circlejerked over and you cannot tell me they aren't, the amount of music forums I've been apart of where Death are literally ejaculated over day by day are beyond count and it goes to show, most of the time these bands are horrendously overshadowed by other bands doing more or less the same thing but better, or they're really that good and you've been repelled by a fanbase, which you should never let happen. They're also more or less revered for the same reasons as Death, they started out as your typical death metal band, which for Death is at least logical because they essentially made the genre, but then went on to make musical efforts that pretty much changed everything, progressiveness was suddenly the new thing that must happen and a more intelligent and abstract side of death metal was born, only enhanced by Gorguts when they must've pulled an Event Horizon and attempted to go somewhere only to bring back so many ***ing terrible things with them instead, the album is pretty much a musical equivalent of insanity, it's otherworldly and uncomfortable, and I ***ing love it now.
The other thing about it is that it's not a "tech-death" record as you will imagine if you've not heard the more "avant-garde" of tech-death bands yet, you'll find no constant sweeps, no incessant noodling, no wankery that you've seen before, this album is written with riffs that in themselves aren't all that complicated or difficult to play, but the ***ing rhythms dude, the rhythms are bat*** insane and they are interesting to boot, as I said before, this band must've fallen out of the world to discover whatever plagued their mind to write this musical abomination, holy hell does it ***ing work.
Things to note about this album however; the production is excellent, everything is clear and audible but it has a grimy and dark sound to it, which benefits the sound greatly, so do not fret about an apparent masterpiece only to be driven away by ***ing terrible production like I have been thousands of times already. Additionally, when I refer to the "awfulness" I am not calling the album bad, you'd have to have not listened to anything I'd said earlier to not understand that, I am referring to how it sounds.
Before I go into this proper, I will first off say that I am no stranger to avant-garde music, I loved Deathspell Omega before I even knew about Gorguts and I avidly suck the dicks of Current 93 and whatever madness John Zorn goes on to create, so if I had to be honest, I think Gorguts just hit a bunch of good notes for weirdness with me to make me shy away from this as long as I have.
Throughout the album, most notably on first listen, you'll find an awful lot of the riffs sound incredibly ***ing awful, and as I said about awfulness, I do not mean awfulness of quality, I mean unpleasant, just to ***ing make sure you understand what I'm saying here I must repeat that. On title track Obscura you're instantly treated to some weird ass 12-year-old-wailing-on-his-first-guitar styled riff that screams "awful" and this is what I mean, most of the album is built on this aesthetic of awfulness that makes it an interesting listen, through said awfulness there's a surprising amount of beauty to be found, such as one of the riffs on Earthly Love at around 1:20 where it actually lasts a reasonably long amount of time and is really enjoyable, it also comes back later on in the song, or the unnatural beauty of Sweet Silence which eventually culminates in a freaky ***ing ending that will haunt you at night if you have trouble sleeping like I do.
Other moments treat you to a sense of crushing hopelessness rather than beauty, such as Nostalgia a trudging, vomitous mass of soul-crushing, dark-as-*** bass driven affair that constructs the musical equivalent of watching all your hopes and dreams burning up around you. Or Clouded which is almost ten minutes of an existential crisis as you realise how pointless your life has been.
And even more moments serve to just drive you insane, what the *** is happening on Faceless Ones? The intro riff that comes back occasionally is so ***ing cool, but holy *** it's musical insanity at its finest. Before that track La Vie Est Prelude... assures you plenty that they've still got about a million elements of sheer lunacy left to throw at you.
Believe me when I say it, this is no easy ***ing listen, nor will it ever get easier until an exorbitant amount of time and dedication has been put into it, or you're just so beyond this stuff that you will love it on first listen, I'll admit, I absolutely despised this album at first, but then over about a year of returning to it I finally have the appreciation for it that I have today.
Stand out tracks to me are;