Review Summary: With an everpresent atmosphere of dread and some of the most complex songwriting of Gorguts' long career, The Erosion of Sanity is a bona-fide tech-death classic and one of the most sinister albums of the classic death metal era.
There's something to be said for when an album sounds like its cover looks. The complex Dan Seagrave artwork, with its twisting forms and aggressive edges pretty much encapsulates the big changes Gorguts made from their debut release, Considered Dead. Whilst that album is sometimes regarded as more pedestrian in style than it actually is, The Erosion of Sanity makes clear technical advancements and significant changes to the songwriting, moving from tidy and clear old-school death metal to probably the most impenetrable of Gorguts' long career. And they released Obscura!
Compared to the other bands of the era regarded as tech death, like Death
, Gorguts sound much closer to the brutal death metal style of Suffocation
, with many riffs moving doing chromatic figures and even some little slam parts in Orphans of Sickness
. As is typical of that style, the bass work is quite prominent, and it becomes the melodic core of some parts, such as during the pinch harmonic riffs of Condemned to Obscurity
. The big difference from the brutal death metal sound is that there are almost everpresent guitar harmonies and different parts on the left and right tracks; much like Disincarnate
, there's a big emphasis on perfect 5th based harmonies that yield an almost nauseating (in a good way!) sound when combined with the frequent use of diminished and chromatic patterns. The intricate guitar work and chromatic parts feel both way heavier and much more musical as a result, with an extremely doomy sound in the slower sections and a much better established tone of dread and decay. This works wonders on tracks like the title track, which moves between mid-tempo melodies and spidery riffing in a much more organic and cohesive way than on similar efforts from other bands. As with their debut, Luc Lemay's vocals provide an excellent variety between tortured screams and rugged growls, which works exceptionally well on this album when combined with the gross guitar harmonies.
Glimpses of melody from the guitars and bass fit into the sound well here due to the overall song structuring as well. It isn't polyrhythmic in the sense of some other tech death bands, but Gorguts make their riffs much more unpredictable by throwing in extra measures on top of standard 4/4 or 3/4 riffs, or reducing obvious repetition by removing certain phrases. A great example is Hideous Infirmity
, which sneaks in a harmony part to its pre-verse tremolo picked riff that only occurs every 2nd run through, and gives the riff a subtle and unpredictable melodic backbone. The drum parts also play a huge part in the very dynamic, shifting sound of the album, with the capability of stopping and starting fast double bass parts and blast beats on a dime, whilst dialing back occasionally to show off the intricate guitar parts. Importantly, the band knows when to reduce the complexity and groove out a bit, so tracks like Odors of Existence
don't become overwhelming when they introduce more intricate harmonies and unpredictable rhythmic structures.
Whilst the sound isn't far off from more orthodox styles of death metal, the uncommon rhythmic variation and variety of chugging heavier riffs, blasts of tremolo picking and twisty spidery lines leads to a very formless, shifting feeling sound. Compared to their later work, there's a less savage and aggressive element, but with its unusual use of traditional death metal song writing tools it feels more sinister and oppressive. As a result, The Erosion of Sanity feels like a culmination of the ideas of death metal and less outwardly erratic than Obscura, and more intricate than From Wisdom to Hate; to this day almost nothing sounds like it.