Gorguts
Obscura


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (195 Reviews)
January 12th, 2022 | 24 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A monument to mental anguish and turmoil.

Was anybody actually ready for an album like Obscura back in 1998? Watch any early live performance of these songs on Youtube, and what you’ll see is a crowd that’s practically motionless. They’re not moshing, instead just stunned and transfixed at the bizarre dissonance and calculated chaos playing out before them. In the same year that other tech-death landmarks such as The Sound of Perseverance were being released, Gorguts had already left the archetypal trappings and conventions of the genre far behind with an avant-garde metal masterwork that stood - and still stands today - as a monument to mental anguish and turmoil.

I get the sense that much of the confusion and surprise surrounding Obscura stemmed from the sheer leap forward from its predecessor. The Erosion of Sanity is more sophisticated than Considered Dead, sure, but it’s still a relatively straightforward death metal album. No one could have predicted something like Obscura; imagine if Death released Individual Thought Patterns immediately after Scream Bloody Gore. So what happened? Well… Steeve Hurdle happened. Luc Lemay might be the co-founder and bandleader of Gorguts, but he’s never going to find a better wingman than Hurdle. The duo’s combined artistic vision led to a level of experimentation and twisted chemistry that can’t be matched anywhere else in the group’s catalog; if you have any doubts of Hurdle’s involvement in this partnership, the liner notes credit both him and Lemay with the “artistic direction” of Obscura.

And what an artistic direction this is. All of death metal’s stereotypical traits and tropes have been thrown out the window in favor of abstract lyrics, strange chord structures, and ever-changing time signatures. Instead of being technical for technicality’s sake, however, Gorguts use their musical toolkit as a means of communicating intense feelings of dread, despair, and viscera. While the songwriting is impressive, the way these emotions and thoughts are conveyed through the songwriting is what makes it so effective. It’s as if every weird bout of dissonance and every alien guitar squeal is another layer of sanity being ripped away from the listener. Of course, the vocals are also a massive contributor to this. If Lemay sounds demented and savage - which he does - Hurdle acts as his tortured and agonized counterpart. Every time Hurdle lets out a lyric, even if it’s not particularly disturbing, he transforms it into a twisted and ugly affair with his horrible retching and heaving. And what’s so wild about all of this is that the record makes more and more sense with repeated listens; what seems like chaos starts falling into place once you let the deliberate nature of the songwriting and execution sink in.

Of course, I don’t want to leave bassist Steve Cloutier or drummer Patrick Robert out of the picture either; the fact that they can make sense of the musical madness on Obscura and play these crazy riffs so impeccably is a feat unto itself. Their precision and technical acumen is a perfect foil for Lemay and Hurdle’s insane ideas, leading to strong chemistry between all members. Everyone is locked in with each other, which is absolutely necessary for an album that could go flying off the rails at any given time. Obscura reminds me a lot of Calculating Infinity by The Dillinger Escape Plan in that regard; both records have a habit of letting chaos and control coexist in strange and creative ways. Sometimes the two mingle, and sometimes they clash with each other. Still, one thing is for certain: the members of Gorguts are ridiculously talented. As for the lyrics, they’re a substantial step up from the band’s previous output; the gore and social commentary of yesteryear were now replaced with writings on existentialism, spiritualism, and - you guessed it - despair. In any case, they prove to be just as abstract and peculiar as the music they’re accompanying, which seems appropriate.

But to answer my original question: no, people were not ready for Obscura back in 1998. There’s a reason Gorguts are commonly cited as pioneers of avant-garde metal; nothing sounded like this back then, in the technical death metal genre or otherwise. If the album had proven anything, it was that many of their contemporaries were already being left in the dust artistically. Because of Obscura, extreme metal would simply never be the same again.



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user ratings (1440)
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Contributing Reviewer
January 12th 2022


12891 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I wanted my first review of 2022 to be special, so I decided to go with a classic this time around. I've been jamming the hell out of this album lately, and it seemed like a good time to get a 5.0 review out there :]

evilford
January 12th 2022


54133 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nice mindpos

Digging: Pillars of Cacophony - Parerga

evilford
January 12th 2022


54133 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Brilliant write up. Brings a tear to the eye🥲



Hail gorguts

normaloctagon
January 12th 2022


7900 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Very nice



Hail guts [2]

Digging: MF DOOM - Special Herbs 7,8

TheSonomaDude
January 12th 2022


8331 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

best album ever written

FR33L0RD
January 12th 2022


3404 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Brilliant write up [2]

French speaking Canadian doing awesome metal. C’est écœurant en tabarnak.

Nice, very nice, indeed. Of course, im one of them, french can.

Hail guts [3]

Digging: Joseph Haydn - Piano Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. XVI/49

CaptainDooRight
January 12th 2022


5069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hells yeah!



Brilliant write up [3]

Digging: Ablaze My Sorrow - If Emotions Still Burn

trilo
January 12th 2022


4381 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

hail guts [666]

Digging: Earl Sweatshirt - Sick!

CaptainDooRight
January 12th 2022


5069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

“ I get the sense that much of the confusion and surprise surrounding Obscura stemmed from the sheer leap forward from its predecessor.”



How true that is. Fans we’re definitely not expecting anything like this. Just the balls and confidence it took for them to release something like this during that time is astounding.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
January 12th 2022


12891 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks everyone!



"How true that is. Fans we’re definitely not expecting anything like this. Just the balls and confidence it took for them to release something like this during that time is astounding."



True, although they probably had nothing to lose at the time since they'd already been dropped from Roadrunner by that point

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2022


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Blast from the past.

LeddSledd
January 12th 2022


6871 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Koris I believe "onto itself" is a typo for the phrase "unto itself", unless I'm mistaken



Regardless, excellent review. Also great comparison to Dillinger, I've long considered Calculating Infinity to be the hardcore equivalent of what Obscura is to death metal.

LeddSledd
January 12th 2022


6871 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is also like CI in that I'm damn close to 5'ing it

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
January 12th 2022


12891 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I thought "onto" seemed a bit strange, thanks for the correction



And yeah, CI definitely seemed like the closest comparison I could make, especially in terms of bands throwing the entire musical rulebook out the window

CaptainDooRight
January 12th 2022


5069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

“ True, although they probably had nothing to lose at the time since they'd already been dropped from Roadrunner by that point”



Thanks to Olympic Records for saving the day

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
January 12th 2022


12891 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, they’re legends for picking up the band and allowing them to release this

Demon of the Fall
January 12th 2022


22453 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

'Regardless, excellent review. Also great comparison to Dillinger, I've long considered Calculating Infinity to be the hardcore equivalent of what Obscura is to death metal.'

Yeah I liked this parallel. Both are eternal 5s as well, which is maybe not quite the coincidence it seems at first. Admittedly took me a long while to get there.

Nice review Koris. It reads like a tribute to the legacy this represents in many ways, which is cool. New 'home' for the album... i.e. default review. I'm getting comfy.

Digging: Dark Millennium - Acid River

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
January 12th 2022


12891 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thank you! And now that you mention it, this definitely does read like a tribute and retrospective. That wasn't my original intention, but I'm glad it turned out that way... definitely sets it apart from the other reviews this has gotten so far

CottonSalad
January 12th 2022


1430 Comments


Great review!

mindpos [2]


Digging: Gareth Liddiard - Strange Tourist

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
January 13th 2022


12891 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, I appreciate it!



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