Pleiades' Dust [EP] Review

artist: Gorguts date: 05/11/2016 category: compact discs
Gorguts: Pleiades' Dust [EP]
Released: May 13, 2016
Genre: Technical Death Metal, Progressive Metal, Avant-Garde Metal
Label: Season of Mist
Number Of Tracks: 1
An intelligent, highly technical album that will solidify Gorguts' position on top of the Quebec tech-death scene.
 Sound: 9
 Lyrics: 9
 Overall Impression: 9
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overall: 9
Pleiades' Dust [EP] Featured review by: UG Team, on may 11, 2016
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: The Quebec death metal scene has produced some of the genre's most recognizable and creative names, and one of the names that frequently appears at the top of that list is Sherbrooke's Gorguts, fronted by mastermind guitarist and vocalist Luc Lemay. The band also features guitarist Kevin Hufnagel and bass/Warr guitar mastermind Colin Marston from bands such as Dysrhythmia and Behold... The Arctopus, with live drummer Patrice Hamelin. The band's earlier material would gradually become more and more experimental and dissonant, culminating in the release "Obscura," which would showcase an entirely new way of thinking for the Quebec metal scene, with far more emphasis on dissonant guitar sounds, odd rhythms, and less on blast beats and Slayer-like tremolo picking. After another album and a lengthy breakup spurred by the suicide of former drummer Steve MacDonald, the band reunited in 2008, and released the far more progressive, atmospheric "Colored Sands."

This new EP, "Pleiades' Dust," continues where "Colored Sands" leaves off, with far more progressive leanings in their sound, lengthy song structures (the entire EP consists of only one song, the title track), intricate guitar and bass playing, and dynamics that go from a whisper to a roar many times over the course of the track.

At many points in the record, Lemay's and Hufnagel's guitar playing sounds almost Frippian, with extremely unusual harmonies and textures weaving in and out of each other, evoking an almost King Crimson-like atmosphere. The rhythms on this album sound far more complex than they actually are, with much of the album being in 4/4 time, but there are some really interesting beats on the album, and sections in time signatures I even have trouble counting. Patrice Hamelin switches between solid groove and blast beats with an almost unmatched amount of grace and panache. Interestingly, the guitar solos (which are quite numerous on this record) actually sound fairly straightforward compared to the sounds heard on "Obscura," and add a bit of a more typical melodic flair to an otherwise quite dissonant album. But don't expect something very easy to listen to, a lot of the melodies on this record have a very contemporary classical music flair to them, which makes sense as Luc Lemay is a fan of the style. Pretty much the closest comparison I can make with more recent metal bands is the band Coma Cluster Void.

Colin Marston has always been a favourite bassist of mine, and he unleashes the fury on this record, with some of his most intense playing I've heard in ages. While most bassists opt to perform a supporting role, underpinning the guitar riffs and gluing the melodies to the drums, Marston almost prefers to be the lead instrument, often being responsible for the melodic flourishes that are peppered throughout this record.

But more importantly than the skill of the musicians on this record, is the question: is a 30-minute song making up an entire EP difficult to listen to on its own? Thankfully, the answer to this is no, this album is actually quite an easy listen, despite its ambitious scope. The way the parts flow, it almost sounds as if the album is made up of many songs, and there are plenty of sections that are quiet and make glorious use of ambient spaces. The band has mentioned in an interview that the EP is sort of split into "movements" but did not give specific names for them, but did mention their start and end times (0:00 – 9:28, 9:28 – 17:57, 17:57 – 21:13, and 21:13 – end), and the lyrics make mention of section titles like "Thinker's Slumber" and "Within the Rounded Walls," which may or may not correspond to those times.

Production-wise, my copy of the album seems to be mixed fairly quietly, giving each instrument ample room to breathe in the mix, though it can be a little hard to hear the guitars at times (this presented a problem on my first listen of the record, on a crowded bus ride). But that's not really a big gripe, considering the propensity for death metal albums to be brickwalled to the extreme. It's kind of refreshing to hear a death metal album that's actually got some sonic breathing room. // 9

Lyrics: Gorguts have really come across as one of the metal scene's more literate bands, with the last album, "Colored Sands," revolving around the history and culture of Tibet from early on until its hostile takeover by China, and "Pleiades' Dust" continues this tradition of historical lyrics by focusing on the intellectual and cultural advances made by the Middle East during Europe's dark ages (from the fifth century until the late 1200s), and specifically the history of the House Of Wisdom, a book repository that existed in ancient Baghdad from the eighth century AD until its destruction by the Mongolian Empire in 1258. Included with the lyrics that are sung are descriptions of each section in their historical context, and the lyrics paint a vivid picture of the ancient Islamic's pursuit of scientific knowledge ("Enthralling thirst for ideas/Led by translation's quill/Searching the world with no fear/Paving the way for curious minds"), and the sad end of the ancient library ("Blindly burning to decimate/Pages to ashes/Cognition's fate/Drowned in despotic waters/Treasures from minds are lost forever"). One can't help but feel that the delivery of these lyrics, in a very guttural scream for pretty much the entirety of the album, give a sense that we are living in a very similar time, where we are watching our vast stores of knowledge burn, but not in a literal sense like the House Of Wisdom, but by simply being overrun by pseudoscientific opinions. It's interesting how the lyrics are about historical times, and one can still find something very contemporary about them.

Overall, these are some of the best lyrics I've heard in a metal album in quite some time. Brutal, emotional, and historical. Give this album a try, you might just learn something! // 9

Overall Impression: With such a great metal scene coming out of Quebec, it's hard for bands to really stand out, but Gorguts' intelligent brand of progressive technical death metal makes this band a dead ringer for the foremost band to come out of La Belle Province. At times, this album is brutally terrifying, and others, terrifyingly beautiful. The snaky guitar and bass lines really pull you in and grip you. There are frighteningly soft moments that explode into chaotic drumming and guitar playing, but the music never feels like it's about to fall apart. There's always an order to it, a grand scheme, and in many senses, it feels like this album is far more well-orchestrated than a lot of death metal albums out there in this day and age.

There aren't really a lot of bands out there I can compare it to, besides the aforementioned Coma Cluster Void, which is co-fronted by another member of the Quebec death metal scene, former Cryptopsy vocalist Mike DiSalvo. It might also appeal to Meshuggah fans who really dug their more long-form pieces like "I" or "Catch Thirtythree," especially given Luc's and Kevin's adept extended-range guitar chops.

If you're a fan of intelligent, deeply thoughtful metal, this is going to be a release you're definitely going to want to check out as soon as humanly possible. Very highly recommended. // 9

- Travis Lausch (c) 2016

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