Quebec death metal pioneer Gorguts is a band that changed my metal listening life when I first heard their legendary album “Obscura”. The album blew mine and critics’ minds and ears alike. It displayed technical death metal at it’s best and it’s sound was so damn unique. Gorguts proceeded to release another great album, “From Wisdom to Hate,” in 2001. Both albums have been played countless times in my household. Sadly, Gorguts split up in 2005 not long after drummer Steve MacDonald committed suicide. With founding member Luc Lemay joining the band Negativa, Gorguts became one of the many bands I categorized as “What if?” What if Luc Lemay reformed the band someday and released new material. Could he capture the Gorguts magic of years past? Well, I’m here to tell you, after twelve long years Lemay is back and “Colored Sands” is here, and it delivers the goods.
“Colored Sands” is a concept album with nine tracks. It opens with the song, ‘Le Toit Du Monde’, which translates to “roof of the world” which discusses the beauty of the Himalayas. ‘An Ocean of Wisdom’ is about the death of the 13th Dali Lama and the omens that appear to help Tibetan monks find the new chosen one. The title track, ‘Colored Sands’, touches on the ritual of creating and destroying a sand mandala. Whereas the first half of the album is about Tibetan culture and philosophy, ‘The Battle of Chamado’, which is not a metal song but a beautifully crafted orchestral piece, marks the turning point in the album which illustrates the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950. ‘Ember’s Voice’ tells of the terrifying reality of self immolation by Tibetan protesters of the Chinese occupation. ‘Absconder’ relates the true story, documented in the book “Murder in the High Himalayas,” of mountain climbers who witnessed Chinese border patrol guards shooting at Tibetans trying to flee to Nepal. Both halves of the album are examples of amazing storytelling, but when listened to completely, it is outstanding.
Musically, the album is jaw dropping. Lemay has recruited a cast of all star musicians. Sharing guitar duty with Lemay is Kevin Hufnagel of Dyrhythmia. On drums is John Longstreth of Orgin and playing bass is Colin Marston of Krallice. I’ve now listened to “Colored Sands” seven times through and every time I catch something new I didn’t hear the previous time. It might take me several more listens to absorb all that is going on in this album. The album definitely has the Gorguts style of sound which I refer to as “controlled chaos.” For example, the song ‘Le Toit Du Monde’ starts out full steam ahead, I am raging along with the band, and then right in the middle of the track I discover a subtle guitar hook that sounds like I am being gently placed in the eye of the tornado amongst the chaos surrounding me. Every song on this album tests the limitations of death metal. You are going to hear devastating technical riffs, resounding death growls, complex arrangements, thunderous drumming, and a unpredictable whirlwind pace of tempo variations. All the pieces of this puzzle fit together perfectly.
At the end of the day I am ranking “Colored Sands” as my favorite album of 2013 so far. In my opinion, it is another beautifully constructed Gorguts masterpiece. I could keep going on and on about how much I am impressed with this album, so I strongly advise you to pick it up.