Sunday, July 01, 2007
Got the 'Guts?
you know how in "Dr. Strangelove," so much of the absurdity comes from arms-race paranoia? i.e., George C. Scott's "We cannot allow a mine-shaft gap!" proclamation. anyway, technical death metal is sort of like that, in that no one can ever really win the sweepstakes, i.e., each time a record drops that seems like the new benchmark of complexity and aggression, another one tops it by a mile.
anyway, i'm not up enough on this genre to tell you who's currently got the edge, but i will say that Germany's Necrophagist is the state-of-the-art as far as i'm concerned. (though they've been touring their 2004 disc, "Epitaph," for a mite too long. they'd best drop another disc soon...)
wanted to throw up a little mention here of a classic of the genre for the curious: "Obscura" by Gorguts, circa 1998. quick history of this Canadian band is that they did some fairly run-of-the-mill death metal in the early '90s, then disappeared for five years, only to resurface in '98 with a whole new sound, a whole new lineup (guitarist-vocalist Luc Lemay was the only one who stayed) and this monster of a disc.
"Obscura" is sort of like the "Trout Mask Replica" of contemporary metal. no one who's heard it can believe how fucking weird it is. i first heard of it via Colin Marston of Behold... the Arctopus, a serious fucking tech-metal authority if there ever was one, and his recommendation was backed up by Tim Byrnes of Friendly Bears and Chuck Stern of Time of Orchids, two other serious tech/prog aficionados. all spoke of the disc with "whoa, dude" reverence.
so here's the leadoff title track
Gorguts - Obscura
a few things i'd point out about this one... note the insane stop-startness of the rhythms. this is some seriously precarious shit. it's hard enough to play the blast beat (that superfast tata-tata-tata-tata thingie that's the hallmark of death-metal drumming) without essentially rebooting every few beats like this dude, Patrick Robert, does. these drum parts are seriously chopped and screwed in real time (or whatever the antithesis of chopped and screwed would be, i.e., if the basic beats were made infinitely faster and more disjointed).
but the best thing about "Obscura" is the completely loony guitar work from Lemay and Steeve Hurdle. during that first break you can hear the crazy snarling squelching tone they favor. and the riffs are incalculably difficult, but the snazzy chords somehow make them really catchy.
my favorite part of this track is the breakdown at about 1:25. the guitar in the left channel sounds like it's being played by a goddamn hi-powered sewing machine, just peppered with notes, and the one in the left is heaving and snarling and lurching.
then there's that spiraling, hard-grooving math-metal crunch around 2:30. sick, vertiginous riff, that one. the song never lets you breathe. it's like this swirling pit of grossness and jaggedness. and the album pretty much follows suit. pick that shit up used via Amazon, yo.
(if you're wondering what the vocalist--i'm not sure if it's Lemay or Hurdle--is growling about, it has something to do w/ nostalgia and emotional reverie, no joke: "Clouded by the bliss obscura / Covered by the frame of drama")
amazing interviews/demos of some "Obscura" songs courtesy of Lemay and bassist Steve Cloutier. i love the dorky intros: "This is Luc." "And this is Steve from Gorguts," and just the sort of scholarly-dude/dudely-scholar vibe these two emanate. Lemay talks about Gorguts attempting to "invent its own dialect," and listening to "Obscura," you can see how completely they accomplished that. and they even demo that insane sewing machine shit i mentioned above. i also gotta give props to the Marston/Byrnes/Stern triumvirate for hipping me to this goldmine. check it...
there's a part two to this which is easily findable on YewTewb if you're interested.
post-"Obscura," the band again kind of imploded. Steeve Hurdle, a key writing force in the band, left, as did the drummer, Patrick Robert, whose replacement ended up committing suicide. before that, a follow-up, "From Wisdom to Hate," was recorded. i'm not as familiar w/ that one, but i've been told it's inferior to "Obscura." afterward, Lemay turned his attention to wood-carving--how metal is that?!?
fortunately, Lemay and Hurdle are back together in Negativa, and the demos on their MySpace page sound fierce as shit. very much in the "Obscura" lineage of asymmetry, atomization and filigree.
forget the tech-metal arms race and dig into this north-of-the-border wonderland of metallic fucked-up-ed-ness. Gorguts is just another in a long line of Canadian musical icons: Rush, the Band, Neil Young, etc. etc.