Monsieur Luc Lemay of Gorguts is a scholarly-looking Quebecois gentleman who sports a magnificent beard and glasses.
“We all have a man crush on him, he’s the nicest guy ever,” a Season of Mist record salesman told me at MDF 2014.
Not a description you’d expect for a death metal star, who had already steered his band through a progression from a brutal, straightforward death metal act in the early 90s to an even more technically accomplished group over the next 10 years. After driving that, what’s next?
Go on hiatus and come back with Colored Sands.
Although a challenging listen for my first Gorguts record, ever since I bought it that summer afternoon at MDF I’ve come to appreciate why Loudwire ranked Colored Sands the #1 metal record of 2013.
1. Le Toit Le Monde
2. An Ocean of Wisdom
3. Forgotten Arrows
4. Colored Sands
5. The Battle of Chamdo
6. Enemies of Compassion
7. Ember’s Voice
9. Reduced to Silence
I witnessed many of these songs for the first time live at the festival with skillful aplomb, but Gorguts’ studio magic is a stellar production as well.
The album contains many references to Tibetan Buddhism and culture, and in fact Colored Sands (both album and song) refers to the material used in the creation of a mandala, an immensely complex work of art that is ritualistically destroyed after its creation to symbolize the transitory nature of life. The songs here are similarly constructed.
The first 4 songs have generated the most acclaim among death metal fans. “Le Toit Le Monde” (“The Roof of the World”) is a tribute to the majestic Tibetan landscape–you can almost hear the frigid mountain wind in the gentle second movement. “Forgotten Arrows” is all about a painfully slowing down outro, with a towering, authoritative rhythm. “Battle of Chamdo” is the halftime break, an instrumental piece written for string quintet about the 1950 invasion of Tibet by China.
Between the nine songs, Gorguts mines a rich vein of experimental musical additions that are unusual for death metal: long songs (averaging about 7 minutes), suspended chords, twin detuned guitars, male choirs. And each song is illustrated and described using stories and traditions from Tibet’s past and present (none of which will endear Gorguts to the Chinese government).
From my repeated listens, I think the band’s most complete performances are found in the 2nd half. “Enemies of Compassion” describes the mythical Snow Lion using a double-bass war drum section and a thrashlike outro. “Absconders” is an epic that describes the tragic flight of a group of nuns into India (Nangpa La, look it up). And “Reduced to Silence” works in an excellent parting guitar solo, backed the whole way by some truly stunning drum work. “The songs breathe more,” says Lemay.
Best appreciated after a few close listens, Colored Sands is a record that can be studied as well as cranked up and headbanged to.
Written by Matt P