Rating:
9.4
Gorguts - Obscura
23 June 1998


01. Obscura
02. Earthly Love
03. The Carnal State
04. Nostalgia
05. The Art Of Sombre Ecstasy
06. Clouded
07. Subtle Body
08. Rapturous Grief
09. La Vie Est Prelude
10. Illuminatus
11. Faceless Ones
12. Sweet Silence


It's hard to know where to begin with Gorguts's Obscura. This album is one of the strangest pieces of music I have ever listened to. What others have said about it tends to vary between people who claim that it isn't music at all, but just an hour of random noises, to people who claim that it is the greatest metal album of all time. I tend to side with the latter, but it is hard not to have some sort of sympathy for the former.

For starters, let me say that this is not an album for everyone. It is a death metal album that has heavily downtuned guitars and lots of growling and screaming. Those who prefer softer sounds should stay away. It is also an experimental avant-guarde album that features unusual music and does not conform to most of the musical structures that people associate with death metal. Die hard genre-nazis should also probably keep their distance. For those who remain, buckle your seat belts.

It takes about 5 seconds of the openning title track to realize that something very strange is going on. The guitars are highly dissonant, and the time intervals between notes seem really odd. There is a sort of beat, but it is extremely irregular, and is mostly punctuated by abundant diminished chords. The drumming doesn't quite follow the natural tempo either but rather heads off in it's own direction. Soon, Luc's voice kicks in and adds another highly confusing layer to the already dizzying mixture. What the hell is going on??

And that is pretty much a good description of the entire album. The guitarwork remains deliberately dissonant, avoiding any standard harmonics. The diminished chords smack you upside the head over and over, and the time signatures are horribly irregular. The closest comparison I know of comes from experimental jazz music, mostly played by people who are crazy.

Well, is this all completely random? Have they lost their minds, too? Actually, no. For starters, random noise would sound a lot more natural than this. They have deliberately chosen to break harmony in a truly gruesome way. There are a number of repeating patterns, and even some things that might pass for riffs. The song structures make sense in their own way too. For example, on the song "Nostalgia" there is a repeating phrase that starts out about 15 seconds long, but just starts to get slower and slower as the song moves on.

The musicianship cannot be called into question. Their previous albums were both very technical and executed to perfection, and for that matter, this one, when you think of it, contains entire guitar solos in nothing but diminished chords and time signatures that seem impossible to keep track of.

The lyrics are highly abstract (and quite intelligent) although they are not mind boggling poetry. The production is good, but not spectacular. The vocals are very harsh and approrpiately brutal. I could go on about all of these minor details, but what it really boils down to is that this is one of the most unique albums in metal history. Anyone who is into death metal and truly open minded should at least be familiar with this record, and probably should own a copy.

Despite what it sounds like, this album is still music. If you listen to it enough, it will begin to make sense, and it will blow your mind. You may not like it at all, but you should at least give it a couple of spins before you decide.

Highlights: Obscura, the openning track and probably the most accessible one; Nostalgia, probably the best track - toward the middle it slows down and just starts getting slower and slower until the end of the song; Illuminatus, this was the first track I actually managed to enjoy - it happened the second time through the album.

Performance: 9
Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Production: 8


Band profile: Gorguts
Album: Obscura


 


written by tuerda | 29.06.2006


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.



Comments

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LethargyMan - 02.09.2006 at 07:17  
The most horrific piece of music ever made. Steeve Hurdle is a fucking genius.

I'm considering blaring Obscura outside my house this Halloween - if not for the fact that this will scare the shit out of any seven year old who wants a treat, then for the fact that I'd be too lazy or cheap to buy candy, and use the music to keep everyone away from the house.

This is also probably one of the best guest reviews I've read on MS. It really manages to describe the esoteric sounds and structures on Obscura quite well.
ylside - 15.09.2006 at 23:45  
Unique in every sence of the term...this album won't appeal to everybody as sometimes it's just NOT music at all...however it just takes more spins to get into this technical Death Metal jewel... Pure awesomeness.
BreadGod - 22.09.2006 at 02:02  
Fantastic, well-written review. This truly is a groundbreaking death metal release. I know that this album won't appeal to everyone, but if you open up your mind a bit, you will find it quite enjoyable.
Dangerboner - 24.09.2006 at 07:32  
Do they use violins on this album? I swear I hear a violin in the song, The Carnal State. It's probably just crazy guitar-playing...
ylside - 25.09.2006 at 16:12  
Written by Dangerboner on 24.09.2006 at 07:32

Do they use violins on this album? I swear I hear a violin in the song, The Carnal State. It's probably just crazy guitar-playing...

Yes they did. Luc Lemay has a degree in music theory and made some violon concertos (I think)
psychoticone - 25.09.2006 at 19:26  
Didn't know they've musical education.. There are two instructional videos where they express some things from creation process, and they rather claim their fresh view of music came not from theory, but smoewhere else. Anyway that is a great piece of work, pity the only album was so weird.
Bitter Peace - 19.09.2008 at 08:41  
Seriously, how do you even go about writing a review for this album?? I can't put it into words. All I know is that its a very strange masterpiece. I've never heard anything so ugly before but had such a strong attachment to it at the same time. I admit, I hated this album the first time I heard it and thought to myself "are you serious?". But by the second listen, it came to me. There is and never will be anything quite like this album!
Talvi - 28.11.2008 at 16:30  
One of the best death metal albums, along with Are You Excrements?, Blackwater Park and Back to Times of Splendor
Marcel Hubregtse - 29.11.2008 at 03:06  
Written by Talvi on 28.11.2008 at 16:30

One of the best death metal albums, along with .... Blackwater Park...


Since when is that album death metal?
Just because MIkael Akerfeldt has an awesome grunt doesn't make it death metal. It's like saying the album is doom metal. Totally off the mark. It is progressive metal with an extreme edge to it, that's it.
Talvi - 29.11.2008 at 13:10  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 29.11.2008 at 03:06

Written by Talvi on 28.11.2008 at 16:30

One of the best death metal albums, along with .... Blackwater Park...


Since when is that album death metal?
Just because MIkael Akerfeldt has an awesome grunt doesn't make it death metal. It's like saying the album is doom metal. Totally off the mark. It is progressive metal with an extreme edge to it, that's it.


So, what's the line that determines that something stops being one of its genre or not? Because it's slow death metal?
Sunioj - 29.11.2008 at 13:47  
The one thing that really stood out to me (in a really unique, strange, and un-aesthetic way) is the bass playing imo.

I've always wondered what the hell the bassist was doing in a passage when you hear something by the equivalent of dropping a bass on the floor.

I watched their so-called instructional video (which was cool) and the bassist makes a chord pattern and literally smacks his bass with a full palm. A bass-bitch slap.

Album is a bit hard to get into!
Elio - 06.03.2009 at 16:38  
OMG this album is craaaazy! The review itself is greatly written too, congratz.
Deadmeat - 10.05.2009 at 18:14  
Excellent review! i am surely going to check this one out!...
Derwood - 14.06.2009 at 22:01  
Excellent review of an excellent album.

This was a very difficult album for me to get into. The first spin had me agreeing with the dissenting opinion that it sounds like the band threw their instruments down a flight of stairs and recorded the resultant cacophony. For some reason, I kept going back to it. I knew that somewhere under that surface of chaotic noise there was a piece of utter brilliance that was eluding me. It was probably my fourth or fifth listen that my ears opened and I could hear the polyphony, polyrhythm, creative dissonance and utterly brilliant musicianship underlying the surface noise.

This album changed the way I hear music.
SODOM666 - 29.08.2011 at 09:27  
I think you need to be a musician to truly appreciate every element of this album. It's brutally complex!
algirdongas - 28.10.2011 at 21:37  
This album is just friggin insane.at first it seems like some mixture of random noises but the more you listen to it the more it seems to make sense. its taking technical death metal one step higher
metaniac - 16.09.2012 at 01:16  
This is an album that has truly pushed the boundaries of metal. This album also has extended my metal comprehension capability further than any other thing I've heard before. Definitely way ahead of its time. It took me 3 complete spins to get what they were delivering and coming at, once it did... it was an EUREKA! This experience is akin to transcendental (true to the album cover).. moment you get it, if it were like turrets syndrome. That "noise" from the tracks will make your muscles twitch and jangle your auditory nerves. Its unnerving at first but once you give in. You're hooked.

That's the thing about this album. You either finally get it or you just don't! There is no semi favorable option and that is why I think there is a huge divide in the metal musical community regarding an unbiased opinion on it. I wish I could forget it outright and relive the first 3 listens.

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