Gorguts: Luc Lemay (vocals, guitar, viola); Steeve Hurdle (vocals, guitar); Steve Cloutier (bass); Patrick Robert (drums).
Recorded at Studio Victor, Montreal, Canada.
What's in a name? In the case of "Gorguts," not much -- at least by this stage in the game -- save for some preconceptions about what a band with "gore" and "guts" in its name should sound like. Obscura comes much closer to the mark, as this is simply one of the most challenging, difficult albums ever released within the metal genre. In terms of its towering complexity and unprecedented strangeness, Obscura has a lot more in common with Captain Beefheart's avant-rock monstrosity Trout Mask Replica than it does the latest Cannibal Corpse release. Not that Obscura isn't recognizably metal -- the guitar distortion, the double-bass drumming, and the blasting snare beats are all firmly rooted in death metal. What makes this album different is exactly how far Gorguts pushes this death metal foundation. The guitar/bass harmonies are extremely discordant, the guitar leads are full of alien harmonic squeals and other foreign noises (the title track, for example, features a recurring, legitimately atonal melody played via fingertapping), and the drums change tempos and time signatures in spastic, whiplash-inducing fashion. Frontman Luc Lemay's vocals are not standard death metal fare, either: he sounds like he's being put through a torture session, gasping and wheezing as he screams at the top of his lungs. The most agonizing track is the near ten-minute "Clouded," which crawls at a Melvins/Swans pace and has absolutely guttural bass playing to go along with the aforementioned dissonant guitars and painful vocals. As ugly and off-putting as Obscura may initially seem, though, it possesses an underlying sense of logic and structure that does reveal itself upon repeat listens. A number of memorable, if strange, guitar melodies emerge throughout the album and help provide a sense of order and thematic unity amidst the apparent chaos; "Earthly Love" and "Nostalgia" are especially strong examples of this. Obscura's appeal may not ultimately reach far beyond an underground niche audience, but those with the patience and curiosity to tackle this record will be rewarded with a work of great depth and vision. ~ William York