Gorguts are a Canadian Avant-Garde Technical Death Metal band. They formed in 1989 with Luc Lemay (vocals and guitar), Sylvain Marcoux (guitar), Éric Giguère (bass guitar) and Stephane Provencher (drums) as the original lineup. After a deal struck with Roadrunner with their demo, they released their debut album, Considered Dead, in 1991, later being re-released in 2004 on the same disc with their sophomore effort, 1993's The Erosion of Sanity. The first two albums are old-school death metal and are regarded as atypical efforts for the band, although many (perhaps most) fans still regard them very highly. The band began to experiment more on the second album, incorporating pianos and acoustic guitars into their sound, although it was nothing compared to what would come next.
The songs the band composed for their third album, Obscura, were a complete departure from anything they or anyone else had done (arguably, only Demilich had done anything remotely comparable), and consequentially, they had a difficult time finding a record label to release their material. Their new material essentially dispensed with any traditional metal conceptions of melody, using 20th-century Classical composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich and Krzysztof Penderecki as inspirations, plus Eastern musical traditions (particularly Indian). As a result, the album sounds incredibly dissonant and atonal to first-time listeners, though most songs do eventually reveal melodic hooks after repeated listening. The album is generally considered their Growing the Beard moment (fittingly, because the album cover depicts a bearded man sitting in the lotus position) where they established their Signature Style, and not merely their greatest work but one of the greatest Death Metal albums of all time, if not the greatest. (It has also been repeatedly compared to Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, almost to the point of Memetic Mutation.) Although many of the songs were written as early as 1993,note the album would not appear until 1998. By this point, Lemay was the only original member left.
When Steeve Hurdle left, the band got yet another new lineup, which appeared on their fourth album From Wisdom to Hate. This album can be considered something of a fusion of the Obscura style with the sound found on their first two albums; it keeps the weird Eastern and 20th-century Classical-inspired melodies but uses more traditional song structures. Tragically, drummer Steve MacDonald ended his life in 2002, leading to Gorguts' split.
In 2008, however, Lemay reformed the band with yet another new lineup at Hurdle's suggestion. (In the intervening time, Lemay and Hurdle had been working together in the similar tech death band Negativa, which released one EP in 2006 that is essentially a Gorguts release in all but name. Unfortunately, Hurdle's death in 2012 put an end to Negativa.) The band spent five years working on new material before releasing their fifth album, Colored Sands, in 2013.note Colored Sands is a Concept Album about the history and culture of Tibet, with greater influence from Progressive Metal acts such as Porcupine Tree and Opeth and a greater emphasis on dynamic shifts. The album also contains a neoclassical instrumental performed by a string quartet, "The Battle of Chamdo". It has received great acclaim.
As of March 2014, John Longstreth is no longer a member, as his schedule with Origin was incompatible with that of Gorguts. Patrice Hamelin has been manning the kit live since 2011, and is now credited as an official member in the packaging of the band's first EP, the 2016 release Pleiades' Dust. The EP consists of a single thirty-three-minute song centring around the House of Wisdom, a library in Baghdad during Europe's Dark Ages. Many innovations that we now take for granted, such as algebra and a number of astronomical discoveries, were developed at the House of Wisdom. At the time, it was the largest library in the world, and scholars from all over the world flocked to it. Stylistically, Pleiades' Dust is to some degree a continuation of the sound found on Colored Sands, with the main difference being one of structure, though Lemay cited the French Black Metal act Deathspell Omega as an influence on the EP.
Gorguts are one of the most acclaimed death metal acts out there, but their music is not for everyone. Due to the extreme intensity of their music and their abandonment of familiar harmony, it is common for first-time listeners to find it frightening, but repeated listening does reveal nuance and harmony underneath what initially sounds like noise. It may take a lot of effort to penetrate all the layers of their music, but it can be extremely rewarding to do.
- Luc Lemay – vocals, guitar (1989–2005, 2008–present)
- Kevin Hufnagel – guitar (2009–present)
- Colin Marston – bass guitar (2009–present)
- Patrice Hamelin – drums (live, 2011-present; studio, 2014-present)
Notable Past Members
- Steeve Hurdle (RIP 2012) – guitar, vocals (1993–1999)
- Steve MacDonald (RIP 2002) – drums (1993–1995, 1998–2002)note
- Dan Mongrain – guitar (1999–2001)
- John Longstreth – drums (2009–2014)
- Steve Cloutier - bass (1993-2005)
- Considered Dead (1991)
- The Erosion of Sanity (1993)
- Obscura (1998)
- From Wisdom to Hate (2001)
- Colored Sands (2013)
- Pleiades' Dust (2016) - EP
This band provides the examples of the following:
- Album Intro Track: "...and Then Comes Lividity"
- All There in the Manual: Several albums have flavour text explaining the background of the album's concept or providing additional detail for the songs' lyrics.
- Avant-Garde Metal: They are credited with bringing avant-garde influences into Death Metal. Other bands before them, such as Demilich, had already done this to a certain extent, but arguably no one had done this to the extent that Gorguts did with Obscura.
- Badass Bookworm: Part of Pleiades' Dust focuses on Al-Ma'mun, who was definitely an example of this trope. After conquering new lands, instead of demanding gold from those he defeated, he would demand books from their libraries. He then used the knowledge from these books to strengthen his rule.
- Boléro Effect: Pleiades' Dust does this pretty often.
- Bookends: Lyrically, Pleiades' Dust opens and closes with the couplet "Scornful dogma / Withering era". It also opens describing the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, and closes describing the fall of Baghdad in the thirteenth century. Both of these resulted in lengthy dark ages (the former of which were, of course, the Dark Ages). Musically, its opening and closing are structured similarly, as well.
- Breather Episode: "The Battle of Chamdo" again, sort of. It's intentionally structured as the midpoint of the album, with the first four songs focussing on "the splendours of [Tibet], the culture, the topography, the geography", and the latter four focussing on "the country being invaded, people protesting through immolation, people getting killed trying to escape". "The Battle of Chamdo" represents the 1950 Chinese invasion, but unlike the rest of the album, which is Technical Death Metal, "Battle" is a neoclassical composition for string quartet inspired by Dmitri Shostakovich and Krzysztof Penderecki. There are a few passages on Pleiades' Dust that serve similar purposes, with the longest being the one from about seventeen minutes into the piece until about twenty-one minutes into the piece (which incorporates the instrumental movement "Stranded Minds on the Shadow of Doubt").
- Concept Album: Colored Sands explores Tibet and its relation to the outside world. Pleiades' Dust takes a historical perspective on the Middle East and its relation to the outside world.
- Death Metal: Since their beginning, they've always been rooted in this style. Their old material was an old-school example of the genre, while they've added avant-garde, technical, and progressive influences starting with Obscura, for which they've become a Trope Codifier (see below).
- Despair Event Horizon: How MacDonald was Driven to Suicide.
- Downer Beginning: As mentioned above, Pleiades' Dust opens with the fall of the Roman Empire.
- Downer Ending: Pleiades' Dust ends with the Islamic Golden Age being overrun by the Mongols in the mid-thirteenth century. Thousands were slaughtered, including some of the brightest minds of the age, and entire libraries were thrown in the river. It took centuries for Baghdad to recover. Real Life Writes the Plot and Truth in Television as, of course, this actually happened.
- Drugs Are Bad: Hard drugs, anyway. Evidently MacDonald developed a problem with hard drugs toward the end of his life that he was never able to climb out of. The other band members have speculated that this may have been a factor in his suicide.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Compared to what would follow, Considered Dead and to a lesser extent The Erosion of Sanity are very traditional death metal, as opposed to the band's later work. (Perhaps this is better described as an example of "early instalment lack of weirdness", or Later-Installment Weirdness, if you will.)
- Epic Instrumental Opener: "The Quest for Equilibrium" stands out as a particularly obvious example, but the band have a few others as well.
- Epic Rocking: Many of their songs, especially post-Obscura. Pleiades' Dust is a full EP comprised of one thirty-three-minute track (although it is divided into seven separate movements, of which the longest is itself nearly twelve minutes long); their longest standalone album tracks are "Clouded" (9:32) and "Absconders" (9:08).
- Fading into the Next Song: Several transitions on Colored Sands and From Wisdom to Hate do this (some specific examples on From Wisdom are listed below under Siamese Twin Songs, though it has more examples that are closely linked enough to qualify for this trope but not for Siamese Twin Songs). "Obscura" also fades into "Earthly Love"; the final three songs on that album are also linked, though somewhat more subtly.
- Gratuitous French/Bilingual Bonus:
- The song title "La Vie est prélude... (la mort, orgasme)" translates as "Life Is Prelude (Death, Orgasm)". It is worth noting that the French use the phrase "la petite mort" ("the little death") as a euphemism for orgasm. Justified Trope, since the band are from Quebec.
- The song title "Le Toit du monde" is French for "The Roof of the World". Evidently it refers to a mountain range in Tibet.
- Gratuitous Latin: The chorus of "Obscura" is in Latin, though it has some grammatical errors, and it seems like the band made up a few portmanteaus. "Illuminatus" also contains some Latin, with two of the four words again being portmanteaus, and the song title "Das Martyrium des..." is sort of a mashup of Gratuitous Latin and Gratuitous German (Martyrium is Latin for martyrdom, but is not a word in German; "Das Märtyrertum des..." would mean "The Martyrdom of..." in German).
- Horrible History Metal: Colored Sands focuses on Tibet's horrible history and ends up questioning whether nonviolence can be effective in the modern world, and Pleiades' Dust focuses on the House of Wisdom and the Islamic Golden Age. The latter doesn't play the trope straight for its entire running time, but given the fall of the Roman Empire at the start of the album and the fall of Baghdad at the end, it certainly encompasses the trope.
- Humans Are Bastards: This seems to be a central theme of Colored Sands. Lemay has commented in interviews how utterly inoffensive the entire history of the Tibetan people has been; nonviolence and love towards one's enemies have been a central part of their teachings for centuries, and "they're not interested in the concepts of jealousy, domination, [or] megalomania". They have been rewarded by being subjected to torture, imprisonment, and other atrocities. Lemay questions both whether the Tibetan people can survive and what is fundamentally wrong with humanity that they have been treated in such a fashion. The title relates to the ground being "colored by suffering" and the fact that "nobody puts a real foot down to help them and get the Chinese out of there".
- I Am the Band: Luc Lemay. However, this is Played With as Lemay allows the other musicians to come up with their own parts for the songs starting with Colored Sands. Hufnagel and Marston also each contributed a track to Colored Sands, and before that album Lemay often cowrote many of the songs with other band members. However, by virtue of the fact that he's been the only constant member, Lemay is definitely the name most associated with the group.
- Instrumentals: "...and Then Comes Lividity", "Waste of Mortality", "Sweet Silence", "Testimonial Ruins", "The Battle of Chamdo", "Stranded Minds on the Shadow of Doubt". Some of these play with the trope by providing flavour text for the songs (quotes from historical works for "Stranded Minds" and text apparently written by the band members themselves for "Testimonial Ruins") in the liner notes.
- Last Note Nightmare, Nothing Is Scarier, and Scare Chord: The ending of "Sweet Silence". It ends with a period of sustained silence punctuated by occasional uses of a slowed-down sample of the last chord of the song. Each time, the sample gets slightly lower in pitch and the time between uses of the sample increases. Several people have commented that it's one of the most terrifying parts of the album. This also counts as a case of Meaningful Name, since of course the silence is a rather large part of the reason the ending is so effective. (The song title may also be a Shout-Out to the Copenhagen studio in which Metallica recorded several of their most acclaimed albums, including Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets).
- Lead Bassist, Lead Drummer: As is commonly the case for Technical Death Metal, the bassist and drummer are as important to the music as the guitarists, no matter the lineup. Colin Marston is also the band's producer and engineer at this point.
- Marston actually released this bass-and-drums-only mix of Colored Sands, which unsurprisingly sounds a lot like the works of the Japanese Progressive Rock bass-and-drums duo Ruins. The mix reveals some nuances that are somewhat lost behind the rich wall-of-sound production of the album proper - the sometimes melodic core of Marston's bass lines is more apparent here, and it's possible to hear Longstreth's ghost notes much more clearly. Also, Marston's playing style and especially his EQ often end up sounding like those of the late, lamented Yes bassist Chris Squire (check out the Yessongs version of "The Fish" for proof that Squire's playing could get heavy when the mood was right). In any case, the bass-and-drums mix is a fascinating listen in its own right and may give listeners even more appreciation for the album proper as well.
- Marston has also posted video footage of live-in-the-studio performances of the bass tracks to Pleiades' Dust, "Le toit du monde", "An Ocean of Wisdom", and "Forgotten Arrows", mind you. One thing that these videos make eminently clear is that one reason for latter-day Gorguts' unusual sound is that Marston plays a six-string bass and treats it more like a third guitar rather than simply playing the root on each chord - he often plays entire chords and uses at least three octaves of the instrument's range. A number of riffs that listeners might think are played on guitar are actually the bass.
- Loudness War: Played straight on the CD versions of Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate (both DR5), which is likely intended to make the sound of those albums even more dense and impenetrable, but averted on the LP versions (both of which are DR10 in the War on Music pressings, and probably at similar ranges on the Century Media ones). Drummer Patrick Robert actually criticised the mastering on the CD versions, complaining that it clips constantly (which is a big problem for a drum sound), and said he was glad Obscura was remastered. Also averted on Colored Sands and Pleiades' Dust (respectively DR9 and DR8 on their CD versions), which probably isn't much of a surprise to anyone familiar with Colin Marston's mastering on other bands' works.
- Multinational Team: Half the band (Luc and Patrice) are from Canada, while the other half (Kevin and Colin) is from the US.
- Mythology: Their lyrical theme on Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate. Releases since their reformation have tended to focus on history.
- New Sound Album: To some extent, All of Them:
- The Erosion of Sanity incorporated instruments such as pianos and acoustic guitars, which were somewhat unusual in death metal of the time. However, this is very much a downplayed case compared to the band's next example.
- Starting with Obscura, they ditched the old-school sound from the previous albums to their noisy, off-kilter, and frequently bizarre style of tech. 20th-century Classical and Eastern music became major influences on the band's style at this point, and they have continued to be ever since. The band's rhythms also became much more complicated, with Uncommon Time now a core element of nearly every song, and the band used much more complicated song structures: although some songs are comprised of only around five or six riffs, those riffs can last as long as thirty seconds apiece.
- From Wisdom to Hate mixed elements of both Obscura and the two older albums before the latter, using similar melodies and rhythms but moderately simpler arrangements.
- Colored Sands was overall more on the prog side, with the average song length being around seven minutes and the band acknowledging the influence of Opeth and Porcupine Tree. It's also slightly Lighter and Softer musically than the band's previous work, but the bulk of the emphasis goes on slightly; it's still plenty noisy and dissonant throughout (with the exception of the Dmitri Shostakovich-inspired neoclassical composition "The Battle of Chamdo", which is still dissonant). The band also makes more usage of dynamic range than they did on their previous work, although their next release would incorporate even more of it. Lyrically, it's even Darker and Edgier than the preceding two releases, with Humans Are Bastards being a central theme of the work.
- Pleiades' Dust, while maintaining the noisy and weird sound of their last several releases, takes the prog influences up to eleven by structuring the entire release as one song (though it contains seven discrete movements). It also makes more usage of dynamic range than most of the band's previous work, with liberal use of Subdued Sections and the Boléro Effect.
- Progressive Metal: Not on their early material, but arguably by Obscura and certainly by Colored Sands they were a prog death metal band.
- Protest Song: The band's recent material could be considered examples of this trope. Colored Sands focuses on Tibet's mistreatment by the outside world, while a stated objective of the band with Pleiades' Dust was to push back against the stigmatisation of Muslims as terrorists by highlighting some of Islam's historical contributions to world civilisation.
- Revolving Door Band: Quite a few people have been members over the years. Somewhat downplayed since their revival, as only the drummer's spot has changed (and even then, Patrice Hamelin has been manning the kit live since 2011).
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Obscura" -> "Earthly Love"; "The Quest for Equilibrium" -> "Unearthing the Past"; "Elusive Treasures" -> "Das Martyrium des...". Interestingly, despite being on opposite sides of the LP, "The Quest for Equilibrium" and "Unearthing the Past" remain Siamese Twin Songs on the LP version, which means that there is a sudden cutoff at the end of side 1 (but also means that a person ripping the vinyl can preserve the Siamese Twin Songs in their rip).
- Signature Style: Dissonant riffs overlapping with avant-garde-style music that happens to be loud and screechy to obtain a sound of uniqueness.
- Special Guest: James Murphy and Chris Barnes on Considered Dead, as well as a group of classical musicians on Colored Sands.
- Spiritual Successor: Negativa was intended to be this. Steeve Hurdle and (for a time) Luc Lemay were both members (Lemay left and reformed Gorguts because he wasn't as interested in the improvisational elements of Negativa's music). Unfortunately, Hurdle's death put a stop to that. The band did release one twenty-minute EP, which is great in its own right and very similar in both style and musical quality to Obscura, but with more improv.
- Start My Own: Negativa was originally the Spiritual Successor of Gorguts before Hurdle decided to change musical directions when he left, leading to the resurrection of Gorguts by Lemay.
- Subdued Section: Several songs on Colored Sands employ this trope to great effect, and Pleiades' Dust uses it several times as well.
- Technical Death Metal: Of the strange, noisy, dissonant type, for which they are generally considered to be the Trope Codifiers.
- Uncommon Time: Plentiful, as is par for the course with Technical Death Metal, although sometimes they'll subvert it. Pleiades' Dust has a lot of passages that sound really complex rhythmically, but when you count them a lot of them come out to 4/4 or 6/8; they're just divided in unusual manners (such as 7/8 alternating with 9/8). The EP still has some straight examples, though.
- Wolverine Publicity: Patrice Hamelin. Basically, if you're from Quebec and play death metal, odds are that he will either join your band or fill in for your drummer live at some point. His unbelievable technical skill and ability to learn large amounts of songs very quickly doesn't hurt either.