GORGUTS — Colored Sands

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GORGUTS - Colored Sands cover
4.42 | 23 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2013


1. Le Toit du Monde (6:33)
2. An Ocean of Wisdom (7:20)
3. Forgotten Arrows (5:42)
4. Colored Sands (7:55)
5. The Battle of Chamdo (4:42) (instrumental)
6. Enemies of Compassion (7:03)
7. Ember's Voice (6:48)
8. Absconders (9:08)
9. Reduced to Silence (7:38)

Total Time 62:49


- Luc Lemay / Vocals, Guitar
- Kevin Hufnagel / Guitar
- Colin Marston / Bass
- John Longstreth / Drums

- Gregory Chudzik / Bass (Track 5)
- Isabel Castellvi / Cello (Track 5)
- Victor Lowrie / Viola (Track 5)
- Emily Holden / Violin (Track 5)
- Joshua Modney / Violin (Track 5)

About this release

Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: August 30 (Europe) and September 3 (North America), 2013

Formats: digipak CD limited to the first pressing, regular black LP, transparent clear LP and red/yellow colored LP.

Miscellaneous staff:
- Martin Brunet / Recording
- Pierre Rémillard / Recording
- Colin Marston / Producer, Recording, Mixing, Mastering
- Luc Lemay / Producer, Logo, Lyrics, Layout, Layout concept
- Martin Lacroix / Cover art, Artwork, Layout concept
- Éric Geoffroy / Layout

Thanks to Stooge for the addition and UMUR, adg211288, siLLy puPPy for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

“Wikipedia is your friend,” my friend always says when we are not sure about some fact. I often consult Wikipedia as a starting point to search for band history and album information. In the case of “Colored Sands”, the Wikipedia article was surprisingly indepth and very informative.

Gorguts released four studio albums between the years of 1991 and 2001. During this time the band went on a five-year hiatus between their second and third album, and only founding member Luc Lemay has remained with the band, effectively making Gorguts his band similarly to how Opeth is Mikael Åkerfeldt's baby. With the suicide of a band member in 2003, Gorguts was finally dissolved in 2005. However, Luc Lemay received encouragement to reform the band in 2008. Initially (I’m getting this from Wiki) he did not intend to write any new material because he was satisfied with what the band had achieved; however, he started writing anyway and found it came very naturally.

The theme for the new album was Tibet. It was inspired by a video Lemay saw of colored sand art where images are created using colored sand and then ritualistically destroyed. At first he meant to write only the one song about Tibetan sand art, but his research into Tibet, its culture, history, and religion, inspired him to devote the whole album to Tibet. The album is divided into two parts: the historical, cultural, and geographical side of Tibet and the Chinese occupation. There are four tracks to each part with track five, “The Battle of Chamdo” separating the two parts and being a musical representation of the Chinese invasion in 1950. Impressively, this piece is performed by a five-piece string ensemble including two violins, a viola, a cello and a string bass. The music was composed by Lemay. The concept of the album was to “create a storytelling mood within the music; sort of like a motion picture” (quote by Luc Lemay and quoted from Wikipedia).

Lemay’s concept is nothing to scoff at. Colin Marston (bass) and Kevin Hufnagel (guitar) are both classically trained musicians and contributed a lot to the album, writing their own parts together with Lemay. All three members cite classical influences, particularly composer Elliot Carter, and were able to write ideas on paper because they could use “an academic vocabulary”. Lemay wanted to avoid writing anything like their second album “Erosion of Sanity”, which was more of a typical death metal album, and develop their own musical language. This language was first introduced with 1998’s “Obscura”, though it is regarded by Lemay as rather simplistic. “Colored Sands” is a “more sophisticated expression” of that language.

All this makes the album sound terribly interesting. With music so intelligent and lyric writing to match, what does the album sound like?


Gorguts is not only death metal but they approach extreme like few can. Dissonance, double bass blast beats, booming guitars, ferocious roaring vocals, and occasional bass note crashes that sound like BOWM! If my parents, who were fans of 50’s jazz, had a hard time making sense of my musical preferences in the mid-eighties, I can almost sympathize with them listening to this album. My first listen through, however, was a blissful ride because it was exactly the kind of music I was up for (having spent the previous week listening to Sarah McLachlan and Supertramp!). The Wikipedia article tuned me into the fact that there was more to this album than just explosive sounds of a heavy metal band in rapid combustion. I listened again with an ear for the complexities of the music and discerned that a score did indeed exist, one that was often difficult to follow for long and subject to violent and brutish upheaval. By the third listen I was struck by two notions: first that there was sometimes little disparity between some songs during the explosive and thunderous BOM BOM BOWM!! moments. The other was that I began to realize that this was not too far away from a Voivod album that I quite like, “Phobos”, which I likened to the sonic equivalent of being wacked by a giant tennis racket! As the album wrapped up for the third time in my ear buds (with some songs having been played a fourth time) the similarities between “Dimension Hatröss” and “Phobos” and this album here made the music suddenly become even more accessible to me, or if not exactly accessible at least not so alien. And speaking of alien, perhaps some of Strapping Young Lad’s “Alien” had also prepared me for this.

Armed now with a new understanding toward the album, I think I can more easily digest what I’m hearing. Surprisingly, the production is remarkably clear. One might expect the dynamic range to be shattered or a lo-fi production but it strikes me as being very clean and clear. Yes, we are still talking about kilotons of pounding and building-toppling shock waves of guitar distortion and dissonance, but still very well captured in the mix. When the music drops down for a bit of acoustic guitar, the string ensemble, or a chorus of low and ominous “aahhh”s like a note meant to conjure up an ungodly presence, it’s all very clear. What a remarkable feat to have recorded an album that often comes across as the musical equivalent to the moon colliding with the earth while maintaining good sound quality.

If there is anything to say that is more critical it would be that in spite of the philosophical concepts presented in the lyrics, such as how did the Tibetans’ devotion to peace help them in the end, and the history and culture and all that, the words are not so easy to distinguish from the roaring vocals and crushing sound of the music. It’s also an album that won’t be easy for a lot of metal fans to sink their teeth into. After listening to this album twice, I went ahead and listened to some classic Slayer and Megadeth and it was like going to pick daisies after having tried to pluck rare flowers from the sheer wind-blasted granite cliffs of some torturously rugged mountain. For more information about the album, please read the Wikipedia article!
siLLy puPPy
The mighty tech death metal band GORGUTS makes a comeback after 12 longs years with their 5th album COLORED SANDS. They score a perfect hit with me by combining all the best attributes of the four albums of their first incarnation. Luc Lemay has a whole new crew of veteran musicians on duty and they nail perfectly the marriage of the accessible death metal started on their first two releases, the avant-garde technicality of “Obscura” and the atmospheric additions which debuted on “From Wisdom To Hate.” The result is a finely tuned album that is perfectly executed and stunningly brilliant. This is also a concept album about Tibet and the brutal rule of the Chinese making the subject matter most atypical for a brutal metal album as well.

After “From Wisdom...” the drummer Steve MacDonald killed himself and Lemay decided to call it quits with this band. After a brief stint with the band Negativa and releasing a sole EP, Lemay was talked into reviving the influential band in 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its formation. Feeling like the fit with Negativa just wasn't working out, he decided to give it a go and what a wonderful decision it was. This album just flows so nicely from beginning to end incorporating not only their technical command of their compositions but also finding the right atmospheres to add at the right times. A major surprise was the middle track which serves as a kind of intermission to separate the first four tracks from the last four. “The Battle Of Chamdo” is an orchestrated classical string piece that reminds me a bit of the theme music from the 1987 motion picture “The Untouchables.” It clearly demonstrates Lemay's musical compositional skills without being obscured by the brutal and avant-garde technical metal.

This was love at first listen and I am in agreement with many others that this is a major achievement for Lemay and GORGUTS. Their absolute best and most varied album to date. Once again GORGUTS prove you can make both complex and interesting music without compromising your integrity but also validate that a band of 20 plus years doesn't have to fall into a pool of stagnation. Lemay is a brilliant orchestrator of both music and band members and I hope we don't have to wait 12 years for another album.
"Colored Sands" is the 5th full-length studio album by Canadian experimental/progressive extreme metal act Gorguts. The album was released through Season of Mist in August 2013. Gorguts are one of the pioneers in using dominant dissonance in extreme metal music and their "Obscura (1998)" album is a seminal release, that has inspired prolific acts like Deathspell Omega and Ulcerate, just to mention a few. Of course there were acts that incorporated dissonance to their sound before "Obscura (1998)" came out (especially Voivod comes to mind), but it featured a chaotic darkness and dominant use of dissonance that was unheard of at the time. Their 4th full-length studio album "From Wisdom to Hate (2001)" toned down the dissonance a bit and made a slight return to the more "regular" US influenced death metal style of the band´s first two studio albums, but still retained a dissonant element, that sets the album apart from most other releases in the genre.

The band were struck by tragedy though as drummer Steve MacDonald committed suicide in October 2002 and band leader Luc Lemay put Gorguts on hold until 2008 when he chose to ressurect the band again with a completely new lineup. On "Colored Sands" the lineup consists of Luc Lemay (Vocals, Guitar), Kevin Hufnagel (Guitar), Colin Marston (Bass), John Longstreth (Drums). These are all very seasoned musicians, having played with acts like (among others) Behold the Arctopus, Krallice, Dysrhythmia, Dim Mak, Angelcorpse, Origin, Vaura and The Red Chord and as a consequence the musicianship on "Colored Sands" is top notch. And that is exploited to the full on "Colored Sands". All four guys are very active and audible in the soundscape. Great interplay between the two guitarists, very skillfully played drumming (and varied too) and busy adventurous bass playing. The vocals are mostly growling and pretty low in the mix and along with the atmospheric sections this give off a strong post rock/metal vibe.

The lyrics on "Colored Sands" are politically motivated. It´s a concept album describing the Tibetan culture and later the Chinese invastion of Tibet in 1950 and the following oppression of the Tibetan people by the Chinese occupation. I think we can safely establish that Luc Lemay is not going to travel to China anytime soon after this...

The music on the 9 tracks, 62:49 minutes long album is, except for the intrumental classical chamber piece "The Battle of Chamdo", a chaotic sounding, dark and twisted but also atmospheric type of extreme metal, with nods toward both death metal, post rock/metal, avant garde metal and progressive metal. although there are familiar elements in the band´s sound Gorguts continue to challenge conventions. Dissonance and tempo- and time signature changes are dominant elements in the band´s sound and sometimes those elements make for an almost nauseating listen. The way the band sometimes combine fast paced drumming with slow dragging dissonant riffing (not completely unlike the atmospheric doom/death of Disembowelment) has the effect on me, that I feel like I´m being torn apart inside. I´m not sure if I should headbang like a madman to the complex rythms or just sit there drenched in the feeling of despair that the music so vividly convey. Somehow that´s a wonderful ambiguous feeling.

The same can be said about the sound production which in many ways is strong, as it is both powerful, detailed and relatively raw. At the same time it features a drum sound that may put some people off. Especially the bass drums feature quite an odd clicky sound. Personally I´ve formed the opinion that I think they fit the music well and provide it with another otherworldly and alien element to add to the rest of them. This is in every way possible a very unique and innovative sounding release by Gorguts, which might draw on some of the same elements as their groundbreaking "Obscura (1998)" album did, but at the same time adds a lot of atmosphere to those elements and therefore ultimately sounds very little like that album. There´s no arguing that "Colored Sands" is an incredible comeback album by Gorguts and to my ears maybe their strongest release to date. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
Gorguts may have only released four albums in its original run, but with those four albums, the band made an insurmountable impact on death metal. Particularly with 1998's Obscura, Luc Lemay's brainchild pioneered one of the most experimental approaches to technical death metal ever recorded - to this day, I've yet to hear any other band explore death metal in such a chaotic, yet darkly atmospheric light. Gorguts is one of the few bands in death metal with a completely unique voice, and even after twelve years between albums, that statement rings as true as ever.

2013's Colored Sands shows Gorguts once again residing in experimental tech-death land, but this time with a slightly different spin. Although the album features plenty of zany technical workouts and dissonant harmonic phrasing, it also showcases some straightforward death metal riffs and an epic approach to songwriting that was never present before in Gorguts' music. The result is an observation that sounds as daring and experimental as anything else out there, but also feels more accessible than the densest works from Gorguts. There's a reason why Colored Sands has received so much hype from the death metal community, and the only way to understand is to hear it for yourself. We're glad to have you back, Luc!
Returning for their first new studio album in 12 yesrs - 12 years during which the legend and reputation of the mighty Obscura grew and grew - Gorguts come back with a confident album which displays their command of technical death metal but doesn't rely on pure technicality to get the job done. Yes, their progressive and technical instincts are still intact - this is a serious-minded concept album about the effect of Chinese rule on the Tibetan people after all - but that doesn't mean they don't break out some raw and dirty death metal workouts alongside their more technical excursions. Hitting a deft balance between accessibility and technicality, it's perhaps my favourite Gorguts album to date.

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