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OBSCURA

Gorguts

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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5 stars Obscura, which is definitely Gorguts' magnum opus is also usually ranked among one of the best death metal albums of all time. I don't know why it took so long for them to get added to progarchives, as they are one of, if not the most technical and progressive death metal band around. The riffs are usually very heavy, fast and angular progressive riffs, which remind me of Anekdoten on Nucleus. But don't get me wrong, as much as they do sound like Anekdoten, they are much, much heavier. The drums are played extremely fast in a classic death metal sense, but are more technical than usual. In fact all instruments are highly technical, in an un-orthodox way. The Songs usually are very fastipaced and guitar driven, except for Clouded, which sort of like of a slow and brutal death metal ballad. Other noteworthy songs are the title-track, Obscura and Nostalgia. Highly recommended to fans of death metal like Suffocation AND guitar-driven heavy prog like Anekdoten.
Report this review (#242178)
Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Otherwordly, dark, mysterious, Insane. All words that could describe Gorguts' avant-garde metal masterpiece Obscura, though the only word that does justice to what Obscura sounds like is "trip" a trip to a obscure world of dark greens, ethereal blues and deepest shades of black where dissonant and chaotic riffs shake the foundations of the grey earth your standing on.

What the music sound likes? impossible to describe; the only way you can really get to grips with the music on Obscura is too well... listen to it but I'll do my best. Obscura sounds like Robert Fripp rounded up an all-star line up of Captain Beefheart on vocals, Fred Firth on guitar and a couple Free-Jazz musicians and decided to make a death metal album. In other words its the RIO album of death metal; ignoring and breaking down self-imposed barriers and laughing in the face of cliché death metal bands. Over here at the prog archives we class Gorguts are extreme/tech prog but in all fairness it really deserves its own genre, a genre completely unprecedented.

Each song is a melting pot of psychotic atmosphere, incredible technicality and ridiculous originality, complemented by the insane composition talents of vocalist and guitarist Luc Lemmay (who actually had been studying violin and composing classical music at music school before writing this album) the guitars hop and around a bounce of each other playing irregular, dissonant and atonal chords that despite may sound "just like noise" on first listen actually lots of thought and underlying melody underneath the scratching and other avant- garde techniques.

The Drumming is PERFECT. Never does it go overboard and blast away to show off how technical he is instead he crafts melodic lines with his drums in some of the most complex time-signatures and tempos this side of Elvin Jones (speaking of Elvin Jones, despite the persistent use of double bass the drumming sounds like something straight out of free jazz) The bass is also excellent, adding a percussive colourful tone of massive and big bass chords that squash to the size of an ant. Don't take it the wrong way though, each musician is INSANELY technical but do not expect to hear sweep picked arpeggios or a guitar god showing off.

I really could go on for ages about this album but I'll just close with this. No, this album does not have lush symphonic keyboard solos but is certainly more progressive than any prog rock made within the last 30 years, Gorguts' has actually progressed and added an experimental and avant-garde tinge to the world of death meta, where as bands like Änglagård are called prog despite rehashing the same ideas from 40 years ago.

I pity anyone who does not find this album absolutely mindblowing, because they're missing out on the album of the decade.

Also listen to that Violin in Earthly Love... hmmm.

Report this review (#243032)
Posted Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is just one of those albums, that completly pushes music forward into uncharted realms, Obscura defies the very genre it embodies, while at the same time bending it to its own twisted will. John Cage did it in the 40's, Miles Davis did it in the 50's and 60's, Symphonic Prog in the 70's and Death did it in the 80's. Gorguts in the 90's though did something so original that it had/has no predeccsor at least not in rock music. Where as alot of prog bands get called Symphonic because they play diddly-doo keyboard solos, Gorguts show of their Penderecki, Bach and Shostakovich in subtle manner blending a clever use of counter-point with a nice mix of classical 'extened techniques' where you manipulate your instrument in a way to creat unorthodox sounds and timbre.

All in all, this is THE experimental/avant-garde metal album. While many "Avant-Garde metal" bands create a schizophrenic mix of genres but often come across as gimmicky and trivial when compared to the geniune experimentation found on Obscura.

To finish off I say but one thing. Listen to this album and listen good. Don't give up on first listen because like all Avant-Garde music, its rather diffucult to get into to. Wether you love it or hate it is completly up to you, but there is no doubt in my mind, Obscura is one of the best compositions of the past centuary. Not just in Death metal or in Avant-Garde metal but in music in general.

Report this review (#243070)
Posted Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Chaotic. Hellish. Music from Dante's Inferno. Schizo. Mentally deranged. Avant-Garde. Paranoid. Psycho. Brutal. Death Metal. Self-harming. Hardcore. ............All these are words that popped into my mind after some listenings to this album.

This is now a cult album in the death metal scene. Some rates it as one of the best ever death metal albums. Others are just confused. So let me introduce some order through sanity.

The music is weird avant-garde with it's base in death metal. The vocals are growls. The guitars are off key and all over the place. Very few riffs and themes are what is commonly known as death metal. The melodic parts are mostly taken from the great progressive rock songbook. Yes, Anekdoten is as good comparison as King Crimson and tens of other bands. My Dying Bride too should be mentioned.

The music is kicking off in all directions on this very experimental album. When I was listening to Gorguts first albums, I questioned why this band was included in PA. Obscura has answered that question and my objections has been withdrawn. Albums like this one is the meat and bones of PA. I am rambling on again, you are saying. The reason is that it is difficult to describe Obscura because it is so off-key in places. It is totally avant-garde and impossible to penetrate. Which means it is a fascinating album. Not easy-listening, but fascinating. The brutallity unleashed in Obscura is of hellish propotions. There is a lot of jazz on this album too. This album is a melting pot of everything.

The music is so far spaced out that it is difficult for an unprepared listener to really have any opinion on it. It is a good album for me and it will stay on my rotation list. But I still find it difficult to access because I am not a Zeul or avant-garde fan. Maybe those into Magma will like this album better than I do. But still; it is worth three stars.

3 stars

Report this review (#244590)
Posted Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Jake Kobrin
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is one of those albums that, amongst thousands of albums, stands out as one of the most significant releases in music. In the vein of metal, the albums that contributed to the genetic make up of the genre are Black Sabbath, Kill 'Em All, Black Metal, Scream Bloody Gore, etc, etc, etc... This album can certainly be added to the same royal family. This album broke all of the rules, and re-wrote the book on what is possible in metal, and music in general. The roots of this band are purely based within death metal. In a vague sense, the gore-drenched riffs of old are still present in the heart of this album, but what was once chugging and maliciousness has been replaced with a beast that is obscure and terrifying. Honestly, this isn't "pretty" music, but it holds my interest more than most within the metal genre.
Report this review (#290811)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Written in 93-95, finally put out in 98, this album could be described as "death metal's Ummagumma"; to even call it metal is much like calling Ummagumma rock 'n' roll. While metal is generally listened to loud and in your face, this album is best listened to in the back of your mind: quiet, and in high definition. Heavily layered and very psychedelic at its core, this is one of those "cosmic experience" albums, much like Yes' Close to the Edge and Sleep's Dopesmoker, where the writers were clearly on some next level that no one else will ever really understand, such that you'll never find another album like it.
Report this review (#293367)
Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Some may find the dissonant and brutal chaos of this album to be overwhelming at first, I know I did. My first few listens of Gorgut's Obscura were spent just trying to figure out what the hell was going on, but after many scrutinizing listens I began to understand what was happening: truly original and progressive music with an artistic statement was gracing my ears. This album is, for all intents and purposes, a jazz album, recorded with distorted guitars, at fast tempos, with intense drumming and anguished screams.

Luc Lemay, mastermind of Gorguts, strove to create a form of music that would challenge the listener, much like Robert Fripp did 25 years ago (although this album was released in 98', much of the music was written in the early 90's), and succeeded. The album is very well produced, all instruments can be heard and contribute to the music as a whole. Time signatures and tempo shifts occur very frequently, which is one of the reasons this album is a technical masterpiece. Odd chords, gutiar and bass, techniques also contribute to the overall technicality of the album. All of the tracks are fantastic and unique (though it may take a few listens to be able to distinguish them, especially if you are new to death metal), but my favorites are "Nostalgia", "Clouded", "La Vie Est Prelude... (La Mort, Orgasme)" (Which means, literally: Life is the Prelude... (The Dead Orgasm), and "Faceless Ones." I became aware of this album soon after becoming aware of the death metal genre. This was before I delved into Progressive music. I would definitely consider this album one of the doorways for me into viewing music as something that should have an artistic statement. I highly recommend it to anyone who shares the same view of music. Five stars, this is a masterpiece, one of the most "progressive" albums since the birth of the genre.

Report this review (#497599)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Obscura' - Gorguts (9/10)

Widely considered to be one of the most enduring examples of experimental metal, 'Obscura' is an album that has already sparked plenty of discussion long before the writing of this review. Released in 1998, it has since influenced a wave of left-leaning bands in death metal, each seeking to bring the genre to the next level, much like Gorguts did here. Make no mistake; 'Obscura' is a fairly tough cookie to chew at first, even for someone already well-exposed to a variety of extreme metal. As jarring and weird as death metal gets, Gorguts' music here is well worth being considered a classic, although it took me quite a few listens to finally agree with that statement.

As a baseline, death metal is typically about heavy riffs, furious drumming, and a harsh vocal style of growling that typically obscures the lyrics. Gorguts is clearly a death metal act and shares each of these traits, but it is the wealth of additional elements to the music of Gorguts that makes the music stand out. Although a band with the name Gorguts would not tend to inspire thoughts of jazz or neoclassical music, there are sounds of both woven deep into what the band does. Gorguts' sense of dynamic ebbs and flows much like a jazz group, and the dissonant harmonies between the bass and guitars sometimes brings to mind a number of 20th century composers. Although the hour length of the album seems all the more vast due to the jarring and dissonant nature of the music, there is not a moment where the quality lets up, although for music like this, a slightly shorter experience may have been a little more effective.

Death metal vocalists tend to sound quite similar, and while Luc Lemay still employs a familiar style of growls and raspy barks, there is a ferocity to his voice that is rarely heard in death metal. Instead of going the route of low,virtually inaudible gutturals, Lemay's delivery is rooted in bringing the demons out of his throat; and his voice sounds very strained throughout, although in a good way. That being said, Lemay's vocals are the weakest element of 'Obscura', although that is more a cause of the jaw-dropping musicianship, rather than a fault of the vocals. The odd and atypical ways the guitar is used on this album create some very strange and quirky sounds, as is evidenced within the first ten seconds of the record. It sounds like death metal riffs are being channeled through a wah-wah pedal, but whatever it is, the strange guitar style is both one of the album's greatest strengths, and a big reason why Gorguts is met with controversy. This is not the sort of death metal that will even please most death metal fans; the out-of-tune sound of the riffs is a little uncomfortable at first, but the quality sinks it after some listens have come and gone.

'Obscura' was never an album I disliked perse, but it was at first a pretty difficult album to crack. Although I would not consider myself any stranger to avant-garde metal or experimental music in general, the complexity of the music here demands many listens to truly be experienced. It still could have been a little shorter, but 'Obscura' is undoubtedly a masterpiece of death metal.

Report this review (#502795)
Posted Sunday, August 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars After touring in support of their 1993 album The Erosion of Sanity, Gorguts was dropped from Roadrunner Records. After finding a new label in Olympic Recordings, Gorguts released Obscura in the summer of 1998. Conjuring up images of otherworldly horrors and monsters beyond comprehension, Obscura is a journey to the blackest and most obscure planes of reality. This is what madness would sound like if it was put in musical form. The drums are unrelentless in their assault, with some of the fastest and most technical playing I've ever heard. The riffs are very dissonant and unusual, complemented by the guitar's strange and heavy tone. The vocals sound genuinely disturbed, especially on Illuminatus, with tortured screaming and demonic barking. Lyrically, the album concerns meditations on death and reaching higher planes of being, which is a welcome change of the gore lyrics of most death metal. Undoubtedly one of the most chaotic, insane, and crushingly heavy albums ever produced, any fan of progressive or technical death metal should own this album.

Key tracks: Obscura, Earthly Love, The Carnal State, Nostalgia, Clouded, Subtle Body, Rapturous Grief, Illuminatus, Faceless Ones, Sweet Silence

Report this review (#830232)
Posted Friday, September 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
irrelevant
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars For me, there's a slight problem with this album, and that is after you've given it the first full play, most of the other tech metal you've previously been listening to suddenly loses a bit of its impact, and for lack of a better word, greatness (well, in my experience anyway). And this all comes down to one simple but utterly crucial element - Emotion. While I'm not saying extremely complex metal has no emotion, there's something about the feelings of anguish and desperation that Obscura contains, that simply betters most of the albums in the same field. It's an entity with more than the height of a skyscraper.

The music itself is very dissonant and angular, and the drum parts roll unsteadily but splendidly over the fractured guitar lines, a bit like a death metal Trout Mask Replica, as it's often described. It's pretty relentless during its 60 minute runtime, probably what's holding it back from a five star rating for me. I also have to be in the right mood to give it a spin.

Gorguts created a completely unique and special album, and one that many will be listening to years and years ahead from now.

4.5 Stars

Favourite tracks: "Obscura", "Nostalgia", "Clouded", "La Vie Est Prelude? (La Morte Orgasme)", "Sweet Silence"

Report this review (#851394)
Posted Monday, November 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars One of the most downright bonkers technical death metal albums I have ever heard, Gorguts' Obscura finds the band eschewing the intricately structured jazz-death of Atheist or Cynic in favour of bizarre rhythms and dissonant avant-garde chaos. It's not quite free jazz death metal, but it's certainly downright peculiar, but I don't think it would be fair to write it off as merely being weird for weird's sake - there's a certain atmosphere the band establish here which is genuinely haunting, a sickening sense that the natural order of things has somehow gone completely wrong. I can't say this is for everyone, and many will walk away wondering what all the fuss is about, but on balance if you're into technical death metal you owe it to yourself to at least give it a chance, because good gravy you're not going to find much that compares to this.
Report this review (#897817)
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Very unique, and a hard listen. Is it possible to get this on the first spin? I can't say this music is pleasing on the same level that we typically associate music namely, harmony, melody, familiar structure etc. What this delivers is intrigue and obscuration, hence the title OBSCURA. Although not familiar ones, there are patterns and structure to this perceived madness.

It makes me think of an alternate universe where the existence of square roots of negative numbers embedded in the fabric of space-time produce ugly, mangled and monstrous creations. This would surely be the soundtrack of tortured beasts shrieking and grunting in pain with a cacophonous accompaniment of aggression. A place where no benevolent nature exists and pain is all one can experience.

The reputation that this release has gotten over the years since it has been released is well-founded. I can't think of a stranger piece of music that invites me in to experience it again and again finding new ways to experience the somewhat familiar sounds of death metal but twisted into strange new concoctions.

Report this review (#1075067)
Posted Sunday, November 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars With the forthcoming reissue of the album on Century Media (the album has been out of print on CD for decades and commanded absurd prices on eBay and Discogs), it's the perfect time to rediscover Obscura, the album compared to Trout Mask Replica so often it's become a reviewer cliché.

But like a lot of clichés, there's a lot of truth to this one. It's not just the uncompromising dissonance of both albums that leads critics to compare them so often. It's the way both albums seem to take unrestrained glee in completely disassembling the conventions of the genres from which they, ostensibly, have taken shape; the way both albums present an unrelenting assault on the listener's convictions for over an hour; the way both albums seem purposefully designed as an assault on the listener's conviction of what music is.

On the first listen, even if you're already used to death metal, Obscura will probably seem like unrelenting noise. I know more than one metalhead who took literally dozens of listens to be able to listen to this entire album in one sitting. Even for death metal this is intense; the first riff of the album is pure dissonance and most of the album follows suit. The only real letups in intensity throughout the course of the album are "Nostalgia", which is somewhat more melodic than the rest of the album, and the instrumental closer "Sweet Silence".

The best example of the album's intensity is probably the monumental "Clouded", which slows things down to a doom metal tempo. This song takes the traditional expectation of death metal riffs being a few seconds long and turns it on its head, with the tempo slowed down so much it takes around thirty seconds for the expected repetition to occur. The vocals are tortured even by the album's standards (which are tortured even by death metal standards). The song is one of the heaviest things I've ever heard.

Not every song is this unrelenting, but the album is an exhausting listen for the uninitiated. But there are rewards here equalled by few other death metal recordings. The band's performances are virtuosic (and they were matched almost effortlessly live, as tracking down video clips of the band's performances from the time will reveal), and the album is a master class in how to compose dissonant songs intelligently. It's also difficult to overstate how influential this album has been on the technical death metal field; after this album came out, numerous bands started composing more avant-garde dissonance, some of them quite successfully. The album has even been influential on other metal genres; it's difficult to imagine Deathspell Omega's assaults on the senses without Obscura coming beforehand.

But there remains only one Gorguts, and only one Obscura. Even Gorguts had the good sense not to try to duplicate this album; From Wisdom to Hate, their next album, pared down the complexity somewhat, while Colored Sands, their reunion album, toned down the aggression and upped the prog influences. While their other releases are also very good, Obscura remains unique in Gorguts' discography and in death metal as a whole, and it remains their magnum opus.

Report this review (#1313089)
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
LearsFool
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Widely and immediately considered not just one of the classics, but one of the pinnacles, of tech death, "Obscura" is the magnum opus of Gorguts and the Unholy Grail of its genre. Its strength rests not just in its perfection of tech, but in its experimentalism, variety, darkness, and, surprisingly, its measured dose of emotion via the vocals of Lemay and Hurdle and the aforementioned darkness. Listening to this is to subject yourself to raw brutality and yet raw skill being put to wonderful use. The album sounds like how R'lyeh must look. All of this adds up to the record living up to its legend, making it a required listen for tech death fans and a recommendation for all other metalheads. The album is a grail for both how excellent and how rare it is; one listen to its tracks online and you'll be ready to search high and low for a copy of this masterpiece. Good luck.
Report this review (#1316781)
Posted Friday, November 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gorguts' Obscura is a musical experience unlike anything you've ever heard before, for better or worse. Guitarist, front-man, and mastermind Luc Lemay and company forced sounds out of their instruments that I don't think anybody ever would have thought to commit to recording before they came along. At times, the music is impenetrably dense. At others, the music has some surprisingly accessible hooks, certainly more accessible than I would have expected from an album famed for pioneering Avant Gard technical death metal.

While the reason for this album's legacy and impact should be abundantly clear to anyone who listens to it, I personally cannot rate it any higher than I did. I appreciate music which utilizes a diversity of voices to communicate an idea. Not only is that the best way to break the monotony of a record, its also, in my view, a higher form of artistic expression. Obscura's sound, however, is too monolithic. (Or maybe, it only sounds monolithic to my ear because it has yet to be baptized in the fires of the level of hell reserved for the insane where this record clearly originated?)

Report this review (#2441923)
Posted Thursday, August 27, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Spooky, one of my favorite albums of all time! Very heavy and dark. The dissonance really adds to the darkness shown in the album. Obscura is considered a seminal piece within the technical extreme metal. It also defined their sound. Songs like the title track showcase the band's technical playing and great handling of time signatures and changes. Others like Subtle Body even have Middle-East vibes going up! Finally, the flow between tracks is very good. It adds up to the atmosphere a lot.

Very inaccesible but highly recommended. This album should impress every metal head in the world, it's incredible. Five Stars for me, without a doubt.

Report this review (#2531318)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars - Review #20 -

Gorguts' third album might actually be the scariest album I have ever heard. There's something very unsettling about the album's raw sound combined with its incorporated dissonance and heavy growls, and the flow present in those twelve tracks is seriously one of the best: It's one of those albums that you listen from beginning to end. I usually don't listen to separate tracks because the transitions get ruined.

With its raw production, each instrument fills the mix entirely, making it sometimes difficult to differentiate each instrument. That truly sounds like a bad aspect, but surprisingly, it only increases the quality of the ambience and feel present in the album. Most of the songs are very fast-paced and technically proficient, with their lengths going from three minutes to nine. Each track features some very complex and constantly-changing time signatures, which further defines the sound of the album (and the band itself).

That's right. This was the album where Gorguts defined their signature sound, and this makes Obscura a crucial album in the band's discography. Now, I must say this can be a tough nut to crack. It definitely took me a couple listens before I could actually start appreciating this album as a true piece of art. Progressive rock fans, to be more specific, will probably struggle the most because of the growls and sometimes non-existent melody. But they should still give it a try. To the metal head out there: Go check it out! If you like growls you will probably fall in love with this album.

Sound-Defining, brutal and bold. Obscura is a five star album that to this day remains as the bastion of the band.

Report this review (#2545052)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars First review, and I'm going to make my username check out! Gorguts is still my favorite technical death metal band, mostly due to their acquired and identifiable sound. Their first two albums feature very strong death metal influences, but in Obscura, things get very progressive. Dissonant, obscure (pun intended), heavy, brutal, un-expectable and very, very awesome! The title track features a very fun syncopated dissonant guitar. Nostalgia features tasty bone-crushing riffs. Clouded has an amazing atmosphere that gets you in a trance. Subtle Body has an awesome middle-east vibe. My favorite album by Gorguts! Super heavy and unique, recommended to any metal-head! Five Stars!
Report this review (#2547821)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my friends (who's into more heavy music) once recommended me this album, I warned him that I was probably not going to like it because he told me it had growls in every single track. The first time I listened Obscura I thought it sounded terrible. It was an absolute mess of riffs with no melody and a pig screeching on top, yuck! However this chaos kinda caught my attention, because I really couldn't tell a single progressive rock band that made an album as chaotic yet technical as this one. The second listen, I started to pay more attention to the instrumentation and get used to the growls (but I still didn't like them), and I definitely began to appreciate this album.

The thing is that I really don't like growls, and I think that if there was some sort of singer delivering actual notes, I would enjoy this more. But the instrumentation behind this has to be some of the most complex metal ever made. Every track is an undecypherable ocean of time signatures and riffs that I simply cannot comprehend, and it's even harder to understand when you have someone growling on top.

With all the songs being very similar, I can't say there's a specific stand out in this album (although Nostalgia could be a candidate for that spot), and even though I really don't enjoy extreme metal... To each with their own! This album is truly a monster within its genre, and the instrumentation is some of the greatest I've heard, it's more than enough to redeem the awful and disgusting vocals that plague the album. I'm pretty sure death metal fans will enjoy this more than I do! A bold record, but one that works amazingly, I'm giving it five stars, even though I don't listen it that much.

Report this review (#2581735)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gorguts - Obscura

Not joking when I tell you that this is one of the most important records in the history of metal. It is the first record to combine metal with dissonance and avant-garde, all in an incredibly technical manner that was never achieved before in metal or even rock. The musicianship is unparalleled and execution is flawless. Since it has dissonance and avant-garde, it's very inaccessible, so I recommend you to listen it in bits. A full listen could become tedious half-way through. Regardless of inaccessibility, the reward for giving this record a try is unimaginable.

An essential record for metal.

Report this review (#2595614)
Posted Sunday, September 19, 2021 | Review Permalink

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