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Gorguts - Obscura CD (album) cover

OBSCURA

Gorguts

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.32 | 176 ratings

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CassandraLeo
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.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |

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