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Gorguts Obscura album cover
4.37 | 254 ratings | 24 reviews | 47% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Obscura (4:04)
2. Earthly Love (4:04)
3. The Carnal State (3:08)
4. Nostalgia (6:10)
5. The Art of Sombre Ecstasy (4:21)
6. Clouded (9:32)
7. Subtle Body (3:23)
8. Rapturous Grief (5:28)
9. La Vie Est Prelude... (La Morte Orgasme) (3:28)
10. Illuminatus (6:16)
11. Faceless Ones (3:50)
12. Sweet Silence (6:46)

Total Time 60:30

Line-up / Musicians

- Luc Lemay / guitar, vocals, viola (2)
- Steeve Hurdle / guitar, vocals
- Steve Cloutier / bass
- Patrick Robert / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Alain Cloutier and Luc Lemay (logo)

2xLP War On Music ‎- WOM036 (2012, Canada)

CD Olympic Recordings ‎- 008 633 129-2 (1998, US)

Producer: Gorguts, Pierre Rémillard
Recorded at Studio Victor in Montreal

Thanks to UMUR for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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GORGUTS Obscura ratings distribution

(254 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(47%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(23%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (9%)

GORGUTS Obscura reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Jake Kobrin
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.
Review by Conor Fynes
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.

Review by irrelevant
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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"

Review by Warthur
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.
Review by siLLy puPPy
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.

Review by LearsFool
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.
Review by Necrotica
5 stars Was anybody actually ready for an album like Obscura back in 1998? Watch any early live performance of these songs on Youtube, and what you'll see is a crowd that's practically motionless. They're not moshing, instead just stunned and transfixed at the bizarre dissonance and calculated chaos playing out before them. In the same year that other tech-death landmarks such as The Sound of Perseverance were being released, Gorguts had already left the archetypal trappings and conventions of the genre far behind with an avant-garde metal masterwork that stood - and still stands today - as a monument to mental anguish and turmoil.

I get the sense that much of the confusion and surprise surrounding Obscura stemmed from the sheer leap forward from its predecessor. The Erosion of Sanity is more sophisticated than Considered Dead, sure, but it's still a relatively straightforward death metal album. No one could have predicted something like Obscura; imagine if Death released Individual Thought Patterns immediately after Scream Bloody Gore. So what happened? Well' Steeve Hurdle happened. Luc Lemay might be the co-founder and bandleader of Gorguts, but he's never going to find a better wingman than Hurdle. The duo's combined artistic vision led to a level of experimentation and twisted chemistry that can't be matched anywhere else in the group's catalog; if you have any doubts of Hurdle's involvement in this partnership, the liner notes credit both him and Lemay with the 'artistic direction' of Obscura.

And what an artistic direction this is. All of death metal's stereotypical traits and tropes have been thrown out the window in favor of abstract lyrics, strange chord structures, and ever-changing time signatures. Instead of being technical for technicality's sake, however, Gorguts use their musical toolkit as a means of communicating intense feelings of dread, despair, and viscera. While the songwriting is impressive, the way these emotions and thoughts are conveyed through the songwriting is what makes it so effective. It's as if every weird bout of dissonance and every alien guitar squeal is another layer of sanity being ripped away from the listener. Of course, the vocals are also a massive contributor to this. If Lemay sounds demented and savage - which he does - Hurdle acts as his tortured and agonized counterpart. Every time Hurdle lets out a lyric, even if it's not particularly disturbing, he transforms it into a twisted and ugly affair with his horrible retching and heaving. And what's so wild about all of this is that the record makes more and more sense with repeated listens; what seems like chaos starts falling into place once you let the deliberate nature of the songwriting and execution sink in.

Of course, I don't want to leave bassist Steve Cloutier or drummer Patrick Robert out of the picture either; the fact that they can make sense of the musical madness on Obscura and play these crazy riffs so impeccably is a feat unto itself. Their precision and technical acumen is a perfect foil for Lemay and Hurdle's insane ideas, leading to strong chemistry between all members. Everyone is locked in with each other, which is absolutely necessary for an album that could go flying off the rails at any given time. Obscura reminds me a lot of Calculating Infinity by The Dillinger Escape Plan in that regard; both records have a habit of letting chaos and control coexist in strange and creative ways. Sometimes the two mingle, and sometimes they clash with each other. Still, one thing is for certain: the members of Gorguts are ridiculously talented. As for the lyrics, they're a substantial step up from the band's previous output; the gore and social commentary of yesteryear were now replaced with writings on existentialism, spiritualism, and - you guessed it - despair. In any case, they prove to be just as abstract and peculiar as the music they're accompanying, which seems appropriate.

But to answer my original question: no, people were not ready for Obscura back in 1998. There's a reason Gorguts are commonly cited as pioneers of avant-garde metal; nothing sounded like this back then, in the technical death metal genre or otherwise. If the album had proven anything, it was that many of their contemporaries were already being left in the dust artistically. Because of Obscura, extreme metal would simply never be the same again.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Obscura is an album that even after so many years continues to sound so brutal, so unique and so innovative even after its release, this is an experience, which takes you on a philosophical and cosmic adventure with dissonant and technical riffs, schizophrenic rhythm, tortured vocals and abstrac ... (read more)

Report this review (#2965847) | Posted by theaqua | Wednesday, November 1, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I think this is one of the reasons progachives are made for. You can travel throughout its pages and choose something new to listen, a new discovery to be made. Most of the times if find gems that you will not now, and hardly you will find something considered good here that does not matches you ... (read more)

Report this review (#2883313) | Posted by Antonio Giacomin | Sunday, February 19, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars No. This isn't accessible in the slightest, as a matter of fact I'm pretty sure only people that enjoy the heaviest of metal could possibly enjoy this record due to how raw it is. With that said, there's facts that simply can't be denied. Obscura, much like other death metal records like Symbolic, w ... (read more)

Report this review (#2668847) | Posted by Nhelv | Tuesday, January 4, 2022 | Review Permanlink

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 musicia ... (read more)

Report this review (#2595614) | Posted by Maw The Void | Sunday, September 19, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#2581735) | Posted by Ian McGregor | Tuesday, July 27, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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, obsc ... (read more)

Report this review (#2547821) | Posted by Gorgut Muncher | Wednesday, June 2, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#2545052) | Posted by King Brimstone | Sunday, May 23, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2531318) | Posted by Isaac Peretz | Saturday, April 3, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 alo ... (read more)

Report this review (#2441923) | Posted by ssmarcus | Thursday, August 27, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1313089) | Posted by CassandraLeo | Thursday, November 20, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#830232) | Posted by SwimToTheMoon1928 | Friday, September 28, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 orig ... (read more)

Report this review (#497599) | Posted by GentleGenerator | Thursday, August 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#293367) | Posted by Erik91 | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#244590) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#243070) | Posted by How Disguisting | Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#243032) | Posted by franticfish | Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ar ... (read more)

Report this review (#242178) | Posted by Utukku | Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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