2013 saw the return of Canadian technical death metal vocalist/guitarist Luc Lemay and his new incarnation of Gorguts, and what an inspiring and potent return it was with Colored Sands being hailed by many, including myself, as one of the greats of the first half of the decade. Their very dense, dissonant and atmospheric approach to the genre came as a real treat when considering the current death metal landscape in which a lot of bands favouring sterile production and dazzlingly flashy playing are seeing an increase in success at the moment and while this is by no means a bad thing, it’s not always my cup of tea. Gorguts instead opted for a more organic and dusty sound, while managing to play with the ferocity that could rival any modern band, or indeed a t-Rex on heat, and with such creativity that it would be hard to believe they had been on hiatus for the best part of a decade. And Pleiades Dust shows the band are hellbent on further experimentation, fusing their signature guitar layering with an incredible lyrical concept which details the birth and death of the House of Wisdom in ancient Baghdad, beautifully tied together into a single thirty-three minute track. This is Gorguts at their most dynamic and ambitious to date.
On paper, a thirty-three minute conceptual death metal track can sound like quite a daunting ordeal, but Gorguts do a fantastic job of interlacing haunting ambient soundscapes, clean guitar interludes and constant shifts in intensity to make this a truly captivating project from start to finish. These clean instrumental interludes provide a pleasant contrast to the more aggressive and distorted portions of the EP and showcase the virtuosity each individual musician possesses as well as their brilliant interplay, with the guitar layers and Colin Marston‘s brilliant bass melody in III. Within the Rounded Walls being particularly impressive.
When combined with the atmosphere of the instrumental track VI. Stranded Minds on the Shores of Doubt, provided by sinister washes of reverb laden guitars, which is revisited right at the very close of the EP, it makes the music of Pleiades Dust feel ancient and imposing, suiting the lyrical themes superbly. And while the EP is mostly linear, this sustained atmosphere as well as a couple of motifs that are revisited throughout the release create a great sense of progression, producing what I can distinguish as three noticeable movements or acts, as if Gorguts were aiming to write the music for a dark, historic stage show.
Bringing Patrice Hamelin (Cephalic Carnage, Beneath The Massacre) into the fold on drum duties proved a brilliant choice, as he provides the pummeling double kick and blast beats and dynamic accents and fills in equal measure, constantly keeping the listener on their toes. As always, the string section take great liberties to explore countless melodic and rhythmic tangents at will throughout the release. The jarring harmonics and pick scrapes towards the end of II. Wandering Times creates an almost industrial atmosphere, making the track feel hypnotic and mechanical in its destruction. For the most part, the instrumental detours the band go on pay off nicely and contribute to the overall feel of the EP, but there are a couple of points where the off-kilter riffing becomes a bit distracting, without adding much to the piece as a whole. And unfortunately the guitar lead towards the end of VII. Beseiged sounds flat-out sloppy to my ears and feels like the wrong shade of atonal for the atmosphere they are producing.
While not quite as well rounded and developed track-for-track as Colored Sands was, it is very important to bear in mind that Pleiades Dust is attempting something entirely different. For the occasional spots that do feel a tad gratuitous, there are far more spots that succeed in experimenting with odd techniques, interesting melodies and guitar layers by comparison, and for a first attempt at writing a long, continuous, conceptual piece, Luc Lemay and crew have done incredibly well. If you are not already well acquainted with Gorguts, sort yourself out and make yourself familiar with this EP. Highly recommended for fans of experimental and atmospheric forms of death metal or for anyone who is looking to delve into these styles.
Be sure to give it a listen and pick up a copy from their Bandcamp linked above. Support a great band today.
Favourite tracks: Well, all of it
Least favourite tracks: N/A