|Cover art by Zbigniew Bielak|
What we're faced with here is Pleiades' Dust, a 33-minute-long metal song/EP about the rise and fall of the House of Wisdom, a library in Baghdad from the 9th through 13th centuries. The House of Wisdom served as a then-unparalleled center of learning and intellectual pursuit during a time that was otherwise considered the Dark Ages, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. I know what you're thinking--most bands could easily get lost in a 8-minute song about Cthulhu, let alone 33 minutes about the Islamic Golden Age, so this will probably be a formless mess of overly long interludes and a guitarist grinding pointlessly away on the most Middle Eastern-sounding scale he knows. But this isn't most bands. This is Gorguts.
|Luc Lemay, 2014. Photo by Metal Chris|
As with Colored Sands, Luc Lemay is joined by Colin Marston and Kevin Hufnagel (both of Dysrhythmia and many others) along with new-to-Gorguts drummer Patrice Hamelin. And as before, these musicians "are comfortable with dissonance in the same way most musicians are comfortable with a C major scale," to quote a wise source (me). Check out the first big entrance at around 0:56. Even when the chords resolve, they're still vibrating with angry dissonance. There's no shortage of what you'd hope for here: slithery bass lines, intertwined guitar lines, and a heady mix of fury and quieter moments.
|Kevin Hufnagel, 2014. Photo by Metal Chris|
Although this is technically one song, the piece is separated into movements (or "chapters"), and even without a lyric sheet** in front of you, it's pretty easy to tell how one chapter flows to the next. This is composed, orchestrated music, not a musical blob of self-indulgence. For example, there's no mistaking the opener of Chapter II, "Wandering Times," right after the 4:00 mark. The clear change in direction is signaled by Lemay's roar and the interplay between the thundering main riff and underlying line, and it's purely electrifying. In Chapter V, "Compendiums," Lemay even makes translation and transcription of ancient texts sound brutal.
|Colin Marston, 2014. Photo by Metal Chris|
But beyond the heaviness, this song/EP also strikes as perfect a balance between heavy and light, tension and release, as I can recall hearing in any recent metal album. The changes in textures, emotions, and pure cerebral power are astonishing. I won't lie--this EP takes a bit more time to digest and absorb than most fare--possibly even more than Colored Sands required. But let's face it--if you want just a solid half hour slab of head banging death metal, you're spoiled for choices. You don't go to Gorguts for that because they deliver so much more.
**Hopefully Season of Mist will provide the full lyrics on their Bandcamp page, or as part of the download. I had them in front of me for this review, and it really helps guide a first listen [Note: And now you can too, Season of Mist added the lyrics].