Obscura, the 1998 release from Canadian technical death metallers Gorguts is considered by many to be somewhat of a classic of the extreme metal genre. The mix of brutality with constantly changing and shifting time signatures is as interesting as it is baffling. Things are so crushingly heavy, so damn busy, that at first Obscura is sort of a hard album to get into, but after repeated spins the complexity of the arrangements, the way that melody complements the dissonance, unearths some truly breathtaking progressive & technical death metal. Similarities to Cryptopsy, and to a lesser extent The Dillinger Escape Plan, can be heard in spots, but in all honesty Gorguts were a very unique band. Like some free-form jazz band caught in a wild jam with Captain Beefheart and Cryptopsy, Obscura takes all conventional ideas of what extreme metal should sound like and throws them out the window.
Tracks like "Obscura" and "Earthly Love" contain some of the sickest guitar noise ever recorded, with rampaging heavy riffs colliding with complex fills, scrapes, pinch harmonics, whammy bar flights, and any other kind of sound that Steve Hurdle and Luc Lemay can conjure up. Somehow, despite the mass of cacophany that assaults the listener, it all seems to make sense. There's a deep sense of groove on "Nostalgia" that's impossible to ignore, and "The Art of Somber Ecstasy" is a bubbling and seething cauldron of intense noise & melody, driven to insane levels by plenty of sick drum and guitar work. The vocals of Lemay throughout the album are of the tortured growling nature, and fit the style of the music quite well. When he and the band slow things down a bit, as they do on the near 10-minute doom laden dirge of "Clouded", they sound pretty damn menacing. Elsewhere, expect plenty of of elastic, rubber-band type intricate death metal ("Illuminatus" and "Faceless Ones" anybody?) that manages to keep the listener constantly engaged just as much is it will keep you perplexed.
So, is Obscura the classic that many deem it to be? You be the judge. What might be noise and cacophany to some might be brilliant to others. Sadly, after one more release Gorguts decided to call it a day, with part of the band starting up a new outfit called Negativa. Let's see if this new band can grab the bull by the horn and put together extreme metal that's anywhere near as inspiring and original as what we have here.
2. Earthly Love
3. The Carnal State
5. The Art Of Sombre Ecstacy
7. Subtle Body
8. Rapturous Grief
9. La Vie Est Prelude... (La Mort, Orgasme)
11. Faceless Ones
12. Sweet Silence