In many ways, the story of Gorguts is about flux. This indispensable Canadian death metal act has experienced a great deal of professional and personal turmoil since its nascence in 1989, and that personal turmoil has frequently translated into personnel turmoil: Frontman Luc Lemay is the only founding member left several times over, and Gorguts hasn’t recorded two albums with the same lineup since 1993’s The Erosion Of Sanity. In fact, The Erosion Of Sanity marked the last time that Gorguts even had the same second guitarist for two albums in a row.
This shifting cast has arguably helped Gorguts’ legacy — Lemay’s creative vision is inclusive, and the talented people he’s brought aboard have helped his band to remain fresh and vital long after most of his original peers began repeating themselves. But now, decades after Gorguts’ salad days, it would appear that Lemay has finally formed a new set of stable creative partnerships — this time with guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Vaura, Sabbath Assembly) and bassist Colin Marston (Dysrhythmia, Krallice, Behold…The Arctopus), both of whom played on 2013’s fantastic Colored Sands. (Journeyman drummer John Longstreth has since been replaced by the equally capable Patrice Hamelin.)
Gorguts has always been a fundamentally experimental band, but on Pleaides’ Dust, the gestating relationship between Lemay, Hufnagel, and Marston has produced something that’s way outside the box even by their impressive collective standards. Despite the reputation for outré noise and ambitious ideas, every Gorguts recording before this point depended on traditional death metal structures and dynamics — digestible song lengths (mostly), riffs that return multiple times per song, and nearly nonstop volume. Pleaides’ Dust does away with all of that. It’s a giant through-composed phrase that lasts for 33 minutes, featuring lengthy digressions into dark prog rock and ambient music. This stretched-out compositional approach isn’t unique in the history of rock music or even in death metal; the influential Swedish act Edge Of Sanity tried something similar in 1996 and again in 2003. But Gorguts is an entirely different beast, and the results of this particular experiment are truly something to behold. It’s a lot to process, unsurprisingly, but I haven’t been able to put it down since I first heard it a few days ago.
What we’ve got here is just the first five minutes of Pleiades’ Dust — and given that it’s just the opening leg of a half-hour journey through some of metal’s most vibrant and restless minds, you’ll understand that it’s not fully representative of what follows. Still, even outside of its intended context, it’s a thrilling experience. Listen.
Pleiades’ Dust will be out on 5/13 via Season Of Mist.