Space is fucking scary; it’s an infinite vacuum sparsely populated with chaotic explosions and time-warping gravitational phenomena, whose true vastness is so far beyond the capacity of our tiny monkey brains to fully comprehend that we invent things like Netflix and grilled-cheese sandwiches to distract us from contemplating the sheer terror of the void. Better to binge-watch The Mindy Project than dare to think about a jaunt outside the warm embrace of Earth’s cozy atmosphere. As such, astronauts blow my mind. Risking life and limb to explore the limits of human existence simply to expand our collective knowledge is pretty fucking badass.
It is similarly impressive when musicians make a conscious effort to abandon comfortable genre tropes in pursuit of a paradigm shift. Few bands across extreme music’s vast spectrum embody this spirit of exploration more so than Sherbrooke, Quebec’s Gorguts. Since Obscura, the band’s iconic third full length record, Gorguts have been pushing at the boundaries of technical death metal by purposely avoiding convention. With Pleiades’ Dust, Gorguts continue their flagrant disregard for the rules by dropping an EP with a single, 33-minute track.
After a brief atmospheric intro section, the first quarter of Pleiades’ Dust feels like a continuation or expansion of “Le Toit du Monde,” the opening track from 2013’s excellent Colored Sands. Byzantine song structures coupled with incredibly complex and ever-shifting rhythmic patterns lend the music an uneasy, ephemeral quality. Riffs appear only long enough to make a statement, and then just as you try to establish footing they fall away, only to possibly reappear down the road. While this description may make it sound like an inaccessible, cacophonous jumble, Pleiades’ Dust succeeds on the strength of two very important things:
1.) These dudes can fucking compose. Founding member and lead singer Luc Lemay’s clear love and deep appreciation for classical music shines through in his ability to seamlessly weave together seemingly disparate sonic concepts and generate subtly and nuance throughout all of the blast beats and yelling. The music is dense without being impenetrable. The shifts in tone that see the song exploring lighter, proggy fare and straight up sludge and drone at certain points are dramatic, but never feel disjointed. While it does feel like Lemay is at times revisiting territory covered in Colored Sands, there is more than enough new stuff here to make Pleiades’ Dust sound fresh.
2.) These dudes can fucking play. I mean, holy shit. The technique on display throughout Pleiades’ Dust is thoroughly jaw-dropping. While Gorguts has featured a number of talented players since the band’s inception in 1989, the current line up featuring Lemay, lead guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Byla), bassist Colin Marston (Also Dysrhythmia, Byla) and drummer Patrice Hamelin is a force to be reckoned with. Beyond the requisite ability to dazzle with blistering speed and precision, Gorguts’ members each understand the importance of feel and tone. Proggy tech death can actually get rather boring if the tunes are simply the musical equivalent of each member saying, “Hey look what I can do!” (no matter how many sweep arpeggios or 4000-BPM blast-beat sections you throw in.)
Sure, space is fucking scary, but if your spaceship is crewed by seasoned vets who share a passion for going where no one has gone before, you’re either watching an episode of Star Trek or listening to Gorguts push the technical-death-metal envelope. In either case, there are far, far worse ways to spend a half-hour of your time.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson