Gorguts’ complex songwriting shines in ‘Erosion of Sanity’

Gorguts album Erosion of Sanity is a hard album to review.

It’s not because it’s a bad album. It’s not because it’s a boring album.

What it is is an album songs that each maintain such a high quality of musicianship and writing that it’s almost impossible to separate even one track that stands out above the others. I’ve been listening to Erosion for Sanity for over a week and I’ve found it to be an almost insurmountable task.

Released on Jan. 19, 1993, Erosion of Sanity is one of the last albums from death metal’s heyday, when it seemed that it was heading for the mainstream (at least as far as the broader metal community was concerned) and bands were being signed left and right, with Entombed, Carcass and Morbid Angel putting out major label releases. But, as the year went on, it became clear that breakthrough wasn’t going to happen.

Despite the critical success of Erosion of Sanity, Roadrunner Records would drop Gorguts later in 1993, due to the decline in popularity of death metal. The act would cease to exist for about five years until lead singer Luc Lemay returned with a new lineup, releasing the album Obscura in 1998. Obscura was actually written mostly in 1993 while Gorguts was supporting Erosion of Sanity.

Erosion of Sanity is the first Gorguts album I sat down and listened to. My experience with them back in 1993 was limited to a single song on a death metal compilation released by Rock Hard magazine, which was out of Europe. I do not remember what the song was, but that may be because that compilation was full of quality songs from a variety of different acts. To this very day, some of the songs from that compilation remain among my favorites such as “Enthralled in Essence” by Atheist, “Ancient Entity” by Tiamat and “Suicide Machine” by Death.

So, with not much of a recollection of what Gorguts sounded like, I walked into Erosion of Sanity expecting your typical, straight forward death metal.

Man, was that a wrong assumption.

Gorguts is what the people who wrote their entry over on Wikipedia like to call “technical death metal.”

“What is that?” You may ask.

According to the definition provided by those Wikipedia writers it’is “a musical subgenre of death metal that focuses on complex rhythms, riffs and song structures.”

Listening to Erosion of Sanity, I can’t help but agree. It’s an album marked by complex songs and musical proficiency. There’s basically nothing in the line of memorable choruses or catchy melodies. Instead, the music challenges the listener, lulling them into a sense of harmony before a song changes tempo and direction — and there is a lot of that.

Gorguts at the time was made up of vocalist/guitarist/pianist Lemay, Sylvian Marcoux on guitars, Eric Giguere on bass guitar and Stephane Provencher on drums and percussion. Only Lemay would return for Obscura.

If you couldn’t guess by all the French surnames, the band hails from Quebec.

The album

Like I said, this album is going to be hard to pick out individual songs.

The first track, “With their Flesh, He’ll Create” is an example as to why. This song kicks off furiously with the galloping drums and flesh ripping rhythm which lead into Lemay’s roars. From there it goes into a quick guitar melody before slowing way down into the down-tuned death metal you’re probably familiar with. But man, it’s a good song, with excellent guitar melodies and solos, which are brief but memorable. Overall, it may be the very best song on the album, though I’m not sure if you want to start off with the best because everything after that just fails to meet the highest standard you’ve set.

Condemned to Obscurity” starts off with a piano intro with a bludgeoning and fast riff from the band fading in just kicks ass.

Erosion of Sanity is a deserving title track. Like most of the album so far, it kicks in with the double bass blazing. There’s also a melody leading into Lemay’s roaring vocals. It also has some short, but sweet guitar solos going on.

Now, these three tracks give you a feel for the entire album. Most of the tracks follow a similar pattern of tempo changes and displays of musical proficiency. But, the problem is, there aren’t really any that make the same impact beyond the first three tracks. It’s not saying that they’re bad songs. I would say it’s because of the high level of complexity, a strength which can also be a weakness. The songs can be broken down to several different stand out, but very short parts, and often Erosion of Sanity can feel like it’s made up of several microsongs or micromovements, which kind makes the album feel less like individual songs and more like interchangeable fragments floating around.

The final track “Dormant Mystery” is the lone standout after the first three songs. Its acoustic lead-in and more focused structure sets it apart from much of the album. Compared to what comes between it and the title track, it is probably the most memorable track on the album.

The verdict

So, would I recommend Erosion of Sanity?

Depends who you are.

If you are a person who loves to hear musical skill, challenging song structure and death metal guitar solos, then I definitely would. This is the sort of album that you should listen to alone as to not be distracted by anything else. There’s a lot to be enjoyed here and it just can’t be background noise.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for catchy songs that you can growl along with, then this album probably isn’t for you.

I’m one of the former though and despite my inability to find many standout tracks, the whole of Erosion of Sanity is something I found worth listening to.

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