Retro-Review: ‘Colored Sands’ by Gorguts

Colored Sands by Gorguts is one of those albums I’m kind of reluctant to write about after I reviewed it.

Much of that’s going to come down to the fact that critics and fans seemed to love this album. I just don’t hear it and I’m sure someone will tell me why I’m wrong.

Musically, there’s nothing wrong with it and all the performers do well. It’s got some great moments, but it’s also one of the least-diverse sounding releases from the band.

Colored Sands is the fifth release of the Canadian band. It sees vocalist/guitarist Luc Lemay — the last member left from before the 2005 disbandment — return for Gorguts’ first full length album before its reformation in 2008.

Lemay is joined by guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bass guitarist Colin Marston and drummer John Longstreth.

The album

Going into Colored Sands, the listener should know this album is pretty consistent. Possibly too consistent.

Colored Sands kicks off with “Le Toit du Monde” (“The Roof of the World” in French), a song that has a rather ethereal quality in between Gorguts trademark brutality. It’s a pretty good song, going several different directions but managing to hang together.

An Ocean of Wisdom” has similar qualities to “Le Toit du Monde” except it’s a much more tonal song, relying on its rhythm and harmony to carry the listener through. It’s a trait shared with other songs such as “Forgotten Arrows,” “Ember’s Voice” and “Absconders.”

Those similar songs are one of the albums biggest flaws. They’re so much alike that they blur together in your memory. Individually, there’s nothing wrong with them, but put together, they just seem to similar. It’s not actually the music itself, but the overall tone. It just seems to stay the same.

The first real stand out is the title track “Colored Sands.” It starts with a slow, lonely sounding guitar, which is eventually joined by the other instruments, almost like it’s on a journey picking up companions. This journey builds up to a crescendo, after which it kicks into a galloping death metal tune with that Gorguts spin to it. It’s also got a pretty nifty guitar solo that harkens back to the early days of death metal shredding. Anyway, definitely a strong track, blending old-school death metal and Gorguts’ brand of avante-garde brutality.

Enemies of Compassion” is another standout simply for its speed and brutality. It’s probably the closest thing to a straight-on death metal song on the album. It’s pretty good and stands out mainly because of its straightforwardness compared to the other songs on the album.

Reduced to Silenced” ends the album on an intense note. It’s definitely death metal song, hitting the listener in the face with the double bass drumming and Lemay’s roar. But, it also brings some other qualities in, with the bass guitar driving parts of the song. It feels huge and the band comes together to bring things to a spectacular end.

Then there’s “The Battle of Chamdo” where Gorguts experiments with classical instruments. No guitars, drums or vocals, just violins and cellos. It doesn’t feel like it belongs on this album and I don’t really see what purpose it serves aside from possibly being an intro to “Enemies of Compassion.” But even then, it doesn’t feel like there’s a connection between the two at all.

The verdict

My biggest problem with Colored Sands is the constant sense of deja vu with many of the songs, both compared to Obscura and within the album itself. It’s not that the songs are bad, the band just sounds like they’re sticking to the Obscura formula, choosing to remain in neutral instead of putting things into drive and moving forward.

That being said, it’s not a bad album. It just doesn’t measure up to what their contemporaries like Immolation or Suffocation released that year.

That being said, I would only recommend Colored Sands to Gorguts completists or people who want Obscura Part 2.

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