Saturday, 1 December 2012

9. Gortuts VS Cryptopsy

It is likely that I will face charges of cheating. Perhaps even accusations of laziness. Frankly, y'all can go get nicked. These are two re-issues I bought (and there are several others I want, sigh) which were re-issued on vinyl in 2012. So they count, alright?

First up Gorguts. Obscura is a harrowing listen. It is unrelenting and its emotional dial is set on frantic psychosis for the duration. It is exhausting, impenetrable, opaque and convoluted. Yet for some reason, time and again I am drawn to this album, drawn into it. Obscura is one of the most original, genre defining and genre defying albums in the history of death metal. The guitar tones are relatively clear, crystalline at times, reminiscent of jazz or noise rock, the arrangements are circular, with song like structures spiraling into themselves, challenging the listener down awkward rabbit holes...

Two pieces of information helped me finally get this album. The first was a random internet opinion that argued for an underpinning Assyrian/Egyptian tonality. Apprehended in this way, Obscura sounds like a related yet distinct peer to Nile. The second tidbit was that guitarist Steeve Hurdle suffered from dysthymia, a type of debilitating depression. This latter fact puts a new spin on the approach to vocals and the psychological spaces opened up by the convoluted internal structural aesthetics. This is not about voyeurism and watching a man go mad, rather it is the sound of a man wrestling with his mind, and constructing the world from a unique place.

Obscura is easily one of the most important extreme metal albums of the twentieth century. Get it before the print run sells out. Before this last one, CD copies used to go for $US60. On vinyl for $CND12 you really have no excuse.

Now to Cryptopsy. None So Vile is to brutal tech-death what water is to plants. The rhythmic density of the drumming is intense, the vocals horrifying and the bass is just plain rad. However, what elevates this album above its many competitors is, swing. This baby swings. Contemporary tech-death relies on high frequency meter and tempo changes. Songs progress rapidly rarely giving the listener a chance to find her/his feet.

None So Vile dares to groove, dares to be listenable and in this way is more dangerous than its competitors. Much tech death requires a kind of musicological aesthetic fluency but this album plain rocks. Do not be mistaken, it is heavy and no doubt exhausting to the novice listener. Nevertheless, pleasure is taken to a new level by the historical and musicological literate listener.

What makes this album so innovative for its time and so exciting even in the present is Flo Mounier's drumming. Cryptopsy are one of the few metal groups led by the drums. Listen to the lyrical ways in which he punctuates blast beats, flying off on a hyper brief effortless tangent, a kiss or a wink to the savvy listener, to the inner drummer in us all. Indeed, None So Vile could likely be stripped of everything but the drums and still sound thrilling. What makes Mounier's performance especially outstanding is that the album was recorded in 1992 before the advent of micro-midi-management of triggered and replaced drums. This is wholly human percussive intensity.

Re-issues of both albums made 2012 a better more historically informed year. Thanks War on Music. And thanks, Canada. What is in your drinking water?

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