Oh, Gigan. How I love thee. I’m not sure when I first became aware of this band, but I’m always really glad they are on my radar. If you’ve never heard Gigan, then think atmospheric technical death metal (is this a thing?) with some sci-fi tendencies (if you couldn’t tell from the album title).
Overall this album is extraordinarily dense and noisy. Usually I don’t think this is a very effective combination, because if the density is coming from really intricate technical playing (as it is in this case), then you don’t want distortion and stray noise to cover it up.
The mastering on this album is excellent, because it manages to keep a really dirty and gritty sound, but after a few listens I had no trouble picking out the complexity of the individual parts. The sound blends together to give a really fantastic overall tone quality, but not in a way that covers up what is going on.
Now on to the actual music. The first track is epic and really sets the stage for an exciting album. I called the genre atmospheric death metal earlier, but this first track is probably the closest thing you’ll find to something that sounds like traditional death metal. There’s some pretty cool electronic effects interspersed throughout the song and some atmospheric moments as well.
To me the track shines most when it speeds up and keeps re-entering death metal mode. The guitar playing is just so good. There’s all sorts of pitch bending and playing in-between notes and making noises that aren’t really well-defined sounds. Not only is it really interesting to listen to, but it sounds somewhat natural in the context and even grooves at points. It is kind of hard to describe exactly how this gets pulled off so well.
The highlight track for me is the fourth one: “Mother of Toads.” The band channels Behold.. the Arctopus a bit on this track with really great technical atonal guitar-work. Gigan is still in there without a doubt, but this is a really great change in direction and I hope it continues. Every member pulls their weight on this one.
While the guitar is ripping away on a bizarre mixed meter solo the drums hold way back and play complimentary to it. I can’t even tell what it is doing, but rather than hold down beat that helps the difficulty stay in line, he is playing in-between the beats. It is amazing, and not the obvious thing to do. Then the band swells up. They go back down. They all compliment each other and it is so tightly put together.
This track highlights on of the things that this band does so well, and that it is easy to find a bunch of other bands that don’t do this. They are totally aware of what everyone else is doing and they find ways to compliment each other. Often bands members don’t compliment each other, but instead imitate each other (or worse ignore what is going on to just pound their double bass pedal as fast as they can *cough* insert stock mediocre death metal band of choice *cough*). This creates a very flat sound to the band.
The drumming in particular is so nuanced and subtle on this album. It is essential for the concept of the band to work. Unsubtle death metal pounding on the drums would tear their sound apart, and on “Obsidian Sun” the drumming is what really makes the song interesting because it consists of long sustained tones repeating a pattern for many parts. The drumming gets inside what those sounds are doing and draws out what is interesting.
The rest of the album is really good, too. It stays in a recognizable cohesive style, but at the same time pushes the boundary of the genre in all sorts of different ways. Some other highlight moments for me are when they go almost sludge in the second to last track and the bizarre effect in the last track of the staccato rapid chromatic picking.
It is too early in the listening cycle for me to say whether or not I will continue to love this one. I’m a little worried because I liked it so fast, because this usually means I start to bore with it fast as well. If you’re looking to get into experimental metal, then this might be the album I’ll start recommending, because it stays true to some traditional metal sounds while still pushing the envelope slightly but consistently in different directions.
Overall, I love this album so far and I’ll give it a 9/10. Here’s a sample: