GORGUTS‘ highly anticipated return to UK soil is not running as smoothly as hoped. Doors at Manchester’s Sound Control had been due to open initially at 6pm, then at 7 and not opening until 8pm, when the tour bus eventually arrived around the corner, as it was revealed that having played in Belgium the previous night, they had been stuck on a ferry for six hours, needless to say, longer than expected. The general vibe of the evening is that of rush and panic, as crew and band members alike scurry around manically trying to rapidly set things up so that the four bands on a bill that is arguably too large can play as much of their originally planned sets as possible.
These circumstances rule that Italy’s NERO DI MARTE opening have a mere twenty minutes. Given the style of music they play and the track lengths associated with that, this amounts to two songs, and thus they are somewhat robbed of some of the impact they could have made. The post-metal aspect of their music does set them apart on this bill though while not being too far out of line with the forward-thinking and obtuse styling of tonight’s headliner, and in their airy atmospheric sections their drummer especially is of interest with his intricate cymbal patterns. NERO DI MARTE are not the finished article, certainly needing to work on providing things within their music to actually latch onto, but there’s potential here. Hopefully they can come back soon in a slot that gives them more time to prove their worth.
DYSRHYTHMIA on the other hand seem to overstay their welcome, somewhat given the air of pressure to fit as much as possible in is feasible into tonight. An instrumental prog outfit featuring GORGUTS’ Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston (pre-dating both members joining that band in their reunion), they’re undoubtedly intriguing to watch, both playing high on the fretboard and weaving around each other as Hufnagel adds percussive texture on his guitar over Marston’s frequently tapped and melodic bass parts. To nit-pick about the performance of someone so obviously accomplished, when drummer Jeff Eber moves away from the complex jazz rhythms that occupy most of DYSRHYTHMIA’s music and into brief sections of blast beats his blasts noticeably lack power and heft in comparison, but for the most part his musicianship is still light years ahead of most drummers who may play this venue. However while they are undoubtedly technically impressive, this isn’t really something you’d ever listen to for fun. They heighten anticipation for GORGUTS where two out of three of the men on stage will do their thing with a band of far greater stature, but from this showing DYSRHYTHMIA have yet to figure out how to maintain interest without a vocalist and the clock is ticking.
Having PSYCROPTIC singer Jason Peppiatt scream in your face is a little jarring coming after that. The Australian tech death crew have a reasonable amount of momentum coming off of a string of albums that have left some mark in their sphere of operation, and they do their best to make the most of this coveted support slot. Considering the late start and the frantic nature of the work at hand PSYCROPTIC are gifted some pretty excellent sound, and their performances cannot be faulted as they replicate what they achieve on record with ease with the groove of their riffs furthermore seeming to come out more live than on record. Similarly to DYSRHYTHMIA however as PSYCROPTIC take to the stage at the time that GORGUTS were originally scheduled to, there is a slight air of impatience. Moreover, while PSYCROPTIC certainly do what they do with skill, it wouldn’t hurt in the slightest for them to be hit with a dosage of a bit more skin-coating and vomit-inducing filth as their squeaky clean approach feels more than a little sterile.
Thank heavens for GORGUTS then, whose opening strike of Le Tuit du Monde from 2013’s critically acclaimed comeback album Colored Sands (still one of the standout extreme metal records of the 2010s so far) feels like having your entrails ripped from your anus in comparison. The disconcertingly angular but not impossible to follow rhythms are well beyond most of their peers in their power, notes dropping out of the air like meteorites battering the unsuspecting surroundings offset by eerie harmonics, and it’s a welcome reminder of just how damn great they have been in their return.
The main purpose of this tour however has been made clear to be a performance in full of GORGUTS’ upcoming EP Pleiades’ Dust consisting of just one song spanning half an hour in length. Obviously it is yet to be seen how Pleiades’ Dust turns out on record but live it is a disorientating and menacing experience, seeming to take the sonic direction laid out on Colored Sands into more ambitious waters. As much as GORGUTS play death metal this is not a show to drink beer and run around growling, headbanging and making a fool out of yourself at; observing Pleiades’ Dust live and trying to take in each detail is highly immersive within the clattering weight and the sections of alien clean. Colin Marston’s bass occasionally adds a sense of emotive warmth before being eaten up by the organic swelling and pulsing mass. It’s impossible not to marvel at how much work it must have taken not just for this track to be written but to be learned so it is able to be performed on stage night after night, confirming what we already knew to be true that these guys are true masters of their craft. The nature of Pleiades’ Dust as one thirty minute ebbing and flowing piece means that at least in this setting, especially with it not being available for listening beforehand, there are noticeably less hooks than on Colored Sands. The sense of drama within it though is palpable. The halfway mark sees Marston and frontman/guitarist Luc Lemay summoning walls of feedback and bass swells out of the murk, engulfing and quite literally shaking the room, before Lemay gradually begins to piece together the single most imposing riff, letting it gestate and escalate.
The room, far from full to begin with, gradually begins to empty as people head off to catch trains and buses home as the gigs runs well past its intended curfew, meaning that the second part of their set showcasing some older pre-reunion cuts is sadly missed by a great number of those who ventured out tonight. At the very least though it’s comforting to know that after their return GORGUTS are continuing to push the tech death that they pioneered at its weirdest and therefore absolute coolest, mocking the soulless cookie cutter dreck that has come in their wake before taking off to unknown worlds anew to show us what they can unearth.