From Wisdom to Hate (Reissue)
posted on 8/2011 By:
In our jobs as reviewers, we critic types toss around adjectives and the occasional hyphenated terms and hypothetical-breakfast-food-themed clichés like proverbial hotcakes. Amidst all my endless descriptors and terrible, terrible jokes, there’s one word that I try to use sparingly and only when appropriate: ground-breaking. (Technically, it’s two words, but it’s hyphenated.) I try to avoid over-using that term because, let’s face it, not terribly many bands are legitimately and truly ground-breaking: Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Death, Napalm Death, Celtic Frost, Emperor… and, among a scant few others, Gorguts.
From humble beginnings as a second-tier unit with a silly name, Gorguts expanded dramatically in the spaces between their next two records. Those in the know will say that 1991’s Considered Dead is a solid death metal record, of course, and they’re absolutely right. But that one’s not on an expert level, it’s merely above average – it’s certainly not elite. Thus, it pales in comparison to what would eventually follow it. 1992’s The Erosion Of Sanity took the band’s technical skills to the next plane, crafting a crushing take on early tech-death that still holds up completely nearly two decades later, but yet, even as a masterful slice of complex composition, it nevertheless fits within the sub-genre’s established parameters.
And then comes Obscura… And what to say about that one that hasn’t already been said by dozens of critics either banging or scratching their heads (or both)? What hyphenated terms are left to toss around that haven’t already been tossed? Obscura’s out-of-left-field, brain-frying, jazz-tinted, twisted and twisting, what-the-hell-was-that atonal madness is one of extreme metal’s most abrupt and impressive expansions, one of its most confounding and rewarding moments, and it’s still as brilliantly brutal and brutally brilliant now as it was back then.
And so, after all that, what do you do to follow up one of the most dense, challenging, mind-bending, genre-defining and -defying, multiple-listen-demanding, hyphen-addled and legitimately and literally amazing records in the history of extreme metal?
Well, if you’re Gorguts, you take a step back, split the difference between that and the record before it, and then more or less, you do it again.
So 325 words into this review, let me tell you about From Wisdom To Hate in two more…
And while it follows Obscura chronologically, creatively Wisdom fits more between that record and Erosion, something of a step backwards from Obscura’s one-giant-leap progression into complete and complex cacophony, and as such, a stylistic regression without being a qualitative one. The riffs are still twisted – mainman Luc Lemay and then-new guitarist Daniel Mongrain (Martyr / post-Piggy Voivod) still pull unusual sounds from their instruments, although those moments are fewer and farther between than on Obscura. And that’s because Wisdom’s structures are tamer, more traditional, less mathematically over-the-top. Also, a much easier difference-splitting factor is that Lemay’s vocals are closer to the sound of the Erosion days, throatier and lower, more growling a la earlier Gorguts and less of Obscura’s pained barking.
So Wisdom is immediately more accessible than its proudy inaccessible predecessor, but don’t mistake that for saying that it’s less heavy. It’s still an absolute masterwork of brutal and blasting death metal, just a less bizarre one in comparison to one of the most bizarre death metal records ever recorded. Tracks like the opening number “Inverted” play closer to Obscura’s squawking experimentation, while the symphonic introduction to “The Quest For Equilibrium” explores more classically-tinged territory before dropping into a bludgeoning riff. Gorguts has always been expert at mixing crushing tempo shifts into their records – “Inverted” blasts along while the likes of “Behave Through Mythos” drops to crawling, each equally heavy and destructive – and that expert ability to shift between the blast and the trudge keeps this record (and those before it) from becoming one-dimensional.
Those fans seeking the innovative and the ground-breaking will find it without question in the last half of the Gorguts catalog, and From Wisdom To Hate is a mandatory listen for anyone seeking technicality and complexity mixed with undeniable brutality. Even though it’s arguably the third-best of the four Gorguts records – personally I’d put both Erosion and Obscura above it – From Wisdom To Hate is nevertheless an amazing record from a ground-breaking band. Fans of death metal who haven’t heard this are truly missing out on a masterpiece -- From Wisdom To Hate absolutely a must-hear.
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