The most common feedback we get from our readers about this site and why they continue to follow us (aside from our dashing good looks, obviously) is that they come to us to find out about bands new and old they might have otherwise never been introduced to. We pride ourselves on being able to act as a human music recommendation service to all of you, which is why we already have features like our very popular Listen To This! series of columns. When thinking about ways we could take this further though, we came upon the idea for this column. For Fans Of is essentially a distillation of this in its purest form.
The concept is simple. We take one very well-known and popular band that our writers and readers are fans of, and then we write about a small group of lesser-known bands that do similar things and who we think you all might like as well and give a listen to. So, for example, in this case we’ve chosen Gorguts (more on them in a second). These are not meant to be exhaustive lists, and it’s quite possible many of you will be already familiar with at least a few of these bands. But we hope that this serves as an appropriate jumping-off point for many of you and that you can find at least one new band you were not already listening to.
Gorguts are a band that pretty much created their own genre and then kept innovating on it. Originally, they were more straight-forward technical death metal, but slowly they ventured into more avant-garde territories starting with their second album The Erosion of Sanity. Their follow-up to that, Obscura, is perhaps one of the most important metal albums of all time, regarded by many as a classic and a hallmark of avant-garde metal. With ridiculously creative playing, tight songwriting and their unparalleled weird atmosphere that doesn’t rely on extravagant instrumentation like many bands these days, Gorguts are true legends. With their successors to Obscura, they further built upon their unconventional sound, but for most that’s the definitive album of experimental death metal.
Without further ado, here are our hand-picked recommendations for fans of Gorguts! If there are any bands you’d add to the list, sound off in the comments!
While unquestionably death metal luminaries, Finland’s Demilich are criminally overlooked in relation to their peers. Their 1993 debut Nespithe may be the sole full-length in their discography, but after experiencing its eleven pilgrimages through tech-death’s vilest swamps, its classic status becomes unquestionable. Nespithe’s sound is akin to harnessing the jarring technical prowess of Gorguts and shoving it through a rusty meat grinder while Carcass’ Symphonies of Sickness blares in the background; a dichotomous marriage of precise musicality and sonic filth. And during every moment where guitarist/vocalist Antti Boman’s absurdly low gutturals permeate the murk, the listener’s transportation into audible damnation intensifies. Though dismantling after Nespithe’s release, the three “final performances” booked/played by the band since 2006 – including this year’s installment of Maryland Deathfest – should provide some hope that they may someday return with another defiled diamond.
Recommended Album: Nespithe (1993)
I’m a fan of many things but I’m a huge fan of two things in particular: science fiction and getting my gut exploded by insane death metal. Behold…The Arctopus are perfect for me, as they blend both these things into one demented whole. With track names like ‘Exospacial Psionic Aura’ and, my personal favorite, ‘You Will Be Reincarnated as an Imperial Attack Spaceturtle’, the science fiction part is clear. However, their true charm is in their blend of that Gorguts’ style of visceral, atonal death metal and a progressive tendency which is second to none. When the band blazes hard and fast, you’d best hold on to your seat: furious blast-beats and vitriolic guitar tones fray on the ears and mind of the listener. However, when the band decide to shake things up, which is every other verse if we’re honest, is when they truly shine. Where Gorguts break up their monotony, Behold…The Arctopus shatter it into a million little pieces with blistering technicality and a compositional style that belongs on the walls and exegetical writings of a mad man rather than on a record. Blooming feedback, scattered bass solos, jazzy guitars and an overall allergy to symmetrical meters are replete, turning the listening experience into a difficult one. I’ll admit it right now: it’s not often that I sit down and just listen to Behold…The Arctopus. It’s a conscious decision to challenge every aural nerve I have in my body. But once you give yourself over to the maddness, much like in Gorguts’ case, there is plenty of beauty and rage to be found.
Recommended Album: Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning (make sure you pick up the 2006 re-release!)
Dysrythmia is one of the best examples of the band that ascends from “similar to” to “the band”, because guitarist Kevin Hufnagel and bassist Colin Marston are now in Gorguts, which shows how respectable Dysrhythmia is. The big difference is that they’re instrumental and focus more on being jazzier instead of being heavy. They still have the weird guitar noises, creative atonal playing and all the craziness that Gorguts have though. Even though they’ve existed for quite a while, Test of Submission is their best album in my opinion, as the production and writing is top notch there. It has the complexity and smoothness of a Holdsworth album, but the notes being played are all weird, there is a lot of tension and texture to the sound. Think Exivious meets Gorguts. It’s not always as heavy and abrasive as Gorguts, but the meditative yet unsettling quality makes up for it. It’s easy to see why Hufnagel and Marston were chosen for the new Gorguts lineup after listening to Test of Submission, and I’d argue that Dysrhythmia is required listening for any fan of Gorguts.
Recommended Album: Test of Submission (2012)
Nero Di Marte
When I heard the name of this band, I honestly shrugged them off as being some dumb nu-metal band from Kenosha or something of the sort. However, when a good friend of mine told me that I absolutely had to hear the band, I gave them a listen, and I’m so thankful that I did. This band truly is something else. It’s unbelievable to me that just four guys could come together to make music that sounds this full and this charismatic. The best part about the band is the diverse range of influences that they take and use to combine and make a sound unique to them. You have tinges of post-metal, death metal, prog metal, and even some black metal at certain points. The band is relatively young, but their influences are not, and that warms my heart to know that this band is only taking pointers from the best of the best. There are certain parts that sound reminiscent of Obscura in terms of phrasing, or even in terms of vocal placement over the instruments. However, the real selling point for this band is the wall of sound it creates, which is still something Gorguts has yet to do. If you’re looking for the next best thing, then here they are.
Recommended Album: Derivae (2014)
For some of us, what really makes Gorguts such a special band is their expert grasp of atmosphere, especially on their newest album, Colored Sands. On their 2013 opus, the monstrous walls of sound lead throughout the record, simultaneously crushing the listener and drawing them further into the harsh, desert-like soundscapes that Gorguts have created. Beyond Creation offers a much more streamlined path to the same effect- a sense of wonder and amazement that offers the listener huge amounts of sound to explore. The guitars create clifflike chords that advance on the audience from all sides, the percussion deftly weaves its way through the tracks, and the bass rumbles beneath it all, twisting and turning like a coursing river through the canyons of dissonance. Every second on their sophomore album, Earthborn Evolution, offers the same combination of harsh-yet-enticing dissonance and huge, powerful sound that Colored Sands deals in. Few bands can produce such atmospheric technical death metal, yet by following in the footsteps of Gorguts, the giant that came before them, Beyond Creation engineer a much more straightforward path to the same effect: instilling the listener with the same inviting sense of exploration and bewildered fascination.
Recommended Album: Earthborn Evolution (2014)
“There are no crowds out on the streets
No neon lights, no beautiful people
Just vacant windows staring down
At the heaps of ash and charred rags
And the avenues yawn between
Ruins that spike like polygraphs
At the half remembered husks
In the cordwood-bundled clouds”
So begins Pyrrhon’s third release and major label debut, The Mother of Virtues. Hailing from New York, Pyrrhon are a band who take the technical death metal stylings of Gorguts, turn them on their head, and fuse them to the poetic lyrics of vocalist Doug Moore. The end result is one of the darkest, bleakest, most nihilistic albums ever recorded, and an instant classic in the genre. Mind bending riffs worm their way in and out of the nooks and crannies between the vocals and crushing rhythm section, often turning on a dime to change tone and direction without warning. This isn’t music for the easily distracted or faint of heart. Pyrrhon are masters at writing tech death that’s above and beyond simply being a showcase of their instrumental skill. The band seamlessly fuses technicality and atmospherics, being at once both dizzyingly complex and subtle, full of unnoticed depth. Whether or not you want to dive into those depths is up to you, but if you like dark, bleak music, Pyrrhon could be your new favorite band.
Recommended Album: The Mother of Virtues (2014)
The injection of technical elements into truly great death metal is done none more proficiently than by Spanish sci-fi folks Wormed. While Gorguts have a suspiciously subtle element to their technical prowess, Wormed are the opposite. The guitars are pin point down to each swoop or pinch, the drummer is the mechanical beating heart; as tight as it gets. This is a band perfectly at home slowing everything down to a halt to experiment, with interludes that tune in to other wordly areas of ambience, dissonance and spoken word.
The chaotic nature of this kind of death metal is so acutely focused by the members of Wormed that even at it’s most cacophonous it’s still possible to find a solitary moment where you can focus on one element. Feel it weaving it’s way through the maelstrom to form part of the big idea. Flipping that on it’s head, the exercises in constraint and aggression pay off with the band dropping huge slams like interstellar bombs; as slow as a week in the jail.
This is a band that are somewhat inconsistent in their release of material, hence what there is has been dissected enough for most to own their opinion about this band. If anyone still has their doubts, even at it’s worst, Exodromos still contains some of the sickest straight up brutal death metal at it’s core.
Recommended Album: Exodromos (2013)
Although they’re pretty much brand new in the death metal scene, New York’s Artificial Brain is already setting themselves apart as one of the bands to watch in modern extreme music. With their 2014 full-length debut, Labyrinth Constellation, the band masterfully combined angular and sickening technicality with both memorable and haunting melodies, all while being backed by a goddamn maelstrom of blast-beatage courtesy of skin-maestro Keith Abrami. While their sound does tip its hat at Gorguts plenty of the time, there are also strong ties to black metal’s more experimental side, particularly the swirling chaos of French bands like Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega. William Smith’s vocals are almost entirely indecipherable, but delivered with such guttural fury and conviction that it doesn’t even matter (fans of Demilich will absolutely love this stuff). Much like the riffs themselves, the vocals serve as a way to essentially depict the album’s artwork, which is one of post-apocalyptic, alien carnage. If you’re looking for highly intelligent and innovative death metal that’s never self-serving and consistently captivating, this should be your go-to band.
Recommended Album: Labyrinth Constellation (2014)