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Album Review: Gigan – Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence

When it comes to contemporary tech-death, I run a bit hot-and-cold – and at this point, it’s mostly cold. Of course, there’s still the occasional band or album that will get me excited, but too much of what the labels best known for the style are putting out these days just sounds like sweep-picked masturbation. And I’ve seen one too many of those bands open for more seasoned acts that can’t even play their own shit live. That’s why I tend to get especially excited when a tech-death record comes out that’s actually enjoyable as music and not as an exercise in seeing how many notes the guitarists can play per measure. Increasingly, those bands can be found on Willowtip. The three best tech-death albums to come out this year have all been on Willowtip: Pyrrhon’s What Passes for Survival, Contrarian’s To Perceive is to Suffer, and this new Gigan record.

For the past decade, Eric Hersemann (who had a cup of coffee with Hate Eternal in the mid-aughts) and his rotating cast of supporting players in Gigan have been releasing some of the bug-fuck craziest tech-death on this or any other planet. If most modern tech-death sounds like it was made by Hot Topic kids on a recreational Adderall binge, Gigan sounds more like the product of several nights spent hiding in a planetarium with a healthy-sized bag of ‘shrooms.

The group’s fourth full-length Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence, sees the band continue to push their psychedelic/progressive sci-fi sound out even further into the unknown reaches of time and space. Bookended by the two longest tracks in Gigan’s discography (not counting the untitled hidden track on The Order of the False Eye, which isn’t really a song per se), everything on the record sounds like Gigan taken to the nth degree: the riffs are even more mid-fuckingly parabolic, the drum patterns and tempo shifts fall even further outside the laws of the time/space continuum, and the overall musical structures sound like the product of an extraterrestrial intelligence far greater than our own. The band’s biggest coup, though? They do it all while still writing songs that are actually memorable. It’s this last bit that so many of their contemporaries seem to forget while lost in their technical wankery. Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence will actually stick with you for more than five minutes after it ends.

As for standout moments or tracks, “Elemental Transmography” might be the best starting place for the uninitiated. The shortest song on the album, it contains within its first minute the entire spectrum of what makes Gigan so great: a fluid, two-hand tapped intro riff, a proggy/dissonant section with a drum pattern I can’t even begin to describe, and a riff that sounds like Hersemann had to have sprouted extra fingers to have physically been able to play (I can only imagine what his warm-up routine much be like in order to keep from getting arthritis and tendonitis from playing such physically demanding music). “Ocular Wavelengths’ Floral Obstructions” might be the highlight of the record, with it dizzying number of tempo changes piercingly atonal guitar work. However, “Hideous Wailing of the Ronowen During Nightshade” comes close to matching it, particularly during it’s slower first half where the guitar does often sound like the wailing of an alien species. Penultimate track ‘Clockwork With Thunderous Hooves” also impresses for maintaining its balls-out, stamina- and manual dexterity-defying intensity for the entirety of its nearly seven-minute run time.

So if you’re a fan of modern tech-death and somehow haven’t yet heard Gigan, Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence is the perfect opportunity to rectify that. One listen and I guarantee they’ll make you want to pitch your entire Unique Leader collection into the trash. If you’re already hep to the band, then you should know this is easily their best album yet. And if you’re new to the whole tech-death thing and are looking for a band to try, strap in and let Gigan carry to you to the furthest reaches of the cosmos and beyond…

Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence will be available in a variety of formats on September 15 via Willowtip Records.

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