If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of that dissonant sound that began with Gorguts’ 1998 masterpiece Obscura. When it came out, it broke every rule in the death metal rulebook, incorporating dissonance, intentional use of pick-scratches and non-traditional playing techniques, heady lyrical content, and a bizarre, varied approach to vocals. For example, the title track of the album includes an atonal melody played entirely through taps and slides that’s even bizarre visually when watching the band live. When writing the album, their focus had changed from cramming as many notes and blastbeats into a riff to creating interesting, layered musical arrangements. Since that magical moment when Steeve Hurdle (rest in peace) and Luc Lemay basically invented a new subgenre of death metal, a number of bands have followed this style, building off of Luc’s unique groundwork. It has now been three years since the last Gorguts release, so here are eleven bands (this list goes to 11) that incorporate many of the staples of the disso-Gorguts sound that can surely hold you over until Luc reveals his next musical progression. Many of these bands aren’t outright Gorguts clones, but rather, they’re all incredible bands that have built off of those influences to create something unique and similarly engaging.
Ad Nauseam are the band on this list that I think most closely emulates the Gorguts sound, but with differences in the approach to song structure, and with more tempo changes. They’ve only put out one album, 2015’s Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est, which cemented this incredible Italian act as one of the best bands out there playing intense disso-death.
It isn’t the most intuitive to think of a Canadian metal band influencing Switzerland, but that’s absolutely the case here. Outside of aggressive, dissonant riffs, Anachronism also incorporate moments of beautiful melody and intense breakdowns. They have two albums out, and some of you might remember last year’s Orogeny, which topped my AOTY recommendations.
Artificial Brain are a band deservedly drawing a lot of attention from the underground, having put out two masterpiece albums. They weave an intricately layered canvas of dissonance and atmosphere and also include ultra-guttural vocals in the vein of bands like Demilich. With heady lyrics about the cosmos, these New Yorkers continue to show that music can be raw, atmospheric, intense, but also sophisticated.
Baring Teeth are the Gorguts inspired death metal band that have come out of Texas. Their three albums are clearly influenced by Obscura, with their 2011 debut, Atrophy, sounding the closest to that sound (seriously, check it out). They’re one of many quality underground bands that were introduced to the world by Willowtip Records.
Convulsing is a surprising band, just for how accomplished the sound is. It is a solo project by Australian native Brendan Sloan, who wrote and recorded every instrument on both of the magnificent Convulsing releases: 2016’s Errata and 2018’s Grievous. Brendan builds atmosphere across both releases, masterfully dancing between tension and release, resulting in some of the most engaging auditory experiences that music can provide. The only disappointing thing about the Convulsing releases is the lack of physical formats for them. Join me in pressuring him to put both albums out on CD and vinyl.
After Gorguts split up following the Obscura album, Luc Lemay and Steeve Hurdle rejoined forces under the moniker Negativa. Sadly, Negativa only put out a single, self-titled EP in 2006, but it is a release that is absolutely mandatory for fans of Obscura. Many regard the EP to be the spiritual successor to the aforementioned album because all of the signature elements are here: dissonance, strange arrangements, weird experimentation, and Steeve Hurdle’s bizarre approach to vocals (see “Taedium Vitae”). After the release of this album, it was advice from Steeve that caused Luc to reform Gorguts. Tragically, Steeve passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on through all the bands on this list.
Steeve Hurdle’s shadow looms large here, but many don’t realize where that Gorguts’ Obscura sound originated from. Before Steeve joined Gorguts, he fronted his own death metal band called Purulence. Although Purulence was a lot more orthodox than Obscura, you can hear the formation of some of those ideas here. They only released a single EP in 1992’s Inverted Decay, and a 1993 split with Amaymon, but both are essential listens for metal historians. Even if Purulence isn’t as strange as some of the bands on this list, they did put out some quality old school death metal gems that are well worth your time.
These Brooklyn, New York natives mix in dissonant riffs at high tempos that are a lot mathier than Gorguts’, feeling akin to a mixture of Gorguts and Psyopus. This one won’t be for everyone, but if that description sounds appealing, then check them out! Pyrrhon are signed to Willowtip records and currently have three LPs released, with the most recent being 2017’s What Passes for Survival.
New Jersey’s Replicant bring a level of filth to the disso sound that you can’t find in the other bands listed here. The vocals here are wheezed out, reminding of the bizarre nature of Steeve Hurdle’s vocals, but with more restraint. Last year’s Negative Life was their debut LP, and it delivers in spades. If you like your disso-death metal brutal and nasty, then this is for you.
Sunless hail from Minnesota, and add darkness and majesty to their take on dissonant, progressive death metal. Their debut and thus far only album, 2017’s Urraca, is a brilliant example of how incredible dissonant melodies can be.
New Zealand’s Ulcerate are probably the best-known band on this list, and for good reason. Not only have they created their own layered, atmospheric version of dissonant death metal, but they did it with drumming maestro Jamie Saint Merat throwing in such ingenious fills that watching Ulcerate live is mostly an hour-long practice at staring at him, mouth agape. My favorite album of theirs is Everything is Fire, but all five of their albums are works of brilliance, so you can’t go wrong.
Did I forget your favorite band influenced by Gorguts? Share them in the comments below!