Published Sep 18, 2013Quebec technical death metal innovators Gorguts recently released their first album in 12 years, Colored Sands. The new album sees the return of founder/original member Luc Lemay with a brand new lineup, and while the band's sound has evolved into more progressive and experimental territories, the essence of Gorguts remains, with harsh atmospheres and heavy rhythms, as well as their signature avant-garde guitar work and thick, dark vocals. In a recent interview with Exclaim!, Lemay discussed the concept behind the highly anticipated Colored Sands, which deals with the history of Tibet.
"One day my attention got caught by the [Tibetan] mandala drawing ritual. I got very much fascinated by the look, meaning and the process of drawing mandalas," he explains. "At first I wanted to do the whole record about each step of drawing these mandalas, but after reading and reading on this topic I found out that it was too complex and I would need to educate myself for a decade before I knew what I was talking about."
Lemay didn't want to do a documentary record, as a "sense of storytelling" would be missing. "So, I decided to change my angle and tell a story about the Tibetan culture," he explains, stating that the album is divided into two distinct parts. "The first one deals with the beauties, the philosophy and culture of these people," he says, which comprises pre-1950 Tibetan history.
"[First track] 'Le toit du Monde,' which means 'roof of the world,' brings the listeners to the geographical place where the story is going to take place. I talk about the mighty mountain range in a poetic way. 'An Ocean of Wisdom' tells the story about how they found the 14th Dalai Lama. The rituals, the sacred lake (Lake of Vision) Lhamo-Latso, and the epic quest for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama's soul. But above all, 'ocean of wisdom' means 'Dalai Lama.'
"'Forgotten Arrows' is about the rules of causality. Everything that happens in life happens for a reason. I got inspired by a text of Matthieu Ricard, who is the French interpreter of the Dalai Lama. He wrote that all the actions that we do in life are like arrows that we throw in the sky one day, then we forget about them, and suddenly, one day, they strike back on us, the echoes of our actions. 'Colored Sands' tells the process and the mystic experience of mandala drawings. Pilgrims who walk for months towards the place where the ritual is going to take place. They walk and they prostrate every three footsteps, face to the ground."
Midway through Colored Sands is the orchestral-based, instrumental piece "The Battle of Chamdo," which Lemay says serves as a breather musically. "The intention to have an orchestral piece on the record was there from the beginning. I wanted to give the listener a different sound palette before going into the second part of the concept."
The track also demonstrates a shift in the atmosphere of the record. "['The Battle of Chamdo'] is also a very important piece in the concept puzzle. It illustrates the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950. Then after that everything changed for the worst for those people," Lemay says, explaining that the latter half of Colored Sands deals with the post-1950 destruction of the Tibetan people. "From ['The Battle of Chamdo'] we enter the tragic fate of Tibet in the lyrical concept."
"'Enemies of Compassion' is about the Chinese invading Tibet and taking control by persecuting Tibetan people. 'Ember's Voice' deals with the horror of Tibetan people immolating themselves in public to protest against the Chinese occupation. 'Absconders' tells the story of a murder captured on tape by mountain climbers who witnessed Chinese border guards deliberately shooting Tibetan fugitives trying to escape to Nepal. 'Reduced to Silence' is questioning the non-violence philosophy, the silence of the international community witnessing the genocide of the Tibetan culture and people. Will the non-violent way of life bring them to their own end?"
Lemay says that even after 12 years, getting back into the Gorguts frame of mind was never a challenge. "Like usual, I wanted to write the music that I wanted to hear. That has always been the main guiding line in my creation process. It was truly a labour of love to write this record. I couldn't be happier with the result."
Colored Sands is out now through Season of Mist. Tonight (September 18) the band play Montreal's Katacombes before heading to Calgary on September 20 for Noctis 666 fest.