By Craig Haze
It’s unfortunate that while masterful dexterity and pummeling polyrhythmic flourishes are the hallmarks of great technical death metal, it’s also those very same attributes that result in a fair amount of sterility among virtuoso shredders. Admittedly, it must all kinds of wonderful to be a doyen of the complex riff, but aside from providing a bit of a dazzling ride they’re not actually giving birth to anything particularly interesting. Florida’s death metal wizards Gigan, on the other hand, take those trademarks and smother them with a syrupy mix of eerie effects and prog-worthy jams to produce lively, albeit freakishly mutated, progeny that are all sorts of fascinating.
Gigan’s debut, The Order of the False Eye, was an epic, psychedelic, extreme metal feast—a treat for fans of copious riffs delivered with avant-jazz precision. However, and not to criticize Gigan unfairly—because their debut easily eclipsed the work of a whole raft of more high-profile outfits, and raised the bar in evolutionary terms—it was an overlong album that ran out of steam in the end.
This time round, Gigan mastermind Eric Hersemann has pared back the duration (wise move), while simultaneously upping the ante within the songs themselves. Unafraid of getting riotously experimental, Hersemann layers on the kosmische effects, with synthesizer and theremin adding otherworldly textural backdrops to the core metal assault.
Gigan throw everything into the mix. Spacey atmospherics, chaotic pedal work, huge serpentine riffs, avant-garde percussion and barking vocals—it’s all piled on. The furious first track, “Mountains Perched Like Beasts Awaiting the Attack”, teeters on the edge of collapse from the weight of all that ambition, but somehow it never caves. And it’s the same throughout the album. There’s not a track that goes too far down the exhibitionist path; nothing becomes robotic or disinfected.
There’s an irreverent cosmic theme to it all. “Suspended in Cubes of Torment” has a vintage pulse that could have been plucked from Forbidden Planet out-takes, “Vespelmadeen Terror” makes great use of cyber-vocals, and the sinister abyss of “The Fathomless Echoes of Eternity’s Imagination” will have you running from the monsters of your id. Never losing sight of the fact that all that extraterrestrial focus needs to be a bit grounded, Gigan tweak the electronics accordingly, add the odd (relatively) melodic passage—a few minutes of “Transmogrification into Bio-Luminoid” could sit happily on a Porcupine Tree album—or they just forgo the clever shit altogether and belt out a grinding track.
You can imagine these guys head-down in the lab splicing it all together. A drop of proto-electronica, a dash of Gorguts’ unpredictability, splashes of Florida’s meanest (to add some bite), a little Voivod eccentricity and a beaker of left-field nimble-fingered guitar athletics. Gigan’s mix of ideas sets them way ahead of the tech-metal pack, and although they are a state-of-the-art riffing launch pad into the celestial unknown, that disheveled mad-scientist inventiveness ensures there’s not a hint of any mechanized navel-gazing.