Gigan - Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence
Listen and purchase on their Bandcamp
Another Gigan album, another deep-dive into Gorgutsian mindfuckery. The first couple minutes of “Wade Forward Through Matter and Backwards Through Time”purposely don’t feel like it, occupied by an ominous groove that wouldn’t sound out of place on Deathspell Omega’s Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, until it suddenly hatches into the sort of multi-legged instrumentation that has defined Gigan’s back catalogue. The guitars preserve the groove for another few measures while drummer Nate Cotton goes expectedly ballistic, approaching cacophony as he assaults his kit. This is when the song begins in earnest, and for long-time fans, it will be a relief to hear that Gigan still don’t believe in melody as a synonym for progress--if anything, they appear to have committed to the atonal/microtonal movement that’s taking over the tech-metal world, and which they had a hand in popularizing, rather than going the unfortunate route of this year’s Decrepit Birth or Suffocation.
The rest of “Wade Forward” eschews technical jerkiness and fret-wank to concentrate on pure compositional wizardry. This has always been their style, although Rainbiotic Iridescence is incrementally more refined than in its last iteration, 2013’s Multi-Dimensional Fractal Sorcery and Super Science: leviathanic compositions, slippery time signatures, and a Cthulhic cavernousness remain staples of the Gigan sound, but there is more detail and nuance this time around--or perhaps we’re simply better attuned to the band’s esoteric songwriting after three records of it. To their credit, they’ve always remained a mystery in the way of these darkly atmospheric death metal bands--where the hell does it come from? and how the hell do they do it? being the questions at the heart of that mystery--but Eric Hersemann, ostensibly Gigan’s “brain,” offers the following illumination on the record:
“Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence is the culmination of over ten years of imagination and vision; a colorful and maddening exercise in vibrant technical proficiency and unbridled passion. This newest Gigan record has all the familiar feelings and spectrums that have occurred in the past; within the Gigan Universe, along with a razor-sharp and deadly approach facilitated by a new writing and recording environment. Created naturally as always-without computer trickery and with natural drums, guitars and other instruments, Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence is not just an arrangement of sweeps and scales thrown together and delivered at high velocity or a random hodgepodge of dissonant wankery. It is instead the next evolutionary step towards heavy music's inevitable future, encompassing a full palette of mind-bending musical extremism. Open your minds and experience wherever Gigan may take you.”
As verbose a speaker as he is a musician, this is just about an even split between promotional hyperbole and earnest summary, with hints toward the band’s charming “we’re actually aliens” persona they affect on social media. The album is, in fact, a culmination of Gigan’s career and a refinement of it, excising the bloat of Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes and matching their previous album (whose name I will not spell out again, because these album titles are borderline preposterous and I’m no masochist) in atmospheric unity, but its experiments exhibit a more engaging attention to detail. This isn’t to say that Gigan have ever been less than than meticulous songwriters so much as it is a comment on how much more masterfully they execute brain-busters like “Hyperjump-Ritual Madness” or first single “Plume Of Ink Within A Vacuum,” a Pollack painting of a song if there ever was one. It skewers the conventions of metal, teasing leads and solos just as any Gigan song does before hopelessly tangling the two and letting the knot unravel itself. Of course, it doesn’t. It’s Lynchian.
While every moment of a Gigan album is a surprise, Undulating Waves does have new tricks up its sleeve even in relation to prior albums, and it’s an extension of the first thing you hear on the record. Underneath their discombobulated exterior, Gigan is a groove machine; it’s simply the fact that they rarely play in recognizable time signature that obscure this quality, but it’s there in the midst of “Plume” and its eerie siren-like riffs (a recurring motif across all of Undulating Waves), and paraded throughout the aptly-titled “Clockwork With Thunderous Hooves,” a deadly rhythmicality fracked out of the song’s mountains of harmonic and structural dissonance. “Clockwork” may be the most essential track on Undulating Waves, the song that finally sees Gigan harnessing their destructive potential as a death metal band first and an experiment in sonic extremism a distant second. In fact, it may be one of the most essential death metal songs of the year, fully embodying that “inevitable future” for heavy metal Gigan are so passionate about exploring.
In its current creative growth spurt, death metal has kept an eye on the past with bands like Ascended Dead, Horrendous, and Gruesome, but the real progress is happening in the cult of Gorguts, where bands like Artificial Brain, Baring Teeth, Chthe’ilist, Flourishing, Gigan, Pyrrhon, and an ever-increasing number of other, fresh faces are expanding the genre’s vocabulary with unique interpretations of Obscura’s grimoire. It’s been a solid few years for the genre, but I think that Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence, alongside Infrared Horizon and What Passes for Survival, will figure as a collective watershed moment for the genre very soon. Gigan’s future is upon us.