Raised on ‘traditional’ death metal ideals and put to task in various technical, melodic and deathgrind projects along the way Gourmand was conceived by a set of Kansas City, Missouri area musicians yearning for forward-thinking expression. Between two albums in as many years the quintet have seemingly intended to sit outside of the progressive and technical death metal status quo in terms of outer-genre flourish and holistic personal themes. Whereas ‘The Inquisitionist’ (2017) examined the requisite mark of any extreme metal band’s beginnings: Existentialist self-examination, a worthy pursuit that resulted in a moderate cerebral kick of a progressive death metal album. Their latest record ‘Blossoming From the Grave’ is a comparably epicurean treatment of the first world’s greatest challenge: The ‘western’ mindset and it’s failure to adapt to the increasingly chaotic age of information as we are made obsolete by technology. In diving deeper into coping with frustration and powerlessness Gourmand puts on a dramatic progressive metal dirge dedicated to personal growth in response to changing times.
But it isn’t as heavy or straightforward as ‘The Inquisitionist’ and instead jumps at any chance to explore manic softness in direct juxtaposition with technical death metal movements. Death metal was less the anchor and more the driving force on Gourmand‘s debut and on this follow-up they use technical death metal chugs amidst it’s larger progressive mass to avoid losing the plot, like an overstretched Ne Obliviscaris album. I highly doubt the increasing progressive prowess and regular dulcet refrains of ‘Blossoming From the Grave’ will be as divisive as their oddly flat drum sound, typical of 2000’s era brutal death metal. It is a noted improvement over the clunky drum recording of ‘The Inquisitionist’ but they haven’t quite nailed this new sound either. If Gourmand are in fact too ambitious for their budget it is actually a huge positive in differentiating from the legion of overly polished modern progressive death metal groups abound; That brutal weirdness provides a ton of character.
Personal investment in ‘Blossoming From the Grave’ was identical to my experience with ‘The Inquisitionist’ as I found the odd production charming and guitar work adequate. Gourmand‘s strengths are, like many modern prog-tech bands, tied to the tension created in linking progressive metal elements with the abrasive brutality of technical death metal. The drums often act as the link between stylistic ideas but the true hero of cohesion is the bass work from Ben Harvey (Marasmus) as his tone sits right in the lower-middle register of the mix with an easily followed narrative driving through most songs. I found myself wanting to hear a bit more ‘Independent Thought Patterns’ and less ‘My Arms Your Hearse’ but at no point are Gourmand as direct and simply structured as their oldest influences.
With great improvements and a rapidly developing signature the hope is that this independently achieved experimental edge doesn’t end up sanitized and standardized anytime soon. There is some great value in the exploratory, streaming consciousness achieved across a handful of full listens but ‘Blossoming From the Grave’ doesn’t hold up heartily to random track previews by virtue of it’s brutal, knee-jerk flow. This is an album to immerse in, and ultimately adapt to, that leaves no obvious statement behind upon introduction. The meat of the experience is in the dance between brutality and cleverly fiddled semi-melodic interludes dressed up with strings (cello primarily) and percussion. The ride is daunting and assuredly dramatic from the start but more than worthy of most any progressive death metal fan’s undivided attention.
The grey that lies between. 3.0/5.0
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