Consistency in Music: The LONG Hiatus

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Detective McNulty is back with some thoughts on the comeback album. This time around let’s dissect four major-league players in the metal arena who have experienced a 10+ year hiatus in their respective careers, and how it has affected their much welcomed return to the scene: At the Gates, Atheist, Carcass, and finally Gorguts.

You want a movie analogy, don’t you? Nerds, raise your hand if you’ve seen Tron. Great, now how many of you have seen Tron: Legacy? There is an 18-year gap between films but that gap allowed the filmmakers (all that were involved in said sequel) to craft a near-impeccable masterpiece of cinema that was criminally underrated! It took an antiquated but good film, and improved upon it in almost every aspect: the story evolved from living beings represented in a computer program to a philosophical examination of what this computer simulation world thingy could mean to the real world, meanwhile giving us one of the best audio/visual experiences that I’ve ever experienced. The amount of time between films was used to amazing advantage, as the technology was scores beyond what the original filmmakers could have envisioned. Sometimes bands use this planned or unplanned hiatus to their advantage. Let’s begin:


Exhibit A:  At the Gates  (Slaughter of the Soul [1995] -> At War with Reality [2014])

I really like older At the Gates material, and I’d be willing to bet that you do too. When the band announced that they would be making a new album, who wasn’t foaming at the mouth? Who exclaimed internally or externally, “I want Slaughter of the Soul Part 2“? We waited months and months for the new album and when it finally dropped, most of the metal community responded with a collective “okay”. I totally respect that some of you loved it, and that’s understandable! Aside from one or two people, I only know flushers who could take or leave At War with Reality. The anticipation of the album COMPLETELY eclipsed the final product. Did we actually receive a SotS pt. 2? To this detective, yes. Comfort zone, meet modern At the Gates.


Exhibit B:  Carcass (Swansong [1996] -> Surgical Steel [2013])

Here is a band that has an even more impressive back-catalog and an absolutely respectable comeback album in Surgical Steel. I won’t beat around the bush here: Necroticism and Heartwork are fucking masterpieces in metal history, so it’s no surprise that Carcass‘ attempt at new material was intended to be a spiritual stop-gap between those albums. It succeeds partly. Surgical Steel has a lot of riffage in common with Heartwork, some of the grind elements of Necroticism sprinkled about, and a heaping helping of NWOBHM galloping drums and riff work added. Don’t misunderstand me: Surgical Steel is a solid death metal album that has good intentions written all over it, but I could never place it in my top 10 of 2013 releases. Carcass introduced enough new elements into their songwriting, but it simply met all of my expectations and didn’t surpass a single one.


Exhibit C:  Gorguts (From Wisdom to Hate [2001] -> Colored Sands [2013])

Let’s get into the real meat and potatoes of our discussion with Gorguts. Their triumphant return to metal with Colored Sands was easily my favorite record of 2013, as it was with tons of other metal fans. Their back catalog? Wonderful, of course… sure it started out with more traditional death metal, but they ventured into the subgenre of metal that makes many a flusher excited: SKRONK! Listening to Obscura, you hear a band without limits, bursting to explore whatever is possible with traditional instruments. Find a riff that you enjoy? Savor it while it lasts, for new ones are waiting in the queue to annihilate your earholes. So when Colored Sands finally dropped after a 12 year stretch, we all collectively said to ourselves, “ZOMG!” And here’s the kicker: it delivered on EVERY ACCOUNT. An album which many consider unflushable, it took the Gorguts sound that we had come to know and love and introduced some steady elements, as reflected by the personnel changes from everyone but the main creative giant Luc Lemay. You have insane, jazz-infused experience brought to the table by bassist (and genius) Colin Marston, incomprehensible drum skills by John Longstreth, and — here I’ll go ahead and claim it — meticulously crafted discipline by guitarist Kevin Hufnagel. Colored Sands displays a band with a chaotic, no-holds-barred attitude and wraps around it a family of new(ish) musicians who know how to craft modern, metal cacophonies to create an instant gem.


Exhibit D:  Atheist (Elements [1993] -> Jupiter [2010])

Colored Sands sure is amazing, but Jupiter is a jaw-dropping classic. Atheist came back after 17 years and crafted the comeback album that sets the standard for comeback albums. The band’s previous efforts were always walking a balance beam of death metal and jazz (alongside peers Cynic and Death), but this 2010 release proved that their formula could survive in the modern metal scene. Take Atheist‘s musical modus operandi and combine it with aesthetics from modern metal mathematicians like Dillinger Escape Plan and Stargazer (a band which whom Kelly Shaefer is an admitted fan) to form an album that stands the test of time five years later, and you have Jupiter. “Technical death metal?” you inquire? Yes, technique is ever-present in every composition, but songwriting always takes front seat to the weediles and deediles. Each of the eight songs has its own personality and fits in naturally with the flow of the album (itself lasting a comfortable 32:47). The tempo changes, of which there are many, occur naturally yet at head-scratchily “oh yeah!” moments. This album fucking slays.

From lowest to highest quality comeback album: At the Gates, Carcass, Gorguts, Atheist.

This little ranking experiment of mine has a purpose: in my opinion, a veteran band that takes an incredibly long hiatus needs to bring some new elements to the table to produce an exceptional comeback album. Ask yourself this: does Heavy Metal Fan #8 REALLY want Album X, Part 2? Think about it. How many Part 2’s have let us down, whereas the slight re-workings of the norm have exceeded our expectations?

Previously, I dissected consistency in music and came to this conclusion: it’s a fun metric with which to discuss heavy metal, but it doesn’t really matter. If the artist isn’t putting his/her own blood, sweat, and tears into the project the listeners will be well know and judge accordingly. Now I’m asking if consistency hurts a band after a considerable hiatus.

While we’re at it, let me know what you think of Tron: Legacy, did the decades-long wait between movies exceed or flush your expectations?  Diqus it friends, that’s what we’re all here for…

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  • CyberneticOrganism
  • Pagliacci is Kvlt O)))

    Iron Maiden released Fear of the Dark in 1992 and didn’t release any more albums until Brave New World in 2000.

    DIDN’T RELEASE ANY MORE ALBUMS!

    • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

      You’re also forgetting Judas Priest who didn’t release an album from 1990 with Painkiller up until 2005 with Angel Of Retribution.

    • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

      A bit more controversial due to their (admitted) bro-iness, but, while it was smaller, Machine Head took 6 years to follow up The More Things Change.

      • Maik Beninton

        I liked The Burning Red.

        • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

          The Burning Red, who are they, they seem like a cool band, not a terrible, trend hopping catastrophe of an album at all.

    • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

      Maiden hasn’t released an album since 7th Son. (FACT)

  • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

    This is a great article. I loved not only both the Tron movies but all 4 bands mentioned here. I’ve also heard they’re making a third Tron.

    • Guppusmaximus

      That Tron cartoon on Disney XD (w/ Paul Reubens) was pretty damn good as well.

      • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

        Is that still on? I remember watching the first season.

        • Guppusmaximus

          Nope..unfortunately it was cancelled. I don’t know why but I miss it

  • Spear

    Excellent article McNulty (as usual), though I’m inclined to disagree with you on Surgical Steel. I don’t know if that’s because it was my first Carcass album or because I’ve got such a hard-on for melodeath, but that was easily in my top five of 2013.

    • It wasn’t in my top 10 initially. For some reason, about half way through 2014, I listened to it again and fucking loved it. I guess when I listened to it my first time, I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. There are many albums I have to revisit because I just didn’t dig it at the time. For instance, right now, I’m not enjoying death metal very much so I’m holding off on listening to it.

  • FeelTheDarknesses

    FNM 17 years between albums

  • Shrimp ov Whatever

    Toilet confession: I do not like any of these bands.

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt O)))

      Toilet confession: my poop smells like the salmon I ate Wednesday.

      • Guppusmaximus

        Toilet confession: I have had a killer Stomach bug since April 3rd and my poop is basically pee.

      • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan

        The last A7X Show i was at, I took the world’s biggest Shit and lived to tell about it.

        -GUITARMYofONE95, 3 years ago

        • Maik Beninton

          That’s some story.
          Though the guy that came after you didn’t.

        • Guppusmaximus

          I thought A7X already held that title for their music…

    • Shrimp doesn’t like too much music because he hears it in the underwater and he only hears gobbles and bubbles.

      #ShrimpFacts

    • Guacamole Jim

      I fucks wit Gorguts, and to a lesser extent, Atheist.

      • Guppusmaximus

        IMHO, Atheist has yet to comeback from ‘Elements’. That album is unfuckwithable:)

    • Paris Hilton

      Toilet confession: I hate all music.

      • Guacamole Jim

        Well, we’ve found Christian Molenaar’s alter-ego.

        • Paris Hilton

          He’s the Owlman to my Batman (I get to be Batman, fuck all yall)

      • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan

        real music was before 2010. 80% of the music past that sucked.

        -Silent Death, 3 months ago

        • Paris Hilton

          I’m just happy that Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit is real music!

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            I thought you hated all music.

          • Paris Hilton

            I do. I just appreciate the difference on behalf of music fans, it makes no difference to me.

        • Maik Beninton

          This guy knows what’s up.

        • KJM

          You spelled “1990” wrong.

    • KJM

      Toilet confession: I don’t care for about 90% of the stuff that’s covered here.

  • Tyreeva Green

    Rippikoulu released the cult classic demo “Musta Seremonia” in 1993 and did not release anything else until 2014. 21 long ass years. The new shit is certainly not as good as their demo though. You can be the judge though.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjaV-3PLXh8

    • The Beargod

      I’m still hoping their Full-length would do a little better.

      • Tyreeva Green

        Same, their last release was a yawn fest.

  • Dan Wolfson

    Atheist’s Jupiter fucking blows a fat one.

  • Maik Beninton

    ”Swansong [1996] -> Surgical Steel [2013]”
    Someone is leaving this site.

    • Huggy Bear OH YEAH

      my reaction too, at first, but he meant “last released” -> “current” (same as the ordering of “lowest to highest” is reversed)

      • Maik Beninton

        Yeah I saw that later.

  • I’m going brief because I’m going out to classes today:

    – Carcass Surgical Steel: like I said yesterday, it’s good album that I’ve enjoyed because I’m a melodic fan. It lacks something in the track placement. But I still regard it as a Carcass album, and a great album.
    – Gorguts Colored Sands: great album, even when I’m not a Gorguts follower. Very impressed with the high quality on the musicianship, the composition of the songs and the lyrical theme.
    – At The Gates At War with Reality: one of my fav last year release and you know that I would say that.
    – Atheist Jupiter: uhh, I pass on that one.

    Thanks for this piece. I will miss you in this afternoon, Toilet! <3 My best of wishes for everyone!!

  • Scrimm

    Colored Sands>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Flush the rest of these. My favorite death metal comeback is Asphyx. Also, mfw people blow of early Gorguts http://basementrejects.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/phantasm-ii-tall-man-angus-scrimm.jpg

    • Tyreeva Green

      Pretty much how I feel.

    • Simon “Djentcrusher” Phoenix

      Death…the Brutal Way was a beastly comeback.

    • I’m dig Erosion of Sanity quite a bit.

      • Scrimm

        Me too, but the debut will always be tops for me.

    • I’ll keep Jupiter and Surgical Steel, thank you very much.
      *turns up nose, huffs*
      *stomps away*

      Also early Gorguts >>>>>>>>>>>>
      Best FLDM to not come out of FL.

      • Scrimm

        I don’t dislike Surgical Steel, it just bored me really fast.

  • Paris Hilton

    System or A Down’s new album doesn’t have a “set timeline”, which means it’ll be another 5 years before that comes out. A band shouldn’t sleep too long like that; society has changed since SOAD was popular. We view the world differently now, this is amplified by rapidly increasing technology. This is the same reason why 90s kids are known as “the nostalgic generation”. They hold the past so dearly because the boost in technology makes it seem like more time has passed than is actually the case. Point being- a band either needs to evolve their sound or call it quits. Ya snooze ya lose!

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt O)))
    • CyberneticOrganism

      SOAD sucks more shit than a black hole inside another black hole, especially that godawful goat warbling they call singing. Let them stay on hiatus forever.

      • Guacamole Jim

        Bro why you gotta play me like this?

      • Shrimp ov Whatever

        I think there is some internal damage on your CPU.

      • Paris Hilton

        Looks like someone has been fed lies from the tablecloth…

        • Guacamole Jim

          I don’t think he trusts

          In

          My

          Self-righteous suicide.

          • Paris Hilton

            >Didn’t go to the party
            >Didn’t have a good time
            >tfw didn’t dance in the desert or blow up the sunshine

          • >Psycho, Groupie, Cocaine, Crazy
            >Psycho, Groupie, Coke,
            >Makes you high, makes you high
            >makes you really wanna go
            >Go!

          • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

            >Didn’t have an out of body experience called Jesus the other day
            >Didn’t try her philosophy
            >Didn’t fuck his way to the garden

      • Pagliacci is Kvlt O)))
      • Scrimm

        I agree with this statement completely.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Thank you, I’m baffled a band with such fucking repellent music was so popular.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            Their music is the equivalent of an Ultimate Warrior promo aka gibberish. It makes no sense to me.

          • Scrimm

            I KNOW. It’s a mystery to me too.

          • Maik Beninton

            PLEBS, ALL OF YOU.

          • More like System of a D’ow, this music sure is annoying.

          • Maik Beninton

            YOU PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND THE MAJESTIC ART THAT IS SYSTEM OF A DOWN.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            It’s not art, it’s gibberish in music form. See my comment about Apex Theory being better above.

          • Maik Beninton

            THAT STUFF IS WEAK BRO HOW CAN YOU CALL IT BETTER.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            I prefer it over SOAD. I don’t like SOAD.

          • I was a youth when they were current and popular. It was everywhere. It was terrible.

            One of my coworkers put “Aerials” on over the office speakers yesterday. It was still terrible.

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            Aerials is a bit weak. Way too tasteful. System of a Down are best at their most obnoxious.

          • Tyreeva Green
          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            I feel like I recognise this but I can’t place it.

          • No Sin City 2 gifs, Tyree. Those are NSFW.

          • Tyreeva Green
      • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

        I’m not a fan of theirs but I don’t hate them.

        • Of course you don’t. You’re JJD.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            I’m not saying I like them either.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Are you saying you’re indifferent to them?

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            More towards the dislike side but that can be said.

          • Well, you got with this one. So, SoaD it’s meh to you?

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            A little more towards the dislike side. There was much better bands at that time but there was much worse to listen to as well.

          • This is.. Uh. Wow!

            I liked them a lot. They were good musicians. I still don’t have faith in this new album, but, still…

            I always thought you liked them because that faux tag of Nu-Merol, bro.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            They’re not nu metal. Neurotica and Taproot are nu metal. These guys and Deftones are not. Unlike Deftones though these guys do not interest me.

          • That’s why I said it’s a faux tag.

            Did you checked SoaD debut album? There are some good tunes there, I think.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            I’ve listened to all their stuff. It left very little of an impression on me. The Apex Theory on the other hand is a much better band who is from the same country as SOAD and has an ex member of SOAD.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kW2KaAgNcN4

          • Well, that’s cool, bro.

            Didn’t knew Andy formed another band, lol.

          • Maik Beninton

            This is like weak SOAD.
            There not much eccentricity here.
            I like it though.

          • Tyreeva Green
          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            Is that Richard Simmons?

          • Looks like Rob Schnider or whatever he calls himself.

          • Tyreeva Green

            A failure.

          • Ted Nü-Djent ™

            Hahahahahahaha, try Rob Schneider

          • Scrimm
          • KJM

            Saw them w/The Mars Volta in 2005, excellent show.

          • Paris Hilton

            SOAD was a bunch of SJWs

          • Now, that I read your previous post… I think I will have less faith with the lyrical content in next album, if they ever make it.

          • Paris Hilton

            I bet they’ll get in some petty spat before it comes out. Either that or Serj is gonna take off to South America to write protest songs against howler monkey mistreatment or some shit.

          • I would prefer they talk about monkeys in cage than talking about current politics, to be honest.

          • Paris Hilton

            I tend to avoid music that’s about either religioun or politics. It’s like being stuck at a party where someone won’t shut the fuck up about either topic, except in music form. Like yeah, no thanks.

          • Lacertilian

            One of my favourite podcasts – The Infinite Monkey Cage
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/timc
            Science + comedy

      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse
        • CyberneticOrganism

          *vomits*

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            Then Stage 1 is accomplished!

    • 90’s kid=Sad adult

      • I blame toxins and glutens.

        • Lacertilian

          Blame the 80’s.
          They were directly responsible for the state of the 90’s

  • The Beargod

    ” who wasn’t foaming at the mouth? Who exclaimed internally or externally, “I want Slaughter of the Soul Part 2“?”

    Raises Hand.

    • JamesGrimm

      eh.

    • The Beargod

      Boy this looks wrong now, lemme edit it a bit.
      Edit:Done

  • YourLogicIsFlushed

    Tool is getting pretty close to hitting that decade mark. Here’s to hoping they put that time to good use, but I’m skeptical.

  • Simon “Djentcrusher” Phoenix

    Even though we are on opposite sides of the law, we are great minds that truly think alike McNulty.

    Tron Legacy was a fun underrated film and a worthy follow up to the original. And no pasty faced nerd will tell me otherwise.

  • The Beargod

    That Jupiter got mainly bad reviews (That I saw) and I kinda kept off it. Convince me otherwise, you try that, boy.

    • Dr. Dubz

      I liked it. This is a sick tune. Better than Colored Sands, it is not. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qedHI3SzRio

    • Huggy Bear OH YEAH

      If you can live without tech-death that’s less about the weedlies and more about classic songwriting that gives decent exposure to chorus-worthy lyrics with more piss and vinegar in them than Eastern Europe, then I guess you could pass. Even then, I think Flynn’s cataclysmic drumming is never to be missed.

    • i wasn’t big in the metal blogosphere five years ago, but i believe you in that regard. i’m also the dude who find himself going against the current 50% of the time.

  • Tyreeva Green

    Took 10 years for Mortuary Drape to write a new album.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK7IYv4AR58

    • Tyreeva Green

      16 years for Autopsy to write again.

  • Maik Beninton

    I think that when bands go to make an album after a long hiatus they try for 1×1, ‘let’s make an album that is as good as our old one’. That’s the case for At the Gates, and it’s good because is an album that introduce new public to their sound. I’ve never heard of At the Gates before At War with Reality, and when I play Death and the Labyrinth it kept on repeat for days.

    • To me: At War with Reality>>>>>>>>>>>>>Slaughter of the Soul.

      • you were the one bro i had in mind when writing the ATG blurb. hope you didn’t take any offense!!

        • Nope. I’m getting used to being bashed on my merol choices, anyway.

    • At The Gates broke up partially because they felt they could never top that album. Sometimes broken up is better.

  • JWG

    I think your ranking statement in italics there is exactly backwards, if I’m reading the article correctly (edit: or is that a joke?):

    “From lowest to highest quality comeback album: Atheist, Gorguts, Carcass, At The Gates” exactly contradicts the way you’ve described last two items in the article. The latter two must, by process of elimination, be on the lower half (though I’m not sure the order matters so much there).

    • That was an editing error on my part. It was originally described in wicked confusing way. Will update.

  • I severely disliked At War with Reality, I loved Colored Sands and Surgical Steel, and I’ve never listened to Jupiter. On an off note, though not a comeback album, Gruesome’s new album sounds like it is a long lost Death album recorded in between Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy. It’s pretty wizard.

    • Dr. Dubz

      At War with Reality bored the hell out of, and I only really like about half of Surgical Steel. Colored Sands is the cat’s pajamas, though.

  • JWG

    It’s not really “metal”, but I’m hoping that I Mother Earth do actually get around to producing an album from their recent reunion (last album was 2003).

    The two teaser singles released over the last three(!) years suggest a slow evolution from their all previous album sounds (especially their most poppy mid-career phase). I for one am looking forward to hearing more.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UBO_kc9XxI

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i3MrHYfCjM

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Not remotely metal, but are there any other Pixies lovers here who failed to even remotely be arsed to listen to their comeback?

    • Big Poppa Penis Pump

      I like ’em, but no Kim Deal, no deal. Seems like a cash grab if anything.

  • You know what would be the best comeback album? Botch!

    • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

      All the yes. This needs to happen.
      Kickstarter?

      • Yes, yes take my money. They said they’d never reform but one former member said recently that he’d be foolish to rule it out.

  • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

    Oh come on, I really liked Carcass and ATG’s comebacks.
    Then again, my old band did kind of butcher those riffs on our first album, but thats by the by.
    Fantastic write-up though, lots of good points.
    Tron: Legacy was good, not as good as the original, but I don’t understand the criticism it got.

  • KJM

    TRON is awesome.

    TRON:Legacy was cool, especially on blu-ray.

    I saw SOAD w/The Mars Volta in 2005, excellent show. Fite me.

    The best rock comeback album in history is Deep Purple’s ‘Perfect Strangers’. FACT.

    • FeelTheDarknesses

      Perfect Strangers. YES!!!

    • i also dig Deep Purple’s “Now What?!”. got any thoughts on that one?

      • KJM

        I don’t even know that one.

    • Lacertilian

      Perfect Strangers still gets spun during my work hours

  • Simon “Djentcrusher” Phoenix

    While they are technically still active, you know who needs to make a new album?

    Repulsion.

    • Tyreeva Green

      That would be insane.

    • Isn’t the lady from Cretin with them?

      • Tyreeva Green

        Yup. Drummer too.

  • I’ve never seen the first one, but I loved TRON Legacy. Even bought the soundtrack! But the 3D effects were absolute garbage. You’d think they’d go big on a movie set in a virtual world, but nope.

    • i can’t agree about the 3D effects. i think they pulled it off pretty well without resorting to the “look it’s something coming at the audience’s face!” effects. i suppose the field of depth could have been bigger?

      • Maybe. It looked to me like they did that cheap conversion to 3D instead of shooting the whole thing with actual 3D cameras.
        It’s been awhile, though.

  • Evan Clutson

    Focus -> Traced in Air is a great example of changing genre after a hiatus and still being awesome. Same with Amebix.

    • shit, that Cynic is a gud example!

      • Big Poppa Penis Pump

        One of the reasons I was in such awe when I saw them live (besides being high off my balls) was the fact I NEVER thought they’d ever put out another CD after all those years.

  • Big Poppa Penis Pump

    Surgical Steel >>>>>>>>>>>> Swansong a billion times over. Swansong was Carcass’s own little Cold Lake, IMHO.

  • Ted Nü-Djent ™

    My thoughts on McNulty’s opinion on Surgical Steel