Longtime fans of the Arsies will notes that EPs of sufficient length are not necessarily ruled out of consideration, and in years past we've had more than one shorter release punch above their weight (BTBAM's 2011 EP made it all the way to the Quarterfinals)!
And so we find Gorguts, the technodeath band whose predominant power move is to exhaust the eardrums, challenging Fates Warning (a band known for epicly long songs) with a single track... 33 minutes in length, seven conjoined movements. (If you're listening along, get comfy.) Pleiades' Dust delivers more of Gorguts' inimitable and inimical aural corruption, for good and for ill; I don't think anyone can accuse this band of being overproduced, and this EP is as much a challenge to you as it is to any other band. But it is a clear attempt by Gorguts to be a refinement of all they've done before, and in this effort it succeeds. It's as exotic and unusual as its subject matter (the rise and fall of an intellectual Mecca of the Islamic Golden Age), and yet manages to sound as fresh as it is harrowing.
That's not to say that Theories Of Flight, Fates Warning's twelfth studio album, is unworthy. Truth be told, it's probably the most accessible album of their career... which is not to say it's watered down or unprogressive. Rather, their sound has grown to encompass elements of genres that had to have been influenced in no small part by early-90s prog (I can literally hear the partially-digested Porcupine Tree in SOS). The band's trademark time signature ridiculousness still exists, so they've got that going for them as well. But, for every nod to power metal or radio friendliness that Fates works into their sound, Gorguts has a move in the opposite direction: nastier guitar solos, grosser work from the rhythm section, and lyrics about siege and destruction instead of wistful alienation. Believe it or not, Gorguts stomps down Fates Warning today with a more damning piece of modern prog metal. I did not see that coming. Let's see how they do against Norma Jean in a few weeks.
And hey, whaddya know: we're halfway through the First Round! Join us tomorrow as we start the second half, with Ihsahn and Magrudergrind.