Patrick Robert says Obscura was supposed to be slower
Agoraphobic News recently published an interview with legendary death metal drummer Patrick Robert, the deranged cephalopod-behind-the-kit responsible for at least a good helping of the insanity that is Gorguts’s Obscura. Although that interview is chock-full of interesting tidbits, one of the responses that stood out regards the tempo of Obscura. According to Robert, the album was supposed to be slower!
Here’s what Robert had to say in response to a question from the venerable webzine.
Agoraphobic News: It’s pretty interesting to note that Obscura was finished in Fall of 1994. You stepped into the shoes of Steve MacDonald on the drums. Did you change the majority of the drumming patterns by adding your own touch or did it stay the same as Steve MacDonald intended?
Patrick Robert: It’s not 100% the same. I had a pre-prod with some of the tunes and a shitty rehearsal tape with the rest. I had to decipher it.
So there are some differences in what I do. For example, in Rapturous Grief, I think around the 3:15 mark (I checked to make sure), I play this double-strokes pattern between the ride and snare with the double-bass going on under. The original from Steve was the same blast beat throughout the section.
In the 1st riff of Obscura, most of the crash cymbals are actually right-hand chokes. You don’t hear it much but that’s what I was doing. They are a lot more like tom patterns that follow the guitars like in The Art of Sombre Ecstasy.
Just watch any live from Gorguts with Steve and you’ll see the differences. I mainly embellished them.
I also played the tunes faster. I though they were the right tempo but when I met Steve M after I was out of the band, he said they were faster so he had to speed them up! I was like what??? I though they were the right tempo. That’s when I figured out that the rehearsal tape was playing faster in my tape machine. Lol!
That’s nuts! I’ve always envisioned Obscura as being this meticulous work of craftsmanship that was decades ahead of its time, but that’s not entirely accurate. There’s definitely a degree of shoddiness to its composition, and Robert’s own errors in the drumming no doubt lent themselves to the unhinged feeling of the record.
And yet, this news by no means dampens the impact of the album; in fact, it humanizes it as a work of eager young musicians willing to try something different. As Adam Kalmbach noted in our recent interview with him, failure is an intrinsic part of art. This intricacy Robert accidentally introduced into the music may have been an error, but it certainly added to the inhuman feel of the album and helps Obscura to sound so fresh and relevant today, almost 20 years later.
So how would a slower Obscura sound? Quite a bit more sinister, but perhaps less deranged, it turns out. We may never hear the songs as originally intended, but thanks to the magic of Youtube, you can dial down the speed to 0.75 or 0.5 on the embedded version of the album below and find out for yourself. The slower pace certainly adds a lot of menace but reduces the manic nature of the compositions. I think my favorite part is the odd break halfway through “Nostaliga.” Slowed down, it sounds downright funky.
What do you think? Are you glad with the way the record turned out? What other famous errors have made albums even more memorable? Sound off below.
Thanks again to Agoraphobic News for the rad interview.
(h/t Doug Moore of Pyrrhon for bringing this my attention)