I might be late in discovering GORATH seeing as they’ve just released their last album but when but now is an interview ever right. FLP (vocals/guitars) answered. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
So why is it that GORATH has come to an end with this new album?
-It’s all about two words: recognition and frustration. As a Belgian band we’ve reached the boundaries of our possibilities. I stress the word “Belgian”, because it’s twice as hard for us to get noticed outside our little shithole. Think of German bands who can build a steady live reputation by doing almost only German shows. Do you want examples? Helrunar, Eïs, Todtgelichter, Farsot, Dark Fortress, Agrypnie,… When we do three shows in Flanders (a Belgian scene does not exist, as the French speaking part and the Dutch speaking part don’t mix) people shout there’s overkill. Also Germans bands, the talk about the same example, are supported way more in their own country. It seems like it’s just a matter of time before hard working German bands get on Party San or Summerbreeze. The biggest Belgian metalfest (that’s Graspop) pisses on the native scene. We have to face the fact we can’t do better under the same circumstances. I’ve put so much efforts into this band yet got back so little response. If we want to break the curse there’s only one option: do tours. But then again we have to decline, because of our jobs touring is impossible. Sure we had many great times and played on great bills in England, Ireland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland,… We played several times with Mayhem and shared the stage with well known bands such as Watain, Shining, Taake, Immortal, Satyricon, Dark Funeral, respected underground acts like Secrets of the Moon, Glorior Belli, Code, Darkspace and many more. This plus six albums; we can be proud of our legacy. Now it’s the time we either move on and take back some gas or simply quit. There’s no other option. I rather choose to stop on our best moment, instead of slowly fading away into oblivion.
When you know that there will be no continuance how do you promote the album the best possible way?
-There are plenty bands that never play live, so what’s the difference? “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” is our 6th album and it happens to be our last one. We’ve got one more show listed, but our legacy will still be very much alive, even for many years to come. Somewhere during the next months there’s also a vinyl release set for our previous album “Apokálypsis”. At this moment we’re still active, meaning a full focus and 100% dedication.
What has the journey been like up till this final album? Did it turn out the way you had intended?
-In my head I already made the decision to pull the plug. But the story would be unfinished without “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos”, even though it’s a different album. “Apokálypsis” is all about John’s Revelations. The bible is far from clear and there’s much room for a different interpretation. What if salvation doesn’t come through God, but through the opposite? What if the Holy Son is the Antichrist instead? It’s quite obvious the world is walking the path towards destruction. Our close friend Jurgen from Theudho worked out this concept and put a lot of efforts into symbolism and many details. Everyone who likes challenging lyrics should check out our writings. Well, “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” is about chiliasm, the millennium of light after the Apocalypse. Again Jurgen changed the point of view and created thousand years of darkness instead, where all mass religions will be destroyed to find deliverance. This topic ends up in total annihilation of our planet, something I truly believe will happen, but through our own hands and own mistakes. After all, humanity is the cancer of the world. This gloomy storyline needed the most soul haunting music possible. The slow droning atmosphere of “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” fits this perfectly; the perfect soundtrack for the end of the world.
If you place your albums in a row does it feel like they’ve been a cohesive progression?
-Both “Elite” and “The fourth Era” were quite straight forward, modern and groovy. You can list those albums next to releases from Moonfog. Think of Thorns, Discipline and Satyricon. “Misotheism” is the first album with real drums and faster than its previous releases, but still groovy. Next one is “MXCII”, which is slower, more dissonant and it introduces a few sludge elements. On “Apokálypsis” the pace got boosted up again and more sludge and ambient parts were integrated in the sound. “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” takes it a few steps further, reducing black metal to the minimum. It is more like a sludge/doom release than everything else we did before. It’s quite a big difference from its predecessors. Most black metal people look troubled when hearing the album for the first time, which in fact is our most heavy and most dark effort ever. Apart from the last album our discography is quite logically structured.
When you play black metal it doesn’t seem like you are after the admiration of your peers but what kind of reactions have you had to your music within the black metal scene?
-First of all we want to please ourselves. Many bands say that’s the only reason they make music, but if that’s truly the case they shouldn’t release it, right? It feels pleasant when others catch the same vibe when listening to our crafts. Our previous albums got unanimously positive feedback. However “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” got kind of mixed reactions. Some do not understand the repetitive droning atmosphere, far away from the blastbeats (of the past). Others do understand the same repetitive droning atmosphere, full of Apocalyptic soundscapes and devastating heaviness, like a tsunami swallowing the light.
What is black metal to you? How would you like to define it and how does Gorath fit into it?
-Black metal is just a musical genre. I don’t feel the need to express myself wearing spikes, boots and leather. Imagine this: a punk and a nice man in a suit are standing next to each other. Society would judge quite easily and mark the punk as scum. But nobody knows the man in the suit could be a fascist neo Nazi. So don’t tell me you express yourself more by looking like a mean black metalhead, unless you escape from reality. You will be judged and caged even more. That’s a fact, whether you like it or not. I’ve been into extreme music before everything was pressed on silver discs and I traded tapes all over the globe back then. On an early age I started out with AC/DC and moved on to extreme bands such as Blasphemy, Deicide and Dismember. Venom played black metal, which actually was nothing more than some shock rock. When trendy bands such as Darkthrone and Immortal changed from death metal to black metal a new wave of (black) metal was born. Today we refer to those bands as so called real black metal, however Darkthrone turned into punk and Immortal is a big joke nowadays. Venom started seriously and later they admit it only was to shock people. Also Immortal started seriously and now we all laugh when Abbath does his crab walk. The new elite of real black metal is very serious at this moment, but in a few years Watain, Nëhemah or Svartidauði, just to name a few, probably say it was a gimmick as well. Black metal has always been about the attitude and fakeness. For me black metal is extreme music about religious themes. And personally I don’t care about the rules. I like to listen to black metal, post-rock, drone, ambient and right now your crusty countrymen of Wolfbrigade are playing. To hell with those rules! Yet I do care about integrity. Blake from Battlekommand Records once sold me a hole pinched Nachtmystium album. Can’t stand such behaviour, so I sold all my Nachtmystium stuff. I believe you should musically do what you believe in, without caring what others might think. I don’t support bands who think they should paint themselves because they play black metal. I don’t support bands who like to claim they are Satanists, but simply aren’t. Gorath was never liked by the true underground. In fact our first album “Elite” was a fuck off to the black metal elite. But I can honestly say we know what we sing about and never put on a mask. As I said, integrity is really important for me and thus also for Gorath.
Have you ever felt like there has been a point when the band has transcended the boundaries of what is black metal and taken on the role of something bigger?
-I wouldn’t call it something bigger, but we surely surpassed the limitations of black metal. Gorath always mixed traditional Scandinavian black metal with avant-garde parts, without sounding too different and too weird. For black metal standards we are a rather technical band. On “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” we stepped away some steps from black metal, apart from my vocals and the lyrical theme. I dare to say we created something quite unique in this saturated scene.
Has it even gone so far as to you feeling like you operate in totally uncharted territories?
-Oh, we played in front of 10 people and commercially seen Gorath never was successful, compared to many other bands. When you play a genre that’s not appreciated by the masses, you know it’s not always a full house party. We do this because it runs through our veins, not because of the financial aspect. We always play like it will be our last show and give us for 300%, regardless the amount of people present.
What do you think about bands like Deathspell Omega, Ofermod and Funeral Mist that seem to operate in a realm all their own?
-I’m a keen admirer of DsO and their whole concept. Musically more and more post-rock sips into their art. Honestly I must say “Drought” was a big disappointment and their strongest albums are “Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice” and “Paracletus”. Ofermod seem to be respectless idiots, thus our friends of Alkerdeel who joined them on stage somewhere in The Netherlands. When you borrow expensive amps you don’t ruin them! Anyway, Gorath has been compared a lot with these orthodox black metal bands and I always made it straight clear we are not a part of that scene. Yes, I’m interested in Gnosticism and the occult, but Gorath always presented their lyrics in a way they give more information about those subjects. The bands you talk about praise Lucifer and truly believe in Satan. At least that’s the impression they give. We are a honest band and don’t need such an attitude. We follow the way of our heart. What you see is what you get. No corpse paint, no blood, no hollow quotes nor empty lyrics. We don’t believe in imaginary friends such as God, but we simply don’t praise the opposite because it’s an unwritten law.
What will there be in the future for you guys?
-Death. But before going straight to hell we will focus on our other bands. Bass player Raf pulls the strings in Torturerama, an old school Swedish sounding death metal band. The do live shows in Belgium and The Netherlands. Drummer Heyde will continue blasting beats in Storm Upon The Masses. If you like crap like Krisiun, you will like this as well. I don’t know what the future will bring for guitarist Bart. He’s a gifted musician, able to play the guitar, the piano and the trumpet. I know he likes stuff such as the recent Katatonia, Enslaved and avant-garde stuff like Virus. So he might search something alike in the future. I’ve got another (pure) black metal band running which has released its debut on a German label. Vinyl is scheduled for this year. We like to keep low-profile and don’t link the band with Gorath. That’s all I want to tell about it. There’s also Hemelbestormer, raised to continue where Gorath ended, but we take it a few steps further. There’s way more sludge, drone, ambient, post-rock and doom in our music. I can’t really compare it to something else. Our debut will be out on ConSouling Sounds this year. Remember the name! It won’t be the last time you’ll hear about it!