Interview by Kyle Harcott.
Belgian black metal/sludge outfit Gorath have called it a day after the release of their most ambitious album yet, entitled “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos”. A rather curious decision it may seem, however, Gorath’s front man Filip Dupont heartily disagrees. What follows is a disheartening story about a hard working band in a world where having the right connections is more important than raw talent.
Why did you feel the time was right for Gorath to call it a day?
I’m sick of all the hustle that comes with doing a band like Gorath. After all those years, six albums of almost unanimous positive feedback and international approved shows there’s still lack of recognition. Every time we have to face up to ridiculous bookers, labels, promoters, etc. Sure, I want to keep on going against the flow, but I’m tired of it. Gorath will always be that small Belgian band, unwanted by foreign festivals (because we’re not German, French, Scandinavian or whatever) and also unwanted by Belgian festivals (indeed, for the same reason). In Flanders you can do three shows a year and already create overkill. Bands from bigger countries can boost up their reputation by solely doing shows in their homeland. Our music is quite appreciated; we just need to build up our reputation through intensively touring, and that’s not possible due to my job. We, like most Flemish folks, aren’t very adventurous people, so we stick to our old secure habits. Keeping this in mind there are two options. One: we can go on, take back some gas to relax and continue the band on low-profile. Two: we can pull the plug when we’re at our best, leaving the scene with a blast instead of slowly fading away into oblivion. I guess it’s clear which option we chose.
Are you pleased with outcome of ‘The Chronicles of Khiliasmos’ compared to your previous five albums?
Personally, I like the album a lot. For me it was clear there wouldn’t be another “MXCII” or “Apokálypsis”. There were a few extremely fast songs written after the previous record, but it just didn’t feel right, compared with the other heavy and more ambient songs I am into. I threw them away and made an album that I wanted to make. The reactions are very mixed. Black metal purists vomit at the sludgy and droning riffs incarnated on “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos”, but this album has got more balls than all our previous full lengths put together. It’s really low and slow and my voice never sounded this dirty. Too bad for those who aren’t pleased; you can’t make everyone smile, can you? On our debut “Elite” I kind of mocked the true black metal scene and their unwritten rules. We never fit the standard description of a black metal band, even though our lyrical content is way more interesting and occult than 99% of those purists. Gorath followed the way of the heart, and always told a true story. No, we didn’t use corpse paint and nor did we shout hollow quotes to get attention. What you see is what you get.
Was it planned as a finale from the start?
Yes. Years ago I told the rest of the band I would quit after six albums, coincidence? I don’t know, but in addition with the stuff I have said previously, the time was right to call its quits. Everything to say was said. On ‘”The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” I really did what I wanted to do, regardless of what might be said afterwards. Gorath started as a one-man-band, and more or less finished as being my last work, not interfered with by the other members.
Did it turn out the proper finale you wanted to make?
Musically: yes, soundwise: partly. I recorded the stringed instruments and vocals at my home studio, Reinier Schenk (Saille) took care of the drum recordings and the mixing process. In the end Greg Chandler (Esoteric) made the album sound like it was December 21st already. The sludge parts sound excellent, but the kicks are a bit too loud and too heavy. No big deal, every time there’s something which could have been done better. Screw it, you can’t change the things you’ve done, just learn from them.
You write all of Gorath’s music, at what point do you share the songs with your band?
Gorath evolved from a one-man-band to a band with live members to a “real” band with a fully involved line up. The way of writing music stayed the same. On “MXCII” and “Apokálypsis” the guitarist Bart showed me some A-class riffs which I used in the songs. However, the first time he heard ‘The Chronicles of Khiliamos’ the final mix was already done. Usually I write almost all songs, drum patterns included, and pass them on to the members. The other members come to my place and play their parts while I do the engineering. When they’re all gone, I take care of the vocal department. In the meantime, the drummer Heyde rehearses the new album at home and then he hits the external studio. As a foursome, we only rehearse the songs we do live. Quite unorthodox, I know, but it works fine.
What will you all do now that Gorath is no more?
Learn from our mistakes and do it better! The bass player Raf plays in an old school death metal band, called Torturerama, they often hit the stage in Belgium and the Netherlands. Heyde keeps on playing hyperblasts in his death metal squad Storm upon the Masses, a rather low-profile band. Just like Bart, I guess he’s into more open minded stuff with progressive and avant-garde parts. Bart’s also deeply rooted in the classical music scene. He already showed me some really extreme classical music made some ages ago. Forget about Vivaldi, there’s so much more! I’ve got another black metal band which isn’t linked to Gorath. I want to keep it that way; we stay low-profile. Our debut has been released this year and vinyl is up for next year. There’s also Hemelbestormer, a sludge/doom/drone/ambient/post band which can be seen as the logical follow up for “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos”, but without vocals. I dare to say it’s pretty original. Remember the uncommon name, you will hear about it again in the not so distant future!
The video for ‘Khiliasmos II’ is incredibly unsettling, with some fascinating and disturbing dark-cinematic (almost Lynchian), nightmarish visuals. Whose concept was the video, and did you have a large hand in the art direction for the video?
“The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” deals with salvation which comes through the destruction of mass religion instead of embracing it, just like on “Apokálypsis” we inverted the storyline about the Apocalypse and each song of the new album describes the loss of a world religion through the fall of their symbolic city (Jerusalem, Rome and Mecca). In the clip we chose to make it more personal and showed a guy possessed by religion. The only way to face his demons was to erase his divine way of thinking. Kevin (Hemelbestormer) made this video by himself. We both talked about the concept and his creative mind made it like this. He immediately knew how to set up the right atmosphere, so we didn’t have to interfere.
Was it a conscious decision to make ‘The Chronicles of Khiliasmos’ more hypnotic than past records, or did the songs just turn out that way?
On every album there are slower and more entrancing songs. Some years ago there was a possible split album release with The American Wolfe. In the end it didn’t happen, but I kept the biggest part of the song and it ended up as ‘Khiliasmos III’. Also ‘Khiliasmos I’ was almost fully finished from my previous, already split up sludge band. Some accents were changed and the song is now on the new album. I knew “The Chronicles of Khiliasmos” would be a slow and hypnotic monster. I feel more connected to this kind of music.
What are the highest and lowest points of Gorath’s 15-year run?
The lowest points are related to the stuff that lead to the split: annoying promoters, lying bookers, hypocrite labels, the usual business. I would rather remember the highest points. What is most important are the good times we had together. Some shows stay special, such as our ‘MXCII’ release show some years ago. It was winter, cold and a full moon was shining; we rented a power generator and set up everything in an old small cemetery located in a wood. We played in front of a huge cross and the atmosphere was just perfect. I would never relate good times to commercial success. There are many bands who are almost upset when a large crowd is not present, but we always performed like there was no tomorrow.
What are the final shows you have planned before the end of Gorath?
We just finished a series of shows in Germany, France and The Netherlands. All of them were more than just enjoyable and some of the best we ever played. Now there’s just one left, next year in April. Gorath will be doing a farewell show for our friends in Limburg (Belgium). We will play a 2 hour set with special guest appearances and some stuff we never played live before. That’s the only show left before Gorath vanishes!