Defacing God Brings A New Twist To Darkness (Interview)
Denmark’s Defacing God isn’t your typical female-fronted symphonic metal band. By combining elements of early ’90s Swedish/Scandinavian melodic death metal influences with their love of black metal, cinematic soundtracks and classical orchestration, along with elements of occultism and witchcraft, the band has embarked on a special sound injected with their own personality.
Denmark possesses a unique music scene with varied genres in rock and metal, and Defacing God has been well-received in the Danish metal community with the release of its debut full-length album The Resurrection Of Lilith. Formed in 2015 by frontwoman Sandie “The Lilith” Gjørtz and drummer Michael Olsson — who relinquished his vocal position in other bands to take over the drums — the band went all out in creating its sound. Joining Gjørtz and Olsson are lead guitarist Signar Petersen, rhythm guitarist Christian Snapholt Nielsen, and bassist Rasmus “Kalke” Nielsen, with orchestration by Lars Vinther. Born and raised in Denmark, but currently living in the Netherlands, Ms. Gjørtz spoke with us about the formation of the band, the new album, her lyrical inspirations and more.
What's the current metal scene in Denmark and how has the band been received locally?
I feel like we have been received pretty well because several of my band members have been known faces in the Danish metal community for many years. Especially my lead guitarist, he is well known from his previous work in the band Mercenary, especially on their album Everblack, and his guitar skills have always been very appreciated. And my drummer is well known also, actually he’s the previous frontman from bands like Blood Eagle, HateSphere and also his own band Caro. But he decided to toss his singing career aside to go full time on the drums instead, which I'm really happy about.
What were you and drummer Michael Olsson out to achieve when starting this band?
I have always been a singer and I always wanted to do something about it. Me and Michael, we pretty much have the same taste when it comes to music and pretty much the same visions. And because of their past experiences with music, we decided to make this (band) together. But we wanted to actually reach something with it, we didn't want to just be one of these other local bands who play a few shows here and there. We really yearn for this, so we really want to get out there and meet people around the globe and spread our music across the world. So that is one of the reasons why this whole album process took so very long, because we wanted everything to be a certain quality before we wanted to put anything out. That was our vision back then. Michael and I, we have known each other for almost a decade; I trust him very much. He's a very good friend of mine. So, I couldn't see anyone else I should have this journey with.
There seems to be a nice buzz on the band at the moment. That must mean you’re doing something right.
Yeah, I think so. I feel very grateful for this opportunity, because there's a lot of bands out there and it's really not everyone who gets this opportunity. So I try to remind myself every day that I really have to be grateful, because this is a thing that you have to be grateful for nowadays, because there are so many events out there. It feels amazing, I always dreamt about this. This is a childhood dream of mine and now I see it unfold in front of my eyes. Even though we achieved a lot in this period of time, we’re still just in the beginning. So, I can't wait to see what the future brings when it comes to this.
The album cover is incredible. Who is the artist, what direction did you give them and how does the art/lyrics/concept all tie together?
We work with Peter Sallai on this artwork, and he is from Mortpaintgraphics. It was Napalm Records who recommended him to me. I checked out some of his previous work and I was just amazed. He's just a really good artist, I really love his style. So I reached out to him, and we talked about the theme, and all what I'm inspired by and he started to think. And then he came up with this idea, as you can see as the cover art looks. He really managed to take the whole theme of the album and press it down to just one picture, because it really covers what this album is about. You see this woman held down by society, and she is kind of trapped and out of her chest. You see this hand coming out, and that is supposed to be her inner Lilith that breaks free from her change. And now she is ready to resurrect and put her old self behind her. So, I really think he illustrated this whole album amazingly in this cover art. I'm really satisfied.
Lyrically, I think your storytelling is just so incredible. The images that get conjured in my head are very vivid.
The whole album is based on witchcraft, the occult, and darkness. Especially the darkness that thrives within ourselves as humans. But most of my stories are very much based on the witch hunt in Europe, from ancient days. That is also why I use Lilith as the face of this album because I wanted to pick her, also as my stage persona. Because Lilith… I don't see who else should be the person who speaks up for all these women who were cremated at the stake back in the days and that is especially what all the songs revolve around. Even though it happened in the past, you can still draw parallels from this ancient time to the present time and present society, because many of these oppressions among women are still seen in many places around this world. Where we come from, maybe it's a little bit different, but there are still places here in the world where women are still not allowed to dress as they want. They are not allowed to get an education and in some places they're even not allowed to drive a fucking car. It is just a big part of a lot of different kinds of interests of mine, especially rooted in witchcraft and the occult.
How much research goes into crafting your lyrics? How much fun is that?
It can be very fun if I reach a certain workflow. But I'm a very chaotic person, so sometimes it can also be a pain in the ass. But it is only a pain in the ass when you reach a point where you have to reach a deadline. Because as a writer, it is sometimes not possible to get your brain working if you are under pressure and have to reach a certain deadline. And mostly when it comes to writing stories, the best stories come out from when they just pop up all of a sudden impulsively. Sometimes when I'm driving in my car, sometimes if I get an idea, I have to hold it aside and then type it down immediately or else I forget it. Many of the stories I write, there's parts that are just purely from my imagination, but I also try to use a lot of real history and connect these two things. But to connect all the loose ends, it really takes a lot of time to finish a lyric like this. But to connect all the loose ends, it really takes a lot of time reading history books, and I'm searching a lot around on the Internet. I love to search for ancient history, and then try to put it together with a story that I made up in my own imagination. It's very difficult to say how long it takes, because sometimes I can write a story within a few days, and other times it would take me months, because you get this writer's block. But I like the process of it. I spend most of my life on writing, because it's actually the only time during the day where I can switch off my brain and be focused, so it's also a form of therapy.
With so many great styles and genres at play within your music, at what point of the band’s formation did you know that this musical combination would work?
The reason why we sound the way we do is because we are five people in the band and we all are different kinds of people. We have different styles, we have different tastes, and we are inspired by different things. Mainly, we play melodic death metal, because that is what my lead guitarist has always been inspired from. But I like to put a lot of my own influence on it, and I'm a little bit more into the darker music like black metal for example. So that is why we try to experiment so much with different kinds of styles. And we wanted to experiment with this whole symphonic part because as a writer, when I write a story, I really try to visualize it. I like when I read a story that I can really see the pictures in my head. That is why I feel the symphonic parts fit so well to it because it just made the whole thing much more cinematic. It puts up a whole other atmosphere.
If you watch a movie, it's not the same without the soundtrack, because the soundtracks are the thing that sets the mood and sets the feelings. The music, the guitars and the drums can also do that by itself, but I just like to add this other dimension so that the listener gets a little bit more challenged, especially for the music nerds. They can dig into it and pay attention to all the different kinds of layers. Because this melodic death metal has been played so many times through the years, I wanted to not come up with something new but I wanted to play the genre and add my own personal and unique touch to it. Because the symphonic parts are more likely seen in modern black metal, it is not so often seen in the melodic death metal scene. So that is why I wanted to experiment. Because that is the fun when it comes to being creative, that you can experiment with whatever you want, that you have complete artistic freedom. And that is what makes it interesting.
With some bands, it just sounds like they add orchestral parts offhand. But it seems like Defacing God actually composes these elements from the start. Do you compose these orchestral parts with that in mind?
Yeah, we definitely compose the songs with that in mind. We try to make space for the symphonic parts as well. When it comes to music, where you use the symphonic parts, it's really a fine line between making it too much or too less. Some bands out there, I think they tend to use a little bit too much of the symphonic (elements), then the guitars will totally be drowning in the whole wall of sound. So I think it's really a (challenge) to try to balance it that way, so that there's a lot of space for the guitarist. But you can also very clearly hear the symphonic parts, and I really think we managed with this album. We still have the groove, but there's still a lot going on here on the symphonic part. And that is really a hard thing to reach, because you can very easily come to the point where you overdo it. But we always have in mind when we make a track. We have to make some space for the symphonic parts so that you can rip things apart and hear everything very clearly.
The orchestration parts were composed by Lars Vinther. Was he brought in from the very beginning? How did that collaboration come about?
In the beginning of Defacing God, we didn't use the symphonic parts the way we use them nowadays. Back in the days, we wanted to create extra layers of sound that we made ourselves from scratch. I cannot count how many times me and my drummer have been standing in our own studio cracking branches and making weird sounds; from a drilling machine or whatever. Because we wanted this extra layer. But we just came to the conclusion that we have to focus on our own. I focus on the vocals and the choirs and writing mainly, and then my drummer, he of course focuses on the drums. And then later on, we really wanted to put this extra layer of sound in our music. And Lars is a very good friend of the band; our lead guitarist Signar has even played in a band with him many years ago. So he knows him. We trust him very much, because he's really good at what he's doing. So that is why we reached out to him. He's not a permanent member of the band, but I see him as a form of session musician, because he will always be the one that we will return to. He really gets our style, and he likes it as well. So he puts a lot of effort in it to build it up like it's built up. Lars came in later on, but I do not regret that choice. He's really a great guy and he's really an amazing artist as well.
It seems like all the members have a great relationship. What’s the camaraderie and the musical chemistry like between the band?
Since we are all very good friends in the band, I feel like they are my brothers. So it works like that in the band that everyone has a saying, but we also know each of our roles in the band. So there is nothing difficult. Of course, we cannot always agree on things, but I think we always manage to find a middle (ground) somehow. My guitarists are very different in style, but it is mostly my lead guitarist, he comes up with something and then our rhythm guitarist, he's really good at adding details. So the whole thing just clicks somehow. I was just really lucky in finding the right people to work with.
Signing to Napalm Records was a great achievement, how have they been supporting you so far in such a short period of time?
They have been amazing since day one. In the beginning, it took a little bit time to get this collaboration going, but that was for obvious reasons; that was because of the pandemic. It absolutely did not make any sense to send out an album in the middle of a pandemic when we couldn't support it with shows. Ever since, they have really shown such professionalism. They're really professional in what they're doing and they always want to go that extra mile for their bands. That is at least my experience with them. They're always available and they are just very easy to work with, because we are on mutual ground when it comes to our theme and our style. It has really been a great experience to work together with them and I do not regret that we chose (them).
The album was produced by Jacob Hansen (Fleshgod Apocalypse, Volbeat, Evergrey, Epica and countless others). What was the collaboration like in the studio and how did the recording process go?
The recording process went very well because Jacob, he's a good friend of ours. And also he really knows what he's doing. He is one of the best out there to produce this massive sound that Defacing God actually evolves around. The reason that we chose specifically Jacob is because he really managed to make everything very clear, but still bombastic somehow. Because often, I see or have seen through the years that when bands work with this extra element, as the symphonic element is, then it's often hard to make all the sounds on the album clear. Mostly, the guitar is drowned (out) in symphonics or the other way around. But I really trusted Jacob in this because I have listened to a lot of his previous work with other bands, and he just always managed to make everything very clear, and everything very massive. And that just fits our style very well. So, that's why we chose to work with him. And it's definitely not the last time I will work with him. He’s just an easygoing guy, very down to earth.
Are there any touring plans in the works? Have you been able to play live much since your formation?
Before the pandemic we had a good thing going on. We were really on the road and we had so many shows planned. But then came the pandemic and everything had to be canceled. So, we were a little bit back to square one there and we didn't know what the future would look like. But right now, because the album drops this Friday (Sept. 2), we are in the middle of planning the whole touring schedule. Unfortunately, it hasn't been possible to plan a tour right after the album dropped, because it's post-pandemic and all the bands out there wanted to get out and play. Especially in many of the bigger bands, they already took all the tour spots. But we are working on it for the beginning of next year. We have a Denmark tour in the beginning of next year, and then hopefully after that, we will manage to put a European tour together.
In closing Sandie, I've just been impressed with the band and the album. What do you hope to achieve or accomplish going forward?
There could be many different kinds of answers to that question, but my ultimate goal is really just to get out there and spread my music across the world. Because I feel with every inch of my soul that this is what I was made for. I cannot see myself doing anything else. Everything else that I'm doing work wise is just temporary, because this is really what I want. I always love to travel, I love to meet new people, new cultures. Because that's the way you learn things about yourself as well. You learn that in the meeting with other people. So I hope that in 10 years from now, or maybe even five years from now, we're traveling around the whole world to spread our music. Because that is the ultimate goal with this, and I think it is the ultimate goal for most musicians out there.
The Resurrection Of Lilith released on September 2nd via Napalm Records.