Gomorrah Perfects its Death Metal Savagery on New Self-Titled Release
If old-school death metal has been leaving a little rust behind, or if tech-death has been over-noodling your mind, or if deathcore just completely deactivates your mind, or if everything in life has just felt limp and lifeless regardless, then maybe we have something just for you. Canadian devastators Jeff Bryan (lyrics, vocals) and Bowen Matheson (guitars) have concocted a distinctly potent formula under the Gomorrah moniker, teaming up with Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, ex-Necrophagist) no less, to reinvigorate all death metal-seeking minds alike. The collaborative culmination comes as the project's self-titled sophomore album, a pithily punchy array of eight songs which either grind, slam, chug, riff, or otherwise blast their way through everything that makes modern death metal such an appealing (and extreme) artform. Check out an exclusive full stream of Gomorrah below before its Friday release.
Gomorrah hyper-modernized its death metal approach with unbridled density, short-form song formats, sensational speed, and groovy aggression -- all of this flourishes, too, under Grossmann's delicately savage production, almost as if he diamond-faceted it. While this concoction could have resulted in sterile technicality and excessive mechanization (especially within the guitar/drum interplay), Gomorrah's ingenuity lies not in its cyborg complexity but in the humanizingly sheer power it wields. And how the band applies that power shifts excitingly: either shredding off into space on a wave of dizzying drum blasts, or by forcibly synchronizing every atom within earshot to syncopated bouts deftly heavy guitar chugging, or by tearing your innards to shreds with Bryan's hellish bark. Sometimes these things happen all at once -- signifying one of Gomorrah's many denouements -- yet all musical inputs remain precision-balanced both production- and songwriting-wise.
It's refreshing to hear death metal so certifiably extreme yet so entirely digestible. This boils down to superb musicianship, for sure, but also creative insight into the genre's bleeding edge: how to resonate with tried-and-true death metal tropes, retaining cohesion, but also how to break the mold without destroying its contents. Gomorrah seeks not only to experiment but to execute; doing both simultaneously takes gusto. And while the process was surely not effortless (check out our interview with Bryan and Matheson below to hear more about what went into Gomorrah), the end product sure turned out to be.
What story does Gomorrah (the band) tell? Also, what story does Gomorrah (the album) tell? How do they intertwine?
Each and all of our stories as music writers and listeners are personal ones, and in respect of interpretation we hope that our listeners can find ways to interpret and relate to our music in their own individual capacity. We do not intend to impose on the listeners connection by explicitly expressing what these songs mean to us as we feel this may hinder the impression the listener may have in developing their own connection to our music. We hope our supporters take the time to read the lyrics, hear the music, feel the soundscapes, and that an artistic mention may emerge from this album to themselves.
How was it like working with Hannes Grossmann? Did he help you achieve a desired sound, and/or did it grow organically through close creative partnership?
Working with Hannes was an excellent experience. Both Jeff and I have been long-time fans of his work, and finding his availability to not only perform session drums but to engineer and record himself, as well as offer mixing and mastering, we found a very ideal all-in-one for handling this album production. The songwriting process would begin with me [Bowen] making a rough sketch for an idea of a song -- sometimes only a few parts. I would send it to Jeff and see if he was into the ideas -- some were thrown out, but the majority of the time he gave me direction of where to take things, or was onboard entirely with the song ideas. I would program drums to the tracks and send them to Hannes merely as outlines and to give some rhythmic context to the guitar parts to illustrate what I had in mind. Hannes was then completely free to write his own drum parts to the songs, which he would then send back to me. Hannes did such an outstanding job he truly deserves the drum writing credits for the record. Finally, Jeff would record his vocals over the final mixes. Some lyrics were written in the pre-production phase while a number were performed in an improvised fashion during recording. There are numerous takes across the entire album where what you are hearing is entire stanzas and lyrics recorded in one take, on Jeff’s first take.
How intensive was the mixing/mastering process on Gomorrah?
The production was done long-distance through hundreds of e-mails, messages, Skype calls, and file transfers, but Hannes was very accomodating to our drawn-out process and was very patient. When musicians speak to each other a lot of the time it is like speaking another language, and we were successful in translating our intentions to Hannes. The mixing and mastering process was a sculpting process but Hannes took a great deal of time developing the creative side of the mix. He took inspiration for sounds from his own experiences touring Canada, and we went on a real journey through the mixing process. Once we dialed things in we kept that momentum going while mixing the rest of the album. Hannes workflow has a very high attention to detail and it was very engaging to learn about some of the intricate engineering methods he knows and shared with us along the way. As this process was drawn out over almost two years it was an incredibly intensive and rewarding process.
Did you two learn any new techniques or skills over the last three years since 2016’s The Haruspex?
In the three years since The Haruspex was released there was significant differences between the two albums. The Haruspex was a conglomeration of ten songs rewritten from material created over seven years leading into that release, whereas this new record was written in a focused format over 16 months. The focus was to attain a more cohesive album with greater emphasis on motifs, atmosphere, and depth -- so guitar one and guitar two parts were written across this entire album rather than just one rhythm part written with some solos/leads over top of certain sections. I entered the writing of this album completely alone, and wrote the album by means of restriction to inhibit creativity. There are no pinch harmonics, only one riff with tremolo picking, only one whammy dive, only three major/minor sweep arpeggios, and does not rely heavily on eighth-note down-picking. Those are immense staples in death metal guitar parts, and honestly they are used as crutches in this genre. Leaving them behind allowed me to learn to walk instead, and I focused on harmony, nuance, flow, and progressive music guitar influences. This is a death metal album that has melodies which will stick in the listeners head after just one listen.
All of the drum parts are real drum performances, written by Hannes, not programmed drums as we did on The Haruspex. Jeff’s vocal work focused on his strengths rather than his entire vocal range, and I wrote and recorded the entire album with just one guitar and one bass. We went for a much more natural guitar tone, relying on amp distortion rather than pedals, all of the bass was played fingerstyle and not with a pick, and the production style is more revealing and raw. Furthermore, this album was recorded in eight different places (five bedroom studios and three studios) in total, where The Haruspex was recorded in just one bedroom studio.
As for similarities between the two albums, all of the sounds are still created with guitar, bass, and drums. No samples, synth’s, electronic sources, or anything.
More broadly, how well do you two collaborate amid the influences of others?
This also speaks to our collaborative ability, as working with Hannes over such a long time period went very well. Jeff decided to include Robin Harris from Wormwitch and Jeff Radomsky from Neck of the Woods for their own respective guest appearances on the album. Both of them were incredibly accommodating, writing their own lyrics and recording remotely as well. Jeff and I have a very egalitarian writing process where we both trust the ability of one another and do very little micro-managing. We were each fans of Robin’s and Jeff’s and gave them creative liberty to write their own performances to our music. Writing with others should always be a means of contribution -- not of compromise.
What band(s) got you into death metal originally? Do you still listen to those bands today?
Both of us have been long time listeners of Nile, Necrophagist, 2000s Decapitated, and 2000s Behemoth. We connect musically amongst our mutual enjoyment of those groups more than any others.
[For Bowen] As far as technicality in death metal, how do you view your instrumental skills? Something like a tool to achieve an artistic goal, or more like gifts/talents unto themselves?
My instrumental skills are something I enjoy honing, but not in attempts of becoming “the ___est." They’re tools to achieve an artistic goal. I strongly believe that the world doesn’t need any more bands that make songs compiling of “betcha can’t play this” licks sloppily pieced together.
[For Jeff] As far as lyrics in death metal, how do you view your writing? Something like an outlet or release, or a means of self-understanding, or mere expression?
I write about what I’m interested in at the time. Mostly, my lyrics revolve around dark fantasy, sci-fi stores, and media that I am currently reading, viewing, or writing.
Any “parting words” for listeners as they dive into the new album? It’s a pleasure for us to release such a behemoth of heaviness onto the masses.
Thank you so much for taking the time to check this article out! Also, please follow and support No Light Records who have provided the means for this album to exist.
Gomorrah releases Friday via the newly founded No Light Records. Follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.
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