Dutch doomsayers get absolution from the abyss
As any devoted Roadburn attendee will tell you, the streets of Tilburg are paved with doom. Emerging from the city’s haziest shadows comes the disorientating, viciously emotional squall of Ggu:ll’s (it’s pronounced ‘ghoul’) debut album, Dwaling: a doom album on some perfunctory level, perhaps, but one that dares to plumb deep wells of mortal turmoil via dense atmospheres and a glowering core of despondent fury. The results are extraordinarily powerful and immersive, but this is by no means a blissed-out, easy ride.
“We wanted to focus on despair, but despair has a lot of shades to it,” says guitarist Gert-Jan Kerremans, of his band’s thematic genesis. “There is a philosophy behind it, it’s called Principium Individuationis and it’s a Schopenhauer thing about will. It also has something to do with the abyssal experience, hovering above the void and transcending and escaping normal life and reality.”
Ggu:ll are already well-armed with pedigree points thanks to the presence of bassist Dave van Beek, a sometime member of Tilburg legends The Devil’s Blood, but it’s a cameo appearance by the latter band’s vocalist, Farida Lemouchi, that provides Dwaling with its most effective selling point.
“She came to a show and said she wanted to do something with us,” Gert-Jan recalls. “But then told me why she wanted to do it, and it was one of the biggest compliments that I’ve ever had. She said that we were the first thing since The Devil’s Blood that made her feel something. That was confirmation that we were doing something very right.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Ggu:ll are not a band tethered to chemical stimulants or stoner chic. Instead, Gert-Jan avows that “inspiration comes from within, as you pull something from the depths of your soul,” a philosophical inclination that is more than borne out by the sheer emotional density that underpins his band’s music. A sense of emotional depth is hardly rare in underground heavy music, but there is something uniquely mesmerising about Dwaling – a sense that doorways to hidden, less hopeless and tumultuous realms are being slowly forced open by benevolent but disreputable spirits. Doom metal has often been employed as a hammer against the anvil of existential angst, but here oblivion is a light at the end of the tunnel, an answer to unanswered prayers.
“The big theme of the album is the error of mind/body dualism and the thought that there is only the body, and that it’s the body that makes you experience the abyss, through the means of your brain,” Gert-Jan explains. “What we’re trying to say is that maybe you could escape that sometimes, by being drunk or on drugs or by listening to your favourite music and praising the abyss. Sometimes you just need that. If you listen to our album and you can achieve that, to break away from reality for as long as possible, then that will give us, and you, great satisfaction.”
Who are they?
LINEUP: William van de Voort (vocals, guitar), Gert-Jan Kerremans (guitar), Dave van Beek (bass), Bart Waalen (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Mind-altering voyages through the outer limits of slow-motion, anti-cosmic riff worship
FOR FANS OF: Cult Of Luna, The Great Old Ones, Krakow
CURRENT RELEASE: Dwaling (Ván, 2016)
Psychological excavations from France’s master draftsman
So far, 28-year-old Parisian Dehn Sora has been known primarily for his mysterious yet very symbolic art for Neurosis, Blut Aus Nord, Ulver and more. Yet Sora is also a musician in his own right, dabbling in weird electronics (Sembler Deah), dark ambient (Treha Sektori), sludge (Ovtrenoir) and black metal (Glaciation). To an extent, Throane fuses all of them into one, not that it was a conscious act for its creator…
“It happened very spontaneously,” he says. “All the lyrics were part of a long text that didn’t have any proper structure, made up of words that seemed to jostle out of my mind and which I had to write down in a notebook, which I burned immediately after recording my vocals.”
Dehn sees the different disciplines at his disposal as complementary aspects of the same impulse. “I started to play music at the same time I learned graphics,” he explains, “so both expressions have always been intertwined, each of them being a way to express myself and realise an idea, a vision or simply to fulfil a need. What I cannot put in words or music, I express through images. Whenever I’m creating music, it’s always connected to images in my head, sometimes, just a colour or a word. It’s like one instant captured in a bottle and whatever you do with it then is up to you.”
Unsurprisingly, when asked to describe his own music, his answer is quite cinematic: “A lot of it is very instinctive, crude and repetitive, then put abruptly underwater until it gasps for air before being repeatedly punched. For instance, there is serenity to be found in Treha Sektori but not in Throane. Even when it breathes, it does so with nerves.”
Who are they?
LINEUP: Dehn Sora (vocals, all instruments)
SOUNDS LIKE: Cavernous, reality-warping black metal, with a guitar tone that sounds like a veil between this world and the next
CURRENT RELEASE: Derrière Nous La Lumière (Debemur Morti, 2016)
Melody-laced occult explorations
For most bands, releasing a debut seven-inch is akin to an exploratory foray, testing out new powers. In the case of Atlanta, Georgia’s Cloak, however, the two tracks that make up their self-titled first missive aren’t just a tantalising glimpse into more comprehensive treasures ahead; they’re a fully realised statement of intent in their own right. Meticulously constructed and rippling with occult intent, both spiritually and musically, In The Darkness, The Path and The Hunger have more kinship with the Uppsala scene that’s grown up around Watain and In Solitude and spread to the likes of Tribulation, but they’re both driven with a clear-eyed urgency that marks out thrilling new territory and a rally cry for those willing to point their torches towards the unknown.
“A comparison to the Uppsala scene is a fair assessment,” says drummer Sean Bruneau. “We’ve been very inspired by the art that that city churns out. Their bands are free from genre constraints, which allow them to go anywhere while also expressing a much darker view on spirituality from a well-rounded and intelligent place that we identify with as well.”
Records like this don’t arise out of four people turning up and plugging in in a nondescript room. Listening to Cloak, it is clear that there was a special atmosphere in the studio that’s translated itself onto wax.
“The setup was incredibly important,” Sean confirms. “You can hear it in the music when inspiration comes from a forced or disingenuous place. Before you light the first candle the room has to be the right fit. We tracked drums in a great room with vaulted ceilings, beams and a stone fireplace so you can imagine where we went from there. We create the proper atmosphere even when we are writing and rehearsing in our practice space. What comes in to us is what comes back out.
Who are they?
LINEUP: Scott Taysom (vocals, guitar), Max Brigham (guitar), Matt Scott (bass), Sean Bruneau (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: A wide-eyed, melody-laced sermon of occult enlightenment
CURRENT RELEASE: Cloak seven-inch (Boris, 2016)