pondělí 23. listopadu 2020

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Interview - SKELETHAL - I personally think of death metal and metal in general as an entire state of mind.

Interview with old school death metal band from France - SKELETHAL.

Answered Guillaume, Julien, Lorenzo, Lucas, thank you!

Translated Petra, thank you!

Recenze/review - SKELETHAL - Unveiling the Threshold (2020):

Ave SKELETHAL! Greetings to the French underworld. I hope you are doing well. I'm just listening to your new album "Unveiling the Threshold" and I feel like I'm in an old cemetery. It is excellent in one word! How did the album come about and where did you want to move on in comparison to the equally good previous album "Of the Depths ..."? 

Guillaume: Hello Jakub! At first thank you for your words about our music. With ''Unveiling the Threshold'' we decided to inject more influences than previously. With the new line-up we were able to reach a new level of song writing. We tried to keep the Skelethal touch and spirit but added more blast beats, more double bass drum and more violence and efficiency into the new songs. 

Let's go straight to the new record "Unveiling the Threshold". It is decorated with great cover art by Eliran Kantor. I immediately had to order a T-shirt, I was so interested in the motif. I perceive it as an apocalypse, an underground storm. How did you get together with Eliran and why did you choose his work? And how does the motif relate to music? 

Guillaume: We asked Eliran Kantor because we like his work and wanted the cover to be a real painting, a materialised piece of art. We just sent him an email with the project, he agreed and and sent us a preview sketch few months after the deal. We asked him a tormented landscape, with monolithic monuments emerging from a boiling sea. 

The honest old school death metal you play must have a dark and raw sound. If I'm not mistaken, your new record was mixed by Greg Wilkinson (Earhammer Studios). Why did you choose this studio? And where did you physically record the new songs? Somewhere at your home in France? 

Guillaume: Alike ''Of the Depths...'' we decided not to mix/master the second album ourselves. We struggled to achieve a good result with the first album and never got something we really liked. So we thought it would be best to put it in the hands of a professional. Nonetheless we decided to record all the instruments by ourselves to keep control on the sound direction. We did that in our rehearsal room in Tourcoing. 

Julien: Before getting straight into the recording process, we had many discussions within the band, so every choice was reflected before doing anything. Finally, after a lot of DIY recording stuffs, growing our musical and technical skills over the years, we finally thought we could handle this work quite well. With a bit of extra help from friends to get mics gear etc we finally did a good work on this one. Thanks to Greg who did an amazing work in a very short time, his abilities to mix sounds fitted just perfectly with the vision of our music. 

Lorenzo: These recent years there has been an exciting OSDM scene mainly coming from he US but not only. All of us in Skelethal really appreciate some of those bands behind which for most of them you can find Greg in the mixing and mastering duties. It is mainly for this reason that we chose him to take part in this process for “Unveiling the Threshold”. I personally love the raw and dirty sound he manages to achieve while still allowing the listener to hear every instrument quite clearly. I find that it’s a balance that is hard to achieve in old school extreme metal. Often you have excellent albums which for the sake of that sound we love so much had to overshadow on some instruments. 

What are the lyrics on the new album about? I don't have an original CD yet, but I assume you stick to traditional death metal topics. Or am I wrong? Where do you get inspiration for lyrics and who is their author? 

Guillaume: I write all the lyrics, it's easier since I will have to sing them. Skelethal lyrics are strongly tainted with Lovecraft universe and also many other sci-fi / horror writers. Some of my favorite are: Poe, Asimov, Van Vogt, Silverberg, Matheson, Curval, Steiner, Verne…

For a long time, you worked as a band only in two (Gui and Lucas), but since 2019 the Metal Encylopedia has been presenting both Lorenzo and Jon as members of SKELETHAL. Other musicians, Simon Lemaire and Hélène Leroy help you perform alive. I admit that I have a bit of chaos in that. Can you please tell us who is a member of SKELETHAL? 

Guillaume: Skelethal was formed in 2012 as a two-member band (me and Jon) up until 2018. We worked with live members (Simon, Hélène, Lucas…) for a long time until 2018 when I split with Jon (drums). After the split I decided that the band would become a real four-piece. Lucas who was our live guitarist for many years legitimately integrated the band as a full-time member and we researched for a bassist and a drummer in order to get a stable line-up. We rapidly found Lorenzo (drums) and Julien (bass) and Skelethal rehearsed again in January 2019. 

Lucas : As Guillaume wrote, the band remained a duo until late 2018. I began playing guitar live for Skelethal in 2014 replacing Simon the previous session guitarist. Hélène on the other hand was already the live bassist up until Julien took the lead. I did a lot of gigs with the band so when I had the opportunity to become an "official" member it was very motivating to get more involved in the project. It was always a pleasure for me to play with Jon and Hélène but with Lorenzo and Julien we found great musicians and adorable people. They rapidly became true friends of ours so now we have a really solid line-up which will surely allow us to make great things in the future. 

In recent years, a lot of great death metal bands have been coming to reviews from France. Randomly, for example, my very favorite NECROWRETCH. How does your scene work? Do people go to concerts a lot? Do they support groups? 

Guillaume: The french scene is a bit scattered in my opinion. There is not a lot of people and bands really involved in the Underground. Fortunately this handful of people keep this small scene alive and strong. Necrowretch are important because they kind of draw attention again to the french underground metal. They are one of the most aggressive sounding band nowadays and beasts on stage. We played a few gigs with them and hope to cross their path again soon.

Julien: For what I can see now, many extreme bands from France nowadays try to have exposure in foreign countries first and then get back to the French scene. I’d say that if you’re a French band and you’re coming out of nowhere into the scene, French people will not pay so much attention. I also think the underground scene now is more into this new fastcore scene which has more punk and hardcore influences. Death metal is definitely not at the forefront of our musical generation. 

Lucas: There are some great bands here but we don't have many good places to play. For example, in our hometown (Lille) a lot of venues had to close in the past ten years. It has become more difficult for us to play here. However there are still good venues in France, with receptive crowds and supporting fans, and there are some people who are ready to travel a lot across the country to attend to underground events. 

Lorenzo: Though playing in Skelethal I live in Brussels (Belgium) a couple of hours away from the band’s hometown. Coming from another country I can see quite some interesting features of the French scene. It’s a scene that grows a lot locally, where fans are very enthusiast about supporting national bands. I think in France we can really talk of one big family with close relationship between the fans and the bands. However, it’s also a scene that has difficulties expanding outside of its borders which is sad because even though there are a lot of great bands, in the end very few French bands make it outside of the country. 

The world is currently being destroyed by a coronavirus, but we hope that it will soon pass. Aren't you going on tour when the borders reopen? You will have a new record released, so it would be desirable. How are you actually doing with the concerts? Do you play often? Do you rather enjoy clubs or big stages? 

Guillaume: I personally like both clubs and bigger stages. Nowadays nothing is doable and we still don't know when gigs could happen again. It's really a pain in the ass to promote the new album and we hope to reach the stage again soon. 

Julien: everything is so fucked up, even if we could play in basements or caves it would be killer as we are so hungry doing shows again! We have to make the promo of the new album but in the same time all the shows are cancelled so it’s very difficult. Hopefully we hope the new record will receive a good attention regardless so we can still sell our merch online, that’s the only thing left until we can see much clearer about the sanitary situation worldwide. 

Lucas : I really love playing in small clubs where people get crazy, it feels like you really share something with them. I also like the big scenes and I hope we'll be able to have more opportunities with the release of the new album. I can't wait to play live again, for me it's the most enjoyable thing as a musician. 

Lorenzo: Though of course all shows being cancelled is already a struggle in itself, I think one of the most difficult aspect of the pandemic is that we cannot plan anything. We would love to do an actual tour and promote decently the album live, but as of now it’s impossible to plan anything before the summer. However, we normally already had a great year planned a head with quite some festival appearances. We were also scheduled to play at Asakusa Death Fest in Japan around the release date of the album but of course this was cancelled. Hopefully when shows will start again promoters will still be interested in releases that by that time will already be several months old if not a year old (hopefully not that long before shows happen again). It is worth noting also that even if shows do happen in a couple of months they will surely be limited by corona safety restrictions. With limited number of tickets promoters will only organize safe concerts where they are sure to recoup the costs. This means no more international bands playing your area if not for bigger bands that are sure to sell out to people willing to pay bigger ticket fees. It is a difficult period to promote correctly a new album. 

The last time we made an interview, we talked about which bands influenced you. But do you also like some current ones? Would you recommend us, for example, some bands from your surroundings? I like the French underground very much, but I certainly don't know all the bands. 

Guillaume: Mortal Scepter, Cadaveric Fumes, Liquid Flesh, Epitaphe, Savagery, Atavisma, Disfuneral... 

Lucas : Pretty much the same for me! 

Lorenzo: I would definitely recommend people to listen to Lucas’s other band Mortal Scepter, it really is a killer thrash metal band! I think it is worth mentioning Aggressor and Massacra of course, but also Mercyless. 

You play old, dusty, dark death metal. How are the new songs created? I mean the process itself, the formation of riffs. Do you meet classically somewhere in the rehearsal room or do you already use only modern technology? 

Guillaume: In my case It always starts with guitar riffs I find while playing in my room at home. Then I work on drums lines. There is also a lot of work inside my head, I think a lot about how to improve what I already wrote and how must be the song structure. Lyrics are always the last step, but I usually already know how and where they will be. 

Lucas : I only wrote riffs for two songs for this album. Because it was the first time I had to create some Death Metal riffs, it was not difficult to get inspired. I'm already looking forward to write some new stuff, I'm sure I could be more confident and less conventional. 

Lorenzo: Joining the band only recently I tried avoiding influencing the band more than the band influenced me. This is why the basic drum part where already thought of by Gui and I then adapted them to give them some interesting twist and make it the best I could, always trying to make the guitar riffs stand out more! That’s always my main focus when creating my drum parts. What has been great though is that for this new album Gui created some different kind of riffs in regards of the previous material especially for me to be able to do some more extreme rhythms on my drum. But generally I just try to make the drum the most interesting possible without never overshadowing the guitar, the song and the band in general. With time I started understanding more and more that each instrument is to be thought of in within the band/song and not separately. That makes the drum composing a whole different universe. 

I have been listening to death metal since its beginnings in the eighties and nineties, and I have always been most fascinated by darkness, pressure, energy. How do you perceive this style as a musician and what does it mean for you? Is it a lifestyle for you or just a hobby? And when did you get into death metal and what was the first impulse for you to start playing it? 

Guillaume: Scream Bloody Gore was my first encounter with death metal, since that I always wanted to have a death metal band. Through the years I discovered many records, played in grind/crust and thrash bands to finally form Skelethal. It is definitely not only a hobby, it takes a lot of time and you definitely have to live what you're doing to make it sincere. 

Julien : I first discovered death metal by bands like Carcass, Necrophagist, old Opeth, old Sepultura etc. At first I was really much more into heavy and thrash metal, but I think what got me go to the depths of extreme music was the search for the rawest, most authentic, primal, beautifully insane music possible. That’s also why I never limited myself in terms of styles and boundaries in music. Achieving a living out of your music when you play this kind of music is definitively not reachable at our level, so we still have a regular life as opposed to the life on the road. In my opinion it’s a never ending passion, and if opportunities to make it a real lifestyle come I would definitely get into this. 

Lucas : I discovered Death Metal with Death and Morbid Angel when I was a teenager. I discovered I was a metal fan when I first heard the only band we should all listen : Iron Maiden. Then I discovered thrash and death quite quickly after and it became my favorite style of music to this day. Even if a like a lot of other stuff, I listen to heavy/thrash/death metal 90% of the time. It's really something which became a part of me, not by choice but just because it's like it's flowing through my veins ! 

Lorenzo: I personally think of death metal and metal in general as an entire state of mind. I think that if someone listens to metal without being entirely thrown in within its world and what there’s behind it, he cannot fully understand what it is. Metal in that sense is just the normal continuation of rock’n’roll and punk. This is why Lemmy is so loved, he represents all this fully and this is also why he loved Little Richard so much, a gay black man in the segregated USA rocking his piano and singing the hell out of his lungs. That is the state of mind we, as metal fans, represent. As Little Richard showed it, there’s no limit and no rules to art and the world itself. This is what I feel while playing metal. As a musician this is very important to me. 

Thank you so much for the interview. I'm really looking forward to inserting the original CD "Unveiling the Threshold" into the player and adding volume. I wish your album a lot of success and I wish you to be satisfied in your personal lives as well. Pure SKELETHAL death metal forever! 

Guillaume: Thanks a lot for everything Jakub, all the best for you too. Cheers from France!

Recenze/review - SKELETHAL - Unveiling the Threshold (2020):

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