(Andy Synn presents his interview with some of the members of Germany’s Downfall of Gaia.)
Aeon Unveils the Throne of Decay, the thunderous third album from Germany’s Downfall of Gaia, was, in my estimation, one of the finest slabs of Metal (of any style) produced last year. In fact I selected it as one of my top 10 Critical choices of 2014, describing it as a “slow-motion apocalypse” (though massive, jagged chunks of it are anything but slow) which “shifts seamlessly between styles… to make [it] a fascinatingly multi-faceted and endlessly rewarding musical experience.”
And I stand by those words. In fact I’ve only discovered more layers and depth to the album as the months have passed by.
So, as a huge (and relatively new) fan of the band, I was lucky enough to be able to grab guitarist/vocalist Dominik Goncalves dos Reis for a quick chat about life, love, and the nature of existence.
First off, why aren’t you guys bigger? Is it fate conspiring against you? A secretive plot by shadowy forces? Or do your guitars simply not have enough djenty “skwonk” to them?
Dominik: Haha. That’s a nice question. I guess it has to be one of those things. I don’t know. But I would say most of the time music like this is forced to stay underground.
On a more serious note, how are things in the DoG (brilliant acronym btw) camp at the moment?
Dominik: Things are pretty good. While writing these lines we are on a European Tour with Der Weg einer Freiheit and it has been great so far!
Speaking of that acronym, are any of you dog lovers? Or are you more cat people?
Dominik: I can’t speak for the others right now but I prefer dogs.
Although Aeon Unveils the Throne of Decay was released relatively late last year, it still made it onto a number of End of Year lists (mine included), which I think is indicative of the big impact it made in general. From your perspective, how do you think/feel it was received by your fanbase, and by the metal community large?
Dominik: It was received really well. The press treated us pretty well, and also the feedback from ‘fans’, audience, and friends was really good too. I do know that not everyone who liked Suffocating In The Swarm Of Cranes also liked our recent record, though. Compared to our older stuff it’s a pretty harsh record. But in total the feedback was pretty positive.
And seeing as how you’ve now had a couple of extra months to process it — how are your own feelings about it? Obviously, having written it you’ve been with these songs a lot longer than anyone else, but is there anything you’re particularly pleased about and any lessons learned or things you feel like you want to expand upon on the next album (if you’re even thinking that far ahead)?
Dominik: After some months there are always a few things you would have done otherwise if you would record it again. I don’t know why but I guess that’s an unwritten rule. It seems impossible to write the ‘perfect record’. But I guess that’s a good thing. Because of that you are always trying to get the best out of your music. You start to analyze what’s good and bad and hope you don’t get stuck!
How was the writing/recording process this time around, compared to, say, how it was for Epos or Suffocating…?
Dominik: This time was a bit different. Mike, our new drummer, he is from New York while the rest of us are still based in Germany. That makes things a bit more difficult.
For writing the new record we got together for two weeks in March ‘14 and another two in April. Usually Peter and me are the ones preparing songs/demos at home, and it was the same thing for this record. The only difference was that we got together for a constant two weeks to work on the details (and another two in April). Not just single days or whatever. We had to take some time off of work for this.
The recording process was the same like always. This time we combined things with a European Summer Tour we played with Toxic Holocaust and Black Tusk back in June. Right before the tour we went into the studio, and when things were done the tour kicked off.
One frequent comparison I saw thrown around, not undeservedly I might add, in reviews for Aeon… was sadly-defunct Post-Black Metallers Altar of Plagues. First off, I’d like to know if you see/hear the comparison yourselves, and secondly, I’d be interested to know who you do think are your current peers and/or your current idols?
Dominik: Altar of Plagues is (was) one of our favourite Bands! So yeah – of course they are some kind of influence on us, but there are also a lot of more bands that are part of that influence. It’s not bad to read something like that. It’s more like an honor to get compared to one of your favourite bands, but without being just a total rip-off/copy.
Sticking to the theme of “other bands” for a minute, do you still take much influence from other acts around you? New, old, or anything in between?
Dominik: I would say over the years we learned our lessons and we know how we want to sound and what we want to add to a song to make it become a DoG one. Of course there are always things and bands that are an influence. But I guess that’s pretty normal if you are addicted to music.
photo by Danny Blase
No insult intended to your former drummers, but Michael (Kadnar also of Black Table) puts in an absolutely astounding performance on the new album. Where/how did you find him? Or was he actually created in a secret lab somewhere just to suit your nefarious purposes?
Dominik: We and Black Table toured together in 2013. We played a month-long US tour, shared a van, and got along pretty well. After all of this we stayed in contact, and when Hannes said that he wanted to leave the band Mike started joking around that he would do it. At first it was all a joke and nothing serious, but after searching for some time we said to ourselves ‘why not’? So things got serious and we gave it a try. And it’s still working. Even with the long distance.
You just completed a US tour recently. How did it go overall? And any crazy happenings or weird occurrences you might want to share with us?
Dominik: Seriously? There were no crazy happenings. Most of the time we were just sitting in the van or a venue. Sounds pretty boring I guess! But overall it was the best US tour we’ve played so far. The shows went really well and there was absolutely nothing to complain about.
You’ve also just started an extensive Euro/UK tour with Der Weg einer Freiheit, and although it’s early days at the moment, I’m wondering how it’s going so far?
Dominik: Europe is treating us pretty well. So it’s going great so far! I can’t say that much more right now because, as you said, it’s early days. But the first days have been really nice. Lots of people showed up to the shows, and all in all it’s a fun tour so far.
photo by Suss Mackenzzie
For the uninitiated, what can an audience expect from a Downfall of Gaia live show?
Dominik: A live show is always more intense than listening to the record. If people really want to know what it’s like, then they should come check it out for themselves, as we’ve got a lot of dates left on our European tour.
The next one’s a two-parter, and the first part is specifically for Michael. As a native New Yorker, how have you been finding things in Europe compared to back in the States? It’s always nice to hear a different perspective on things.
Michael: Touring is definitely more luxurious in Europe than in the States. The venues and promoters really take care of the bands in Europe. There is almost always a welcome snack, fully stocked fridge with water, soda, and beer, dinner service, and a comfortable sleeping place. Touring the States is a little more like the wild west. Bands need to have a network of friends and other bands to help promote shows and get sleeping places. Venues seldom provide hostels or band flats.
Another big difference as well is that in Europe most shows only have two two bands on the bill, with no local support. But in the States, it’s common to have three or four opening bands, then the touring bands after that!
The second part is for the rest of the band : How did things in the States compare to things on your home turf (i.e., Europe in general, though obviously there can be quite a difference between crowds and countries!)?
Dominik: The turn-outs are definitely a lot bigger in Europe, especially in Germany. However, the attendance can vary dramatically between different countries (or different States in the US). For example, we played a small DIY show in Connecticut for a handful of people, and then a few days later we played an almost sold-out show at St. Vitus in Brooklyn.
What are the band’s plans for the rest of the year? More touring? Festivals? A new album? Or just sitting back and counting your millions?
Dominik: Right now we are planning some more touring for 2015. We will play a few Festivals in summer, and if things work out we will be in Australia/Japan later this year. Also, another smaller European run is planned for August.
And, finally, as a very dark, almost apocalyptic, band, I have to ask you… are the end times truly upon us?
Dominik: Mankind is definitely working on it!