(In this new interview Comrade Aleks spoke with Quentin Aberne, guitarist of the French doom band Carcolh, whose second album The Life and Works of Death was released last month by Sleeping Church Records.)
There are few bands with whom we have had close relationships through years despite their status and activity. It’s kind of an exception to the rule indeed. It was 2013 when we did an interview with the Bordeaux-based traditional doom band Marble Chariot for Doom Metal Front magazine, and we’ve kept in touch ’til now even though the band was reincarnated by most of its lineup as Carcolh.
Named after a grotesque mythical mix of tentacled dragon and snail, Carcolh provides pure old and good traditional doom. And as their debut album Rising Sons Of Saturn (2018) tended to be a promising start, the new full-length work The Life And Works Of Death is a full-scale doom invasion, a balm for the mortal wounds of replete doom-eaters.
We had a nice talk with Carcolh’s guitarist Quentin Aberne, and I invite you now to learn more of Carcolh and their ways.
Hi Quentin! How are you? How tough are quarantine restrictions in Bordeaux?
Hi Aleksey! Fine thank you, we have a lock-down from 6pm to 6am which is a little bit depressing for everyone. Life is the same old routine, day in day out…
Really? Does the same rule work for weekends? I hope you have some working pubs there at least.
Yes, same rules and closed pubs unfortunately. If you want to have a drink with pals, you have to do it during the weekend at home before 6pm or sleep there.
This is the opportunity to grill some sausages on the barbecue if the weather allows it or eat a “raclette” — it consists of melting cheese on cold meats and potatoes, it is a very convivial dish.
Three years is a glimpse of an eye for a doom band, and your up-to-date full-length release The Life And Works Of Death is here, fresh and strong. Yet I wonder if the release was delayed due to Corona things?
Not really, the album was recorded during February 2020, and released in February 2021. One year is quite a good time-lapse for a band like us to prepare a release. Maybe during the mix session, because Raph Henry, the sound engineer, was locked with his children. I know he did a large part of the mix with Ivar, his 4-year-old son, so we can say that he participated (I talk about Raph, I know that Ivar did all the job).
Obviously we regret the impossibility to play the tunes on stage… But it’s the same for everyone, we have to be patient.
Did you discuss a chance to stream live video from the studio? It seems this kind of thing was popular during the first stage of quarantine, but I think I didn’t see any doom streams for awhile… Or I just skipped it somehow.
In fact, I’m not so attracted by this practice. To see a musician with headphones in front of his computer, this is not really rock and roll in my opinion, but I understand that some people like it. We did a movie clip for “works of death”, the old school way: band playing/other deadly pics. Those pics were taken near Sébastien‘s house by his wife Olimpia. There is a tomb lost in the woods which is pretty mysterious. There are also ruins of a church and a cemetery in a nearby village. The idea was to represent a wandering soul that the phantom bell constantly reminds of the tomb. It’s not incredibly original but we did everything ourselves with our means, and for a first experience, it was quite enriching
Your debut Rising Sons Of Saturn is a solid manifest of traditional doom, and I remember that you aimed to surpass it with the next album (which is now released), making it more epic and more metal. Do you feel you succeeded?
Rising Sons Of Saturn was a kind of spontaneous album, recorded very quickly after the band’s creation. It was a positive way to turn the page from our previous bands (Marble Chariot, Oyabun). But for this one we managed to write something more personal, maybe darker and more Metal in all its aspects (sound, visual, riffs, lyrics). We took our time to express it the best we could. I hope we succeeded but I know it’s a long way to the top, if you want to Doom.
Carcolh – Works Of Death
By the way, what was the overall reaction to Rising Sons Of Saturn? Did you manage to crawl out of the doom underground?
Thanks to some doom activists like you who spread the news from underground doom metal bands, there were some good feedbacks. Sometimes bad but this is the game. We just manage to play the music we love, recording albums and playing some gigs, as many bands I suppose.
Traditional Doom metal has never been popular. If you play it to crawl out of the underground I think you’re a little bit wrong. Even if “Doom” is a word we see more often than before in the medias, I don’t know if it evokes it in a traditional way for people.
On the other side, when you release a “traditional” doom album, you can also ask you if you are not offending people by bringing a personal vision, modern sound or elements from other metal churches… Definitely I think we’ll keep going our way like we want.
Considering doom metal’s popularity or non-popularity… How do you see the average age of doom-followers nowadays? You did play live with your bands, and I bet you’ve been on some festivals as well, so do you have a clue? I’m wondering because… you know when I was doing the Doom Metal Lexicanum book, I knew it well – it’s just for old-school vinyl-lovers and few bands mentioned there in the book. But now as I’m thinking about another metal-related book, I’ve caught myself thinking if there might be young metal-heads who might read it. And I don’t have a clue. I’m feeling myself like an old fart, aren’t you too? : )
You know what, I really dig the genre ever since I went to 2009’s Doom Shall Rise édition, which was a real slap in my face. Griftegard, Procession, Lord Vicar, Pagan Altar, The Lamp of Thoth, Reino Ermitano, Revelation and others… The same year, Count Raven’s Mammons War, and Iron Man’s I Have Returned were released, and one year before, Conqueror by The Gates Of Slumber. It was over for me, I was falling into Doom Metal like a cursed soul.
I tell this because 2009 is really recent considering all the traditional Doom Metal releases, and sometimes a wave of good albums can convert new worshipers to Doom-Metal’s Church. Maybe Sébastien and Benoît are feeling like you because they were into that genre many years before me (they also had a band with the ex-Marble Chariot guitarist Nicolas called The Council in the beginning of the 2000s, though they never recorded anything unfortunately). At this time their references were St Vitus, Candlemass, Trouble, Reverend Bizarre, Black Sabbath of course…
Maybe we were all born too late because we love old school sounds and vinyl, but I think those things will definitely age better than MetalCore.
So The Life And Works Of Death was recorded during the very first stage of the quarantine. How did you avoid all the restrictions concerning gathering, etc? I’ve read that studios were closed most of the time.
Fortunately, all instruments and almost all vocals were recorded just before the first quarantine. When it was over, we came back to finish the last vocals. It was the same for the “Works Of Death” music video — we did it between two quarantines.
What was most difficult part during the recording of the new material? Did you visit the studio with the complete album written? Did you have time to improvise?
It was a little bit difficult for me because it was the first time recording guitars (usually I play bass), and I had to fix my lack of precision during the heavy parts, especially on the palm mute; it has to be at the same intensity every time when you play it “metal”.
The full album was written before, but not the guitar solos of Olivier. He is an old school guitarist with a blues feeling, which is maybe played with more inspiration when it’s an improvisation. Every time we record Oliver’s solo it’s a real pleasure to discover how it’s gonna sound.
Mine were written before, but they are more like a little “chorus” than solos, like at the end of “From Dark Ages They Came” or the the beginning of “Sepulchre”.
My favorite part – what are your new songs about? What kind of topics did you pick up this time in order to keep the true doom face?
The Life And Works Of Death was written like a novel’s collection starring Death as the main protagonist. Clive Barker, Poe, Maupassant were sources of inspiration for Sébastien on this album. The title itself is the same as one of the Books of Blood stories by Clive Barker.
I known that Sébastien often wrote after dreaming, but it’s quite difficult to answer this question for him, sorry.
Did you discuss with him the new songs’ lyrics and how to reflect the songs’ stories through your music at full capacity?
Initially, he is rather focused on the melody and sings what comes to his mind. When we get the essence of a title, then we start to structure it around what it can tell and try to find the right dynamic. This may explain why there are not 30 riffs per piece, but it is also quite inherent in this musical genre.
Why didn’t you take part in French tribute for Cathedral? I was surprised when I found a list of bands who did take part there, without Carcolh amongst others.
Because we were never contacted. But, I don’t know if our epic-oriented traditional doom could fit correctly with any Cathedral song. I don’t know if we could do something interesting. There are great bands on this tribute. It would have been an honor to figure at their side to celebrate Cathedral, and some of them are friends too (for example I used to play in a black metal band called Hyrgal with the Pillars‘ singer Clément).
Which role does Cathedral play amongst the doom influences for you? Did it shape your vision of doom?
From In Memoriam to The Last Spire, all is absolutely huge in different styles. I love all their periods but the beginnings and Garden of Unearthly Delights are the ones I return to often. I don’t know if Cathedral is a direct influence for Carcolh; we don’t use their strange and so cool harmonies, and the riffing and vocals are very different, but we have much respect for those doom fathers and the way they built their career, just going where their inspiration led them.
Your countrymen Conviction have just released a glorious full-length debut and I hope that reverend Barabbas will bring some joy for their followers with new tunes this year. Ah… and there is even a live album from The Bottle Doom Lazy Band at hand! It seems like the French doom scene is on the rise, doesn’t it?
Absolutely! Something great is growing! Those fantastic bands and some people devoted to doom-metal like Sleeping Church Records are bringing French doom to another level. I hope it means that we will see more doom concerts in the world of tomorrow.
If it will ever come! Do you believe the world will return back to its former state after another wave of covid? It seems that our government, for example, waited for it as manna from heaven ‘cause it really gives them an opportunity to tighten the nuts.
Please stop scaring me! The worst part is that you are maybe right… I still hope that we will get out of this mess one day and that we will see new projects take shape, or that some barracks have held up to the shock and will start to do concerts again.
Some friends live from the entertainment, like our drummer Benoît, who is a sound engineer. There must be a way out for those people considered non-essential by the governments. Also we all need a hope to have a drink, good food, concerts, and other cool things in life some day.
Okay, thanks for the interview Quentin. That was cool to chat again, and I hope the world will accept The Life And Works Of Death. It’s something that may make our lives better and brighter. Ah, such nonsense, I need some sleep really… So would you like to add few more words for our readers?
Thank you very much Aleksey for being present at each of our releases since the Marble Chariot years. You’re a true Doom-metal stakhanovist, and I can’t wait to hold the new Doom Metal Lexicanum in my hands. To Doomsters all over the world, keep the faith — I hope to have a slow headbanging with you as soon as possible.