(Comrade Aleks delves into the dark Italian roots of Gargoyle with vocalist/guitarist C. Conqueror. It’s a very extensive, very revealing, and very congenial dialogue, and a tantalizing teaser for the band’s 2021 debut album Hail To the Necrodoom, out now on Sun & Moon Records.)
Gargoyle’s nest is the blessed land of Calabria, the very “toe” of the Italian “boot”. So fed with the Italian past horror stories, local traditions of horror movies, and dark underground music, the beast was born!
Their demo Reborn In Blasphemy (2016) was something promising but the full-length album Hail to the Necrodoom (2021) is something exceptional! This mix of early black, doom, and a bit of death metal has this strong Italian flavour and is simply charming! It’s all about Necromantia, Nosferatu, Nihilism, Night, and Nightmares, embodied in grim and gloom metal.
The names of those who are responsible for this act of wicked insubordination are known well: Krommak (bass, vocals), Malumbra (drums), C. Conqueror (vocals, guitars), and Helkaar (synths, organs). Serious guys… But I was lucky to get in touch with C. Conqueror and in the dead of an unholy October night We managed to do this nice interview.
Hail C. Conqueror! How are you? What’s new in Reggio di Calabria?
Hail Aleks, We are “always poised betWeen certainty and oblivion”, as a crust band from Italy called Il Male said. Reggio Calabria’s bands keep moving forward fortunately. Skialykon, Memories of a Lost Soul, and Carcaño are releasing their new albums. Veneregrida and Demonia Mundi released theirs in early 2021. Go listen to all of them!
Anyway, a new pub for live music opened and It’s programming many concerts, We’re happy about it! Dee Dee Altar from Bunker 66 made a metalpunk DJ set some Weekends ago.
Do you play live now? And what’s your live experience with Gargoyle? I think a pub isn’t much for a metal band.
We played live on September 13th with the legendary Mentors in Reggio Calabria, It was the first gig since January 2020. We are in a totally natural mood on live concerts, It’s important to be punk and theatrical in some parts, We can say to be inspired by early Mayhem about this. It’s important if your music sounds good in a rehearsal room, during live and recording sessions, all is under your will and abilities. A metal pub is a great thing for our city, mostly because its aesthetic theme is about H.P. Lovecraft’s novels! It’s small and unsuitable for important bands, but I can see a positive side: only bands with a punk-live-attitude can play!
Gargoyle was born five years ago, and now, when you have your first album Hail to the Necrodoom complete and released, one can point to your distinctive sound – a mix of doom metal with Italian flavour and some proto death / black metal. What is the thing you Were searching for when you started the band?
We Were fascinated by a Sicilian band called Cryptrip and We tried to make something similar. Weird voice, much effected; minimal riffing; and primitive drumming. Our demo Reborn in Blasphemy is in that way. So, We started wallowing in the sea of early Cathedral, Abysmal Grief, Death SS, and Witchfinder General, and then mixing early Mayhem, Dissection, Emperor, and post-punk stuff. Celtic Frost have always reigned supreme.
“Necrodoom” is a damn good definition for Gargoyle’s sound, and your label-mates Anguish are labeled with the same characteristic too, even though you play different kind of stuff. Would you say that necrodoom could be a really niche subgenre for the doom underground? What’s its features then?
We Were surprised (in a positive way) when We’ve seen that the label’s release after Hail to the Necrodoom was Anguish’s Doomkvädet containing the track “Consumed by the Necro Doom”. It’s a funny coincidence!
When We composed the track ‘Hail to the Necrodoom’ immediately after the demo We thought we were the first and only ahah! But yes, We tried to make the best music possible in the way to create something that could influence the metal scene. For us the “Necrodoom” is like the Italian “Dark Sound” that you know Well, Aleks. You must focus on atmosphere and intention first. We don’t think about metal sub-genres when We compose our music, We focus on the sound’s identity.
So, “Necrodoom” for us is heavy and minimal as Celtic Frost, edgy and satanic as Mayhem, Dissection, or Emperor, with evil and sinister atmosphere which only We italians can create.
Hah, yes, Italian Dark Sound! Why didn’t you tag Gargoyle with that blurred description? I wonder how many bands do actually use it, but I know that not only doomy bands – also some dark proggy bands – use this term too. Actually I think it’s good to have such things like Italian Dark Sound and Necrodoom nowadays… it makes some difference.
To be honest: it would have been a little humble to define ourselves as a “Dark Sound” band ahah! We prefer the idea if you are “chosen” or if your music is felt naturally under the “Dark Sound” tag by someone else. You know, It’s not a question of making some kind of riffs or using blast-beats or mid-tempos, It’s your vision of the horrid and grotesque that gives your music a sinister aura. Technically, Death SS, Abysmal Grief, Black Hole, or Mortuary Drape are so distant, but if you feel that Italian grotesque aura you could consider‘em very similar!
How much of “Italian” influences do you see in Gargoyle besides those musical references you’ve mentioned earlier? You know – it’s rather about mentality and traditions.
The “Dark Sound” would have never existed without the Italian cultural substrates. It’s the same thing about us and “Necrodoom”. Do you feel the differences betWeen Italian horror movies and those American ones? Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Pupi Avati (and many others) are so different from Carpenter or Sam Raimi because We have more than two thousand years of history where ancient cults, superstitions, legends, and myths have accumulated, giving to us a particular trademark. Add to this the morbid presence of christianity in our land and you could comprehend our vision.
All these things are behind Gargoyle: We live everyday a “grotesque fascination” caused by the christian dogmas, so We are attracted by cemeteries, monasteries, altars, and Weird local stories. Obviously We are fan of the film directors mentioned above: Argento, Fulci, Avati, Bava father & son, Michele Soavi, and many others.
The album’s artwork looks obscure and old-school and fitting Well to the Hail to the Necrodoom vibe. I didn’t find any information about its author — with whom and how did you work to get this cover?
It’s sad no one reported the name of the author, We pay attention to the covers when We listen music. The artwork was made by Negative Crypt Artworks, a Sicilian guy who plays guitar in Schizo. The original Hail to the Necrodoom artwork was inspired by The Temple of Elemental Evil, which also Burzum took for the cover of Det Som Engang Var. It was rejected by our label, so the guy made the actual artwork you see. The portal represented is a metaphor of the Necrodoom, the horror which no one can escape from.
I’ve seen your promo photos, which are quite provoking and expressive. Where did you shoot them? And do you really care about the image? Actually I think it’s a necessary part of any metal band, but nowadays – in 2021! – some bands criminally underrate this aspect of metal. Shame on them. Well, I’m just tired of trying to get proper pics from some bands for publications.
We totally agree. Most of the bands’ pics are useless and without taste. We pay a lot of attention to details. The pics from Reborn in Blasphemy Were taken with an analog camera to create a film atmosphere. While the pics from Hail to the Necrodoom Were taken in an old monastery, which inspired the track “Necromantia”.
Did you record Hail to the Necrodoom in one take or was it a longer period and a few sessions? How natural was this process?
Hail to the Necrodoom was live-recorded in two sessions. Then We added lead guitars, voices, and keyboard parts. We started to record it on 02/02/2020 but the last session of guitar was postponed in the summer ‘cause of the first lockdown. Without Covid, We could have recorded it in less than one month. The recording process was natural because our way to play Metal music is natural, no fiction, only our will (and dementia ahah).
Is it expensive to record music this way now?
Yeah, because We need to book the whole recording studio in the way to mic all the amplifiers. Connecting the jack to the PC is less expensive.
There’s the song “Lord of the Fog” in your album, and by coincidence Abysmal Grief’s drummer has the same name. How did it happen? And do you keep in touch with this band?
We are absolute fans of Abysmal Grief and We had an exchange of mails during the past years. But “Lord of the Fog” was not inspired by their drummer. We hope to play together with them in some gigs or tour one day!
At least I believe Lord of Fog would like this track; you should send him a copy of the album!
Ahah We’ll do if We recover the contact!
I’ve noticed also that you have a track titled “Glorification of Chernobog”. Are you into Slavonic mythology or are you fans of the “Blood” PC game?
“Glorification of Chernabog” is related to “Nosferatu” and It’s inspired by the “Night On Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky and its graphic transposition in Fantasia (1940). The introspective mood of “Glorification…” remembers the moment when Chernabog, after a night of chaos and destruction, hears the bells and decides to rest, closing itself in its own wings.
I’m glad to notice you paid a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft in recording “The Whisperer in Darkness” song. What drew your attention to this story?
We recorded it as a bonus track of Reborn in Blasphemy also. The Whisperer in Darkness is simply pure genius. It contains the basis of all modern sci-fi clichés. We love its morbidity and sinister mood.
How much are you into Lovecraft? Do you check the works of his colleagues, like Clark Ashton Smith and Robert Howard for example? I wonder why these two aren’t that influential as writers…
All of us have different experiences about this. A part Lovecraft, I’m more into R.E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, but I love also the European romantic writers. I have a collection of old vampire-themed novels by Stoker, Polidori, and other less-known authors…
There are also the hymns “Hail to the Necrodoom”, the classic piece “Necromantia”, the obvious tribute “Nosferatu”… so what are other songs about?
“Hail to the Necrodoom” is a horror story in which no one can escape from Death. “Necromantia” is inspired by the story of a monastery near our city, Reggio Calabria, where a monk practiced black magic, the same monk who painted the sinister frescoes you’ve seen in our band pics. “Nosferatu” gives to the Lord satanic connotations. “Where Evil Spawns” is inspired by the Lovecraft’s novel The Dunwich Horror where Yog-Sothoth is summoned.
The “Lord of the Fog” is a metaphor which indicates the christians’ blindness, the religious dogma. The lyrics could be read as a classic horror novel with a “materialist” vision of the Lord of the Fog which enslaves the christians, or could be read metaphorically. But the end of the story has only one interpretation: the painful death of the christians.
How are you serious when you speak about “dark powers”? Do you use such stories just to follow the genre’s rules, to criticize Christianity or something?
This is an important question. In Reborn in Blasphemy We just told stories inspired by Lovecraft or Howard. With Hail to the Necrodoom We have developed more personal interpretations: We take inspiration from the ravages of christanity and create stories using metaphors to criticize and curse the christian’s dogma. Even talking about Nosferatu We curse the christians, It’s our main hobby ahah!
“Necromantia”, as I said, talks about a monk who used black magic in his monastery and his sinister frescoes have been the object of “damnatio memoriae” by the local villagers. We are fascinated by these kinds of stories and We are really INTO them. Our music and our atmospheres are strong because We trust in what We talk about. Anyway, in the rehearsal room We are very ironic sometimes, It’s important to make some satire. We don’t like too-serious black metal bands but also the demential ones.
Do you already have plans to release something else under Gargoyle’s brand this or next year? Maybe there’s something left after the Hail to the Necrodoom session…
Nothing left after Hail to the Necrodoom sessions, but We are rehearsing and composing new music. We hope to record new material in 2022, maybe a split, who knows…
Thank you for this nice conversation man! God speed on Gargoyle and let’s hope We’ll hear more news from your side soon.
Thank you very much for your interest in us, Aleks! Keep the black torch alive!