(In this new interview Comrade Aleks has an extensive and very interesting conversation with Brendan Dean and Daniel Bonofiglio from the Toronto death metal band Gutvoid, whose debut album has made quite a splash this year.)
Blood Harvest released Gutvoid’s Durance of Lightless Horizons on the 23rd of September, and thus we have a proper reason to introduce you to this death metal band from Toronto.
It was started by Daniel Bonofiglio (guitars, bass) and Brendan Dean (vocals, guitars) in 2019, and then Justin Boehm (bass) and D. W. Lee (drums) joined them in 2020. Together they recorded their first full-length not so long ago, and the tracks’ names sound like the music itself: “In Caverns It Lurks”, “Delivered to the Altar Lich”, “The One Who Dwells Beyond Time”, and so on. Pretty poetic… isn’t it?
And yet I don’t like to review albums and talk about music especially when the authors are willing to talk about it.
Hi Brendan! Hi Daniel! Thanks for your time, I suppose that you’re focused on the promotion of your debut album Durance of Lightless Horizons, but let’s start from the very beginning. Do I understand right that Gutvoid was started by the two of you, just as a duo? What inspired you to start the band together?
Brendan: No problem, and thanks for reaching out to us! Yes, Gutvoid was formed in 2018 by myself and Daniel as a new project to work on together, as we had never done a true death metal project (despite working on music for 14 years at that point in time), though we didn’t start putting the riff to paper until 2019. Musically speaking, we were initially inspired by bands like Spectral Voice. Krypts and Demilich, as we wanted to do something that also had some doom elements to it but not a pure doom-metal band.
Fourteen years? Do you mean Adytum?
Brendan: Yeah, Adytum was our first band we made shortly after we met back in 2004, but we’ve also been making music together even after Adytum ended. Dan helped me with my Wexler’s Prime albums (played on the first album and helped me write a few parts of songs), we have a really big ongoing project in the works that we’ve slowly been chipping away at, and we’ve written a bunch of music that isn’t going to be released. So although there was a huge gap of time between Adytum and Gutvoid, we’ve still worked on a lot of material in between!
You two also have another death metal band – Fumes. What’s the difference between the bands? How do you separate these two creative flows?
Daniel: One of the main differences in Fumes is that I write and play all the instruments and Brendan does the vocals, whereas in Gutvoid the writing is shared between us (and then the whole band once we bring it to the jam space). Musically Fumes is a lot more rooted in avant garde/technical death metal, like Wormed, Artificial Brain and Gorguts, while being influenced by prog bands like King Crimson and Gentle Giant.
In Gutvoid, our influences are much more in the death-doom vein (Krypts, Mortiferum, Tomb Mold etc). Separating the creative flow is easy, as the riffs and song structures are different between the bands, but there have been some riffs that I’ll play for Brendan and he’ll say “that’s cool but is more of a Fumes riff” and vice versa.
You recorded the EP Astral Bestiary (a really nice title) as a duo. What did you aim to express through this material? Did you have a concept after all?
Brendan: Thanks, we love that title too haha, gives a good sense of the overall theme that we were going after from the start!
We didn’t have a concept for the EP, at least not in a general storytelling sense, but when we were writing the music and I was writing the lyrics we definitely wanted to present the overall vibe we were going for in Gutvoid, both musically and thematically. When we had the songs generally written I started to think of what they conveyed to me and based the lyrics off of that.
Okay, so what’s Astral Bestiary’s concept?
Brendan: Well it isn’t a concept in the sense that it’s a concept EP, but more so it captures the concept of what we were going for feeling-wise, or concept-wise, in Gutvoid. To break it down by track:
“The Came Dripping From the Stars” musically was sludgy and evil, with this Demilich upbeat first half that ended in a big doomy section, so lyrically I wanted something to match that feeling – so a sect conjuring a bunch of cosmic entities to destroy humanity seemed to fit. Then “Entranced by a Frozen Dawn” had this epic, somber kind of feeling to it and I kept getting this sense of some wizard who uncovered the secrets of the universe, traveled to different planes of existence, and realized, if they could do that, then what’s the point of staying in their human form?
The last track, “Pilgrimage to the Necropolis Ruins”, is musically heavily influenced by the Remnants of Expansion album from Krypts, but for the title I just wanted something that fit with the other two tracks, and what we wanted to convey in Gutvoid: sci fi, fantasy, and horror all wrapped together, like each track was a short story taken from some ancient Astral Bestiary.
And I tried to get that same sense with Durance of Lightless Horizons – a connecting theme, even if more so in atmosphere and concept rather than in story, but with the sense that each song is a part of a short story collection that still has a weaving thread between them. Kind of like Stephen King’s Different Seasons, now that I think about it!
Metal-Archives characterizes Gutvoid’s lyrical themes as “Lovecraftian horror, fantasy, science fiction”. What of this is true?
Brendan: I would say all of it is correct, though no lyrics are directly about Lovecraft/Cthulu etc. – the closest being “Coils Of Gas-Hewn Filament”, the first track off of Durance of Lightless Horizons, which was partially inspired by a Lovecraft short story but isn’t directly about it. But all of the lyrics in Gutvoid touch on esoteric knowledge or events, forgotten histories, summoning creatures from the void, sacrificial practices, etc. – all the good stuff you want in your horror-based sci fi/fantasy!
C’mon! Tell me which particular story inspired you to write “Coils Of Gas-Hewn Filament”!
Brendan: haha it was “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”, but again it isn’t a direct retelling in any way. When I read that story I was fascinated with the idea of some past group of people who had their practices and way of life and their own deity to worship, only for them to be wiped away and forgotten by history. So I wanted to write my own type of “lost history” story, only this one with a bit more of a cosmic-horror element in there.
Justin and Dennis joined you in 2020. Was it your plan from the start to have a full line-up? How did you find them?
Daniel: At first we just wanted to write some new music together and put out that EP. It wasn’t until the reception to the EP was so strong that we started thinking about getting an actual band together. We’ve known Justin since 2004, and so he was an immediate first choice to bring in on bass. We didn’t know Dennis, so we had the good fortunate of putting out some drum ads that he replied to.
Did their appearance change the distribution of roles in the band? Did they contribute to the songwriting process from the moment they joined you?
Brendan: Yeah, definitely having a full band allows them to bring their thoughts and unique parts to the table. Although Dan and I write the bulk of the music beforehand, when we bring it to the guys we let them both give their input as well as play whatever they think would add to the song. A good example would be the drum solos in both “In Caverns It Lurks” and “Delivered to the Altar Lich”, which weren’t in the demos but came about from Dennis just going for it at those sections and all of us loving what it added to the songs.
How did you start composing Durance of Lightless Horizons? Did you have just a number of songs enough for an album or did you build it layer by layer according some vision?
Daniel: After the EP Brendan and I got together and wrote “In Caverns It Lurks” first, with the idea of it being part of an album. We then talked about the feel of the album, what songs (in both style and length) we wanted to aim for, and the overall flow. We then wrote the bulk of those songs in mind, with us cutting one of the songs and then writing “Skeletal Glyph” as the last song to be part of the album. So we had a general vision from the start, but definitely let the songs/riffs come about and then ran with them.
Your songs’ titles are poetic, they show some… imagination behind them. It seems like you put a lot in your lyrics, is that true?
Brendan: Thanks, yeah I definitely try to express through the lyrics both a sense of connection with the music, so that they tell a story that flows with the song itself, but also (with a few exceptions) try to not be too on the nose with the story being told and instead set a feeling or atmosphere with them.It definitely helps that the themes of horror sci fi/fantasy allows for some open-ended concepts and more mystery through them – for example, going back to “Coils of Gas-Hewn Filament”, I wanted to write about a group of people whose existence was lost to history, but the reason for their disappearance has some connection to a cosmic deity roaming the void. So I try to have the song names be a point of expression of the song musically and lyrically, hopefully painting a picture of what’s to come by the name itself without just being blunt on what the track is about. At least that’s what I’m going after!
What kind of sound did you aim to get in the studio for Durance of Lightless Horizons? How did you achieve it?
Daniel: When we all started talking about the sound we wanted, we all agreed we didn’t want something super-clean, but we didn’t want a sound that was too washy/low fi. Loving the sounds of the Krypts, Tomb Mold and Gorguts albums, it made sense to look toward all the people involved there – hence going to Boxcar Sound Recording for the drums and vocals, having Otso Ukkonen from Krypts mix it, and Colin Marston from Gorguts master it. So definitely having their incredible talent and input helped us achieve the balance of clarity and organic sound that, at least we feel, we achieved on Durance of Lightless Horizons.
Was it easy to enlist their support?
Daniel: Thankfully yes! We had never spoken to Otso, or had any connection with Krypts, prior to our reaching out to him but he was interested from the start, which was very fortunate for us considering how amazing his mix is. Colin was similar – though Brendan and I had actually played with Behold… the Arctopus back in 2008 in our old band Adytum, but that was ages ago. But yeah we just reached out and he was interested.
You have a proper background in metal, but what new did you learn during the recording of Durance of Lightless Horizons?
Brendan: We learned that, even during a pandemic-wrought Toronto that was filled with lockdown after lockdown, you can still be prepared to record an album!
It’s known that touring in Canada is a difficult task… well, it’s not so bad as in Australia, but anyway… So what’s your approach towards performing Gutvoid stuff on stage?
Daniel: Aside from trying to jam at least once a week, it’s just breaking down what makes sense between myself and Brendan for who to play what – since he has to sing and play, some riffs are a lot easier for me to take than him. Then once we have that it’s just getting tones set and practicing until we feel comfortable with the songs. We’re currently starting to relearn the album tracks so we can play them for some upcoming shows, so we’re working out those kinks and figuring that all out as a band.
Do you have gigs scheduled for the rest of 2022?
Daniel: Yeah we’ve got a show in Toronto on November 26 with Augury, and then a show lined up in Cambridge (just an hour outside of Toronto) in January. Nothing beyond that yet, but we’re hoping to get some shows and would love to play some festivals in the new year!
Okay, thanks for the interview gents! Let’s hope that the world will learn about Gutvoid a bit more thanks to this publication. Any final words of death metal wisdom for our readers?
Brendan: Thank you for the great questions and the support. And for the readers who have enjoyed our music and supported us we say thank you – we very much appreciate it!