Catacomb is such a cool and grim title that Metal-Archives shows us over ten bands with that name, though some of them have been inactive for years. I believe that Catacomb from Toulon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur was one of the first who chose it.
This death metal crew started to praise the Ancient Ones in 1990 and was a quite active unit of the French death metal underground even though the band went through two splits in 1994 and 2003. However, its founders Ben Bussy (bass, vocals) and Tony (guitars) were able to resurrect the monster once more in 2018, and with the help of Bress (drums) and Ronan Kermarec (guitars) they started to record new stuff.
The result of this returning from the grave are the EP Back to Unknown Kadath (2022) and the fresh and meaty LP When the Stars Are Right from Xtreem Records. It’s mister Bussy who says today: “Ia Cthulhu Fhtagn!!!”
Hi Ben! How are you? What’s going on in your camp?
Hi Aleks, finally the stars are aligned, our album is now out on Xtreem Music, so we’re going to say that everything is fine.
Well, the band was founded in 1990 and split up in 1994, and during this short period you managed to record four demos and released one EP In the Maze of Kadath (1993). How would you sum up this period? It seems like you were active and had songs for the full-length album, but chose to stop any activity instead of moving further. Why?
So it was a time when we were young with a lot of freedom, and yes we were quite productive at that time with several demos, concerts, tours, and indeed some new songs for an eventual album.
But after several lineup changes, and the lives of each one, family, work, took a lot of us away from the Catacomb project. The group itself never really stopped. There was an EP (We Shall Inherit) in 2001 and several compilations (The Years of Morbidology) with live and rehearsal tracks.
What made you return the band back to life in 1997 and how did you spend this second period of Catacomb’s career, as the band split up again in 2003 with just one new EP We Shall Inherit (2001) consisting of some old tracks?
As we told you before, Catacomb has never really stopped all activity. Tony for example has always composed pieces for Catacomb even during the moments of sleep for the beast. But the lack of availability of each one has meant that we have not released new material at this time.
How often did you play live in the ’90s? Did you have opportunities to play abroad? How were these gigs organized?
We did a lot of concerts in the ’90s, thanks to our management (Franck Arnaud from Decibel Storm). We had the chance to play with big names like SAMAEL, CANNIBAL CORPSE, CORONER, NAPALM DEATH, LOUDBLAST, and many others. We also did a nice tour with our friends from MERCYLESS (FR) for the release of their first album. We were supposed to go on a tour in Poland with DEAD INFECTION (PL) but for planning reasons it didn’t stick.
Who was the man who gave the band another push and returned it from the grave in 2018? Two compilations The Years of Morbidology (2010) and The Lurker at the Threshold / In the Maze of Kadath (2015) were released during the years of Catacomb’s other hiatus, so did it motivate you to return?
These are projects that we were strongly offered, first with Shaxul from Legion of Death who made the deal for The Years of Morbidology with Jerome our former drummer, then Ted from The Crypt who contacted us for the reissue of the two demos (The Lurker at the Threshold and In the Maze of Kadath), but at this time there was still no real time for each of us to reinvest fully in Catacomb.
Was it easy for you to return to all of this, as during the last break none of you played in any other bands at all?
In fact Tony is a music professional and has played in a lot of metal and non-metal bands, and for my part, I actually did not produce any music during these sleeping times.
Today Tony has the material means with his studio and I have more time, so the desire to give Catacomb a beautiful album has revived us on the composition of this LP.
As I understand, for two years from 2018 to 2020 Catacomb was just the two of you (you and Tony Derycke), two original members of the band. What drove you to find two more musicians to make a full band?
The Catacomb project is limited for the moment to Tony and me, the other musicians are for the moment musicians of assignment, but on the album we did everything together except of course the different guests on the album. Things of creation are much easier like that … hahaha
Ben, you’ve performed vocals in Catacomb since 2018. How did it happen? Was it a necessity or did you feel this urge before?
Indeed I took the singing in Catacomb, though I always did vocal backing on our old songs, so naturally it’s me who officiates at this position and as it’s me who writes the lyrics now… it’s good like that.
Finally after all these years Xtreem Music have released Catacomb’s debut full-length album, When the Stars Are Right. How long did you actually work over this material?
We first worked on our old tracks, to give them the colour of today. Nico from the Xenokorp label offered to release these cult tracks on a superb EP picture disc, which we obviously accepted. And we started to compose this new opus which took us a bit more than a year.
You started in 1990 as a death metal band with the lyrics focused on Lovecraftian myths, and it looks like you have returned to the same setting. What do you find so fascinating in Lovecraftian horrors?
Catacomb has always based these lyrics on the works of HP Lovecraft, it is really the literature that has marked us since our youth. Ia Cthulhu Fhtagn!!!
Which of Lovecraftian horror’s elements did you aim to channel through your music and lyrics?
We really like the atmosphere of HP Lovecraft‘s writings, and the Cthulhu Myth was always at the center of our activities when we were younger, whether it was reading HPL or role-playing around this universe.
Can you comment on the lyrics of your new songs based on Lovecraftian myths? Did you just retell original stories or did you add your own ideas to it?
What I write in my lyrics is based on the creatures of the Lovecraftian universe. I love this bestiary of external gods, great ancients, and creatures of all kinds. I’m more into the description of the different creatures.. I’m a fan of tentacles…ahaha
How much of old Catacomb from the ’90s will we find in When the Stars Are Right?
Really none. All these new songs are completely new! With one exception in a cover of one of our favorite group in the ’90s.
Yes, Morbid Angel, right. I was meaning the band’s spirit as well as the sound. How do you feel When the Stars Are Right differs from the things you did before?
Really, Tony‘s musical approach has evolved since the ’90s. There is I think a lot more depth in these new songs, more work done on the keyboards and samples as well as on the guitars, our tuning has changed too… a natural evolution of things… more experience and maturity.
How do you think – how does your music contribute to create the proper atmosphere of the Myths?
It’s Tony‘s tortured mind composing the Catacomb music and the use of analog keyboards and sampling that I think brings that Mythic vibe!
By the way, did you read the book Cthulhu metal: L’Influence du mythe? Did Sébastien Baert mention Catacomb among the others?
No, really, we missed this book to our great dismay…. we will hasten to speed up this work.
What are your plans now for 2023? Any gigs? New songs? Or slumber until the stars will take the right position again?
We already have a lot of material for the future… of course we will surely do some concerts and other events, and for my part I return to join CTHULHU and his eternal sleep in his city of R’LYEH.
Thanks for your time Ben! May Nyarlathotep speed you on!
Thank you for this interview and don’t forget that the stars are aligned now…. IA Cthulhu IA Agza-thoth IA Hastur IA Yogsothoth … they are coming….