Dissimulator – A Lower Form of ResistanceThursday, 18th January 2024
Not very often you hear bands in 2024 willing to tackle an advanced form of technical thrash while also injecting a bit of death, avant-garde angular aspect to their sound. That’s what you’ll hear through Canadian trio Dissimulator – featuring members that have experience across the spectrum in acts like Chthe’ilist, Atramentus, Beyond Creation, and Sutrah to name a few. Their debut album Lower Form Resistance contains a wealth of influences going back to the late 80’s/early 90’s movement as well as adding some textures from Voivod, Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation, and others to encapsulate a hyperkinetic sonic propulsion track by track that will provide some deep study – along with a strong sci-fi/ robotic technology doom and gloom lyrical scope which should engulf listeners in deep food for thought.
We reached out to guitarist/vocalist Claude Leduc who was more than happy to let us in on his early music memories, the organic growth in sound for Dissimulator, the challenges for the right artwork aesthetic, thoughts on bands like Voivod and Obliveon to influence their outlook/sound, great memories of favorite albums as well as a killer Ulcerate live concert experience, his laidback passion for making liquid bread/beer, and what will be on the horizon for his many different outfits.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up during childhood? Where did you make the progression into heavier forms of music, and eventually wanting to pick up an instrument and perform in bands?
Claude Leduc: The earliest memory I have really associated with anything related to heavy music is my dad showing me Deep Purple – Made in Japan, when I was three. Me rocking out to the main riff to “Smoke On the Water”, “Child In Time”, all of it. Especially the solo sections – I was really attracted to anything that made a lot of noise. (laughs). I transitioned to more contemporary, heavy stuff towards late elementary school, early high school. Usually the typical story of friends showing you bands – back in the day nu-metal was huge, I got into System of a Down, and that quickly escalated into Metallica, six months later I was listening to Cannibal Corpse.
Dead Rhetoric: Was guitar the first instrument you discovered?
Leduc: No, it was the bass. And it wasn’t a question of I wanted to play guitar, I wanted to play bass – there was a bass around in my freshman high school music class. I was intrigued by it, started messing around, holding it the wrong way (laughs). Just being impressed that I was playing a really low note on a really loud amplifier. And that escalated to other things, got my first electric guitar six months later and never looked back.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the original formation of Dissimulator come into being? Did you know straight away the style you wanted to develop that differed from your other bands you are involved with – or was there a natural feeling out process to arrive at your sound?
Leduc: Um, a bit of both, I think. Dissimulator, I had in mind to do a thrash style project for a long time. Even back in the late teens, before the Sutrah days I wanted to do a thrash project. And then the pandemic hit, and some people were out of work, so I just had another excuse to look for another project. I then looked at this drummer and one of my best friends Philippe Boucher, let’s get this going. Let’s try to see what I could come up with. Originally Dissimulator was going to be way more straight forward, old school thrash – no death or other flavors to it. I ran out of steam writing songs in that style, because of the way I like to feel through songwriting and the kinds of inspirations that coalesce into the Dissimulator sound. Straight forward thrash wasn’t enough, I got caught up on some riffs and where I wanted to take them. At some point I just decided to let go and say this project will be what it is. And that’s how I would characterize Dissimulator, compared to Sutrah for example – the songwriting is free flow, let it happen. When in doubt, I just go with it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do enjoy most about the power trio format for this lineup?
Leduc: That’s a good question, actually. It wasn’t super conscious, just having this as a trio. I get along with Antoine (Daigneault) and Phil a lot. The way that Antoine plays and his old school encyclopedia knowledge of bands, his sound in general was a natural fit for the project and I had this in mind since the beginning. I like the idea of having just a single guitar because it makes things all that much tighter. It forces me, even though I add little harmonies and flourishes there on the album, it gets me to keep things simple when it comes to the composition style. The vocal style, I’ve always wanted to do vocals and work on them, it’s still a work in progress. I don’t consider myself the most able vocalist – Dissimulator as a band is something that will grow for me in that format, I’m working on the ability to pull this off, the whole frontman thing live. We did our first and only show last February, and we had Laurent Bellemare, who also does vocals with us in Sutrah, who helped us out and came together for the show.
Dead Rhetoric: Lower Form Resistance is the debut album for Dissimulator. Tell us about the songwriting and recording sessions for this record – and were there any surprises, challenges, or obstacles that had to be worked through in this process?
Leduc: As far as the songwriting is concerned, there was a bit of a switch in terms of the ideas I had for the style of the band. The songwriting was sequential in the sense that once we had the two demo songs for “Warped” and “Mainframe” which were on the 2021 demo, we got that out there to finish the album out there. Knowing full well that those two songs would likely appear on a future album. I needed an opener for an album, write a fast song that’s under four minutes, probably the fastest one on the album. And then there’s a title track, and then there will be an instrumental track. I had these ideas already in my head, so let’s see what happens. Work them out – every member works out their own parts in their own corners, then we come together.
Phil and I did a lot of work on the arrangements – sometimes he’ll come up with a really cool fill or different drum pattern. For example, on the first single “Hyperline Underflow”, the guitar break before the solo, maybe two-thirds of the way through the song, I had imagined just a tempo break, typical of like these classic thrash bands, these sudden tempo changes. It was Phil who thought of a Dying Fetus style riff transition, just guitar and he will come in. I ended up extending that riff for that reason. I never heard it, he played it, and it was perfect. The songwriting is really smooth – to give you an idea, I’m almost done writing the entire second record already. It’s not supposed to be… strain and break our heads putting this together. Whatever is natural, whatever comes out, comes out.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there specific songs that were more of a challenge to come together than others – or possibly easier to develop?
Leduc: The song “Mainframe” that was on the demo, which is one of my personal favorites, it felt incomplete when it was already recorded for the demo. The song comes in during the slow part – I had this idea of this little guitar intro building up to it, some different guitar arrangements I wanted to fix with that song. The way the sequence of the songs is for the record, I wanted this album to be listened to on vinyl- a side A and a side B that are two chapters of the album. The album’s title track is almost an instrumental – I didn’t set out to be that way, it happened because I felt like it fit. Phil, our drummer, was adamant about having an instrumental on the album. Otherwise, maybe the challenge was more like honing our tones in the studio, and working with them as best as we can. Hugues Deslauiers, who did the reamping, mixing, and mastering for the album, I’ve worked with him for years and we have a really good working relationship – it always comes out great with him. I wanted a wall of sound approach, but you have to work with what you have, and I wanted an old school sound at the same time. Those things aren’t necessarily reconcilable, so you work within the balance of the two to put stuff together.
Dead Rhetoric: Playing in a technical thrash metal style with death and other nuances, how does the band balance out the intricacies and musicianship-filled passages while also maintaining a sense of cohesion or factors that can be easier for the average listener to latch onto song by song?
Leduc: I try to wear multiple hats when I’m writing a song. I’ll listen… there’s something narcissistic about it, but I listen to my demo tracks or guitar pre-productions obsessively sometimes, and then I take distance from it too. You want to remove the composer hat or songwriting hat to try to listen to your own songs as a listener or someone just discovering the piece – which is really hard to do. I’m not saying that I’m doing it well, but you can try.
A lot of the more intricate parts, that’s part of the style, and that’s how I play. I sometimes write things on upbeats, a lot of syncopation, weird tempo shifts and tempo breaks. Sometimes I won’t even come up with a riff so much as a transition, I’ll have a riff and a half with a transition with this weird time shift that I want to fit it in somewhere. Or I’ve built whole songs around that. “Warped”, the second single, was almost fashioned around that weird, Morbid Angel-style shift in the Voivod riff that slows things down before the vocoder part comes in – the robotic voice section. That’s an example of that. At the same time, I try to write music that I want to hear as a listener. I try to write music that I would be a fan of. There’s always that feeling later on that you would have done things differently now that it’s out, you live with it, move on, and do something else.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across for the lyrical content? Are there specific inspirations and influences in that regard?
Leduc: I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi. I’m wearing a Ghost in a Shell t-shirt right now (laughs). I’m still studying at the university, social sciences, so I’ve always been into both our thinking through and theorizing our collective knowledge when it comes to technology. That was always something I think about in an academic capacity, and now I brought music into it. With this new project I’m working on, we are going to make this sci-fi themed, robot dystopia and stuff like that. That’s sort of the inspiration for Dissimulator, I went through a couple of iterations of how I should frame this. At first, I thought maybe it should be some kind of theme related to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the original name I had in mind for the band was related to that world. I make some references to that in the lyrics. That’s where the inspiration comes from, I like the whole vibe aesthetically, references to other movies or shows like Blade Runner. It’s a cool sounding board.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover art concept come about with artist Jesse Draxler? It’s definitely not conventional and can be as equally as thought-provoking as what you display with the contents of the record musically…
Leduc: I had this idea. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. You asked about challenges before – the biggest challenge was figuring out the aesthetics of the record in terms of how we were going to present it. I knew I wanted to do something where it would evoke a sense of disfigurement, or technological disfigurement. Something related to the human face, you can’t go wrong with that. I didn’t want to make it into the gory territory. I wanted it to be thrashy, a cyber-aspect to the band. Less painted and more photographic was always a wish of mine. I was shopping around before I even came around Jesse Draxler’s work. I originally went through his portfolio and I saw a couple of pieces that I really liked, which were in the same set of the one I really enjoyed. After I sent an email asking him if there was something we could work together, then I found the one that ended up being the cover art – so I said, never mind – I want this (piece) from you instead. It was perfect, it had everything. I talked to a couple of friends of mine, they thought it was brutal and would work. Let’s try to run with it. I like the idea that its black and white – it’s appealing in terms of how I hear the album, the sound, and the colors.
Dead Rhetoric: Where has the importance of fellow Canadian bands like Obliveon and Voivod taken your output, creativity, or general outlook on what can be done in the realm of the metal genre based on their discographies?
Leduc: Oh boy. The first question is very cool – the second question is very cool as well, and even harder to answer (laughs). Both Voivod and Obliveon are influences, especially Voivod. The style, like I mention in the aesthetics of the band. Aside from just talking about how great Voivod is, I don’t really know what to say. I am a big Daniel Mongrain fan, who took over for Piggy’s spot and he’s been in the band a while. He’s probably my main influence as a guitar player, so there’s a coolness there.
I don’t know what Dissimulator will sound like within the next two or three albums. Because the band evolves as we do as people, we may change our interests, our outlooks, the various things that appeal to you. Bands can take from Obliveon and Voivod in terms of influences and growing in the genre, they are already doing it. They recognize the status that these guys have as innovators in the scene. They are still doing it; Synchro Anarchy is a killer album – I feel like that kind of consistency and growth is something to take inspiration from. I know I’m being vague, but that’s how I feel in terms of the importance bands like this have in the scene.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance out your work in other bands with what you want to achieve and accomplish with Dissimulator? Does one band/project maintain more of an interest/presence versus others – or do you go where your interests and creativity flow?
Leduc: I would tend to say more of the second one. Most of the live things – we don’t do much with Sutrah, I’ve done some travelling and work with Chthe’ilist, but in Dissimulator I have this idea of playing more live with the band. Considering the fact that we are a trio, and we live within a close distance from each other. We are all busy with different projects, but we are all invested with this band to make something of it as well. I take things as they go – when there is an opportunity to play at a given place or travel, I take it. If there is a conflict, I go with whatever interests me more at the time.
I’m not the most pragmatic when it comes to these things. I won’t go with necessarily whatever will pay me more. I do what I want.
Dead Rhetoric: What sorts of hobbies, interests, and passions do you have away from music when you have the free time and energy to pursue them?
Leduc: I referenced before that I’m very interested in sci-fi literature, and everything around the genre. Anime, I’m really into, I’m a big Star Trek fan. I also because of school read a lot on philosophy, and academic literature. I got into brewing into the pandemic – people were making bread, I decided to make liquid bread. That stems from an interest in artisanal beers, micro-brews. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I do enjoy a really good stout. Or a good pilsner. It’s slow though. When I got into guitar, maybe it was the energy of youth, I’d be obsessed and was practicing six days a week, eight hours a day. Brewing is more of doing it whenever I can type of hobby.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three to five of the most important metal albums that helped shape your outlook on the genre? And what’s the best concert memory you have – purely attending a show as a member of the audience – plus what made this show so special/memorable to you?
Leduc: Oh boy, that’s tough – because there’s way more than three to five! (laughs). With regards to Dissimulator – Meshuggah’s Destroy, Erase, Improve is a big one. I wanted to write a cyber punk album with Dissimulator – wait, it’s already been done by Meshuggah. Killing Technology – Voivod. Us metalheads, we take these types of lists way too importantly. We put way too much weight on best of lists. Atheist – I oscillate between which album I prefer from them. These days I like Elements a lot, if you ask me next week, it may be Piece of Time. Malevolent Creation – I’m not a fan of their whole discography, but Retribution, that was a big one for me. Morbid Angel – the Steve Tucker era with Gateways, Formulas especially. That influenced the sound of Dissimulator. A whole slew of thrash influences – Sadus – Chemical Exposure.
As far as my favorite concert is concerned, the first one that comes to mind is the first time I saw Ulcerate back in 2010, might have been 2011. It was The Destroyers of All tour; they had two guitarists. It was in a small venue, 200 capacity. It was the first time… I had already seen some epic metal shows, ridiculous performances with Martyr a couple of times, they always destroyed. That show was the first time I realized that you can write the fastest, most heavy death metal, and it can still breathe, be dynamic. Sometimes it’s a magical thing that you don’t always have even if you have the greatest musicians in the world on stage. There was one unit on that stage that night – it was the band. They were playing as a unit, the songs had a breath to them, it was incredible. Even Luc Lemay of Gorguts, he was in front of us at that show. I made some comment to Alex, the bassist of Sutrah, now this is what death metal is. Luc turned around and said, ‘this isn’t death metal – this is art!’ (laughs). The show definitely was next level.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the robotic/technology doom angles the band explores in your lyrics, do you have any thoughts for where the world is heading globally considering the advances or twists with science and technology say over the next decade or two?
Leduc: Oh boy (laughs)! How long do you have? I don’t have an optimistic outlook on this, let’s put it that way. I have a lot of issues about the way we tend to talk about these things. A starting point would be the whole discussion that has been happening in various circles about the use of AI in art. I take issue with the argument that AI is just another tool, and that everything depends on how we use it. It gives the impression that these things are neutral, they have no effect on us whatever and it’s all about what we do with them. Whereas we only have to look at cell phones and see what that has done to people. I dare anyone to explain to me that we deliberately chose to use phones in the way that we are using them, and we choose the effect they have on us collectively.
Technology is not some neutral force, even though it’s always taken this way as a natural development, like trees that are growing, solar flares happening. It’s almost as if we are not the ones creating these things. It’s obvious ties to economic powers make me all the more pessimistic about where we are going because we often try to think in technological terms when it comes to solutions or ways to move forward. Technological solutions are not the answers – we need to think beyond our machines and our tools. On a level of principles, on a level of ideas, what do we want out of these things? A lot of these tools are supposed to be innovative. I could go on, but that’s my impulsive response.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for anything related to Dissimulator over the next twelve months for shows, promotion, etc.? Are there other projects/bands that the members have with new releases or shows/tours in the future as well?
Leduc: There is always stuff going on in the Chthe’ilist camp. I know we are playing the Maryland Death Fest in May. We want to get some shows together for Dissimulator. I’m also sitting on new Sutrah material since the late pandemic, I need to find some time and inspiration to finish up. The web of projects and bands we are related to, I can only speak for myself – Phil and Antonie have a lot of stuff on the side. We are definitely trying to see where we can take Dissimulator in terms of live shows. It’s a bit of a challenge, to put together something cohesive in terms of a full lineup. Not a lot of people are playing this style. Make more tech thrash bands!