Gomorra – Standing UnitedWednesday, 23rd November 2022
Best known as the homeland to Celtic Frost and Coroner, Switzerland has made a small imprint on the metal scene over the decades. Aiming to put their stamp on things is power/thrash metal outfit Gomorra. They’ve been in existence in various monikers since 1994 – with this latest band coming to life in 2019. They released their debut album Divine Judgement a year later, and now the time has come for the follow-up in Dealer of Souls. Executing in a style that is heavy, crunchy, energetic yet very melodic and catchy, this is European-oriented material that combines finesse with grace and versatility.
We reached out to guitarist Damir Eskic to give us insight into the work behind the new album, the work with Burning Witches singer Laura behind the single/video for “Stand United”, how he handles the double duties between Destruction and Gomorra, his teaching career and outlook on the art of learning guitar in various styles, plus concerns about the rock/metal field when it comes to performing live versus using computers/playback methods.
Dead Rhetoric: Dealer of Souls is the second Gomorra album – and the follow-up to Divine Judgement from 2020. How would you assess the growth of the band between records – as well as what you think about the differences from the debut to this record?
Damir Eskic: The structure of sound is the sound that we have started with this new band. Divine Judgement on this one theme, and we had a really similar situation and way of thinking with the lyrics. Now we have Dealer of Souls that has different meanings and different songs, but the sound doesn’t change extremely much. Maybe in parts a little bit here and there, some parts are harder, other parts are more melodic. We have a great voice, even in the screaming part areas, so we worked on that a little bit more to have this effect. We like this kind of sound.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the songwriting, are you able to write things specifically to showcase his range and what he is capable of doing?
Eskic: First, we want to see if we have a balance of songs so that not every song sounds like the previous one. Watching over this situation, and the second thing is we move the songs to fit in better areas for the singer, yes. A while ago you write your riffs, but it’s not just my riffs, it’s our music so you have to do your music and put it in the best sounding positions for your singer. This spectrum of voices that we need for the album.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you also conscious of the tempos and varying that aspect so not everything comes up at the same BPM’s?
Eskic: Yes, of course. We look together to move the situation into different kinds of tempos. We look at this together. Some songs for the drummer were a little bit too fast, he asked what we were doing here. We recorded everything, and let’s see if he could do that. And it was all good.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any songs on the record that were a bit more of a challenge, either in the songwriting or recording process, than others?
Eskic: Generally, we are really focused because we are also friends. We focus on working together and taking on these ideas together. We took the previous three years as the big idea to create the situation for these songs. It was not easy work, but they are my friends doing cool sounds together. We always have fun when we create music with each other, we move the situation together until it is finished. This was pretty cool work to record this album. At the end, it was a little bit hard with the mix, we always want to do weeks just mixing but for this there was no time or money to do this. We tried to fix this in the best possible way. It was easier to work for this album. The first album, we started with this and that. With this album, we love this sound, so we just decided to do it.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the guest appearance with Laura Guldemond of Burning Witches for “Stand United” – as many are aware of your work with the band currently, and how did you feel about the video shoot for this track?
Eskic: When we record the album, we were thinking about the song “Stand United”, but we didn’t have a strong feeling about the song. After the recording, we realized the song sounds powerful, and we thought about a guest. The record label asked us in the same way, do we have a guest appearance for the album? We are not this guest type band, we love to do our art with the five musicians, a close, conservative thing. In this situation, this song with Laura with this crazy voice, would fit perfectly. First verse, second verse, the second one with the chorus they can sing together. And she is this armor girl, and our singer is a professional physical trainer guy with these muscles. We wanted to try this – and Laura thought it was great to do it. She recorded the vocals fast, we put it in the best possible spot in the song.
With the video clip, we had a situation that we wanted to create a theme like Conan and the red Sonia. It’s a little complicated to organize, but we had some friends who had some horses, taking the horses to the location. We tried this with swords, they see each other, and they want to fight but at the end, they become friends. We go to this cave, fifteen minutes from our home and I didn’t know there was a cave so beautiful there. Everybody was like ‘wow – what a cool place’! The video recording was pretty easy, and in the end looks pretty cool. I love the video, it’s a little bit glitchy, this battle stuff, armor, but it fits with the whole situation and they both look good in the video.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts regarding your record label Noble Demon and the work that they have done to push Gomorra through the promotion and publicity channels?
Eskic: We still are happy. They do easy, good work. Already for the first album, we were really surprised how much they were pushing and trying with promotion, it was cool to see everything moving. They have started to do great things worldwide, making the album available to buy. They are doing a really cool job, even if we are a small band. We hope to do more things, but it’s a thing of budget, of time. I play in another band, there are a lot of things there. For this time and spot that we have there, it’s just amazing.
Dead Rhetoric: Is it a balancing act for you and the other members of Gomorra to handle your responsibilities with this act as well as your duties within Destruction? And do you enjoy the differences in terms of style/approach that the two bands have?
Eskic: In Destruction, generally I like this freedom in the songs. Playing the stuff, it’s much faster, Red Bull music. There are a lot of spots for solos, a lot of pentatonic and blues stuff fits in. It sounds special when you put that inside this speed/thrash metal, it fits perfectly. Every night it’s a new challenge. I have some structure in some solo spots, but most are just free. Every night on stage it’s a fight for me, this improvisation to have this crazy stuff to move the solos. Sometimes I’m happier, sometimes less. I love this free thing inside the solos.
For Gomorra, they need more of the structure of solos there. They have some songs with spots to be freer, but not so much. Gomorra needs this epicness, that is the question of how to do it. My bandmates are happy about my playing in Destruction. When I only will play with Gomorra, we don’t have as much time to play out as the other guys have normal work/careers, it’s hard work and there are not many chances to take free time and do something more. I will try to manage both, but how it is now, there is no chance to do it any other way. We live in Switzerland, it’s not a hard life, but everyone is working for good money. It’s expensive in this country. I’m a musician, and musicians have the possibility in this country to move, to have tours, and when I tour with Destruction, I have a replacement at the university where I teach guitar in school. It’s easy to do this situation – for the other guys in Gomorra, no, they need to take one year notice for touring. Maybe we can do long weekends, but real touring, it’s not possible.
Dead Rhetoric: As a guitar teacher, how would you describe your outlook and philosophy when it comes to the students you work with? Are there specific things that you try to work with them on, taking into account how you improved your skills and technique as a guitarist when you were younger?
Eskic: First thing, I start also with a lot of guitar players, AC/DC, and cool stuff. It is still a part of me, just cool rock and heavy metal music. With more practicing, more comes, I find more artists that play in a crazy way. I was trying to not copy this style but take a lot of impressions and do my own thing. Today it’s not easy to do your own thing, there are trillions of guitar players all around the world. When I am in the school, I try to be open to possibilities. I ask every time what they want to play. Be it pop, rock, jazz. I have different types of guitar players and students – one of them will play gothic, one reggae, one or two guys more jazz, some guys play black metal because Switzerland has a lot of black metal musicians, death metal. Some older guys play the blues. I love this situation of catching all the moments, helping these students. I have some great students that sing and play, playing in different bands. I love seeing the artists grow and change through the years.
I try to be open in the situation of giving lessons. It’s not like I dictate a plan, I go to each person and I try to give the lessons based on a personal basis.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a preference for the studio versus the stage when it comes to your work – or are both equally exciting and interesting, just in their own way?
Eskic: In the studio, once we start to record with V.O. in Switzerland, he is very honest to work with bands. He likes to work fast, and he can be grumpy, so that’s cool. The first time we went to his studio was in 2008 or 2009, something like this. From this moment, I want to only record with him. I’m never happy with sound, when you are happy with the sound, you can stop playing. It’s challenging every time, try this, moving that. When the record is released, I put it in the player, and the first thing I think is ‘the bass guitar is too loud’ (laughs). It’s a never-ending learning experience in the studio. V.O. tries every time to make things better and different.
About the stage, I like to play. It doesn’t matter if the venue is with fifty people or an open-air festival with 50,000 people. I love to play music. Some time a while ago, we were playing private shows in a bar in my hometown just for friends, thirty-forty people. We played cover songs, heavy songs by Judas Priest but with acoustic guitars and it sounded amazing. It was a cool challenge. I just love to play; it doesn’t matter how big the gig.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider some of your personal highlights over the years as a musician – specific albums, tours, festival appearances, or special moments when you knew you were making an impact with your craft/work?
Eskic: Generally, I am a happy guy, and I am happy with what I’ve done since I started in music. How many albums I’ve been able to record, and how many albums I’ve helped to record, guest appearances. From the bottom of the heart, I love what I’ve been doing all these years. Special things in concerts, of course to play with all my guys. I have a special project with friends where we play some Yngwie Malmsteen covers, but nobody has time to practice with this. We had fun together. I love to be with my friends on stage. Meeting people before or after the shows. I was for the first time in the USA on tour with Destruction recently, and it was amazing to meet people and also in South America of course. It was cool to meet people, talk with them, take some time and talk with metalheads from far away. This is for me, really unique and I enjoy these moments.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the state of heavy metal worldwide today? What areas excite you, and where do you think changes (if any) need to be made?
Eskic: I would say, there are more artists around. After COVID time, there are a lot of bands touring and playing. What is cool is we can go to shows, bigger or smaller, around us. What I least like in the whole situation of today’s heavy metal, for me it’s rock music. Something that you give from your heart, that you have a passion for something, a love for something. You do this, you show that, you feel this. For me, it doesn’t fit the playback situation, rock and metal music. It is a sad part of rock music generally today, a lot of newer bands, modern bands, they move, they don’t play. They move their hands. This is a sad part. I really hope that not more and more will move in this situation in the next few years because I will never play like that. It’s not possible.
It’s an attitude. In a sound situation, when this music started a long time ago, the thing was to hear and to feel the power that comes from directly from these humans. I see now over the last couple of years, you see from the front that it sounds too perfect, and then you walk behind the stage, and they have a lot of computers in the back. The sound is coming from the tape. This is a sad thing. It’s just my opinion. I don’t like too many new bands because of this. We have some amazing artists and great musicians. I try to figure out some bands for me. This situation has changed over the last five or six years.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of new bands, are you proud of the work and accomplishments that have been done with Burning Witches?
Eskic: Yes, of course. First, I feel love. Because the girls are totally crazy. I love the music they do. I love this attitude they have. It looks like there is no end, when they are together, it’s crazy to see. I am proud, we are all here in the family. We are totally surprised with how many records they’ve been able to sell worldwide, that was really amazing to see. I like to work for this band, stay behind them, try to help with ideas. Try to be there for them.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for activities related to Gomorra, Destruction, Burning Witches, and anything else you may have on your plate over the next twelve months?
Eskic: I’m not sure, but I think we will be coming to America and Canada with Destruction once more in the beginning of next year. Too many tours are crashing everywhere. We will try to fix more shows for next year. With Gomorra the same, we have some pretty cool offers so I’m just checking into them, to get the spots with the lineup. The idea is, with Destruction to play more tours. For Gomorra, to play some single shows, some weekends. When we want to play a tour as a small band, we have to pay. We have a hotel on wheels, people who help you, it’s a lot of money. At the moment, there’s no chance to do this, but who knows what the future holds. It’s cool to see some cool offers are coming our way. Just working on everything for the moment, let’s see how it will go next year.