Gorod – Following the Waltz of the Sun

Thursday, 30th March 2023

When it comes to progressive, technical death metal, one of the forerunners of the movement has to be French band Gorod. Mesmerizing guitar work with jagged time signature changes, the songwriting still has this sense of masterful touches without seemingly too technical for the average listener to grasp or maintain. Their seventh studio album The Orb is another brilliant set of material – infusing jazzy and groovy angles against the cavalcade of parts thrown into the landscape. We reached out to vocalist Julien Deyres to discuss how the extra time off didn’t necessarily allow Gorod to be as productive as one would think, the lyrical inspirations for this record that focus more on modern/future aspects, changes in logo/graphic design, favorite memories over the years including times in Indonesia and the United States, what the 1900’s mean to him for artists, plus the importance of friendships to keeping Gorod moving along.

Dead Rhetoric: The seventh Gorod album The Orb is another masterful progressive/ technical death metal record – and first for the group in five years. Do you believe the extra time off due to COVID-19 and the pandemic keeping musicians at home allowed this release to be even more special down to the finer details? Where do you see this record sitting in the discography of the group?

Julien Deyres: We are pretty different from many other bands because for a lot of us, the lockdown was not good. There was one song we started to work on before the first lockdown, it was in April, that is on the album which is “Waltz of Shades”, the seventh track. The first version was quite a bit different, but this was the only song we composed. Afterwards there was a long break. We are a band that loves touring and performing. We are not a studio band – we don’t care about composing music just for the sake of composing music. We love making music to go on tour, we have fun together. As there were no shows scheduled, there was no motivation to make music. Mathieu (Pascal) is one of our guitarists and our main songwriter, the mastermind of the band. Everything comes from his crazy brain, so we didn’t change the process. There was no different process, we wrote instrumental parts, and I found motivation on writing lyrics when the first show was scheduled in February of 2022. We were motivating ourselves, let’s make a new single. For us, it was like a rebirth. We gradually moved along and started composing again.

This is why there is such a long period of time between this album and the previous album. You can put down two years of nothingness and in the end we came back to life. So, you could say there was only three years between the two albums (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: Does the songwriting process get easier or more difficult over time – especially in your case as a vocalist trying to find the right way to position your vocals in a memorable fashion given all the complexity, tempo and riff changes that take place?

: Yeah, that’s always a challenge. No matter what, as I mentioned before Mathieu composes all the music on his own, and he has the drum tracks through the drum machine with that and two harmonized guitars. Sometimes because he composes on the internet, all the time I will hear this new song – the first time I listen to each song, I think ‘where the hell am I going to put any vocals?’. (laughs). Is there any room for that? There are so many notes and so many things going on. He tells me where the instrumental parts will be and where he thinks the vocals will fit, the choruses, and we discuss things. We change slightly the structures – there are usually no big changes between the first reproduction and the final version. I have all the versions on my laptop. The bass or vocals may be missing, but things only turn out to be shorter or longer, maybe a chorus is missing, etc.

Overall, the music directs the vocals. I am totally a slave to the music. I have to follow the fills, the transitions, the structure. I manage to write some sentences, and have it flow with the music but change one or two words to carry the vibe sometimes. That’s a pain but this is how it goes. This is the best way for the vocals to fit with the music. This is definitely a guitar-oriented band, and the guitars dictate where other things go to support this major thing. I try to bring these little extra touches; this is not a hardcore band where everything is based on the vocals. This is how I see things, and it is a hard job, definitely, to make it work.

Dead Rhetoric: How did you want to come across with the lyrics this time around?

Deyres: This time for the lyrics it was a different process than usual. I am used to working in a very classical way. I take it as a university exercise when I am writing the lyrics. It has to have an intro, a conclusion, different parts that are able to connect with all of that. Something like a perfect work with a story. There is one main idea, but there would be more thoughts that branch off of it. This album was way more spontaneous in terms of the lyrics than the previous one. I got rid of some frames that I imposed against myself when it comes to the writing. The previous one Æthra is based on the moon, different views of the spirituality of the moon, of different tribes with different people throughout the whole world. This is why I looked at examples in Japan, in South America, in India, northern and Scandinavian countries. I took a compilation of all that – in history we end up comparing things.

This time, I wanted to express everything that comes to my mind. I was thinking more about the present world that we are living in, our actual life. I added afterwards a more spiritual and philosophical touch to things. This time, the main inspiration is Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World. He wrote other philosophical works, it’s not telling a story, it’s reflections, thoughts – and some of what he wrote is super brilliant. The mixing of the social core, the dystopia, 1984 by George Orwell, there are a lot of novelists that were inspired by this. The first song “Chrematheism” is the fact of giving small objects consideration as a god – be it technology like the smart phone we are using it right now. He talked about this in the 1950’s, it was called idolatry. This is the most stupid aspect, but when you think about this, he ends up talking about how things are now. I didn’t want to use too many hidden meanings when expressing my thoughts, I wanted to be more direct about things with my words. This album is about the light we see, burning everything, the source of life but could also be the thing that will burn us down. It’s a dual way of seeing things.

Dead Rhetoric: Why was it the right time to switch things up in terms of changing the band logo and the type of artwork you chose for The Orb? Do you believe it’s important for you guys as musicians to remain fresh and relevant in all regards as far as imagery, concepts, beyond the musical compositions and output?

Deyres: Absolutely. We saw this as unfortunate, some of us didn’t mind the previous logo, but others didn’t like it from the beginning. We wanted to change it, but we wanted to make sure that everyone in the band would be satisfied with it. There was a long break, we had to change the logo. We also wanted to work with a very different graphic designer. On this album, we have been working with local people. The recording was done by our guitar player, the mixing session was done by our personal sound guy who follows us around on tour, the mastering was done here. All the photography was done by someone who lives in the same workshop as our graphic designer. We wanted something more coherent to make it all fit together. The previous logo didn’t fit with the new design. The current design is much more modern, pictures, sketches, and paintings are a bit more futuristic. Carvings that are made of cooper but look like gold. I wanted a logo like this – it’s bright, it’s brilliant, it’s like a piece of jewelry. We wanted to have something more modern, and brighter, definitely.

Dead Rhetoric: Given your time in the band since 2010, what do you consider some of the personal highlights that have taken place in Gorod? Either specific albums, videos, tours, festival appearances, or other special moments that will stay forever with you in your memory banks as making an impact with your art/craft?

Deyres: Wow, there are so many! The first thing was a small tour in Europe – but it was with Cattle Decapitation, which is when we started to get to know them. What was really crazy to me, was my first tour in a real tour bus. It’s like a childhood dream. It happened in 2011 when we toured with The Faceless, Born of Osiris in Europe. We had everything, we felt like rock stars. Even if there were many tours like this. You are focused on your art, your music – you just think about the artistic way of doing things. People are working for you, this is a different way of touring when you are an underground band, in a van with less-than-ideal conditions, no accommodations. We were able to play in Indonesia in 2013, that was the biggest crowd we were able to play for. About 16,000 people, it felt like a sea of people, this is really something. You are so far away from home, a different culture, this is also the first time I saw women headbanging, throwing the horns. We are not used to that. It was such a crazy experience. I realized how many metalheads and metal supporters there can be around the world. Traveling to other parts of the world, touring in the United States was also another childhood dream. With a van, the hard way – it’s an experience to do once in your life.

Dead Rhetoric: You will be headlining your first US tour soon with support coming from Cognitive, Summoning the Lich, and Flub. What can the fans expect on this tour package, and how will it feel to be able to unleash a full set for the stateside crowds?

Deyres: For this tour, we are very excited. This is a very underground tour, no big bands, but we are headlining even if we are not a huge band. We still remain underground, and touring with Cognitive is super cool because they are friends. We’ve known each other since our first tour of the US in 2013, we know that we are going to be touring with friends that are cool people, have fun. We don’t know how the turnout will be, but I’m hoping for a lot of people to show up. It’s super hard for us to tour in the US because of the visa process, it’s crazy with the working permits. This is a huge investment, a lot of sacrifice. I hope that people will be there, we have a lot of friends in this country. It’s our fifth time to be touring in North America. For me, it’s going to be cool, no matter what.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned in a previous interview for our site the fact that being in an older scene of metal, you are able to notice differences in the younger generation that have taken technical death metal to even more extreme, intense angles. What’s most important for Gorod to express these days – are there specific trademarks that have to be there, and where would the band like to explore or stretch more in the future?

Deyres: There are those trademarks that we have to do. You are a slave to that, to this way of composing things. Some gimmicks, riffs, typical tricks, those jazzy breaks and feel. This is what makes your identity. Gorod comes from an older heritage, no matter what. When the band started, the favorite bands of the composers were Death, the technical albums like Human and Individual Thought Patterns, Cynic, Megadeth, but mostly with the Marty Friedman days. You can hear the guitar riffing being inspired by Marty, and Coroner, plus Carcass – the more melodic years, not the grindcore albums. Also the latest album. We are a combination of all that, but we don’t come from tech death. Tech death was created a bit afterwards. If you listen carefully to our first album, there are no blast beats. It’s groovier, you can feel that old-school groove, but there are a lot of notes. Mathieu loved to make a lot of harmonies like Jason Becker/Marty Friedman. Then a bit later on there was a drummer who could play faster than the previous one, and there would be blast beats on the third album. The drummer was a perfect tech death drummer, so it changed the sound in a way, becoming faster, more aggressive. That led to other bands developing such as Obscura, The Faceless, this kind of scene.

Nowadays, we are stuck in this genre – no matter what Mathieu doesn’t follow the trends. He doesn’t really listen to metal at all – when he is at home he is listening to jazz, Chick Corea, weird stuff from the 70’s. He listens to funk music; he plays in a funk band – but he can make tech death riffs. It’s different because it starts with the origins. Nowadays, it’s all about who is going to play the fastest, make the craziest sweeping part. That was a competition – the younger generation are inspired by that. The tempos are so high, sometimes 400 BPM, we are too old for that. We are content to play what we enjoy.

Dead Rhetoric: Ahasver is another act you are involved with as a guitarist – releasing your debut album Causa Ari on Lifeforce Records last fall. What do you enjoy most about playing in this progressive groove/sludge metal style that differs from your work with Gorod?

Deyres: (laughs). I am a guitarist, and I became a vocalist through default. There are a lot of times when I joined bands as a vocalist because the previous guy would not be ready for the recording sessions. They knew I could work fast on the lyrics and vocals. The guitar level for some is so crazy, if I want to create a project I had to create it. I’m not a tech death guitarist at all – I’m more into noisy, crazy structures, weird chords, odd time signatures. Making this band is an erection of older bands I was playing in before. Everyone was too busy in 2012, but three members of that band play in this band now. It has a different atmosphere – this is the opposite way of composing music compared to Gorod. I hate having a project that would sound the same, I like the diversity and it’s way more fun.

Dead Rhetoric: Given your love of art history and tour guide work, if you had the opportunity to transport yourself into any specific period of history to live, explore, and gain more knowledge, where would you go and what would you like to experience?

Deyres: The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. It was very hard, a puritanical time but all the artists I respect the most come from that period. Between Vienna, Prague, central Europe, all the way through to Norway. Around the 1900’s – how education was. Synchronism of spiritualities, the experimentation of the artists. They were completely crazy, probably because society was so stressful. Overcontrolled, right after the second Industrial Revolution, this is a big wave of modernism. People wanted to focus on something real, something more human. I would love to experience this movement, before the first World War. To see how close we are now to that period, and how different we are. The provocation of the artists, they were breaking so many rules.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s left on the bucket list of items to achieve, see, and do for Gorod – or yourself personally as a musician – say in the next three to five years?

Deyres: That’s hard to say because we are living in the moment always. We don’t plan that much in advance. We want to tour, and we are not only musicians, but we are also friends. There are some bands that are like projects with one man being the leader, and all the musicians are changing. For us, the lineup has been changing, but we’ve all known each other for a while. When we get together, sometimes we practice, sometimes we are happy to be together as friends. If you see us in person, you can feel this. This may not stay forever, but thanks to this friendship we can do new things. Some of us are having kids, so priorities can change.

To me, I’m down to keep going until the very end. I want to make more and more albums. When I make a new album, I don’t feel unsatisfied but I feel like something better could be done. Make something new, I don’t ever feel we’ve accomplished everything that we could. We have plenty that inspires us, we can always find new influences in our surroundings. This is a family, I’m not the only one to decide. It’s a democracy that will decide this.

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