No more gods
Released eight months ago ‘Of Ghost and Gods’ is an immediate classic. With a punching statement and harsh criticism on religion destructive traditions. The album redefines Kataklysm as a death metal force which is relevant and still continues to turn heads after 25 since formation. Artist Surtsey (Occvlta Designs) designed sinister album artwork depicting the reality of humanity’s beautifully disturbing existence and its impending death.
HMA: On your latest album ‘Of Ghosts and Gods’. So who are the “ghosts” and which “gods” are we talking about?
Olivier Beaudoin: Still in the news, you can tell we’re still driven with conflicts that have been ongoing for thousands of years and this is about the ‘gods’ thing. It’s also on the spiritual level I would say in a way. The ‘ghost’ part is people are carrying stuff from the past and are not able to let go. We also approach some different topics like be against the flock in the song ‘The Black Sheep’. We also discuss humanity and huge topics like this. ‘The World is a Dying Insect, the song talks about humans the parasites colonizing the earth and destroying the ecosystems and all that stuff.
HMA: Usually Kataklysm has religious reference to the albums. Of course, ‘Of Ghosts and Gods’ is one of them. Is it an obsession, do you guys have any religious beliefs and where do you stand on this?
OB: As far as I know every guy in the band is atheist. But humanity’s still driven with all these things that you can’t really cure like this. Even if it’s supposed to be a period where people are rational, there are huge conflicts ongoing because of religion still. I think it’s been a thing forever with the band, so they keep it in line. It’s also a way to express yourself… The lyrics, images, it’s on the figurative sense of the words.
HMA: Considering that this is the twelfth album for Kataklysm, has the songwriting or the recording process changed over the years?
OB: Yes, it did, especially since I came in. They used to go a little more old-school, like rehearsal and then just writing guitar riffs and then showing up and recording. They didn’t even know what the drumbeats would be on certain guitar riffs. Since I came in we’re all doing pre-productions on the computer. So drums are first program and arrangements are made with the guitar riffs. I receive the riffs from JF and then we can build drum tracks and then arranging. Then the singer can actually put his ideas there, the lyrics, the patterns, and everything. We constantly do retroactive work from that point on the structures until everything’s perfect. Especially in the last one. We did so much work. Even at the last moment, we were still changing stuff to make it the best we could. I think it paid off and I think that’s why the songwriting took a big notch recently.
HMA: It has been really well-received from the fans and from the press.
OB: Yes. People at shows, they know the lyrics already. They go crazy. Usually, the band plays a classic song, and then people go crazy on those songs. Then you play the new songs, and they don’t really know what’s going on. But now I would say it’s even. Some of the new tracks like ‘The Black Sheep’, which another one… We have ‘Soul Destroyer’, which was on the Sirius Radio. There was also ‘Thy Serpent’s Tongue’. These new tracks are really, really well-known. It’s just been positive because when you see this, you know you’re in the right direction. Also, when you have feedback from magazines like we had on Metal Hammer Germany, an album of the month position and stuff like that. We also just got the nomination from the Canadian Grammys, which is called JUNO awards, for the album. They are good signs.
But ‘Waiting for the End to Come’ was more like an experiment to know how the chemistry would work and stuff like this, how much they would give me space to put my own ideas I would say. Now it’s much more collaborative. This helps because the guys have been writing and writing. Check a band like AC/DC’s just been putting out the same album… Still, it’s good, but it’s still the same kind of recipe, they change the chords. So we tried to rejuvenate the band with what I can help bring to the band. They let me do it. Some bands they would say “Well we want our sound. We’re not really open to new ideas because we never know what the results going to be with the fans.” They opened the door for me. I think it paid off for everybody.
HMA: Absolutely. It’s a great album. Going back to the videos. There was a video made for every song. Can you tell me more about it?
OB: Some were more on the performance type of thing. Some were more lyric videos. Some were more images, concept type of story going on. ‘Carrying Crosses’ was more a story between two persons. There was ‘Vindication’ which was a drum highlight type of thing because it’s a fast track. Some others were more like lyric videos like ‘Marching Through Graveyards’, which is more like images and you see the lyrics. We tried to go full spectrum on that. It’s quite hard to do because we put so much time because the content has to be there. You need to generate like forty minutes of content. Usually, you have just one or two songs which is like seven or eight minutes. I think it was one per week or one per day for like ten days, something like this. It was to launch the album.
HMA: The video for ‘Breaching the Asylum’ has a lot of religion reference from around the world. And there’s a bit in the chorus that says, “your church is your asylum”. Amazing. Just these five words are very powerful. Why do you think religion still cause so much pain?
OB: Well it’s been an ongoing struggle, a position between different cultures and different religions. It’s been like that forever. We still see this stuff. You’d think history would go forward and go through this stuff but it’s actually just going full circle. It’s going back to the same thing and now we see the stuff like the terrorist acts and this ISIS thing. It’s been just like the same thing different days basically. That’s the topic.
HMA: So the cover was made by Surtsey and on your press release it says, “depicting the reality of impending death through mortal and ever-lasting”. Can you tell me more about this?
OB: Really poetic. Basically, it’s a half-god, half-ghost type of character. The point was to try to put the image of the title as far as the words you can describe. It’s pretty much open for interpretation. It’s like an art piece. I’ll let you have fun on that.
HMA: I wanted to ask about Maurizio problem with his voice. A while back he had death metal vocal lessons.
OB: Yeah but it’s famous amongst the metal community. It’s called Melissa Cross Vocal Studio. She’s the girl that actually trained several singers. She trained the ex-singer from Arch Enemy, Angela. She trained also the guy from All That Remains, Phil. It’s just a way to be conscious of how to use your instrument and how to avoid problems in the future. Because it’s like any other instrument, you’re using it every single day. On that tour, we had like only two days off. So imagine for a singer it’s not easy stuff. He’s screaming every night, no rest. To try to be able to do this for an extended period of time, I think it’s quite a challenge. I would say on the tour package, drummers and singers are the ones who have to take care the most of their body to be able to go through this. The same thing goes for studio time when you have to record five hours of screaming. It’s not just forty-five minutes. It takes its a toll on the body.
HMA: There is a technique to it.
OB: There is definitely. You always use the diaphragm and not the throat, stuff like that. New singers, they think you just make noise, but it’s not like this. If you want to have also a good type of punch and tone, it’s how you use your body as an instrument.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2016 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.