Process of Guilt | Interview with Hugo Santos

Following a very auspicious debut recording named 'Renounce', Process of Guilt return with an album that confirms all expectations created around them. Their sophomore record 'Erosion' demonstrates that the group from Évora - Portugal had no fears in expanding their sound beyond the strict limits of a somewhat rigid style of music as Doom-Metal, incorporating new nuances from several other musical sources without ever betraying their own essence.
We set out to know more about the writing process of 'Erosion' and its main sources of inspiration from vocalist and guitarist Hugo Santos.

[Process of Guilt]

Three years after a surprising and favourable debut named 'Renounce', Process of Guilt return with a truly colossal new work that confirms all expectations created around the group from Évora. 'Erosion' is a more mature record in comparison with its predecessor and even though it maintains the primordial characteristics of Process of Guilt intact, at the same time it also manages to transfigure and be innovative, embracing new elements that result in plenitude.
In this second work it is noticeable an evolution towards new musical paths like the post-metal of Neurosis and the minimal shoegaze of Jesu, do you feel that this was something that appeared naturally during the composition of the new songs, or you had a preconceived idea to imbue slight changes into the song-writing methods for the new album?

“The phase of composition of 'Erosion', besides being sufficiently different from the one of its predecessor, corresponded to a concise period of time where we really dedicated to the elaboration of an album where everything functioned as a whole.
Deep down, 'Erosion' represents the point where, musically, we would like to be when 'Renounce' came out, so this time we could go deeper into what we really long for our own sonority, trying to detach it from the more obvious associations that had been made in previous releases.
However, the incorporation of these new elements was for us more like the refinement of details that already were part of our language than properly a conscientious decision to follow into one determined path.
But we tried to purge the music that we were creating of everything that we considered unnecessary in order to create something that, it our point of view, approached more the true feeling that we were aiming for this album.”

As such, it doesn’t seem improper to state that the Process of Guilt of today does not fit comfortably in a musical style like Doom-Metal in its more orthodox meaning. Although it is a little ungrateful to ask for a musician to define his own music, how would you define the current sound of Process of Guilt?

“If we restrict the Doom spectrum only to the Doom/Death tag, we do not identify with it at all, however, is certain that, for the most part we continue to be a band with a very Doom cadence and we declaredly assume this facet since this slower rhythm is natural in us.
However, we like to think about our music as not being strictly limited to that label, acknowledging that are indeed other influences related with everything that surrounds us, either in our daily life or musically, that gets reflected in our music. In this point, beyond the influences related with Doom, I think that you can find references to some sludge, to some material more atmospheric or even some melodies post-something (in lack of a better description) that we look to translate, always with our own touch and where the dark is enhanced."

And how do you see, with a natural distance since the album as a finished product already co-exists with the band for some months, the evolution of the band from the first work 'Renounce'? In your opinion, which are the main differences between the two albums?

“'Erosion' is, in everything, a more mature work and, in our opinion sufficiently different from its predecessor. We could say our first full-length album consisted of an assortment of songs that we wrote throughout the two years that had preceded its release. As such, it is natural that it was still glued to some of the influences that we heavily possessed at the time. 'Erosion' corresponds to period different in all aspects, given that from the composition of the songs to the entrance in studio, passing through the process of mixing and mastering, everything was done in a very distinct way, starting right from our own personal approach to the process. Our last record continues to be the one with which, still today following some months, we identify the most, recognizing our own intentions in each song.”

'Erosion', along with the previous album was captured and produced at the 5ª Dimension studios once again with João Bacelar (who follows the evolution of the group since their initial phase) sitting at the control panel. How did the recordings go in an environment that, I believe to be profoundly familiar for you?

“The environment is indeed sufficiently familiar for us and adapts perfectly to the objective that we were looking after for 'Erosion', given that we were searching for a feeling with a stronger impact close to our live performances. Therefore, it was important the incorporation of our sound technician throughout the whole process, in order to translate into the studio the energy of one of our live performances. We were also, sufficiently more organic in the way that we recorded all the instruments, avoiding overdubs and transporting into the recordings what we sound like in a live environment. In this way, the recording process turned out to be more efficient and focused, leaving us plenty of time for the mixing. The mixing phase was also fully integrated with the mastering process given that, after we spoke with Collin and expressed our objectives for the sonority, it was still possible to make some adjustments with a view to achieve the best possible final result.”

The band had given a series of concerts to promote the new album, and even had the chance to play at Madrid is Dark Fest in Spain. How is it for you the experience to play live and how has been the reaction of the audience to the new themes?

“After a mini-tour to present the new album, along with The Firstborn, we participated in some festivals like Vagos Open Air, Madrid Is The Dark and the Dutch Doom Days VIII, and especially these last two, the reactions of the public had completely exceeded any expectations from our part, as much at the level of the reactions from the public as to the search of our merchandise, and that strengthen our will to take our music even further. Even our participation at this year’s edition of Ghouls Night Out in Évora, in regards to the public’s reaction, completely exceeded our most optimistic expectations by playing in front of a crowd that in certain way have seen us evolve almost from our garage days. For us the experience to play live is, by far the one that we crave the most and where we completely commit ourselves to the interpretation of each song.
We try, above all, to create the adequate ambience from a musical standpoint, scenic, sound and the delivery from each one of us in order for the public to be able to get the best experience while we’re performing.”

'Erosion' seems to underlie a specific concept, with various themes describing a cycle and subtitled as parts or chapters of a single story. What is the lyrical concept of the album?

“The lyrical concept of the album is in fact erosion, from its physical angle to a more personal side. Given the cyclical concept associated to erosion and the force that it causes, all the lyrical content of the album is intimately associated with the music, the way that riffs and rhythms are played and how the words are placed.
We didn’t set out to reach for a strictly lyrical concept as we wanted to associate the lyrical and the musical components in a way that we had yet to accomplish.
More than the interpretations associated with the lyrics of the songs, which always have a personal source, what we were looking forward with this release was that, from the music to the lyrics and the artwork everything would function as a whole, and whose interpretation could also be sufficiently personal.”

Your music explores in a certain way an emotional territory divided between melancholy and desperation. Do you feel that music is a privileged vehicle to deal with these feelings, as if we were taking about some form of catharsis?

“We can say that, yes. The music that we create has definitively something of a cathartic effect with a darker side that is related with melancholy or desperation. We think that is the spectrum that better adjusts what we set out to create. It continues to be this feeling that moves us and stimulates practically everything that we make as Process of Guilt. The objective is always the creation of sonic landscapes possessing a feeling of involvement that grows and inspire us as performers and listeners, hoping that throughout the process, we could find something more than only the sound coming out of the speakers.”

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David Alexandre