Gorod | Interview with Mathieu Pascal

Over the past fifteen years France’s Gorod has been busy as heck establishing themselves as one of most consistent and challenging technical death metal acts. The five-piece recently released their fourth full-length work entitled “A Perfect Absolution” via Listenable Records and Unique Leader and I caught up with guitarist Mat to discuss the details behind this remarkable new effort. 

You guys just got back from a tour with Obscura and Spawn of Possession. How did that go? Were the crowds receptive to your new songs?

“This was the best tour we ever did! Everyone in the crew was nice, friendly and professional, the shows were ridiculously crazy, every band was appreciated and it was like a party every night! Our new songs were expected, and many people came to us to tell us how killer these new songs sound live! We played “Birds of Sulphur”, “The Axe of God” and “Carved in the Wind”. This last one was the most appreciated by the crowd, despite of its duration and its rather cool tempo.”

Any memorable moments happen for you guys on this tour?

“Oh, I think about our show in Vienna, where nobody seemed to know about us. At the door opening, everybody charged the merch booth of Obscura and Spawn, we felt alone behind our merch table. We did the show, and the crowd started to headbang, shake the hands, coming into the pit, and when the show was over, it looked like everybody rushed to the merch booth to have a talk, buy cds and take silly pictures with us! It's really rewarding for us when we can conquer new people, in new places. The welcoming in France was also wonderful, especially in Toulouse and Paris, but we didn't expect less from the crowd here, it's always good to come back in these cities!”

You’ve just released a new effort called "A Perfect Absolution". How are the fans and the critics receiving this album? Do you pay attention to what the critics have to say or could you not care less?

“We're very proud to have such pleasant welcoming. It looks like everybody loves the new album, we didn't receive strongly negative critics so far, and that’s pretty nice!! Every time, I have a lot of pressure when a new album comes out. We like to take risks, musically, and we try to never make the same song twice, so we never know about the reaction of fans, press, and metalheads in general. I deeply respect the opinion of press and of our fans, but I care more about the different opinions and feelings of my bandmates when I write a song...”

So "A Perfect Absolution" is your fourth full-length record and just like the previous effort “Process of a New Decline” displays a highly impressive musicianship, yet there is also a lot more groovy and memorable parts as well. Was this something that came about incidentally when you started writing the album or it was planned?

“Nothing is ever planned... I write a song, then another, trying to make songs different from each other. For example, there are not two songs with the same tempo, that's why there's so much diversity in the album. Groove is an important thing to me in music, even in Death Metal, I always try to give groove in the brutal parts and Sam knows perfectly how to achieve that. It's also important because it's often the “groovy” parts that are memorable and catchy.”

What would you say makes this record different than your previous three records in terms of its sound and song writing?

“Well, lots of things have changed since “Process of a new Decline”. I think we just wanted to be more focused on music only, and more professional in general. The new songs have been written in a close period, maybe less than 6 months. We always try to make simpler and efficient music, to just make songs you can sing, I mean. The tracks in “A Perfect Absolution” are more focused on groove and ambiance, and are finally more memorable in my opinion than the previous ones. Another point is about the vocals I guess. Julien uses lots of different kind of voices that brings more colors to the music, and fit perfectly well with the wide range of feelings in the songs. The sound of the band has also progressed. This time we worked with ElMobo, the famous French Metal soundmaker, to improve our sound and bring power and clarity to the mix, and objectivity to the band. I actually used to make almost everything for the band, on our past records, recording, mixing, artwork etc...As I said, this time we wanted to be supported by real professionals, to make sure of the result, and leave us focused only on music.”

You chose Frédéric "Elmobo" Motte, who’s a renowned music composer for video games in France. How did “Elmobo” become involved in the recording process?

“Yes, for the first time I wasn't in charge for the production.
We decided to work with ElMobo after a great BBQ party... we got him drunk and obliged him to do our sound for our new album or we put some dirty pictures oh him on the internet... Hahaha... not so far from reality!!
This crazy video game geek guy really brought his "master touch" to the Gorod sound.
We recorded the drums in the huge living room of a good friend's house, in the open country, and then we recorded the rest between my studio, ElMobo's Conkrete Studio and RockSchool Barbey Studio. The recording/mixing process began in October 2011 and finished in December. As we all have regular jobs, we couldn't make it in only 2 or 3 weeks. As we knew about the tour with Obscura, the album had to be completed for end 2011, and we planned everything to get this done in time.
ElMobo have really helped us to make this possible, he has golden ears and always make sure to keep the band's sound personal, even if he brings his own mark to the album.
We leave him all freedom in the first steps of the mixing process, because we totally trusted him. He's an old friend of us and we all know about his amazing work with so many bands around here, especially the work he uses to do with bass tracks. All we wanted was that every instrument should be emphasized, from drums to vocals, but clearly and not compressed too much. I only did some final adjustments, mainly regarding arrangements and details, and the rest of the band approved positively!”

“A Perfect Absolution” also features a great line up of guest contributors, namely Christian Muenzner from Obscura and Mike Keene from The Faceless. How did these two musicians become involved in this project?

“We just asked gently... that's all ! Hahaha !
We often met Christian at festivals and shows, he's a really nice person, awesome guitarist and we love his music. The Obscura guys helped us with touring in the past so it was natural to us to invite him on our next album. We just created a space for him to express and let him do whatever he wants on this space! We knew we wouldn't be disappointed, and the result is awesome, a jazzy speed solo that perfectly fit the song, better that what we expected!
For Mike, it was also simple... we toured last year with The Faceless and spent a month with them. It was a great tour, our very first "real" European tour, and it was a pleasure to travel with them, they were so intense live, and cool persons in real life! Mike is a really talented guitarist and composer, I think we have lots of common influences, so I was sure he would be the right guy for the job!
Again, he did a very emotional and beautiful solo on "The Axe of God", with his particular feeling and sense of melody.”

Can we take just a few seconds to talk about the lyrical themes of the new songs? I think one of the cool things about the record is the interesting lyrical concept revolving around a true story that happened in the 10th century. Care to tell us more about that?

“As a new singer, Julien wanted to work on something that he's really into: Art and History of Slavic cultures. So, the lyrical concept is about Central Europe and Slavic peoples. As he was doing researches about Slavic Mythology, for his studies, he discovered it was a real palimpsest and that it was nearly impossible to find reliable sources about it, but the Primary Chronicle (to mention only this book). In this work he found out the fascinating story of Olga.... he told us about this story that, in our point of view, fits perfectly well with extreme music. The whole lyrical concept is based on the history of Kievan Rus during the 10th Century. In the year 945, Igor, King of Kiev, was murdered when he visited a neighbour pagan tribe (the Derevlians) who lives in the forest. He left a widow: Olga who avenged him in an extremely harsh manner before converting to Orthodox Christianity. All the songs are about Olga's scheme of vengeance...”

Just to finish off, what do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?

“We have some shows in France and a festival in Portugal scheduled before summer, but nothing is confirmed yet for later this year. We would like touring in North America but it requires a lot of preparation. Maybe it will be possible with our new American label Unique Leader. When the promotion of the new album will be finished, we're going to work on some new stuff, maybe another EP like “Transcendence”, with original and shifted things inside...and in the same time writing for a new album!...so... always busy with Gorod !!!”