German/Yank quartet Downfall of Gaia have returned with their latest attack on the status quo with Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay, the band's third complete full-length. This is a late-in-the-year offering you'll want to pay some attention, as it gathers all shades of darkness, then both pets and pummels you with it. It's occasionally sludgy, sometimes mournful, often blackly brutal, and always engaging. Check out how they find a way to make screeching feedback actually fucking resolve at the end of "Carved into Shadows" before dipping into the slow-breaking-day of "Ascending the Throne." Next month, the band takes on a 22-date U.S. tour, spending most of their time on the East Coast but also heading to Texas and parts of the Midwest. The tour poster is below. Also, don't miss new drummer Mike Kadnar's take on the way the new material happened (below the tour poster).
Why does this album focus on time as the enemy of man? What personal events or philosophies made this a topic that you wanted to engage now?
I think the quote we used by Dion Boucicault, “Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them” accurately explains what the album is about. Time has influenced each member of the band differently, especially over the past couple of years. Dominik wrote all the lyrics on his own, but the eerily resemble my life in a lot of ways. I lost a very close family member a couple of years ago, and it tore my family apart unfortunately. Portions of the album are about loss, and how time can heal certain things or make other things worse.
Mike, how did you get hooked up with the band? How does it work, with you based in NY and the rest of the band in Germany?
My New York based band Black Table toured with Downfall of Gaia in August/September of 2013. After the one month US tour, we all became really good friends and stayed in contact via email/Facebook. When I heard their drummer was leaving, I contacted them to see how the drummer search was going and offered my services, jokingly at first. When they informed me the search wasn’t going well, we began talking seriously about me being their touring drummer (Since they had two big European festivals booked for the summer already, Hellfest and Metal Days). This conversation snowballed into them asking me to record their next record with them and joining the band full time.
I learned and transcribed all the songs from their previous set list in the winter of 2014. Then they flew me out to Hamburg, Germany for a 2 week rehearsal in March, and then again for another two week rehearsal in late April/May. The transition was pretty seamless and we were able to start working on new songs after a few days. As of now, I still live in the NYC area, and the other three guys live in Hamburg and Berlin. We have all been practicing on our own, and we will meet up for a rehearsal a couple of days before our next tour, which will be a US tour in January/February of 2015.
How did the album's concept affect the approach to writing or performing this music?
During these two rehearsal periods, we wrote the entire record instrumentally and recorded crappy demos in our dingy basement rehearsal space. We listened to these and made edits via internet and then polished everything up during the second rehearsal. The rough concept of the album was already in place, but the album really came together during this second rehearsal, which is when Dominik brought in the final version of all the lyrics.
As I explained in the previous question, all four of us had a difficult year, and this is definitely reflected in the mood and atmosphere of this record. We are all coming out of a dark, desolate place, and we put all of these emotions and experiences into the music.
What was the recording process like? How was it different from other recordings you've been involved in?
The recording process was surprisingly smooth and efficient. I flew into Germany June 2nd, and we packed the equipment in the van, and started setting up drums the next morning at the ’79 Sound’ in Cologne. This is the same studio Downfall of Gaia recorded their last album, Suffocating in the Swarms of Cranes, but it was my first time recording and meeting engineer Christoph Scheidel. Fortunately for me, he was extremely easy to work with and very encouraging, while maintaining the integrity of the project and giving pointers where necessary. We spent most of the first day setting the drums up and tuning the house Yamaha 4 piece drum kit to where we wanted it. The drum tracking went smoothly once we got the drum tone we wanted.
Bass tracking was next and was going really well, until we discovered one of the tubes had blown. We found a local repair guy in Cologne, and he ordered the parts, fixed the tube, and had it back to us by the time both guitars were tracked. We were really fortunate to find a local amp guy since we only had 11 days in the studio before we kicked off our European tour with Toxic Holocaust and Black Tusk. Vocals took a little more time than we expected, but we got everything tracked the day before tour started, so we even had time to run through the set before we loaded out of the studio.
Does the current Downfall of Gaia sound draw from any non-heavy influences?
I studied jazz performance in college, so I am immensely influences by jazz. Some of my biggest jazz drumming influences are Roy Haynes,Tony Williams, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Dafnis Prieto, Jim Black and Mark Guiliana.
Another big influence for me is John Coltrane’s ability to create “sheets of sound” with one instrument. He was able to create these cascading arpeggios with his horn that would fill the sonic spectrum. I’ve taken this concept and incorporated it on the drums by using two crashes/rides everywhere I physically can to produce the biggest wall of sound possible. Instead of traditionally riding on one cymbal, I ride on two to fill the sound out more. I also started 22-24 inch ride cymbals as crashes to help achieve this sound.
If you could join a dream tour line-up, what other bands would you want to share the stage with?
We were fortunate enough to play with some of our favorite bands and heroes at this year’s Hellfest. However, I’m still dying to play with The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge. This year’s Decibel tour is pretty much perfect!