About six months ago, a Salt Lake City, UT band called Gravecode Nebula heaved out its first album, Sempiternal Void, despite the fact that the band has been playing together in some form since 2006. Fellow Salt Lake slowniks and Decibel faves SubRosa have mentioned GN a couple times when discussing local bands they enjoy, but until now, the Deciblog hasn’t heard Gravecode’s story from the band’s own members. But first: what about the music? Holy shit is this stuff good. And heavy. Maybe you thought that was a given here at the Deciblog, but this is next level-type heavy. Blackened buzzing riffs played at the speed of glaciers. Brain-caving density. Perfectly cadenced drum battery. Gritty vocals that could bore through a limestone cliff. If spacious doom makes you sleepy but black metal’s just too damn ferocious and fast all the time and you wish there was some moderator between the two that could use extreme volume and constant musical motion to squeeze your frail frame into a diamond, then Gravecode Nebula might be just what you need today.
We got all the GN dirt (which is not particularly dirty) from lead guitarist Dyingnysus, which you can probably read two or three times in a row while listening to Sempiternal Void’s second track, “The Frozen Sun (Does Not Support Life).” Frown like you mean it!
First of all, Gravecode Nebula? Is there a story or intent behind this name, or is it just a combo of cool-sounding words?
I’d have to say it is a pretty great combo of cool sounding words, yes! We lucked out there, eh? Still, there is a story/meaning behind it. Originally the band was to be called Dying (as a solo project of mine) and that later evolved into Black Plague of Necromancer (say that 11 times fast). So when the three of us got together initially (myself - guitars, Zodiac 496 on drums/vocals and bassist Hel) I do not think they were too keen on that name, and neither was I really at that point. Our vocalist Zodiac suggested Gravecode Nebula, and it was just, well, that worked. At that point, I don’t know how well thought out the concept he might of had in mind was (this is going back almost 8 years or so, memory may not serve me too well here), but since then, we discussed at rehearsals/gatherings etc., what we would like to have the name represent. Ultimately, after deeper discussion, that’s when the concept of the void and the universe as an abstract concept of worship came for us. The universe is where all life and death originates, there is no denying that. Nebulae are the collection of dust, particles, and gases that stars, solar systems, and consequently galaxies are formed from. They are also the result of supernovas and destruction of the aforementioned. There is a cycle there. The universe is really like a huge graveyard for the energy and echoes of all living and dead things that will remain in the universe, at least until the universe ceases to be. The Code is our understanding of this phenomenon… like a code to live by. For us, our music is the sonic representation of the void.
GN has been mentioned a couple times on the Deciblog already by members of SubRosa, when they talk about the local music scene. What is it like playing your music in your area? Is there a tight musical community?
Yes we are aware they have done so. We really appreciate SubRosa, not only just because they are great musicians and friends, but they have been very supportive of us by helping spread awareness of Gravecode Nebula and also of the local music community in Salt Lake City in general. SubRosa exhibits a great amount of grace and humility doing something like that. It is a testament to their integrity as a band and as people in our local scene.
For our part, playing music in Salt Lake City is always rewarding for us and for the people who come to witness the shows. Could there be some improvements in Salt Lake’s local music scene? Of course! Anyone will say that about their local music scene or whatever you’d like to call it. I think, and some may agree/disagree, that the music scene has vastly improved here, especially for metal over the past 3-5 years. People have a hard time remembering when not too many bands (underground or mainstream) would really stop through here on their tours. We maybe got to see Slayer every 5-7 years etc. That was pretty much it; although a lot of great Death Metal bands played in Salt Lake throughout the 90s, always at bars though. Being underage at that time, I could never get in to see them. I do think there is a dedicated and tight knit metal community here with bands like the aforementioned: SubRosa, as well as Deathblow (great old school thrash), Visigoth (signed to Metal Blade, old school heavy metal), Winterlore, (black metal), Huldra (good post-metal), Moon of Delirium (our drummer Yel Dah and bassist Hel’s other band, dark metal stuff), The Obliterate Plague, Incendiant, Deicidal Carnage (all great death metal bands), and the list goes on and on and on! I am really barely scratching the surface. All these bands are all incredibly supportive of each other. There are great bands that play all sorts of styles of music as well in Salt Lake City, and it’s a vibrant and active music community.
GN members have gotten together on a couple other projects. How does the work (either playing style or process) differ from band to band?
Most people who play music and are inspired to create it can have a wide range on their musical palette etc. One reason why I do other bands or projects is because one idea might not work in the confines of that group while it may work in another. I for one like to write just straightforward atmospheric raw black metal, as that’s mostly my musical background etc. So, while there is a fair amount of that happening with Gravecode Nebula, that’s not all we do either, it’s down tuned, and a lot of doom influence. Also lyrically, things can tend to be focused on other themes with a different band. Personally, I have some more philosophical and nihilistic viewpoints that don’t always fit within the Gravecode Nebula structure wholly or just do not work for aesthetic value. Still, I would say all of these reasons are indicative of why we all seem to keep busy with other musical projects. I can’t really speak for the other people in Gravecode Nebula with their other bands I am not in, but I imagine it is fairly different than Gravecode’s method or process of songwriting and how they construct their musical ideas. When I have discussed the other projects of some Gravecode members with them, I get the feeling that each band they are in is very different. Perhaps that is part of the appeal - just do something different.
Your logo cuts right to the depressive/suicidal point. Who came up with it, and what made it the right choice for GN?
You know, that has always been something I’ve looked at from different angles, the hanged man part of it especially. I definitely see how you can get that feeling you mentioned from it and I guess that would be its most stark meaning at face value. Plus, we have that harrowing, depressive, hopeless sort of feeling in what our music/sound and overall vibe conveys. Truth be told, I wouldn’t say that we are particularly suicidal or depressive ourselves really… well, not on a daily basis at least!! Still, for some of us it has other meanings that might not be so apparent. In the sense of the universe and beyond the cushy confines of our planet Earth, that hanged man represents how far humanity has gotten beyond our stratosphere, because if we do not go beyond, then we are destined to die with this planet. So that’s sort of like a species on the verge of suicide by that reasoning right? Also, in more of the sort of an earthly vibe, it can represent to me as far as how we limit and hold ourselves back with our religious/dogmatic processes and beliefs or even the way society is structured in general. Maybe we can say the powers that be are doing it to us? If you look at them controlling everything and we as the proletariat or whatever you would call it; well, we have hung ourselves by giving them that ultimate control over us. Short of it: We are doomed! I’ll add that within the tarot, the hanged man is actually a representation of divinity! People have different interpretations of what something might represent and I like things that can be dissected that way. That ability to perhaps be more multi-faceted and provoke thought.
Our vocalist Zodiac was the one who created it and I have to say when I first saw it, the first thing I noticed was that the NEBULA part kind of reminded me of the lettering from logo for the movie ALIEN. I liked that particularly (or at least my inner sci-fi nerd did!)
What kinds of things (musical, personal, artistic or otherwise) have been influencing the direction and sound of GN’s music?
When writing this music, I really am influenced by not just the obvious things, like maybe bands that inspired me to do this sort of music of which there are many, but also what type of music represents my general thought processes and feelings inside at that time. Most of these ideas, thoughts, feelings, I do not talk about often with people in conversation, except some of my band members and close friends. I think a lot of the negative and dark feelings I have are all channeled into the music we write so with that there is a cathartic effect. I can say wholeheartedly that we feel this catharsis when we are writing our music. This might just be the best way we have to express ourselves as people. This is true for all musicians I would assume. In Gravecode Nebula, we’re not writing love songs here. We’re not always upbeat, peppy, and positive about everything in music and in life…still, it’s not all just darkness, death, doom, and gloom either. There is a rising above and strength that comes from this songwriting process that is rewarding and ultimately can relieve some of that inner turmoil and tension. I think the fact that the 6 of us now in the band, can all collectively come together and instinctually know what the music is supposed to be like without having to explicitly state it is amazing still to this day. As a band we share a lot of common influences, and not so common ones, yet we put it all together and it works. We have a common goal of what we want our sound to convey as well as our lyrical themes to express.
Musically, we always liked the traditional/sludge/funeral doom metal styles, as well as black metal, death metal, not to mention all the 60’s and 70’s psychedelic, progressive, rock stuff . It’s fair to say that we all grew up with that music and it’s important to us. Initially when we first heard those particular styles of music, it eventually inspired us to try and do something as evocative and unique as what those musicians set out to achieve for their creative aspirations. I’m sure for them; it was a similar process as they were inspired by others just as we were.
Sempiternal Void is your first full-length recording, though you’ve been playing together for a while. What was GN focused on during that time? Were there particular reasons why you didn’t record/release until recently?
Actually some of these songs on the Sempiternal Void album range back to around 2006-2008, which seems like forever ago. There were some hiatuses that were imposed or embarked upon during some of that time too. Plus, new elements were being added to the music constantly, as well as some lineup changes that made it take longer to refine this music. I and the other members of Gravecode Nebula always had other bands that were more of a main focus during a lot of these times as well. Eventually, when we did come together in about the years of 2010-2011 or so we worked out this music through a lot of rehearsal hours. The songs had to be refined, rewritten and presented just how we wanted them to be. We were doing gigs and a split 7” w/ Krieg during this time, so, we didn’t feel particularly rushed either. I think that is true of a lot of bands too, is that you spend years making the first album then less than a year making the second (which we have already started to do).
How do you feel about the outcome of the album? What did you hope for when you went to work recording it?
I’m fairly pleased with the result, almost more so than I can say about other records I have been a part of over the years. It took a lot of studio time and effort; we spent about a year recording Sempiternal Void from 2011-2012. I personally wanted it be very layered and atmospheric, so to prepare for that, (at the time I was the only guitar player) I had to meticulously plan things with my guitar ideas especially. I did that mostly by demoing things at home to get an idea how everything would come together as well as making notes of how I wanted everything to sound for my part and overall the sound of the album. I figured personally that it was our first album and there may have been a sense that there were some high expectations from the group most importantly and eventually from the audience expecting a great first record. I think there was a conscious feeling that we didn’t want to misstep and rush anything. I think we all feel that it is a very representative piece of work of what we had in mind, and may have even exceeded expectations in a lot of ways too.
What is a GN live show like? How do you feel when you’re performing this music?
The live show of Gravecode Nebula is very oppressive and dark I think. It’s hard to say how it is viewed from the audiences’ point of view, but, from what I have seen in video and photos it is pretty much exactly what we want to convey visually as well as aurally. It is always a continuing, evolving process to bring as much to the live performance that will make it a very unique experience for us as the performers and the audience who is spectating. I think I can speak for all of the members of the band that the feelings we get while playing together are those of being lost in the music almost in a trance like state at times. Whenever we perform this music it seems to take us, as well as the audience somewhere that is not perverted by the mundane existence of daily life…