by R.S. Frost
To coincide with the release of COSMIC PUTREFACTION’s debut album, Inner Missive is glad to offer an in-depth discussion on the thematic currents and intentions behind the music and what can be found within The Greatest Chasm.
The man behind the music is Italian multi-instrumentalist Gabriele Gramaglia, known for black metal project THE CLEARING PATH. For this latest venture, Gabriele has teamed up with Brendan Sloan of CONVULSING who is responsible for the album’s twisted orations.
‘At The Threshold Of The Greatest Chasm’ comes out today via I, VOIDHANGER RECORDS. How has the journey for this project been thus far?
- ‘At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm’ was born with the intention to bring back to life some old stuff I wrote when I was a late teenager. At the time I used to play in a band called OAKEN/THRONE with which I was about to release an album, in 2013 if I’m not mistaken - but many things went wrong and both drums and vocals have never been recorded. We disbanded shortly after. When I began working on this release it was meant to be a short EP, like an experiment to test myself - but in the meanwhile, I went through some really dark times which made me feel I needed to take it more seriously.
I heavily rearranged and rewrote some old Oaken/Throne tracks, giving them a blacker and a darker aura, and composed some brand new songs permeated with my angriest and most nihilistic side. I recorded everything around October and December and honestly, I think it’s the most sincere and fluent album I’ve ever written. I’ve always regretted to see that Oaken/Throne album lost in some forgotten folder on my laptop, so I’m really happy that I found some motivation to record some of it again and ultimately, to release it.
How did you come to work with Brendan for this project?
- The main issue I had with this material initially was that I was lacking death metal vocals, so I needed to find a vocalist who could perform the lyrics I wrote. Brendan proposed himself to fill this duty and I accepted gladly, since I’m a fan of Convulsing (especially ‘Grievous’, which rips) and his vocals. Ironically, while he was already doing his first takes I found that, after lots of training, I could growl myself - but I decided to let him do his thing all the same and to eventually add some vocals later, which I did.
Another mention has to be given to Matteo Casu, known also as XN, from the band HADIT, who is a friend of mine and a great musician and vocalist. Since he also had previously proposed himself to do vocals on this record if needed, we sang together on the fourth track, which also features lyrics about a theme we often discuss together when we meet. In the end, I have to say that I’m really happy with how these guys handled the whole thing. They both did a great job.
With The Clearing Path you have released an EP, ‘Abyss Constellation’ (2015) and two albums; ‘Watershed Between Earth and Firmament’ (2015) and ‘Watershed Between Firmament and the Realm of Hyperborea’ (2017).
On each release, you performed all instruments and vocals and were responsible for production. Given the album titles, one would assume there is a continuation of theme throughout these releases?
- The Clearing Path was born through redemption and payback, at a time of my life where, within a week, I lost both of my bands (Oaken/Throne mentioned before and THY SOLACE, the one which led me to create The Clearing Path).
Music is more than a mere form of expression for me; it is some kind of Jungian self-psychoanalysis where my projects and concepts are somehow symbols of redemption or overcoming. This could lead to the conclusion that music is, for me, a very individual outlet, but I somehow try to distance my personal self from my musical self, like I’m not ontologically involved, at least not in my entirety. Thus, I can say that through music, I try to observe myself through a telescope.
Getting back to answering your question; yes, as you said there is indeed a continuation of theme throughout all the TCP releases. This continuation represents a concept narrating a “transcendent” path of a human being which begins metaphorically through the Alps, among the wilderness of nature and waterfalls, and ends near the entrance of some kind of a wormhole, a portal which somehow will lead him home. I took inspiration from many things, from my solipsistic walks through the Alps, where I often escape when I’m too sick of the unsustainable noise and mess of the cities (I live near Milan)… and I mean not only the physical noise and mess, but also the perpetual talking of people.
I also take inspiration from the epic Divine Comedy and some Nietzschean concepts, for example, the “Eternal Return” theory, introduced in his book The Gay Science. Also, regarding the concept of repetition, I’ve always found interesting and inspiring the essay written by Danish writer Soren Kierkegaard, entitled Repetition. Some other inspirations for the concept in its entirety perhaps even come from science fiction video game sagas like Homeworld.
Does your source of motivation differ between The Clearing Path and Cosmic Putrefaction, given they are considerably different sonic outputs?
- I could say that whereas The Clearing Path is contemplation and somewhat romanticism, Cosmic Putrefaction is my most nihilistic side. The lyrics for ‘At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm’ come from various dark sci-fi stories, epics or nightmares which together constitute a picture that, as a whole, describes a pre-mortem vision representing death as a realisation that never happens, since the dreamer is cursed to live the dream again and again. As soon as he realises that this nightmarish pre-mortem experience was just a vision, it all starts again from the beginning. So again, there is this Eternal Return thing - which is omnipresent in every record of mine - but here it’s narrated in its darkest facets for sure. You can appreciate this concept expressed in the first season of True Detective, or in the Reaper’s harvesting cycle concept in the Mass Effect trilogy (one of the most discussed topics with my friend XN of Hadit), as well as the obvious Nietzschean reference.
When I was gathering inspiration and ideas, a friend of mine sent me some documentation about the Frozen Universe Model (or Block Universe Theory), which is to me, at the same time, both a very sinister topic, and a very inspiring one (which is a paradox because its implications may affect free will). This leads us back to amor fati and again to the Eternal Return stuff. Since I’ve found all of this fascinating and angsty at the same time, I tried to include it in this record. For instance, when I said that I’m not involved as a person in my record, it applies even more in this case; in fact, I do not necessarily endorse the amor fati philosophy as mine, the only thing that’s “mine” on this record is the anger, which is maybe no more than form, or aesthetic, I guess.
Speaking in musical terms, Cosmic Putrefaction is mostly inspired by various extreme metal outputs, old and new, which have influenced me directly. I can think of IMMOLATION, ASCENDED DEAD, older GORGUTS, AXIS OF ADVANCE, NOCTURNUS, DIOCLETIAN, VERMIN WOMB and KNELT ROTE. During the writing process I remember that I also used to listen a lot to Igor Stravinsky in his fauve era, and to movie and video game avantgarde-ish composers like Bernard Hermann and Jason Grave (especially the Dead Space OST).
I’m interested in how you first became involved with music, where this creative journey of yours began and whether you think your early surroundings impacted your musical endeavours?
- Speaking of music, I have to thank my father who introduced me to progressive rock, hard rock and some classical music (especially Bach, Vivaldi and John Adams) when I was very young – I have memories of GENESIS and KING CRIMSON playing in the car while he was driving me to kindergarten - and also a cousin of mine, who introduced me to metal when I was like seven or eight years old. It’s weird because the first metal album I ever listened to was ‘S&M’ by METALLICA, and not ‘Master of Puppets’ or ‘Ride the Lightning’. But I remember that I began to play the guitar (a nylon guitar with a terrible sound) around that time, also with my father, and the first songs we played together were by Eric Clapton and Lucio Battisti (a very famous Italian songwriter who died in 1998).
I think things started snowballing when I discovered CANNIBAL CORPSE through that Ace Ventura movie with Jim Carrey *laughs*. That opened the extreme music portal for me. I think I was 10 or 11 and it was more or less when I started playing the electric guitar and composing bullshit. I remember that I used to invite a classmate home and we used to play together; me on the guitar and him playing a set of pots to simulate a drum set *laughs*.
But, if by “early surroundings” you meant the physical geography of the place where I live in, then yes, there is a huge influence - especially in the music I’ve been writing and playing for the last five or six years. I live near Milan but - thankfully - a little bit outside the hinterland, in a smaller city with a more sustainable lifestyle. Although, if I gaze to Milan from my southern balcony I can perceive the metropolis moving forward north, like a relentless lava flow ingesting all the smaller towns. I also have a balcony on the northern side which allows me to stare at the magnificent Prealps and Alps (the mountain chains we have in northern Italy), at least on brighter days, when smog doesn’t obfuscate the sight. I live more or less 50 km from the Prealps, and that means that in less than an hour I can forget the city’s mess and I can breathe some fresh air around the woods. The sightings and the night skies you can observe from there really stimulate your creativity quite a lot.
I’m curious as to how you view the extreme metal scene in Italy and your position within it?
- Honestly, I tend to consider myself an outsider of the scene, so I don’t like to speak about music in terms of “scenes”. That being said, I will tell you that there is definitely some cool stuff around here nowadays (aside from the bands that everybody knows like FORGOTTEN TOMB and MORTUARY DRAPE), for example; THE SECRET, Hadit, VISCERA///, O, FUOCO FATUO, SELVANS, NOISE TRAIL IMMERSION, HOMSELVAREG, AD NAUSEAM, MEFITIC, DEVOID OF THOUGHT, EKPYROSIS, ONRYO, SUNPOCRISY etc. I have to admit that some of my best pals are in some of these bands, but I want to point out that even if they were dickheads, I’d like their music all the same *laughs*. Even though it’s not exactly part of the question, I would like to make this point clear. I am the kind of person that thinks it’s important to separate the art from the artist (unless the aforementioned artist expresses their views and their ontology so vehemently that it’s impossible to distinguish them from the art, as it is, in fact, their main purpose).
Thus I don’t like how social networking has changed our perception of our “idols”, allowing us to interact with them so easily. It can be useful and great sometimes, but it can create some prejudices, for example, if we find out that we don’t like what they think or their ideas. Speaking for me, I tend not to dig into my favourite artists’ lives, if, for some random cases, I find out they are great people, fine… but this, to me, is some kind of a surplus.
Gabriele is also behind progressive metal project SUMMIT, which has released an EP titled ‘Remnants’ (2015) and full-length ‘The Winds That Forestall Thy Return’ (2016).
- Summit was born as a progressive post-rock/post-metal/whatever outfit and it’s maybe my most melancholic side. I was about to transform the project to a full band recently with two friends of mine, but since they are very busy, things slowed down a lot and at this point, I don’t know how much things are going to evolve. I don’t even know when I’ll write something new for Summit. In my mind, I was thinking that the project could become more dreamy, droney and ambient, but who knows…
I’m curious as to what motivates you in regards to the level of depth and emotion that comes through your music?
- Maybe I can say that my creative expression is an outlet for my inner suffering and recondite feelings, but also a way to keep distances between me and my self as I previously stated. Also, I sometimes believe that I stand in a limbo between the “Art for art’s sake” motto, and the idea that art itself couldn’t live without a function. This may sound like a contradiction, but do you remember what Kierkegaard thought about faith? As I often consider music in a theological form, I realised that I have to accept these inexplicable contradictions. My ultimate purpose is to try to go beyond it. Ultimately, the tools I use to write my narrations are usually represented by nature and the cosmos, often used as metaphors for the aforementioned purposes.
This world we live in is so noisy and hectic, so music is one of the last few refuges left. This spiritual dimension of the haven only music can give is something I’m very often looking for. As the Esthonian composer Arvo Part once said: “Music is a towel to dry tears of sadness, and a source for tears of happiness”. In summation, for me, writing music is a very special need because it also helps me to avoid being sucked down in the “horror vacui” loop which is one of the most harmful things in life, more so than negative feelings. The worst thing, to me, is to remain stuck to yourself - to feel empty inside and to see time and life in general flowing passively through yourself. The expression is itself an action, and thus it is always positive, even if it expresses the deepest anguish or the deepest sadness.
This is an excerpt of the full interview conducted, in which Gabriele further discusses the impact music had on his formative years, noticeable shifts within extreme music in Italy and abroad, and the necessity to purge powerful emotions through creative expression.
The full interview is available in the print edition of Inner Missive #2, alongside discussions with THY DARKENED SHADE, WOLCENSMEN, THE ANTICHRIST IMPERIUM, ART AS CATHARSIS, ALTARS, GRIFT, ALTARAGE, ADRIAN BAXTER, PRIMITIVE MAN, EMYN MUIL, GIGAN, BYRDI, SLUDGE, ULCERATE and ÖXXÖ XÖÖX.