Hailing from the heart of Italy, Night Gaunt are a doom metal band that proudly carries on their country’s tradition of occult, dark, epic, and, quite frankly weird doom metal. They released their sophomore album titled The Room last year and it was a standout as one of the best records in the genre last year. We caught up with guitarist, vocalist, and founding member Giuseppe Colio to talk about the band’s recent success and the evolution of their music.
You can listen to The Room here:
Hi G.C.! It’s been a few months already since the release of “The Room”, your second full-length. How has been the reception of the album so far? I saw it popping on several “Best of 2018” lists…
I would say that The Room got a pretty good reception so far, both in terms of reviews and sales! Even before the tour kicked off, we had finished our own copies (of both CDS and vinyls) and we had to ask more to Terror From Hell (that are finished, again). We had some very good reviews on various ‘zines but that 8.5 on Deaf Forever (and album of the month for some of their editors) was sort of special for us.
Four years passed since your debut, self-titled full-length and this sophomore album. How do you see the evolution of the band between them? It sounds like a cliché, but I think you have found a more mature sound on this one, and everything sounds more natural at the same time.
Well, there are a lot of differences between the two records, I will try to make some order in my mind and discuss about them point per point!
First of all, it has to be said that, composition-wise, the substantial difference is that the songs on The Room were written and arranged for two guitars. On the self-titled album (which I tend to see a sort of demo of ours more than a proper record) you have songs written for just one guitar: they were all coming from the Hypnos era, when we were a power trio, so there was no real space for harmonic solutions that could really go far from chords or powerchords. On these things, it has to be added also our lack of experience at the time.
Talking about our skills and sound, The Room came out after some devastating sessions of practice on our instruments (vocals included) and on our amps: we wanted it to be better and more interesting than the first one. The recordings of Jupiter’s Fall (the EP that came out in 2016, exactly in the middle of the two albums) opened our eyes and ears on our potential and, thanks also to Marco from The Devil’s Mark Studio and Demonomancy (whose help was crucial both in rehearsal room and studio during the recordings of the EP and The Room) we worked a lot in order to improve the best we could and find a more suitable way to express what we had to say.
It sounds natural because the music on that records describes best the band at the time of composition and recordings, a period of time that spans from 2013 (when Oval Portrait and some parts of The Owl were written) to 2017, when the album was recorded.
We are still working a lot on ourselves and will always do, you can always be better and there’s no reason to stop!
You have stated that the concept behind this album revolves around the different stages of grief. Could you delve a bit more into that? How is that connected to each song? Would you go as far as to say “The Room” is a concept album in that sense?
Basically, each song (minus the opener, that works as an intro) is related to a specific stage of grief: Penance is rage, Oval Portrait is bargaining, Veil is Denial, Labyrinth is depression and The Owl Is acceptance. I don’t know if it could be described as a concept album, but yeah there’s this connection between the songs. In the recent past, during the time/years we took to arrange and complete the songs, we had to deal with grief and experienced all the feelings behind these songs, so it came out naturally to have this huge weight permeating the atmosphere and the concept behind the songs. We’ve always tried to be a band who talked directly to the listener throughout the right choice of words accompanied by a strong and suffocating atmosphere, we always wanted to explore the psychology of some feelings and describing them with the use of metaphors.
“The Room” is your first release with Terror From Hell Records. Stefano and Francesca do a great job and have established TFH as one of the spearheads of the Italian underground, and one of the most unique labels in the worldwide scene, with a strong character and good taste. How has it been like to work with them? How did you connect with them for the release of this album?
The work Stefano and Francesca do with TFH is astonishing and I think they’re one of the best labels you can find in Italy nowadays. Working with them has been really easy and satisfying: we had clear in mind what we wanted and they helped us in realizing it at its best and perfectly in time! It was so good to see them interested in what we had in mind not only for the album per se, but also for the concept behind its pictures and booklet and how we thought the inserts would have been. Those guys really work hard for their label and deserve all the support of this world, we’re glad we can consider them our friends.
I knew Stefano some years ago, when I entered in contact with him at the time prior Jupiter’s Fall EP. He gave me a lot of advices for the band and I guess he followed our path with interest since then, and I guess that also seeing us play at the Hammer of Doom 2016 made its part. We’ve also been interviewed in The Devil’s Noise, the fanzine he manages with A.th (Black Oath, The Rite), Pech (Unholy Domain Rec.) and Erman (Morbus Grave).
In 2017 we met again at the Hammer of Doom festival in Germany and had a quite long chat on various things and then he asked if we had new music in the making. I was there with M.Tystnaden and we told him about the album, explained what we had in mind, what the the music stood for and how it was different from the first record. Case wanted I had two copies of the album’s master with me (one was for Felipe Kutzbach) and since he showed interest in listening to it, I gave him one! Some time later he wrote me and said he wanted to release it, useless to underline how happy we were!
I know you are a total Celtic Frost maniac. You have always had a strong Frost influence in Night Gaunt, it was very obvious on your first album, and on this new one I feel like you have approached this influence in a more subtle way, mixing and melting it with your Epic Doom roots. I think it works better this way. Do you agree? Was it something conscious?
When asked about the genre we play we always answer “a blend between Celtic Frost, Candlemass and Dio’s Black Sabbath”, in order to give more or less an idea of what influences our music. I guess that the formula you can hear on The Room was natural evolution and blend of our influences: all the different inputs, through passing of time, blend over and over until becoming a proper identity, a process that takes places also in every human being during the formation years. An unconscious process that become recognizable only when you face (and overcome) it. I still think that there are some clear references to these bands though, like The Owl’s main riff, that pays tribute to Candlemass and to the Mob Rules album, or the central part of Penance, that has an undeniable Celtic Frost vibe. I’d like to add that, even though one would never say it, Solstice also is a strong influence for us in terms of melodies, heaviness and “crushingness” (does this term even exist? Ahah)
A professional music video was recorded for “The Oval Portrait”. How did this idea come up? How did you work on it, did you have some ideas of what you wanted it to look like?
Our very own Marco (M.Tystnaden) had the idea for the videoclip! As being always fascinated by arts and having studied movie direction, it came natural for him to propose an idea like that. We’ve always thought that Oval Portrait was a sort of “radio-friendly single” because of his structure and refrain, and given the reference to E.A.Poe was easy also to find some aesthetics that could work! Marco wanted something alienating and dreamlike, a sort of mourning dream/nightmare where one could feel a palpable sense of loss, hence the decision to include the bizarre and an out of time setting. We had no budget at all but fortunately we were lucky enough to have the possibility to take some objects from Marco’s workplace and to have two proper stage actors that would work with us just for the sake of art and friendship. It was all shot at Marco’s living room: we used black and blue velvet curtains (a reference to the act of dreaming) to give the illusion of a moving space, as the characters were passing through huge rooms or corridors, but we were actually just moving those curtains to give that sense of space and change. The exteriors were shot at Villa Pamphili, a beautiful park we have here in Rome. As I said, having basically no budget, we had to improvise some tricks in lack of proper equipment (like using a suitcase as a dolly) and in general we had lots of fun while shooting it.
I have noticed how modern music industry has leaned towards a video based culture again, with single songs and music videos being way more important than albums (do they even exist in big mainstream music anymore?), fueled by the rise of online platforms such as Spotify and, more importantly, YouTube. Something like this hadn’t happened since the MTV revolution in the 80s. Do you think that underground bands should take advantage of this new way of releasing their music as well?
Yeah, I think that for a band it could be a good way to promote their own music. Music as Metal, Punk, Wave etc… it’s still well based on the album culture, people want to buy and collect records and a videoclip could help the promotion of the entire album. Plus, a videoclip gives a better idea of what the aesthetic direction of a band and is important for the definition of their own personality. I don’t think (at least for the moment) the bands could be interested in achieving the status of some pop-stars that don’t have a proper proposal rather their single on Spotify or I-tunes: those platforms ( to whom I add Bandcamp) are crucial for a band’s promotion, like it or not, and it’s almost impossible escape from them in 2019. Facebook, on the other hand, it’s also very useful but some bands are proving that also not being on it can be useful marketing-wise.
You recently did your first European tour to promote this new album. 10 dates with Black Oath across France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy. How do you look back at this experience? Which were the highlights of the tour?
Touring with Black Oath has been one of our best experiences ever since the gig at the Hammer of Doom. We had lots of fun; with Black Oath we share a good friendship that was born 3 years ago when we organised their gig in Rome. We’ve often shared the stage here in Italy but being on the road with them has been a completely different thing. Every night of that tour has been special for some reason (being it positive or negative), we’ve always had a real blast and I could also give you an endless list of things for each city. At the moment I’d say that the highlights were the sold-out gig in Göppingen, the location and the crowd in Salzburg, the gig in Paris with more than 100 people on a Wednesday night, the gigs in Lyon and Zaragoza for people’s involvement, singing with Sabathan in Belgium…really, there’s something special in each city we played in, I would never stop telling new things.
Much has been said about doom metal already. What’s true and what’s not, who were the originators and who are the impostors, or how to divide an actual metal subgenre in even more subgenres. But anyway, what’s doom metal for you, and how did you discover it? Any particular gateway bands? What do you find in this kind of music that you can’t find in traditional heavy metal, or in the dark paths of extreme metal?
Me and Marco come from a southern Italian town called San Severo. As you can imagine, in a country town there’s no proper room for weird people with long hair and black clothes, and, more in general, the most extreme things you would be in contact to were Pantera, Sepultura and, if you were hardcore enough, Slayer. These at least were the examples you would step into in your teenage years. Marco and I were lucky enough to know a man who was an old school metalhead that was working in northern Italy and coming back in town twice a month with tons of new records each time. He was/is an old school metalhead who lived part of the 80s and the 90s, and I think that seeing two teenagers avid for hard music in a paralytic town was a relief for him, and seeing how manic I was for Black Sabbath and for dark tunes, probably lend him to pass us Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Black Mass (by Death SS). In my teenage years I’ve just listened only to mainstream hard rock (Deep Purple, Acdc, Zep, Sabs etc…) and discovered heavy metal, punk and Slayer a little bit later, but listening to those CRUSHING dark riffs, definitely revolutioned my mind. I still remember the exact moment in which he told us, while laughing in a sort of paternal way, “so you like Sabbath but don’t know Candlemass, I should spit on your faces” and holding us those records a little bit later.
Regarding Doom Metal, I just feel that’s is the kind of genre that better connects to me, the way I live my life and the way I feel and see things. It’s crushing, powerful, dark and melancholic at same time and these are the features I look for in music (and in arts in general). I am generally attracted by everything dark and gloomy, and Doom metal is the genre that better incorporates all the things I like the most.
That gloomy, sorrowful and mournful atmosphere of traditional doom metal may not be for everyone. Why do you think you feel attracted to it? Is it a relief in darker times?
It can be both relief or a curse, it depends on you and how you live your life, and how deep your feelings are in that moment, how much are taking you down or keeping yourself alive, it’s very personal. I would never recommend to someone who’s suffering a deep depression to listen to Warning or Revelation, for example, while Trouble or The Obsessed could help in gaining that person back (hopefully).
What I like the most in Doom metal is the mixture of melancholy and power, a band can both put you down or give yourself the power to destroy everything. It also depends a lot on the band and the subgenre. I like the way it’s mostly based on real life experiences, I also like the “preachy” side of some bands, as I love the way some people can write beautiful lyrics I can easily relate to, describing the exact things I feel making me want to rip my own face off. I like the way some authors write proper poems with their bands, something that it’s rare in metal. If we’re talking about trad and epic doom, I’ve always loved the martial, melancholic and ancient atmosphere/aesthetics mixed with the heaviness of music. If I have to picture what it feels like, I imagine scenes of penitence and repentance mixed with reflexions on the existence in a monastery of the XIII century.
Regarding the attraction to mournful and sorrowful atmospheres, I guess that also being born in Italy made the difference as our general attitude can be summed up in a common sentence like “’we’re born to suffer”.
You come from Italy. What’s known as the “Italian Dark Sound” is nowadays a reputed style worldwide, defined by bands like Death SS, Paul Chain, Black Hole or The Black, and now represented by newer acts like Abysmal Grief, the reformed Epitaph, Black Oath or your own band. Because I’m assuming this very particular, horror-influenced and theatrical sound has been an influence to Night Gaunt as well. How do you feel connected to it?
That’s a good question. I think that, even if musically wise we’re a little bit distant from the old school Italian dark sound, on the other hand it’s undeniable how our country, its culture and its heavy music tradition have influenced our band conceptually and aesthetically.
The huge influence of Catholicism, superstition and old pagan magic disguised as religious rites, as long as the mixture between heavy metal and darkwave, made the Italian Dark sound the cult object we are discussing about, and I have to say that these very things are the same that are influencing Night Gaunt: if it wasn’t for the cult of death and guilt, still strong in some areas of southern and northern Italy, we wouldn’t talk about death and its morbid reality and this relates also for the aforementioned bands. We are part of a tradition mainly corrupted by our own culture and this can be understood completely only by other catholic countries, while for the rest of the world we are something morbidly exotic. It goes without saying that this asphyxiating background permeates the aesthetics of a band with dark horror and gothic references: cemeteries, Christ’s monograms, profanations, masses, churches, flowers, death, black and violet, the dead’s devotion, ghosts, spirits, bones, witches… all is part of a reaction to a culture, and this very reaction is based on this culture’s features.
We feel that share the same cultural background of Mortuary Drape, Abysmal Grief and Black Oath, but while these fabulous bands are much more into occultism and the otherworldly, we in Night Gaunt have a more earthbound attitude: we use ghosts to express the lack of something that is important, we talk about drapes covering mirrors because it’s part of our reality, because is something you do when people die here. We are into the turbulence of the inner self, into all the things that make you die inside.
That’s all, thanks for answering these questions, I hope they will help people out there to know a bit more about Night Gaunt and “The Room”. Is there anything else you’d like to plug?
I’d like to thank Ride Into Glory a lot for being interested in us and giving some space where to rant about our mournful vision of the world.
Cheers to all of you, see you on the road!