With the word cosmic representing that ethereal, outer space feel of the riffs, and the word putrefaction standing for the ugly, disgusting, foul core of the music, do you feel that your moniker captures the essence of the band’s sound and vision perfectly?
G.G.: Probably in hindsight it is true, since I believe that ethereal elements coexist with feral intents, but at the same time, it was my subconscious substratum that hinted me with that moniker, borrowing it from the eponymous Gevurah song.
According to Neil De Grasse Tyson, the forty years he dedicated to exploring the Universe taught him that the Cosmos is an extremely hostile place in which destruction is the only constant, and that the Universe is, in fact, much more inclined to destroy life than to nurture it. Is the band’s name perhaps at least a vague reference to that notion as well?
G.G.: The disrupting nature of the Cosmos is indeed intriguing and part of the inspirations for the last two full-lengths in particular, however, I think the band name is more focused on other aspects of the Cosmos, aspects that don’t necessarily 100% match with the material and textural astrophysical notions and laws we currently acknowledge as humans. Perhaps the cosmos depicted there is just a non-place where everything echoes and resonates from afar, the Nietzschean abyss we find ourselves gazing at every night, a window always open towards the unknown.
If the devil is indeed in the details, as the old saying has it, the new album has devils lurking on every corner. The more one listens to it, the more subtleties start to command the attention, sometimes literally single notes. For example, the organ sequence and that single guitar note immediately after it in Sol’s Upheaval Debris, or the resonating guitar note halfway through From Resounding Silence To The Obsidian Womb, or even the entire opening solo in Twisting Spirals In The Murk, to name only a few. Do you also believe that those are some of the album’s most memorable moments?
G.G.: I try to pay a lot of attention to the kind of details you’ve mentioned. Usually, if I build some layered arrangement upon a section and I want to go or return to a barer section, I often use those expedients to make the passages less traumatic. Also, generally, I’m not the kind of composer who writes his stuff thinking of just one guitar organically, if it makes sense, rather than imagining that some other vertical elements would be eventually added later. Sometimes riffs that aren’t immediately convincing, get their second chance arranged in the right way. I believe these arranging activities to be very challenging and intriguing every time. Anyway, personally, I think Cradle Wrecked, Curtains Unfurled is the highlight of the album, but as the creator the perspective is always very subjective and it is always interesting to hear about the listeners’ views.
Was the plan from the beginning to make Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones a constantly shape-shifting album? If so, how difficult it was to manifest that plan into existence?
G.G.: I’ve tried many times to make previous plans about what a release should or should not be stylistically. Fortunately or unfortunately, things always come out differently. By now, the only things I can predict with an acceptable margin of error, are related to the album’s structure, length, and, to a certain extent, consistency throughout the tracklist. I usually have some ideas about the concepts when I start working on full-lengths, but even those ideas take their final form only gradually during the process and they influence the music just as much the music influences them. I’ve learnt to accept that an album most likely come out its way in many unpredictable aspects. It is what it becomes and what ultimately is. And I always find this mystery extraordinary.
Would you subscribe to the notion that your music has a strong underlying visual, almost cinematic component to it? What kind of images it brings to your mind?
G.G.: I’m glad to hear that you find it this way. Maybe it is because of my course of studies, or perhaps I’ve chosen my course of studies because of it. I could say that I actually try to get the artworks done to be the most accurate and faithful to what’s evoked along the concepts, through the lens of the artists who would paint them, of course.
Complex and excessively long song and album titles have been your soft spot ever since the band started out. Is that semantic gymnastics in English something that you actually enjoy or consider a necessity, given that you are not a native speaker?
G.G.: Though I would define myself a bit long winded as a person, I’d say that those long titles reflect particular needs rather than being pure semantic gymnastic. Probably if I had a deeper knowledge of the language I would use more compound words to be as descriptive but more synthetic. In any case, I always find it interesting how similar concepts are expressed with rather different signifiers with peculiar phonetics when you use different idioms for the same purpose. Also, I write lyrics in Italian first, then I translate them into English and although it may sound banal, I’m always surprised about the differences in how the words sound. This reminds me of the fact that I’ve always liked the idea of entering the linguistic rabbit hole and I should do that sooner or later.
Javier Bardem once said that, despite his renowned career in Hollywood, his relationship with the English language never branched beyond merely linguistic experience, whereas with Spanish he shared both linguistic and actual real life experience. Could you relate to that sentiment?
G.G.: Look, let’s be frank about this, being a native English speaker in the world nowadays has a huge set of unsung privileges. You can basically go everywhere around the world and people are supposed to understand the language you speak every day and you can’t believe how lucky you are for that. So I can relate to an extent, especially in situations of intricate and profound speeches where I’ve struggled to be understood and to fully express myself without any shades of misunderstanding. Clarity is very important to me. But saying that, I have to admit that I would struggle as well to write musical lyrics in Italian, because while I always find it to be a beautiful language for poetry and literature, for metal music I personally often prefer truncated words, while a large multitude of Italian words ends instead with vowels. However, in the future I would like to experiment with my native language a bit more. Who knows, Maybe it would allow me to express a deeper level of sincerity?
What felt right about the decision to be the lone wolf for all these years and do everything by yourself, and on the flip side, what made you cease being the lone wolf now, by letting another musician play on this record and put his stamp on your music?
G.G.: Despite the enormous contribution of Maestro Giulio, I wouldn’t say my lone wolf activity in Cosmic Putrefaction will cease. While he surely put his stamp on the record with an amount of freedom related to fills and some passages, he based most of his playing on the drums I previously wrote and programmed. He took part in the record because Profound Lore’s Chris Bruni strongly encouraged me to have a real drummer on it and, in retrospect, I have to say he was right, this possibility improved a lot the sounds on the record. And for that purpose I’ve thought of Giulio Galati because, other than being a good friend of mine, he is an unfairly not enough praised hero behind the kit. Another death metal record released this year that he took part in is Darkness Of God by Heaving Earth, great songwriting and spectacular drum work?
Could his involvement on this album perhaps mark the first step towards Cosmic Putrefaction becoming a regular band? If so, do you see yourself having a problem with other musicians contributing creatively to the project, and staining, or at least altering, the original idea and vision you had for it?
G.G.: No, I think Cosmic Putrefaction will always stay my own project. Though we don’t have any live activity, my other project Vertebra Atlantis is more akin to a real band. We are again a trio now, and we are currently working hard on a new release. There’s also the project Turris Eburnea where me and Nicholas of Krallice fame equally contributed to the project’s first release. Due to the physical distance between Milan and New York we can’t consider that project becoming a regular band either.
The front cover of Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones is partly a reference to the famous Divine Comedy illustration by Gustave Doré and partly a depiction of something seemingly completely unrelated to that aforementioned illustration. Where’s the connection and what’s exactly the narrative behind the image?
G.G.: It is like you said. The Dorè reference is placed inside the mullioned window, while the angels are falling instead of ascending. Also, it is true that, to a certain extent, the two characters depicted seem to recall Dante and Virgilio, but the paradigm offered in Divine Comedy is here overturned. Apparent salvation, an escape from a dying world is found in the below, whereas in Dante’s Magnum Opus the below represents the hellish circles. At the end of the journey in the below thought, there’s a secret room hidden behind some thick Lynchian red curtains, inhabited by a mysterious arcane hermit. Inside his room, there’s this giant mullioned window we already mentioned and through it, we get a front row seat to the Above, where takes place the Empyrean’s fall. Our character can’t do anything but observe this apocalyptic spectacle in awe.
Would it be an exaggeration to say that Dávid Glomba’s execution of that visual concept is an integral part of the album’s identity?
G.G.: Before working with Maestro David, I drew some carefully and meticulously described sketches that I later sent to him. Then he started painting and interpreting in his own way what my vision was about, and while a couple of details came out a bit differently than what I had initially thought, the final result was so gorgeous that I quickly stopped paying attention to them. David’s execution is indeed an integral part of the album’s identity.
Speaking of identity, would you consider compromising the band’s sonic blueprint, if there’s even such a thing, by embellishing it with something completely out of the left field, just because you feel like doing so? Do you see the band as its own entity whose identity is already established, or merely as an extension of your personal tastes and affinities?
G.G.: This is a question that I’d really like to answer thoroughly, but the truth is that my only purpose is to have, as much as possible, my own interpretation and voice in an already well established field as it is death metal. And of course to try to make a record that as a listener I would be pleased to hear. Everything else can only be a consequence more than a purpose, but at the same time all your thoughts are partially true.
On the surface, your sound seems rather unique, without immediately apparent references to any of your influences. Do you tend to give them nods delicately, through details and nuances that only you can hear and recognize?
G.G.: Indeed I consider myself to have a wide range of influences, but I’ll never stop saying that some of my clearest homages, in some passages, are directed to a band that wasn’t merely death metal, that is Castevet. Listen to sections like from 3:49 of From Resounding Silence To The Obsidian Womb and see if it makes sense to reference it to some episodes that happen during their album Obsian. That doesn’t mean that my purpose was to steal their identity at all, because I strongly believe in striving to have your own artistic identity, but I also believe that in the aforementioned band I took what I believe to be some of my clearest influences, having discovered their sound in a pivotal period of my musical growth. Sometimes, because of that, I like to pay some tributes. Anyway, some other very important influences may come from Gorguts, StarGazer, Immolation, Nile, Anata, early Extol… Surely tons of other more subtle and subliminal influences exist and may come from a wider variety of music, but my answer here could eventually become too long. Consider that I usually write lyrics while listening to mostly Berlin school, ambient, and progressive electronic music.
Do you see music and art in general as a way of dealing with that often unbearable feeling of unease that no man ever escapes permanently?
G.G.: I believe if there’s a common thread in all my releases, it is guided by escapism, which I think is one of the most important purposes art can offer.
In which ways did your academic career in the composition field prove helpful for Cosmic Putrefaction? Also, as you delve deeper into the sacred laws of classical music, do you feel that metal very much adheres to the same principles?
G.G.: I believe my academic path has been very helpful to my growth, but I don’t mean it in a pretentious way. I just find that it helped widen my musical perspectives, especially in the music verticality and also in how songs are developed and structured. Perhaps, it also helped to make those processes faster and smoother. To answer your second question, I have to say that it can be true or not, depending on the case. Very generically, when in a classical music opus a theme is expressed, it is most likely extended, let’s say, to eight bars, while a riff is a sentence that sometimes can just be a single bar looped, which is, to simplify, a characteristic more akin to the field of popular music. This is not an aesthetic judgment and, of course, I oversimplified the whole thing a lot. Plus, in music, there’s often a time and place for both. We tend, rightfully or not, to define music for the sound aesthetic rather than for the songwriting. But anyway, since there aren’t specifically any boundaries, we’ve seen many extreme metal bands like Emperor, Obtained Enslavement, or Diabolical Masquerade writing triumphant themes more akin to the romantic classical languages, or like Thantifaxath with their Wagneresque use of the chromaticism, Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, or Ad Nauseam plunging into the rabbit hole of classical expressionism… I could go on and on. So, sometimes I like to use the more direct and obsessive form of expression of the repeated riff, sometimes I try to write some themes or to reason on more extended harmonies, trying to gather some of the heritage left to us from the past Maestros.
Do you sometimes feel that death metal is too confined for all of your musical concepts and ideas? Then again, do you think that leaving death metal behind as too narrow a framework would actually be an easy way out, considering that it is much more difficult, challenging, and even admirable to constantly find new ways to write fresh, memorable music within that framework?
G.G.: Since I write and deal very often with different styles of music that aren’t necessarily related to metal, that’s not a question I ask myself on a daily basis. And also, within the metal realm, I’ve had, and still have, projects characterized by different styles and purposes. But in any case, yes, it is definitely interesting and challenging to focus on writing fresh music within a confined fence, but at the same time it is the most logical and efficient act, if you think about it for a moment. Take the internet for example, possibilities are unlimited, but if you don’t narrow your research, it is mostly a mere instrument of perdition.
Do you know any metal band that has aged better than Voivod?
G.G.: It needs to be said though, that Voivod nowadays obviously aren’t the same band they were back in the Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss days, may Piggy rest in peace, but indeed through the expert hands of Dan Mongrain, a guitarist that I really love, they really lived a second youth, since The Wake and Synchro Anarchy are both very good albums. Needless to say another historical band that aged very well is Immolation, Acts Of God is a really solid effort.
As a fan, do you prefer albums that rely on intellect or intuition, the unsaid?
G.G.: Well, it depends whether you mean it as a motive or as a result. Because I know about albums composed very instinctually which seem instead to rely on the intellect side and, of course, vice versa. I don’t think I have radical preferences that are valid in any case, they may relate to my mood and my innermost needs. Perhaps I tend to prefer the darker forms of art, regardless if more intellectual or intuitive, but even that assumption isn’t always true. I generally respect and therefore enjoy a form of art when I perceive its honesty and integrity.
Do you think that we as people need the notion of infinity, of life without end, not only to deny the death principle, but to prevent ourselves from going insane over the knowledge that absolutely nothing we can be or do is here to stay, that everything we make, build, or accomplish will eventually vanish and crumble as well?
G.G.: But do we? As humans we face some questions which can only be answered through diametrically opposed statements that are likewise chilling and both valid, perhaps. So, another classic favorite of mine that follows the same principle, is that one by the sci-fi writer Arthur Clarke who famously said that two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not, and both are equally terrifying. Back to your question, death is surely the ultimate horrific mystery of humankind, but do you think the perspective of a deathless everlasting life is really more comforting? Our gestures, accomplishments, and sense of fulfillment seem to be meaningful only when reflected through our ephemerality and our finite nature, as we find the importance of light through darkness, satisfaction through misery, or satiation through hunger. And all of this is not only in a physical plane. However, much more can be said, but I think that this is how we are programmed as humans, to carry the burden of our paradoxes and contradictions.
Do you believe that we are unable to even articulate the right questions about time, space, life, and death, let alone answer them?
G.G.: I do, I believe our biggest curse as an intelligent species, at least in our current stadium of evolution, is that we are just able to understand that we need to look for the right questions, knowing deep inside that even if we achieved that coveted purpose, we would still be very far temporally from answering them. As we frequently speak about infinity but we aren’t able to measure it.
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