Gorgon is a Black metal band from Antibes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France. They’re pioneers of the French Black Metal scene. Formed in 1991 in the south of France by Christophe Chatelet (guitar/vocal).
This Is Black Metal Webzine had an interesting talk with Chris about Gorgon’s New Masterpiece “Traditio Satanae” and all the things you want to know about them!
This Is Black Metal: Thank you Chris for this interview and welcome to This Is Black Metal. First of all, how do you analyze the situation of GORGON since you resurrected the band almost 3 years ago?
Chris: I notice a more massive craze than there was back in the 90s. I think it is due to the exposure that the internet allows, this ability to reach more people around the world. Even if there is a lot of virtual in it, there are also plenty of concrete examples. Then, there is “our past” which speaks for itself and gives us certain credibility among the mass of bands that evolve in this style. Finally, there is a certain desire for many guys who have been following us previously, to see our adventure continue. In conclusion, between our recent productions, which were relatively well-received, and the support we’ve been getting since our comeback, we can truly consider these considerable results as very positive and promising. This by bringing the facts back to our level of course.
TIBM: After almost 20 years of silence, what did motivate you to play again Black Metal and what is the place of GORGON in the nowadays scene, according to you?
Chris: There are two main parameters in my opinion. The first is the scenic aspect. During all these years, I continued to attend various concerts, and I was often disappointed with what i saw on stage. There was no energy, no hatred, nothing. All I saw was, some guys playing their instruments. Perhaps the worst part of it was when the titles ended and the audience howled with satisfaction. “damn, there was nothing worthwhile and you’re happy with that?” “. Often I thought to myself, that if it was us on stage, it would be visually different ……but the fact of the matter is, we weren’t there. The other major element that weighed in the balance that came into play, was the enthusiasm generated by the re-release of our 1st vinyl album by Mexican label Rex Bagude. It should have been released a little earlier, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its release, but problems we’ve encountered have delayed that plan. A request followed shortly after, from Triumph Ov Death label, to reissue our vinyl demo as well. Looking back into that past, which some people boldly wanted to see exposed again, made me think. Indeed, as you can imagine, due to the fact that I hadn’t cut ties and that I continued going out to shows, from time to time I was entitled to the famous question “when is Gorgon coming back?”
One fine day, I decided to go ahead and try to compose again, to see what would come out of it. It was important not to release material that I would consider inferior to our past productions, or it is so far removed from what Gorgon stood for.
The scene has transformed and has evolved, as you note, groups with a higher musical technical level, they often impose rules on themselves rules to be in line with what is being done, but is also polluted by many formations which for me saturate it unnecessarily, we keep doing what we’ve always done which is, to go our own way. We want to stay clear of all these often ridiculous subcategories and ignore them altogether when composing. For me, either we do BM, or we don’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s fast, melodic, brutal, technical, slow. Groups like Necromantia, Impiety, Master’s Hammer or Abruptum all had a different approach, which proves the richness of the style. No one would have thought of putting them into subcategories, they were doing BM, that’s all, and only that mattered. We stay true to this vision.
TIBM: How would you compare the 90s GORGON to the present one? Is there something you would change if you could turn back time? Do you think the present incarnation of GORGON is the strongest so far or would you rather speak about different eras and chapters?
Chris: I would tend to think that the current Gorgon is more brutal, more musically aggressive, but when I listen to our albums from the 90s, I think that is not necessarily the case. I think it’s our current sound that’s more massive, more powerful, and that’s what’s giving me this impression. I also believe that with our experience, our recent titles focus more on the essentials. It creates a feeling that is more direct, more ‘in your face’, which suits me very well as a type of atmosphere and as a representation of what Gorgon is like in 2021.
Appreciating the direction taken by our new tracks, yes, we can consider that if a leap in the past was possible, this is what I would like to breathe into our old tracks. On the other hand, they perfectly represented what Gorgon was like at the time of their recording, so consciously that’s what we wanted to put forward. Both my musical and personal evolution makes me say that “If I had known”, I would have done certain things differently, and this to be in adequacy with my current concept.
Talking about different chapters is perhaps a bit of a stretch because, in fact, it’s the same basis, we haven’t changed the style drastically. It would have been the case, much like Samael or Tiamat, yes I would have validated the idea. Now talking about the aspect of the line-up, now I really cannot contradict that perception. Are we stronger because of that? We have a better exposure, that’s a fact, due to our return, which intrigues and pleases, but also to our presence on Osmose Productions, which supports us. But looking at the big picture, yes I think so. There are, in the structures and in the music exhibited, elements that raise us a notch above our past. A past that I do not deny in any way of course, and which in the end, was necessary for the present incarnation of the group.
TIBM: To me, « Traditio Satanae » is the logical follow-up to «The Veil of Darkness» yet in an even more intense way: mid-tempo parts are more powerful, fast parts are more brutal and still retaining these effective, catchy parts in songwriting. What was your state of mind and goal with this new album?
Chris: My ambition was to read comments like yours. Let the audience think it was good before, that “The Veil …” was really good, but this is even better. This is a simple goal in itself, even traditional: to surpass yourself in what you know how to do best. It is a state of mind that I find healthy, not to rest on what you have learned. So while following the path traced by the previous album, we decided to take the melodic aspect up a notch, the savagery, this feeling of power in the riffs, which in the end reveal this greater efficiency that you mentioned. It is important to add that it was a natural process. We didn’t look for melodies just to “put Melodies”, or very quick patterns just to show that we were capable of it. No, while playing, these are the ideas that came to us, By grafting one to the other, led to these compositions. I’m sure if there is a sequel to this album, we will see this qualitative rise in what we can call a trilogy.
Gorgon – The Veil of Darkness (Full Album)
TIBM: Production features a slightly more modern approach that some old-school fans find a bit «out of place» with the GORGON style. Was it a will from your side to fit more to present standards?
Chris: Yes, we felt that for this album, we needed a more modern sound without relying on an overproduced result. I’ve often read reviews, where they seem to be enjoying that ’90s spirit featuring a more current sound. That’s fine with me. I can imagine that another sound would have brought a whole different atmosphere. We had the opportunity to have a good slamming sound, why would it have been necessary to downgrade to an older sound, which in view of the songs, would not have done them justice in my opinion? The sound depends on a lot of things, the material used, the skills of the musicians and the engineer, the mastering, there are several stages that shape it. It must be at the service of titles to highlight them, period. Maybe it’s because we’re used to it, but Hellhammer or the 1st Sarcofago with a 2021 sound, it wouldn’t have the same flavor, the same nuances, it just wouldn’t be the same. The same goes for Death Metal. You have a great big sound, it’s a hit but put a lower quality sound, it won’t have the same impact on your songs. In BM, we have a wider choice, ranging from productions with an execrable quality to overproduced albums which are sometimes unsettling. Budget, the willingness of the group, the capacity of the protagonists, there are several reasons. We made the artistic choice to go in this direction. Maybe another sound would have worked better or would have been just as good. We haven’t tried and it’s of no regrets. There are also sound qualities that stand the test of time better and I guess we’ll find out in the future.
TIBM: GORGON was the first French Black Metal band, the first French Black Metal band to sign on an international label for your EP “immortal hordes” in 93 and you released the first-ever French Black Metal album with “the lady rides a black horse” in 95. In spite of that, it seems that GORGON is rarely credited or mentioned as originator of the French scene. How do you explain that?
Chris: As you can imagine, I know all of this. This does not distress me either, and for good reason, we know the truth. Maybe it’s due to the fact that the band was put on hiatus when the BM historians discovered the style and therefore didn’t get to know us actively. There may also be ease of duplicating what has been written by others. It is done a lot to avoid doing research and ultimately always ending up laying down the same common vision. Well it may sound silly, but not everyone has the same cognizance and some prefer to stick to what little knowledge they have.
Gorgon – The Lady Rides a Black Horse (Full Album)
TIBM: Talking about your debut album “the lady…”, many fans consider it as the best GORGON release ever in your discography. Do you share their opinion? Does this album have a special meaning to you? What remembrances do you keep from this time?
Chris: There, I can not contradict you, it is the one that I am constantly told about when we talk about Gorgon. Whether I like it or not, yes, it’s our benchmark as the album that identifies us. We are the group that released “The Lady ..” and no matter what we will offer, we will stay anchored with this opus. On the other hand, take Stallone, you’re gonna tell me Rocky or Rambo, despite all his filmography. There are works that have marked the public and this is our first album. If there is any significance to me, I would say it was the one that brought us to a wider audience. Having released this CD in 1995 was credible at the time, it took us a step forward. Nowadays, the CD format is so trivialized that it doesn’t have the same impact anymore. It’s just one of many mediums used for listening to music.
On the other hand, if you asked me for a “reference” album to listen to, in order to find out about us, I wouldn’t direct you to that album. Instead, I will pick something more recent. It would be a shame to think that what you did afterwards wasn’t as good and therefore, that you would have to fall back on earlier work. I have in mind the vivid memory that the mixing had been tedious, due to the person who was in charge of it. It had dragged on. But otherwise, the takes themselves had been quite pleasant. In fact, it was the longest we’ve ever spent in a studio. The atmosphere was very laid-back because, we had paid “for an album” and not an hourly rate, which would have forced us to keep a close watch on the clock. It was a time where ‘everything’ had yet to be done, so there was more musical diversity in bands scattered around the world. This gave way to major albums that laid solid foundations, that were subsequently copied countless times. In summary, it was exciting because, new bands were coming out left and right and, the established ones produced great albums that met our thirst for novelty.
TIBM: On «Traditio Satanae», we can still hear some influences coming from Punk, Thrash or Death Metal in the Black Metal style of GORGON. As your musical background is rooted in the 80s, can we say those touches are natural, instinctive parts for you to develop and express through GORGON?
Chris: In reality, I do not ask myself all these questions. I play guitar, improvising strings of notes, and every once in a while, there’s a pattern that strikes me. I play it back and if I feel like I’m holding something worthwhile, I put it aside or try to blend it into what I already have. If it sounds like Thrash or Punk as noted, but I consider it usable for Gorgon, I keep it. It would be foolish of me, to rule out interesting parts on the pretext that they don’t meet the criteria of what is usually done in BM. We always come back to the same vision: I don’t want to follow any trend like so many others do, but on the contrary, I want to pursue my path. There are so many bands out there that mimic “their idols” in order to sound the same, to have similar parts to be in line with current standards. After all, it’s their choice, but it’s not what we are looking for.
As I mentioned a little while ago, richness and diversity in BM, that’s what I want to cultivate. Even if one might consider that I draw from such a musical genre referenced above to make Gorgon, this is not the case. The patterns come to me and I play them in the most efficient way possible to generate a powerful title. And if such a drum rhythm is reminiscent of what is done in Punk, or that such a way of playing the riff is eyeing Death, I still validate if the result suits me. There really is a natural process in my approach, and we can reach your conclusion, that this is a logical expression for me, because it comes from the heart, not from a carefully thought-out reflection.
TIBM: Since you come back, GORGON is often compared with IMPALED NAZARENE. Do you agree? Do you think it’s due to the Punk vibes that you and IN share?
Chris: This is also true, I have read it many times, but it is truly unintentional. At no time do I compose based on what the Finns do. In reference to my previous answers, it wouldn’t make sense to try to imitate their style. This is due to certain rhythms that I like and find relevant in our new compositions. They happen to be known to use these well-defined tones as well, but in no way is there a will to copy.
On the other hand, I understand this need to compare our recent albums with what already exists, because for the listener, it can guide him on part of the content. But I come back once again to the conception of my music. If there is the next album, and there is no part on it that recalls Mika’s group, it will not be to silence these comparisons, but only because we have not seen its usefulness on the new one. The material we offer. And it works both ways. We will not put aside what we consider to be the best choice for a given title, just under the pretext that some might make that connection again.
TIBM: A more surprising thing is that I could find, here and there, a few melodic 90s Swedish-inspired parts like on early MARDUK or DARK FUNERAL MCD and even a riff that sounds quite in the vein of IMMORTAL. It was unexpected as it seems there were hardly any Scandinavian influences in your music so far. I remember you played live and also recorded a BURZUM cover back in the days but this was basically all when it comes to a possible direct «impact» of Northern bands which were however highly praised worldwide since the early 90s. How did you look at these scenes back then and how do you connect to them nowadays?
Chris: Indeed, I have always stayed away from the Scandinavian scene which did not have a particular grip on me unlike a good majority of people. And that’s exactly why it’s so popular, because being constantly highlighted, that’s where all eyes have been turned and this attraction still works today. It is totally idealized. For the vast majority of the public, the best BM bands come from Norway, Sweden, Finland and you won’t change their mind. I freely admit, that there is a pool of bands that have made a huge contribution to the style and continue to do so. Let’s say the same bluntly, they restored BM’s nobility, I realize that and I agree with that reality. This devotion to Northern groups doesn’t bother me, there is no jealousy and I don’t denigrate them, it’s just that I keep my distance from this massive crowd when it comes to this blind love. This does not prevent me from appreciating the Finns of Sacrificium Carmen, The Watcher, or Black Beast, to quote groups a little more recent than “the precursors”.
Tell me about Darkified, the early Tiamat, Marduk, Beherit, or the Dark Funeral MCD you mention, all of those bring back some good memories. We also played with Gehenna last year and it was a pleasure. Yes, we were performing a Burzum cover in concert as early as 1993, something that nobody did, the group didn’t have the status that it acquired afterwards. We might even have been the first band in the world to do so. It doesn’t matter. I had introduced our drummer to their 1st album, which I had pre-ordered following the advice of a member of Stregoica (zine from the South of France), and she had wanted to play a title live to lengthen our sets. We did it a few times, then during the studio sessions of “The Lady …” in 1994, we quickly put it on tape during sound testing.
Gorgon – Death Was Here (Official Music Video)
TIBM: The signing on Osmose Productions is totally deserved and suits well: I mean you were the first French Black Metal band as we once said and Osmose Productions was the first French Black Metal label. Though, why this union could not happen earlier in the band’s history especially since your debut album was ultimately released by yourself, or was it a choice from your side to control all aspects of the band back then? How did the deal finally happened and how the cooperation is going so far? Do you think that thanks to Osmose Productions, GORGON will eventually get more recognition?
Chris: I think that by virtue of its reputation and its contacts, our signing on this label gives us greater visibility, something that we did not necessarily have before. Afterward, recognition also comes from the quality of your work. Let’s say you are at Sony, you make a terrible album, you will perhaps be well distributed, but reputation-wise, you will remain this group that made a mediocre album. No matter how well the label does its job, if you don’t do yours right, you can’t expect great results either. Our collaboration is going well because there is an ease of dialogue, the clauses of the contract are respected on both sides and that we must work together to satisfy our respective parties. It is in our common interest.
Osmose has been distributing us since 1992, so, for our 1st album, they already knew the band. Back then, our first drummer took care of communications with Osmose and also managed all local mail in France and, I used to handle everything that had to do with the “international”. I know she had given them the idea of signing us after our E.P. had come out, but back then, the label wanted ready-to-tour bands like Immortal, Blasphemy or Rotting Christ were doing. So, I didn’t contact them to ask if they wanted to release our album, nor any label for that matter, having started with the idea of self-production. Like our previous achievements, they still distributed it through their lists. When the idea of coming back came up, in December 2017, David of Goetie Exhumation, who has always supported us, began to circulate the news and several proposals came in. A fairly well-known label had taken a serious advantage, but Osmose’s offering was more of what we were looking for. I sent them a few new titles of what I would qualify as “unworthy” quality, but they saw the potential and the deal was quickly concluded. All that remained was to finalize the composition of the album, as the content of what would become “The Veil ..” was far from complete.
ΤΙΒΜ: Osmose Productions re-issued your demo on MCD and your 2 first albums on LP and CD but «Τhe Jackal Pact» and «The Spectral Voices » have been released on A5 Digi CD through underground french label GOETIE EXHUMATION. Why did move to another label and choose this particular format?
Chris: Osmose, which still releases various productions and reprints, was not interested in these 2 albums at the time. However, that did not call into question our collaboration, proof of this is the new album. Also, Goetie Exhumation, quoted not long ago, looked into the matter and teamed up with the label Non Posse Mori Records, to bring them to life. The latter proposed to release them in an A5 digipack version with 3 parts, a 12-page booklet, in a remastered version featuring brand new artwork. The idea gained ground because we had never had a digipack to date. We added a bonus track at the end of “The Spectral Voices”, which was taken from the recording sessions of this album, which had been deliberately put aside at the time. The illustrator Maxime Taccardi, who wanted to help us, hastened to make us a magnificent visual for “The Jackal Pact”. In the end, all our albums are now more easily accessible to those who wish to acquire them.
Gorgon – The Jackal Pact (Full Album)
TIBM: «Traditio Satanae» has a very colored design and a type of artwork that looks more in a Death Metal way if you ask me. Can you explain this quite unusual choice? Don’t you think it might create some kind of «confusion» and opposition of styles, so to speak?
Chris: From the get-go, we wanted a color cover with a visual very close to the one you know. It was embodied and personalized by Alex from Nether Temple Design, and it was only natural that he put his twist on it. Therefore, when he sent it to us, it wasn’t a surprise but, let me tell you that it did leave more than one baffled. As for the end result, we asked ourselves this question: is this okay with us? In retrospect, you can imagine the answer. We followed our instinct as always, and on the other hand, we got a lot of positive comments from people appreciating its beauty.
The old-school aspect you put forward is fine with me, but if there’s the next album, maybe we’ll go in another direction. Going where we are not expected, is good too. I have often given this example. Take 10 CDs of Black, put them side by side on a table. Ours, because of its colors, will stand out. BM often has visual codes. Black and white covers predominate, although this is by no means “the standard”. Less colorful for sure, Dissection had nice covers in its early days and Dark Funeral began its career showing off the branches of a tree, which we never would have done. In addition, the border is often thin with certain covers of Death Metal which Could also suit Black formations. I am thinking of Acheron, Deicide or Vital Remains. Ultimately, this visual will have done its job of calling out and attracting attention.
TIBM: A video clip for “Border of Forest” was unleashed last year and a new one has been released lately. How important is it for a Black Metal band to do such a video at a time where people seem to be much more interested in streamings of full albums on YouTube?
Chris: I totally agree with you that listening to entire albums for free on the net is a major concern for many. I don’t blame them. We put everything, yes everything, available on the net, after it must be assumed. These proposals and possibilities to shoot these clips come from our former guitarist who has all the gear for that. It’s just a “bonus” for us as a promotional tool. There is a label that has invested in the group, we find it “normal” to invest our time so that they get their money back, and thus be able to support other groups as they did for Gorgon. This is still a recent activity for us. These two very short films, often turn out to be a risky affair for a Black Metal band, a style which plays on atmospheres specific to each individual, without necessarily having the same visual feeling, are not an obligatory passage for everyone. These are just opportunities that we seized. We have nevertheless tried to produce quality products with our limited means, even though we can always do better, it’s true.
GORGON – Border Of The Forest (official video)
TIBM: Before the covid pandemia, GORGON could play some gigs in 2019 and 2020. What did you feel when you were on stage after all this time? How was the feedback from the crowd? Do you think gigs are still necessary for you? Why?
Chris: The concerts went well and as always, brought their fair share of memories including the meetings made those evenings. Pressure. Pressure is what I’m feeling when I perform on stage. We would do dozens of concerts, you mess one up, it’s not fun but it’s okay, the others will be better. Because we only do one-off concerts, this is not the case. We worked for such a date, if it went wrong, it leaves a mark. It is insightful for the next one to come, to rectify what did not work, but in view of all the work that was done beforehand, it is always a shame.
The audience is usually divided into 2 categories, those who are discovering us and those, even if they’re seeing us for the first time, who have knowledge of our discography. Their approach is different, their feelings probably too, but their comments received after concerts given in 2019/2020, were positive ones. To answer your question, are the live performances necessary, I don’t know, but there is no doubt that at the moment, it’s bringing us good promotion. Take an example already cited, Necromantia. Unless I’m mistaken, they have never done a concert. Would they be more popular or appreciated if that had been the case? They would have sold merchandising yes, and we would see pictures here and there but, would the quality of their albums, which is the most important aspect, be different? I’ve seen countless Black bands live, but I didn’t necessarily buy their album afterwards or took an interest in them afterwards. Not to mention the fact that you can be disappointed by formations that you otherwise, listen to with pleasure. In addition, the passing of time does not suit the appearance or the physical condition of some, often it breaks the image you had of them. Shows are really a hit and miss, but in the case of Gorgon, I would say it’s a plus. However, I prefer to be judged based on a recording/work that took 2 years of preparation, rather than on a 50 minutes performance after you spent 6 hours driving just to get to that venue.
TIBM: Traditio Satanae… to which satanic tradition do you symbolically refer to here with this title? By the way, how did you discover Satanism back then? How do you understand it and on which principles your idea of Satanism is based upon?
Chris: “Traditio Satanae” translates to “Delivery to Satan”. It was a term applied to people rejected by the Church, and who, therefore, wasn’t under its protection anymore, what that meant symbolically was that, those said sinners were being “delivered to Satan”. This explains the main character’s outfit depicted on our cover, which is based on those clothes worn during the Age of the Inquisition. This idea is obviously taken up in the piece that bears the same name, the hero being excluded from the Christian community. He is an outcast, deprived of the right to burial, who now bask “on the other side”.
I think it was through Venom that I discovered Satanism and became interested in it. Whether it be through books that I bought, (once again, we have to put ourselves in the context “before the internet”, so no free reading possible, except going to the library) or exchanges with correspondents who shared with me their points of view, their reflections, I made that switch at the very beginning of the ’90s. Over the years I have forged my vision, I have drawn here and there what I considered was right, in line with what I was looking for and, it is more a state of mind that comes out in the end. We can say a philosophy, for ease. We all know there is a myriad of ways to think about it and yet, there will always be preachers who claim that this is it, it has to be this way, and nothing else. They want to appropriate the name and impose their point of view, their belief. But it doesn’t bother me whether some see it as a religion or have another conception. For once I’m tolerating something, you must take advantage of it.
TIBM: Chris, it was an honor, thanks for your time!
Gorgon – Traditio Satanae (Full Album Premiere)