Liturgy of Decay is a French Gothic Metal band that has been around since the mid-nineties. In that time, the band has focused heavily upon developing their own unique sound which truly came into fruition late last year with the release of the bands first full-length album. Thankfully Liturgy of Decay was kind enough to answer our questions regarding this interesting record.
MR: First of all, thank you for taking the time to performing this interview. Now, your own record label classifies you as a ”Flamboyant Gothic Metal band”, something that we have tried to explain here on this site. Perhaps you would care to elaborate upon what this exactly means?
LOD: For me, there are two simultaneous meanings:
First of all, a purely aesthetic one. Originally, “Flamboyant Gothic” is an architectural style of religious and noble/official monuments (the last and most sophisticated one of the Gothic period) characterized by an overabundance of details, arabesques, shapes, ogives, ornamentations, with a work on chiaroscuro through stained-glass windows full of multiple fragments of vivid and light colors surrounded by darkness and shadows (and piercing that darkness and those shadows). Something deeply charged in the stone of forms of “flames, hearts and tears”, as described by Michelet – charged to the excess, some would say, to the sublime I would reply ; the sublime which is, if not always, at least very often within an inch of the excess, the ridicule and the pathetic. This is the way I see our music and universe – even its visual dimension –, as this sophisticated profusion that some would say is “too much”. This is concretely how I create, with a result which is most of the time made of a multiplication of layers in order to try to craft a dense, full and rich harmony (may they be layers of sounds, of images, of words and sentences). And the religious/cathedral aspect evoked by the “Flamboyant Gothic” term refers quite well to the content of the orchestrations.
Secondly, from a more metaphysical or spiritual point of view, shall I say, there is another meaning of “Flamboyant Gothic”, depicting what I call “shadows looking up to the skies”. In music as in literature, “gothic” is associated with dark emotions and topics. Those are at the core of our music too. It’s the primordial emotional and existential material of loss, chaos and turmoil we work on and with, but the aim is to transcend them in order to regain something associated with a Life Force that we can call Light. It’s a struggle among those shadows, not a complacent praise to them as is often practiced in the “dark” scenes. It’s a fight against our inner demons, not an offering to them nor a glorification of them – and, on the contrary, it’s the praise to and the glorification of this fight. It’s an urge of Life trying to tear away from the claws of death – and an urge to fly high and bright again. It’s darkness aiming at retrieving the Light and becoming Light again. For me, apart from the fact that “Flamboyant Gothic” refers in architecture to constructions which give to see, in the shape of statues, paintings and so on, glorious, epic and tragic battles between demons and angels, malevolent dragons and knights in shining armor (which creates a perfect mythological background, symbolism and metaphor for what I’ve described before), I find in the confrontation of those two terms (“Gothic”, associated with some kind of horror/terror/gloom/despair/dark feelings and “Flamboyant”, carrying a notion of flame, fire, force, something bright and glowing (if not burning)) the perfect representation of what the inner core of the texts is about and of what is at stake from a metaphysical point of view in +Liturgy Of Decay+.
MR: The name of your band is quite interesting. Is there any hidden meaning or message behind it?
LOD: I have partly answered to that in the former question since the name of the band and the expression to describe its style are linked. I used to write pages of conceptual explanations but I will spare you that – time made me realize it was counterproductive (those interested and courageous enough will actually find pages of explanations in pdf in the album 😉 ). Actually, the meaning has evolved over time. On a first and basic level of interpretation, this appellation has the great virtue (and the prime value) of describing very well the aesthetic content of the music, at the same time religious and sad. To go deeper into the “concept and message” aspect, and to sum it up, when I found this name, my starting point was the assessment, the observation that any quest of an ideal in this world, of something absolute, beautiful, pure, higher and greater than the dull, superficial, material existence of the “daily” life we experience – may this absolute or higher meaning be God, true love, a higher meaning organizing and orchestrating things, anything that could be called sacred, making this world more than a series of coincidences, chaos and infinitely renewed simple quests for sensual pleasures until the senses and pleasures and ourselves are no more. The basic statement was that any attempt to see, feel and live deeper, higher and brighter was bound to failure, disillusion and decay, and that the truest thing which we seemed to be able to experience and expect from this life was the depth and authenticity of the pain derived from the failure of this quest ; which means that the only greatness of fate we could expect was the greatness of its tragedy. Therefore, the idea emerged to create an artistic church, a ceremonial shape of sounds, images and ideas dedicated to the celebration of the beauty of this desperation and existential wandering and loss: “Liturgy Of Decay” was meant to put on the same banner the religiosity of our music and also its despair, that of a spiritual/emotional/mystical/ceremonious fiber which was orphan and had nothing anymore to embrace and celebrate but the pain of orphanage.
Things changed – as I did, as the people taking part in the project did. A certain experience of this world managed to restore the faith in a Higher Beauty, in a Higher Meaning, in Higher Realms – and in a Higher Order behind the apparent chaos. A certain experience managed to restore our selves – our True Selves, bright and beautiful. The subtitle of the Manifesto included in the album is « A liturgy of decay, because if you want to learn to fly, you will first have to learn to fall ». The idea is that pain is a beginning – not an end –, the first step of a path – but definitely not the last one. The dereliction and disillusion can be seen as the primordial material of the project – not the result nor the destination. The Liturgy Of Decay became the artistic testimony of an attempt to retrieve and restore the Sacred in this experience of Fall and Decay. The next album (which will actually be a reworking of “First Psalms”) will have “L’Oeuvre au Noir” as a subtitle. It’s a reference to Alchemy and these words will be written in the credits (as they are in those of “First Psalms”): “Alchemy is a flight, from the Depths to the Heights”. L’oeuvre au Noir (Nigredo/Blackness) is the first step of this process, and it refers to the night of the soul, a phase of destruction and loss, a personal hell as starting point of the transformation (in the esoteric field, this is called the transmutation), at least in the spiritual dimension of this unknown and misinterpreted art – misinterpreted, because it seems that most true alchemists, if not all, were on a spiritual quest, not a material one ; the material, chemical dimension was, from what I’ve read, some kind of folklore, only a veil to hide the true nature of their research to religious authorities who would have claimed it heretical. For them, turning lead into gold meant transforming the lowest and less noble parts of our selves and spirits to become again the golden light they believed the core of our soul to be made of. That is what +Liturgy Of Decay+ is about (and why I now wear as stage makeup some kind of black phoenix turning into gold, which is the symbol of the final stage of the alchemical transmutation process) : an art made of aesthetic and also existential and metaphysical aims, experiences and matters which deal with pain, suffering and the demonic part of our earthly nature and life conditions, only to take it as a primordial material and a frame in order to work on it and to transcend it – and to transcend oneself through the experience of it –, to try and restore in the end something great and bright, made of Power, Beauty and Love. (There, I just wrote ONE page of conceptual explanation 🙂 ) .
MR: Your newest release, First Psalms, have been excessively well-received here on Metal Revolution, even making one of our top ten releases for the entire year. Hopefully that makes you proud?
LOD: Damn right, you bet I am ! You clearly made my day – our day, as far as the current (and in-construction) line-up of the band is concerned ! Twice, actually. First for the «Release of the month» with the review you wrote (the best to this day for the album). Then with the Top 10. If +LOD+ is destined to a future in this scene (which I hope), you will be able to say «we were the first ones to discover and promote them», haha ! (which, at least for «First Psalms» (our first worldwide release), is definitely the case 😉 ).
MR: The band has been around for quite some time, more than two decades. Do you have any particular fond memories that you remember more clearly than others from all that time?
LOD: The story of +Liturgy Of Decay+, as you mention, is a very old one – and actually, to some extent, a very chaotic one too. A long hard road, or a Stations of the cross as we say in French, to stick with the general religious and tragic theme, hehe. Very Flamboyant Gothic indeed – not only in the music, but also in the making of it (it’s fate demanding coherence (and also a personal duty that we give ourselves in regards to our art)), that leads us to experience concretely in our musical adventure, over and over again, the existential burden we are putting and expressing into music, haha). I think my best memory is of one particular concert in a very small venue lost somewhere in France. We were touring with two other bands, one of which I was working for as live sound engineer, and we were bringing with us all the sound and light equipment, even the stage, constructing and deconstructing it each day of the tour. That very particular date, everything went wrong during the day: an incredible amount of endless technical problems, an incredible amount of stress, and the need to find quick solutions to uncountable issues succeeding one another, me running here and there all the time… Our bass player fainted backstage 10 minutes before the show because of emotional tensions and hypoglycemia, to give you an idea. We went on stage under a lot of pressure. At that moment, we had a problem with the orchestration sequences on the very first song and we had to play it again. One song later, my guitar stopped responding and no sound came out anymore – so I put it on my back and sang without it (I tried to make it work again later, in vain).
But apart from and beyond all those elements that could have turned that experience into a hellish one, something quite unexpected happened, thanks to which the whole event rose marvelously and admirably above all the things that seemed to pull it down. It occurred among the band and also among the audience. Inside of us and on stage, there was a force carrying us and leading us to say “fuck it, we don’t give a shit, we move on and go on” – like when things fall apart around you and you go straight on because you feel it that way and you’re unstoppable, even should the world collapse. Very weird. Some kind of magic bound with the – very small and limited – audience happened (an audience which, for the most part, did not know us before), a moment of pure grace. Almost a mystical moment, like a veil of ether floating above all the shit happening. They gave us a fervent encore, and even though it was not planned in the schedule of the day (we were 4 or 5 bands playing and were not supposed to go beyond the time allowed), we finished on “Tales Of Betrayals” with an audience almost in rapt attention, some people nearly ecstatic, with a man on the front ending on his knees for the last part of the song, and even sometimes raising his arms to the sky. On the side of the stage, I came across the female singers of the two other bands we were touring with, both moved to tears for the first time and at the same time though they had already seen us before. And as a nod to those who are familiar with the symbolism of numbers, the night or the morning before the show, I had found something like “6666666669” typed on my cellphone. A perfect illustration of that day 😀 . (Here is a link to the video captured with a phone which immortalized the moment (bad image and sound, though): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk1B-bytFjY ).
I think this remains, to this day, the best memory I have of this miraculous and fabulous yet at the same time absolutely chaotic, painful and exhausting adventure which is +Liturgy Of Decay+
MR: Your music seems to be rather unique, if not even completely unheard of. What bands do you draw upon as inspiration?
LOD: First of all, thank you very much for the beautiful compliment – as it is clearly a compliment to me, and no small one. It’s very hard to tell since I’ve been listening to a wide variety of music for a long time. For the metal part, I would say Paradise Lost, Samael, Moonspell, Tiamat, that kind of band. With atmospheres, melodies, keyboards/orchestrations and a dark/gothic tone (this is not the only kind of metal I listen to, but the only one which can be called an influence I guess). For the more gothic part, I would rather quote Dead Can Dance, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure. Apart from that, you can add some classical music (a few major references such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Albinioni, though my culture in this field is incredibly more limited than I’d like).
MR: Personally I especially enjoyed the track Tristiana. If you were to mention a favourite track from the album, what would it be?
LOD: Very difficult question, since it’s a little bit like having to choose between one’s children. “Tristiana” is definitely the most appreciated song of the album by the majority of people – and the most quoted as their favorite. Personally, if I had to pick one of them, it would be extremely hard for me to choose between “Tristiana” and “Dolores/My Lonely Failure”, and “Mental Damage” would also be in the race very close behind. At best, I could make a top 5 with those three ones to which I would add “Tales of Betrayals” and “Dispossessed” – but “Symphony Of Curses” and “Suffering The Idyll” and even “The Last March” would be cruelly missing, and so on… You see the difficulty for me… 🙂
MR: Can we expect any more releases in the near future?
LOD: We are currently working on a double cover of the songs “Amphetamine Logic” and “Some Kind of Stranger” by The Sisters Of Mercy which should appear on a compilation edited by our label. Apart from that, as strange as it may seem for an album which took 15 years to be released – but this is just another one of our numerous (if not uncountable) weirdnesses and deviations from a band’s usual progression –, we are going to record it again and actually make it a double album with two new and probably long songs. This is the reason why the subtitle of “First Psalms” is “Psalms Of Agony And Revolt – First And Early Shape”, which means that a second and later shape is yet to come. Even if the mastering of “First Psalms” is recent, the recordings you heard are old, from 2002 for the end of the mix. The fact is that the songs have considerably evolved during the years – and in my opinion, improved. Apart from the fact that the sound of all the instruments has changed and been reworked and upgraded (which would not have legitimated a new recording), the arrangements have undergone two major transformations : first of all, the addition of a very important amount of lead guitars (you have an example of that with the new version of “My Lonely Failure” of which I’ve put an instrumental variation with 3 different mixes on our soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/liturgyofdecay . Secondly, I started to work years ago with a female vocalist/dancer. Polyphonic female choirs that I’m fond of were born of this collaboration, so that the songs have really evolved, and I really want them to exist not only live, but also on record as they are right now, in their current and – to me – most achieved form (and the current possible integration of a second female vocalist comes at just the right time for it). As some of the songs have sometimes doubled in length (such as “My Lonely Failure”) and as there is one other song (if not two) which I really want to add for the album to be complete from a thematical point of view, it will probably make a double album. After that, some new songs in construction will see the light of day.
MR: Do you have any plans to set out on a tour to promote the album?
LOD: Nothing concrete at this stage. But I would definitely like to. Right now we would not be ready since a new live line-up is in construction, with the possibility of two female singers forming a small choir, and maybe another guitarist. But in a few months we should be able to, and I really hope that when that time comes, we will receive some offers – though I am very cautious concerning this hope and expectation. I know how difficult it has become to tour and even to be offered a local gig when you’re a band on his first album. There are too many bands competing and, as CDs don’t make money anymore (generally, it costs some without fully compensating the investment), the bigger bands choose – which is quite understandable – to tour twice more than before because it has become the best – if not the last – remaining way to make a living out of music. All this makes the live scene sometimes look, at least in France, like a jungle where only the ones who are the most savage and the fittest to the trend of the moment manage to hit the jackpot and to eat – and we are none of that, neither savagely eager nor trendy. So we will see what comes. If nothing, then we will go on recording things and releasing them and try to develop that way.
MR: Lastly, we would like to thank you once again for your time. Anything you would care to add to our readers?
LOD: Four things actually:
The webzine you’re a reader of is by far one of the most ethical and professional I’ve had to deal with. Congratulations to you for having chosen it to get informed. Wise and enlightened choice… 🙂 .
Thank you very much for having managed to get to the end of this interview and to bear with my chatty self. I know by experience that most people would not have had the courage and would have surrendered waaaayyyyyy before. Congratulations, you are among the brave ones and there is a Pantheon somewhere waiting for you – some Valhalla with a thousand virgins or so. 🙂
Please apply to music these words of wisdom I used to find in all the cracked software I used to use for making music : “If you like it (note : I would personally add “and if you can afford it”), buy it”. This is the one and only way to preserve a rich offer and a rich scene. A band needs time to develop his art and to perfect it. I’ve seen plenty of interesting projects, which would have been successes in the 90’s and would have produced 5 or 6 albums worthy of marvelous, ever-improving music, dissolve, disappear and die after one or two releases because it is just too hard. Believe me, it’s too hard. Please, don’t kill the golden goose by taking too much selfish profit out of it. Please, play your role, do your part. We artists have to eat, drink, sleep and dress decently like any other human being during the years taken up by the realization of a product – and there is no free mp3 food. No free mp3 guitars and microphones either. Free music is to “try before buy”, to take the slogan of a famous old cracker team – except for those who just can’t buy (which is not the case for most of us). Thank you in advance for your understanding.
Go Vegan, but this has nothing to do with the rest of the topic – hehe. It doesn’t matter, go vegan anyway… 🙂
I would also have one thing to add for the editorial board of Metal Revolution: our sincerest and deepest expression of gratitude for the coverage of our work. I mean it. Truly. And I will remember it.