Off the top of my head, I can think of very few labels that have had a better 2018 than Poland’s Pagan Records, who’ve released outstanding albums from Mordor, Kły, Varmia, and Above Aurora, just to name a few. Here’s another one to add to the list: Piach, the debut full-length from Gorycz. Comprised of current and former members of AEON and Non Opus Dei, the quartet make music that’s not beholden to the conventions of a single genre.
At their heaviest, they’re bit reminiscent of Monotheist-era Celtic Frost, but those kind of heavy moments don’t appear all that often. Other times, their black metal roots show through, mostly via the drums. The word that most comes to mind when trying to describe their sound, though, is sparse. There may be more single-note riff patterns than full chords, more jazz-influenced drum patterns than blasts. There’s a cleanliness to the guitar tones and a clarity in the production that actually reminds me a bit of Shellac. Dark, moody, and more than a bit hypnotic, we’re pleased to be streaming it in full here today at the Vault.
Piach will be available on November 2 from Pagan Records (preorder here). Check it out, along with my interview with Gorycz vocalist Tomek Kukliński, below.
Indy Metal Vault: So first off, thank you for the interview. I’ll admit that I’ve been struggling a bit to write the questions for this interview, in large part because Piach is something of a difficult album to get a real handle on, which is ironic in a way since (assuming Google Translate is correct) the title translates as ‘sand’ in English. Given that the members of Gorycz have extensive black metal backgrounds in bands like AEON and Non Opus Dei, and considering that I generally associate Pagan Records with the Polish black metal scene, I was a bit surprised when I listened to Piach for the first time. There’s certainly a black metal feel to the album’s mood/atmosphere, but I don’t know that I’d call it a black metal album. I don’t know that I’ve ever asked a band this before, but if you were to describe Piach to someone completely unfamiliar with your music, how would you do so?
Tomek Kukliński: Hello. If I said Piach was a record for everyone, it would be downright and infantile nonsense, but I am pleased that you are discovering in the music composed by Gorycz something not easy to classify. Perhaps it results from the fact that while writing music we tried to stay open as much as it was possible and keep the “breath” of Black Metal simultaneously. If somebody asked me whether Gorycz was a black metal act, I would have a serious problem with the unequivocal answer. Roots are obvious, but we aren’t capable of thinking about the music through the prism of determined style or genre. It seems to me it would blind the musician, and close the music in a cage of convention. We are imposing nothing upon ourselves, we aren’t searching anything, we don’t want the revolution. We want to play the music which moulded us, and which gets us a little extra rope.
If I was supposed to describe Piach for somebody who isn’t acquainted with our music, I would tell him not to search for the genre, but only for good music. If he finds it, great – if not, he will buy a record from a different band.
IMV: Questions of genre aside, Piach is a really enjoyable album – it’s dark, moody, and completely unpredictable in terms of the twists and turns it takes from one song to the next. According to the promo materials, you were seeking something “casual and spontaneous” with Gorycz. Do you think you succeeded with Piach? To my ears at least, it seems to be a bit too structured to have been completely spontaneous.
TK: In fact, it is not possible to be completely spontaneous and to think of releasing the record with six songs. Improvisation, spontaneity – they kept us company during the work, but we were never going to make the frame from it for the music, because we would set a trap on ourselves. The truth is that at the beginning we wanted only to play. The shape was indistinct, blurred and foggy. The music has always appeared at rehearsals, since we thought that the only way to get to a certain level is to sweat, to be together, to feel the stink of the basement and to tire out. I call it the spontaneity and the freedom, with times a childishness even, although it is necessary to remember that wanting to grant the shape the music, to write words, to record the album also requires a discipline which is forcing you to separate what is valuable from what is a complete bust. Piachis already apart from us. It was a statement of the certain time and certain circumstances in our life. This is us, nothing more, no masks. We did what in the given moment we were able to do best. I don’t know whether it came off, the judgment is not ours. The moment when the record will find its way to the people, it stops belonging to us, and this is beautiful in composing and writing: Reception.
IMV: Your band name Gorycz translates as ‘bitterness’ in English, which I think is kind of fantastic. However, it seems a bit at odds with the statement in the promo materials that one of your primary goals with Gorycz was “playing music without a set concept or goal other than to enjoy” yourselves. Was there a point where you collectively decided that you wanted to focus on something specific, did that concept of bitterness somehow evolve out of you enjoying yourselves? I’ll admit to finding bitterness to be rather enjoyable myself from time to time.
TK: Gorycz isn’t only music. It is something like a reflection over oneself in some anastomosis with world, the culture, the nature and the society. The music is providing us with stimuli, which pleases us on the one hand, but paradoxically it is very sad material. What direction we would go was from the beginning unspecified. When the first riffs of “Ziemia” appeared, which was the first composed song, I knew that we wouldn’t be playing together if we were pretending.
The music flowed heavily and slowly, then we already knew that the frankness in life was conditioning the frankness in the music. The name Gorycz appeared equally spontaneously. It was a result of our feeling of emptiness in this absurd life. Everyone is moving their own demons in some direction, and the music or the poetry allows people to accustom them, or sometimes even to subjugate them. If you don’t find something like that in your life, sooner or later all is there for you are antidepressants.
IMV: So I’m once again relying on Google Translate here to ask about your lyrics, but there’s definitely something darkly poetic in your lines about how “it is easy to confuse a god with a grief” (“Ziemia”) and “when words like feathers fall into a vacuum / there will be no darkness to feed the fire” (“Lament”), and references to “a man pouring a sperm into a glass star” (“Gorycz”). Are there any thematic threads running through the songs on Piach? I did see something about the word ‘piatch’ having a thematic relationship to the concept of death.
TK: Piach is the presence. We try to mark that which we are. With all the signs of the absurd, though. The words emerged from observation. There is no message in them, nor statements. We are just living matter and there is nothing to marvel about it, nothing miraculous. We are an accident, a quirk of fate if you like. Very often we don’t realize how peculiarly and suddenly our mortality can reveal itself to us. I think that immortality is our ultimate desire, therefore we’ve created the culture itself along with absurdity of the art, gods and dreams. It seems to me that if awareness of death is our only goal, we should post sincerely. To tame our coffin, to love the heavy sand they’ll put on you at the end, to incorporate the presence of the grave into our life. I call this imprisonment “between the sand and the stone,” when the man will realize how great potential he wasted and all what’s left for him is longing for the more refined form of existence. Only a longing.
IMV: One of the things I think I appreciate most about Piach is the production. There’s a dry sort of clarity to it that really is perfect for the style of music you play. You recorded it at Nebula Studio with Tomek Stołowski, and Haldor Grunberg of Satanic Audio, who’s previously worked with Behemoth, mixed it. How much of the album’s sound is a result of you knowing what you wanted when you entered the studio, and how much was the result of the recording process?
TK: In the Nebula Studio, Tomek Stolowski performed perfect work. He let us transfer this underground harshness to the record. He imposed nothing, but listened to us and gave tips. But the idea of the sound is a merit of Przemek who is a visionary, and in addition loves the music and knows what he wants from the equipment.
Gorycz sounded severe from the beginning. It is the next element that had to be kept possibly in one piece and moved from the dirty rehearsal room to the studio.
We knew exactly what tone we wished for before we appeared at Nebula Studio, we didn’t know we would meet a guy there who understood us instantly and was capable of squeezing the sound of Gorycz out from the equipment. We searched for a studio appropriate for drum recording and we could not do better. The peace and Tomek’s patience were impressive, and when we heard the first registered sounds, we knew that was it. The tracks Haldor Grunberg got were very well registered. Haldor completed the task.
IMV: Since I mentioned the dryness in the previous question, the subject of gear kind of fascinates me. What did your studio rigs look like? How close are they to what you use when you play live?
TK: The whole album was recorded on the equipment we usually play. Guitar chain – Eastwood Sidejack Baritone (modded) – Pro Co RAT pedal on one channel, Burning Sunn pedal on the other – some Strymon Flint reverb & tremolo – MG Raven II tube amp, Orange 4×12 cabinet. Bass – Ibanez BTB Standard – Big Muff pedal – Ampeg SVT-2 Pro tube amp – Fender 8×10 cabinet. Drums – Yamaha Oak Custom and Meinl cymbals mostly
IMV: Your guitarist Przemek Grabowski did the cover art for Piach. There’s something about that image that I find profoundly sad and lonely. Are you willing to talk at all about the concept for the cover? What were you going for with that image?
TK: That picture on the cover is in fact what you want it to be. If it is solitude and sadness for you, that means you see the world as we do. Gorycz is a woman to us. Beautiful and sad, submerged in some melancholy breaking the will, with one’s eyes fixed on the world. What we didn’t want is grotesqueness. We didn’t want it to be so “metal” you know, because we don’t know what point it is supposed to serve. We wanted to keep the cohesion between content and the form, simultaneously staying at the simplicity of the expression. The cover was Przemek’s idea, being with his wife in the mountains he simply saw this sadness between the rocks, roadless tracts and the fog. We trusted him entirely, and when we saw the photograph, at once we knew that it was “Bitterness” in person.
IMV: What are your plans after Piach is released? Any extensive touring plans in your near future – perhaps in the US?
TK: For this moment we are waiting for the album premiere. We are looking ahead with cautious optimism. We know what we want, but not always is it so simple to fulfill. Releasing the record is only a beginning. We are ready to play concerts, but we don’t have specific plans. We cannot after all assume that Gorycz will appeal enough so that people want to examine us and to listen to us live. Gigs in the US? Maybe we’ll find some spare time and money next weekend hahaha (joke:) )
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists – anything else you want to add?
TK: It is a pleasure to talk about the music, so the fun is entirely on my side.
Closing word for artists: Truth