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The Great Old Ones' Benjamin Guerry: "What we do with our lives is ultimately of little importance. Cosmic forces that we cannot imagine exist, live their lives, eternal or not. Our brain is not made to understand this…"

Interview with Benjamin Guerry from The Great Old Ones
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 11 January 2020, 9:43 PM

Such passion towards literature, especially the darker fields that aren't easy to tread in, is a thing of beauty. The integration process of such, at times bizarre, atmosphere with music, might break a thinking mind in half. When it comes to Benjamin Guerry, and his band The Great Old Ones, everything is possible, and it will be neatly done, leaving behind a margin of questions, which some may never be answered. After the release of "Cosmicism", Steinmetal had a chat with Benjamin Guerry about the newfound journey on the album, the ultimate theme, musical evolution and more…

Greetings Benjamin, I am glad that you were able to take this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, I guess you have been quite busy with interviews lately right?

Hi! Yes, a lot of things to do since the release of the album. But reviews of “Cosmicism” are great so it’s always a pleasure.

Continuing the long journey of The Great Old Ones, this time the expedition takes the listener into the vastness of space, into the heart of the cosmic. Titled “Cosmicism”, you pretty much unravelled a philosophical movement that came to life through the mind of your influential writer, H.P. Lovecraft.

Before we enter the depth of the album, I wonder about the strong fascination with H.P. Lovecraft, it surely seems that you are not just a mere fan, yet you regard the writer’s creations as a sort of a guiding light. Does Lovecraft hold all the answers only for us to keep seeking in his writing?

Lovecraft's work is above all literature, but it is true that his writings also represent a certain vision of the world. I don't always agree with what he expresses, but he is a fascinating character, who expresses his feelings through his work, as we can do with our music. And we are still discovering a lot about him, even if some experts, like S.T. Joshi in his Lovecraft biography “I am Providence”, have already explored the subject well.

As it is written, “Cosmicism” pretty much disposes of mankind’s importance in the overall plan for the cosmic universe. In your opinion, what makes mankind insignificant? Would you say because it virtually destroys itself from within?

There is a part of self-destruction which has a certain importance. But for Lovecraft, even this self-destruction is insignificant, because the "threat" comes from outside. What we do with our lives is ultimately of little importance. Cosmic forces that we cannot imagine exist, live their lives, eternal or not. Our brain is not made to understand this. And the few people with even a brief vision of these secrets can only succumb to madness.

 “Cosmicism”, as an album, shares the storyline of various characters and their darkened fate, some would say a pessimistic point of view that turns out to be a process towards being lost in the fog. Is this journey bound to become the end of each of the entities presented? Why is the protagonist facing a dark destiny?

We do not know if these entities are vulnerable to time, or anything else. The concept of "end" may not exist for them. It is generally rather the end for the protagonists who meet them. But it's the same thing, this "end" doesn't mean much. Death does not matter more, because we are talking rather of a transformation. If the writings of Lovecraft are fascinating, it is also because it gives very little information concerning these entities, what they do, and what they want. The only thing we know is that Man cannot understand this, and is only going to disappear.

Musically, “Cosmicism” maintains a fair share of the madness within the turmoil of the riffing and despondent emotions all around. Furthermore, I couldn’t ignore how challenging this album is, even though it also portrays grand atmospheric flavours that make the journey a bit smoother. With this kind of complexity, in your view, how was the philosophy behind the stories integrated with the music?

It is all a question of emotions. As I said before, this philosophy represents the link between all the stories. So each part of each song depends on what we say, and the emotion we want to express.

Would you say that “Cosmicism” may as well be The Great Old Ones’ ambitious project to date, in contrast to your previous albums? Were there lessons learned from previous albums that made you do things differently in order to enhance your material outcomes?

We try to evaluate for each album so yes, I think it's the most ambitious project for us. Technically we experiment more things in Cosmicism. Leo Isnard made a fantastic work on drums, with no frontier except our creation and imagination. We are proud of all our albums of course, but Cosmicism is special for us.

Which musical elements were provided with a much better attention than on previous albums?

I think this is more about the ensemble. Or course we paid attention on each parts, on guitar solos, on melodic lines of the bass, but it's all the time to serve the ambiance. Arrangements are important, and permit to finish a song. It's for that we use some analog synths this time. They serve the atmosphere and bring the listener deeper where we want to bring him.

Due to the diversity of the album, while writing the material for “Cosmicism” were there misgivings or disagreements regarding the shaping up of the music or rather the writing process was smooth?

Since the beginning of the band, I write alone all parts of each instruments, and it was the same for “Cosmicism”. But to be honest, it was harder this time, because I really wanted to propose, as you say, an album with diversity. I spent a lot of time testing parts, trying certain things. When I listen to the finished album, I can hardly remember all this time spent composing! Maybe it’s one of the difficulties to write music alone but it’s my way to make the music of TGOO. Of course, all members actively participate in the arrangements, and definitely bring each song to life.

Not because it is the album’s lengthiest, and one hell of an epic in proportions, “A Thousand Young”, at least for me, is the best example of the entire arsenal of talent used within the same number. What can you tell about the creation of this bewildered piece of music?

Thanks! I wanted a real epic song, in terms of structure and rhythm, a song which tells a story, with a long introduction. Dramatic sensation is important for me, so it’s for that the part just after the atmospheric introduction has a sad feeling, and well represents the inexorable march of Shub-Niggurath. This entity is generally associated to the woods, so I imagined the main part as a cavalcade in the middle of stellar trees. The heavy guitar solo was written by Gart and Aurélien, and it is perfect to represent that. But, as in Lovecraft’s stories, the end is necessarily into madness and death, so I wrote a very doom part, representing evil revelations and the fall of the spirit.

Going slightly general here. For the past decade I believe, Atmospheric Black Metal, along with elements of Post Metal, slowly became a fashion in the Metal market. A refined, tamed in a way, of extreme Metal that is also melodic and mostly easier to digest. Where do you believe The Great Old Ones draw the line when it comes to being unique than others? What makes the band standout in general, in regards to “Cosmicism” now up and about?

It’s a hard question because we only make the music we like. Of course, we are not evil and maybe chaotic like bands like Mayhem or Emperor. These bands came from a particular period, and it’s not a good idea to try to make the same thing. But these bands are my roots, and there are dramatic feelings and very strong emotions in their music, who make them singular. And I think it’s the same thing for The Great Old Ones”. We want to put strong emotions in our songs, we don’t want to be just a band with easy music, but develop our own style. Listeners are sensitive to that, and maybe it’s for that we have our own audience.

Recently you released a video for “Of Dementia”, quite an interesting concept it holds. What can you tell about the foundation of the video when it comes to its script?

It’s an important step for us because it’s our first video clip. We felt this was the good moment to make it. I had long spotted the work of Zev Deans for Ghost, Behemoth, and especially for Portal, so I saw the clip a lot of times. I love his universe, the very gloomy and dark side of his productions. So we contacted him and, being a fan of Lovecraft, he immediately accepted. The song "of Dementia" is based on Cthulhu so he was very inspired. We are very happy with the rendering, and the parallel between the abyss and the depths of the cosmos is perfectly suited to the concept of the song and the album.

What kind of a band is The Great Old Ones live? What makes its image on stage special for attendees to be utterly focused on what you have to offer while performing?

Live shows are very important to us. We work a lot to offer a real Lovecraftian trip, both in terms of lights and our stage outfits and decorations. The volume brings a feeling of power, and our rage is stronger. This makes our performance very intense and timeless. We do our best with our means so that each concert is an experience.

Other than the French tour coming up? Have you started planning for 2020 on how to support the new album?

Regarding one shots, we will play in England, Norway, at Hellfest and Graspop, and a few others. We are working with our booker for a European tour but nothing to announce yet!

Benjamin, I know that you have been swarmed, but I guess that it is bound to be in order to promote an album. Thank you so much for your time, and I wish you guys all the best

Thanks for your support!


 



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