Interview with Matt of Cryptopsy

Interview with Matt of Cryptopsy

- in Written interviews

photo by Eric Sanchez

Hi Matt! With the highly anticipated release of “As Gomorrah Burns,” could you share the inspiration behind the album and the musical direction you’ve taken on this record?
Well, for myself as the vocalist, I love working with concepts. So before we even started writing songs for this album, I had the whole concept for As Gomorrah Burns.

I had the name of the album already decided. I chose the name Gomorra because I was hanging out with Mike DiSalvo, who is an old vocalist of Cryptopsy. He did two albums with them. And he informed me that the band used to be called Gomorra, which I thought was super cool. And then I was doing some research, thinking about what could be a cool concept, what is something that I want to write about throughout a bunch of songs and also talk about in a bunch of interviews, such as this one. And I came up with the idea of As Gomorrah Burns, which is paralleling the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah against that of the birth of the internet. The internet is a place full of wealth and knowledge, much as was Sodom and Gomorrah. And then as humans do, they take advantage of this utopic state and dig too deep into the darkness of it and overindulge in the wealth and the power of it.

And that’s what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. God came down and smited the inhabitants there and destroyed their cities. And I basically feel like the internet is like that. It’s a bit of a cesspool. There’s a lot of horrible things that happen there. There is a lot of amazing things, obviously, but there’s definitely a bunch of horrible things that have happened thanks to the internet.

And I feel like we are just at the beginning of it because as technology advances, more and more horrible things are going to come. Musically, we wanted to continue upon what we’ve been doing with The Book of Suffering EPs. This is the first full-length approach that we’ve done in this new era of Cryptopsy. We wanted to have groovy sections. We wanted to bring a little bit more darkness into the music and we wanted to have sections repeat a little bit longer.

We wanted to sit on some rifts for a bit longer so that we could bang our heads and let the crowd enjoy a moment a tad longer than we have done in the past. But as Cryptopsy always does, we never let it sit there for far too long.

How does it feel to be back and what were some of the challenges you faced during the making of this album?
Biggest challenges faced during the making of this album was most definitely time. The pandemic hit and here in Canada, the restrictions were very strict and we were not together very often.

So we wrote remotely, which sucked. We took a long time meticulously picking at this album as if it was a dirty old sore on our knee that we’re just picking at a scab. Finally, refining it, which is a silver lining to having so much time, taking extra little moments to think about rifts and to work on stuff. That was really the hardest challenge was really, really just time and getting into a room together, which we basically never did. We recorded all separately with Chris. So luckily, Chris is our guitarist and our producer and that really worked in our favor.

The album artwork by Paolo Girardi perfectly complements the dark lyrical themes. Can you delve into the concept behind the cover and how it relates to the music?
Oh, absolutely. Paolo just destroyed this, just the best. He’s one of the best painters out there. We wanted to honor the legacy of Cryptopsy and had thought about going back to grab another Renaissance painting as they did with Nansilvail’s classic album.

We instead went with a painter that could actually do that for real I, when I was doing my research, coming up with the concept for As Gomorrah Burns, I found a bunch of Renaissance paintings of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed and I sent those to Paolo and told him some color tones.

One of the guys in the band, I think it’s either Olivier or Chris, came up with the idea of having the bat being the one raining down the fire over the city that is burning. So, yeah, Paolo just destroyed it. He started on a Monday, I think, and by Friday he had everything finished. He is one of the best out there, a true modern legend. I can’t wait to meet him face to face. He’s a very cool dude.

photo by Eric Sanchez

Can you elaborate on the elements that make this album both a homage to your roots and an exploration of new sonic territories?
Oh, absolutely. It is definitely an homage to our roots. There is definitely a lot of thought that went into what is Cryptopsy, what works for Cryptopsy. We were lucky enough to tour None So Vile back in 2017 in its entirety and I think that really gave us like, basically a master class in None So Vile. We got to really analyze what is Cryptopsy and what works for that era of Cryptopsy.

Why do so many people across the globe have such a deep connection to None So Vile and those riffs and those passages and the lyrics? So we definitely wanted to include more moments like that, moments of repetition, because if you look at that era of Cryptopsy versus the Mike DiSalvo era, the music became far more chaotic. So we wanted to go back and honor that era of Cryptopsy by adding a lot more grooves into the music.

I feel like As Gomorrah Burns as a whole is a very groove-orientated album, albeit being very chaotic as well, but still you can bob your head to it throughout the whole record, which is something that we worked really hard on. And then the exploration for new sonic territories. For that note, we definitely wanted to have a little bit more darkness in the music. We wanted to bring some more somber elements and you can hear that on Praise the Filth, that whole outro thing, which is something that Cryptopsy has never done before. And I remember as we were writing it together in a cabin in the woods right before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I remember all of us just being, that’s the outro. This is the end of the album. And we wanted more stuff like that. We wanted to have darkness. Things that make you feel uncomfortable is what we wanted, definitely. So more groove and more darkness is definitely what we wanted to bring.

“In Abeyance” has been released as the first single with a visually striking video. Could you walk us through the creative process behind this track and how it sets the tone for the rest of the album?
In Abeyance, yes, the video, I worked with a very good friend, Chris Kells. I’ve been friends with him for over 20 years. He has grown up in becoming a videographer. He started because he’s in The Agonist, he worked with Dave Brodsky and he basically mentored underneath him.

And we’ve worked with him since the first tome. We did detritus with him. So I love working with him. I trust him 100%. We sat down, we talked about how we wanted this video to be and in In Abeyance has a very dark, lyrical concept, which we definitely could not portray in a story form. It would have gotten us a lot of flak. We went more with symbolism and intensity, which is what in In Abeyance became the video. It’s in your face, it’s chaotic. It’s a story about feeling trapped, about feeling isolated, about feeling lost, about finding your place on the internet, like-minded people and then doing a horrible thing. So it was a super fun video shoot. We hung out, we shot a bunch of one-take performances of the song, each separately.

And then Chris had a lot of work to do. Chris Kells, the videographer in the editing room, I think that he did a great job. He captured all of the musicality of Cryptopsy and then put it into just this massively edited, super in your face, fast cuts, flashy video, which in abeyance is.

How did the pandemic impact the creation of “As Gomorrah Burns”? Did the isolated setting in the Quebec forests influence the overall atmosphere of the record?
The pandemic had no conceptual impact on the record.

It’s really more so the time of it. And the timing of it was eerie, I can’t say that, because we were writing in a cabin in the woods as everything was just falling around us. And here we were just waking up in the morning, working on the record for a week straight, and then going into the grocery store to grab some food. And it was exactly that time when everyone was stealing, or not stealing, we’re stocking up on all of the dried foods and all the toilet paper was gone. It was exactly that week. So eerie would be the way that I say it, but it didn’t necessarily have an impact on how the album sounded. It’s more so just how long it took to make that impact.

With over 30 years of extremity, Cryptopsy remains a dominant force in death metal. How do you keep your sound fresh and relevant while staying true to your signature style?
We definitely pay very much attention to that, paying attention to staying relevant while staying true to the signature style.

And a lot of that goes into Christian Donaldson’s hands. He writes everything, he has his finger on the record button, and he has his finger on the delete button, which is very important. We like to honor the legacy of Cryptopsy. There have been many eras in Cryptopsy and we strived and still strive to honor each legacy with the groove sections that we’re putting in this new record, with the chaotic frenzy that honors the Mike DiSalvo era, and then the new darkened elements that we’ve added into the newer version of Cryptopsy. We’re very, very cognizant of the importance of honoring our legacy because Cryptopsy has been around for 30 years. There are fans that have been there since day one and we want them, when they listen to As Gomorrah Burns, find something that they love, but we also want to stay relevant and we also want to have a new era of death metal fans pick up the record, hear a track, stream a track most probably, and find something that they love in it as well. And then from there, they can go backwards and see that we are actually the same band despite the fact of us going through so many eras. I think that’s super important.

Conceptually, the album explores themes of exploitation and isolation in the modern-day Internet era. Can you discuss how you approached blending these real-life incidents with historical elements from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Yes, the concept was very important to me. I love writing concept records. It really just helps me write the record. Lyrically, I like to find something that I can expand upon, so I chose the concept of comparing Sodom and Gomorrah to that of the birth of the internet. And I just went through and I found a bunch of horrible things that have happened due to the internet such as self-isolation, people that are being bullied, people that are being falsely accused of things, people that are being stalked, people that are being roped into religious cults online. And then I just sort of found stories. I took one story in particular for each concept, each track concept, each sub-concept, let’s say. And then I used it as a creative writing experiment and I stepped into the shoes of the main character and I took Creative Liberties, which each story, mostly out of respect for all the people that were involved in these horrible things that have happened. So I think it’s, I knew that I would be doing a lot of interviews for this record since we’re on Nuclear Blast now. And I wanted to have a concept that I can talk about, something that I think is important. And I feel like the internet has really taken over a lot of things and there’s a lot of negative things that are happening to it. A lot of negative things that are coming from that I know for myself.

I am deeply addicted to social media. It’s something that I find myself struggling with. I would like to be on the internet less, on social media less. But with my podcast, Vox and Hops, I found myself just being more and more enthralled and more and more involved in social media. And it’s dangerous. It’s a spiral we’re gonna see in the next 10, 20 years, this new era of kids that are being grown, that are growing up right now in this modern age of the internet.

And we’re gonna see what the negative impacts are. What is it gonna be? There’s, who knows? But there’s self isolating, no longer being able to spend a moment in boredom. A lot of kids nowadays just need constant, fast TikTok, more and more content consumption, garbage content mostly. And it’s hard for people to just sit there idle and do nothing. And I think that that’s a detriment to the human race and our brains.

I feel like being bored is okay. And it’s something that I’m trying to teach my kids. I think that there’s gonna be a lot of interesting things that are gonna come out in the next few years about the internet. And hopefully there’ll be some way to limit it. Albeit that there’s negative, but there’s always amazing things that are happening because of the internet too, such as me getting these questions via an email and I’m answering them for you right now.

Could you share some insights into the collaborative effort between the band members and how you managed to push your boundaries during this time?
Collaborative efforts between the members, how we pushed our boundaries during this time. Chris was in charge. Chris, this is Chris’s album. We all worked with Chris. Chris really pushed and drove the boat on this one. He was in his studio because he lives there. And throughout the pandemic, we couldn’t do much together.

So he would just write stuff and send it to us. And we would sometimes join in on a Zoom call to talk about some stuff. And then we all went into studio with Chris separately and we tracked individually with Chris and Chris really just worked. So we collaborated with Chris. He was amazing.

“As Gomorrah Burns” features an intriguing mix of intense brutality and savage grooves. How do you balance these elements within your songwriting and arrangements?
Intensity and savage grooves, how do we balance these? That’s a perfect balance between Chris and Flo.

Flo really understands how to make a track move and groove and putting riffs together and then attaching those riffs together. And Chris really understands Flo’s technical abilities and rights so that he can showcase those. So it’s really a beautiful cohesion between Chris and Flo that really makes the brutality and the grooves come together.

Also for myself, Chris really helped me work on creating interesting patterns where I was starting on an upbeat throughout, let’s say the verse parts of the songs. And that really creates a much more sort of groovy, almost dancy element to the vocal approach, which is something that I’d never done before. So that definitely also helped link the brutality and the grooves together too.

Cryptopsy has performed over 1,000 shows across 47 countries. How do you approach translating your studio sound to the live stage, and what can fans expect from your live performances in support of the new album?
Shows, yeah, we can’t wait to get back on tour. We’re going on tour in September, the Carnival of Death Tour hitting North America. I’m very, very excited to play a bunch more shows coming up.

What can you expect? You can expect we’re gonna honor the past. We’re gonna play a lot of new material and we’re gonna have a good, good time. Translating our sound across into the world, we just try to focus on giving the best performance as we can.

We are practicing right now. To do that, it’s a lot of work getting shaped to get back on tour after 2019 when we took a break. So we’re working on that right now.

How has the chemistry between the current members contributed to the evolution of Cryptopsy’s sound and musical identity?
It is the only thing that works. We are the longest running Cryptopsy lineup. Cryptopsy has a lot of lineup changes, but we are the new era of Cryptopsy.

We’ve been doing this together, the four of us, since 2012, and nothing’s gonna change there. We push each other. We’re tough on each other, especially Chris in the studio. He knows what we can do, and he pulls it out of us. We are tough on the image of the band. We’re tough on everything. We understand completely what Cryptopsy is and what we want Cryptopsy to be right now. So we have a lot of fun together, and I think it’s the main reason why Cryptopsy is what it is right now is because of the four of us being together and performing together.

How has Nuclear Blast Records’ support impacted the production and promotion of the album, and what are your expectations for its reception in the metal community?
How has Nuclear Blast impact the production and promotion now? We were independent since 2012. We are very, very excited to be on Nucleoblast right now. When you dropped a record independently in 2012 and you put a post on Facebook, all of your fans saw that post. Since then, Facebook has changed the way that it works, and you have to pay so that your fan base can see the post that you’re putting out to them, which was very difficult when we dropped the two EPs for The Book of Suffering. We feel like it did not get the eyes that the self-titled did, that’s for sure. So we definitely wanted to take a chance and go back to a record label because we were on Century Media for a very long time at the beginning of the band’s career.

We’re very stoked with everything that’s happened with Nuclear Blast. I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews. They’ve been super helpful setting up a bunch of stuff. I am super excited to see the release come through in the next few weeks. I’m excited to see what Nuclear Blast does for us in the future as well.

You’ve been praised for your technical prowess as musicians. Can you elaborate on the level of intricacy and complexity involved in crafting the songs on this record?
For myself, I am not the most technical, prowess musician out there, but I can say that I love working with Chris and Oli and Flo, they are definitely top of the game musicians right there. They just challenge themselves. They know what they can do and they like to just push themselves just a little bit further. But with age comes wiseness and we know that we need to play these songs live. So there’s some songs that as we’re composing, we push just a little bit further and then we get better. We say maybe we should just simplify it a little bit, but we don’t really do that.

We like to push it hard. The guys are musical geniuses basically. Chris is a musical genius, I’ll say it. Oli and Flo are masters at their instruments and they love playing music and when they play music, they’re happy. So they play a lot of music. That’s why they’re so good.

The album’s release will be followed by a vinyl release in 2024. How important is the physical format in presenting your music to the audience, and what role does vinyl play in the overall listening experience?
I love vinyl. I am personally trying to live as a minimalist, so I have not much stuff in my house, which means I don’t have any vinyl. People always want to send me a vinyl and I love when people want to send me stuff. I think it’s super cool, but I always turn them down because I don’t want to have something because I don’t even have a turntable. I think vinyl’s cool because it feels cool to hold something in your hand. I think it’s something that is missed nowadays in the digital era.

I always loved, I grew up in the early 90s, so I started discovering music on CD format and I would definitely spend a lot of time flipping through the booklet and looking at the images and the lyrics and that is something that is missed nowadays and I feel like back in the day when I used to go and buy something and hold it in my hand, I gave it more of a chance. Even if I didn’t like it right away, I would invest a little bit more time in it and try to give it a chance a bit more as opposed to now if I don’t like something, it’s boop, next song, let’s move on because it’s all digital and you didn’t buy it and you’re not actually holding it. Plus there’s the whole experience with the artwork. I do remember there’s this Carlos Santana vinyl that I was at my friend’s house and it’s like a lion or it’s like a woman depending how you’re looking at it. Looking at a massive piece of artwork like that is something that is missed, so I’m very happy that the vinyls are coming out in 2024.

Very excited, very excited that we’re dropping some vinyls to go with this release.

How do you feel the death metal genre has evolved over the years, and what do you see as the band’s contribution to the genre’s progression?
I think Death Metal is at the top of its game. This resurgence right now is extremely exciting. You know, you got bands like Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse, Cryptopsy, all dropping a Kataklysm, all dropping a record in the same two months in this year. I think that’s awesome. And then there’s this resurgence of Death Metal where there’s a bunch of younger generation musicians that are playing old school sounding death metal such as Sanguisugabogg, Undeath, Frozen Soul. I think it’s very exciting. And then the kids are coming to these shows and they’re discovering the genre through this younger generation death metal that I just named. And then they’re digging through the back catalogs of all these bands that these bands, this Alexander Jones wears metal shirts on stage and they’re obscure and like a young fan is gonna see that and they’re gonna be like, oh, who is this band? Oh, and then they’re gonna go back through the back catalog and then they’re gonna rediscover them. And I think it’s amazing. I think Death Metal is at an all time high and I hope that it keeps climbing and I’m stoked that Cryptopsy is dropping a record right when it’s all happening. It feels really good.

Looking ahead, what are your plans for the future of Cryptopsy? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re excited about? Thank you for your time!
We have a bunch of tours coming up as I mentioned, we are doing the Carnival of Death tour coming up in September. I’m very excited for that to get back on the road. It’s been a long time since 2019. We are also going to Asia, which was actually the last tour that we did in 2019. So I’m excited to get back there. We have more tours in the works, but I can’t talk about them right now. I’m hoping to hit Europe and I’m hoping to go to other places that we haven’t been in a long time. We are also doing MDF in May, 2024, where we are celebrating Blasphemy Made Flesh. That’s right, Blasphemy Made Flesh, 30 years old in 2024. So why not play it in its entirety at Maryland Death Fest, one of my favorite festivals when we played there in 2017. It was a pinnacle of my career. So I’m excited to get back there and do that. We have a bunch of other stuff coming up, but I can’t talk too much about it. Thank you so much. All the best.

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