Album Review: Göden, Beyond Darkness

Posted in Reviews on May 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

goden beyond darkness

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To say it’s a lot to take in is something of an understatement. Considering Winter‘s last studio outing was 1994’s Eternal Frost — which Svart has reissued, along with Into Darkness — one might think Flam has been sculpting the storyline and breadth of Göden over the last 26 years, but it’s been at least five since Winter‘s on-stage reunion came apart and he proceeded on to the new project, bringing in Kallas and Pinnisi as well as a host of drummers, guest guitarists, a violinist, etc., culminating in the massive work that is Beyond Darkness. Perhaps the album’s greatest triumph is that despite the varying contributors along the way around the core trio and despite the back-and-forth nature of the proceedings between interludes and fits of extreme doom metal, it manages to remain cohesive and indeed only seems to become more so as it proceeds. It might be that as Göden plunge ever deeper into the miasma of their own making, they enact a kind of Stockholm syndrome on the listener, but I put it up to world-creating. The album crafts its own setting, plot and characters, and it tells its own story. Therefore, as you listen, you take it on as you would take on a novella.

And sure, some of the language in pieces like “Manifestation III: The Spawn of Malevolence” and “Manifestation V: The Epoch of Göden” and the later “Manifestation VII: Gaia Rejuvenated” is over the top, but that grandiosity becomes an essential facet of the presentation. Like Triptykon before them, Göden use a theatrical posture in darkness as part of an overarching sense of their command of their songwriting and, in this case, dramatic storytelling. And cuts like “Dark Nebula” — on which church organ and the splash of Scott Wojno‘s drums resound behind Kallas in a striking midsection — and the reinvention of Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath” that is “Ego Eimie Gy” are highlights unto themselves, standing up to scrutiny even when removed from the context of the record as a whole. One couldn’t necessarily say the same for individual “Manifestation” pieces — though certainly all eight of them together would work — but they’re not meant to be experienced in that way in the first place, so it’s moot.

As at last Beyond Darkness arrives at “Night,” which isn’t the finale but comes ahead of the epilogues-of-a-sort “Manifestation VIII: A New Age” and “Thundering Silence” — plus the “Winter” cover that rounds out — the proceedings feel perhaps more grueling than ever, and the lineage from Winter to Göden is laid bare for the listener to behold. And yet, even around that raw, plodding riff, there is evidence of the new outfit’s mission: the keyboards that surround, Kallas‘ language- and mythology-swapping lyrical invocations and the underlying focus on atmosphere that ultimately is what draws Beyond Darkness together as an entire work no less overwhelming than it intends. It’s not supposed to be accessible. It’s not supposed to be for everyone. It’s supposed to be for those willing to meet it on its own, uncompromised terms.

The howls of the last “Manifestation” give way to the creeping guitar and drone, and, finally, nothingness of “Thundering Silence” and when the telltale chug of “Winter” takes hold, its reinterpretation is something of an afterthought given just how much the album prior has worked to get the message across that Göden are to be considered as distinct but grown out of the band that was. Will there be another Göden album? Can there be? I don’t know. Between the ground that Beyond Darkness covers aesthetically and in its plot and characterizations — not to mention the fact that the story is finished at the end of the record — one would have to think a follow-up would entail some reimagining of how the band functions. Maybe even a permanent drummer. As it stands, however, Beyond Darkness is a testament to brutality as artistry. It harnesses bleak visions of the world that is and reshapes it along stark lines of blackened aural decay that more than lives up to the task it sets itself in its name.

Whatever comes next, even if nothing does, Beyond Darkness remains, and will remain. In that most of all, it is the essential answer to what Winter accomplished those years ago.

Göden, Beyond Darkness (2020)

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Göden (ex-Winter) Sign to Svart Records; Debut Album Beyond Darkness Coming May 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

When they were last heard from, New York death-doom pioneers Winter — who formed in 1988 and cast their legacy in their 1990 full-length debut/swansong Into Darkness (discussed here) — were about to announce a European tour in 2015 to take place the next year. The would-be stint was canceled, and any further plans the band had in working toward an awaited follow-up to the since-reissued Into Darkness or their 1994 Eternal Frost EP were likewise shelved. So much for that.

Founding guitarist Stephen Flam shortly set to work on what has become Göden, a project that has inherited much of Winter‘s ultra-bleak apocalyptic scope, but in the spirit of the transition between Celtic Frost and Triptykon, also taken the opportunity presented by the new identity to forge its own forward path. That forward path, by the way, leads to utter sonic devastation.

I mean it. Flam — joined in the endeavor by Vas Kallas (Hanzel und Gretyl) and Tony Pinnisi (also ex-Winter) — wasn’t just playing off the reference when he titled Göden‘s debut album Beyond Darkness. The record follows a hyper-complicated and hyper-immersive narrative course, and all the while the sound seems to dig further and further into an chasm of its own making. It is deeply creative and genuinely challenging, and whatever totally-fucked image you might have in your head of what it sounds like, I guarantee you’re wrong.

Today, Göden announce they’ve signed to Svart Records — a choice alignment on both sides — and the label will release Beyond Darkness on May 7. Winter reissue is booked for the same day.

More background follows:

goden beyond darkness

Göden – Beyond Darkness – Svart Records

Göden is the spiritual successor to Winter, a band that has been heavily influential and highly revered in the metal underground since its inception and treasured demos. A long-awaited continuation of what Winter would have been from co-founder Stephen Flam’s vision, the new album “Beyond Darkness” throws us into an existential voyage out of the past and into the future. A familiar yet distinctive new opus that expands the unmapped shadow world that Winter once opened in our nightmares.

A soundtrack that takes the listener on a dark and ominous journey, Beyond Darkness is a conceptual deep dive into wildly unexplored and unknown sonic territory. The story has three characters, each with different symbols: Stephen Flam as “Spacewinds”, the time and space in which these characters dwell; Vas Kallas as “NXYTA (Goddess of Night)”, lead vocalist and the darkness: Tony Pinnisi as “The Prophet of Göden”, who speaks in the name of Göden and is the light, plays keyboards and also played in Winter. Beyond Darkness is a tale of the dark and the light, set to a score of heavy music.

The artwork was conceived by Eva Petric, a Slovene multimedia artist based in Vienna, Austria and New York. Eva worked with Stephen Flam, creating a visual story book within the LP/CD booklet that the listener can look at while they are consumed by this heavy sound trip.

Stephen Flam leaves us in the outer blackness and inner gloom with these last words as ethereal guidance: “I hope you enjoy this endeavor. Listen with a free and open mind, and journey now Beyond Darkness.”

Winter, Into Darkness/Eternal Frost

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Winter Interview with Stephen Flam: Carving Destiny in Chaos

Posted in Features on June 1st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Last weekend, reinvigorated New York doomers Winter played the Maryland Deathfest. This weekend, they’re at Chaos in Tejas in Austin. Over the course of the last year-plus, they’ve taken part in the Southern Lord-driven Power of the Riff festival and they played the main stage at SunnO)))‘s curated day at Roadburn 2011. They’ve come to be seen as a pivotal act within extreme doom — forbears of the likes of Grief and among the first American bands to incorporate the influence of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost into metal that was as heavy in tempo as it was in tone. Their influence has spread through more than one generation of acts.

Tell that to Stephen Flam, though, and you might get a laughing response like, “Eh, this generation’ll be done with Winter in probably about two years.” The guitarist and cowriter of Winter‘s only album to date, 1990’s Into Darkness (reissued by Southern Lord in 2011), is humble as regards the band’s seminal position, and — to hear him tell it — largely unaware of the contemporary genre he helped form. This interview was conducted the week of Maryland Deathfest (just a couple days after I ran into him at the Pallbearer and Loss show in Brooklyn, which also comes up in conversation), and Flam‘s tone was more curious than accomplished. At several points, he asked me, “Really?” when I spoke of the impact Winter had following their breakup. I suppose it’s debatable as to the reach of underground death-doom, but within that realm, Winter was doing what they were doing on the East Coast at a time when just about nobody had caught on yet. Naturally, that sounds great in hindsight, but at the time, nothing supports a doomly atmosphere like being almost entirely misunderstood.

As such, Flam tells stories of being flipped off by headbangers looking to mosh and finding a more open-minded base of operations in New York’s early ’90s crust and underground punk scene. His voice picks up talking about playing basements and Squat or Rot benefits for Rock Against Racism alongside bands like Nausea and Apostate. Compare that to his stories of opening for Death or Sepultura out on Long Island, and there’s little question where Winter‘s fonder memories reside. He’s not bitter about it, by any means — there was more laughter here than I noted in the transcription — but the sense of surprise he conveyed in talking about the reception Winter has had since their resurgence began was unquestionably genuine. 20 years ago, no one got it. Now they do. That’s a big change when you go from one idea of what your band was to the other.

But if Winter are at home in anything, it’s extremes. Flam, bassist/vocalist John Alman and drummer Jimmy Jackson (who played live previously and has since replaced Joe Goncalves full-time) have begun to write new material and Flam is optimistic they’ll be able to capture and expand on the same vibe as Into Darkness without repeating themselves. The guitarist spoke at some length on both the future and the past of the band. Seriously, you might wind up taking this one on in pieces, but it’s definitely recommended reading, and as Winter do interviews about as often as they put out records, I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring you the conversation in its entirety. We were on the phone for about 50 minutes, and Flam being a native New Yorker, that translated to just over 7,100 words.

You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump, and please enjoy. Thanks to Steve Murphy for his help in coordinating.

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Winter and White Hills to Support Sleep in NYC

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Good news on top of good news for anyone in the New York region or who might be traveling there next month to see Sleep. Winter and White Hills were announced yesterday as support acts for the upcoming Terminal 5 show in Manhattan on June 25. Should be awesome to see the reaction as Winter lays doomly waste to that warehouse-turned-dance-club-turned-rock-venue. I suspect a whole bunch of people are about to be viciously schooled in the ways of the abrasively slow. Killer.

This from the PR wire:

West Coast stoner metal legends Sleep recently confirmed support for their special New York City show at Terminal 5 on June 22 . The bill will now include two New York-based acts: Space rock duo White Hills and recently reunited death/doom trio Winter. Both bands were featured on this year’s illustrious Roadburn festival in Tilburg, Holland.

Sleep 2011 tour dates:
06/22 Terminal 5 New York, NY w/ Winter, White Hills
06/24 Sled Island Festival Calgary, AB
06/26 The Wiltern Los Angeles, CA

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Roadburn 2011 Adventure Pt. 6: Icicles Within My Brain

Posted in Features on April 15th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

1:46AM — Friday Night/Saturday Morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg

I was trying to find a clever MacGuyver way to open a bottle of Palm Dobbel from the sixer that forum member StevhanTI was kind enough to bring me, but there’s no opener in the hotel room and so I have no means of doing so. I suppose I could go downstairs and work that out, and maybe I will by the time this is posted.

Tilburg is jumping tonight. Through the open window, I hear cheers, chants, periodic death growls. It’s a culture clash between the nightlife crowd and the Roadburn weirdos. I like it. I enjoy this place. Today was long, but I have no regrets for taking it on. I might even sleep tonight, if I’m lucky. It’s already later than it was when I started my post last night, but Voivod‘s set got me all full of energy — because it ruled — so I should hopefully manage to not fall asleep as I type, which would be a boon at this point.

When I got back to 013, the main stage room was already mostly full for Winter, and rightly so. The reunited New York trio were suitably momentous, and suitably loud. It was awesome. There’s something extra misanthropic about that early ’90s brand of death-doom; it was made so opposite the trend of its day, and Winter managed to carry that feel over. They didn’t have a stage show to speak of, just the three of them standing there (well, the drummer sat). Not about the show, just about the music. Just about the heaviness. And in that, they were devastating.

In a scene so varied, it’s easy to lose track of that mentality and get caught up in the fun side of a band like Ghost, who can deliver both a solid musical aesthetic and an engaging live show. But ultimately it’s the music that matters, and Winter brought that out. On that level, it was the essence of doom. It’s not about the show, it’s not about entertaining. It’s about not fitting in, and even among the weirdos, Winter were their own entity. Unmistakable.

The Green Room was accessible for Beaver, so I went in there and got a much-needed dose of rock. Between Winter and the likes of Keiji Haino and Year of No Light, the day had thus far been pretty grim. The change was welcome. There wasn’t much room to stand or get any decent pictures, but I made up for it by hitting the merch area and buying an exclusive wood-box boxed set of everything they’ve ever recorded for 50 Euro. Next up on my plan was Earth at the Midi Theatre — their set switched with Circle with Pharaoh Overlord, if you’ll recall — but I missed it and the Animosity lineup of C.O.C. in the name of getting dinner. Sorry. Man’s gotta eat.

After failing to get a table at Koi Sushi across the street from the Mercure (I’m pretty sure if I’d showed up in a suit and a Eurodouche haircut, I’d have gotten seated, but I’m always sure of that), it was off to a Mexican place down Weirdo Canyon, that had a beer spiked with tequila called Desperados that I had two of before I realized why I was getting so buzzed off it. So much for knowing what you’re getting into.

The food was decent, though, and much needed. If I’m lucky, tomorrow I’ll wake up in time to get some eggs for breakfast. After the “flautas” — which was actually a burrito — I went back to the 013 main room for SunnO)))‘s set. They took their sweet time getting on stage, as you’d almost have to expect, and I waited impatiently in the photo pit, crowded in with the same pushy group of people who’ve been around all weekend. I saw members of Evoken up front in the crowd on the other side of the barrier. Looking forward to their set tomorrow. Another killer Jersey band — totally opposite end of the spectrum from The Atomic Bitchwax — representing my home state. Jersey Shore my ass.

I probably should have stayed for more of SunnO))), but I wanted to catch Hooded Menace in the Green Room, and knew that doing so meant I had to get over there early. They were already on when I rolled in, and killing it. I was glad to see they captured the tightness of their studio sound live with a formidable vitality to complement. They look like a young band on stage, and forsaking the cloaks of the main stage act on at the time, they wore hoodies to cover their heads and evoke their moniker. It was clever, and even if they did look like they belonged at a Madball show, they certainly didn’t sound it. Fucking killer death metal with doom riffs. I dug it and felt lucky to see them.

My night ended with Voivod, which was fitting. I was right up front at the Midi Theatre for the start of their set — having gotten there and been pleasantly surprised to catch the tail end of Incredible Hog‘s performance — and it was well worth the push of the crowd. Incredible Hog had hit the old-man-rock nail right on the head, and Voivod, a generation younger, injected punk rock energy into classically progressive heaviness. I’d never seen either band — never heard of Incredible Hog — so it was awesome to see both acts and close out my Friday night with such a meaningful set.

I know Voivod‘s days as a live act are numbered after the death of Denis “Piggy” D’Amour and their subsequent albums featuring the riffs he recorded prior to passing, and I appreciated having the chance to see them. Having Snake sing “Forlorn” from Phobos (on which Eric Forrest originally performed) was the icing on the cake, and the band as a whole rocked. There was no pretense about it, no bullshit, just rock and roll. It was a joy to watch.

Tomorrow begins with Candlemass performing Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in its entirety — basically a headlining set opening the day — so I’m stoked for that, but for tonight, it’s getting on 3AM and time for me to upload my pictures to go with this post and get the hell to sleep if I can. Breakfast and all the rest of it depends mostly on my getting a decent night’s sleep, so here’s hoping. My Palm Dobbel now open, Friday has a fitting (and delicious) end.

More pics after the jump. Click to enlarge any of them and/or the ones here.

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