Downfall of Gaia announced their return to the fray this year with the band’s much lauded fifth album. The Ethic Of Radical Finitude. Rich Holmes caught up with frontman Dominik Goncalves dos Reis to get the story on the band’s upsurge.
Downfall of Gaia’s evolution from crusty DIYers to one of the most exciting acts to inhabit the atmospheric ‘post’ metal landscape has been pretty breath taking.
In just ten years the band have gone from putting out gnarly d-beat split singles to creating atmospheric, blackened masterworks, where sludge and blastbeats coalesce around haunting soundscapes. 2014’s Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay and 2016’s Atrophy set the scene, this year’s opus, The Ethic Of Radical Finitude, should send the quartet skywards.
Signed to Metal Blade and currently punishing crowds across Europe, the band – now with members based in both Germany and the US – are set for wider international recognition, thanks to the sheer quality of their recent work.
According to vocalist/guitarist Dominik Goncalves dos Reis, Downfall of Gaia’s musical progression has been a natural development. “It’s nothing we were forcing, it just happened,” he says. “Over the years more and more influences found their way into our music and all of us are pretty open minded when it comes to music. It’s not that we are saying, ‘we need to sound like this, we need to sound like that’. We like to go with the flow.”
Does the frontman think that Downfall of Gaia have arrived at their ‘definitive’ sound? “That’s tough to tell,” he replies. “In the end it’s always a process and I still wouldn’t say that we have arrived at a definitive sound.
“But this is also not our goal. It’s always important for us not to get stuck and to move on.
“Of course, you will always hear some kind of already known ‘Downfall sound’, but on the other hand it’s also always important for us to add new nuances here and there, for us not to get stuck and keep all of this interesting… at least for ourselves.”
The Ethic Of Radical Finitude saw dos Reis reunited with old friends. Johannes Stoltenburg, former drummer with the band – and now mastermind of the Hidehidehide ambient/noise project – contributed drones to The Grotesque Illusion Of Being and We Pursue The Serpent Of Time, while guitarist Peter Wolff, one of the band’s founders, played on Seduced By… .
Their presence gave the songs a ‘special touch’, according to dos Reis. He explains: “Even if our ways had to split at some point it was a completely relaxed and enjoyable experience working together again! All of us are still in contact and there is absolutely no bad blood.
“Sometimes it’s funny and interesting to see where everyone is right now in life and how much things have changed. I think that the most exciting thing about this is the fact that they brought in their new influences. Not simply playing their old instruments, more bringing in the more electronic, ‘synthy’ path they took after they left the band. This really made the songs even brighter.”
The Ethic Of Radical Finitude was also enhanced by the vocal talents of Nikita Kamprad from German black metallers Der Weg Einer Freiheit and Mers Sumida of New York experimentalists Black Table. “Both of their voices definitely added a whole new dynamic and atmosphere to the songs and we are really thankful that they were directly into it,” says dos Reis.
Downfall of Gaia moved away from the concept album approach – a trademark of their last few records – on their new full length. But the band’s chief songwriter still dug deep this time around, his lyrical themes complementing the emotional intensity the music. The never-ending pursuit for ‘more’ that grips modern minds, the sense of discontent… these are heavy themes for heavy times.
“It was something spinning around in my head a lot while writing the album,” says dos Reis, as he sheds light on his thought process. “I’m a really restless person, always overthinking things to the max. This can be pretty annoying from time to time, but I have to admit that it can also be a helpful thing when it comes to the artistic side.
“I guess to some point I can call myself a discontented mind but I would say it’s definitely also always about the view you have on life. I want to see things as a book with a lot of different chapters and in each one your life may look completely different.
“The time is limited and a lot of people are living way too much into the future while forgetting their here and now. The future dictates way too many moments in life.”
He continues: “Maybe it’s a good thing to appreciate way more what you have right here and right now, instead of hunting dead dreams for a lifetime. I know that this is a romantic thought and I guess somehow it’s in humans’ nature that they are always hungry for more regardless of how ‘good’ things are already.”
Dos Reis certainly admits to feeling content when it comes to Downfall of Gaia’s current status. He’s appreciating the moment… and the chance to capture more imaginations as the band’s journey unfolds, the feeling that The Ethic Of Radical Finitude is truly making an impact.
“It’s flattering for us to see that all of the work and energy we put into this one is going somewhere and that people enjoy the record as much as we do,” he concludes. “I guess if we can keep all of this the way it is right now, being able to release our music and having people around willing to listen to it, we are pretty satisfied!”
The Ethic Of Radical Finitude is out now on Metal Blade Records.