The War Inside My Head: An Interview with Chilean Black Metal Wonder Solipnosis
Our ongoing series of interviews exploring some of the best in the contemporary underground extreme metal scene is back, and it's a special one for me. I encountered Chilean black/prog band Solipnosis as one discovers music these days, wandering Bandcamp. And I was hooked from the very first moment, just from listening to the first advanced track from their most recent album, Clarividencia, Introspección, Retrospección, originally slated for release last summer but eventually released at the very end of 2020. I also wrote about them twice in the past, once after the shocking discovery and once after album came out. And while the wait for the album was a bit longer than I expected, the album itself delivered on every possible front. It was and remains easily one of my favorite black metal releases of the past few years, fusing a harsh raw energy with what could only be described as a true, forward-thinking artistic spirit. It's a one-of-a-kind release from what is, in my mind, a one-of-a-kind band.
Thus it was and is my absolute honor to present this interview with the project's mastermind Gabriel Gallardo to talk about some of his greatest musical inspirations and obsessions. I think it turned out great.
This would be a great time to remind everyone of our brand-new charity compilation MILIM KASHOT VOL. 3 that features some of my favorite artists, a ton of amazing music, and all for a good cause. So just do it.
As always, check out our various interview projects and other cool shit. And if you'd like to keep abreast of the latest, most pressing developments follow us wherever we may roam (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and now also a tape-per-day series on TIK TOK!), and listen to our shitty podcast (YouTube, Spotify, Apple), and to check out our amazing compilation albums. You can support our unholy work here (Patreon), if you feel like it. Early access to our bigger projects, weekly exclusive recommendations and playlists, and that wonderful feeling that you're encouraging a life-consuming band musical habit. Be well!
What was the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it?
I remember it very well: it was the almighty Show no Mercy, in a chilean tape version I found in a music store, here in Valdivia. I was like 15 years old or so, and the money I spent was meant for me to pay the train service to where I lived back then. That day I walked several kilometers back home, but very, very happy. I played it that same afternoon in an old boombox (by that time, I had only heard it through some shitty MP3 shared in CD-r by some friends), and it caused a great, instant shock in me. I still have it, and is still one of my all-time favorite albums: songwriting, production, artwork – everything has an impact in the music I do today.
What 2-3 albums did you hear the most growing up?
If I try to recall some memories from the very first time that I found myself listening to music with flaming interest, probably it was when I was like 12 and “Forward to Death” by Dead Kennedys, started to play on some local TV show. I was totally shocked by that sound – unknown to me at hat moment, and since then my hungry for music and sound has only increased. I have listened to a lot of different music from that point, but many of it didn’t retained my attention for too long, so I will focus on the albums that I discovered in my early adolescence and still listen today (I will not include Show no Mercy, named above – I love it, though). I will include my favorite song of each album too.
First of all: Arise by Amebix. This is one of those records you live with, attaching memories, places and feelings to it. I discovered punk at a very early age, but with Exploited, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Misfits and the more hardcore focused movement, so when I came up to Amebix, I was facing a totally different sound. It shocked me, and I found it kinda weird at first. I didn’t really understand how these mid-tempo drums, deep voice and complex song writing was considered punk – and not just that, but extreme punk. I was totally hooked by it, though, and it changed me and my vision of music. I began to understand that bands must be some kind of declarations, or manifestos – not entertainment, but art. I started to see no boundaries in music. Besides that, I like that melancholic, yet furious feeling the album has, produced (in my opinion) by the constant augmented and diminished steps in the riff construction. Just listen to the climax of the title track and you will get what I’m saying. Or listen to "Axeman": all diminished, all minors, all darkened and hopeless, but breathing fire. Oh, and the “Celtic Frost-ian” chromatic scales are there too, of course. Here's the song for this album: “Darkest Hour”, the end. And what an end: that’s how you close an album. A song for listening to in total darkness.
Next I must name To Mega Therion by Celtic Frost. I ,isten to Celtic Frost all the time, since the day I discovered them to this today. I consider it to be some kind of theoretical object; my art is highly influenced by them. This was the first work I listened, and through it I discovered Hellhammer, and the rest of works surrounding the project and the members. It was the orchestral elements and feminine voice, summed with the evil sound of that almost “square-wave” guitars that fascinated me at first glance. I really like the production, too. This is an album that I have as a regular reference when mixing or mastering metal bands, is extremely well recorded and produced. Oh, and obviously, the “UGH!” thing -that’s an institution for me.
Of course, my favorite song from this album is "Circle of the Tyrants." Instant, inevitable headbang in this one. I haven’t met a single person in these circles that can resist the magical power of this song.
Last, but not least, Dimension Hätross by Voivod. I listen to a lot of thrash metal, Voivod being my favorite band of all. This wasn’t the first album I discovered from them, but certainly the one that changed me the most. The more I listen to it, the more things I learn from it. The storyline is developed in a magistral way, you can almost see the scene around the fire in “Tribal Convictions," or the quasar in “Cosmic Drama”! The precise and alternated kick drums, from syncopated to double, the intelligent construction of tritones and that angry-prog feeling are among those things that I will want for my music too. This one is always present in my speakers.
The song I like best from this one is “Chaosmöngers." I really like the two named above, but this one is somewhat special for me, maybe because it was the one that I had to listen to more times to understand. Is one of the most creative songs that I have listened ever, too. Voivod isn’t a simple thing, I think.
What two albums taught you the most about making music (mixing, production, performance)?
The first one is Mercyful Fate’s Don’t Break the Oath. The drums here are so well recorded and mixed. The snare catches my attention the most, having that very clear and articulated highs, yet retaining that huge low-end. I like the guitars too, with the more overdriven kind of sound, instead of a brick-wall distortion -I think that really helps the brilliant riffing in the album. Mix aside, I believe what I like the most about this album, is the emphasis given to minor (and aeolian maybe, I’m not sure) chords and scales, upon the heavy, tempo-changing drumming, with the ghost notes and everything it has. I think a lot about that.
The Second one will clearly be Manilla Road’s Crystal Logic. Besides being one of my all-time favorites, Manilla Road has something no many bands (or projects) have: true personality. You just need to hear one note to recognize them, and that is something that everyone in this kind of activities will want, I believe. Crystal Logic was the first album I heard from them. Mark Shelton’s voice and riffing, going along so well balanced across the album, passing from rock’n’roll kind of phrases through severe and evil heavy/doom metal, is what keeps me listening to the album very often until today. Here, again, we have a heavy sounding, but very articulated drumming. I’d like that combination for my music too.
What is the last album that absolutely shocked you?
I think that would be Funereal Presence’s Achatius. I like all the work from the project, but that album is a strong highlight. The mix is incredibly balanced and clear, but still the recording is raw, cold and lo-fi, and the combination of that two aspects (so hard to achieve, by the way) is something that puts Achatius in another level for me. Especially in a time where loudness and multi-platform reproduction is largely considered above aesthetics and creativity. It has the overall concept divided into four “songs” (or chapters), which makes the work a much more complex and rich experience. This album is a brave stand out in today’s black metal, I think.
What album relaxes you or centers you the most?
Clive Palmer’s Moyshe McStiff And The Tartan Lancers Of The Sacred Heart, for sure, and for this reason: it has a constant tape-like hiss that really helps me focus, when I have to do some work or research. Besides that, I like the instrumentation and lyrics, there are some serious esoterism there, and in that sense (and through the eyes of the esoteric) is a true musical trip around the aspects of the occult, you just have to know how to look at it. I love the artwork, too, from palette to font. One can really learn some things from this kind of album.
What are the 2-3 albums you’ve listened to the most recently?
At this moment, I’m focusing in revisiting black and death metal albums that came out in the first decade of the 2000’s. The self titled album from Force of Darkness is the one I’ve listened to the most. Listening to it since many years now, today still find new things in it -plus, it is one of the fastest albums I’ve heard.
Besides that, but in a similar spirit, I’ve been listening a lot to Necromantia’s Scarlet Evil Witcing Black album. I’m doing some research (for training purposes) on synth and orchestral instrumentation in extreme metal, and Scarlet Evil is one of the best examples I can think of. The double bass guitar thing always get my attention, too. (P.D.: Master’s Hammer’ “Jilemnický Okultista” and Evol’s “Dreamquest” are the other two works I’ve been listening for this same purposes).
I think the third is a bit different, but I like it as much as the other two: Cirith Ungol’s King of the Dead. Finally, this year I could put my claws in the tape collection called “The Legacy," and the four albums regained new life to me, specially this one. The slower and darker riffing and drumming, plus the aggressive high pitched vocals, generates a kind of mystical, medieval feel that keeps me playing it again and again. The tapes are very well crafted, too, and have some serious low-end clarity that boost the overall heavy feeling. Long life to Cirith Ungol.
What album is grossly underrated?
This is a tough one since there are so many albums grossly underrated. I will choose based on my personal taste, and what I’ve have seen going around these days. For me, Ammit’s Steel Inferno is very underrated. Ammit is well known in Chile, and I’m aware of the international name the project has. Still, Steel Inferno is a monumental example of black metal being made outside the abuse of speed and stylistic clichés, giving room for another kind of sound, more spaced and visceral, yet deeply rooted in the fundamentals of what we know as “black metal”. Today, while there are more and more bands trying to achieve this “other” kind of black metal, these albums are worth revisiting, but I feel they often get relegated by projects from other continents, or by the other well known extreme acts from south-america (as if there where no other bands here except for two or three). In this same spirit, I’d like to name Typhon’s Unholy Trilogy too, and Vulcano’s Anthropophagy. We have a solid history in extreme metal down here too, but I keep feeling that it hasn’t have the credit it really deserves.
What album would you recommend from your local scene?
I’ll need to expand the “local scene” concept here to the whole country instead of just my city. I’ll recommend Misticismo Regresivo, from Black Grail. It’s an intelligent, avant-gardish and very ambitious black metal project, with many ideas and methods getting along to achieve true darkness. The lyrics are extremely well constructed and sang in spanish: that is something I respect a lot. You can try to get your hands on it and will never be disappointed. They are working and releasing material today too, with and EP and a demo published very recently. Try to catch it, they are really worth a listen.