A new side project from members of Oathbreaker, Amenra and Yob is enough to have any lover of metal’s slower-paced wing salivating, but don’t get ahead of yourself – Living Gate, the new band from guitarists Lennart Bossu (Oathbreaker, Amenra) and Levy Seynaeve (Oathbreaker, Amenra, Wiegedood), drummer Wim Sreppoc (Oathbreaker, Wiegedood) and bassist Aaron Rieseberg (Yob, Norska), is a markedly different endeavour for all involved. The band’s eponymous debut single showcases a particularly potent strain of death metal, direct in its rabid approach and yet boasting an understated sense of scope. Eerie lead guitars jitter atop pestilent riffs, rampaging percussion and frenetic fretboard skittering, the whole thing aglow with technical proficiency and cruel dissonance. It’s a remarkable statement of intent, and perhaps most interesting of all is the dreamlike outro, which slowly engulfs the track after a scorching solo and bout of bludgeoning blasting, as if the whole song is descending slowly into the abyss.
So fierce is this debut single that you wonder why these musicians hadn’t taken a foray into death metal much sooner. Wanting to know more, we reached out to the band, and found that the idea for Living Gate has in fact been living in the minds of Seynaeve, Bossu and Sreppoc for some time. The trio lacked two important ingredients though, namely time and a bassist. After various tours came to a close and album cycles finally wound down, the free time came. As for the latter ingredient, Aaron Rieseberg soon became the missing piece of the puzzle despite being based in America, just a touch further than your average commute away from the trio’s home country of Belgium. “We all got to know Aaron from touring together with Yob and noticed a shared love for this kind of music,” Seynaeve tells us. “So we decided to join forces despite the geographical distance between us. And I for one couldn’t be happier with the way everything worked out so far, especially if you consider the fact we have never been in a rehearsal room together since the start of the band.”
This fact makes the staggering power of the band’s first track all the more impressive, even after the members’ collective works are taken into consideration. It’s clear this deviation from their normal style is purely a passion project. “I feel like death metal is the most interesting and unforgiving way of playing heavy music,” Seynaeve explains. “The almost caveman-like aggression and rawness it holds, combined with the more clever and technical side of it, just speaks to me.”
Living Gate’s music certainly seems to channel that unbridled belligerence, inspired by what the band refer to as the “classics”, including Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Carcass and Deicide. “It’s always a bit tricky venturing into new musical territories,” the guitarist tells us. “So in that sense it’s definitely nice to have the classic stuff to fall back on. To find comfort within this new genre without having to worry too much about trying to redefine it.”
That said, however, the band are also paying attention to the new wave of death metal acts, citing Tomb Mold and Blood Incantation amongst their inspirations. Taking a cue from these acts, Living Gate seem to be striving for subtle but perceptible innovations in their music. “I wouldn’t find much excitement in remaking something that already exists,” Seynaeve agrees. “So I think we will naturally work towards a sound with an identity of its own. Without straying from the essence of what death metal is.”
Though we have just the one track to go off thus far, the band seem to be striving to walk along the fine line between raw savagery and technical dexterity. It has, however, been a challenge to execute this balance, as sticksman Wim Sreppoc tells us: “When Levy and I started writing songs for Wiegedood we definitely got to push ourselves harder than we ever pushed ourselves before. Not only technically, but also physically, to be able to play songs well over ten minutes with a pretty high bpm. In Living Gate it’s the same challenge all over again, however this time I feel we have grown as musicians and we can focus more on making slightly more complex songs. It’s impossible to predict the future, but it’s fair to say we will always have that raw element in our music – that’s just who we are.”
The drummer goes on to give us an insight into Living Gate’s upcoming debut EP, Deathlust, which is due this May. “It’s five songs, 18 minutes and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever recorded,” he says, assuredly. “So far people have been really positive and I can’t wait to share the rest of these songs with the world. Everything has been recorded by Chuck Dexters at House Rott Child except for the bass, which Aaron tracked at Haywire with Fester See. Deathlust is mastered by Jack Shirley at Atomic Garden and we couldn’t be happier with the result.”
The world may be awash with brilliant new death metal right now, but Living Gate’s potential is exceedingly high. Don’t get too excited just yet, though, as the band assure that their other bands still remain a priority. “It’s a bit tricky navigating through all those different agendas. But there’s definitely a full-length in there somewhere and I’m very much looking forward to playing these songs live. Release for the EP is set in May accompanied by a couple of shows in Europe and as soon as the stars align we’ll be preparing for a solid full-length.”
Deathlust is out May 2020. For more, click here to check out our new piece on the Chilean death metal scene.
Words: George Parr