Straight out of Hell (or Texas, same thing), the demonic being known only as Ba'alber-ith cranks out banging synthwave jams under the nom de guerre GosT. After a slew of creepy EPs that established him as one of the scene's most promising talents, last year's debut full-length Behemoth proved that the hype wasn't misplaced. Now, a scant year later (and with a third LP already in the works), the prolific musician has returned with Non Paradisi, out September 30 on Blood Music (preorders are now live).
An ambitious conceptual piece based around Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, Non Paradisi plunges the listener deep into a digital Inferno as it traces the fall and rise of Lucifer Morningstar. Although emotional subtlety can get lost when you're dealing with artificial instruments, the pulsating synthesizers and slamming beats perfectly highlight the otherworldly nature of literature's most famous villain's journey. The artwork from Førtifem even places Ba'alber-ith himself in some of Gustav Dore's famous engravings for that extra bit of authenticity.
You can hear the story for yourself a day early with our exclusive stream below. Not only that, we spoke to the man behind the demon himself to find out what it's like to reign in Hell.
Noisey: Why did you start making this style of music?
Ba'alber-ith: Well, I've always listened to new-wave and synth music like Depeche Mode and The Cure and stuff like that. I played in metal bands since I picked up the guitar, around when I was 13 years old, and I got to the point where I didn't want to have to rely on anybody else – not rely. I didn't want anybody on this project, I wanted to do something that was just mine. There was never going to be any arguing or anybody saying they didn't like this part or something. It was something I could do on my own and just have complete creative control over it.
A lot of the guys I've talked to that make this kind of music used to be guitarists in metal bands.
I still love the guitar. Actually, I miss it, but I don't miss playing in a metal band that much. I don't miss playing to five people, you know what I mean? The elitism in the metal community gets pretty tiring as well.
It's funny, because a lot of those same people have really embraced the kind of music that you do now.
I know, I thought I'd be playing raves or something, and then lo and behold—it's still metal dudes with beards at my shows. It's all good.
Do you have any thoughts on why it holds that appeal for metal folks?
I think most people that are into metal, one way or another, we all like darker imagery and horror movies and stuff like that. GosT comes from more of a horror influence anyway. Most guys that like John Carpenter and stuff like that also like Cannibal Corpse. It's an easy way for guys that are into metal to take a break from it and not feel too un-metal about it.
What is it about the synthesizer sound that lends itself to that darker, more demonic feel? Do you think it's connected to the fact that we grew up with those horror movie soundtracks, or something to do with the instrument itself?
I think it's a bit of both. For me, mainly, it's because I grew up with those movies. It was the golden age of horror, really. There's never going to be another original Nightmare on Elm Street or anything like The Gate or Halloween. There's just a feel about those movies that makes them special, and it really opens the door for guys like me—there's a direct correlation to why we started making this kind of music in the first place.
And you have your own character that you created, Ba'alber-ith, which brings a similar sense of fun.
I was a huge fan of KISS when I was a kid, and I've always liked Daft Punk's earlier stuff and the French electro musician Danger. They all wear masks. For a limited amount of time, you can just have fun with it. You don't have to be serious. For me, it's kind of like watching a movie when you go see Daft Punk live. You can half-ass believe for a little while that you're watching two robots make music. There are a lot of electronic musicians that do it, I think it adds a little something to the show. Playing in a band, you don't need an elaborate live show, you just need the instruments and some stage lighting and nobody's like "that band would have been really good if they had some visuals to go with it." With what we do, it's a huge deal, and the persona and the mask and everything adds to it and lets people enjoy it a little more.
Why did you choose the concept of Paradise Lost for the album?
It was just a total coincidence. When I started working on the newer stuff, I had in mind that I wanted to do a bigger sound – more orchestral and a broader palette all the way around as far as sounds go. Right at the time I started working on the first couple tracks, a friend of mine that reads a whole lot more than I do told me to read the poem because it worked perfectly with what I was doing. I read it, and I was like, it does. Inserting GosT into that universe was so easy, and writing a concept album around the fall from heaven is just perfect for what I do. So it was just luck, really.
Did you have the ideas for the tracks before you read it, or did they flow from having read the poem?
The first couple were pretty much being written as I was starting to read the poem, but really they just worked. From the third or fourth track on, they were based around the poem and the vibe I was getting from it. I feel like, when you listen to the album, if you've read any sort of Cliff's Notes on the poem at all, you can get that vibe. It definitely fits with the poem as far as feeling like you've got to try and get through and get out of the lake of fire and rise above all the strife that God put Lucifer through.
How do you manage to make GosT sound so heavy?
A lot of what makes GosT heavy is the distorted bass lines and overcompressed drums, which isn't that much different than a modern death metal release or anything. They overcompress the shit out of music across the board now. For me, the way we hear things is so different than the way we record things. If you go see a band live, they feel so much heavier than if you just record a track. Microphones don't work nearly as well as the human ear. I think compressing music and EQing things on the higher end of an EQ really makes things sound like they do. As far as GosT tracks and making them seem heavy like metal, it's basically the same concept. There's distortion and there's heavy drums and that's really a good base for any metal band.
Is the next LP also going to be conceptual, or are you not quite ready to talk about that yet?
I think the next one is going to be more like a black metal release. Really, really simple artwork and just extremely heavy. The sounds are similar—I use actual drum samples on it so it sounds more like real drums, and it's more distorted and there's blast beats and shit. It's just completely different. After this release and the scope of it being bigger than anything else I've ever done, I just want to scale back on the next one as far as concept and everything goes. Maybe let the music speak for itself a little more next time around. This was fine and all, but it's been much more of a process than I expected when I came up with the idea. Not that it's been a bad process, I just don't know if I want to repeat it or try to outdo it.
And bringing it back to the beginning, I guess it's nice to be able to make that call for yourself.
Yeah, definitely. Photos by Jason Woodward
Jeff Treppel is slashing and burning on Twitter.