Review 2051 : A/Oratos – Ecclesia Gnostica – English

A/Oratos unveils its debut album.

Created by Wilhelm (guitar) in Île-de-France, the project unveils its first EP in 2019, followed by a period of silence. Now accompanied by Aharon (vocals, Griffon, ex-Geisterfels), Léo (bass, Griffon, ex-Promethean) and Kampen (drums, Catubodua), the band signs to Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions for the release of Ecclesia Gnostica.

Le Hiérophante opens the doors to a mystical and elaborate universe, populated both by heady harmonics and massive French vocals. The rhythmic basis remains very raw, allowing savagery as much as haunting sonorities and diversified vocal parts to appear in the vast ocean of darkness and melodious dissonance, which cuts off cleanly to let Daath take its place. The track seems more virulent than its predecessor, but keeps its soaring elements, especially during slower and more ethereal passages such as the central break, where the clean voice briefly appears before being buried once again beneath the screams that lead us to Deuteros, an extremely contrasted track. Guitar first reveals a soothing quietude that never completely disappears, even when the darkest elements cover it or tortured vocals accompany it to the ominous final, followed by the majestic Disciplina Arcani. Particular attention is paid to harmonics, which at times create an almost joyous, even dance-like atmosphere in this misty cloud, before once again charging with rage to lead us to Ô Roi des Eons, a composition that starts off relatively calmly, but which is just waiting to explode. Drums provide this opportunity while the spoken voice sometimes dips back into slowness, before sinking back into the mysterious finale and De la Gnose Eternelle. By far the shortest track on the album, it doesn’t waste a single moment pouring out its melodies at breakneck speed, even letting the middle section slow the march but making it no less intense, and it’s in slow motion that we join Le Septième Sceau, the final composition that adds mysterious orchestrations to its complex and fascinating mix of darkness and fluttering leads between vocal parts before being closing.

A/Oratos‘ first release had already caught my attention with its unique and intriguing sounds. The band solidifies its rising reputation with Ecclesia Gnostica, creating an as rich as mysterious universe rooted in French-style Black Metal but also allowing itself other influences.


Version Française ?

A few questions for Wilhelm, founding guitarist of French Black Metal band A/Oratos.

Hello, and thank you for your time! How could you introduce the band A/Oratos without using the usual labels of musical styles?
Wilhelm (guitar): Hello, a pleasure, thank you for your interview. I’m Wilhelm, guitarist and founder of A/Oratos. I’d define us as a conceptual Black Metal band based around metaphysical and esoteric themes. We seek to translate the fervor we feel for which can transcend our materiality and our human condition into music. To this end, we develop music that is intense, melodic and imbued with mysticism. 

Ecclesia Gnostica, your debut album, is just about to be released. Have you had any feedback on it yet?
Wilhelm: My first feeling is one of relief at finally seeing the release of this work on which I’ve worked passionately for 5 years. It’s a real sense of achievement, given all the hard, solitary work I’ve put into producing this album over the last few years. The initial feedback I’m getting is excellent. Our album isn’t out yet as I write this, but we’ve already had a number of glowing reviews. So I’m delighted to see that our off-the-beaten-track artistic approach seems to be resonating with people. This bodes well for the future, and I hope it will continue.

How would you sum up Ecclesia Gnostica in three words?
Wilhelm: I’d say intense, profound and mystical.

Ecclesia Gnostica comes out five years after the first EP, Epignosis. Did you notice any changes or evolutions in your creative process?
Wilhelm: I started writing the album at the beginning of 2019 a little before the release of our first EP Epignosis. So the writing process was a long one. As this is a project that follows my musical vision, I wrote the album’s music and some of the lyrics on my own. Throughout the writing process, I had a strong ambition for this album, with the desire to create an original and powerful work. So I left nothing to chance, whether in the composition, with its intricate guitar interplay, the progressive structures and variations of the tracks, the arrangements, or, of course, the themes. My singer and I did some in-depth work on the lyrics, taking an interest in the Nag Hammadi Codice, an extraordinary corpus of Gnostic texts from the 4th century A.D., Gnosis being a concept that underpins this album. We also touch on other initiatory and esoteric traditions such as Hermeticism and the Kabbalah. So I’ve gone much further with this album than with our EP, both in terms of content and form.

How do you relate the name A/Oratos to your music?
Wilhelm: As we love concepts, mysteries and symbols, I chose a name at the time that could reflect the metaphysical dimension of our music. AORATOS is a Greek word meaning invisible. Literally, A/Oratos could be translated as In/Visible. So, the slash between the A and O serves to support the concept of our music around the visible and invisible worlds. Of course, there’s also a reference to Alpha and Omega, but in a more secondary sense.

I noticed on this album that the guitars were much freer than on the EP, whether in terms of controlled dissonance or raw rhythm. How do you see the evolution between the EP and the album?
Wilhelm: I’m not sure what you precisely mean by « free », but what I am sure of is that I haven’t put any barriers in my creative process. And this album reflects my guitar playing in particular. I did play with dissonance, particularly on the opening track Le Hiérophante, to create a kind of tension and entry point that helps you immerse yourself in the mystical, spiritual atmosphere of this album. I also tried my hand at writing fast, melodic guitar lines that respond to each other, akin to counterpoint. Generally speaking, everything on the album is more detailed and elaborate than our EP.

I also noticed a great deal of attention paid to the lyrics. How were they created and how did they adapt to the instrumental?
Wilhelm: Yes, we tried to link content and form, music and lyrics, themes and visuals. As far as the lyrics are concerned, as I said, they are largely inspired by the Nag Hammadi Library, a corpus of Gnostic texts dating from the 4th century, many extracts of which have survived intact. We also take a look at another esoteric tradition, the Kabbalah, with particular reference to Daath. Hermeticism is evoked on Le Hiérophante, the opening track, as well as on Deuteros, which is based on Lactantius’ Institutions Divines, where we find borrowings from both Hermeticism and Gnosis. Le septième sceau, the last track on the album, symbolically placed in 7th position, deals with the apocalypse of Saint John, the only relatively common theme in the world of Metal. This track was chosen as the album’s final to support the final rejection of the earthly world, its impending complete destruction, in favor of a new age that will this time be spiritual and not material, an eschatological tradition found in many religions around the world.

I know it’s a tough question, but do you have a favorite track on this album? Or the one that seemed the most natural to compose?
Wilhelm: I honestly don’t have a favorite track, but if I had to pick one for its originality, I’d probably choose O Roi des Éons. This song has a special spiritual depth and dimension. It’s a Gnostic prayer directly inspired by an original prayer from the Nag Hammadi codice, to which I’ve made a few personal adaptations and additions. In fact, this is the only piece where you can hear my voice in a short passage towards the end of the piece. I called on storyteller Quentin Foureau, who masterfully interpreted the fervor of this sublime prayer with his unique voice. I’m particularly attached to this track, which for me is a manifesto for our music.

The artwork was created by Vincent Fouquet (Above Chaos). What were your requirements for Ecclesia Gnostica?
Wilhelm: I’ve been working with Vincent since our first EP, for which he already designed the cover. As we’re relatively close, I’ve been following his work for a long time and he’s also been interested in our project since our EP, he knew our artistic approach well. So the brief was simple: I gave him a summary of the album’s themes and all our esoteric concepts, along with a few visual ideas I had, and he worked on his own, like a hermit, to come up with the final artwork. So it’s a work that Vincent thought up and reflected on, based on our thematic universe and our music, as he usually likes to do in his work process. I had no doubts about the final result, Above Chaos being for me one of the best graphic studios on the scene, nationally and internationally. But the result exceeded my expectations, with this breathtaking cover. It captures the essence of our album, the mystical depth and flamboyance of our music, while at the same time placing the symbols that encapsulate the important concepts addressed in the various tracks.

Ecclesia Gnostica is released on the Les Acteurs De L’Ombre label. How did the collaboration with the label go? Has releasing the album directly with them changed anything in your approach to music?
Wilhelm: The collaboration is going well, relations are fluid and the members of the label are dedicated. There’s also a friendly spirit. My approach to music hasn’t changed, since I obviously didn’t wait until I’d signed with the label to write the album, but the other way round. So when I started writing the album, my intention was to sign with a label that was consistent with our artistic approach.

How did you discover Extreme Metal, and more specifically the Black Metal scene? In your opinion, what are the most important bands on the scene?
Wilhelm: I discovered extreme metal with the first Opeth albums, notably Orchid and especially Morningrise, which then turned me on to Swedish Black classics such as Dissection, of course, then other classics like Marduk, Dark Funeral, Naglfar, Vinterland, Sacramentum, Mork Gryning and Dawn, before I got interested in Norwegian Black and then the French scene, with all its diversity and richness. Some of the bands that have made the biggest impression on me, and that I personally find inescapable, are Emperor, Dissection, Opeth, Windir, Absu, Arcturus and Rotting Christ.

The band was originally your solo project, but you’ve since recruited other musicians. How did you go about choosing them? How did you build your visual identity?
Wilhelm: A/Oratos started out as a solo project, but always with the ambition of recruiting musicians with whom I could build a real band identity. I first met my singer Aharon in 2016, with whom I started the project from the first demos I’d written at the time. We then recruited other musicians so we could record our EP and perform our first concert at the Et n’y Aura Plus de Nuit event in 2019. Then Covid came along a few months later, putting an abrupt halt to our projects and our dynamic live performances. As I had already started writing the album at that point, I changed tack and took advantage of this period of suspended time when everything was at a standstill to immerse myself fully and almost madly in the writing of the album. I tightened the project around my singer and myself, having to separate myself from the other musicians for various and sundry reasons. It was finally in 2022, after I’d finished writing and recording the guitars for Ecclesia Gnostica, that I recruited our new bassist Léo Dieleman and our new drummer Kampen Turbokot through our singer. As for our new guitarist, whom we recently recruited, he will be officially announced shortly.

Do you have any plans for the future of A/Oratos? Do you plan to lead the band on stage?
Wilhelm: Our next step is to play live to accompany the release of Ecclesia Gnostica. So we have a live ambition and we’re starting to prepare for it.

How do you visualize a move to live performance? Do you have any concrete plans for 2024?
Wilhelm: I can’t say anything at the moment, but I hope we’ll be spreading our Gnostic fire in the near future.

Do you think you’ve improved as a musician with this album?
Wilhelm: Yes, definitely. This album wasn’t an easy one to write and record, so I’m obviously reaping the rewards that I think will be interesting for the future. I’ve progressed on several levels, both in terms of playing my instrument and as a composer. 

That was my last question, so I’d like to thank you for your availability, and leave you with the last words!
Wilhelm: Thank you for this interview! I hope these few words about our music and our approach will inspire some of your readers.

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