Texas-based synthwave artist GosT, who uses the nom de guerre Baalberith, is taking his art to darker, more extreme, and crazier places on new album, Possessor. His third album since 2015, Possessor distills the traits of Behemoth and Non Paradisi into a more potent, less genre-specific electronic brew. Certainly, Baalberith’s ’80s synth traits are part of Possessor‘s Luciferian magic, but the addition of guitar, gothic vocals, and blastbeats has posited GosT in a different (un)light. Not that Baalberith is eschewing the neon virtues of his back catalog, but he’s also not keen on stagnation. Or, by following the “rules,” as it were, of synthwave. If anything Possessor is, with its striking skull cover art and Førtifem inside work, more metal than anything the genre’s seen to date.
Decibel sits down with Baalberith to learn more about GosT’s move into more metallic, still Satanic (based on responses to the ’80s ‘Satanic Panic’) territory. To wit, death is only the beginning.
I’ve seen you twice in the last year. I noticed you’ve picked up the guitar (again). What was the motivation for playing the guitar on stage? Not very synthwave-like is it?
Baalberith: Not really. [Laughs] I just wanted to have more things to do on stage. I also wanted people to have more to look at while I’m stage. It’s funny though, I still get comments from people that I don’t do anything while I’m on stage.
Is the guitar a foreshadowing of a full band a la Carpenter Brut?
Baalberith: I don’t have plans to do a full band. Never say never, but I might add a bass player next year. He would be playing through effects, as well as performing on additional synthesizers.
Adding a bass player will be interesting. More for the sonic aspect or simply for the visual?
Baalberith: A little bit of both, actually. But it’s mainly just for the stage. Nobody will help me write GosT material.
This album is a little more diverse than Non Paradisi. I like the addition of harsher electronic sounds, blast beats, gothic vocals, etc.
Baalberith: Well, I’ve gotten a little bit of heat for not repeating the previous two full-lengths. This is my first release where it’s all me. This album doesn’t have preconceived notions of what people might expect or want me to do. It’s a really honest release. People dig it though. That’s what I’m happiest about. When I was in metal bands listening to electronic and goth music, I wasn’t really allowed to add my interests. There was a really defined set of parameters. With Possessor, it’s all my influences coming together. Really, for the first time. I’m maturing as an artist.
There are a few different sides of GosT’s coin on Possessor. I wouldn’t say it’s post-synthwave, but it’s expanding on the genre by focusing on the boundaries instead of the core. It’s not just throwback ’80s synth.
Baalberith: I don’t think it was conscious decision. Not to a greater extent than I was incorporating all my influences. I wanted to distance myself from everything. I wanted to create something as original as possible. For me. It was important for me to establish my own rules, my own sounds, and my own approach. I think I did that on Possessor.
With synthwave becoming a bit single-minded, I gather Possessor was a response to the volume as well as the lack of dynamics within the genre.
Baalberith: There’s a lot of copycats now. What we [collectively] were doing three-four years ago are now getting copied by others to a crazy extent. I don’t want synthwave to become watered down. The same thing for everyone. I’m sure it’ll happen, but I’m trying my best to not be that. I mean, look at industrial. Same with black metal. Same with death metal. They all had their really inspiring moments, but became watered down over time. I didn’t want to put myself into a single genre, where it would be difficult or impossible for me to escape. I feel like doing Possessor now. For me, as an artist and for the scene I’m in. Time to branch out. To use different sounds that aren’t just synthwave presets.
I can see how Possessor is your attempt to jump out of convention. The cover for starters.
Baalberith: I definitely wanted to do a photograph. A stark photograph. I wanted something to separate GosT from the main tropes of the genre, like naked chicks and neon colors. I wanted this to be my own thing as much as possible, without straying too far.
How did the cover come together? Is it a negative photo?
Baalberith: No, it’s a positive. The guy [Jason Woodward] who does all my press pics took the pic. We covered the entire room in white sheets. He nailed it. But I had the idea in my head to use demon hands holding a skull. It’s a reference to the skull in my live performances. It’ll no longer be on my face. I’ll no longer be wearing it. Also, because I’m doing a lot more vocals, they would be pretty hard to do behind a plastic mask.
The insides are Førtifem, however. Nice pairing of different visual styles.
Baalberith: Thanks. I can’t see myself not working with Førtifem in the foreseeable future. I just talked to him about the inside. Like Sistine Chapel paintings on the inside. The original idea was to have text on top of the images—that’s why they’re so light—but we ended up doing the jacket so we just went with it. Looks pretty amazing if you ask me. [Laughs]
The logo also changed, right?
Baalberith: I wanted to change the logo awhile back, but the new logo was done by a fan [a guy named Andrew Tremblay]. He made a flyer with that logo. I was like, “Dude, send me those vector files!” I think he did a great job.
Lyrically, you’re still mining the ‘80s Satanic Panic.
Baalberith: Lyrically, some of the lyrics are taken directly from LaVey’s Satanic Bible. It’s all based around speaking from a demon’s standpoint. A little less harshly than my imagery is projecting. It’s a little more fun. Less being a splinter in the wood kind of thing. There’s some ‘80s humor to it. Like I grew up during the Satanic Panic. Even back then I found it ridiculous that people thought there was this wide-ranging group or groups of Devil worshippers. I played with that idea more. There’s nothing political about it. I’m not trying to change views. It’s more fun with the time period and the craziness of it.
Synthwave is largely Miami Vice, but you’re going down the Geraldo path.
Baalberith: [Laughs] GosT should be taken as entertainment. Some Christians would be pretty freaked out about it. The Westboro Baptist Church nutjobs would freak, I’m sure. Nobody with a brain takes this seriously anymore. Even in the metal scene, it’s all well played out. On future releases, I’ll play with certain aspects of religion. More the ignorance of it.
The last time we spoke you were talking about moving away from the standard VST sounds. Expanding your options.
Baalberith: Possessor uses the same VSTs as the previous two. I worked with them to make sure they sounded as unique as possible. For the next release, I’m not using any of the old VSTs. It’s all new shit. No presets on the upcoming record. All the VSTs I got for the new record are preset-free. If anyone says otherwise, they’re a fucking liar. [Laughs] I’m probably going to use some real instrumentation as well. Technology has come a long way since the first album. I can sample in guitar easier. I can sample in real drums easier. I can do all that live, at a venue, if I want. I want to put the heavy sawtooth bass sound to bed. I’m thinking of different ways to make things heavier.
What about found sound? Is that something we’ll hear in GosT?
Baalberith: Yeah, for sure. But it’s not something I’m focusing on now. I’ve just finished the first track for the next record. It’s gothier. Maybe more like “Sigil.” I have 150 new VSTs, and none of them have presets, so I have to design the sounds myself. It’s like having a basic synthesizer, the basic WAVs, different oscillators, and then constructing from there from scratch. I’m working on sound shaping right now. I will have real drums on the record. As far as making distorted synth sounds out of something I’ve found or creatively created, aka found sound, they’ll come but just not in the near term. Field work like that is extremely time-consuming.