Q&A: Gabriel Luis Unveils Symphonic Black-Death Metal Powerhouse Wythersake


Washington, D.C.-based Wythersake aren’t the usual product of Executive City. Apart from Go-Go, punk and hardcore — from Minor Threat and Bad Brains to The Nation of Ulysses and Rites of Spring — have been mainstays of music emanating from our nation’s capital. There have been exceptions like Darkest Hour and Animals As Leaders, but this Wythersake are likely the first symphonic death/black metal outfit of European design. Formed in late 2016 by guitarist/vocalist Gabriel Luis and drummer Daniel (aka Juan David Velez), the group’s initial aims were to weave together their influences in an effort to come out the other side with a signature approach.

After five singles, that’s precisely what the group have done. There’s inflections of Dimmu Borgir, Children of Bodom, Hypocrisy, and Shade Empire, but these aren’t exclusive. Throughout Wythersake’s sound, they infuse the gothic / romantic aspects of Type O Negative, Paradise Lost, and Agathodaimon. The meld of these related yet disparate sounds can be heard on Wythersake’s debut, Antiquity (Scarlet). Produced by Luis, the self-sustaining outfit nailed the tenets of symphonic death/black on “The Advent,” “My Profane Goddess,” nine-minute epic “Through Ritual We Manifest,” and the stunning title track.

Adherents and addicts of well-played, meticulously-crafted symphonic death/black, introduce yourself to America’s new leading lights in Wythersake.

Wythersake are new to most Decibel readers. Introduce the band for us, please.
Gabriel Luis: Wythersake started late in 2016 with Daniel (drums) and myself Gabriel (guitar/vocals). We began as a studio project focusing on releasing songs one at a time until we could find the right people to round things out. We wanted to make sure anyone who wanted to be a part of what we were doing was a fan of the music and sound we had first. We finalized everything with James (guitars) and Cody (bass) joining in the last few years prior to completing the album.

Apart from Bad Brains, Darkest Hour, Animals As Leaders, and Magrudergrind, Washington, D.C. isn’t known for its extreme music let alone symphonic black/death metal. Where does Wythersake fit into that small yet diverse group?
Gabriel Luis: Each one of those bands play a style that is different from the other. So, in a way, it sort of makes sense that we would be different as well. So, in that way, we fit in–just by adding to the diversity.

Musically, you’re symphonic black/death metal. Who are some of your primary influences?
Gabriel Luis: Our influences cover a pretty large range: Dimmu Borgir, Paradise Lost, Hypocrisy, Type O Negative… On an individual level, musicians like Nicholas Barker, Jeff Loomis, Alexi Laiho (R.I.P.), etc. Guys who just rip at what they do.

How long has your debut album, Antiquity, been in the works?
Gabriel Luis: Half of the album was material written over the first two years of the band and the other half was written the year we started tracking the album. We started recording at the end of 2019. We have a lot of completed songs that did not make the album, so it was really just a matter of deciding how many tracks we wanted and then making sure the album flowed.

Do you foresee contributions coming from your newest members, Cody and James, in the follow-up writing sessions?
Gabriel Luis: Yes, the bulk of the material was written with Daniel and myself. Luckily, we were able to get James to put his mark on the album with guitar leads. I like having old-school dual solo guitars, so as soon as James was on board I was just like, “Oh by the way, we are splitting the lead duties, so you also have sections in all the songs and you don’t have a choice!” He really stepped up and made it happen. We have already started writing for the next album and there will definitely be contributions from both James and Cody. Cody is also a guitarist, so we are looking forward to what ideas he may have on both guitar and bass.

Lyrically, I sense rebellion on Antiquity. What are some of the themes running through the album?
Gabriel Luis: I guess I can see where you would sense that. I would describe it more as just an awakening. The album ended up being very Gnostic as well as having a Luciferian vibe to it. It wasn’t on purpose. It was just what was natural. It was my way of connecting dots on things I have either been through or have come across in stuff I’ve researched or read, and making sense of it in my own way.

From the sounds of it, Wythersake are self-sustaining. The band self-engineered and self-produced Antiquity. What were some of the sound design aspects you wanted to accomplish this time around?
Gabriel Luis: That is correct. Mainly because in order to sound how we felt like we should, we needed to do it all ourselves as far as we could take it. We would like the next album to be mixed and mastered by someone else the next time. We plan on still tracking everything ourselves just so we make sure we have the time to do what we need to do and not feel pressured. I have a certain ear, so if I mix the next one I don’t feel like it will stand out or differ from Antiquity. Some bands are OK with that and I guess it works. Like Hypocrisy has similar production since Peter does it all. And if we don’t like that approach we can always go back to the DIY method for the third album.

Are there engineers or producers you’d like to work with down the road?
Gabriel Luis: It would be cool to work with Jens Bogren, Fredrik Nordström or Peter Tägtgren.

How did the deal with Scarlet Records go down?
Gabriel Luis: We had gotten a few small offers from some labels just based on the singles we had been releasing but wanted to see what could come about if we shopped. We really liked that Scarlet had a variety of bands and that their goals aligned with our own. We are not looking to be an overnight sensation and we want to put in the work to make sure we can have some longevity. One of the first things we were told was Scarlet’s goal to grow and develop us. That made it a no-brainer.

Which albums are on your proverbial turntable now?
Gabriel Luis: The new Vreid album is killer. Kaunis Kuolematon, a band from Finland; the most recent album is great. They have a Shape of Despair vibe to them. And Rotting Christ Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. Those have been my recent ones. We all share music with each other all the time, so we end up listening to similar things.

Now that COVID-19 appears to be weakening are there tour plans?
Gabriel Luis: We are just looking to see what sort of opportunities there are with single shows or festivals at the moment. But, hopefully in another year or so that’s something we can start considering. At least regionally.

** Wythersake’s new album, Antiquity, is out now on Scarlet Records. Order directly from Wythersake via Bandcamp (HERE). European fans can order directly from Scarlet Records (HERE).