Band – Thecodontion
Album – Supercontinent
Country of Origin – Italy
Genre – Black/Death Metal
Release Date – June 26, 2020
Label – I, Voidhanger/Repose Records
Author – Hayduke X
The prehistoric duo of G.E.F. (vocals/songwriting) and G.D. (bass/lyrics/arrangements) are back with another installment of the ugliest black/death metal you will ever hear. For those who love “caveman riffs” and think they epitomize the ultimate in brutality, you’ve been missing the boat. Thecodontion bypass “caveman riffs” for riffs fossilized in pre-human history, and just recently excavated for this purpose. For those not in the know, the duo have thus far released a demo (Thecodontia, 2018) and an EP (Jurassic, 2019), both exercises in dinosaur size brutality. In fact, both of those releases are dinosaur themed.
What sets the project apart is the use of bass exclusively as a stringed instrument. No guitars. The riffs produced are raw and bludgeoning, never more so on this upcoming third release, and debut full length, entitled Supercontinent. Drawing from rich backgrounds in black, death, and war metal, as well as various other more experimental musical projects, the duo create a more nuanced creature this time, and it’s all the more brutal for it. Passages of relentless blasting, underscored by earthshaking riffs, entwine with surprisingly graceful lead passages, which are atmospheric and eerily beautiful. The result is disorienting. Devastating growls scurry atop the wash of noise, following the path of most abrasive resistance.
While the first two releases focus on specific dinosaurs, or at least creatures that lived in those long ago prehistoric ages, with each song representing a different, specific creature, Supercontinent instead focuses on the landscape and landmasses of those wide ranging times. Each track here focuses on a specific region or land mass. Thecodontion do a masterful job of making the scope of the music feel even bigger, land mass size, if you will. Vast, difficult, dangerous, beautiful. These are all adjectives which could be used to describe the music, and possibly also the regions described. It is rare to find a project doing something so completely different, and so completely mesmerizing, but Thecodontion are just such a rare beast.
Below, find the exclusive early stream for Pangaea and then below that is a fantastic interview with the two core members of Thecodontion.
Hayduke X: Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today. Congratulations on the impending release of Supercontinent. It’s fun for me to see a project which I’m already a big fan of, show so much growth. It really is a powerful album. How do you feel about it?
G.D.: We are really proud of it and we think we made such a big step up compared to our first two releases. We hope it might get recognized as such by our listeners too.
G.E.F.: Yes, it’s pretty satisfying being released by a label such I, Voidhanger Records, which we really admire. The album probably conveys our sonic ideas more properly compared to our past stuff, it’s also more coherent and cohesive in terms of imagery, aesthetics and so on. Visuals are great too, and they’re an important part of it.
HX: Rightfully so and I certainly see it as a big step up. The early work is fantastic in it’s own right too though.
Before we go too much further, can you introduce yourselves and your role in the band?
G.E.F.: G.E.F. here. I do vocals. Also, I take care of songwriting, particularly when it comes to the rhythmic section (drums, main bass). When I decided first to do “extreme metal with no guitars at all”, I always thought of some imagery about prehistory, but thanks to G.D., we reached a more focused and specific idea from a conceptual point of view.
G.D.: I am G.D. and I’m the bassist and lyricist of the band, I also help with the lead sections and arrangements in the songs.
We are a black/death metal band from Italy, we call our style “prehistoric metal of death” because our imagery and lyrics focus on prehistoric creatures, paleontology and early geological periods. Also we don’t use guitars, it’s all made with bass, drums and vocals.
HX: Great, thanks! We’ll dig deeper into some of those topics shortly, but let’s go back to the start. How did this all begin?
G.E.F.: Well, when I was in my early twenties (it was around 2012 I think), as I said, I wanted to create some black metal with no guitars at all. I liked the idea and I instantly thought that prehistoric imagery would have been perfect to recreate such atmosphere. Then the idea took shape, and some years later we decided to start the band. At the beginning we were a bit unsure about the band name. There were actually a couple of band names before Thecodontion haha. The first songs were composed in late 2016, if I remember correctly.
G.D.: Yeah we wanted to avoid something with -saurus in the name to avoid sounding too much like some sort of a “non-serious” band. Thecodontion sounds great for an extreme metal band.
If I remember correctly we were also focused on other musical projects at the time and Thecodontion was almost like another side-project, but songs really started to kick in and we found out we could make something actually original and interesting with imagery and concept.
G.E.F.: Yes also because probably Thecodontion was more cool for a live band act, since it’s more original.
HX: Yes! Let me jump ahead on my question list a bit. G.D. brought something up that I’ve been working to put into the right words. Thecodontion is not one of those “non-serious” bands. The lyrics on the demo and EP are all very descriptive of the dinosaur from each song title. Almost scientific, in a way. It’s an interesting and very different choice. Tell me about your thought process on writing serious lyrics like that.
G.E.F.: Yeah I let G.D. answer to your question since lyrics are all by him.
G.D.: Well, since we chose that moniker, I thought “let’s make the first demo about the very creatures our name represents”. Thecodonts were not actually dinosaurs and the name is also obsolete. They are now defined as “archosaurs” and most looked like big crocodile-like quadrupedal reptiles.
They also lived during the late Triassic, so I came up with doing a sort of “dualogy” between thecodonts of the Triassic and four other reptiles of the Jurassic (like the EP with that name).
I’ve always been interested in prehistoric creatures since I was a kid and I knew of those reptiles since decades, so I kind of picked those who were both my favorites and a bit of “less known”.
I usually do a lot of research reading some articles and a couple of books I have at home, and then try to arrange notions into verses, almost like a poem. Sometimes it’s almost metaphoric and really focusing on imagery, instead of purely scientific notions (e.g. “the osseous labyrinth gives balance” for Rhamphorynchus, which is a play between a literal labyrinth and the inner ear structure).
HX: Whoa! Cool! You mentioned books and research, but have you ever formally studied any of this, in an academic setting?
G.D.: Also I might add that the four creatures on Jurassic are flying reptiles on side A, (which weren’t dinosaurs either) and sauropods on side B, which were those big herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and tails.
I wish I had studied some of this, but it’s actually more of a lifelong passion. Sometimes I’ve thought of actually studying subjects like these academically, but I don’t think I actually have the patience for that!
G.E.F.: No I haven’t. I have a degree in philosophy.
HX: I get that. I’ve been fascinated for a long time myself, but never formally studied any of it. I was born in Alberta, Canada, which is a huge hotspot for fossils, etc.
G.D.: Yes! Albertosaurus and Edmontosaurus come to mind
HX: Exactly! I remember exploring some of the museums, etc. as a kid.
Maybe that’s partly why this resonates so much with me.
G.D.: I’ve visited the Natural History museum in Toronto last year and I was surprised to find a specimen of Barosaurus, which is track three on the EP. Really massive creature.
HX: G.E.F., do you think your degree in philosophy played any part in the initial push to have more serious themes in the band?
G.D. I’ve been there and seen that. Very cool. I’m actually in the Toronto area every year to visit family. I should take the kids.
G.D.: There it is!
G.E.F.: Not in the themes, but my personality. It’s more linked to the fact that I like to have… “different” projects/bands. I mean, I like to explore new themes, new ideas, new ways to convey some different artistic outputs. Basically, I don’t want to imitate usual metal stuff. I want to use extreme metal music as a vessel to explore different kinds of images. You can see it in other projects of ours, like Framheim (raw atmospheric black metal about polar explorations) or even Atlantic Ridge (my new project with Jacopo from Bedsore. It’s atmospheric black/doom about geography and far places, with a taste of utopian stuff). Probably my interest in philosophy, my interest with exploring the human knowledge, deals with this approach in metal music – which is a bit uncommon, I suppose.
HX: Great answer. That very much gets to where I was trying to go with that question.
G.D.: I might also add that most projects on our personal label Xenoglossy Productions are outlets for unique imagery and concepts in extreme music, black metal especially.
HX: Ok, this isn’t even on my question list, but do you guys have a favorite prehistoric creature? If so, why?
G.D.: Aside from the T-Rex which is everyone’s favorite, I’d say Therizinosaurus and Stygimoloch for dinosaurs. I hope to cover both of those in future songs. The former is a weird bipedal herbivorous dinosaur with long claws, the latter was a Pachycephalosauridae, dinosaurs with a thick dome-like skull which they used for ramming. It’s featured in the latest Jurassic World movie. It’s the one ramming into millionaires at the dinosaur auction.
As for other creatures I’d say Trilobite and Hallucigenia. I’m really happy we ended up using the trilobite as one of the main visual features for the new album (it gets mentioned during the album).
Hallucigenia was a weird arthropod which had long needle-like spines on its back and for several years it was thought they were long legs so there are some wrong reconstructions in which Hallucigenia looks even weirder. There is going to be a song about it in the future for sure.
HX: Very cool! What’s funny is that I have a question about Therizinosaurus. I was telling my nine year old son about you guys and the upcoming interview, and he specifically wanted to know if you would ever do a song about it. Therizinosaurus is his favorite (mine too).
I hope that comes to fruition.
G.D.: I promise there will be a song about it in the future.
G.E.F.: I like several dinosaurs but I’m particularly fascinated with sauropods, which we already covered on our EP Jurassic. For example Vulcanodon, which was one of the first sauropods and one of the most important for their evolution. Besides that, I was really excited when G.D. started writing lyrics for Breviparopus taghbaloutensis (our fourth song in Jurassic), because that dinosaur actually never existed, probably (all we have is only some tracks of it). That’s extremely fascinating and deals perfectly with mysterious, cavernous, atmospheric yet punishing blackened death metal. But yeah, generally I prefer sauropods even if I like even different classes/species of course.
G.D.: Yes, Breviparopus was probably just a big specimen of Brachiousaurus and size estimations would have put it as one of the tallest dinosaurs ever (like more than twenty meters). It often happens in paleontology that debated specimens get their own entry, or that there might be exaggerated size estimations based on just a single bone (like the fifty-five meter long Amphicoelias, which is debated as well), and I find that extremely fascinating.
HX: It’s hard to really know, given how sparse the evidence is on many of these creatures.
Let me change the direction here a bit. On Supercontinent, you switch things up lyrically a bit. Tell me about that change.
G.E.F.: The idea of talking about geologic stuff was already in our mind since the beginning. Since our first outputs were about creatures, we tried to expand a bit our lyrical approach. Also, I’d say this was also linked to our change of style from a sonic point of view: We started to create more intricate songs, and we needed a different concept. For example, you can recognize the idea of cavernous and melodic stuff at the same time with earthquakes, eruptions, colliding and rotating supercontinents and so on. Also, this was something for introducing a sort of subtheme linked to the changement of times, because the lyrical aspect of Supercontinent covers a huge amount of time (we talk about billions of years). I mean, the idea of letting collide cavernous death metal and melodic leads/solos.
G.D.: The original lyrical idea was to describe creatures chronologically (so starting with the Triassic and going all the way to Cretaceous and beyond), but I found out that this way was a bit too predictable and it kind of “forces” you to explore themes you don’t really feel like at the moment.
We also like to be unpredictable both musically and lyrically, so talking about other prehistoric-related subjects, like ancient geology, was super interesting to me. When writing the album we found out some songs were turning out to be slow, atmospheric death metal pieces, so something related to the continental drift suited the music really well.
The lyrical division between supercontinents and superoceans came a bit later since we liked the idea to mix things up a bit and separate themes musically as well, so the songs about superoceans are actually four instrumentals with a small four verse poem as a comment.
That’s when I chose to drop long titles for songs as well (at least for now, perhaps), as I said above, I like unpredictability.
As I mentioned above, it’s very likely actual creatures and dinosaurs will come back into the lyrics. Talking about supercontinents wasn’t easy. For some of them there is very scarce information, so it was difficult to come up with full fledged six or eight verse lyrics sometimes, but I really liked the challenge of doing that and coming up with vivid imagery when needed.
HX: As you’ve suggested, Supercontinent has more flourish than the prior two releases, but actually comes off to me as more brutal by contrast, at times, as a result. Describe this creation process. Was it conceptual first? Music first? Some combination?
G.D.: For Supercontinent, it was music first, no doubt. But sometimes I have some spare unused lyrics, which we use when there is a song that fits structure-wise.
G.E.F.: Yes, indeed. I started writing songs for Supercontinent when we were still in the recording process; that’s why I think that the real music idea behind Thecodontion is the current one.
HX: Still in the recording process for Jurassic?
G.E.F.: Still in the recording process for Thecodontia, we recorded the demo and Jurassic during the same recording session.
It was circa November 2017.
HX: Whoa. I didn’t know that. Was there a reason they weren’t released as one album?
G.E.F.: Two separated concepts. Also, we wanted to see the reaction from people seeing a short black/death/grind demo about thecodonts.
G.D.: It was because the concept for both releases was very well defined already, and because we also wanted to release the demo on tape and an EP on 7″. Song lengths were fitting so we thought “we like the 7″ format, let’s give it a try”.
HX: How do you two create? Is it very structured? More improvised?
G.E.F.: Basically I write down music (main bass + drums) first, then lyrics. In the end, leads/arrangements/solos.
I mean I do the bass + drums songwriting, then G.D. writes lyrics and so on.
G.D.: Concept might come up at the same time as the first song drafts, but lyrics become full fledged when the whole song structure is down. The second bass part and solos are the very last thing that gets written and sometimes this ends up giving the song a multi-layered, multi-emotional vibe and I love it. It’s easier for both of us writing this way and it’s a formula that really works for us.
Like, you have a dark Portal-esque song at first and suddenly a major scale melodic solo comes up. In the demo and EP solos were mostly blistering war-metal sounding stuff but we wanted to explore a different side when it comes to leads and it worked.
HX: Let’s talk about the musical makeup of the band. Bass, drums and vocals only, with an exception I want to ask about in a moment. Why? What do you think that brings to the theme of the project?
G.E.F.: Well, I always thought of a “no guitars extreme metal band” like an ancestral, primitive, prehistoric sound. I had the idea of having prehistoric themes at the same time when I conceived the idea of a “no guitars” band. Having distorted basses equals a rawer sound, more chaotic: I think it fits perfectly with our theme.
On a side note, we didn’t want too many people in this project and no one of us is a guitarist so it was also a necessity – or kind of.
G.D.: I am terrible at guitar indeed and songs would have sounded like crap if I were to play it. But it was a chance for exploring musical possibilities with the challenge of not using the most present instrument in rock and metal.
G.E.F.: Yeah and honestly there’s a bunch of metal bands with no guitars (Necromantia for quoting an old school extreme metal band), so why not?
HX: Why not indeed! I do think it works very well, especially for your themes.
The exception I mentioned is the use of a guest musician playing baritone guitar on “Laurasia-Gondwana”. Tell me about that decision and result.
G.E.F.: We wanted to have some guests. Jacopo from Bedsore and SVNTH is a good friend. As I told you he’s also in Atlantic Ridge, my new side project. I asked him to record a solo on that song and he told me: “can I record a baritone guitar solo instead of a bass solo? My style would be more recognizable”. I think it’s a good choice. So in this way we added another unique touch to the whole work. Also, I want to add: congrats to Bedsore for releasing your album on 20 Buck Spin. It’s well deserved: massive stuff, trust me. New SVNTH album kicks asses too, though.
G.D.: Baritone is also a nice compromise between guitar and bass. Also his solo was miles better than the one I came up with originally haha.
G.E.F.: He’s modest.
G.D.: It’s true, haha.
HX: I believe you…that he’s modest.
G.E.F.: Haha whatever.
HX: What’s there works very well though.
There are various points where there seems to be atypical sounds for the instrumental line-up, for example, some of the lead work on Ur. How do you produce those sounds?
G.E.F.: There are some effects for pitching an octave up (pog), plus some reverb. We wanted to recreate a strongly atmospheric feeling, like some Mithras, or even Krallice at some points. As we said, the sonic theme of the album is this contrast between cavernous sound and melody, so this tool fits well with this idea.
G.D.: Leads have been all recorded using an octaver and like, a lot of reverb.
The mix of low lead + octave + reverb is super spacey and melodies tend to “auto-harmonize” with the reverb so that creates another layer. Lead harmonies are frequent as well, usually with the upper third harmony, kind of classic heavy metal style. It’s a rather straightforward musical solution, but I’ve always loved it. I admit I’m a sucker for catchy melodies.
HX: As a part of this feature, we will be streaming Pangaea. Give me some more insight into that track in particular, both thematically and musically.
G.E.F.: Thematically it’s the climax of our album and also Pangaea is represented on the beautiful cover artwork by Stefan Thanneur.
Regarding the sonic aspect, it’s my favourite song from the album. I played with a sort of “progressive” feeling, alternating slow and fast parts. Also the structure of the song is more similar to certain post-metal stuff (Neurosis, The Ocean, some Isis), with blast beats in some parts and murky death metal riffing. I think it’s very funny to be played and I really like writing stuff with a structure like that.
G.D.: Pangaea is the longest song on the and its culmination. It’s one of the slower and more epic numbers. It has like, almost twenty different riffs, often segue-ing into one another, and I really like the contrast between the final explosion of wailing leads ending the song and the peaceful, almost hip-hop “true” ending of Panthalassa.
It’s like a musical metaphor of the Permian Extinction leading to new lifeforms springing up in the early Triassic (thecodonts and early dinosaurs indeed).
G.D.: Lyrically, “Pangaea” is a depiction of the adaptive biodiversity during the various stages of the Supercontinent, with lifeforms adapting to drastic climate changes, species going extinct and new ones forming (like the explicit reference to the Permian Extinction in the final verse).
HX: The album will be a joint release between I, Voidhanger and Repose. Tell me about how you ended up working with these two labels.
G.E.F.: You know, it’s not that easy finding a label nowadays, if you don’t have much direct contacts… so we sent a bunch of emails to some labels we considered suitable for our needs. I, Voidhanger is absolutely perfect for our experimental touch, I’d say. We have really admired this label for several years. I came across Repose Records when I saw they released Death.Void.Terror, which is a band I really like. Repose Records is a young but promising label, I’m sure you’ll heard of this label soon.
G.D.: It’s really great to be labelmates with projects like Death.Void.Terror, Esoctrilihum, Cosmic Putrefaction, Weeping Sores, Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum, and well, many many more actually.
HX: What does the future hold for the project, both in the short term and further out?
G.E.F.: We have three splits in the making. Well, the first one was recorded at the same time with Supercontinent. It will be a split with Vessel of Iniquity. About the other splits, more info will be spread in due time. I already started writing a couple of songs for our sophomore LP, but there’s no rush of course. At the moment we’re focused on promoting Supercontinent in the best possible way. Regarding our live activity, of course it will depend on this Covid-19 disgrace. But we’ll see…
G.D.: We would really love to resume playing live and touring for the new album. Let’s hope for next year when the Covid emergency will be finally over. We had a bunch of cancelled shows already which we want to reschedule and play as soon as possible.
We would like to push the experimental side of “Supercontinent” to the next level with the sophomore LP, that’s the general musical idea for it.
HX: Any chance (once Covid is dealt with of course) of a tour in the US?
G.E.F.: Nothing planned, but I think it would be a bit complicated for an underground band like ours – you know, visa stuff and such.
G.D.: Touring in the US isn’t easy for a European band, but if there’s the chance, no doubt! We have a lot of fans over there. Probably most of our fanbase is from the US or Canada actually haha.
HX: For sure. I understand that, but hope springs eternal. Maybe Canada. I can make it to a show in Toronto.
G.E.F.: Canada would be a bit more simple than the US, though…inb4 touring with Antediluvian.
G.D.: Yeah I heard the same. Was super easy to go on vacation there so I hope a tour wouldn’t be that more difficult.
HX: I’m less than three hours from the border. Lol. And a Canadian citizen to boot.
Final question. What else should we know?
G.D.: I would answer humorously and tell you the secret inspiration for Thecodontion nobody told you about:
I found my DOSBOX in my folder and I decided to give my old games another go on it. I remember playing Prehistorik 2 in the early 2000’s when I was still you…
G.E.F.: I’ll add nothing special, but I wanted to thank all people who helped us on making Supercontinent real: from our guests (including Rodolfo, Valerio and Thorvaldur), to Stefan Thanneur (best artwork!), and of course Guglielmo Nodari (who recorded our album) and Marco Salluzzo (leader of Demonomancy and Flamekeeper) who mixed and mastered Supercontinent at the legendary Necromorbus Studio.
G.D.: I want to thank these people too obviously!
G.E.F.: And Jacopo, of course.
G.D.: Yeah, the baritone lead. Of course, a big thanks goes to I, Voidhanger and Repose too. There are plans to re-release Jurassic on tape and Supercontinent too in the near future.
We also want to thank our live members! Valerio (who is also in SVNTH) on drums and Leonardo on bass.
They’re good friends, great people and great musicians. Valerio played drums on the full length and he did a terrific job, while Leonardo handles most of the lead sections for live performances, so both are equally important for the band and there is no hierarchy of sorts. If they want to suggest or contribute musically they are welcome to do so.
HX: Thank you both so much for this fantastic interview. It has been a real pleasure chatting with you.
G.E.F.: Thanks Rick, our pleasure!
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. Beginning in 2018, he also began writing for VM Metal Underground. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.