Metal Skull: Interview with Karl Simon of The Gates Of Slumber: The Doom Of Indianapolis

If it seems like Indianapolis traditional doomers The Gates Of Slumber are an underground success out of nowhere, they aren’t. Though they’ve only gained larger notoriety over their last couple albums—thanks in no small part to working with labels like Profound Lore and Rise Above—they’ve been doing the good lord Iommi’s work for over a decade now. Their latest outing, Hymns Of Blood And Thunder, is their fourth full-length.

It’s a heavily guitar-based record that makes the best out of metal classicism. The songs are epics raging one to the next, and guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon heads the proceedings with confidence and presence befitting his experience, while drummer “Iron” Bob Fouts and bassist Jason McCash lay a thick rhythmic foundation, heightened by the production of Chicago’s Sanford Parker. Hymns Of Blood And Thunder is a grower, it grew on me, but the horn-raising metallic lunacy of the record makes it well worth repeat listens.

Karl Simon recently checked in for the following telephone interview:

Were you surprised at the reaction Conqueror got?

Um, how to say this and not sound arrogant (laughs). No, not really. I mean, there’s no way for this not to sound like I’m full of myself. Me personally, I really believe in what this band is doing. I know that Bob and Jason do as well, but I’m the guy talking and I want everybody to be cognizant of the fact that there’s two dudes that have a lot of say in what goes on. There’s no dictatorship in The Gates Of Slumber, so I always tread on eggshells around that. I never want to come off as the guy who calls all the shots, because I am far from that, but for me personally, I’m just always really confident in what we’re doing. For me, when somebody says it’s awesome, I’m like, ‘Of course’ (laughs). That kind of sense of things comes from being hyper-critical. Both Jason and I really have that. I throw away maybe 30 or 40 ideas before settling on one for a song. Any song that gets brought into the band, there’s nothing that we ever really want to be considered throwaway. Everything is A-material and B-material we just give it the Spartan treatment, throw it out on the hillside and let it die.

The flip side of that hyper-criticism is a tremendous amount of self-pressure.

Yeah. There is. It’s a constant pressure cooker.

Coming out of Conquerer into Hymns Of Blood And Thunder, were you like, ‘Now people are paying attention, we’ve got to step it up?’ or was it business as usual?

It’s business as usual in that the pressure’s always on (laughs). There’s always maybe an unhealthy level of stress we put ourselves to try to really do as best as we can every time—for ourselves, not anybody else—to make sure we’re always striving to not repeat ourselves, or if we do repeat ourselves, to make it clever (laughs) rather than just, ‘Here they’re recycling this riff.’ I don’t ever want to do that.