PSYCHONAUT’s new album Unfold the God Man is out now via Pelagic Records.
In March of this year, Belgium based progressive sludge/post-metal trio PSYCHONUAT rereleased their ferocious and intricate debut album Unfold the God Man via Pelagic Records. The record seamlessly marries ambition and progression with memorable songwriting and riffs in abundance. A concept album, the record focuses on themes of religion, spirituality, philosophy and the destruction of a lost civilisation in antiquity. We wanted to learn more about the fascinating concept and so the band were gracious enough to have a chat with us about it. Stream the album below and read a track by track exploration of the record from the band.
Order Unfold the God Man via Pelagic Records.
Unfold the God Man
Unfold the God Man is the product of 3 years of incessant writing, arranging and recording. We recorded the album over a period of 10 months between August 2017 and May 2018 and it was by far the most intense musical experience of our lives. While the drums and part of the vocals were recorded in one of the best studios in Belgium – the DAFT studio – all the other instruments were recorded DIY in our rehearsal space and in a local church which we managed to rent out for percussion overdubs, choir vocals, didgeridoos etc.
Compared to our 2 earlier EPs, this album really made us push ourselves to the edge in terms of our musicianship and performance. You only get one debut album, and we wanted to put everything we had into it and create a complete immersive experience that grabbed your attention from the first second to the last. We incorporated a massive concept into the album and wrote each song according to the energy that chapter needed to portray. This was a completely new way of working for us but ended up working really well as we were deliberately creating compositions based on a story rather than the other way around.
Unfold the God Man is a concept album that is centred around the idea that mankind has undergone a fall of consciousness and has lost the bigger part of its knowledge and power. Historically, this is linked to the destruction of a lost civilization dating back approximately 12,000 years, as is described in various religious literature, and written on the walls of many temples. The album starts at the beginning of the fall and tells the story of how we are slowly regaining our consciousness and re-ascending to a higher level of being.
The main question that gave birth to this concept is: What came first – reality or consciousness? Is consciousness merely an advanced form of our survival instinct that has evolved over time? Or was there already an awareness or existence before there was anything physical and does this primal consciousness shape the physical universe we ‘inhabit?’ It is reasonable to consider one to be the product of the other, so the only question is: ‘which is the father and which is the son?’
The album was written chronologically with the fall of consciousness as its starting point, describing our re-ascension process step by step through various insights and appearances of important figures like Sananda and Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, ultimately creating a projection of a new form of consciousness which we are aiming to attain now. However, the order of the songs was rearranged in the middle of the writing process because we found that it gave a better musical experience. But the original order of the songs can be found on the artwork.
The album artwork was distilled from a collection of photographs shot in the forest surrounding the studio while we were recording. They were originally intended to be used for our live visual show but ended up being so good that we used them for the album itself. They encapsulated the mysterious, transcendent quality of the album perfectly.
Finally, UTGM was recorded and mixed by our longtime friend Chiaran Verheyden. At that time, he was only 23 years young and was studying music production. Although we knew he was still learning and growing, we believed in his vision of perfection and we were convinced that only he knew what our music should sound like. Throughout the process, he was such a good producer who always kept a clear vision of the process and the way he wanted it to sound in the end. When we heard his first mixes, we were completely blown away. In every way possible, Chiaran exceeded our expectations and we couldn’t be happier with the result. He was also involved in the musical landscapes in every step of the way and made the album sound like the giant it was meant to sound like. Even though it was the first full album he ever recorded.
1All I Saw As A Huge Monkey
A song depicting the first experiences in the lower-dimensional world. Seeing as that a fifth-dimensional consciousness does not require the ability to speak, the protagonist cannot speak yet. Therefore, this song was left an instrumental, chaotic composition portraying the desperate search to understanding everything with a limited level of consciousness.
Stefan wrote the first 2 minutes of this song as a joke, thinking it would be too insane to include on the album because it was fast and didn’t really sound like any of the other songs we had. But we all really liked it and decided to turn it into this insane 7-minute instrumental bag of riffs. We never would have thought that it would end up becoming the opening track for the album and now it has become one of our favourite songs to play live.
2The Story Of Your Enslavement
The most aggressive and ‘negative’ song on the album, taking place somewhere between the arrival of Sananda (Jesus) and the present. The protagonist has lost all connection to its Higher Self and has descended into a numb, slave-like existence. The Higher Self frustratingly tries to awaken him but is not able to reach him.
Like most contemporary humans, his only real concern is to survive and the way to do this is to serve the corrupt, megalomaniacal, destructive machine that has us all in its grip. In the chorus, the protagonist catches a glimpse of something higher than himself and experiences a moment of temporary awakening. However, he does not succeed in retaining this feeling and descends back into his numb state.
This song started out with only the bass riff and we arranged the rest of the instruments based on that. It became one of the more ‘standard’ songs on the album in terms of song structure and length.
The protagonist encounters the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and continues his search for enlightenment. He looks back at several lifetimes of false truths and ridicules these. He starts to let go of the concept of duality, of ‘man’ and ‘god’ and embraces the fact there is only oneness.
This song was entirely written in our drummer Peter’s meditation room when Stefan was staying there to deal with a difficult situation in his life. It started out with a drum intro and the main accents of that intro became the foundation for the structure of the song. We weren’t really convinced about this one at first, but when we recorded the vocals, we felt that it was exactly what the album needed. Kabuddah really radiates our influences from 70’s bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in the clean vocals, but still contains some of the most brutal screams on the album. It’s a collection of everything we do as a band and therefore also ended up becoming our first single.
4The Fall of Consciousness
The fall of consciousness brought us from the fifth- to the third-dimensional world and describes the separation of the Higher Self and his lower form. Written through the eyes of the protagonist witnessing his power and knowledge slowly disappear and being powerless to stop it. The protagonist’s frustration is briefly acknowledged and answered by his Higher Self in the chorus, ensuring him that this is temporary and with purpose.
This was a really tough one to write and it took us a long time to finish. We had the basic melody for a while, but really had to work together intensively to add the other elements and compose the song structure into a whole. We’re used to compositions with a lot of focus and variation on guitar- and bass parts, but this song is a lot more vocal-centered. Luckily, Thomas’ voice couldn’t be more perfect for this song and the contrast between his voice on the verses and Stefan’s screams on the chorus is what makes this such a powerful song. It’s always great to play this one live because it really draws on atmosphere and it sucks you into the music. When the circumstances are right and the chorus finally comes back after the long guitar solo, it really generates a wave of energy that fills the entire room.
The protagonist comes into contact with the teachings of Sananda – commonly known as the Jesus figure – and explores the idea that we are all gods inside of God, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself and that we are all beings of immense power with a capability to change everything around us. This, obviously, before the message of Sananda was forcefully manipulated into Christianity and became a way of indoctrinating and enslaving the population.
This is another song that really made us push our boundaries. We wanted a more psychedelic and calmer center piece for the album but didn’t really have any experience with this. We wrote a first version of the song that was completely different, but we rewrote 90% of it with only parts of the drums remaining the same. Stefan rewrote the first and last part and we all loved them, but we were still looking for a way to glue those parts together. He came up with the idea for this atmospheric acapella part in the middle of the song and we were all immediately blown away by it. We had never tried anything even remotely similar to that and it became one of our favorite parts of the album.
The protagonist witnesses how people are no longer able to think for themselves and are all blindly obeying what the Church is feeding them to believe. Sananda’s message was used as the basis for a system of mass control that introduced the concepts of a god that should be feared, of worshippers and sinners, heaven and hell, pleasing God etc. Stories were made up about a vengeful, judgmental god who commits genocide on whole civilizations, causes natural disasters to test mankind’s faith, murders infants etc. The protagonist struggles with this new stream of faith and starts questioning himself: ‘Is it even possible to be good without a god?’
We were really unsure about this one at first. We were worried that it might be a bit too straight-forward or even too heavy, but the percussion and throat-singing intro really lifted this song to another level. We re-arranged this song from an old demo that Stefan wrote somewhere early 2015 and turned it into the brutal, compact song that the second half of the album needed. We’ve never actually played this one live though, because the guitar- and vocal parts are really hard to perform at the same time. But we might give it a try sometime in the future!
7Halls of Amenti
The protagonist starts exploring different belief systems and comes into contact with the ‘Emerald Tablets’ which were found buried in the great pyramid of Giza in Egypt. According to Egyptian mythology, these were written by ‘Thoth, the Atlantean’ – the inventor of writing and guardian of knowledge. These 15 tablets contain knowledge from a lost civilization and were translated by various interpreters and scientists like Isaac Newton. By reading these, the protagonist starts to remember more of his past and comes back into contact with his true nature.
This is another one of our live favourites and it’s usually the song we start our set with. It’s a great way to come in with guns blazing. This song originally started with the bridge riff as the intro but was re-arranged during a rehearsal. ‘Halls of Amenti’ focuses more on drums and vocals rather than guitars, which gives it a more positive feeling. Even though this song is written in the lowest tuning we use, it feels uplifting and healing to us.
The birth of the ‘something.’ An instrumental song that sings the universe into existence. Based on the Buddhist concept: ‘the Universe was spoken into existence and the original sound was ‘Om.’
Our drummer Peter wrote the beautiful choir intro for this song. He based it loosely on the Buddhist mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ but we arranged it with harmonies in perfect fifths, which gave it a more traditional Christian feeling. We loved this crossover and this vocal intro really gave life to the clean guitar intro. This song serves as an introduction and preparation for the final track of the album.
9Nothing Is Consciousless
The reunion. The protagonist gathers all his insights and makes his way back home. He says goodbye to the third-dimensional world, directs himself to his Higher Self and lets him know that he is ready to return. He watches the limitations of the world disappear before his eyes. He leaves behind a final piece of advice: ‘Live beyond thought. Be here now. Dream, march, shine’ and returns home.
This final 16-minute song was composed over a period of almost 2 years and was only finalized 2 weeks before we entered the studio. We wrote the first few minutes in the beginning of 2016 and really took our time to let it sink in before we continued writing it. We knew it would become the last song on the album, so we wanted to finish as many other songs as possible first so we knew what this song would have to summarize. This one really contains a bit of all the elements the other songs use, and it functions as a grand finale and conclusion to the story. It was a beast of a song to compose but it’s the one we’re most proud of. The saxophone solo was an idea that we had which we tried fairly last minute, but it became the best part of the song for many people. The outro soundscape is largely inspired by Shine On You Crazy Diamond and was designed to let the album sink in and leave you in a peaceful state.