Gospel of the Horns IV
by Niklas Göransson
In the closing chapter of Gospel of the Horns, the Australian lineup dissolves, followed by a transformative move to Europe. On fresh terrain, infused with new blood, came their final release: Ceremonial Conjuration.
MARK HOWITZER: After the US tour, we were all fucked. I mean, by that stage – June 2008 – I was almost forty. And besides the hangovers, we had fuck all to show for it. We were even made to pay for our own petrol! That sort of shit. If it weren’t for the strong merch sales, we wouldn’t have survived that tour. Not long after returning, GOSPEL received an offer to open for DISMEMBER in Australia again, but we were completely burnt out. Like, ‘Oh god, that’s the last thing any of us could think of doing.’
CHRIS MASOCHIST: To be honest, even I agreed with sitting that one out. I wanted to go to the shows, say hello, and get drunk – just enjoy myself without constantly having to drag shit around. I really needed a break. Then again, we’d done it to ourselves <laughs>. That’s what happens when you put partying and sleep deprivation in front of performance and looking after yourself.
HOWITZER: Chris and I lived together, and one day I told him that I’d had enough. And he goes, ‘Me too – at least for a while.’ So, we figured that was it and made an announcement.
In October 2008, four months after the US tour, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS announced that their upcoming Melbourne show with Swedish death metal veterans GRAVE would be the band’s final live appearance.
RYAN MARAUDER: That’s right, we played with GRAVE; I’d forgotten about that. It was a big show, too – packed out. The venue capacity was about eight hundred, and it would’ve been close to that many people there. As for the announcement, I don’t remember exactly what prompted it. I do know things were on and off for about six months, but I’m not sure why we decided to end it.
When you walked off stage, did you really think it was going to be your last time?
MASOCHIST: I’m quite sure I did, yeah. I even remember kicking my guitar case across the backstage floor; I’d just had enough. There had been a few similar outbursts in conjunction with shows, like ‘I can’t be bothered doing this anymore!’
MARCUS HELLCUNT: At that point, we were just over the whole live aspect. It wasn’t so much that we were sick of each other, ‘cause we’re all still good mates. We were just fed up with playing gigs, I reckon. I lived in Brisbane and the rest in Melbourne, which made rehearsing a bit of a drama.
MARAUDER: My recollection is that we had all this material, which was really good. Things were going well. So why didn’t we continue rehearsing the new songs? I’m not sure. It would be interesting for all four of us to sit down and sort out why that was. I honestly don’t know what to tell you; it just kind of petered out.
MASOCHIST: I can’t really point to anything specific. But I mean, GOSPEL essentially had two modes during these years… either ‘We hate this – never again!’ or ‘Oh no, we miss it. Let’s do a show!’ And then we’d have to rehearse just to get the old songs back to a decent level, so we probably had no time to jam the new stuff. Nor were there any instances where we all enjoyed it over a long enough period to go, ‘Hang on, why aren’t we writing anything?’
HOWITZER: Ryan had a couple of good songs. We played two of ‘em at a little festival in Adelaide, and I remember them going down well. But for me, the mere thought of writing and rehearsing new material was from another world. To be perfectly honest with you, I just couldn’t be fucked anymore.
DARRAGH O’LAOGHAIRE: Cozzy will forgive me for saying this, but he was no spring chicken at that point. Those boys lived, played, and worked hard – there were no half-measures with GOSPEL. For a small underground band from Australia, they already had plenty of feathers in their caps. I was completely sympathetic and could understand where they were coming from. However, I also suspected that it was more of a temporary wobble than a de facto ending, and I was proven right.
In another exciting plot twist, six months later came the news of GOSPEL OF THE HORNS’ temporary resurrection and imminent farewell tour. The last-ever European shows were slated for September 2009, courtesy of German label and promoter Kneel Before the Master’s Throne.
HELLCUNT: I’d say it was the attraction of playing in Europe – we were offered to come over and just went with it.
HOWITZER: At last, we were able to play Europe without funding it ourselves. They covered our airfares and looked after us. That meant a lot because on previous tours, everything came straight outta our own pockets. They said, ‘Look, we wanna do three shows – two in Germany and one in Holland.’ I spoke to Chris, Ryan, and Marcus, and they were all up for it.
MASOCHIST: We probably saw it as an opportunity to step off the hamster wheel for a while and get out of our normal living spaces in Australia. It was also a chance to be on stage with your mates and play our music in Europe – albeit only a handful of club shows. Besides the dates in Holland and Germany, Darragh set up a gig in Dublin.
DARRAGH: I travelled to Essen in Germany to see ASPHYX and DESASTER and ran into the guy from Kneel Before the Master’s Throne. I knew that GOSPEL were coming, so I said, ‘Look, it’s 2009 – ten years since I started Invictus. Obviously, GOSPEL is a pivotal band for the label’s development. Would you mind if I brought them to Dublin for my ten-year-anniversary show?’ And he was okay with that.
I had still not seen GOSPEL OF THE HORNS live at this point. Not wanting to miss my final chance, I booked flights to the Dublin show but suffered an unfortunate last-minute cancellation.
MARAUDER: Everything was set up really well, and our show went great. Darragh hired a professional camera crew, but nothing ever came of it – which I found very disappointing.
DARRAGH: Jesus Christ, I’d forgotten about that. I do recall getting people in to film it; they might’ve been some university students who wanted to do it as a school project. I’m not sure what became of that. More frustratingly, I can’t even remember who it was.
HOWITZER: Great show! Huge turnout, and Darragh put on a proper bash. Killer venue, too. The Irish metalheads have always been good to GOSPEL; we’ve had amazing crowd responses over there ever since our first visit in 2000.
MASOCHIST: We were always received well in Dublin – most likely thanks to Invictus, of course. Also, the Irish are very similar to us Aussies; we love to drink, and all share the same dark, dry sarcasm. Like, we use profanity to express our feelings for someone. When we say to a friend, ‘Hey, ya cunt!’, we mean that like ‘mate’.
Following the warm reception to GOSPEL OF THE HORNS’ farewell tour – their last European shows – they made a somewhat surprising return the very next year, with an appearance at Festung Open Air in Bitterfeld, Germany.
HOWITZER: Same thing there, really – they said, ‘Look, you couldn’t make it in 2007. Hellcunt is playing here with VOMITOR; if we can get the other three guys to come out, would you do the gig?’ We accepted, and that was it. Again, for us, it was like a paid holiday that allowed us to go over to Europe, play a show, and catch up with friends.
MARAUDER: I don’t know what the plan was; I’ve always felt like a passenger in GOSPEL. Coz organised everything when it came to shows, so I can’t really comment. Essentially, it was his band. Don’t get me wrong, though, I felt that it was mine as well – but Coz was the one who spearheaded the whole thing. And if he wanted to play when I had nothing else going on… ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ But look, if people were still offering us shows, then why the hell wouldn’t we?
I have no objections whatsoever. However, I’m somewhat perplexed and mildly amused by the constant dramatics: ‘Last GOSPEL show ever!’
HOWITZER: Yeah, yeah – I know. One would’ve thought we’d learned our lesson, eh? But with the 2009 tour, they sort of said, ‘We wanna promote this as your last shows in Europe.’ So, they used that for their benefit as well; it wasn’t as if we came up with it as a way to boost ticket sales. But I agree: it did get a bit ridiculous towards the end.
DARRAGH: Indeed, they had a touch of Monty Python for a while there. It became a bit of a running joke: ‘Has GOSPEL split up this week?’ ‘No, no – still together.’ This is the downside to making public announcements. Sometimes, it might be best not to say anything and just leave things to kind of sit and then see where you stand.
MASOCHIST: I don’t think we really wanted to stop – it was just that we partied too hard and got sick of being around each other. And then, as I said, after a few months when things cooled down: ‘Oh shit, we’re stupid. People want to hear our music, and we still wanna play it. We should keep doing this.’
Again, I’m certainly not complaining since the Bitterfeld booking allowed me to finally see GOSPEL OF THE HORNS live. Perfect location, too; Festung was one of the best underground open-air festivals in mainland Europe, run by a passionate but professional crew of diehard metalheads.
HELLCUNT: Oh, fuck yeah. There was a lot of violence at that festival, actually. Fucking Paddy bashed that NACHTMYSTIUM guy, and some Aussie punched ‘King ov Hell’. I also remember that my ex-girlfriend was smashed in the face and got a massive cut on her head. I think we arrived at Bitterfeld the day before our show and were sampling all the German beers.
As I recall, some did more sampling than others.
HOWITZER: The last thing I remember is when we were doing lines of that mephedrone stuff. And that’s what fucked me up, man. I felt okay when I got back to the hotel at maybe six or seven in the morning. But then – about three o’clock in the afternoon – it went steeply downhill. Mate, I thought I was gonna die. I couldn’t even stand up. We headlined, and then some AC/DC cover band was supposed to play into the night. I told the promoters, ‘Look, you’ll have to get them to go on before us. I won’t be able to do it; I’m too fucked.’
MARAUDER: Oh, that’s right; Coz got so wasted the night before that we had to switch timeslot with the last band. They were meant to do a three-hour set to close the festival but had to play before us because Coz was too fucked <laughs>. And it upset everybody. Oh man, the organisers were so fucking pissed off. That’s usually something I would’ve pulled! God, just typical GOSPEL shit.
HOWITZER: Yeah, typical GOSPEL shit. I remember lying on a table backstage, and it wasn’t good. Normally, it would be Ryan who was hungover and incapacitated. But now he’s prancing around: ‘Oh Cozzy, I feel great!’ Basically, taking the piss. I was like, ‘Ryan, fuck off will ya?’ Then he goes, ‘Cozzy, have a line! It’ll make you feel better!’ <laughs> I was crook as a dog, totally dehydrated, so the paramedics gave me some sort of fluid injection.
HELLCUNT: Coz was passed out backstage, and I think the ambulance people came and gave him an injection. He fucking hates needles, so that sort of woke him up. We ended up playing the show, and Coz actually did a good job considering.
MASOCHIST: At first, I felt relieved that Coz was unwell because I wasn’t doing much better. I don’t think Marcus would’ve been too far behind us, either. Ryan, on the other hand… he’d looked after himself. Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t one of our finest shows. I remember saying to myself as soon as I got on stage, ‘Fuck, how much longer? I won’t last the whole set.’
HOWITZER: Thinking back now, I go, ‘Man, it would be so shitty if that’s the only time someone saw us.’ They’d probably be left thinking, ‘What the fuck?’… but again, that’s just the way things were.
After cancelling Black Mass Ritual in Finland, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS opened for Japanese doom/death band COFFINS on the Melbourne leg of their September 2010 tour of Australia.
MARAUDER: Oh, I forgot about the COFFINS gig – that one went really well. It was at The Hi-Fi, a big venue in the city. Great show: we were really on form that night.
HELLCUNT: Coz is a massive COFFINS fan; he introduced me to them when we lived together. That was two or three years of COFFINS always being on the turntable. Coz was in contact with the band, so I reckon that’s what instigated the show.
HOWITZER: When was that? September 2010? Yeah, but it was just a one-off gig. We’d done nothing since Bitterfeld, so there was no talk about writing new material or doing another album. Then we didn’t even rehearse until we got the offer to come back and play those shows in Europe the following year.
Towards the end of 2010, Chris Masochist relocated to Germany in order to be with his girlfriend – soon-to-be wife – whom he’d met when GOSPEL OF THE HORNS came over the year before. Considering the aforementioned contrast between German and Australian society, that must’ve been quite the culture shock.
MASOCHIST: For sure, it took a few years to get used to it. There aren’t many English speakers here in the eastern parts, so I only had a couple of friends to talk to. But honestly, I would’ve been dead now if I’d stayed in Australia. I was unhappy with the way things were in Melbourne. I hated my job, for starters. I’d get obliterated every Friday to Sunday, trying to forget that I had to go back to work again on Monday. It became a vicious cycle, and the only way out I could see was by leaving Australia – which I did.
Was it during this period that someone died at your place?
MASOCHIST: Yeah, I’d been partying with a mate of mine and… there’s no need for details, but he went under the house – just beneath my bedroom – and hung himself. I thought he’d gone home, but then I noticed that my dog chain was missing. Two or three days later, Cozzy found him hanging down there. That was fucked up. So, things like that definitely contributed.
In July 2011, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS set out for Europe again. They started at Helvete Metal Club in Oberhausen and then went on to play Hammer Open Air.
MARAUDER: Hammer Open Air… was that the Finnish festival? I remember waking up in a hotel room the morning after our show and going out into the hallway – only to find fucking AUTOPSY loading in. We were all starstruck and ended up hanging out and smoking weed with Chris Reifert. That’s a great memory; I also think it was the last GOSPEL show I ever played.
Negative – that would’ve been at Hell’s Pleasure in Germany.
HOWITZER: You were there, weren’t you? See, now that was a proper GOSPEL show! Cunty threw up on stage – remember that?
HELLCUNT: Hell’s Pleasure… is that the one where I vomited on stage? We got there the night before and were up sniffing drugs until ten o’clock in the morning. Then we had to go on at like 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I was so fucked that I threw up on the drumkit and fell over. So yeah, I dunno how I did that one.
MASOCHIST: Perhaps it had something to do with whatever I was on, but I actually felt in fine form for once. I remember Marcus yelling at us between songs: ‘Wait, wait – let me catch my breath!’, but Coz just announced the next one straight away. Poor Marcus was like, ‘Argh, you bastards!’
MARAUDER: That’s right, Cunty fucking vomited in the middle of our set! <laughs> Well, that must’ve been the last GOSPEL show I played then. Great night. And Darragh got up on stage to sing with us.
DARRAGH: We did “Absolute Power” – which I’ve done with them a few times over the years. At the start of the first verse, I turned around just in time to see Marcus dropping his sticks and puking his guts out. Then he crawled up on his drum stool again and went, ‘I’m alright, let’s do it again!’ and just dropped back in and got the song going. That completely threw me off; I was too busy internally laughing at the absurdity of the situation.
As a label manager, was it ever frustrating to deal with such an ‘unprofessional’ band?
DARRAGH: Eh, I’d have to disagree with that characterisation. I mean… sure, by some standards they might’ve been a bit unprofessional. However, there’s a difference between being in complete shambles and just a bit loose or whatever. Even when GOSPEL first played in Dublin, and Ryan had to borrow a guitar from Ciáran (PRIMORDIAL) – because Ryan’s got stolen in Paris – they were tight as fuck. I’d say that GOSPEL weren’t quite as sloppy as they seem to think.
Did you know then that it was going to be the final set of the classic GOSPEL lineup?
HOWITZER: No, of course not. However, I didn’t think we’d continue at all afterwards. We weren’t talking about anything besides those European shows. But once we were back in Melbourne, we got an offer from Party San: ‘We saw you at Hell’s Pleasure – do you wanna play our festival next year?’ Chris lived in eastern Germany, so he was keen. As was I, because I’d gotten together with Anja, my wife, during the last trip. But Ryan wasn’t having it; ‘Nope, I’m out’.