GODEN “Where Darkness Reigns” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

Strange are the ways of fate. When a previously unknown New York band by the name of WINTER released their demo and debut album in 1990, it’s doubtful that even the members could have guessed how influential their output would become. The long term success of the band showed once again that doing things against the grain is more likely to make you influential. WINTER’s incredibly plodding, slow and sludgy music was the diametric opposite to the raging thrash and hardcore so popular at the time.

WINTER’s reign was short-lived. The band disbanded when member Stephen Flam was crippled by tinnitus and hearing loss issues and could no longer continue. That meant that WINTER would only exist as an influence, not a functioning band.

Until the rise of GODEN, that is. This band is in every way the logical successor to WINTER and if anything, is even more ambitious and epic. Where WINTER’s album was titled “Into Darkness”, GODEN’s debut takes it further and goes “Beyond Darkness”. This massive effort puts forth over 77 minutes of crushing heaviness and deep atmosphere. There is certainly a story here that is waiting to be told.

So we took the extra step and spoke to Mr. Flam about the influence of WINTER, the rise of GODEN and much more...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings, Stephen! The name GODEN has been around at least since the days of WINTER’s “Into Darkness”. What’s the origin of this term and how long has it been a concept to you?

STEPHEN FLAM:  Yes, GODEN is my favorite song on “ITD”. I always felt it was the song that represented Winter’s sound. Tony’s keys are part of the gloomy sound and the lyrics take you to a different place. “GODEN” was a made up song title. 

WC: Before diving into GODEN itself, let me ask about WINTER. Did you ever imagine when you released “Into Darkness” that the band would be such a huge influence on metal 30 years down the road?

SF: Thank you.. It’s an honor that people consider WINTER a huge influence especially 30yrs later. I always liked “ITD”. We worked hard to make that album.. Worked day jobs and rehearsed most nights. I was always looked for ways to make the sound more animated and heavy. In 1990 “ITD” was released and it seemed as if people where not sure of what they felt about it. Everyone was playing hard and fast. NYHC and metal scene in NY was on fire and thriving with music. WINTER were on the other side of the spectrum playing super slow and sludgy. We separated because it seemed as if people were not interested. I started a new group with Ray Mayorga & John John Jesse of NAUSEA called THORN. THORN released “Bitter Potion” on Roadrunner.

WC: Could you describe WINTER as the embryonic form of GODEN or is that pushing things too much?

SF: GODEN are to WINTER what TRIPTYKON are to CELTIC FROSTt. An artistic continuation with some WINTER members like Tony Pinnisi keyboard player and Vic Pullen drummer as well some old friends that joined the recording project.

WC: How long has the concept of GODEN’s “Beyond Darkness” been percolating in your mind? And has the idea undergone a lot of change or has it remained basically the same? 

SF: GODEN is a continuation of WINTER. I wrote new music for WINTER that was recorded and completed in 2003. We started to work on those songs during rehearsals for WINTER shows with intentions of using them for the follow up to “Into Darkness”. When those gigs where canceled due to my hearing loss issues. I broke the news to the group and everyone was extremely bummed. 25 years later we have a second chance to finally perform and play out especially since WINTER broke up right after the release of “Into Darkness”. Everyone knew I was suffering with crippling tinnitus. This was a major setback and depressing time for everyone. The group chose to not do the shows without me. Everyone removed their equipment from the rehearsal space and that was the end…       

WC: How long has GODEN existed as an actual band?

SF: GODEN is a recording project. After everyone removed gear from WINTER’s rehearsal space which was in the keyboard players home. As I was packing up the last few things I had at Tony’s, he said “so this is how it ends”. I responded the only way I could continue would be to build an isolation booth to stand in so sound would not affect me and I could see everyone through the glass. Tony said “so build the iso-booth and let’s move forward and see how it goes”. I explained to WINTER members what Tony and I wanted to do. This sounded like a tremendous undertaking, and it was! Some members joined on and some decided not to join this recording project. 

My brother Chris Flam is a recording engineer, I explained what I wanted to do and he was down. Tony, Chris and I converted WINTER’s rehearsal space into a recording studio. I purchased drum kit, mics, interfaces, cables and whatever Chris recommended. We started work on the songs from the 2003 WINTER demo. Those songs were “Glowing Red Sun”, “Night”, “Dark Nebula” and various riffs from that demo as well as new music I had. Tony was a god send for opening his home to me for this five year long recording process. We would rehearse ,then record the song, put it on the shelf. When ten songs where completed. I reached out to Vas Kallas an old friend from HANZEL UND GRETYL. We had many drinks and I explained my vision. She was down, she spent the next year working on lyrics and a few different vocal styles. She sang in German, Greek, English and had a few ethereal female styles.  

WC: “Beyond Darkness” is a massive album. Do you consider it a double LP?

SF: Yes, it is 77 minutes long! Massive DIY undertaking in every way.. 

WC: I’m interested in the three characters the album revolves around. Spacewinds, NYXTA and Prophet of Goden

SF: I had a concept to make the album a story/soundtrack with artwork that would take the listener to a different place. My concept was a fiction story of the light and the dark set to a sound track of heavy music. It was obvious that Vas (NYXTA-Goddess of Night) with her menacing vocal style and lyrics was the darkness. Tony (Prophet of Goden) and I spent countless hours creating a character that would be the polar opposite to Vas. Tony (Prophet of Goden) became the light. He speaks in the name of Goden. Manifestations 1-8 are recitations where they guide the listener on a journey. The Manifestations became a home for some of my ambient and spacey side of music creation. Vas nick named me Spacewinds because the Manifestations music reminded her of spacewind. I am the time and space in which these characters’ dwell. 

WC: Is the story on “Beyond Darkness” complete or will there be more chapters to it? Will GODEN continue past this album?

SF: At this point ,GODEN’s rehearsal and recording studio is still active and everything is still in place and has all the gear and mics ready to pull the trigger on next album. We are all brain dead at this point because “Beyond Darkness” has drained us…. Once we recover… We will continue creating more music and lyrics for album two..

WC: The artistic part of the album sounds very important to you. Tell us about how you worked with Eva Petric to create the illustrations for the album.

SF: Eva Petric did all the artwork. Eva and I met by accident at a health conference in NYC. She mentioned she was in New York and had her artwork displayed at the UN and St John Divine Cathedral. I attended and was interested in collaborating with her. Eva is a talented artist and it was obvious to me after viewing her five terabit HD that I wanted her to help create the visual part of the story. Eva and I listed with headphones to the whole album as I explained my concept. When we were done she said let’s do this!!!   

WC: Will GODEN play live and what would a live show be like, if so?

SF: When I started GODEN I had no intentions of pIaying live because of the hearing issue. I think next time around things would have to be different. I am not the first musician to destroy their hearing.  Roy Mayorga , old friend, fellow bandmate (Thorn) and mixing engineer of the GODEN record spoke about this hearing issue. Roy has been a hard hitting drummer for decades. He was in NAUSEA, AMEBIX, SOULFLY, STONE SOUR, HELLYEAH, etc. He recommended that the group all wear in ear monitors to keep the stage volume to a minimum. From his own personal perspective this has helped him preserve his hearing and the band performances are way tighter with in ear setup. We will see what the future brings, So don’t count GODEN out… 

WC: What are some of the myths and fictional stories that inspired you and the story on the album?

SF: We are all into dark science fiction, mythology, astrology, supernatural, abstract writers like HP Lovecraft, etc.

WC: What are you listening to currently?

SF: When in the writing mode I try to not listen to current heavy music because I do not want to be influenced by it. 

WC: Any final words or messages?

SF: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I am grateful to everyone that is part of GODEN. The making of this record was a huge undertaking. Please listen with a free and open mind… Journey now Beyond Darkness