Interview: Brad Moore, who designed legendary Morpheus Descends cover

morpheus_descends-ritual_of_infinityMost of us who emerged into the classic death metal milieu are familiar with Morpheus Descends‘s classic album Ritual of Infinity and its striking cover art that remains controversial to this day. The illustrator who created that polarizing work has launched an online presence and is designing metal art of similar caliber.

Morpheus Descends rose after the early years of American death metal but before the solidification of the style, and created a grandfather template for both New York death metal and heavy percussive death metal in general. Their most notable influences were on bands like Suffocation and Incantation, who took the blueprint that Morpheus Descends created and pushed it to new heights of complexity and technicality.

Brad Moore, who designed the iconic cover, was able to give us a few moments of his time to describe his art, life and time with Morpheus Descends. For those curious about the band, our interview with Morpheus Descends is a good place to start, or peruse our brief explanation of the band and its context.

How did you get started in art?

Like many who decide to become full-time artists, I began in grade school as the guy who could draw really well. I specialized in dinosaurs, hot rods and sci-fi. My classmates always got me to draw for them. It was my Junior High art teacher who first made me aware, that since I spent all day drawing anyway, why not make it my career and be paid for it? My brain did a back flip, as I did not know such a thing was possible, having been brought up in a very small country town. I credit my High School art teacher, Barbara Allen, who is now a top portrait painter, and two professors in college, Herbert Fink, and Ed Rollman Shay. They REALLY showed me the path! Eternal gratitude flows forth.

How did you get started in metal? Were you a metalhead? Did you “study” any heavy metal art?

Although my career began as a horror style comic book artist (I worked for comics publishers like Fathom Press, Boneyard Press, Graphomania, London Night Studios, etc) I was always a metalhead! When bands would tour, they often bought and read comics on the road. It wasn’t long at all before I got mail, asking me to draw or paint t-shirt designs, logos, cassette, and CD covers. Soon after, ‘zines came, asking for gory covers, inside illustrations, and dark comic strips. I was doing 3-5 fliers a week back then for metal shows. I didn’t really study any “metal” artists, as I have broad tastes, and enjoy a ton of different stuff. I’ve been to Richard Corben’s house, and viewed the original painting he did for Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell. I did an art exhibit with H.R. Giger in Switzerland and saw his sketches for what became covers for Celtic Frost and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. But I’ve always had my own approach; no one has ever said that my art resembles the work of anybody else.

What other influences exist on your art, like other artists, morbid dreams, etc?

Dreams, DEFINITELY!!! I’m also very into the films of European directors, and the famed Polish Poster movement. I’m an ardent Surrealist.

How did you end up doing the Morpheus Descends cover? Are you a Morpheus Descends fan?

I was, and still am, a major Morpheus Descends fan! When I first got and heard their cassette “Corpse Under Glass,” I was hooked, feeling that they were the heaviest I had ever heard at that time. The band, as luck would bequeath, turned out to be horror comics readers who knew of my work. Ken, their bassist, wrote me, and we discussed the possibilities for the art that became the cover of Ritual of Infinity. In the original sketch, the “wizard” character had his hands raised, and an infinity symbol carved into his bleeding chest. I think his eyes might have been bleeding, as well, and in one hand, he held a bloody, ancient scroll. After another phone discussion, the “Carven-Diety” had its hand positions changed, and the “wizard” was now in the pose we all have grown used to: that of sawing the head off an androgynous cadaver. An ad for Ritual of Infinity featuring the debut of the cover art in b/w was published as the back cover of gore/horror comic book Cadaver, issue # 1, by Fathom Press, in ’92’-93. Funny thing: the record company’s name (J.L. America) is misspelled.

The Morpheus Descends Ritual of Infinity cover art uses some rather unorthodox (for metal) color combinations. What inspired your choices here?

Yes, the issue of the cover has stirred as much hate, as it has admiration, and I think that’s the best thing you can hope for. The colors I chose WERE very strikingly different for what was happening with other illustrators at that time. (Or, for any time, really.) The painting was a combination of oil paint and Rotring dyes, and it strode counter to the monochromatic approach that most others were doing. When I look even now at a box full of CDs at a merch table, I am struck by how many generic looking, grey and black compositions I see. Most are great looking on their own, but a table full of them are monotonous, and do disservice to the music and bands. I knew Morpheus Descends weren’t going to be on MTV, any time soon, so their CD cover, love it or loathe it, had to nail you across the room.

You’ve just gone online. Are you offering other services to metal musicians? What other directions do you hope to take your art in?

I just finished designing the T-shirts and poster for the Stoner Hands of Doom fest, as well as the T-shirt for Argus’ upcoming European tour (I did all three of their album covers); I’m working on two new CD covers, for two new bands, The Swill, and Foghound; I will have art featured in the winter issue of Churn magazine (Issue # 11); I am designing and building the special effects props for an upcoming film named “Platypossum”; and I am masterminding a civic project that I have dubbed “Mobile Murals.” Watch for the cover I did for Ed (ex-Monster Magnet) Mundell’s next solo LP; it’s one of the greatest I’ve ever done. Check out my page at bradmooreartwizard.com, or hit me up on Facebook @ Brad Moore’s Illustration Station.

brad_moore-truncation_of_the_zodiac

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Massacra demos re-issued on CD/LP as Day of the Massacra

massacra-day_of_the_massacraIn the early days of death metal, a band from France vitalized the style by taking Slayer’s phrase-riff technique to a new extreme, laying the groundwork for a type of death metal later developed by a diverse cast including Incantation and Vader.

Massacra, the band that launched that stylistic vein, put out two legendary albums — Final Holocaust and Enjoy the Violence — before unfortunately suffering the loss of two of its most vital composers and becoming a different band entirely. However, a series of three demos were never pressed to wax or polycarbonate.

Twenty-five years later Century Media prepares to re-issue three classic demos on one CD. “Nearer From Death,” “Final Holocaust” and “Legion of Torture” demos from 1987-1989 will see realization on Day of the Massacra, a compilation that is now in pre-order in Europe.

Composed of these early works, and assembled with the help of guitarist Jean-Marc Tristani, the compilation was remastered at DMS by Ulf Horbelt (Morbid, Asphyx, Grave, Necropsy) and comes with a 24-page booklet of rare photos, an interview with Tristani, and other historical information.

Further, Century Media has stated its intent to release the first five Massacra albums, including Final Holocaust and Enjoy the Violence.

According to Century Media’s Nikki Law, however, Day of the Massacra will not be released in the USA, but some imports will make their way to these shores for those diehards who want to celebrate this pillar of early death metal.

Tracklist:

“Nearer From Death” demo 1989
1. Apocalyptic Warriors (Chapter Final) (06:04)
2. Sentenced For Life (05:15)
3. Nearer From Death (07:48)

“Final Holocaust” demo 1988
4. Intro (00:43)
5. Apocalyptic Warriors (03:36)
6. Final Holocaust (04:40)
7. Dream Of Violence (03:18)
8. Troop Of Death (04:24)
9. Outro (00:36)

“Legion Of Torture” demo 1987
10. Intro: March Off / Apocalyptic Warriors (05:59)
11. Toxic War (05:45)
12. Legion Of Torture (03:06)
13. The Day Of Massacra (04:15)

To order:

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Interview: Heresiarch

heresiarch-waelwulfAn eruption has occurred within death metal over the past years where bands have been attracted to the linear phrasal riffing of old Incantation, Demoncy and Havohej and have hybridized it with the ripping war metal of Angelcorpse, Conqueror and Perdition Temple, producing a sound like the roar of battle from within a cavern.

Leading this charge is New Zealand’s Heresiarch, whose Hammer of Intransigence introduced a stunned world to this new assault two years ago. Currently, the band prepares to release its Waelwulf EP and embark on a new series of combative adventures to further saturate the world in its violence.

With this in mind, we pitched NH of Heresiarch a few questions about the band, its direction, and the volatile ferment of motivic forces that provide a warlike impetus that is able to avoid destroying itself. For his answers, which demonstrate the raw visceral approach of both this style and its existential attitude, read the full interview here.

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Interview: NH of Heresiarch

heresiarch-waelwulfAn eruption has occurred within death metal over the past years where bands have been attracted to the linear phrasal riffing of old Incantation, Demoncy and Havohej and have hybridized it with the ripping war metal of Angelcorpse, Conqueror and Perdition Temple, producing a sound like the roar of battle from within a cavern.

Leading this charge is New Zealand’s Heresiarch, whose Hammer of Intransigence introduced a stunned world to this new assault two years ago. Currently, the band prepares to release its Waelwulf EP and embark on a new series of combative adventures to further saturate the world in its violence.

With this in mind, we pitched NH of Heresiarch a few questions about the band, its direction, and the volatile ferment of motivic forces that provide a warlike impetus that is able to avoid destroying itself. His answers, which demonstrate the raw visceral approach of both this style and its existential attitude, follow.

What made you choose to make the style of metal that you did?

It was the sound that resonated most with me and reflected what I wanted to present effectively.

Why was your US tour recently canceled?

Line-up issues have plagued the progress and possibilities of Heresiarch since the beginning and this was no exception.

The main priority currently is completing the album writing and then preparation for recording, touring will be re-addressed when it’s pertinent to.

You say that Heresiarch is “esoteric leaning.” What does that mean?

Heresiarch takes influence from several esoteric paths, the most noticeable being from Indo-European branches; the upcoming Waelwulf EP is heavily influenced by Anglo-Saxon and Germanic literature, warfare, symbolism and worldviews with my own interpretations.

How do you compose?

Central to Heresiarch are visions of war, death and victory, on a grand apocalyptic scale with the aim to reflect the dread, violence and atmosphere attributed to such themes.

There is minimal melodic motivation behind any of the writing and writing generally consists of bludgeoning the guitar to the aforementioned themes, from there the songs and riffs are refined and eventually materializes the atmosphere I aim to convey. If the song or the riffs do not reflect this they are discarded.

Do you write on guitar, bass or vocals?

Composition is primarily done with guitar but always with an idea of how everything else should go with it; drums, bass and both guitars are written close together to compliment and reinforce each other.

Vocals and lyrics are generally the last thing to come since the content is already decided on within the writing process.

Will you be recording more material as Heresiarch?

The Waelwulf EP has been recorded, I am yet to finish the vocals but it should be done in its entirety by the end of October.

I have been working on a full length which will be released by Dark Descent records; around 25 minutes of the album is written to date. The theme, composition and the general layout have been completed and it will be the most “complete” release from us.

In your view, what are the bands today to watch in the underground, meaning the people who produce interesting music (who cares if it’s “commercially successful”)?

Besides the obvious ones there is IMPETUOUS RITUAL and GRAVE UPHEAVAL (some of our closest allies) from Australia.

SABBATIC GOAT, SINISTROUS DIABOLUS, VASSAFOR are all worth listening to from New Zealand. VESICANT is a new band I am drumming in; there will be recordings of that in the next year. Also TREPANATION are a relatively new band taking an interesting direction with what I’ve heard of their new material and BLOOD OF THE MOON from NZ now have a lineup again.

Also check out PAROXSIHZEM and ADVERSARIAL from Canada, IMPOSER from Italy and GENOCIDE SHRINES from Sri Lanka.

Will you tell us which musical works were your biggest influences in creating Heresiarch?

CONQUEROR – War Cult Supremacy is the most essential album of this style in my opinion.

Besides that: Realm of Chaos by BOLT THROWER, Fallen Angel of Doom by BLASPHEMY as well as some classical such as Lizst, Wagner and Holst.

Your newest track, “Endethraest,” sounds familiar but I can’t place it. It’s highly rhythmic and military, like a real war being prepared. What influenced this?

The initial influence for the track originally stemmed from Gustav Holst’s “Mars Bringer of War.” It’s a good indication of the new direction Heresiarch is heading, with less regard for speed like on Hammer of Intransigence and a focus towards creating a dark, martial atmosphere.

Rumor has it that Heresiarch uses some members from Diocletian and Witchrist as session musicians. These bands are apparently part of a ‘Doom Cult’ which is trying to brand itself as a certain type of metal. Are you part of that movement, or heading in a different direction?

Heresiarch has no members of Diocletian or Witchrist present in the current line-up and we never have been a member of Doom Cult.

What’s next for Heresiarch?

The aforementioned album is intended to be released by Dark Descent Records in 2014. All further intentions will be announced when suitable.

You say the band is based around war, death and victory. Why do you choose these topics? What do you hope to express? Do you intend to create change in the world?

There is no “hope” to express anything, the music does the talking and is the expression itself.

Do you think war metal carries with it a big of a stigma in that so many bands are seen as humorless and self-important?

Yes.

Do you think most people accept war as necessary, or think of it as an evil to be purged? Why or why not?

I don’t care what most people think or believe in.

Extreme ends always attract extreme people, usually regardless of goal, doctrine or outcome.

It looks like the old school metal has lost out to the metalcore/indie-metal types. Is there any hope of rolling back the clock and getting to the days of better music? How important is it when the majority takes over a genre or a country and turns it into the same old stuff?

It’s not important. The “majority” as you say will always manifest their interests in trivial activities, beliefs and art in one way or another.

I guess the next logical question is, if you have no notion or desire for changing the world, what is your purpose in creating the music of Heresiarch?

I lost interest in all facets of politics and society a long time ago and from a logical perspective, a Black/Death Metal band is the least likely candidate to rally the masses towards changing the world.

In some respects that attitude is militarized in Heresiarch as an expression of contempt and disgust for all morality, faith and social structures which is a valid view for one to hold in today’s world… Essentially Heresiarch exists because it needs to and when that need ceases, so will the band.

If you could change the world, in what direction would you take it?

It’d look like the gatefold of Hammer of Intransigence.

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Chris Moyen – Chris Moyen’s Thorncross: Black Ink & Metal metal art book

chris_moyen-thorncross_black_ink_and_metalLegendary underground death metal and black metal illustrator Chris Moyen releases his book Chris Moyen’s Thorncross: Black Ink & Metal this week on Nuclear War Now! Productions. The book will be a foot-square compilation of the artist’s work.

In addition to Moyen’s artwork, an LP will accompany the 208-page book with Archgoat’s 1991 demo “Jesus Spawn” on one side and Incantation’s 1990 rehearsal demo and first live gig on the other. This relic will complement the hardback book of black and white illustrations used by many classic bands.

Released on collector’s label Nuclear War Now! Productions, the book comes in regular and “diehard” versions. The diehard version adds a tapestry with Moyen’s artwork, with the choice of our, one of which being the classic Beherit Oath of Black Blood cover illustration.

For more information, see Chris Moyen – Chris Moyen’s Thorncross: Black Ink & Metal product page at the label.

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Thevetat releases Disease to Divide tshirts

thevetat-disease_to_divide-tshirt

New York-style cavernous death metal band Thevetat, following up on their promising EP Disease to Divide, have released tshirts featuring unique art to support the release.

Formed from the ashes of doom-death band Ceremonium, Thevetat resurrects the older style of New York death metal with injections of the rushing torrent of sound that makes old Incantation and Demoncy so appealing. These linear riffs create a sense of foreclosed possibility, hence the feeling that this is a genre erupting from within death metal.

The shirts are available in sizes from S-XXL for $12 and can be ordered with a copy of Disease to Divide for $15. Both prices do not include postage. Contact and order information follows; artwork can be seen above.

Destro Records
69 Giffords Lane
Staten Island, NY 10308
ceremonium@aol.com

Listen to Disease to Divide here:

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Profanatica – Sickened by Holy Host / The Grand Masters Session


Profanatica
Sickened by Holy Host / The Grand Masters Session
81 min, Hells Headbangers, $12

profanatica-sickened_by_holy_host-the_grand_masters_sessionFor those new to Profanatica, this is the album to get. Like the band, it is baffling, organic, unsystematic, arcane and labyrinthine. It resembles its own hybrid of occultism, blasphemy and feral Jack London/Fred Nietzsche style absurdist feral Darwinism. It is ungovernable, down to the 7″-sized packaging for a relatively plain CD.

Sickened by Holy Host shows Profanatica at two extremes. The first is Paul Ledney, the percussionist and conceptual designer of the band, with an unnamed collaborator on guitar. The second is the same drum track with contemporary Profanatica guitarist John Gelso riffing along on guitar. The idea is that the first side shows us Profanatica as it might have been in the early 1990s, while the second side shows us Profanatica now as it evolves.

The Grand Masters Session on the other hand is a CD recording of the material Profanatica unleashed as a 7″ box set, and is essentially the band in the studio covering some old classics with updated musicianship and production. This serves as a continuity for the two parts and unites the album at full strength.

Together, Sickened by Holy Host / The Grand Masters Session reveals this atavistic American black metal band in all of their glory. The motivic force is undoubtedly Ledney’s (Revenant, Incantation, Havohej) impulsive but controlled drumming, which like a ritual dance of knives lures our listening minds closer to the core of each song. Gelso holds his own with an ability to make classic and new Profanatica riffs both simultaneously awkward and unearthly and also surprisingly difficult to pull off at speed. The result is an untameable surge of raw ideas guided by the torn-silk vocals of Ledney.

This album provides an ideal introduction to Profanatica because it captures its extremes through its most evolved material, giving a quick but deep plunge into the psyche of this sonic terrorism against the civilizing forces of religion and sociability. Soon you too will be chanting blasphemies against the highest holy while engaging in ceremonial defiance.

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Axiom of the Elite — Issue Number 2

axiom_of_the_elite-issue_number_twoThis professional zine comes from New Zealand and has two really unique features: first, it exclusively focuses on local bands, regardless of genre within the metal-punk spectrum, and second, it aims for an elegant and professional presentation that radiates distant analysis more than organic enmeshment.

Axiom of the Elite thus more resembles a specialized trade publication or end-of-year report, with consistent use of fonts, highly readable pages, and consistent information. The writing is accurate and in depth with a breadth of vocabulary, and addresses all the questions an aspiring metalhead could have. In voice, it’s more literary magazine than gutter rock publication.

While the writing voice is more “chatty” than an American or central European publication, those who have read British or Australian zines will recognize this use of familiar social tokens as a kind of contexting. It works quite well here, where reading is like a formal presentation of data in an informal setting, and thus puts the mind in decision-making mode immediately. This works in favor of the bands covered, who are presented as contenders from the beginning.

Issue #2 of Axiom of the Elite picks up where last year’s first issue left off, but swaps the CD compilation for a download code for band tracks online. If the zine editors want to keep costs and postage low, this is an essential move, although these compilations seem to be something you’d want on the wall, from the sound of things.

Seeing heavy metal, crust punk and underground metal all presented in the same zine might seem a bit odd at first but it helps feather the presentation by allowing some levity and diversity where otherwise, especially in the context of the professional/arch layout and language, might be a bit overbearing. Even better, this zine comes with a clear mission statement:

• To promote NZMetal bands who have had little to no exposure internationally.
• To input my own personal and anecdotal reflections on the bands (this includes from recordings through to live shows) and their impact upon the local scene as a whole.
• To display the NZMetal scene as what it really is. As not one purely consisted of ‘bogans’ and Nu-Metal but one of genuine hard-working bands filled with a variety of Underground Metal genres.

These lines are relevant for anyone who has tried to defend metal as “art” and not simply a pacifier-cum-adornment for clueless teenagers and burnouts. Even more, it shows the role zines have always had, which is to concentrate information but also to allow powerful personalities to shape the Underground socially and thus inject more clarity of idea.

One other thing that other zine editors might take away from Axiom of the Elite is that its layout, like that of an annual report or professional trade magazine, is consistent. The first page of each band report is black, with the logo up top and a picture; from then on, the content is black-on-white text for enhanced readability. The editors don’t mock around with fonts and ornamentation, which makes the zine easier to read.

As the Underground experiences a revival, and the old ways of zines, radio and vinyls are brought back because the newer ways present too much information and thus submerge us in unnecessary possibilities (a process called entropy), zines like Axiom of the Elite emerge in a tastemaking and organizational role and we the fans are better off for it.

Features the following bands of various metal genres from New Zealand, each of which contributed a track to a digital compilation which can be unlocked with the download codes in each zine. You can also stream tracks from these bands at the zine’s website, listed below:

  • Arc of Ascent (Crushing Stoner Doom Metal)
  • Bloodfvkk (Reckless Grind Metal)
  • Boltcutter (Dystopian Crust Punk)
  • Brutal Supremacy (Barbaric Death Metal)
  • Carnal (Pulverising Brutal Death Metal)
  • Filthy Lucifer (Feral Crust Black Metal)
  • Horrendous Disfigurement (Defiling Death Metal)
  • Malevolence (Legendary Death/Grind Metal)
  • Orgiastic Rebirth (Ugly, Filthy Brutal Death Metal)
  • Red Dawn (Ripping Power/Heavy Metal)
  • Stormforge (Thunderous Power/Heavy Metal)
  • Trepanation (Apocalyptic War/Grind Metal)

Contact
deusintroclades@gmail.com
http://axiomoftheelite.bandcamp.com/

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Interview with Scalpel

scalpel-sorrow_and_skinWhen we encountered Boston band Scalpel, it was a breath of fresh air. While some of the frenetic post-‘core deathgrind influences were present, this band made it clear through their songwriting that their hearts were in the older traditions of the underground.

In fact, their sound resembles a cross between a Unique Leader West Coast-style blasting percussive death metal band, and an East Coast outfit, like some of the Suffocation material from their live album era before they fully modernized. Scalpel bash out the intricate textural descents of percussive death metal on Sorrow and Skin, their opus coming out this month.

Read on for a Q&A with one of metal’s rising but undiscovered hopes.

Interview: Scalpel

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Interview: Scalpel

scalpel-sorrow_and_skinWhen we encountered Boston band Scalpel, it was a breath of fresh air. While some of the frenetic post-‘core deathgrind influences were present, this band made it clear through their songwriting that their hearts were in the older traditions of the underground.

In fact, their sound resembles a cross between a Unique Leader West Coast-style blasting percussive death metal band, and an East Coast outfit, like some of the Suffocation material from their live album era before they fully modernized. Scalpel bash out the intricate textural descents of percussive death metal on Sorrow and Skin, their opus coming out this month.

We were able to snag the band for a few questions and enjoyed their laconic but incisive answers.

How did Scalpel form, and how did your style evolve after that point?

Scalpel formed when Taylor Brennan and Manny Egbert met each other at guitar summer camp like good little childs. We started as a goregrind band with lots of Carcass style riffs before developing a more technical and brutal sound.

What would you identify as your influences, musically and in literature, film and non-fiction writing?

Musically, our influences are bands like Creedence Clearwater, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Suffocation and Carcass. We all enjoy films such as Ip Man, Rambo, The Reanimator, and Clockwork Orange. We also love authors such as J.R.R Tolkien, Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson.

Your style seems to approximate a mixture of East Coast and West Coast death metal influences. Are you the crest of a new wave?

Yes, although we do not try to align ourselves with any other contemporary death metal bands, we do feel that we have a unique sound.

Where did you record Sorrow and Skin?

Sorrow and Skin was recorded at Q Division Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts. No metronomes were used in the recording of the album in order to produce a more organic sound.

To what degree do you take influence from “modern” styles of metal, specifically the post-2000 ones?

Mostly, the extremely quick tempos and incessant blast beats. Other than that, we stick to our roots.

Where do you hold on to older styles, and why?

Slam riffs, fuzzy production, and shrieking bluesy guitar solos are all elements reminiscent of older styles. We think it is better to draw influence from older groups and expand upon the foundations of death metal than to keep up with modern standards.

Will you be gracing us with your presence with a tour?

Yes, we hope to tour Europe in the future. We look forward to bringing our brand of Death Metal to a new audience as well as making friends in new places.

How do you compose these songs?

The songwriting process sets in much like an attack of diarrhea; an idea will hit Manny or Taylor, and it goes from there. The song starts usually in the form of death metal scatting (fa na na flum flum) and we finish each other’s song ideas and hash out the rest at practice.

What, in your view, is the “soul” of death metal?

Death metal serves the purpose of being a lens into the darkest side of humanity, and making light of the most disturbing things that humans can achieve. Without the outlet of Death Metal, the world would seem deceivingly positive.

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