Early death metal band Morpheus Descends is back in the action, with future tours lined up and a re-issue of its complete recordings heading to stores. The compilation From Blackened Crypts combines the full-length Ritual of Infinity with the two EPs that followed, Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones and The Horror of the Truth along with other rare recordings.
The box set includes, in addition to the 2CD digipak, two new and unreleased tracks wich will see issue as a separate 7″ entitled From Blackened Crypts and a DVD entitled Visage of Malady which contains tons of live footage as well as interviews with the band, accompanying a 11×17″ double-sided poster and 24-page booklet. The tracklist is:
1. Oozing from the Urn
2. The King’s Curse
3. The Way of All Flesh
4. Corpse Under Glass
5. Immortal Coil
7. Proclaimed Creator
8. Accelerated Decrepitude
9. Submerged in Adipocere
10. Enthralled to Serve
11. Ritual of Infinity
13. Accelerated Decrepitude
14. Triformed Limbs
15. Stigmatic Crucifixion
16. Residual Kill
17. Cairn of Dumitru demo 93
1. The Cruciform Hills
2. Cairn of Dumitru
3. Autumn Bleed
4. Signs of Gehenna
5. Moupho Alde Ferenc Yaborov
6. Begging for Possession
7. Valley of Undead War
8. Shaitan the Unborn
9. The Horror of the Truth
10. Corpse Under Glass (Live Reunion-Martrydoom)
13. Triformed Limbs
15. The Cruciform Hills pre-release ’94
16. Residual ’91
17. Autumn Bleeds ’93
Dark Descent Records announced the pre-order of a CD/DVD box set of classic underground death metal band Morpheus Descends (formerly Morpheus) featuring two CDs and a DVD including all past material from this formative act which influenced Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse and many other death metal bands from the early 1990s.
The box set will include, in addition to the 2CD digipak, two new and unreleased tracks wich will see issue as a separate 7″ entitled From Blackened Crypts and a DVD entitled Visage of Malady, as well as a 11×17″ double-sided poster and 24-page booklet. The tracklist is:
1. Oozing from the Urn
2. The King’s Curse
3. The Way of All Flesh
4. Corpse Under Glass
5. Immortal Coil
7. Proclaimed Creator
8. Accelerated Decrepitude
9. Submerged in Adipocere
10. Enthralled to Serve
11. Ritual of Infinity
13. Accelerated Decrepitude
14. Triformed Limbs
15. Stigmatic Crucifixion
16. Residual Kill
17. Cairn of Dumitru demo 93 Disc 2
1. The Cruciform Hills
2. Cairn of Dumitru
3. Autumn Bleed
4. Signs of Gehenna
5. Moupho Alde Ferenc Yaborov
6. Begging for Possession
7. Valley of Undead War
8. Shaitan the Unborn
9. The Horror of the Truth
10. Corpse Under Glass (Live Reunion-Martrydoom)
13. Triformed Limbs
15. The Cruciform Hills pre-release ’94
16. Residual ’91
17. Autumn Bleeds ’93
Today, Jeff Hanneman would have been fifty years old. The man who helped invent the sound that underlies all of underground death metal did not, as the people around him in the LA suburbs tend to do, waste his life away in repetition. Instead, he forged his own path and we celebrate him for it and the results of it.
Way back in 1983, as now, the holy grail of alienated music was the fusion of any two of its genres: metal, punk and industrial. Specifically there was great interest in using its guitar-based genres to create a new sound. Many people attempted to fuse metal and punk, and many credible sounds came out of it. One path was speed metal, which Metallica unleashed with Kill ‘Em All. Another was thrash, which DRI cut loose with Dirty Rotten LP. But still another was the foundation of death metal and black metal which was introduced by Slayer and refined the following year by Bathory, Hellhammer and Sodom.
Slayer took two things from punk and injected them into the prog-influenced songs structures of NWOBHM: they borrowed the constant tremolo strum, used by punk for drone, and the open drum patterns that allowed guitar to take the lead. Now a new style of music emerged. Rhythm guitar became the lead instrument, rapid-firing changing riffs at the audience while drums framed but did not lead the development. Riffs did not have to perfectly fit the drums which kept going in the background as a kind of timekeeper but not, as in most bands, a way of signaling the guitar to change. Further, riffs became phrasal, building on the longer chord progressions of Black Sabbath to become fully small melodies, developing in response to on another like classical motifs.
Music teachers, who were raised in the rock/jazz idea that drums lead and riffs should emphasize harmonic and a static melodic role, with the primary melodic role and lead instrument (and thus impetus for song “development”) being the voice, found Slayer to be unmusical. The record industry was appalled at this creation that unleashed the demonic side of life in such clarity; they make their money from selling happy illusions, not grim realities translated into elaborately conceived mythologies.
And yet it is this mythological tendency, dating back to “War Pigs,” that saves metal from self-consuming and burning out like hardcore punk. It is not literal; it is imaginative. It turns our focus from ourselves to the nature of power, history, nature and other forces larger than the individual, and then lets us imagine the greatness of participation in those. Where punk turned reality into a protest weapon and source of alienation, metal has turned it into a source of individual desire to do something epic with our lives. Slayer gave that mythological tendency a new voice, not just by singing about demons, vampires and The Holocaust, but by translating the sound of raw power into something you could throw on your bedroom hi-fi and be transported to a different world.
For this reason, Slayer captured the imagination of a generation and continues to enthrall us today. The early albums, which are completely written in horror movie mythology, incite in us a desire to see the hidden possibly occult underpinnings of a society gone insane. The Reign in Blood and afterwards material shows us a more punk-like grasp of all that terrifies us and sends us searching for reasons why, and if not why, how to use such things as war, murder and sadism in some constructive way. Slayer is not protest music; it acknowledges the horror, but doesn’t want to band us together into a drum circle to “stop” these horrors. It recognizes they are eternal. Instead, like the religion it loathed, Slayer drives us to find a way to accept these things as part of life itself, and look for a philosophy that shows us a reason to survive despite all these horrors.
Jeff Hanneman’s influence pervades the Slayer story. He wrote many of the band’s most epic and enduring songs, contributed the mythological outlook, and invented the musical changes described above. While he may be slighted by the Grammy’s, or ignored by a world of people seeking Shakira tunes instead of imaginative but realist metal, to those who can understand his trip — already a naturally elite group — Hanneman’s work is not just a source of wisdom, but of inspiration. In a world asleep, he stayed awake. In a world of imitation, he took his own path. Where most just wanted to participate for reward, he took on life at its most basic level and triumphed. For that reason, we’ll always celebrate his life and work.
An age of distrust.
What’s an oration of disorder? What most people think of as “order” consists in telling other people what they want to hear and then manipulating them. That’s how you sell them products. But the selling of products is the opposite of what art and listeners need, which is a harsh voice to tell us the truth.
Shroud of the Heretic – Revelations in Alchemy
From the latest attempt of the Incantation clone camp comes Shroud of the Heretic with an album that combines a subtle melodic sensibility and the roaring chordstream bassy tremolo riffs that define that style. What is great about this is that it brings out the doom metal aspects of doom-death and is willing to allow the thunder to build and create the sense of sonic tunnel vision that makes this style so crushing. Shroud of the Heretic specialize in letting the music breathe through two riffs in combat from which a third rises, allowing the majority of the song to be taken in the interplay between those two riffs and then connecting them to other possibilities before returning for the descent. Revelations in Alchemy aims more for a doom metal aesthetic than a death metal one, and so benefits from the kind of repetition and churn that would not have worked on an Incantation album. It does not offer the same intensity as the older albums its worships, but it provides an alternative to the modern metal of this time that is well-composed even if not outright thrilling and terrifying. Given that its goal is, like that of most doom metal, to slowly press you into earth with inescapable repetition, Shroud of the Heretic seems to be on a path toward that end.
James Labrie – I Will Not Break
Coming to us from Dream Theater, James Labrie knows his audience likes jazzy heavy metal with a focus on positive themes. It makes sense that Dream Theater’s heritage is half Iron Maiden and half Rush, because they adopt the rhythms and harmonies of the former while using the quasi-prog stylings and outlook of the latter. Labrie continues in this vein but with more of an alternative rock sense of melody, creating something that sounds like a hybrid between Queensryche, Foo Fighters, and the kind of inspirational alt-rock-folk music that makes it into Lifetime Movie Network films at the end, when the girl hooks up with the right boy and apologizes to her mother and maybe even, finds Church (or God if she’s lucky). The result is probably a perfect commercial product in that it makes you feel good, with a “positive message found in the unlikeliest of places” (NPR) just like Rush, but has a basically good rhythm and is melodically compelling enough to hum along. But, like fellow Canadian artist Bryan Adams, Labrie has also indulged in a cheese fest that takes him firmly out of metal and plants him into the category of adult-oriented radio rock for people who want something a little cheerful and a little “edgy.” Thus he has left the hall and entered the suburban living room, while a vacuum runs or taxes are done, and the kids are upstairs listening to Dead Infection.
Asgardsrei – Dark Fears Behind the Door
The distinctive ambient intro that opens this album remains one of the high points. While all of the elements are correct, like many post-genre bands, this is essential a mishmash of styles put into the framework of faster abrupt death metal. Many of the tropes here are familiar from black metal and death metal of the past two decades, but are put into a uniform flow of high-speed tremolo picking. There are some bizarre riffs here, and the band specialize in horror movie-sounding lengthy power chord phrases, but these often seem to lead nowhere. There’s a good aesthetic idea there, but for it to become musical, it must arise from the other riffs. Instead, it’s more like a tour of compartments on a train where each one offers something different but in roughly the same style and so it seems to add up, but ultimately it’s a search for the compartment with the interesting riff and that’s fairly random. As far as style, these guys have a distinctive one that’s all their own, despite being very retro to the point of outright allusion, but because of the way riffs are contexted as part of the overall rhythmic composition nothing stands out as out of place.
Subreality – Endless Horizons
Imagine Blind Illusion, kicked forward a half-generation and thus using deathy vocals over melodic but buoyantly regular speed metal. These six songs were recorded in 1996 and finally released in 2004 but they sound like they’re straight out of the days of later Kreator or any of the death-influenced speed metal of the late 1980s. If you live for 1980s speed metal and like the somewhat shaky instrumentals of the underground, as well as the hangovers from 1970s metal which infest this like a Dave Murray impersonators’ conference, this divergence into metal history might appeal. Rhythmically consistent, Subreality has found a few grooves it likes and stays within them, using the mid-paced beat to hang riffs from like tentpegs holding canvas. Many of these riffs anticipate patterns that Pantera would later use to make its own music, previously a glam hair band with extensive heavy metal stylings, seem more “tough” on its way to discovering bro-core. Like most speed metal that does not take the riff salad approach, this quickly heads toward repetition as a familiar comfort and sing-song choruses outlining the rhythms of the song title. Not only that, but in the worst of the European approaches to speed metal, this is strictly verse-chorus (w/occasional riff detours) music based on the pace of the vocals, so it develops slowly if at all and features heavy repetition. Some have said this is an underground classic. “Classic of what?” I might ask.
Grace Disgraced – Enthrallment Traced
If you combined later Carcass’ Necroticism with later Suffocation, and decided that from modern metal you’d take the twisted riffs that converge on themselves through intricate lead rhythm patterns and discard the true randomness, you might be on a path to Grace Disgraced. Despite its fondness for internally rhyming names, this band makes a noodly type of death metal hybrid that emphasizes a contrast between spidery lead riffs and djent style percussive single-string riff texture. These songs do well once they get started and maintain a solid internal correspondence and tension; the real challenge this band is going to face in the future is figuring out how to make these songs distinctive. Much gets lost in the wash of riffs, blast beats and interludes; without shaping these songs around some distinctive trope, as Suffocation did (but Carcass ultimately did not) they’re going to find themselves getting lost in the background noise. In addition, many of the riff types are highly similar between songs which leads to a further loss of distinctiveness. All instruments are well-played and songs hold together without becoming random although often it’s difficult to discern what they’re trying to say.
Adamus Exul – Arsenic Idols
The black metal that doesn’t sound like “post-metal” (emo, indie, shoegaze, metalcore) fully is generally built on the same model that later Gehenna and Gorgoroth built on, which is the churning sweep riff followed by a fast metal tremolo riff and over the top vocals. Adamus Exul makes a competent bid for this style and generally does it well but adorn it in so many other decorations that it becomes hard to tell where each song is going. In that there’s a revelation; these songs introduce themselves well, and deepen the experience with internal richness, but never manage to pick a place to go. Thus the band uses a lot of radical percussion and decoration to transition out of each song. By the last two tracks on the album, Adamus Exul have almost totally lost concentration and/or their hoard of ideas, and the release trails off into gibberish and leftover speed metal tropes. The first four tracks however show some potential as a musical experience but fall short of exposing themselves to the raw nihilism of black metal, in which they can no longer hide in the world of what is socially valued, but most confront the emptiness of life itself and the need to give it meaning through finding purpose which is not necessarily inherent. That is lost here and so what has promise ends up being an entertaining and aesthetically distracting experience but never leads to any profundity which might give this album staying power, even if it is better in technique and composition than most of what crosses my desk.
Malevolent Supremacy – Malevolent Supremacy
Looking at this title, you might think: middle of the road death metal with deathgrind influences. That indeed describes Malevolent Supremacy, who write songs around the blast-beat buildup and breakaway much as the Skinless-style bands did, but instead of aiming for slouchy brocore grooves, Malevolent Supremacy like high-speed riffs and clattering drums racing to a conclusion. These riffs rip along at the high speeds you might expect from the second Vader album and do fall into grooves, just not the simplistic bouncecore ones favored in fraternity houses and meth dens worldwide. Songs are well staged and unravel with some subtlety. However, this band relies too much on vocals to lead the guitars, which is backwards, and have a tendency to build up perfectly good songs only to extrude them into repetition as a way of preserving whatever mood was created. Too many flourishes on guitar also interrupt what would be, if stripped down and allowed to breathe as themselves, some powerful death metal songs. The frenetic approach rarely works because it smooshes all of that nice death metal textural complexity into a single background drone, which then requires the vocals get dramatic to compensate, but that doesn’t work so perfectly workable song structures get interrupted with “contrast” that amounts to fast breaks and quick turns to evade the attention of the listener. This band has potential but should probably try another tack.
Queen V – The Decade of Queen V
Flopping into the metal pile because guitars are used, Queen V should be filed instead under 1968 style music: brassy female vocalist, ironic songs, lots of hook and some boom. This is music designed for movies in that I can’t imagine anyone sitting down to something this unsubtle and finding meaning in it, but it would be something that a brain-dead leech like a movie producer might use to symbolize a character having a rebellious moment in between blowing her boss and getting mugged by hipsters. The music itself is crass and obvious. It whallops you over the head and howls at you. Nothing in it is poorly-executed, but as a judgment call, it seems to be designed for either people who have trouble digesting five-note runs or who like to play loud music to assert their personalities while they shower, mow lawns, mope over breakups or other drama. That erects a barrier for metal fans who would probably find it unsubtle and repetitive, but this might appeal to people who like Tracy Chapman and Liz Phair and other strong female vocalists with very simplified points to make.
Grave – Endless Procession of Souls
On the surface, this album is like later Fleshcrawl or Dismember works, a big warm hug of fuzzy Swedish distortion and adorably principled misanthropy. It stays within the traditional death metal style, but imports a lot of its song structure and riff from speed metal, which means there’s more chugging and bounce on this one. There’s also too much reliance on vocals leading the rhythm guitar and, while contrast is generally a good thing, too much contrast that is wholly unrelated to what went before and therefore seems more like an unmarked subway stop than a discovery of something sublime and previously obscure. For many who remember the speed metal of the late 1980s, a lot of this will seem paint by number: riff etches out a chord progression, counter-balances it with some unique feature like a melodic hook, and chorus re-hashes what is implied by the riff. Songs rip along and might warm you up on a chilly day for their uptempo but not pointless faster consistency. Like At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul, most songs focus around a family of similar rhythms which gives this album a very consistent feel. Many of the patterns on here show a strong Celtic Frost influence, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As an album, it is not detestable and definitely is better than the majority of stuff out there, but it may lack the clarity and unique articulation that makes people want to throw it on the player in the first place, which is much how I feel toward later Fleshcrawl and Dismember.
Nebiros / Nekromanteion – In Command Tenebrae split 7″
The new black metal underground has mixed the 1980s style of black metal with some of the more punk-influenced elements of death metal, creating a new style that is equal parts Angelcorpse and Venom, Bathory and GBH. Nebiros leads in with a track of fast storming proto-black metal in the Sarcofago style, complete with emulation of the “catch-up” drum fills which filled in the space between uneven length guitar tracks and the drums which were recorded later. This song rips through several quick riffs, then slides into a groove like one that early Samael might have used, before trailing out in a blaze of reprise of earlier riffs. Nekromanteion begins with a more melodic ripping death metal approach, using a grand riff to instill a sense of rhythm that explodes outward in a combination of two riffs, an open percussive riff more like something on a hardcore album, and a Norwegian-style minor key melodic riff. The result cycles after this point before ending in a processional riff that contrasts its initial theme. This goes for a softer approach with more atmosphere than the Nebiros track, which is why the two complement each other well. It’s hard to tell from this limited sample whether these bands are able to develop more material that maintains this level of interest, but for a starting gambit this 7″ shows a lot of what is missing in contemporary metal and two styles that can render it.
Grindcore as a genre started out incredibly strong but unfortunately has grown stale with copycat bands and hipsters. By remembering those who made the genre great, we may inspire the genre to create great works once more.
An early runner in the grindcore genre, Florida’s Assück were one of the first bands to fuse grindcore’s rhythmic intensity and youthful energy with elements of the phrasal and percussive riffing of death metal. The combination would later become “deathgrind.” Assück additionally was staffed by remarkably proficient musicians.
Blindspot was released in 1992, a year after their landmark debut, Anticapital. This short EP shows a continuation of Assück’s style from the album, but nevertheless maintains interest throughout, due in no small part to the enthralling percussion. Drumming displays a wide breadth of styles masterfully integrated into the framework of simple grindcore rhythms. Often, it will interact directly with the riffs, mirroring the attack of each chord with a percussive element. The riffing is a potent fusion of hardcore punk power chord bashing, harsh dissonance, and death metal inspired chunkiness. Vocals are a hardcoreinspired growl, similar in ways to Napalm Death or Blood’s vocals.
This entire release is over in about seven minutes, but that is all that is required. What many modern grind bands can learn from this EP is how complete the release sounds. Despite how short it is, if it had gone on a few minutes longer it would be tedious? had it been shorter there would have been development issues in the songwriting. This is the true essence of grindcore – composing not just short songs, but short songs that are coherent in their structure and intent. By striking a balance between grindcore’s chaotic extremity and death metal’s emphasis on coherent riff construction, Assück has continued to remain a fan favorite and influence. This EP only helps to cement their legacy.
The question of why humans invented music—and continue to be enthralled by it—has long puzzled scholars. While some, including Charles Darwin, have guessed it grew out of a courtship ritual, recent research has focused on its ability to strengthen bonds within a community. Think military marches, or fight songs at a football game.
I disagree. In my view, music is a cognitive hack. It taps into a number of different pre-existing ways that our brain uses to interact with and make sense of the external world, not least our inherent hard wiring for pattern recognition and the (evolutionarily useful) enjoyment of discovery, surprise and invention.
Steven Pinker calls it “auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of at least six of our mental faculties.” Its ability to harmonize a social group is secondary, or at least in historical terms probably came after the psychological/cognitive side of things. Music’s social functions aren’t the reason for our having music in the first place, but are consequent to its tangible nature and the internal responses it produces in us.
Musicians do well [supposedly] in the evolutionary stakes, not just because music works for humans like feathers do for a peacock: ostentation/display of a purely secondary characteristic that doesn’t really do anything by itself, but communicates “I have so much spare resources to expend I can put effort into this pointless shit and still be walking around in one piece — I must be a worthy mate!”, but more-so because a sensitivity for music demonstrates a mind that’s strong at apprehending pattern and detail; kind of like success in sport demonstrates physical fitness.
Sociological explanations of music almost always confuse causation and correlation, not to mention that the research methods often sound a bit phoned-in; check out this from the study mentioned in the above linked article:
112 adults recruited online filled out a series of surveys. One measured their “need to belong,” asking them to agree or disagree with such statements as “If other people don’t seem to accept me, I don’t let it bother me.” A second measured their emotional reactivity by assessing their agreement with such statements as “I get upset easily.”
A third survey measured their emotional and physical reactions to music. The researchers found their response to music has a “unique predictor” of the need to belong, above and beyond their general emotionality. In short, those who reported a greater need to belong also tended to have more intense involvement with music.”
I don’t doubt the findings (although it’s not unknown for academics to fake research to get the conclusion they want), but I wouldn’t be willing to base a theory of music’s origin on them. This case may boil down to a question of origins within the individual versus the social functions that allowed society to tolerate music. In other words, origins versus utility.
The information seems to paint a pretty narrow picture of music and of certain types of people. Yes, some music is part of a social experience, but some however is a very private pleasure. Many great musicians spend a great deal of their time introverted and happily practicing by themselves, something that simply wouldn’t make sense if this study’s conclusions were more broadly evident.
In a similar way, sociological studies of metal have always missed the mark, because they view the social as primary, rather than seeing that people might listen to a certain type music for, ye know, the music. For some sorts of music — the kind where the actual music doesn’t matter beyond a few simple features (e.g. 4/4 kick drum accent on every beat, easy melody, interchangeable lyrics about partying, sex etc) — the social experience is undoubtedly about all there is to it.
For something like metal, which takes a bit of effort to construct and to get into it’s a different story. In these case people usually get into the music because certain melodic shapes, harmonies, disharmonies, timbres, trigger off a kind of deep rooted psychological semiotics, coupled with some semi-learnt information on musical forms – and the feelings and ideas that these together help communicate appeals to them. The music symbolizes some emotion or idea that they find meaningful.
While that is closest to the idea of social harmonization as proposed by this article, it’s also entirely different in that there is not a central social force causing people to harmonize to it. Rather, there’s an offering, like a flower with bright colors, and bees of their own volition come to take its message (pollen) along with its appeal (nectar).
Looking at some of the most obvious descriptions we tend to attach to metal music: ‘assertive’, ‘violent’, ‘primitive’… Perhaps these descriptors aren’t really all that arbitrary or socially-defined; rather the music really does hearken back to things you could fairly associate with those descriptions.
Imagine the sounds of primates screaming at each other as they bite and tear shreds off one another, the din of battle, etc. These impressions embedded somewhere inside our psychology from generations past are brought to the forefront by metal. If rock ‘n roll is the rhythm of sex, then metal is the rhythm of battle, of running, of methodically tracking then pounding the skulls in of prey.
Add this to the cognitive ‘cheesecake’ delight that music is designed to excite, then metal becomes that feeling of a fight well fought, of victory, of dinner time after a successful hunt, and all the resulting endorphin rushes that all these things would’ve induced in our ancestors. Which takes me back to the cognitive hack: metal sounds like life, but turned up to 11.
Back in the early days of death metal, it was fun to spin some contrast on the radio. Start out with the phrasal bands like Morbid Angel and Slayer, work up to something percussion like Deicide or Suffocation, then drop into the doom-death. Somewhere in there, Obituary, Asphyx, Incantation, and Morpheus Descends all got displayed.
The latter was a puzzler since it was grim, primitive and primal, yet thoughtful and very distant from the normal everyday lives most people aspired to. It was truly music to keep the listener outside the arc of society’s concerns, guilt and manipulations, and for many of us it was deliverance. It blended into the other death metal as if it belonged there, a distinct voice that yet upheld a shared spirit.
Morpheus Descends was thus for many of us a go-to band when we wanted the old school underground sound. Music from beyond this world, it chanted dark praises of outsider viewpoints on reality while crushing our heads with intensely grinding, explosive riffs. It is with great pleasure that after many years, I am finally able to interview Rob Yench/Xul of this massive underground cult…
Morpheus Descends appeared early in the death metal movement. What were you influences, and how did you conceive of the then-new musical style you were creating?
Before forming Morpheus, we were all in local area bands, Ken and I did a Voivod / DBC styled band called “Volitle Zylog”, Sam, Steve and Craig were all in a band called “Infectious Waste.” During the summer of 1990 we played an outdoor show together with a few other area bands. At the show we were talking to each other about the bands we were all interested in, as it turned out our tastes were very similar. When Ken and I heard “Infectious Waste” do a Pestilence cover we talked with the three of them right after the show and we decided to start a death metal band. A month later the five of us had all quit the bands we were in and formed “Morpheus.” Our first practice was on October 31st, 1990. Our style was based on what we listened to at the time, late 80s & early 90s bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Obituary, Napalm Death and our earlier influences like Black Sabbath, Voivod, Kreator and Celtic Frost. Once we became a band and played shows we started to meet other bands who shared the same goals, also playing many shows with our peers shaped the style known as New York Death Metal.
Were you among the creators of this genre? What do you think your contributions were?
All the previous mentions plus so many more helped create the genre but I will limit my scope to the bands that grew out of the scene that we were part of; Suffocation, Immolation, Mortician, Incantation, Ripping Corpse, Prime Evil, Human Remains, Nokturnel, Gorephobia, Deceased and Apparition (Sorrow). I don’t really measure what our contributions were to the genre except to say that I think the best reflection of what we have done as a band in Death Metal scene is all the people who still come up to us or still contact us online to tell us how much the band’s music means to them. We played a lot of shows in many states and even Mexico from 1990 – 1997, so I think we reached a lot of people in a time when Death Metal was “electric”.
I noticed that Suffocation seemed to have quite a bit of influence from Morpheus (Descends), with Terrance Hobbs wearing a Morpheus t-shirt on Effigy of the Forgotten and using one riff that seems similar to one of the riffs on Ritual of Infinity. Do you think you influenced Suffocation? Who else do you think you influenced?
Both bands were very good friends in the early 90s; we played our first show with them in Buffalo NY. After that it seemed like every weekend for a while, they either drove to our hometown to hangout or we drove to Long Island to hang with them. We would share ideas and jam with each other and show one another riffs and songs we had been working on. I think we are about as much an influence to Suffocation and much as Suffocation was and influence to us. The same things could be said for a lot of the other death metal bands from NY around that time too.
They’re talking about a “big five” of death metal bands doing a tour. Why do you think Morpheus Descends isn’t out there? What makes a death metal band popular more than others?
First and foremost I think the more popular DM bands of our era were signed to bigger labels (EARACHE, ROADRUNNER, NUCLEAR BLAST, METAL BLADE). We worked with a much smaller, less successful record label (JL AMERICA). With more promotion, bigger distribution and record company help; they also landed US and European tours. We did do some touring but not to the extent that a lot of those bands got to do. So they were much more accessible to fans in a time before the internet was so popular. We did EVERYTHING ourselves, touring, merchandise and even pressing. Outside of JL releasing the CD it was all 100% DYI.
Can you tell us the story behind your name change from Morpheus to Morpheus Descends? What happened to the other Morpheus?
JL had RED for distribution; they got a call that from RED that they wouldn’t be able to distribute the Morpheus CD because they already had a band of that name in their catalog. This band was some “gay” techno band, we did try to fight it but JL basically told us change the name or it will not be released. We had always planned to write a song called “Morpheus Descends”, so after some discussions we made the name change and never looked back.
You signed with JL America for your first album, which ended up being a rough path. What happened there? How would you do it differently if you had to “do it over”?
Well since NO other labels had any serious interest in us, it was a good choice. We got our music out to a lot of people that we would have never reached doing it ourselves. It may not have been exactly the record deal we were looking for but at least people saw the CD at stores and bought it. This is part of the reason for our notoriety today; you could buy the CD in most big record store chains at the time. Also it was distributed overseas as well. As far as doing it differently, it would have taken a better record label to have stepped and worked with us, which didn’t happen so there is no regrets when it comes to our history.
One of the things that stuck with me from Ritual of Infinity was the formal language you used for the titles. “Proclaimed Creator,” “Enthralled to Serve,” and “Ritual of Infinity” set a standard which other bands especially in New York aspired to. Where did you get the idea to write song titles this way?
Many of the songs you mention, we came up with the song title first; then we would talk about the concept of the lyrics; then Sam would write the lyrics around those ideas. I think that is why the titles sound so “formal”, we wanted the names of the songs to provoke interest in wanting to hear the songs. We stayed away from the simple titles of blood and gore and concentrated on making the titles and lyrics more interesting to the listener.
Is “Accelerated Decrepitude” a reference to Blade Runner? Were there other non-musical works that influenced you greatly? What about non-metal bands?
No, Blade Runner was not really an influence for this song. Progeria, the rare genetic condition that produces rapid aging in children was really the thought when we wrote the song as well as the artwork we used for the demo of the same name. Our take on it was that at birth the infant was already a century old, ancient and decrepit. I do not really think any non-metal bands are an influence to us, but we did listen to a lot of Wesley Willis when we traveled.
After Ritual of Infinity, Morpheus Descends came out with two very powerful EPs, Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones and The Horror of the Truth. Each of those had its own character. How do you see the band as changing during that time?
Yes, each MCD has a distinct sound and each time it was a reflection of the lineup at the moment and direction we would move in. We wanted to distance ourselves from a lot of the saturation of death metal bands of the mid 90’s, many were all using the same template as successful bands but really lacking their own identities. Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones was the first time we had time in the studio and did not have to rush ourselves; we developed a lot of ideas and had a real good time creating the music. It was also a transition time in the band; Sam and I became the main song writers and that is why you hear such a difference in the music. This music became much darker and doom laden than our previous endeavors.
When it came time to record Horror of the Truth more changes occurred; we had parted ways with Jeff our vocalist as well as our second guitar player Brian. Tom Stevens had recently joined the band as the replacement to Brian Johnson and then filled the vocal spot as well. So now the band had a different configuration and we went to Cleveland to record with our longtime friend Brian Seklua. The songs on that MCD were much faster and contain furious guitar solos; this was in contrast to the style of Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones. This would be the last recording we would do together as a band and I think the release didn’t get the exposure that it deserved. This was all shortly before the band disbanded, I would have liked to have seen where we could have gone with that lineup and sound.
Do you have any current plans for resurrection, touring, recording, etc? I see you’re set up for Martyrdoom Fest. Who’s in the lineup, and what expectations/hopes do you have?
We are taking things slow, things feel real good in rehearsals and it is sounding like Morpheus Descends should sound. This is very important to us to deliver what the band should sound like and to do justice to the legacy the band has become to Death Metal fans around the world. The lineup is the 4 of the original members from the MORPEHUS 1990 inception lineup. Sam Inzera, Rob Yench, Craig Campbell and Ken Faggio, Steve Hanson was not able to be a part of the reunion. Steve lives in Florida and when we started talking about making this happen we called him to see if he would like to be a part of this “return.” As much as he would have liked to do this, the distance is the real hurdle to work around; Steve did give this his “unholy blessing” and wished us the best!
After Martyrdoom, we are planning to work on some new songs for possible 2014 EP release. We have already exchange riff ideas and it sounds very Morpheus Descends!! Also there is a possibility in 2014 for more shows too but nothing confirmed as of yet.
What do you think of the state of death metal now? Is it fair to divide death metal into “old school death metal” and “modern death metal,” which is the term people use for the new style which has hardcore breakdowns, prog-math-metal riffs, and lots of sweeps?
There is a distinct difference between the two types of Death Metal you speak of; I myself am not really a fan of the “modern” death metal sound. I prefer what I grew up with and what feels comfortable to me. This is not meant to be a “dis” on this style but it is just not for me.
In your view, what are the bands who really shaped death metal into what it was, and what does death metal stand for? Does it have something to communicate, or is it just slightly weird music?
Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Death, Entombed, Carcass and Obituary would be some of the best known pioneers of the genre. As far as any deep meaning the music, I think each person has their own interpretation of what this means to each of them. For me it has been a way of life, family, work and Metal !!
Do you have any plans to re-release your older material?
There are plans in the works for some really cool stuff, but I will bite my tongue for now until things are more solid than at the moment. We want everything we do to be of quality and something that would be fitting in any MD fans collection!!
Members of Morpheus Descends have gone on to form a number of projects, including Mausoleum. How do these differ from Morpheus Descends, and do they reflect things you learned from the Morpheus Descends experience?
I play in four bands; Morpheus Descends, Mausoleum, Engorge and Typhus, Sam has Morpheus Descends, Mortician and Funerus. Ken does Morpheus Descends, Rooms of Ruin and Cabal 34. We have also done session work and played in a few other bands too but you see we are very immersed in Metal!! The bands we do are all different than Morpheus Descends, but what has been learned by me is to work with people and let each person express themselves and have input in all aspects of the process. Morpheus Descends was the “boot camp” for knowing how things work and what doesn’t.
How were the songs on Ritual of Infinity composed? They’re like mazes of riffs. Did you start with a riff, or an idea, or a story, or an image? How did you compose these mind-twisting tunes?
This was a time in the band when everyone was throwing riffs out there, we just kept sewing the riffs together and making things work and it ended developing into a style where we rarely returned to a riff once it was played in the song. When I listen back sometimes, I hear some riffs and I think “wow we could have done more with this riff!!” All in all though this is what helped made us unique.
What do you listen to currently?
OK here is what is in my playlist as I am doing this interview Repuked, Anatomia, Scaremaker, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motorhead, Manowar, new Mausoleum songs, Deceased, Sadistic Intent, Slayer, Nekrofilth and Midnight !!
Thanks, Rob, and good luck in the future with all of your bands!
I would assume that living in Salt Lake City, Utah would drive one mad. I’ve spent some time there last year, but I wouldn’t be able to maintain my sanity living around Mormons. Salt Lake City also has restrictions on alcohol content, with most beers having 3.2%. One way around such an obstacle is to sneak onto Hill Air Force Base (granted, if you have a military ID) and utilize one of their shoppettes to obtain normal booze. In my scenario of having a moody woman dictating my time while there, much booze was consumed. At least the mountains in the area are beautiful and I had the opportunity to go hiking away from the dreadful Mormons.
During my stay there I was acquainted with Dyingnysus from the bands Iconoclast Contra, Gravecode Nebula, Odium Totus, Krieg and others. I was invited to go to the recording session for the Odium Totus EP Nullam Congue Nihil, but I was unable to attend (conflict: moody woman mentioned in the previous paragraph). However, Mr. Dyingnysus sent me the cd after it was finished and the final product is quite good. It’s a nice strain of meditative black metal with a rather militant concept behind it.
After hearing this release I figured that it’d be suiting to pick Dyingnysus’ brain about his exploits.
Howdy Dyingnysus. Thank you for your time. First I’d like to inquire about the city that you reside in. How horrible is it to live in Salt Lake City being that it’s the Mormon capital? Is Black Metal well accepted there? What about the lackluster alcohol content in beer? Do you disappear to the mountains or salt flats when the Mormons drain you of your sanity? Or do you wage war with them?
Howdy to you as well and thank you for your time and efforts with the interview. Well, to start off obviously living in a place like Salt Lake City presents certain challenges that can seem difficult to handle. I know some folks who cannot whatsoever and have fled and never looked back. I’ve grown up in Southern California personally, so I know what else is out there of course, and of course I have come to realize in my travels just how really different Salt Lake is from other cities in the country. Honestly the reason why I stay here, well besides the obvious; family/friends, work and the bands etc, but there is some other reasons, cost of living is reasonable, I don’t have to worry about traffic, crime or other things I consider in other bigger cities to be quite substandard; the absence of ghetto’s/projects here is a big plus. I mean we have shitty neighborhoods but nothing like what you see in other cities. The liquor laws are a bit strange here, I’ll explain. The beer alcohol content is 3.2% by volume per can (which Utah is not the only one with 3.2% beer, there are 18 what they call “controlled liquor states” out there). So, in other states they measure by weight and if you were to measure Utah beer by weight it is actually 4.3% per can. Our local micro brews here are quite good too. All in all the beer is not as drastically weak as people are lead to believe. I mean you can get drunk drinking it. Another quirky thing is that if you want to get hard liquor or an out of state style beer, you have to visit a Utah State Liquor store and the prices are marked up quite a bit, especially on brands like Jack Daniels etc. Plus they close early, around 10pm and are closed Sunday, although you can visit a bar to get a strong drink on Sunday, last call is 1 am.
I don’t have too many dealings with Mormons or LDS people as you would think really, a lot of them live out in the suburbs and I live in the city, which only the wealthy Mormons live around the Salt Lake City proper really. I mean yes, they are all over the place though, and you’ll see them that is for sure. They are some of the most diluted happy go lucky idiots I have ever had witness to. I mainly just steer clear and don’t care to engage them often, or at least seek to. It is strange living in a religious capital at times, but that being said, I think if anything it benefits the music as we really have something to rally against. You are right in some of your assumptions that it can make you fairly agitated and pissed off to deal with the LDS influence and church here and some of the other quirks. I do not seek direct aggravated confrontation with Mormons typically like I said but I do try to make them uncomfortable in public, like in social situations hahah, that’s really about it. Black Metal is not a huge part of the music scene here really too much, and there have been bands come and go over the years. Still there is a small, albeit dedicated scene.
Congratulations on your Odium Totus EP Nullam Congue Nihil. I was rather enthralled by it when I first heard it during my commute to work. How did the concept of this project start? What are your goals?
Thank you, it is much appreciated! I’m pleased you were able to get a good connection with the music even whilst doing an activity we all do mostly every day, the morning commute! Odium Totus pretty much came into existence after a few rehearsals with the drummer Rick and me in May of 2011. At that point I believe we were at an impasse with other bands we were playing in, so the idea to just start something new seemed intriguing and I had some material that was sort of in the back of my mind and I also wanted to play in a band that owed more stylistically to the traditional black metal I grew up with, but also mixing in some of my more untypical influences, which basically includes a lot of classic, psychedelic, progressive and death rock stuff. I was also interested to start singing in a band as well, because I had a ton of lyrics written that I never got to use for anything and that sort of kicked the whole thing off more or less. Soon after these initial rehearsals we had gotten a few songs written. At this point my wife Kate joined on rhythm guitar and our bassist Micah as well. Overall goals are to keep playing live shows, and in fact taking our music to the people and to be a tight live band is a actually a very big goal as well as develop some more visual aspects to the show and to keep challenging ourselves to come up with darker more spacey tripped out music. Other goals include more shows; especially in other cities, more new music and records etc. We’ll see where the road takes us basically!
I noticed that the riffs on the EP are somewhat primitive, but have a meditative quality to them. How did you approach the song compositions?
I like that you take notice of that particular approach, in so much as keeping things simple in a sense. It is usually the best way for me to compose riffs on the guitar keeping that principle in mind. I think when you are more concerned with virtuosity as opposed to the moods and feelings that you are trying to convey with your music, the more the music loses that sort of atmosphere. So with that in mind, a lot of our riffs seem pretty straightforward in some respects yes. I mean, typically I just pick up a guitar and start strumming chords, sometimes I have an idea I am trying to get out of my head, but sometimes not, and whatever seems to work; if something particularly catches my ear I’ll file away for use in a song we are starting or working on etc. If it doesn’t seem ready though but has some quality I still think is worth pursuing, then I’ll work on it some more. Typically I will have at least 2-3 riffs prepared, before I work with our drummer. Although in some cases I have brought in fully written songs. Now at this point, usually it’s just me and the drummer at first to write the core of the song and then we bring in the rhythm section and flesh it out more. Some of the riffs come from that process as well, improvised or on the spot.
As of the genesis of this band, I have written a good deal of the guitar riffs, although our drummer is starting to come up with more in the newer material, which is always welcome. I am a very willing collaborator with the other people I play music with. I do not always want to be the one writing etc. I think the meditative quality you speak of comes from some of the stranger chords I am using these days, certain jazz chords as well as ideas in chords that were used by some bands in the 60’s and 70’s. You notice that in those decades, bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson or Hawkwind for example had to figure out a way to build a big space with their music with the limited boundaries of the equipment they were using. Now you can have a lot of that with a push of a button, but we try to approach it the way those bands did. It seems you just do that by layering the instruments in such a way that it comes across strong and full of dense atmosphere. Of course a lot of echo/delay helps too don’t get me wrong!
I sense a rather nihilistic underpinning in Odium Totus. What are your thoughts on Nihilism? Do you think metal is the best weapon to encompass nihilistic themes?
Oh for certain, there is a common theme along anything I do creatively and Nihilism is always at the heart of it. It’s hard to characterize my thoughts on Nihilism in a sense, since when you think of it as a concept, it’s hard to wrap your head around really overall as it is quite multi-faceted. Does Nihilism mean for some people that, anything goes? For certain it does, and does it also mean that you do not believe in one simple tangible thing? Possibly!
I think one of the facets of Nihilism I value the most is that is pretty open ended and doesn’t need answers unto itself to be defined. I was talking with someone about how it is pretty hard to offend me deeply and truly, I mean other than my own petty selfish things that I get offended about, but I mean on a much larger scale with I guess just existence in general and the bullshit we have to deal with day to day. I don’t get too offended by the actions of a great number of people, past and present. Sure, I can certainly laugh or be disgusted with the absurdity and effrontery of such things, but usually I just shake my head though. It’s like the only way to keep my sanity, because if I started to care too deeply or to take it all at face value like many do, I’d go absolutely fucking nuts! That also helps in regards to people around me; I don’t care too deeply for what other people think of my outlooks and such, just as I don’t really care too much for theirs a lot of the time.
Philosophically, Nihilism is rooted in skepticism overall. For some, it means a total break from what is real or not real for that matter. Truth is not an absolute. So that part of it appeals to me too. When considering a Nihilistic view point in society, meaning all structures, organizations, whether they are religious or socio-political in nature are meaningless, or at least are rejected outright, that is kind of like a comfort in a way too ya know? It’s basically saying fuck everything, and everyone! No one has gotten it right. Also you can come at Nihilism from a destructive angle as well, like senseless destruction is considered to be nihilistic in nature right? At least we are kind instructed to think that way. Overall, it’s stark, strong and its cold, it’s really almost too realistic, without caring about reality. It’s really the only salvation for humanity, and thus, not a salvation in itself at all. Why care? Why concern ourselves with Utopian discourse? There is no point. I certainly do think that any sort of thoughtful music can convey Nihilistic messages and musings, philosophically or hatefully in the manner. Whether it be metal/rock, blues/jazz, classical, noise/electronic music, (I omit popular, hip hop and modern country music as I think it is counter-productive to include them as musical art forms).
You’ve done session work with Krieg. How would you define the American Black Metal scene? Which are your favorite bands?
I have done several live performances with Neill and Krieg now yes, even a short tour down the west coast (which Odium Totus did some dates as well) but no recordings yet, we are working on that, eventually we will do a EP. Hmmm, hard to define the scene overall, as some days I don’t even care to be associated with it. I don’t look at “American Black Metal” as phenomena stylistically unto itself as you could with say Norwegian or Finnish Black Metal for example etc. Still, it doesn’t matter on a level to me, when some people are interested in saying “the scene.” Really, truthfully, like everything in America, it is but a melting pot, a hodge-podge of several different musical styles, death, thrash, doom, heavy metal. It all came from Europe first, the basic heavy metal right? That much is true! That is what I find pretty ironic is that the Europeans, the British especially, took all this great music that was originated in American heritage and folk tradition, and just fed it back to us a little heavier and with fuzz pedals! It all comes from old Country, Jazz, and the Blues right? The rock and roll, and metal music, the blues especially was the catalyst for all of that music. The first doom metal is the blues jack, and that is the truth. Anyhow, bands I like from America (and none of these are blues and/or neo-psychedelic bands) are (the) Krieg, Ritual Combat, Nightbringer, Evoken, Grave Ritual, Velnias, Icon Of Phobos, Kommandant and many others. I can’t keep going on naming bands, because someone gets offended if I miss them. I’m sure I’ll lose friends all the time, so sad really (yes, being sarcastic)
Your other band Iconoclast Contra is reminiscent of War Metal more than Black Metal. Which genre is it? How would you place in juxtaposition the themes displayed to your personal beliefs? Do you believe humanity is worthy of extinguishing through war? If so, why?
As of now, I have resigned with Iconoclast Contra. We can get into all the reasons why, but it is nothing sensational, I just lost interest in participating, and truth be told it really wasn’t active enough to keep me interested anymore. Musically you are right; it is the war metal sound, with elements of thrash/death stuff. While a lot of that music is great and I dig a lot of bands of that style no doubt, it’s just not what I am into playing anymore. I just think I am more partial to playing my best when I do stuff like Odium Totus or the other band I am in, Gravecode Nebula, which is like the music that I think identifies me personally much better. The whole concept and ideas with Iconoclast Contra, for my part certainly, was a sort of heretical diatribe against humanity, and cleansing humanity with destruction, total and utter destruction, which goes back to a lot of the nihilistic beliefs and outlooks I possess.
As for humanity being extinguished completely? I think a catastrophic event is necessary and around the corner probably! War is probably what will happen, but be it war, or more of a natural phenomenon as long as it has the chance kick human beings back into their place or to eradicate them completely I’m fine with it if that is how it goes down, nothing can prevent the end of something if it is set in motion to happen. I will say that it would certainly make us more respectable beings if we survived a great catastrophe I would think, can’t be certain on that either though. Time will tell.
You previously played with Ibex Throne and released two albums. Why did the project stop? Was there a line-up issue, or did you conceptualize something new that you wanted to unleash? The original vocalist of Ibex Throne killed himself. Did this change your outlook on the band?
Ibex Throne was my first main band that really consumed a large part of my life (little shy of 10 years) we released two demos, and two albums. It was like my boot camp and where I cut my teeth ya know? The group towards the end was musically and ideologically/philosophically all pointing to different directions, and to me, it was time to move on especially. I didn’t have anything more to offer those guys, and vice versa. It wasn’t personal issues that came into it too much; I mean not that I can say. I think we all were just tired of that band. It was good while it lasted, and there were some memorable times for certain. I don’t care to comment too much on details of the member who committed suicide. It’s very old news for me now, and I’ve moved on. I will just say that it didn’t affect the band with our music or lyrics at any point, we never used it is a selling point and/or gimmick, and it is not in any way a reason as to why we are not together now; he killed himself very early on in the beginning of the group when we are all very young.
What’s ahead for your projects in the near future? Will Odium Totus come out with a full-length album?
Gravecode Nebula has an album coming out on Baneful Genesis Records this year called “Sempiternal Void.” We also are playing the Denver Doom Fest III in Colorado with tons of killer bands, and I think after that, it will either cease to exist or continue to create, I can’t say as of now. Odium Totus has time booked in May to record for a 7” EP called Let It All End. We hope to have released this summer, which will feature two new songs. Right now we are currently working on a full length record as well, we have about 3-4 songs in the works, and 3-4 on the way after that and we are currently on hiatus from live shows so we can focus on songwriting and rehearsals for the next few months, then it is back to the stage this summer, looking to get some shows setup right now, you can always keep an eye on our exploits via our Facebook pages:
Thank you for answering our questions. Anything else that you’d like to share?
Hey no problem, thanks for taking the time to prepare an interview for us, we appreciate the support and the chance to spread some awareness about Odium Totus, Gravecode Nebula and The Flying Burrito Brothers etc. Keep an eye out for more new records, and more shows from Odium Totus, we will be coming to play near you, in the near future! You can fucking god damn well be assured of that!! Diehard and kill!
Every age has its conventions that set a target for those who aspire to success. When they achieve a fulfillment of those conventions, the aspirants have entered the elite and expect great reward to follow.
In our time, “progressive” rock has returned with a vengeance in the metal/hardcore world. It takes two types; the avant-garde type cycles between radically different riffs in an attempt to open the mind through contrast, while the jazz-type builds on a jam and then breaks it up with contrasting riffs to keep the jam going without becoming circular. De Profundis is of this second type.
What comes to mind when hearing this record is that Cynic and Atheist put their second and third albums into a room and nine months later, out popped De Profundis. This band mixes metal riffs of several different types with a cocktail jazz ambiance and plenty of delicious lead guitar, but builds up tension and release much like a hard rock band from the late 1980s.
The result is very easy to listen to. The jazz format is the most efficient for musicians, as it doesn’t require creation of custom song structures like other prog does, and it absorbs basically anything you can throw at it. De Profundis throw everything in there, from Satriani-esque quick pentatonic runs to dark minor key improvisation, and the result will enthrall people who like a high degree of internal contrast in their layered music.
Like dub or a really free-form jazz jam, De Profundis songs revolve around a central conflict that encounters interruptions which lead back to the theme. It’s the interruptions that are the main course, ironically enough, because these allow extended rhythm leads and leads that showcase the playing skills here.
It’s a slight to this band to call them “metal,” because it’s clearly only one of several dozen ingredients, but a wide diversity of metal riffing can be spotted here, from Swedish melodic to early black metal. All of this fits into a funky, warm, jazzy exterior that fulfills the expectations of its age’s elites.
The pounding drums and blaring riffs of Kommandant ring loud throughout the world. While they appear to be becoming a prominent force in the underground and beyond, Kommandant have defied standards and brought upon themselves a most unique take on black metal.
Here in the United States, Kommandant have bewildered those who have witnessed their live shows. They’ve brought rather good compositions into the fold, as well as throwing a live experience that would make Stalin’s mustache fall off.
Totalitarian Black Metal, War Metal, or whatever you want to call Kommandant… We present an exclusive interview to pick their brains:
Why was Kommandant formed and what do you want to express?
Kommandant was formed to record the music that we wanted to hear, to be the band that we would want to see.
There are members that have been involved with other bands such as Sarcophagus, Forest of Impaled, Nachtmystium, Demonic Christ, and so forth. How have all of these resumes meshed? Is Kommandant the next generation of the ideas in these other bands?
I don’t think that Kommandant is an extension of any of those bands. Each members’ individual experiences are their own, it is the expression of those individual influences in congress that create Kommandant. Even if one person did bring something to the table that was directly influenced by one of their past projects, by the time the rest of us got done with it, it would sound like Kommandant, not whatever it came from originally.
What are your thoughts on the book “1984”? How would you place in juxtaposition the despotic similarities between your music and totalitarian mindset? If you’ve read both, how do you compare the dystopian societies in “1984” and “Brave New World”?
Orwell’s vision of constant, total war and constant, total surveillance certainly rings true today, but I feel that our society is closer in mindset to Huxley’s interpretation. Orwell’s world was one of strict rationing and information restriction. Ours is closer to Brave New World where people are placated not by direct oppression, but by distraction. Orwell cautioned that what we fear will control us, Huxley postulated that what we love will control us. Not to say that fear isn’t a strong driving factor in our lives (our “war on terror” is certainly analogous to the Huxley’s description of the war on Eurasia/Eastasia), but mindless entertainment and an overload of triviality is our soma.
Kommandant often uses atonal technique. What other techniques do you use in song compositions? Do you compose by starting with a riff, an image, an idea, or some other method?
Every song is different. We write collaboratively, so one person may have one idea and someone else takes it and builds on it, or warps it into something completely different. We’ve started with nothing more than a turn of phrase or a vague idea and it takes on a life of its own.
I’m embarrassed to ask this, but metal’s genres proliferate like bunnies. Are you war metal? Black metal? Is it all nonsense? Or are these not genre terms, but simply descriptive terms?
We’ve been called a great many things. We don’t really think of ourselves in terms of genre; we don’t write strictly about war, so we’re not really a war metal band. We’re certainly more black metal than death metal (lyrically, visually and philosophically). Some even say they hear an industrial influence in our music.
All in all, it is all nonsense, but it’s human nature to categorize things.
Much like Gwar, Kommandant is known for live theatrics almost more than the music itself. What initiated this dystopic theme? How has this brought Kommandant to a higher podium?
We set out with a clear vision to be the band that we would want to see live. We felt that too many good bands are not visually exciting live. Corpse paint and spikes do not a live show make. If you’re going to go out to see a band, you want to be enthralled, caught up in the momentum, suspending your disbelief until the band leaves the stage. The best shows are the ones where you forget that those people on stage are mortals like the people standing there watching. You want to feel like you’re witness to something extraordinary.
It does seem to cause people to stop and take notice, but it is also very polarizing. People either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground.
What ideologies or beliefs motivate Kommandant? The word ‘Kommandant’ is German for ‘commander’ and the band uses the maxim ‘Hate is Strength.’ Is there a political ideology here? What about another ideology? What meaning do you derive and hope to communicate through using authoritarian imagery?
Kommandant is art imitating life. We are a reflection of the direction that we see the world moving in. Notice that I say reflection, not condemnation or commendation. We do not have a political ideology. Our philosophy is that one should embrace the traditional virtues of direct action, uncompromising speech, and reverence for knowledge.
Do you worry that you’re going to mislead anyone with your use of 1940s era uniforms, German language and war imagery?
What people take mistakenly away from our imagery is more telling of who they are than what we are.
North Korea is in the news a lot lately. How do they compare to your ideal warlike society?
We’ve never said anything about a warlike society being ideal. If anything, direct action and clear intent prevents more wars than they start. There are more mentions of war in the questions asked to us than in our own writings.
What books, magazines and websites do you read for information? Do you seek information that reinforces your outlook, or “broadens” it?
We strive to have a well-rounded and accurately-informed view of the world around us. To only view the world through the scope of our previously-formed outlook would be intellectually dishonest.
What influences shaped the formation of Kommandant and its music, and what type of music do you see yourself making in the future?
We bring a lot of individual influences to the table in our creative process. We can find inspiration in film, literature,architecture, current events, personal experiences or individual philosophies.
Are you working on new material now, or touring? What’s ahead in the next year or so for Kommandant?
Both. Our next show is going to be our first trip overseas, to Kings of Black Metal Festival in April. After that we are playing Maryland Deathfest XI and then heading into the studio to record material for a split 7” we have coming up. We will be returning in July to New York City to play Martyrdoom Festival again. After that we plan to finish writing and start recording our next as-yet-unnamed album.