Mortiferum - Interview
Mortiferum delivered a powerful blow of death metal finesse with their demo "Altar of Decay" in 2017. That marked the beginning of a deeper and more elaborate recording to follow being "Disgorged from Psychotic Depths". Unshaken by so many great death metal releases by both underground American and overseas peers, Mortiferum have provided an optic to pry beyond the shell of mortality in their search for ethereal forces that ever so often emerge through various mental states. This breech into the unknown is represented through 6 tracks, with each unearthing a new layer of mysteries presented through this morbid medium we call death metal. Take this journey with MetalBite into a domain once barred form inquisitive minds now made accessible by Mortiferum.
Thanks a lot for taking time to do this interview for MetalBite.com, how is everything going?
Thanks, we are doing PRETTY GOOD! We are excited to finally see the release our first full length and are getting ready for an east coast tour and some shows in November.
How was Mortiferum conceived? Whose idea was it to put together such a stellar lineup of talent?
When we started the band, Max, Mody, and I all knew each other and had played shows together in other bands. Mody was the first drummer we jammed with and it just worked. A little while later, Tony, who Max and I were also playing with in Caustic Wound, agreed to be our fulltime bassist. It's hard to credit any one person with the idea for starting the band because it didn't really work like that.
Your demo "Altar of Decay" is very impressive, did you expect to cause such an uproar in the death metal underground with it?
Thank you! No, I didn't expect it and I don't think any of us could have anticipated the response we got from the demo. I figured it would be well-received over time but didn't think we'd get recognition so quickly from it.
What was the experience like working on the record? Were there any major disagreements regarding the production and artistic direction of "Disgorged from Psychotic Depths"?
The experience was great overall despite getting off to a rough start since the first two days of tracking happened to coincide with a snowstorm and power outage. We had to borrow a generator to run our equipment and rent a big propane heater to keep from freezing, turning it off during takes. At one point a tree fell on Mody's house mate (and guitarist of Ēōs) hurting him pretty badly. Other than those initial hurdles, there was a lot of debate and discussion about the logistics, who we wanted to record with, when, where, how, etc. but there were no major disagreements since we all share a similar vision for the band.
How did the album title materialize? What was the primary influence that propelled the title and theme?
The album title was elusive at first and then just seemed to come from nowhere, Max had already written most of the lyrics and established a theme, but nothing jumped out to us as a fitting title. When tracking vocals, they were doing some last-minute edits and revisions to the lyrics and Mody came up with the "Disgorged from Psychotic Depths" line as a replacement or change to one of the phrases. When it was suggested it as a possible title for the album, it felt right immediately.
"Disgorged from Psychotic Depths" comes at a time in which we are seeing a very strong revitalization of the old school death metal genre, hence the competition is very stiff. Does going up against Cerebral Rot, Fetid, Blood Incantation, Vastum and the likes of have any effect on the music you make?
Mortiferum is fortunate to exist in a place and time where gigging, touring, and being friends with bands of this caliber has been possible. It motivates us to be better each time we play live, write a song, or really do anything as a band. This has probably also pushed us to develop our style in a way that allows us to stand out somewhat.
It's really only competitive in a friendly sibling rivalry sort of way since we have shared a lot of history together and are very supportive of each other. With that said, we still want to write the best riffs.
Can you lay out sort of a mini-map or path showing the recording process of a Mortiferum record?
For the demo we tracked guitars and drums together live in Mody's garage, then we tracked guitar overdubs, vocals, and bass separately. For the full length, first we recorded bass, drums and scratch guitar tracks live in what is essentially a barn next to Mody's house, with "Altar of Decay" engineer Ethan Camp, and our friend Sal Duncan. A week later, we tracked guitars, vocals, and re-amped Tony's bass at Red Lantern Studios with Evan Mersky.
The album cover for "Disgorged from Psychotic Depths" (awesome work from Chase) is cryptic and appears to carry a very deep meaning. Can you tell us more about it, is any of this linked to personal experiences by any band member/s.
Thank you! I wanted the cover art to be cryptic and sort of abstract so that it could be left open to interpretation. I like the idea of people listening to the record and seeing whatever they want to see in it. I tried to let my subconscious do most of the work when I was painting, so the whole time I was making the cover, I really had no idea what the meaning was either. Now, looking back at the finished art, I see an eerie amount of personal meaning in it. During the time I was working on the front and back cover paintings, two of the people closest to me were diagnosed with and in treatment for very serious and life-threatening illnesses. Painting was a good distraction and like a form of therapy at the time, especially when I had to sit out our tour with Hyperdontia to take care of shit at home. I was in a very dark place mentally and I think that translated directly into the art I was making. The art, and the album as a whole, will always be a reminder of this difficult period of my life and hopefully my triumph over it.
I hear a lot of Finnish death/doom on your latest release, hence, what are some of the bands that have influenced Mortiferum's sound?
We are definitely influenced by a lot of Finnish bands like Abhorrence, Rippikoulu, Demigod, Adramelech, etc. and that overall sound and aesthetic. As far as other influences go, there are many but the first that come to mind are Autopsy, Eternal Darkness, Disciples of Mockery, Immortal Fate, and Ceremonium. It's always hard to pick and choose a reasonable list of bands for these sorts of questions without getting carried away.
What aspect of "Disgorged from Psychotic Depths" did you appreciate the most?
I appreciate how well all the various elements came together in the end. I think the album has a very cohesive feel to it that is representative of what we are about.
How do you perceive death metal in its current state?. Is it something you are happy about or do you shun what it has become?
As far as my lifetime is concerned, this current state is definitely the best time I have experienced. Playing and attending shows in the Northwest with all of the very legit bands that are currently active makes it pretty difficult to shun anything. I'm spoiled because I get to play shows with bands like Fetid all the time. With that said, I revere all the originators of the genre and that era will always be the best.
I feel as though there are more bands than supporters/fans, with a large quantity being quite shit. Are you bothered by the overwhelming amount existing in the genre?
Maybe now it's just easier to form a band and put out material? Maybe there are too many people on the earth? Now there aren't many barriers preventing fans from starting their own bands so it's not that surprising when half the attendees at a show are band members. I can't really complain because I was a fan long before I started playing in bands. It would be nice if there were more fans going to death metal shows but I also totally understand why most people opt for nicer and more inclusive genres of music.
I saw a gig online which Mortiferum played at the Tonic Lounge in 2019; you guys play very precisely, I felt as though I was listening to a studio session. How often do you practice?
That's good to hear! We tend to write riffs that are very unforgiving of missed notes and sloppiness, so we try really hard not to fuck up. There are periods of inactivity now and then when some goes out of town or we focus on one of our other bands, but for the most part we practice two times per week. Leading up to a tour or some big shows, we might step that up to 3 or 4.
Does Mortiferum conduct any pre show rituals?
Nope, we aren't really a ritual sort of band.
How has the reception been on tour?
Our reception has mostly been great. It's been surreal to have good turnouts and sold out shows, especially since we only had a demo to our name.
Already it feels like you are pushing your sound, and the music appears more layered and detailed than on the demo; what propelled this adjustment?
The main ingredient we added between the demo and the LP was our bassist, Tony. We wrote a majority of the "Altar of Decay" demo without a full-time bass player. Our friend Dan played bass early on and contributed to the demo, but it wasn't until we added Tony that we started practicing and writing with a bassist all the time. That has definitely shaped our current sound.
Thus, I assume you have an idea of where you expect Mortiferum to be sometime from now?
I try not to have too many expectations. I think as long as we continue to stay productive, I'll be ok with whatever happens.
Do you enjoy other types of music outside of metal?
Of course. I don't have the most well-rounded knowledge of music and an embarrassing percentage of what I listen to could be considered metal, but I'd feel a little sorry for anyone who only listens to metal exclusively.
What about books and films?
Probably no surprises here but I am mainly into science fiction, horror, and weird fiction sort of stuff pretty much across the board. Whether it's literature, film, music, or almost any type of art, I've always been into the dark, scary, surreal, supernatural sort of shit. I've got a pretty big collection of horror VHS but have found myself losing interest in that lately. What I'm trying to say is I have bad taste in everything.
You seem to share a great chemistry on stage, hence your performances are tight; how long have you known each other?
I had known Max for a few years prior to Mortiferum and played in another band with him. The other members I didn't get to know well until around the time the band formed but we are from the same area and have crossed paths for years. For example, I saw one of Tony's bands play in 2004.
What ignited the relationship with Profound Lore records; though I would assume it was a result of your debut demo "Altar of Decay"; however, were there any other factors?
Chris from Profound Lore reached out to us right after the demo was released. It probably didn't hurt that there was good amount of buzz surrounding the demo when it came out. When we started talking to him it just felt like a good fit right away. We had also heard plenty of good things about the label from other musicians that we knew.
Thanks again for your patience and taking the time to partake in this interview with MetalBite; we wish you massive success with "Disgorged from Psychotic Depths" and future installments.
Anything you would like to add in closing?
We are playing some record release shows and touring in November. A cassette version of the album will be announced soon as well.
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