Mortuous - Interview
With "Upon Desolation" (read review here) the Californian deathers Mortuous have improved considerably compared to their already very good debut album "Through The Wilderness" and released one of the death metal highlights of 2022. I had the honor to talk to drummer Chad Gailey early in the morning via Zoom about the album, the band history and his label, also guitarist / vocalist Colin Tarvin contributed some answers in writing. If you don't know the album yet, you should definitely risk an ear - have fun reading!
Hi Chad, how are you doing?
I'm good! Thanks again for having me!
Last September you released your second full-length album "Upon Desolation" with Mortuous. The reception was pretty awesome; I read in the biggest German metal print magazine Deaf Forever that it was the best death metal album in 22. Are you surprised about the reactions you got so far?
The one you just mentioned I am surprised of. I haven't seen that one, you gonna have to give me that after the interview! I am definitely happy with the reception that we got for the new album. We all feel like we stepped it up 100% for this one compared to our last one "The Wilderness". We just wanted to make our second album standout from the entire catalog and we really accomplished that with "Upon Desolation".
The album is pretty hard to purchase these days , at least in Europe – is there a re-release coming?
I'm pretty sure that vinyl and tape is still available on Extremely Rotten. They handle the entire European pressing. It was only the CD that was sold out so David got the repress going and it's already here. So if anybody is looking for copies in Europe or the rest of the world, hit Extremely Rotten.
You have changed your style dramatically compared to the demo back in 2012. How did you get the idea to include more doomy parts and even a violin?
It's been 12 years since the 2012 demo came out but even before Mortuous was just a single person doing the band. It was Colin Tarvins side project and he recorded his own demo, all instruments and recorded all on himself. It was released in 2010 but it was recorded in 2009. Just even from that demo it's been a huge leap as far as like songwriting. I mean the feeling is still the same and there is still that doom feeling but it's definitely way more technical and as far as the musicianship goes and the songwriting, it's a lot of riff salad, riff after riff, not giving the listener any breaks but in my opinion it still flows pretty well throughout the album and all the songs are very cohesive sounding. We're not playing the similar style that we did 2012 with a whole different line-up and a whole different style but the feeling is still there throughout cause it's the two same writers that remained consistent in the bands since then.
It seems that My Dying Bride is a huge influence for you – the violin part in 'Nothing' sounds very much like a very passionate homage to "Sear Me" from "Turn Loose The Swans".
Oh yeah, I mean My Dying Bride has always been a huge influence on Mortuous. Andrea Morgan who did the violin parts on that she did also the violin parts on 'Defiled By Fire' which is the first song on side B. It's been cool like see people catch on to that like influence that we always had. I mean we're also influenced by Paradise Lost; Disembowelment – just like that kind of band that were pushing that death-doom feeling in the 90s. We're stoked that people also enjoy that even that what we're doing. Like you said it's a homage but I feel like it's a very powerful part in both songs to have that. I am super glad that we were able to work with Andrea and we're hoping to work with her again and possibly play some more shows with her as well.
Why did you decide to take somebody from outside to play the violin parts? On the last album it was Mike Beams who did that.
Yes, Mike did the violin on 'The Wilderness' and I just don't think that he wanted to do it on this album so we recruited somebody that we were mutual friends with to do the parts. I feel like she did such an amazing job and it's one of the outstanding pieces of the album and like I said we hope we can continue working with Andrea in the future. I talked about this in the last question but we did some shows with her on the last US tour that we did and it went really well.
How would you characterize your style of death metal? I think it is pretty hard to explain because of the broad spectrum of influences you have….
Well, Mortuous has this very Finnish-sounding style of death metal but it is also influenced by a lot of American bands, a lot of thrash metal bands. I mean the main influences from Mortuous are Rottervore, Incantation, Autopsy…it is a very broad spectrum but I feel like we use all those influences pretty well with the song writing and those influences definitely show up – you can read it in every interview or review and that is pretty cool. If we can also connect with other people on that level as well, I think we kinda did it and did a good job (laughs).
Your lyrics are about desolation and nihilistic thoughts if I interpreted correctly. Would you agree to say that you can transfer these thoughts into reality too these days?
Yes, the last album is definitely a call to action in some ways as to where the state of our planet is. I mean we have natural disasters going wild all over the world, just a lack of respect for the planet that we live on and I think a lot of people live in the moment and they're not really thinking about the long term realities of their action and consequences that we can face in the future. Unless we all work together to come up with the planet to try to fix things I don't know how much better it can be looking forward. There is definitely desperation in the sense of hopelessness but at the same time we're all just trying to live and deal with everything on a day to day basis. It can be a lot to deal with and it can be overwhelming and I'm sure it's not the easiest topic to think about but it needs to be put into people's heads and that step is going on.
So what do you do to save the Earth?
Absolutely nothing (laughs). I'm definitely contributing the pollution by running a record label and being a consumer. I feel like everybody is part of the problem. I'm at least acknowledging that (laughs).
Yeah, it's quite difficult to do something good to save the planet. It's the same with me, eating meat and so on. At least I try to ride my bike as much as I can and avoid using a car.
Yeah, that's another thing. I'm on tour a lot so I'm definitely helping all the oil companies and stuff like that succeeding them into their future.
Having a closer look at the cover, you always combine some trees together with human corpses and it doesn't look too harmonic. Do you think that mankind is a part of nature but destroys it completely with its behavior?
Well, the trees and Mortuous – it has always been a theme with the band. I guess since 2010 where "Mors Immortalis" had this Joe Ravager artwork which is the cartoonish but a very evil looking tree and up until that 2018 album "Through Wilderness" we had that artwork of the headless tree like a corpse. There is a theme and it is connected – I don't know if it's connected to saving the planet but there is definitely the theme of life and death. But I guess that it's Collins part to answer that.
Colin (sent the answer via mail): We are always trying to humanize nature, as it's our counterpart and earth is our provider of life sustained here. We are unnaturally destroyers of our own world collectively as a human species. There might not be much left in years to come. Originally it was a hallucinatory concept, but as we've progressed we've always kept trees as part of our themes because we respect nature. I think the idea of the cover was in protest to what we see of how the Earth is treated by humanity.
Do you have any literary or other influences that help you write the lyrics?
Again, I am just drumming, I don't really write the lyrics. Colin and Mike write the lyrics and are influenced by a bunch of different stuff. I know Colin was influenced by a lot of philosophy so a lot of his writings were based on philosophical ideas. But it's the best he answers this question.
Colin: (sent the answer via mail): Literature influenced some of the lyrics on the album, various Terrance McKenna books gave the song Metamorphosis its basis. Some dystopian novels influenced Ash and Dismay such as Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World. Also the various themes in multiple songs were influenced by current events such as the fires that seem to get worse and worse every year.
Do you just live for death metal or is there also some other music that you listen to?
We all listen to music from all over the spectrum. It's not just metal - we're all influenced by different things. I mean I listen to punk and I listen to metal but there's also other stuff that has influenced us over the years, too. I won't be able to listen to metal and punk all the time, it does get tiring. I guess I'm not a true one as I would say (laughs).
Chad, you are also playing in Necrot and Vastum. Is there any news to spread about a new album maybe?
Yeah both bands are working on new recordings right now. Hopefully both will record this year, Necrot is gonna be doing some touring this year, not too much, right now we just have a Western United States tour and some festival appearances.
What about touring in Europe?
Mortuous will be in Europe in June. We're playing "Unearthed Morbidity" in Copenhagen. That's the festival that is put on by Extremely Rotten Records. We will be there June 9th and 10th and there will be some more news to follow.
You are the head of Carbonized Records. These days everybody loves streaming – how important are physical album editions and the sale of it to you still?
It is as important as ever. I mean any band can upload an album to streaming platforms and it will be ready to go. You can instantly purchase it but it's like with physical media it's dying out not as many people are buying it. While people are still consuming physical products, it's not as active as it used to be and when you have thousands of new bands that are popping out every year, it's hard to stand on top of it and not everybody can buy every single release that comes out. It's pretty much up to personal picks and if somebody really likes a band he goes out to buy the album, right? With running a label it's like you have to see what's the stuff that you like and ultimately is gonna sell. I feel like it's always a gamble – you never know if people jump on to. They could like what you don't like or hate the thing that you love – it's just always such a risk. But streaming is great to get it out there but I always bought physical stuff because I like to have copies of it. Once I buy it, it becomes mine forever. With streaming you can have the files but there's nothing there. You don't have the substance and you don't see the work that was created to make those files and I feel like a physical product encapsulates that.
So, these were my questions – the last words belong to you!
Well, thank you for having me for the interview today. Thank you to everybody who has supported the album in the past few months that it's been released, everybody who supported us when we promoted it on tour and anybody who is about to check it out for the first time!
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