Dying Stars in the Warsaw Skyline
To be perfectly candid, Morthus was the first band I had in mind when I began the Fresh Blood Programme. Keeping a steady eye on the Polish scene, a scene of high quality extreme Metal, makes it hard for me to really be excited about a debut before it’s out. Of course there are exceptions, and some animals in Animal Farm are more equal than others, but Morthus is perhaps one of the most equal i’ve heard in the last half a century. Hailing from the suburb of Warsaw, Warka, this group of youngsters have been one that I’ve kept my eye on since I’ve heard of their tour with the ubiquitously renowned Infernal War. While rather young, (hell, I think i’m probably older than almost everyone in the band, and yes, that does make me feel useless, thank you very much reader,) they manage to make music that is far beyond their years. Imagine the astral essence of Dissection, Watain and their ilk infused with the the blasphemous, churning Death Metal of bands like Morbid Angel and Immolation to be on the correct path. I had a chance to speak with vocalist and rhythm guitarist P as well as lead guitarist D. Cardinal. Results ensue.
P- P. Vocals and rhythm
D- D. Cardinal, guitars,Lead
B- So, Morthus is literally two days away from releasing the album, how do you guys feel about Over The Dying Stars?
P- Well, great! to be honest. We were waiting for release date since we exited the studio, which was in August. It was more than half a year ago, so it was a long wait for the grand premiere of the material! so we’re excited.
B- Why did it take so long? you said it was a long process, what happened?
P- We were waiting for the mixing and mastering, and all the artworks were in the works. The most important thing delaying release were definitely the mixes and masters. Because, firstly, we were considering a premiere in March.
D- Also all the dealings with the label and waiting for the whole official process of making CDs, physical formats and what not. You know it takes a while
B- What is the title describing? is it a place? is it an ambience? what does it mean?
P- Pfffft, it’s something between those things. First of all, it’s Over the Dying Stars. When we were thinking about the title of that album, D. Cardinal and I were sitting under the sky. I remember we were thinking for a while, 3 or 4 hours or more, smoking and drinking. We had no idea. There’s also a Demonaz album called Under The Dying Sun, which was the first thing that inspired the title. I had something like that in mind when I was looking at the sky. I closed my eyes and next I opened them, I imagined that all the stars among us were like an ocean to be fallen into. They’re not above you, but you’re above them! So it’s kind of a place where you can open your imagination, dream and create art. But it’s also kind of something more, a rebellion against what happens these days.
B- It’s kind of an escape you mean?
P- Pretty much. Also I can add, that suns (stars in other words) can be metaphors for gods, a lot of religions are based on solar system and cults of the sun.
B- What are some of the lyrical themes on the album?
P- I hate questions like that! What do you say about your lyrics and things like that. I think the lyrics are not written to be explained. That what you were feeling while you were writing them is not to be explained. But to be interpreted. I write lyrics only for those people who get them. The lyrics are about what happens in our lives, and it’s metaphorically referencing these things. Our progress, our expectations regarding the world, and that’s all.
B- I guess that’s fair, that way the lyrics are still ambiguous and vague, that people can interpret them on their own. Moving on, how was working on OTDS different than The Abyss? How do you feel the experience you had between the two has impacted the latter?
D- First of all, I think we’re a little bit older and a little bit more professional than what we were before. So, when we started recording the Abyss we didn’t know what we wanted to achieve. We didn’t have a vision of a sound, how did we want it to come across in physical form or anything like that. Also we knew nothing about studio work, now we have more expertise in this topic. You know this time we came to the studio, we knew what sound we have and what we want. We came to record and all the material came out sounding more refined
P- It was just an instinct what we did on The Abyss. It was instinct that worked well for us, but it wasn’t our vision I think.
B- How does it come across as a more realised vision? in what way?Musically how does it come across?
P- It’s actually much more raw. We recorded live instruments. There were no triggers, no samples, just our sound. Nothing made more beautiful by studio magic, you know? Not everyone but a lot of bands use tricks to make their music more beautiful. We say no, we’re making a raw sound. All procession is recorded live, no trigger. Vocals too. I am really proud of the vocals because it’s just me, I didn’t use something like Autotune or pitch correction, just little reverb.
B- Of course, the artwork was made by J. Yousif, who, hard as I tried to google I couldn’t find (which is impressive, as i’m not sure her/his identity is a secret but most people’s secret identity can usually be found on Google.) How did you come upon this J Yousif? and why did you choose him/her?
P- She is a wild witch. She’s a good friend of our band and I met her in 2012 maybe. Really I don’t remember but, importantly, she listens to exactly the same music I listen to. She’s also a great artist and a friend in our private lives. So our communication in the making of the artworks was very good. We only needed to call and talk, even 2 or 3 hours a day to describe and discuss all the details of this artwork.
D- Yeah she doesn’t exist (laughs.) But as P. said, she’s a friend of the band. Most importantly we had a very similar vision for the artwork. We had the same inspiration.
P- All the artworks were here vision of the lyrics. All artworks are visualisations of the lyrics. Except for the main cover of course. That’s her vision. We just put a little bit of what we wanted to have happen in this art.
B- So if the main artwork isn’t a visualisation of the lyrics, then what is happening in it?
D- We don’t know (laughs.) Well you know it’s Over the Dying Stars. There are stars which are dying, an apocalypse, everything is exploding. The universe going to shit. It’s a mixture of kind of a cryptic Medieval age style and the apocalypse, the final judgement. Mixed with a cosmic vision of the end, exploding stars, and in my opinion, it comes across a great mixture.
P- First of all, it’s a liberal visualisation of the lyrics and main title. So yeah. It’s the world going to an end. Also it’s a little bit connected with medieval triptychs, showing the damned and the saved on both sides, with the saviour between them.
B- I think the inspirations on this record should be interesting, as it somewhat sounds like say Sonne Adam/Maveth meets Dissection/Watain for me on a lot of level. Very dirty Death/Black meets these kind of organic melodies. What are some of the influences on this record? have they varied at all since the early days of the band?
D- The inspirations are the same. It’s not like we started listening to Nü Metal or what not. Inspirations are more or less the same, of course we’re discovering new bands and new stuff. For example, I found out about Tribulation two years ago, who I try to take inspiration from. That’s somewhere in the album. The main inspirations like Bathory and Dissection are still the same (P screams in the background “Morbid Angel! Fucking Morbid Angel!”) Each person in the band has a little bit different inspirations but it’s still in the same spirit.
B- We mentioned that some of the non-musical influences are stuff like your personal lives and stuff like that. Yet I feel that I should still give space to elaborate, what are some of the non-musical influences on the band? would you like to add anything?
P- To be honest, I like nature. I like walking around Poland’s forests and inspirations like that. Nature and dead nature. Old buildings and old architecture. Places i’m going to. I also picked up a love of reading books recently. I’m reading much more than before. It’s a good inspiration for when i’m working on our music.
D- In my opinion one of the most influential themes in our music is emotions. It sounds a bit cliche but it’s very important to me and to us. For example when i’m very angry and I don’t know what to do with myself, I start playing guitar and I feel better. If I have a good day and everything is fine it’s very hard to create something in this kind of music. The main thing for me is the emotions.
B- Digging back, Morthus formed in 2012, tell us a bit about the story so far
D- There aren’t many stories, we’re a very young band. We have a few short stories, mainly about spending a lot of time in the studio. We have a great time but it’s not really a tale full of adventures. Like “we were on the tour in 1983”, we don’t have many stories, we’re a young band!
B- Ok but you guys know each other from where? how did it come about?
D- Our drummer and bassist know each other. They live in the same town and have known each other for a long time. They’re two Metalheads, and there aren’t many Metalheads where they live , even less so of their style. Usually some Metalcore pussies. So they know each other and I think that P knows our drummer from before as well.
P- I met him in a Slayer concert.
D- And I knew P from before. We didn’t all know each other before but as we started playing we found out that we had a lot in common. That’s it more or less. We were really close to each other. From Warsaw and the suburb areas. We were close and therefore there was better communication, that’s why I think we started playing together.
P- 2 years ago or more we didn’t even have a place to have rehearsals. We had rehearsals in our own homes, in school and in recreation centres. They have events there every once in a while, so they let us play there sometimes. And I can add that some stories connected with band are too private to be told. Maybe in the future, but you can imagine that they mostly involve excesses of youth, everyone needs to live it up.
B- Thematically harkening back to the second question, why the name Morthus?
P- We didn’t have a name and it was a hard decision, we didn’t have an idea of what to do. We were looking for a good sounding word. We looked into a latin dictionary and we found the word Mortuus, which means dead. We chose it and change one of the letters, added an H. We don’t really know why but it sounds good! It’s short, one word, and it’s easy to remember. It’s connected with death, we play Death Metal, so it’s very back to the roots.
B- While there are only really 4 short years between now and the formation of Morthus, one could pretty easily argue that the Polish Metal scene became considerably more popular in this timeline. Be it Behemoth publishing The Satanist and becoming arguably the biggest DM band in both Europe and the US, Mgła basically becoming underground Black Metal’s sweetheart, or Decapitated touring the US like Lindsey Lohan used to tour mirrors for cocaine, the jump in size is quasi undeniable. Have you felt a change? have you felt a noticeable difference? Do you see more international people taking interest in the Polish scene?
P- Yeah, I think. Certainly. We have good Death Metal, and the Polish scene has become kind of a seal of a quality. If you see a Death or Black Metal band from Poland , you know that it’s good as most of the bands from here are on a good level. Not always excellent but on a good level of that music. I think it’s taken from our location. I don’t know what your imagination is regarding Poland (I neglected to mention to P that I visit Poland almost every 3-4 years, was born there and have family there-Benek.) How life looks like here, in this area of Europe. But everyone just thinks it’s very cold in Poland. When I met Trey Azagtgoth, and all his stories regarding Poland were that it’s some kind of cold land. To this I can add to that people here are very poor
D- If you compare Poland to the other countries in Europe, we’re a little bit of a poorer country. Logically, this is a great place for this kind of music to be created. It’s an important part of it becoming a Metal area. The best bands are usually created by poor guys who just want to play Metal. Not to make money or some shit. To make music for people, and for the creation of music to be about the music rather than about money. That’s what we have in Poland.
B- How do you think the Polish scene has changed? Both after the increase in size and since you guys were teenagers, do you think that the scene has seen a shift? Do you think it’s become more competitive, more Dog Eat Dog?
D- I don’t know, I think the Polish Metal scene has more solidarity. The bands usually support each other, the true Metal bands. They are also in connection with other people from other place. When the internet revolution came, it became much easier to promote abroad. This is the time when people from abroad can have a much easier time taking an interest in what we do.
P- People are sending our bands to their friends worldwide. That’s the spirit of making our scene more popular in the world.
B- What do you feel are some of the advantages and disadvantages to being a young band in Warsaw? is it a relatively important city to Polish Metal? is a barren wasteland? is the scene there supportive?
D- It’s hard to say which place in Poland is the capital for Metal or some shit like that. In every big town there are some great bands. There are many for example in the area of Katowice and Wrocław.
P- I think everyone in Poland hates Warsaw as Warsaw is the capital. Everyone are moving into the capital as there are a lot of opportunities and more happens here than in the other areas of Poland. So a lot of people who are away from Warsaw or from the area hate the people who are moving in there. They have done for a few hundred years now. We hate them as they hate us (laughs.) You can make more art in Warsaw and it’ll be accepted by more people here than in any other city in this country. But it’s not a rule, sometimes people hates each other in their own area too, you know, it’s competition. And also we can find friends from other cities and support them mutually.
D- Well obviously it is the Polish capital, and on top of that it’s closer to western Europe. It’s more liberal and on the negative side, also more hipster. Other places in Poland tend to be more conservative. Other places tend to hate Warsaw because of that too.
B- You guys of course, ended up going with Witching Hour Productions for this release, how do you feel about this partnership? how did it come about? why did you choose them?
P- It’s one of the biggest labels in Poland, it was kind of a no brainer. It’d be stupid to go with anyone else.
B- Speaking of productions (ba dum tish,) I heard that this record was produced in Mandagora, why did you go with said place?
P- Easy, we know Maciek, who is Mr Mandragora. He’s a good guy to work with, he has this specific kind of humour that we appreciate. We can talk a lot of shit around him and he’s a good sport. We can also drink and smoke in the studio. Sometimes he also did that with us (laughs.) I had a vision for recording vocals, I needed to be closed in a small place, maybe two meters or so and he created that place especially for me. It was dark inside and I could record all the vocal parts under optimal conditions.
D- It’s easy to communicate with him, he knows what he’s doing and he knows what we want. We just tell him to do whatever it is we want and he knows how to do it. He’s kind of a friend of the band as well. There’ll be a bit of delay but yeah…
B- so, you guys came off of a big tour with the peaceful guys in Infernal War and another big new band, Outre, what are some of your touring plans for the new future, anything interesting planned?
D- At this moment we have no bigger plans in the near future. We’re awaiting some prepositions after the release of the new record, but meanwhile we’re working on new material. Material for the next record. We’re waiting for more prepositions, especially from abroad. We want to try and promote ourselves abroad.
B- Aside from the record, do you have anything else coming out? a video?
P- Maybe a clip or something, but it’s not really a priority for us. First we want to close the things we’re currently working on.
Latest Release- Over the Dying Stars
Released in June by Witching Hour Production, the debut album by Morthus Over the Dying Stars is one of those debuts that you can see being the beginning of a Metal Archives Page. Strong from end to end with a sense of raw meticulousness that is hard to come by. It’s definitely influenced by a lot of other bands, but the bands own personality shines through as it’s own entity, and that’s why it gets my seal of approval. For those who read my other two Fresh Bloods, if Dim Aura is very Punkish and kind of strikingly aggressive, Armagh more along the lines of almost Rock n’ Roll-ish, then Morthus is more tactically and strategically put together. Finesse, I’d say.
Interview: Benek Astrachan