Mortiis from Notodden, Norway has been breaking new ground in a variety of dark music genres for a few decades now. Perhaps not with the same name recognition as Ministry, NIN, or Marlyn Manson, but with an amazing staying power and ability to evolve and re-invent their sound towards the cutting edge of new ideas in music. Through all of these incarnations Håvard Ellefsen produced an elaborate and immersive stage experience to tantalize his fans the world over with theatrical concepts ranging from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Rings to Dante’s Inferno. Collin and I recently had the opportunity to bare witness to his most recent tour in a small “Detroit” (Yes, I’m from there and understand I am using the wider meaning of Detroit) Club and sit down to talk to the man himself. Before we get to the interview I thought we might take you on a journey through the career of this ground breaking artist who helped build the genre of Dungeon Synth. After wading Metal, Indistrial, EDM, and Synthwave, this album/tour takes us back to those roots. Lets follow that journey together.
1993-1999 Era I :
This era was my first delve into dungeon synth. The music was the epic soundtrack through forgotten mountains and lost mines in many a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The music is sweeping and vast in scope. This first album is just one expansive 54 minute song that twists and turns through shadowy corners and forgotten recesses of the human imagination. Although done on synths, it finds tones and sounds which emulate instruments of history and transport the listener.
How does one create this much emotional depth, a feeling of pressure and weight, without vocals or words?Ånden som Gjorde Opprør rolls through ancient carved stone echoing off unseen caverns below. Done with stripped down, minimalist tones and percussion strikes of electronic pads, this record thunders the ground below the ground.
2001 – 2004 – Era II
This incarnation brought forth the untapped glory of Håvard’s vocal talents, blended together with thumping dance beats. They touched on dark themes of fantasy and witchcraft through the lens of Gary Numan synthcore, embracing the visual components of Catholicism and taking on the idea of religious hypocrisy. The choir like chants blend perfectly with the driving melody.
I love this track which took the sound out of the dungeon and into the club. It has a beautiful driving dance beat and quick fire, stabbing synth sounds for a big shake that ass factor. I have smelt that smell before and been lured in by it. Explosive use of the chanting choir balanced with a perfectly synced breakdown. I feel more Carmina Burana than modern dance music in the power and emotional intensity.
2004-2010 – Era III
Era II brought out the grit and fire. This is where Industrial music started to feel it’s flavor fully. The vocals took on a rigid cadence and intensity, adding in more guitar, dark metal, and organic drum sounds. A full band was used to open up the sounds and express the rage from beneath the surface. For as drastic as the change in sound feels, you still hear those elements of epic dungeons ringing. Instead of D & D we are now playing World of Darkness.
Some Kind of Heroin was a wonderful remix album featuring Zombie Girl, PIG, Gothminster, Velvet Acid Christ, Funker Vogt , and The Kovenant. Such a wide range of talents and styles really showed the impact that Mortiis was having across the board on modern music. It’s full of glorious glitch and throbbing intensity.
2016-Present : Era 0
This builds us towards a violent unleashing of The Great Deceiver. Taken off the leash, the great black dogs of dark metal and machine gun Industrial drum beats unload on unsuspecting listeners. The mask is removed in place of corpse paint, and with that ritual removal comes a terrifying war scream. This album is 100,000 mad orcs charging at a castle wall with no concern of death. Witness me, shiny and chrome.
This brings us full circle back to Spirit of Rebellion just released this month. It is a spiritual and sonic return back to the original dungeon from which Mortiis rose. Back are those larger than life synth pads and orchestral swells, moving in a structured force of clockwork stones. The vocals are stripped away, replaced by ancient chanting from a nightmare fantasy. Many bands have tried to reinvent themselves, but this journey really shows the courage of an artist who is driven by the direction the muse took them. Mortiis remains always able to find a depth and completion to every tale he dreams.
Now that you have a scope of who this artist is, recently Sounds and Shadows had a chance to talk with the man himself. I found him to be humble, funny, honest and passionate about his work. It was a real treat to get to talk with the man behind the mask.
19 Oct (DK) Hotel Cecil, Copenhagen
26 Oct (PL) Klub Scenografia, Lodz
27 Oct (PL) Klub Zascianek, Krakow
02 Nov (NO) Telerock AS, Notodden
16 Nov (IS) Gaukurinn, Reykjavik
14 Dec (NO) Tribute, Sadnes
US tour 2020
24 Jan The Whiskey Junction, Minneapolis (MN)
25 Jan Reggies, Chicago (IL)
26 Jan Civic Music Hall, Toledo (OH)
27 Jan The Masquerade (Purgatory), Atlanta (GA)
28 Jan The Orpheum, Tampa (FL)
30 Jan White Oak Music Hall, Houston (TX)
31 Jan Come and Take it Live!, Austin (TX)
01 Feb Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, Dallas (TX)
02 Feb The Riot Room, Kansas City (MO)
03 Feb Oriental Theatre, Denver (CO)
05 Feb Club Red, Meza (AZ)
06 Feb Brick by brick, San Diego (CA)
07 Feb Catch One (Underground), Los Angeles (CA)
08 Feb DNA Lounge, San Francisco (CA)
This is the best interview with Mortiis that I’ve read in a long, long time. SOUNDS AND SHADOWS for the win!
Thank you, he was a really interesting person.