A return to the dungeon: Feature article and interview with Mortiis.

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. 

Mortiis live at Sanctuary in Detroit 1/26/20

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.

MORTIIS live
European dates
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)

https://downloadmusic.mortiis.com/music

http://www.mortiis.com/

http://www.facebook.com/officialmortiis

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Sounds and Shadows Podcast #4 Featuring Dan Milligan of The Joy Thieves

https://soundcloud.com/user-616425034/the-joy-thieves-interview

This interview was a wonderful experience. The Joy Thieves are a glorious super band that has put together a who’s who of Chicago Industrial that we strong armed Dan into letting us join during the podcast. He is creating a creative oasis for artists to shine and find a voice. I hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed getting to know him better.

https://drabmajesty.bandcamp.com/

https://hide3.bandcamp.com/

https://iyatoyah.bandcamp.com/

https://adorationdestroyed.bandcamp.com/

https://armalyte.bandcamp.com/album/the-joy-thieves-this-will-kill-that

Take in this freaking line up : Chris Connelly: solo artist. Vocalist for Fini Tribe, Revolting Cocks, Ministry, Pigface, Murder Inc., Damage Manual, Acid Horse, Cocksure, Bells Into Machines, and more. Author. Poet. Joy Thief.

Dave Suycott: former drummer for Stabbing Westward, The Machines of Loving Grace, Spies Who Surf, Razorhouse, Verbow, and more. Joy Thief

Louis Svitek: guitarist for Ministry, Pigface, Mindfunk, Zoetrope, Project 44, and more. Joy Thief.

Ania Tarnowska: one woman industrial army for I Ya Toyah. Dog lover. Joy Thief.

Eric Liljehorn: vocalist for Ravens and In Europe Without a Jacket. Joy Thief.

Mike Reidy: vocalist/programmer for Chicago industrial rock band, Worm (The World Organization of the Righteous Movement). Vocalist for Now I’m Nothing. Joy Thief.

Matthew Clark: guitarist/vocalist for Mary’s Window. Joy Thief.

James Scott: bassist/vocalist for She Rides Tigers and Matthew. Owner and engineer at Populist Recording Studio. Joy Thief.

Dan Milligan: producer, drummer, and songwriter for Drownbeat. Drummer/programmer for Mary’s Window. Joy Thief.

Michael Allen Gould: vocalist for Spyderbone. Vinyl enthusiast. Joy Thief.

John Fryer: musician, producer, mixer and remixer for Black Needle Noise, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, This Mortal Coil, White Zombie, Stabbing Westward, Gravity Kills, Jesus Jones, Silver Ghost Shimmer, Yaz, Peter Murphy, etc. etc. etc. Legend. Joy Thief.

Lana Guerra: one of a kind artist, fashion designer, performer, and owner of CrudeThings.com. Joy Thief.

Gordon Young: guitarist for Children On Stun,Dream Disciples, and too many others to list. Mastering engineer. Sound designer. Writer/producer/arranger/remixer with Gary Numan and members of The Prodigy and Marilyn Manson. Modular synth geek. Joy Thief.

Howie Beno: keyboardist, producer, mixing engineer, and remixer for Ministry, Black Asteroid, Silver Relics, Depeche Mode, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mary’s Window, Sheep On Drugs, Skrew, 13MG, Blondie, and many more.

Mike Czarnik: bassist for Mary’s Window. Joy Thief.

Taylor Busby: guitarist/vocalist for Purple. Joy Thief.

Mimi Wallman: singer/vocal architect for ONO, Ampyre, and Host Body. Joy Thief.

Andy Gerold: multi-instrumentalist. Former bassist with Marilyn Manson. Guitarist with Ashes Divide, 16VOLT, There Is No Us, and more. Joy Thief.

Geoff Matson: solo artist. Joy Thief.

Jeff Harris: guitarist for Mary’s Window. Joy Thief.

Matt Mercado: singer/guitarist/songwriter/producer for Mindbomb, Daisy Chain, Supermercado, Pivot Man, and more. Owner of Sonic Palace Recording Studio, Chicago. Joy Thief.

Katzen Hobbes: bassist with The Human Marvels. Sideshow performer at 999 Eyes Freakshow. Joy Thief.

Bradley Bills: drummer/songwriter/leader of Chant. Drummer/percussionist for Evil Mothers. Has played and/or toured with KMFDM, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Skatenigs, Die Krupps, and more. Joy Thief.

Dave Bachta: guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for Lovelies Bleeding. Joy Thief.

Laura Glyda: solo artist. Joy Thief.

Jaysun McBain: vocalist/instrumentalist/songwriter for Murmuur. Joy Thief.

Matt Noveskey: bassist for Blue October. Joy Thief.

Marcus Eliopulos: guitarist for Stabbing Westward. Joy Thief.

Review of Joy Thieves “Cities In Dust”

Artist: Joy Thieves

Album: Cities in Dust

Label: Armalyte

Hometown: Chicago IL

Members: Holy Shit too many to count 🙂 Please see Facebook link below Chris Connelly , Dave Suycott , Louis Svitek , Ania Tarnowska , Eric Liljehorn , Mike Reidy , Matthew Clark , James Scott , Dan Milligan , Michael Allen , John Fryer , Lana Guerra , Gordon Young , Howie Beno , Mike Czarnik

https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheJoyThieves/about/?ref=page_int

https://armalyte.bandcamp.com/album/the-joy-thieves-cities-in-dust

The Joy Thieves are a massive collaboration with over thirty contributors gathered together by Dan Milligan. When i first heard this EP my initial description was “This is what it would sound like if Clutch beat the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat” I still stand by that. This record has a ton of big name Industrial contributors and the Pigface, Ministry, Chicago Industrial sound is prevalent. To me what really made this record shine was the hard rock aspects charging forward which included aspects of industrial. Not the other way around. Dan is a drummer by trade and this percussion fills every inch of space and creates such electric movement. These tracks have melody and catchy hooks, but it’s the teeth that sets them apart. It bites hard, visceral, and does not let you go.

This EP includes remixes and a cover of “Siouxsie and the Banshees” sung by the amazing Ania Tarowska of I Ya Toyah. Her vocals are a fierce guttural homage to the queen of goth punk and pulls off something I had lost hope for. Making a song that was so incredible it had been overplayed into the ground, sound fresh and crackling with energy once again. The musicianship on the guitars make every song sizzle with true foot stomping ferocity of rabid wolves attacking in unison. Every song finds a way to build in succession and find a new voice.

Lets talk about favorite tracks. It is an EP so I will limit to two.

Honeycomb and Silk – This song is a freaking master class in percussion and drive. Thick slashing guitars are chased like wild horses by whip crack snare snaps. The vocals are a driving chant with range and intensity. I just want to play this song and break shit.

Cities in Dust – I hate to use a cover for best tracks but this one is a show stopper. There was so much potential to go wrong covering this song. Cities in Dust has been played at every goth night since the Vandals sacked Rome. Although I love it I almost dread hearing it at this point. Then Dan and company found a way to turn it up to 11. Ania attacks it with a ferocity I think Siouxsie herself would be proud of. Plus the humming guitar lead really cuts through the mix to give a blistering hard rock feel. They made me give a shit about Cities in Dust again.

Overall this EP was a blistering fresh romp through the wild west of hard rock on an mechanical horse. The lineup is so chocked full of talent it couldn’t help but obliterate every target it set sights on. Sometimes you just need to flay with reckless abandon and swing your arms to intense perfect precision drum beats. This is the album to do that to. Turn it on, max your volume, and scream until your neighbors know just who they are fucking with.