Interview: Mortuous (2022) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Mortuous

Was opening Through Wilderness with a mellow acoustic guitar intro a deliberate, premeditated decision, and was doing exactly the opposite this time around, with Scarve starting off with a bang, just as deliberate and premeditated?

Colin Tarvin: The intro on the first album was definitely intentional. I wanted to bookend Through Wilderness with that same acoustic melody. There was another idea that we tried as well, which was using the slow riff in Prisoner Unto Past and run it in reverse in between the end of Screaming Headless and the acoustic outro, but it was too much so I’m glad it turned out how it did. We wanted to get straight to it this time around on Upon Desolation, so I’m glad to make the listener feel like there will be no reprieve from the onslaught right from the start.

Would you say that Upon Desolation is just as urgent as Through Wilderness, or do you feel that you were slightly less unrestrained and a bit wiser this time around, with the music having a layer of maturity that wasn’t there on the debut?

Colin Tarvin: The way Upon Desolation was written was not as urgent. When we went out in 2019 playing fests around the world, Mike Beams couldn’t make it out with us, so he stayed home and wrote a bunch of songs, some complete and some were just ideas. During Covid, we decided to sit down with everything Mike had and work with it. Mike has been there pretty much from the primitive years and has Mortuous in his blood. All the songs he’s contributed over the years have been my favorite songs, so it was special to have an album where it really showcases what he does best.

Should the front cover of Upon Desolation remind us that our individualities are nothing but misconceptions of our own worth and importance imposed by our egos, and that flames await to swallow us all, regardless of any inconsequential differences we believe we share between ourselves?

Colin Tarvin: My favorite thing about the new cover is how open to interpretation it is. We will never know what kind of face is behind those hands, just like the motives of mankind. I feel like it showcases the lyrics very well, which display how life can be bleak as well as hopeful, but in the end there will always be destruction and rebirth.

Is there a deeper meaning behind those concealing hands?

Colin Tarvin: This was a concept for an EP titled What Lives In Shadows by the death metal band from New Jersey called Deform, that unfortunately never came out. This band and its members are very close to my heart, so the main figure with the hands over their face is a nod to that time in my life with Deform.

Is it merely a coincidence that both of your album covers feature headless torsos?

Colin Tarvin: It sort of just worked out that way, it wasn’t our intention to have another headless figure. That being said, I think of it more like there is a head behind those hands on the new cover, but we’ll never know the expression behind them.

Are the flute in Screaming Headless and the violins in Nothing and Defiled By Fire a homage to someone or something in particular?

Colin Tarvin: I’ve always wanted flute because of the band Cathedral and their last song Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain on Forest Of Equilibrium. Violin has always been a special instrument to me, and one of the best bands to ever use violin would be My Dying Bride. Those two bands really influenced our decision to incorporate those instruments.

Together with creativity and talent, did it perhaps take some courage as well to include those slightly odd musical excursions beyond the confines of death metal within the otherwise rather orthodox death metal idiom, that your sound essentially is?

Colin Tarvin: Honestly, I’d like to incorporate these instruments even more in the future and make things even more weird and depressing sounding. I don’t think it was courageous, more so just doing what we want.

Mortuous Interview 2022 (Promo)

Do all four of you share the same feeling of belonging together as a band, with the same vision of what you want the band to sound like, or are you still in the process of figuring all those things out?

Colin Tarvin: The evolution of the band has been something I’ve really cherished as working as a team. I wanted Mike Beams to forever be known as one of the huge counterparts to this band, but now that we have Alex Miletich in the band I would love to collaborate and progress together with him too, as Vile Rites definitely has a sound that works with where Mortuous is headed.

There’s something deeply evocative about the opening lead in Chrysalis Of Sorrow that doesn’t necessarily relate to sorrow, despite the song title. What is your emotional response to that song, when you play it or just listen to it?

Colin Tarvin: The first riff in that song is something I am really proud of, and also one of those riffs that I feel like was always there and sort of wrote itself, I just discovered it. The melody on top of the riff was Michael Beams doing, and it really takes that feeling to a whole new level. It’s something I’ve always really admired as a thing Mike can do, which is take something and make it sound better by adding something.

Are there any spiritual connotations to the wilderness you were fighting your way through on the debut album, and was that abum a way of dealing with some uncultivated landscapes of your inner selves, that you were previously afraid to explore or perhaps even completely unaware of?

Colin Tarvin: I feel like life is a cycle of losing yourself and finding yourself over and over again, and the wilderness acts almost as the ultimate teacher of things we must learn, plants and trees, rocks, and rivers. If you stare and think, it will have a huge impact on your being. The earth is an ancient place, and so many lessons can be learned about yourself in the universe if you slow down as does wilderness.

Do you feel that the damage contributes to one’s maturity much more than age, and that the same can be said for the maturity and depth of artistic expression? Are anxiety and unease more conducive to a serious and sincere artistic work?

Colin Tarvin: I know folks who are younger than me that feel they have lived thousand years or lifetimes based on their experiences, and it definitely does contribute to maturity more than age itself. If you’re older but have been sheltered your whole life, there’s not much knowledge to gain from that. That being said, I don’t believe you need to be damaged to write something beautiful, there are other ways to tap into these feelings, such as reading or meditating. But one’s own experiences I feel definitely act as the translator of these things with such topics as loss, depression, etc. I don’t particularly feel that anxiety helps a creative process at all, because to be able to create something you have to be ok with it, and there’s a lot of letting go involved in letting something be itself, just as there are a lot of emotions and feelings out there that are hard to describe.

Would you subscribe to the notion that some of the most memorable moments on Upon Desolation were saved for the album’s second half?

Colin Tarvin: There was no particular order or saving of parts. The main thing I wanted to make sure carried over was the flow. The way one song ends and another starts is very important, but most of the songs were presented in the order in which they were written.

What Mortuous songs are particularly good at channelling mystery, anger, desperation, soul-searching, and melancholy? Could you associate each of these words and feelings with at least one of them?

Colin Tarvin: This is really a lot of the catalog, most of our songs have these repeating themes, such as in previously mentioned Chrysalis Of Sorrow. The song is about a man who lost his sister to a murderer, and while lost in his depression seeks revenge, finds his sister’s killer, kills him and then kills himself. This is based on a true event that actually happened in San Jose. As far as mystery, that’s the other side of our writing such as in songs like Beyond Flesh, The Dead Yet Dream, or the title track Through Wilderness. Bitterness is a song of anger and frustration, while some of the remaining songs from Through Wilderness are based on books and short stories. The new album has lyrics from both myself and Mike. Mike’s lyrics are very dark and mysterious, and most of the lyrics I contributed to the new album are based on how bleak the future feels sometimes, like endless unchanging cycles leading to destruction and demise.

Mortuous Interview 2022 (Upon Desolation)

If someone was to literally feel physically unwell after listening to your music, would you take that as a compliment?

Colin Tarvin: I wouldn’t want that for anyone. Sometimes music can be triggering, which is why the amount of death metal we all listen to is actually pretty minimal. A lot of us like rock, psychedelic, punk, heavy metal, ’70s and ’80s goth rock, even some electronic new wave, or old rap. Personally, one of my favorite bands is Lycia.

Do you feel that the attitude behind your music, that particular notion that the music is unbending and unyielding with complete disregard for trends and hypes, is almost as important as the music itself?

Colin Tarvin: Most definitely, we make music for ourselves first and foremost, but if people like what we’re doing, then that’s great. We’ll just keep doing what we want to do, and even as trends and hypes fluctuate throughout time, we’ll stay true to what we want to do always.

Evolving steadily the way you do, would you say that the band is still far from hitting its creative ceiling? Do you feel that the more one spends creativity, the more creative one gets, in some strange self-fulfilling prophecy manner?

Colin Tarvin: When I first started writing, I thought it would be really hard to continue, and I would always be afraid that, like in most cases, our later stuff wouldn’t be as good as our earlier material. I think breaking out of that type of thinking is the best thing for creativity you could ever do. Most of the latest creativity for myself was spent writing with Evulse and Acephalix, whereas Mike Beams really took the reins on this new album. And honestly, it’s my favorite album we’ve done so far, I’m truly excited about what we will make together in the future. Going back to the first thing I said, there are definitely examples of bands that continue to push out amazing records over the years, constantly getting better and better. A couple examples being Evoken or Lycia.

What is the thing that makes doom and death metal work so well together and what are some of the bands that serve as prime examples of that chemistry in your opinion?

Colin Tarvin: Honestly, I feel like since the beginning of heavy music, doom has always been a staple of heaviness, Black Sabbath being the prime example. I think at the time death metal first came out, it was the heaviest thing anyone had ever heard, and when you mix both extremes of grindcore and death metal such as blast beats with slow and low atmosphere, the combination spans so many different feelings and emotions, and can work really well together, almost unexpectedly. I think one of the best examples would be My Dying Bride.

Between all the albums that have had strong impact on your personal evolution and growth, how many would you regard as the life-defining ones?

Colin Tarvin: I would say, as I was getting into death metal initially, certain bands that really changed my life would be My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Accidental Suicide, Viogression, Nuclear Death, Immortal Fate, Autopsy, Incantation, and Immolation, just to name a few.

What are in your opinion some of the most malignant death metal bands of your generation, that you admire for their uncompromising extremity?

Colin Tarvin: There are some really heavy bands out there right now, who have been putting in loads of work into their craft and it really shows. Some of the best death metal bands out there right now I would say are Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Fetid, Cerebral Rot, Witchvomit, Torture Rack, Skeletal Remains… These bands are not only inspiring, but they will never fold to what people want to hear from them, they will always do what they want to do and be themselves. And these new names are barely scratching the surface of sick bands right now.

Have you ever gotten to a point where you needed to take a break from your music, for the sake of keeping your shit together and retaining sanity?

Colin Tarvin: Oh most definitely, when we were on tour last month in July, for example, we would play a lot of prog rock or classic stuff, Sabbath, Ramones, the Cure, etc.

Mortuous Interview 2022 (Band)

Do you feel that the current landscape of death metal is overcrowded and, if so, is there enough quality to justify that quantity in your opinion?

Colin Tarvin: I don’t listen to a lot of current death metal bands honestly, but I do listen to and admire and respect all the folks who are our friends that play death metal. They’re really doing something worthwhile, bands like Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Tomb Mold, Innumerable Forms, etc.

Speaking of Blood Incantation, that you’re currently on tour with, is there anything about the way they handle their band, their brand, their career and their business, that you feel is inspiring and within your own grasp? How important for Mortuous it is to grow not only musically, but logistically as well?

Colin Tarvin: There is massive respect and admiration for everything Blood Incantation is and will be still 20 or 30 years from now. The amount of work they put in is something that takes a different level of dedication most folks in bands will never quite undertake. It is inspiring, and the whole fact of us touring with them is because they believe in us, and they want to see us succeed. So much love for every one of those dudes. Their band is their craft, and their success is self-made. They’ve been putting in work and dedication for a long time, it certainly didn’t happen overnight, despite the opinions of those ignorant folks who assume so. I feel like if anyone puts in that kind of work, anything is possible. Look at our drummer Chad’s other band Necrot, for example, the work and dedication really shows.

When it comes to recognition and appreciation, people seem either unaware of Mortuous or inclined to think that you are the single most underrated band in the death metal underground. The fact that no lukewarm reactions to your music are possible apparently, do you see it as an achievement in and of itself?

Colin Tarvin: I actually love that, because most of the people who like us to my knowledge are in sick bands, and I think it kinda keeps us in that constant underground.

Have you ever felt relieved thinking that you don’t really need to lead a happy, content life, and that you are perfectly fine with living life stress-free, devoid of frustration and pressure of achieving that basically unachievable goal?

Colin Tarvin: I do actually live a happy, content life. Life is what you make it, and the music is an outlet for any frustration. Life is full of stressors, but just take a deep breath, be grateful for what you have, and you can honestly achieve any goal you set forth to accomplish. I think a little pressure is a good thing, gets your gears moving, and stress is all part of that. It’s the unnecessary stress I could do without, just cut it out, simple as that. Don’t let it affect you. Don’t waste your time worrying and giving into anxiety. We all deal with it on different levels and in different ways, so I don’t mean to come off as unsympathetic. Reach out to your loved ones if you need to, you most likely have friends who will give you support when you need it most, and that’s really the best anti-anxiety antidepressant.

What is your biggest fear?

Colin Tarvin: Most simply, anything bad happening to my loved ones, losing them, etc.

When your time comes, how important do you think it will be for you to feel some sort of purpose and accomplishment? Or do you feel that death ultimately renders everything futile, that nothing matters at the end of the day?

Colin Tarvin: I would say again that it’s important to me that my friends and family know I love them, and time spent together is everything. Also that when I go, I hope I’ve made some kind of difference, big or small in the world, promoting the love. So here’s the shout out to my loved ones, my girlfriend Silver, my mom Amy, my sister Kendall, my nephew Atlas, Steve, Pam, Paul, Nat, Brian, all my bandmates, Greg and Fern, and all the people close that bring me joy and make life feel worth living.

 

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