MORTALICUM: Consistent deliverer of doom


With “Eyes Of The Demon”, their fourth full lenght release, Mortalicum from Sundsvall in Sweden confirms their position as one of the more reliable doom/heavy rock outfits out there. We got in contact with bass player Patrick Backlund to get all the lastest on the Swedes who had their last album released on Metal On Metal towards the end of last year. We also managed to get a small update on Patrick’s other band, Quicksand Dream. 

You had a release gig for the new album at the end of November.  You performed two sets, one with new songs and one with the old ones. Why did you choose to do it this way?

– We used this opportunity to play live in our hometown, something we had not done in almost two years. We played two 30 minutes sets, instead of one long set to be able to talk to friends and share some drinks in the intermission. It was a great evening.

Apparently you also marked the occasion with your own beer, “Imperial Stout of Doom”. How did this happen?

– Henrik (Högl, vocals and guitar) is neighbor and friends with a guy that run a local micro-brewery called Alnöl. That brewery made a little special for our previous release gig/barbecue-evening with friends and family to celebrate our third release. After that Henrik loosely discussed with the brewery about the possibility to make a Mortalicum Stout and add that to their beers. It all came through for this event which was perfect.

For people like myself, who haven’t yet experienced you in a live setting, how would you compare the way Mortalicum sound live to what you sound like in the studio?

– I think we sound quite true to the sound from the albums. We have not added too much to the sound on the albums in the studio and especially for this fourth album I think we have captured a natural sound where you can hear all instruments in the mix. This is how we sound live too. We also have a lot of fun on stage which I believe is something that comes through and is enjoyed by the audience as well.

Do you have a local and loyal fan base in Sundsvall making this sort of happening worthwhile?

– Actually, it is mostly family and friends but nevertheless this and our previous release gig are among the most fun gigs we have done. These are very special gigs to play.

In the wake of your second album “The Endtime Prophecy”, you released a limited piece called “Endtime Bonus” which I guess consisted of left over material. Is this the way you usually work, recording more stuff than what you put on the actual release?

– Yes, we have always had a couple of extra songs recorded for our albums. It was only for our first album, “Progress of Doom”, which we did not have any extra material recorded. We did however record a track after that album was released, during the pre-production phase for “The Endtime Prophecy”, which ended up on our label’s “Compendium Of Metal”. For our second album, like you mentioned, we had four extra tracks that we used for our own self-released bonus disc. Even for our third album, which was our longest, we had an extra track that also ended up on a “Compendium Of Metal”. There is of course also an extra song recorded this time. If the label is releasing another compilation CD, it might end up on that one.

You never replaced Mikael Engström when he left the band somewhere between “The Endtime Prophecy” and “Tears From The Grave” Was this because you didn’t find a replacement, or because you felt you could do just as well with the trio format?

– We took a rather quick decision to continue as a three-piece. After a couple of rehearsals we were convinced this was a great setup for us. The three of us really need to perform to fill the sound in our songs. I personally think it is great because it really lets me play around a lot on bass. On one hand it is easier when you are three, but on the other hand it is more demanding which is why we have more fun as a trio.

One thing that strikes me about Mortalicum, is the fact that your albums are very consistent. I mean, there are some minor differences in quality, but the overall picture is that you have released four albums more or less of the same quality. Is this a view you share?

– Thank you. Yes, I can agree on the consistency for sure. Of course there are always a couple of things you would have done in a different way when you look back, but overall I’m very satisfied with all albums.

There are some people, those running your label for instance, hell you can even put me on the list, that feel Mortalicum should get more attention and recognition than what you are currently getting. Do you sometimes feel overlooked? Can this result in frustration?

– Well, it is hard to say yes to that without sounding like a self-absorbed dick haha! Anyways, I’m glad you feel like that and of course our label would have wanted and deserved more sales during the years, but I really do understand how hard it is to sell CD’s nowadays. I think we have gotten great response in reviews and such for all our albums and for that we are very grateful and happy. I believe we have put out four albums with quite good overall quality. We would have loved to get a couple of more chances to play live over the years and of course it can be frustration and disappointment involved. But all we can do is play the music we love and jump on the chances for live action that we get, and of course give 100% those times. Something we always do!

You don’t look like metal musicians, just like I don’t look like a guy running an underground metal blog, neither do you rely on a strong “package”, like for instance Ghost. In heavy metal were stereotypes still are very strong, it can be really hard to make an impression when you simply rely on writing as strong material as possible. Is this something you feel confronted with in Mortalicum?

– Can’t say we have been confronted with that. I would never change my appearance to fit in how someone else think I should look just because I play or like a certain kind of music. I have never done and I will never do. However, in some sense I understand what you mean, but with a fools conviction I still believe it should be the music that counts. Even if we got dressed up, I believe there are other things involved than the music and clothes. Some things you can and some things which you cannot influence.

Also some of the increased interest in heavy and doom metal lately, seems to stem from the fact that a lot of bands write occult/satanic/evil lyrics to attract interest also from fans of more extreme metal. Mortalicum certainly isn’t one of those bands …

– We do our thing and I believe we would be questioned if we suddenly started writing very different lyrics for an album just because we try to jump on a trend. It would not be genuine.

Even if the album titles really aren’t all sunshine, your lyrics aren’t all about doom and gloom either. How would you sum them up? Is there one or a few themes that you feel you are returning to on each album? Would you say you set out to make people reflect or are you more concerned with telling stories through your writing?

– The lyrics are quite mixed and it’s hard to sum them up. The first and third was quite similar in the themes and our second was almost a concept album with several songs weaved together lyrically. “Eyes of the Demon” are more different than the others as I needed new inspiration to be able to write any lyrics at all. I got the inspiration for “King Of The Sun” during one of my travels in work. I was watching a documentary about the worship of a sun God. I found the inspiration to “Eyes Of The Demon” during my walks around the city of Shanghai and the growing problem of air pollution. “Beneath The Oak” is a kind of love song with a twist in the end. “Lost Art Of Living” is about the destruction of our planet and our constant drive to explore space and where we come from. In this one we are stuck up on Mars looking back towards Earth where we can never return. It is also inspired by the idea that we once came to Earth after an asteroid collided on Mars, causing material/life forms from Mars to reach Earth. “The Dream Goes Ever On” is about the many walls that stop our dreams of peace. “Room Of No Light” is a great and actually quite dark and evil lyric written by Henrik. I came up with the title “Dark Side Of The Doom” during the rehearsals, as a nod towards the old Pink Floyd classic, but had no idea what to write. Then Henrik got the inspiration to write this creepy lyric about a freak that kidnaps and holds people in his prison and ultimately killing them. “The Distant Brave” is about the bravery of “soldiers” flying drones and sending bombs from far away. “Onward In Time” is a little bit connected with the first song on our first album, “Guiding Star”, which was a song I wrote to my daughter and one of the first songs written for Mortalicum. That one was about that I will always be there but this one is instead giving some advice that it is always better to look forward and not back.

It seems like the songwriting in Mortalicum is a joint effort with all members being credited. Please give us some insight into how a Mortalicum-number is usually brought to life…

– Usually one of us has a couple of riffs that we think is worth trying out. We evaluate which will work together or what else is needed. We alter it, we make variants of it etc. Sometimes there is an idea of more complete song brought in and we try it together, alter it, re-arrange it etc. Basically we have individual raw ideas that we finalize together. When the song is a bit more structured the work on the lyrics start.

What would you name as the main inspiration for the faster, up tempo parts in your sound? Is it similar parts from bands considered to be doom metal, or is it mainly bands from other genres of metal/heavy rock?

– I guess all our music, be it fast or slow, is influenced from the music we grew up with and still love to listen to. We have never tried to be a Black Sabbath- or a Candlemass clone. I personally like when an album is a mix of slow and fast songs because it makes the album a bit more dynamic. The slower songs seem heavier and the fast songs seem filled with even more energy

mortalicum2Since the debut album, you have recorded all your all albums in the Mortalicum studio with Patrick mixing and mastering. Even though I think your three latest albums sound great, have you discussed to which extent it will change the Mortalicum-sound if you use another studio or having an outsider either producing or mixing/mastering your albums?

– Our first album was actually recorded in another studio, but was mastered by myself in my own studio. It is nothing we have discussed, but of course this is something that would happen if we were to have another guy producing our album. This setup has suited us perfect even though it means I have need to put countless of hours on each album. It’s quite ridiculous how much time is needed to for the songwriting, pre-production, recording and mastering. But, it is all worthwhile when someone download the final result for free and don’t buy the actual album.  *Insert irony here*. No, what really makes it worthwhile is when people actually buy the album, when we are being interviewed, when the album is getting a nice and insightful review or when we play live a get great response from the audience. For that we are very grateful and this is the ultimate reward.

“Tears From The Grave” is a lot longer than the rest of your albums. As you seem to have switched back to a more normal playing time by your standards with the new album, do you feel that the last album turned out too long? Was it something about the creative process for that particular album that resulted in a record containing more than an hour worth of material?

– When we started writing for the “Tears from the Grave”- album we decided it should be an album that was more doom and that we should not limit the length of the songs. So, it was a conscious decision for sure. That said, I personally prefer the length to be 40-50min. It is inevitable that some songs are weaker than others the more material you put on an album and that in will pull down the average of an album as a whole. For “Eyes Of The Demon” we decided to go for 45min and in general shorter songs mixed with a couple of longer ones.

Was there something else about “Tears From The Grave” that you set out to improve on with the new album?

– Well, overall performance and the sound/production are of course something you want to improve for every album you put out, but other than that and the length I can’t think of anything in particular.

“Eyes Of The Demon” is your fourth album since the first one was released in April 2010. Most people will call you a quite productive band by today’s standards. How do you work to be able to release albums at this rate?

– There are more riffs from where that came from! Well, I guess we just have so many riffs and ideas and have so much fun along the way making music. Since we are able to do it in our own rehearsing room and studio, we are not limited by having to pay for studio time. That’s an advantage for sure.

It would be interesting to hear what drives you to do a new album, is it about making each album a little different from the others, or do you challenge yourselves to write the best possible songs?

– The whole process of writing and rehearsing a new song is very fun and creative. Over time we add more riffs and ideas and soon you have material for a whole album. We record a lot during rehearsals to be able to review the songs during the writing phase. This is a very good way of working. The main goal is just to make great songs and have fun along the way. Once you have enough songs it is time to start to review if you need more heavy songs or more fast songs to get a good mix on the album.

This album was not intended for a release in April next year, but Metal on Metal brought I forward due to other bands not finishing their stuff. Did you have to rush anything to make this happen, or were everything already finished and ready to go?

– When we were asked there was still time before the deadline. At that time we only had some minor adjustments and final mix remaining and were actually able to send in the finished mix before the deadline. We did not have to rush or compromise anything. We were very happy to be able to release it sooner than originally planned.

I absolutely love the riff kicking in at around the three minute mark of “Iron Star”. This is also my fave song on the album, perhaps even one of my favorite songs from the last year, it kind of sounds like two different tracks, but at the same time it flows so well together. What was the idea behind this song, and how did it come together? Do you have a fave riff and song on the album.

– That’s great to hear! I came in with the main riff when we were trying ideas for new songs. We instantly decided to start with a kick-drum, like “Iron Man”, but with only three kicks until the riff starts. The very first part of the main riff is nodding towards the old Rainbow classic “Stargazer”, so the working title became “Stargazing Iron Man”. The title then became “Iron Star” and I wrote the lyrics from the inspiration I got from the title. About the music, we altered the main-riff together to use for the verses. We felt we needed a break from all that and I had a cool riff that I had played on bass at home, which became the faster part in the middle of the song. After that part we never come back to a verse and it was a bit pity because we all really liked them. However we did a double chorus and altered the second a bit to sound to sound like a verse as a compromise. The riffs in this song are among my favorites from the album for sure, but I love the main riff on the title track too. And the more melodic ones from “Lost Art of Living” and “Onward In Time”. And the energy in “The Distant Brave”. And the raw heavy metal on feeling in “King of the Sun”. Well, you see… it’s hard to pick a favorite when you are biased! Haha! A track I really like is actually “Beneath The Oak” because it has this great old blues-rock feeling and it’s really fun to play, especially the lead part where all instruments work really great together.

Even though I can see us returning for a feature on the band later on, I can’t let you go without asking for a small update on Quicksand Dream. If I am right, there is a new album being recorded, and Henrik seems to be part of what’s happening as well?

– I actually did the final mix in early January and if not Göran decides he really need to change anything we can call it finished. Speaking of long albums, this will on the other hand be a really short one. I think around 31 minutes, but there are melodies and great stuff in there that feels like it’s at least 45 minutes haha! The album is called “Beheading Tyrants” and is a six song concept. Henrik play drums on four of the songs and Andreas play drums on two. I have written and recorded all songs and play all bass and guitars like before. For better or worse! Göran has written the lyrics and vocal melodies. The album kick off with stuff written back in the “Aelin”-days and there are more melodies/ideas from that era in there as well. It absolutely sounds like Quicksand Dream and I think it’s great! We will see if/how/when it will see its official release.

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