Interview by Vard Aman
Mortalium is a Gothic Doom Metal band from Kharkiv in Ukraine. However, don’t let the the phrase “Gothic Doom Metal” fool you into thinking that you know more or less what they will sound like before listening to them – they are much more than that, and they are much more diverse than that. Mortalium is a band that have, in their very few years of existence, carved out a corner of the genre that belongs to them and to them alone. They have recently released their debut album, entitled “A Gap Between Birth and Death”. I caught up with their vocalist and guitarist, Maria Nosyk, for a session of Q & A. Hi and welcome to Femme Metal Webzine! So, when and how did Mortalium start up?
Hi! Good to see you finally and thank you for your invitation! Well, Mortalium started about 4 years ago in mid 2009. After 2 years of cooperation in a gothic metal band called Apparent Distinctions, Yaroslav (keys, vocals) and Maria (vocals, guitar), discovering particular points of contact in the views on musical activity, offered a new band development project to their mates. However, this offer found no support in the band members except Sergey (bass). The separation of those three initiated Mortalium which line up was pretty soon completed by the other two members – Vadym (guitar) and Daniil (drums). Briefly after that – by the end of 2009 – the band finally went on stage which may be regarded as the beginning of our activity.Have you played in any bands other than/before Mortalium?
As it was already mentioned three of us had some common musical background right before Mortalium. Besides Yaroslav used to participate in a doom metal project Litia which was quite well known among Ukrainian doom fans somewhere at the turn of the century. Unfortunately now the band is not active. Vadym devoted some time to a female fronted death metal band Despectus before joining Mortalium. The guys are currently among the favourites of those who prefer brutal music in Ukraine. Daniil has always preferred to try new things so even now one can frequently see him participating as a session member at different bands of various genres.To someone who hasn’t heard you, how would you describe your sound?
We are used to refer to ourselves as gothic doom metal, which in our understanding presupposes some slow to midtempo music and lyrics with a tinge of seriousness and gloom. But what we actually play does not always fall under this description. In particular some material is not that slow and mild but rather possesses aggressive and speedy riffs and themes which moves us closer to death doom metal. This is already noticeable in our first album “A Gap Between Birth and Death” but mostly concerns the new material which we have prepared for the second album.What have been your biggest influences, musically and lyrically?
Our society is the most powerful factor that influences us both musically and lyrically. We treat it as an inexhaustible source of ideas and essential topics to be raised. The discrepancies we face between what people and their lives are and what they claim to be determines what and how we create. By these means we hope to draw everybody’s attention to the milestones of human existence which we feel to be lost and long forgotten in the haste of our day-to-day life. Of course the band has its preferences among the performers which go far beyond metal music alone. However, among the modern metal stage we particularly highlight Moonspell, Swallow the Sun, Therion, Amorphis, Lacuna Coil.You released your debut album, “A Gap between Birth and Death”, earlier this year. Tell us more about it.
The album contains 10 compositions which altogether may be treated as a call to the society to overestimate their values and priorities. We wanted to attract attention to such problems as brevity of the time given to a human and wasting this time for nothing, making forced choices and consequences thereof, being stuck in life without any sense ahead, etc. By showing this we expected to avert people from going on this way or at least give them some food for thought on the matter.What is your prediction for the future of humanity and the world?
Imagine a person fatally ill. Basically he has two ways out of the situation. One is to give up any attempts to change the situation and wait for the illness to conquer him. The other is definitely to accumulate all his powers both physical and mental and target them in the only right direction which is recovery. On the humanity scale the situation is rather similar. The winner – the one who defends his right to walk under the sun – is the one who aims at some point and continually moves towards it. We may speak of this “someone” as a particular person or a nation, or humanity as a whole depending on the scope of the matter. But the key point is that he may not reach the target but aspiring after something, permanent movement towards it and, as a result, self-development bring sense into existence which is the foundation of an individual personality. As long as there is movement in our lives humanity is alive, stagnation will bring our world to ruin.One thing I noticed, being a sound engineer myself, was that the balance you got with the production was excellent, especially with the guitars and bass – not raw, but not excessively produced either. Do you have any recording and production secrets to share with us regarding “A Gap between Birth and Death”?
First of all, thank you very much for such a positive opinion about our work. Speaking about the sound, we should admit our main purpose was to leave some space for every instrument in the mix to let every part sound fully at an appropriate time. The final product, as you can hear it now, is a result of a tense cooperation of the band with our sound engineer Artyom Kornilovsky, who was courageously enduring and fulfilling all our claims and still was able to express his professional rejection to some of them at the right moment.
And an awesome album cover as well! Who designed it?
Again, thank you for your appraisal of the work. The quest of a designer was pretty hard but the result was definitely worth those efforts. Sergey Maksymenko is a very talented artist with a strong bent for science fiction. His works attracted us with their somewhat post-apocalyptic spirit and subtle portrayal of all details, besides they look completely nonstandard. So the decision as for our cooperation was immediate and 100% determined.I like the video for “Lullaby” too – simple yet powerful, happy and dark at the same time (especially at the end). Do you agree with that (very brief) analysis? And why did you choose that song specifically for the video, and that theme?
Yes, all in all, we agree with your opinion. This song was chosen for the screen as the one with the most bright and distinctive visual images of all the compositions from the album. The key point of the composition is that having something tiny, pure and innocent is worth living and walking on earth. The idea to shoot the video for this composition coincided with the intentions and views of our clipmaker Vlad who further worked out the plot and all the scenes and costumes in detail.How is the touring going? Have you played any shows outside Ukraine?
We have been to almost all Ukrainian district centres with the exception of western part of Ukraine where metal infrastructure is not that developed and preference is given to lighter genres like hard rock, folk and ethno music. Consequently, the underground music finds little reciprocity with audience. The tour in support of “A Gap between Birth and Death” covered mostly eastern and southern parts of Ukraine with addition of a single gig outside our native boarders, namely in Belgorod (Russia). Among our gigs there have been several trips to Russia and Belarus including participation in such international festivals as Frames Motion Fest in Moscow (Russia) in 2010 and Metal Crowd in Rechitsa (Belarus) in 2011. This year our band was approved for another international festival in Tula (Russia) – Blackened Life Fest – which is taking place on the 24th of August but due to the unexpected troubles with the line up we are unfortunately out of the list for this occasion. Summing up all said above in this respect, our ambition is of course to broaden the boarders of our touring territory somewhere to the west of Europe which is one of the priority goals on the list.I noticed you’ve had a few line up changes recently. Who is in and who is out?
We regret to tell that Daniil (drums) and Vadym (guitar) left the band just a few weeks ago. The decision was not easy to take for anyone yet it was well-considered and we hope that it is for the best for all of us. As it was already mentioned the band had to cancel its participation in the Blackened Life Festival in Russia and a couple more gigs in Ukraine. The current line up is not yet approved, however, we feel like it will be complete very soon – this information will be immediately announced on our official web site. And so we are planning to get back on stage this autumn!How would you describe the metal scene in Ukraine currently, specifically in Kharkiv?
The situation at the Ukrainian metal stage is rather similar to that at other local stages around the world. More and more people treat metal music as a part of show business and more and more bands are adjusting to such an attitude. Accordingly the style and the image of a large number of metal bands is also changing. Metal as the music that comes from the bottom of your heart, as means for self-expression is degrading into means for mass entertainment. Fortunately Ukraine apart from openly secondary bands and those bands which pursuit fashion trends has a lot of strong, original, distinctive and peculiar metal bands. Another serious problem hampering development of the underground stage in Ukraine is absence of decent concert grounds in the most of the cities. Unfortunately the music of this kind is not profitable for either musicians themselves or owners of musical clubs and very few of them can afford to hold roomy premises with decent equipment. But despite all this Ukrainian metal stage is functioning and developing and we hope to hear lots of interesting bands from our country in the future.Are there any other good Ukrainian bands you could recommend?
Among our favourite Ukrainian bands with clean feminine vocals we can list Inferno, I Miss My Death and Aftermoon.What do you do/you like to do when you’re not making music?
Music is more like a professional hobby for us. To be at least a little bit successful with this activity now you must not only be a musician but also a capable manager to promote your band. And as a result moving in both these directions occupies almost all our free time apart from our main job. This does not mean of course that we do not live a normal life where people go out with friends, take care of their families, make models or leave for a vacation to the seaside. But music and the band is something that always stays with us and within us and that is always on our mind wherever we go.Last question: Have you ever gotten your hair caught in your guitar strings?
Oh yes! Many times! All of us (except the drummer of course, haha) have been regularly caught by tuning pegs on the headstock of a bass or a guitar of a member standing next to you. This is the permanent trouble of small stages where you have practically nowhere to move from where you stand. It is a real luck that none of us has faced troubles of tearing hear out in course of playing as the hair has always slipped off the headstock but we were close to it… very close!! All in all, I would like to thank Femme Metal Webzine for an interview and wish you and your readers to enjoy yourselves, what you do, what you listen and stay productive!