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Mortiis at the Lodge Room, Los Angeles – Show review and Interview

Last month LA was blessed by a very special show. On April 7th, Mortiis played a set of Era 1 music at the Lodge Room.

As a side note, Mortiis is one of the pioneers of dungeon synth, a genre that combines medieval music with black metal aesthetics and, just as the name suggests, has a very synthy sound, since it’s actually more related to ambient and electronic music than metal. But if you like Black Metal, I highly recommend checking this weird beast out. Or if you ever liked playing the Necromancer castle in Heroes of Might and Magic III…

Now to get a better sense of what it was like, let’s start with the fact that the venue, the Lodge Room, has a very unique vibe itself. Wooden walls and a museum like atmosphere make it seem more cold and proper than a lot of other venues, but because it is a mid sized venue, there is also a certain sense of intimacy. I’ve attended shows there before and, in my opinion, some of them just didn’t work. However, Behemoth hosted their art exhibition there last year and it was perfect. Just like it was perfect for Mortiis, because the medieval like melodies fit the space, and the coldness of it helped to focus the attention on an already very standing out solo person on stage. And it all blended perfectly with Mortiis’es unique aesthetic, the mask, the rusty industrial looking synth, and the trees… There wasn’t much light action going on, however, the subtle changes in the color schemes and the pattern that was being projected on stage provided enough variety to keep things interesting.

The other thing that I found extremely heart warming is that the place was actually packed and a number of people went all out with their outfits. And I understand them… Because to be honest, despite it being just one person on stage for an hour with almost no motion, no vocals, just very intense stares into the crowd, it was probably the most enjoyable show I attended this year. The music spoke for itself, creating a whole separate realm and this meditative trans like vibe, only strengthened by the visuals and the minimalistic performance, leaving you stuck somewhere between “what the fuck” and “this is freaking amazing”. I vote for amazing and demand more!

Despite it being an hour long set, there were actually only two songs played, “A Dark Horizon” and “Visions of an Ancient Future” from the upcoming album “Spirit of Rebellion”, which is a re-interpretation of a 1994 album “Ånden som Gjorde Opprør”. According to the artist himself, he got very inspired while re-recording the album and ended up adding a ton of melodies, rhythms, sounds and arrangements.

I also got a chance to meet Håvard Ellefsen, or Mortiis, after the show and ask him a couple of questions:

  • First of all, please satisfy my curiosity, does it take long to put on / take off the mask?
  • Not really. I’ve gotten a lot of practice through the years. I’ve got it down to 30-45 minutes to get completely ready… It used to be 2-3 hours, but that was back in the days when I would obsess over everything looking totally seamless. Mortiis has transformed into a much grimier and dirty looking entity since the late 90’ies period where I was a lot more polished looking, at least in my view.
  • As for taking the mask off, the proper way to do it, is to use some sort of removal gel or liquid, but I never really bothered, I just carefully peel it off. I get pretty warm underneath that mask, usually, so that makes it easier to peel it off. Sometimes the stages can be strangely cold, and that’s when the glue really hardens, and it can hurt like a motherfucker to peel it off, as it will pull a bunch of facial hair out with it… Haha! It’s my own fault, really, for always looking pretty scruffy…I hate being clean shaven…I don’t have a lot of facial hair anyway, so I never really bother, and I don´t like the clean shaven look…I’ll just live with the private pain of pulling that mask off after a show… So if you hear screaming from the backstage area after a show, that’s just me pulling the mask off, haha! I once pulled half an eyebrow off, that one sucked.
  • Oh my… Good to know… The music you played has an interesting blend of old and new, being a re-interpretation of the 1994 album. How did it feel performing it live? Especially since it’s just you on stage and you get all the focus.
  • At this point it feels just fine. But the first couple of “comeback” shows were very strange… I wouldn’t say uncomfortable, since in the industrial rock version of Mortiis, I did the lead vocals, and got a lot of the attention anyway, so that sensation wasn’t really super different… I think my most self conscious moments stemmed from worrying about the stage being a lot less active and happening that when we did the band, which got borderline violent at times… This was pretty much the polar opposite, and it was based on vibes and atmospheres… But I got used to it pretty quickly, and felt a lot more comfortable doing it. I just had to tune my mind to a totally different idea and awareness.
  • It has also been a while since you toured US. How did it go, any cool stories from the road?
  • I was very happy with the way the tour turned. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was slightly worried, since I had a lot of personal issues and problems going on the previous tour we did (as a band) back in 2015. That was just a shitty time for me personally, and the band was tired and fed up with avalanches of bullshit we kept getting served up at the time, so we were getting closer to the end at that time too, and I think we all were kinda feeling it. So I remember leaving the US in late 2015 with a sort of sour taste, not that it was really ever the US’s fault…
  • So it was very revitalizing to have a great fucking time in the US again, and now I just want to go back and do it again, haha!
  • Actually this tour was pretty well organized and we kinda stayed on top of business the whole way, so no real rock’n’roll stories occurred… I mean it was fun watching record store clerks pass out in their own vomit, and sneaking into parts in Seattle to steal trees for our stage show, but it was nothing high level crazy as far as I’m concerned, haha!
  • I’m glad to see it was so packed here. And from what I’ve heard the reception has been pretty good. Are you happy with how the tour went?
  • Yeah the LA show went great, I think we had the same in New York, and the rest went quite well too. Yeah I’m happy, especially as I think we kinda (in some places at least) suffered from the classic “what happened to the promo?” syndrome that every other band can tell you about as well…
  • Only 10 dates though… Any plans to bring your music to the rest of US in the near future?
  • Actually the short tour was per my request, I’m trying to do shorter runs, for the sake of my family and other personal reasons… I just prefer to do that, and rather do it more often, as opposed to booking 7 week tours… I have done that several times, and I’m not a fan. They just last forever, and inevitably, at my level anyway, it means you either have to have days off, which are expensive, or sink way below your pay-grade and do shitty filler shows just in order not to have too many days off. I’d rather book shorter runs, with quality shows all round.
  • Anyway yeah, we’re talking about doing another round of US dates, covering some of the ground we didn´t cover this time around…at least that´s the idea as far as I’m concerned.

Musician, photographer, writer, gamer, night walker... Originally from Moscow, Russia, but currently dwelling in the nights of Los Angeles, CA.

Sentient 51423

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