There’s not much better fodder for death metal inspiration than horror. It doesn’t particularly matter if the horror in question is the kind that hunts you down in your dreams with a knife glove or the more realistic kind that sneaks into your house while you’re away and waits in the closet for the lights to go out. You locked your door when you left for work this morning, right? When you listen to the speed and fury that death metal is known for, it just makes sense that those demonic growls would be rasping out stories that would make H.P. Lovecraft blush.
Morbus Grave, founded in 2010 in Italy, definitely knows horror. The band’s debut LP, Lurking Into Absurdity, was released last year and is the kind of album that both die hard death metal and horror aficionados can both appreciate, thanks in large part to vocalist Erman’s wickedly twisted lyrics. For Morbus Grave, getting to that debut record was quite a ride. I recently caught up with the band’s frontman to get the story on how Morbus Grave crawled their way out of the cemetery and into record players worldwide.
First off, what is the origin of Morbus Grave? What made you want to start this band and how did it get started?
Erman: Thank you for the interview and for the interest in Morbus Grave. Well, Morbus Grave was born by A.th and me in 2010. With the band, we wanted to create a project where we can share our passion about death metal . The goal was to do raw and disgusting death metal. At the very beginning we started to rehearse some tracks, later A.th left the band and I tried to find new guys to complete the line-up. After some line-up changes, Lurking Into Absurdity was recorded with the following line-up: Maso [Alastor]: Guitars, Danny [Guerra]: Drums, Eddy: Bass, Magiko [Black Sodomagickkk]: Guitars [and] Erman: Vocals.
How did you decide on the name and what does it mean to you? Were there others considered?
Erman: Well, we were looking for a name that sounds putrid and obscure …was not a very easy choice because we really evaluated many names but they didn’t sound good or at least they were cool but they didn’t highlight the idea we had in mind.
What got you guys into death metal in the first place and who are some of the bands that got you into the genre?
Erman: We started with the classics like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns ’n’ Roses and shit like this. I remember at the school a friend of mine was already into tape-trading and from him I got a lot of bands that I didn’t know taking their first steps like Morbid Angel, Incubus, Massacre, Autopsy, Death, just to mention a few, especially when I listened for the first time Abominations Of Desolation and Serpent Temptation. I was blown away and said to myself what the fuck are they playing? [Laughs].
What’s the writing process like for the music side of things? Has that changed as time has gone on?
Erman: Everything is born very spontaneously. Usually we start from a riff that is proposed by the guitarists and from there we try to create a track. Everyone proposes their own ideas. Of course we try and try again to see how it sounds and if we are not convinced, then we discard it or go ahead for the composition of the same.
What’s the writing process like for the lyrics side of things? What do you try to do with the words to a Morbus Grave song and is there anything that you turn to in particular for inspiration?
Erman: Let’s say that for the composition of the lyrics, the main influence comes directly from our minds… the concept of Morbus Grave has always been based on horror, paranoias, and darkness. Surely until today a main source of inspiration has been provided by the old splatter-gore movies and dark movies but usually the lyrics are based on anguish and incubus as well as the nightmares that pervade our head, making everything often and reluctantly slide into an almost recondite dimension.
How did getting to record Lurking Into Absurdity come about and what was the writing/recording process like? Being your first full-length, were there any unique challenges to getting that recorded and what will you take from the process for future recordings?
Erman: Lurking Into Absurdity was written during the pandemic disease. When the Italian mini-tour we did with Sepolcro was over, we started writing new material. In fact, at the beginning the idea was to make a new demo, however, as we wrote a lot of material we opted to release the album…and finally we arrived to make a full-length after all these years…and for us [this] is a huge achievement. For the full-length, we always worked in the same way. Maso, our guitarist who also took care of the recording, mixing and mastering, managed to come up with a spectacular sound after many challenges. Honor [him] and the work he did. We are totally satisfied. Surely for the future we will try to recover the same type of sound that particularly exalted us [laughs].
I wanted to ask about the inspiration behind a few of the songs on that record cause I really, really dig it. What’s the musical/lyrical origin behind “Morbid Darkness?”
Erman: Thank you very much for your kind words. “Morbid Darkness” is the first track we wrote and it’s also the last one we finished, as it didn’t fully satisfy us as it was written before, so we had to revise it several times. The concept about “Morbid Darkness” came to us by seeing an old war movie where a professor experimented with a serum which, injected into men, created a sort of new order which, however, is not perfect. On the contrary, it creates turmoil and destruction, leaving behind only horror and disgust.
How about the story behind “Mangled?”
Erman: “Mangled” is also one of the first songs we composed; it is also present in the promo that we self-produced on tape. The thematic inspiration of “Mangled” refers to an old church where before it was built there was a deconsecrated cemetery. In that cemetery innocent creatures have been buried and they return to take their revenge … a strong influence here was John Carpenter’s movie The Fog.
The closer “Horrors From the Unknown” is my favorite on the record. How did you guys come up with that one?
Erman: “Horrors” is perhaps the most mature track we did … we wanted something that sounded gloomy and sulphurous, almost like a descent into the abyss. From here we arrived at “Horrors” where the topics covered take a lot from Lovecraft and at the same time from the David Keith movie The Curse.
Who did the cover for that album and how much direction did you give them? It’s a Hell of a cool cover that definitely fits the music. What does that cover represent to you?
Erman: The cover was done by Thomas Westphal (Necromaniac Zine). Since the beginning, we worked with him and, first of all, is a great friend of ours and for sure he knows Morbus Grave very well. We didn’t give him directions as he knows how to work for the band, we always relied on him as he is 100% capable of representing our music. The cover satisfies us 100% and we will certainly always work with him for future works. The cover for us represents everything around which the band’s concept revolves: horrors, paranoias, incubus, frustrations, and perversions.
What’s your local scene like these days and how has that affected the development of the band over the years?
Erman: In Italy, in the underground, there is a scene, if you can call it like that, very thriving. There are a lot of valid bands. For our part, we have always tried to do our work by detaching ourselves from fashions and trends [and] following our style.
Over your time with the band, how do you feel that you’ve grown and improved as a musician? What is it about this particular band that has kept you coming back to it year after year?
Erman: This is a good question…surely each of us has grown up in all these years developing and refining our own qualities. What we can tell you is that in the face of life’s difficulties, of work that occupies most of the day, we have always held on all these years to try and move forward with Morbus Grave. Each of us believes it 100% and I think this is the main thing that has always kept us going.
How affected was the band by the COVID pandemic, either in terms of live plans or getting music recorded?
Erman: As we anticipated, unfortunately, during the COVID [pandemic] it was no longer possible to play live and this is a component that we missed a lot. At the same time, however, it served for the composition of the album so we can certainly say that the period had its advantages and disadvantages.
Lastly, what are your goals for the future of the band?
Erman: We are writing new songs that will surely be recorded shortly. Perhaps the main goal of 2023 will be to be able to play outside Italy but who knows? We cross our fingers. Thank you for your support. In darkness.
Photo at top: Lurking Into Absurdity album cover.