CONCERT REVIEW: MORTIIS (APRIL 1ST, TORONTO)
Although his career had been blossoming throughout the nineties, I first heard of MORTIIS when his single PARASITE GOD came out in 2002. The music video left a huge impression on me. I’d never seen a rock band fronted by a goblin before. Three years later I found myself in Montreal where I saw MORTIIS on stage as the opening act for GLENN DANZIG‘s Blackest of the Black tour. The music that I heard that night cemented my opinion that this man/creature was a genius.
Fast forward to 2019… almost 15 years later and I’m in the green room of The Velvet Underground in Toronto drinking a beer with MORTIIS.
We arrived early to the venue and found MORTIIS mid-soundcheck. I immediately recognized the song being soundchecked as his latest single “Visions of an Ancient Future” which, as is the case with his upcoming album, is entirely instrumental. Once MORTIIS and the sound tech were happy with the sonic quality, he asked MORTIIS where his microphone was, to which MORTIIS responded with a quote from TENACIOUS D’s “Master Exploder”, saying, “I don’t need a microphone, my voice is fucking powerful!” As their laughter subsided MORTIIS said, “But seriously… It’s all instrumental stuff. No vocals.” The sound tech seemed to be taken off guard.
MORTIIS’ set took most people off guard. Despite the show being billed as a return to “Era 1” which describes an early instrumental/ambient incarnation of MORTIIS, the crowd seemed to be expecting a full on rock show with guitars and vocals. Amongst the confused metal heads and goth rockers, pockets of dark ambient music fans embraced the phantasmagorical quality of MORTIIS’ sound and stage presence.
The hour-long set consisted mainly of reworked versions of musical compositions from his 1996 ambient album “Ånden som gjorde opprør”. These songs are set to appear on his 2019 release “Spirit of Rebellion”, the title for which is a nod to the 1996 release’s Norweigan title “Ånden som gjorde opprør”, which translates to “The Spirit Who Rebelled.”
Sitting down in the green room with MORTIIS, our interview got off to a rocky start. I was a bit worried my first question pertaining to the recent true crime film LORDS OF CHAOS hit a sore spot. He told me that he had made a Facebook post recently saying, “Anyone who asks me [about LORDS OF CHAOS] will not get a fucking response.” In an attempt to course-correct, I rectified that my questions were more to do with the representation of the Norwegian Black Metal scene at the time rather than anything to do with the convicted murderers VARG and FAUST, the latter who was a band member in MORTIIS’ highly influential black metal band EMPEROR in the early nineties. MORTIIS ended up offering more information than I was aware of, revealing he was fired from EMPEROR due to what he believes was him not being a good enough bass player.
MORTIIS’ music may not be for everyone, especially the dark dungeon music of Era 1, but there was an unmistakable energy on Monday night that left an aroma of macabre and wonder in the venue. The set inspired me to look back at MORTIIS’ earlier ambient releases which clicked with me after a few listens, but they definitely are miles apart from his work on industrial metal albums like “The Grudge” and “The Smell of Rain”.
“MORTIIS… Rockin’ that ambient!”
3 1/2 Tombstones out of 5…