Forgotten Tomb – Negative ApproachFriday, 1st December 2017
“My aim was to make my music as miserable as possible and to outdo every other band at that.” Sounds like a proper goal, eh? Such are the words of Forgotten Tomb leader Herr Morbid (real name: Ferdinando Marchisio), a man largely responsible for the creation of depressive black metal, a style subsequently mutated and twisted by multiple bands in Forgotten Tomb’s stead. Venture back to the early days of this century, Morbid and team were one of the few willing to fully embrace black metal’s depressive underbelly. They got out of the forest, so to speak, and ventured into the pit of despair on albums like Songs to Leave and Springtime Depression. Looking back on both now, it’s hard to argue how far ahead of the curve Forgotten Tomb were at the time.
Circa 2017, Forgotten Tomb is a different band, albeit with the same overarching, nihilistic, morose feel. Sludge and doom have infiltrated the band’s sound, but Morbid’s trademark riffing and lyrical approach still separate the band from the pack, as evidenced by their new We Owe You Nothing. An album recorded during a rather difficult time for Morbid, it’s another reminder of Forgotten Tomb’s rather bleak and negative approach to life…and metal. The always-thoughtful Morbid was kind enough to weigh in. Read on…
Dead Rhetoric: You are well enough into your career that some of your albums are as old as 15 years. What comes to mind when you think of your early albums like Songs to Leave and Springtime Depression?
Herr Morbid: It was kind of a different era, before YouTube, streaming and such, so everything was a bit more mysterious. Early 2000s were not much different than late ‘90s, except that more or less everybody started having access at least to e-mails and some websites and P2P. Albums were selling very good back then for everybody and there was a lot of hype around bands like us taking black metal in a different direction. The stuff we were up to was quite new for those times so we had a whole new fanbase on one side and the older guys being pissed off about us on the other side cause we were growing fast and leaving lots of bands behind. I was pretty young and very much into what I was doing with my music, I lived for what I was doing and took it really seriously. Had a lot of contacts with bands and like-minded individuals, I travelled around and we were excited forging this whole new concept of playing black metal in a different way from what people was used to up til ‘then. We wanted to bring back things to a dangerous level since classic black metal was increasingly becoming a joke for kids. I think those two albums were good works and they were very important in developing what it is now referred to as “DSBM.” I prefer Springtime Depression for a series of reasons. Of course when things got too popular and copycats started popping up everywhere people proceeded to ruin everything. Isn’t it always like that after all? Competition and tensions between bands didn’t help either, but everybody was young and with an attitude. They were crazy times though, that’s for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you think you were onto something with the “depressive black metal tag?” Forgotten Tomb was pretty much the first band to use that term.
Morbid: Yeah, I was calling the band “Depressive Dark Black Metal” and stuff like that to emphasize the difference in sound that I had from the classic black metal bands. When everybody wanted to play as fast as possible and with war or satanic themes, I was slowing down things and focusing on eerie dissonances, arpeggios, mixing up the darkest black metal I grew up with (Burzum, Thorns, Strid, Manes, Bethlehem) with doom influences, dark wave influences and a proper playing and production. My aim was to make my music as miserable as possible and to outdo every other band at that, as well as introducing different topics in lyrics and imagery that were very unpopular back then. Besides the whole suicide-promoting stuff I used some kind of urban imagery that was not really popular in those days. I received a lot of hostility back then so it’s funny to see how today you’ve got thousands of bands trying to imitate that style and imagery, or some of our own listeners complaining we’re not “DSBM” anymore. Dude, the “DSBM” tag didn’t even fucking existed when I started this shit and probably wouldn’t even had existed if not for me and another bunch of bands that played around that time. Also, we’ve always been doomier and more depressive compared to other bands who were more black metal-oriented in their approach. One interesting fact is that Songs to Leave was ready to be released in 2001 but its release date was delayed of one year. Promos of the album were circulating in 2001 until I signed with Selbstmord Services.
Dead Rhetoric: Nowadays, there are a lot of bands playing that style. Do you pay attention to any of them?
Morbid: No. I never understood what’s the charm in trying to half-ass something that has been done before and better by others, but apparently these people are not interested in creating or listening to something new or to mess up things a bit, mixing up styles. They’ll stick with the B-grade copycats. I do understand these days there isn’t much to invent anymore, but at least give it a try. I frankly don’t even listen to recent black metal since ages, except for a few exceptions here and there. There’s a lot of rehashing of old sounds and imagery. For me it’s a chapter that has been closed since 2004 which is more or less in my book when interesting black metal bands and releases quit being interesting and started repeating themselves over and over again. YouTube and social networks also were the nail in the coffin of a certain scene, everything quit being exciting. That’s why I took a break of almost four years prior to releasing Negative Megalomania, which was another game-changer but in a different way. It was my answer to all this stuff. Of course times have changed so you gotta adapt to how things work these days, I’m not a full-on nostalgic though it’s undeniable that the way things work has changed.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you think Forgotten Tomb would sound if it remained a black metal band?
Morbid: Question is, have we ever been a black metal band? Partially, I guess. We have always been more and we kept on being more than that, moving in different areas and keeping things dark. When something starts being a trend, I destroy it and reshape it.
Dead Rhetoric: Switching gears, did your accident and the difficult times that follow give you a new perspective on Forgotten Tomb or even life in general?
Morbid: I didn’t react very well to the accident, especially because I had some other personal inner turmoil that interfered with its aftermath and made life a living hell, so my perception of things was very negative. I couldn’t find a reason why I should have still been alive, cause I hated everything that was going wrong with my life at that particular moment. Some people feel blessed to be still alive after a crash like that, but because of my emotional distress I started thinking that I was better off dead. This led me to a lot of thinking about the things I missed in my life and influenced pretty much the whole concept of the album. It’s an album based on loss, pain, frustration, anger. I’m still searching for some answers in my life. The angst of the lyrics on this album comes from the notion that in those months I was supposed to be happy to be still alive or not paralyzed, but I was in such a severe mental breakdown that I actually wasn’t sure that being alive was what I really wanted. I touched death a few times by now but I have this kind of recklessness that prevents me from changing my view on the subject, I don’t give a fuck either about life or death. The title of the album mostly means owing nothing to these things, life and death.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any lasting effects from the car accident? Will it affect the way you play?
Morbid: You’re never the same after you break stuff in your body, though I’m not experiencing particular problems at the moment, except that my neck remained kinda stiff and that sometimes my right hand feels a little numb, but overall I recovered very well considering the damages. So no, it won’t affect the way I play.
Dead Rhetoric: The sludge element on We Owe You Nothing is strong, but it doesn’t take over the album. Did you plan on incorporating it on this level?
Morbid: We have our own sound and it’s everywhere on the album, simply the approach this time verges more on the sludge/doom side than on the black side, but this is something that has been going on for most of our albums from Negative Megalomania onwards. We always had this duality and some southern influences, some albums were more black, others more rock, others more doom, but we always mixed things up quite a bit. This time we wanted to go heavier, but you can also find punk influences and other elements that are quite typical of our trademark sound. I think this album still has a lot of melody in it, despite the heavier sound. All the lead guitar melodies, the clean guitar bridges, the arpeggios, the harmonized guitars and the dissonances that defined our classic style are all there, actually I did a very complex work on the lead guitars this time, the album is way more complicated than the previous ones. There are references to all our previous works throughout the whole album. This said, I’m glad that I finally had a chance to increase the amount of sludge elements on this album since it’s something I’ve been working on for 10 years now and I took smaller steps before the times were mature for an album like this one. I’m pretty sure the next one will be even heavier, filthier and harsher. We Owe You Nothing closed a trilogy but at the same time also opened up things for a new one.
Dead Rhetoric: What made you come up with the “We Owe You Nothing” album title?
Morbid: The title-track is the most aggressive one lyrically and it’ slightly different from the other songs, it’s kinda abstract, it doesn’t address anyone or anything in particular but it’s more of a outburst of generalized hatred towards life and people. It’s like a big “fuck you” to the whole concept of existence, to life itself, to death itself, to hypocrites, it’s like saying “I don’t owe life anything” and the concept was extended to the band, therefore the “We” in the title and lyrics. The future of the band was uncertain for a while after my accident due to various reasons, so It’s like being a unit again and marching on against all odds like a gigantic middle-finger. The album was supposed to have another title in the beginning, but after surviving the car wreck, slowly getting back to play guitar and finally getting the band back on track, there was this feeling of being us against life itself, against misfortune and against the constant letdowns, therefore the title. It’s a title that is open to many interpretations though.
Dead Rhetoric: The lead guitar spot in the band is open. Do you have any plans on filling it?
Morbid: We’re not sure about it, I guess unless the right guy comes around we’ll stick with the three-piece configuration and get a session-player/hired gun for the live shows. We’re really comfortable as a three-piece in the studio since I can play all the guitar stuff myself and it makes things smoother.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2017?
Morbid: We recently played a festival in Romania, which was our first show in over a year, and currently booking some festivals and appearances for 2018. Still not sure about a full tour, we’ve been discussing it a lot lately, we might play some shorter tours here and there and then see what happens. Let’s say we’re open to negotiations when it comes to touring though we don’t want to overdo it for a series of reasons.