Morbid Cross – Reality to Insanity

Tuesday, 23rd July 2019

The underground scene is bursting with talent – especially in all metal realms. Hailing from New Jersey, Morbid Cross are another act who take a thrash foundation and flesh it out with death, traditional, and blackened influences. They’ve released an EP in Practice What You Preach plus the follow up full-length, Disciples of the Goat – the latter a veritable creative stew that includes hints of the 80’s (early Metallica, Slayer, Sodom) as well as death/black influences from the 90’s to today, beyond some killer melodic moments especially in the lead break department courtesy of Steven James.

Feeling the need to learn more about this quartet, we fired off some questions to vocalist Zach Marcus. In this talk you’ll discover the evolution and slow/steady climb to creating material for the group, their in your face/active live performance presence, the importance of bands like Death Angel, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Full of Hell to Morbid Cross’ outlook on metal – and what future plans are in store for the listeners.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music in your childhood? At what point did you gravitate towards heavier music, and when did you make the progression into wanting to play/perform in bands?

Zach Marcus: Some of my earliest memories of being around music that I enjoyed are of my mom listening to Carole King and Neil Young I gravitated towards stuff like that pretty fast. As for rock or metal I remember watching Headbangers Ball and seeing “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden. It blew my mind, I had to be like nine years old. From then on it was metal all the time. I knew I wanted to be in a band as soon as I saw that video. Then when I was a freshman in high school me and a friend started what would become Morbid Cross.

Dead Rhetoric: Morbid Cross began in 2009- tell us about the formative years of the group. Did you have a feeling out process in developing the characteristics that would make the band’s sound – and why did it take six years for the first recording (the Practice What You Preach EP) to finally hit the streets?

Marcus: Morbid Cross was not received well at all back then. Metalcore was dominant in popularity. So when we did do a show it was scarce. We were a cover band back then. Also, I had a drug problem as well which obviously doesn’t help anything. And my mother had passed away in 2013, after that I was just all guns blazing Morbid Cross. Soon after Practice What You Preach was released. Surprisingly people liked it.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the songwriting and recording sessions for that debut EP? What do you believe you learned more about yourselves as musicians recording these songs, and how did it come about to include a Sodom cover on the EP?

Marcus: Recording that EP was very fun. It was a laid-back experience. We recorded that with our friend Caleb Kerr. I don’t know if we learned anything except that we knew what we wanted. We knew we wanted something that was not being produced in Jersey. All we heard at that time was metalcore or pop punk. We knew we needed to change that. The Sodom cover came about just because we’re fans first and foremost. Sodom just have kick ass songs. And at the time we just loved that album (M-16).

Dead Rhetoric: The newest full-length Disciples of the Goat just hit the streets. Where do you see the evolution of the band and major differences between this effort and your previous EP?

Marcus: The evolution of the band is really just to keep going where we are going. I believe the bare bones of the band have been established on the album. The jump of skills from the EP to this album is clear. And this album is filled with influences that we wear on our sleeves. The songwriting is much better. The lyrics are way more intellectual. And we know how to groove and we definitely built upon that more on this album. We just progressed a lot more. It helps when you have guys you click with musically. And bringing our guitar player in Steven “Stove” James really pushed more.

He knows how to write killer riffs. The ideas that come from all of us really blend well together. Our bassist Alex Gibbs knows when it needs to be grooved up or sludgey. (Drummer) Daemon Kolonich can just play anything which helps.

Dead Rhetoric: Your influences run the gamut from thrash to doom, black to traditional, groove to even Frank Zappa among others. How do you believe this diversity aids the creative/original slant you put across with the Morbid Cross material?

Marcus: We’re fans first and foremost. Like I said we wear our influences on our sleeve. We all love 70’s hard rock. U.F.O , Rush, Steve and Alex love Hawkwind. Pentagram, Budgie , and ZZ Top. Then bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden to Acid Witch. Of course thrash metal like Exodus, Megadeth , Vio-lence, Death Angel. And new bands like Tomb Mold , Full of Hell, Power Trip. So many other things as well that we love . Having all of these influences and incorporating them into any band would help. Being closed minded only stifles (things).

It’s not hard to write when you use what you’re influenced by. If you’re painting something do you stick to one color? No! You just go crazy with it. Whenever we are writing we say to each other, ‘What if we add this Mercyful Fate part’? For example, and we totally know where to go from there because we know from then on how to shape a song. And you can build on top of it with other out there ideas. Somehow we make let’s say an Exodus riff go into a sludge riff. And it’s just extremely fun to be able to build these odd structures. We just know no matter what we write it has to be heavy. Whether that be musically or emotionally through the lyrics. We just like it heavy!

Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the cover art for the new album – who came up with the concept, and was it a collaborative effort between the artist and the band to reach the final vision? Where do you see the importance of cover art to making a proper impression in heavy metal?

Marcus: The phenomenal artwork done by Shagrat who is in the band Acid Witch was definitely something I myself am very proud to see. We all had the idea because we knew the title of the album years before it was done. That it was going to be Disciples of the Goat, and with a title like that it needs to be blasphemous. Shagrat added more than we asked for. Which is fine because it is the album cover I’ve dreamt about for years! It’s such a gnarly cover and looks straight out of 1986 with the best of Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, etc. Covers play a huge roll on albums. We collect vinyl so looking at a cover while spinning a record is just something that goes hand in hand. Or if you pick up an album simply because of the cover, and have no idea who the group is. Also its just cool to see art that goes along with the music for sure.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Morbid Cross when it comes to live performances? What do you hope to get across to the audiences, and what have been some of your favorite or more memorable shows to date – either locally or out of state?

Marcus: Morbid Cross live- well I can definitely say we usually bring the energy level. As a frontman with no instrument I try to get in people’s faces. Myself and Alex we dig hardcore music and the energy of hardcore shows. So we try and mosh with the audience. I’ll do stage dives since I’m 110 pounds. I really try and get in people’s faces. I’ll call them out and tell them they need to move. Don’t be afraid to mosh at a Morbid Cross show. We wanna see these people become ferocious. When the audience gives us energy we put it right back out to them. But yeah, we are movers on the stage for sure. Some of the best shows have been in New York. Underground basement type shows in office buildings are amazing. Kids are absolutely nuts!

Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the evolution of social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Bandcamp, etc.? Do you believe it puts a band like yourselves at an advantage in terms of developing an international following with the connection/interactive mediums at play – to stand toe to toe with signed artists?

Marcus: Social media is something we are used to. We’ve grown up with it our whole lives basically. So we try and use it to the best of our abilities. Because our EP is on YouTube we have a swarm of fans from Mexico. A lot of people from Europe. And we have never even been to these places so it’s good to see how far social media can take you. Is it easy to get a record deal now? Absolutely not! But is it easier for a band to be heard across the world? Most definitely! With Bandcamp our album seems to be doing well. After the first day of releasing the album we got 80 likes right off the bat. Social media does do a lot of good even through it has taken out a lot in the terms of the old guard of how the music business worked. As for standing toe to toe with established bands. Well we aren’t huge by any means. But we have quite a following. I don’t know if we will ever have that international status. But seeing people from across the world liking your band is insane. So my answer for that is I hope we get bigger. And hopefully go to these places that’d be rad!

Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the state of heavy metal today? What area(s) of concern do you have to make the scene stronger/better either on a local level or on a broader, international scale?

Marcus: I honestly think metal is doing great. It’s thriving, and it is still here. There’s an influx of all these new bands. Tomb Mold, Full of Hell, Phrenelith, Ossuarium. The list goes on, so much new death metal is coming out lately. Everyday I’m seeing new bands and I’m loving it. I’m a metal nerd for sure, and it makes me think we can do it to. Of course, metal is back in the underground it seems. Which is fine because it’s thrived for so long underneath what’s popular. But yeah it’s been a great few years of releases so as a fan I’m stoked! My only complaint is that kids are too afraid to mosh and that really needs to change (laughs)!

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the relationships and personalities within Morbid Cross? Are you able to balance the workload/activities of the band with maintaining jobs, school/education, and outside relationships – or is it a challenge to do and achieve everything you desire with your time?

Marcus: We’re like brothers. We are always together. We get each other very well, I live right down the street from our drummer Deamon. And I work with our guitar player Steve. And every weekend we jam. Hang out and listen to records. We are pretty close with each other. We all have pretty good jobs and we all work around Morbid Cross as a whole. And we all talk to each other literally everyday through social media. School was never really any of our strong suits. So we just work and play music. Definitely not a challenge to play and work. If you love something enough, you’ll make it work. We may have to decline shows here and there because of one of our work schedules. But for the most part we get it done for sure.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are three of the most important bands that Morbid Cross use as a benchmark to look up to/aspire to become, because of their history, discography, or professionalism they’ve upheld in their career? And how would you define success for the band at this point?

Marcus: Man coming in with a really tough one now. The number one band for me at least is Death Angel. Their career speaks for itself. They are a huge band but not huge huge. And I admire that for sure. By this time my idol bands are putting out for lack of a better term, crap! But every album they have put out since reforming gets stronger and stronger. More ferocity, anger, and bite. A band like The Black Dahlia Murder is a band I look up to because they have brought death metal to a high grossing mass appeal again. And being with Metal Blade Records as long as they have shows such loyalty. Also they are themselves, not taking themselves too seriously which is what we are about.

We are morons who play metal. And we just wanna show people we are fans, who just wanna play. Another band would be probably Full of Hell. They just know how to do it. When it comes to incorporating genres, and keeping it very D.I.Y which is how we have done it. But it has inspired us to just wear every influence you have because more people will like that more than just putting out the same thing constantly. Success for the band at this point is the fact that through all the trials and tribulations we put out an album and people are digging it. People are buying it which is awesome. And so far it’s all positive feedback. So hopefully there is more in the future.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Morbid Cross over the next twelve months to support this record? Has work already begun on the songwriting for the follow-up – and if so where do you see these songs evolving in comparison to what you’ve done to date?

Marcus: What’s next is playing and writing. We’re booking shows, and have started writing for another EP. All I can say about the EP is that it will be a concept EP. It’s cool to do something like that. Especially as fans we like that type of stuff. As for the sound. Well it’s always gonna be bare bones thrash. But we are using our other influences. I can definitely say the first song we started writing has a very Sleep sound to it. Along with a hardcore D beat thing going on. I’m sure that sounds odd but we are definitely making it work. Our sound will always be heavy it’s just being used in different ways. I can definitely say the next album we do, there will be a lot of lyrical content that is in my opinion fucked up. Very disturbing, very horrific. But if you like what you heard on Disciples of the Goat then you will like what we put out next. It’s only going to get heavier.

Morbid Cross on Facebook