Mors Principium Est – Fifth Degree of Melo-DeathMonday, 15th December 2014
Average consumers may not dig deep into what factors launch acts from underground buzz to headlining status – but it’s not always the most talented musicians that gain the biggest dividends. Promotional muscle, strong label support, a good management team, and those proverbial relationship ‘breaks’ can create sustainable momentum. In the case of melodic death metal, it’s probably why Dark Tranquillity and Children of Bodom reap the benefits, while this Finnish quintet Mors Principium Est continually strive to inch their way up the ladder.
Active since 1999, their first three albums for Listenable Records set the tone – unafraid to inject relentless speed, drop on a dime segment changes, and that twin high guitar melody angle that aurally sends shivers down your body. Don’t believe me? Check out “Altered State of Consciousness” from 2005’s The Unborn or the jackhammer riffs throughout “Cleansing Rain” off the follow up Liberation= Termination and tell me they aren’t some of the best songs you’ve heard in the genre for the past decade.
Switching to AFM Records and seeking out non-Finnish axe men as older members left the group, the arrival of their fifth album (uniquely titled Dawn of the 5th Era) will hopefully help Mors Principium Est rise in the Melo-Death platform, as they certainly possess the songwriting chops to hang with the upper tier. Quickly after submerging myself deeply into this latest platter, I knew I needed to fire off some questions to the band- and here we have the answers from long-time vocalist Ville Viljanen and guitarist Andy Gillion. Catch up on all things MPE… and dig into the back catalog, as this is prime Scandinavian metal here folks.
Dead Rhetoric: I wanted to start with your latest guitarist acquisition, Kevin Verlay. Do you hope that this will finally stabilize the second position for Mors Principium Est – considering you’ve gone through so many in the past eight years and struggled to find the right fit within your own country?
Ville Viljanen: Of course I hope this would be the final line-up, but somehow I do not believe it. Ha ha.
Dead Rhetoric: Dawn of the 5th Era is the latest album – and second to feature Andy Gillion as the main songwriter. Where do see the main difference for Mors Principium Est between Jori Haukio’s previous efforts on the first three albums and Andy’s current writing?
Viljanen: Well, I cannot pick the exact things that are different between Jori and Andy. The biggest difference for ME is that I have been working with Andy when he and I were writing the new music and I also produced the latest album with Andy. During Jori’s time, Jori (and sometimes Jarkko Kokko-ex guitarist) wrote the songs alone and brought the finished and final versions for the others to hear. But of course there are differences also musically between Jori and Andy. For example on the solos. Andy usually does that tapping style solos and Jori did not.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video shoot for “Monster in Me” – which happens to be the first official video you’ve ever shot for the band. Any particular reason(s) why you’ve waited so long to do a video- as I believe it works very well to your favor as a performance-oriented effort?
Viljanen: Well, shooting the video was nothing special, I am sure. We did it in the UK and the day we did it, was most likely the warmest day in the UK for a century. At least it felt like it. The reason why it is our first is simple. Our old label did not want to give us enough money to shoot good enough music video. I personally believe, that if you cannot get something done right, don’t do it at all. Meaning, I do not want to spend money on something that is shit. We had options to have a shitty music video, or no music video at all. We chose to not have a music video. But this time with AFM everything worked out nice and we got a good quality music video for a good price.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that you’ve recorded five albums, which one do you consider the game changer in terms of public acceptance and is there a particular effort that you think may be underrated that more people need to dig deeper into and discover what you were trying to get across?
Andy Gillion: I think everyone has their own favorite album for their own personal reasons. In terms of a game changer, I guess The Unborn was what made me get into the band in the first place and maybe gave MPE a place as a well-respected (although still underground) band in the melodeath genre. But in some ways I think …And Death Said Live was a game changer as it not only brought the band back, but we also gained a new fan-base from it. I really hope the new album can do the same.
Viljanen: I think The Unborn album was THE album for us. I personally do not think it is our best album, but I think it made the biggest impact on the music scene. And I just think it made us take the biggest step forward from being a totally unknown band to being at least a bit more known. But also like Andy said, …And Death Said Live was a game changer because that is our comeback album, so to speak.
Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel to finally play outside of Finland in 2005 – coming over to Cleveland, Ohio for the Brave Words Six Pack Festival? Did this give you renewed hope in expanding the band’s style beyond homeland borders?
Viljanen: How did it feel? Well, it was the best thing ever!! It was my first time in the USA and as everybody who knows me, knows that I am a pretty big USA fan, so it was just the best. Maybe it also gave us some confidence that we actually could someday have some international tours. heh heh We are still waiting for our first US tour and I really hope it will happen soon.
Dead Rhetoric: There appears to be a different edge or feel to the way you as a band incorporate the guitar harmonies and melodic aspects while keeping the crux of your compositions very heavy and uncompromising. Has this always been a conscious balancing act- or something that came naturally from the start?
Gillion: I would say that has always been a big part of the Mors Principium Est sound. When I joined the band after Jori, one of the things Ville made clear was that the music had to be very melodic. I think a lot of metal bands neglect this and just try to be the heaviest band they can be. Hopefully we do well to incorporate both elements and give the listener something more to think about and enjoy. I pretty much started where Jori left off but of course there are differences in our styles. I think …And Death Said Live proved that the MPE sound is very much still alive and well.
Dead Rhetoric: Which do you prefer – the art of creating new songs and seeing them come together in recorded forms or the energy and atmosphere of performing these songs in a live setting? How would you describe Mors Principium Est when it comes to the performing live?
Gillion: Performing live and writing music are two very different things. There’s nothing like the thrill of performing and seeing people react to the music you are making there in the moment, but there’s also a great feeling to have created something and see and hear it as a final product. Finishing an album feels like a huge achievement because so much work goes into putting one together. Playing live is more about that moment. As for describing MPE live…well we don’t really have the budget to do anything like Rammstein or Iron Maiden. What you see is what you get with this band, there are no gimmicks and no bullshit – just a bunch of random guys who are trying to make good metal music. Although I think one day it would be cool to set Mikko (Sipola-drummer) on fire and watch him try to do a drum solo or something.
Viljanen: Before I give you my answer, I will tell you that there is a pretty big difference WHERE you play live. Is it a small club with 200 people or is it a big festival with thousands of people? And also depends on the stage etc. etc. I love playing live, but I love it when everything is working ok. With shitty backline, shitty stage, shitty crowd and shitty sound guy, it is not that cool, ha ha. But when everything is ok, it is awesome! I still do love the studio stuff as well. So, my answer would be it depends on the situation.
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