originally written by Kyle Harcott
Mortals recently released their Relapse debut, Cursed to See the Future, to a rumbling boil of acclaim. The Brooklyn trio plays a churning, slightly-unhinged brand of metal that PR types might try to peg as “blackened,” “sludgy,” or “rooted in hardcore.” In actuality, it just sounds like a bare-bones unit making as much 2014-style racket as possible, getting the fucking riff out with six-to-nine-minute bursts of gnarled wrathpounding.
Cursed to See the Future is a primal blast hurled from near-obscurity, so, of course, we had to know more. Kyle Harcott got in touch with Mortals vocalist / bassist Lesley Wolf. He asked five questions, she gave five answers.
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Like many a great band, the history of Mortals starts off with Slayer. Can you tell me how Mortals originally formed out of a Slayer tribute band?
Caryn [Havlik, drums] and I somehow got involved with learning to cover some Slayer songs through some mutual friends, and we dubbed ourselves Slaywhore. This was circa 2005 maybe? Our repertoire was “Postmortem,” “Raining Blood,” “Die by the Sword,” “Angel of Death,” “War Ensemble,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “South of Heaven,” and “Seasons in the Abyss.” (I am definitely missing some here, but those were the main classics we played).
We played some shows over some years but eventually disbanded when one of our members moved to the west coast. Caryn and I talked about starting something original after her math-rock-post-punk side project with Elizabeth [Cline, guitars] was disbanding, thus spawning Mortals.
Why was the time right to sign with Relapse last year, and how has your relationship with the label been so far, surrounding your debut album?
The time was right because the offer was on the table and we’d never even considered something like it before. When opportunity knocks, or when life hands you a banana, kind of thing? There was a lot of Is this really happening? sorts of conversations happening around the time they approached us. I think the three of us all agreed to it for our own personal reasons, but so far everything between us and the label has been awesome. They’ve been accommodating to all our wants/needs, and they’re people, once we’d met them all, that we’d be friends with anyway, which is a nice working relationship to have.
How long did it take to write the new album?
There are a couple songs on the album that were written prior to Relapse stepping into the picture, then the rest came after we realized we needed to put together an album’s worth of material. I think it took about a year to get everything written? Maybe a little bit more than that.
Rumor has it you guys are huge Dungeons & Dragons fans. Is your band name taken from the Dragonlance campaign “Age of Mortals”?
I play in a campaign with Elizabeth, but I would say we are “D&D enthusiasts” rather than huge fans. I barely know what I’m doing when we play with our crew. We are still level one after a year of playing. Ha! It takes a lot of coordinating to get our group of ten players together. My character’s name is Grizwald (human fighter) and Elizabeth is Derek the Cleric. I swing my bastard sword a lot, I’ve killed some creatures, drink from my wine skin, and I’ve acquired two wolves named Alphonse and Jeremy. I feel like a success story because of that.
And our band name did not come from that campaign, no.
How did you guys come to recruit Mike Lawrence for the stunning album cover art on Cursed To See The Future?
We played a show in Lexington, KY a few years ago with local thrashers Tombstalker and Anton (Tombstalker’s guitarist) recruited Mike to do flyer artwork for the show. They knew each other from art school. When I saw the flyer I contacted Anton immediately and asked who had done it, he passed me Mike’s information and we ended up making teeshirt art from the flyer. Mike is insanely talented and we are so fortunate to have him involved in our band. He is such a pleasure to work with, incredibly fast and communicative, making sure his aesthetic and artistic integrity maintains intact while still getting across exactly what we are going for.
You guys shot your first music video a couple months ago. When do we get to see it and what can we expect?
If you are in NYC, we are premiering it at our record release show Friday, July 18 at the Acheron, otherwise it will be on Relapse’s Youtube and Vimeo channels. It is a tongue-in-cheek homage to some of our favorite horror films, a little bit of Psycho, Scream, Silence of the Lambs, and Duel references in there. There are guest appearances from members of Mutilation Rites and Ramming Speed as well. Nothing to be taken too seriously. A HUGE thank you to Hudson Lines, Nadya Wasylko, Jason Ferraro, and the Acheron for helping make it happen!!