As soon as I heard that Spanish Temple Of Darkness Records are about to re-release the classic "Dances From Left" album from Finnish Death Metal band MORDICUS I immediately started to search for the address of one of the guys to make an interview with them. Here we are with another lesson in Death Metal history. As "Dances From Left" is one true classic Death Metal album I can only advice you to order it via Temple Of Darkness as soon as it is available (unfortunately the release of it gets postponed further and further). Nevertheless, read this interview, keep the name MORDICUS in mind and buy their stuff as soon as it is available. Check out Isto’s current band DEMOLISHER (review online in the review-section on the Voices pages), as they are doing a fantastic job, too! Enough of my boring words, enjoy the interview
Hi Isto, how’s life? What are you up to these days?
"I am fine thanks, just keeping busy with work and other usual shit. Also composing songs for DEMOLISHER and rehearsing the stuff has kept me doing something besides just freaking out on doing nothing."
How does it feel to get interviewed about MORDICUS when this band is buried for many years now and how is the interest in this old band at all? How many interviews regarding your old band do you answer during a year?
"Well, it is a bit strange since I thought that there is only few that reckons MORDICUS after all these years, but it seems there is people out there who are totally into oldschool Death Metal bands from the 90s, and that’s amazing. Maybe they just think that modern music sucks, and I understand them completely. We haven’t done many interviews regarding MORDICUS after the split up, but I guess after the re-issue release we get them more. Anyway it’s fun to try to remember the old times."
Let’s start from the very beginning. MORDICUS started in 1990, tell us something about the start of the band!
"Well, it’s so long ago so I really gotta try to remember, luckily there’s still some braincells left… Robert and Heikki had a band called MORTUARY, and I had another band with my friends and we rehearsed in the same house. So we got to know each other, and we all were into Thrash Metal and also into Death Metal which was a quite new thing back then at the end of the eighties. So we decided to form a new band which later was named MORDICUS. Jani had his own band back then too and we had heard it, and he was interested in joining us in our new band. Our goal was to play as fast and brutal music as we could with our capabilities. So MORDICUS started sometime in 1990."
In ’91 you recorded the "Abominations Of The Earth" demo and in the same year the "Grown Under Shade Of Sorrow" demo. Seems that this was a quite busy period in MORDICUS’ existence? What do you think about the tapes now with a little distance and how was the response?
"Yeah, you are absolutely right. We had just formed the band and were full of ideas and just rehearsed like hell and made new songs, so as soon as our first demo "Abominations Of The Earth" was recorded sometime in January / February 1991. It sounded like shit, so we concentrated to make new songs and recorded them more professionally. So we only sent out a couple of demos and wanted our second demo to be much better. So "Grown Under Shade Of Sorrow" was recorded that summer with Jukka Timonen, whom we knew had recorded some PHLEGETHON stuff before that. This was a much better attempt and we received a lot of good response from it. Tapetrading was the thing back then and we sent out demos to numerous bands, mags and labels. I just listened to the demos as I did the new master for "Dances From Left" re-issue. The "Abominations…" sound is so bad that we did not want to put these tracks on the re-issue, the songs aren’t bad at all. But from the "Grown…" demo there’s three tracks on the re-issue which were remastered, and they sound surprisingly good even now."
After that you released the 7"EP "Three Way Dissection" on Skindrill Records. Please lose some words about it.
"After we sent out the "Grown Under Shade Of Sorrow" demo we got really good feedback, and this lead to a deal with Skindrill Records from the US, they wanted to release three tracks from the demo as a 7"EP. So we decided to re-mix the songs in Gingerbreadhouse studios with new vocal tracks from Robert."
In ’93 you released the fantastic "Dances From Left" CD on Thrash Records. For me one of the best Death Metal CDs of that time but totally underrated. Tell us something about it!!
"Hey, thanks a lot for those words! After we recorded our 1992 promo we were seriously looking for a label to release a full length album. So we sent out this promo to all the record labels we knew back then and got a few proposals from different labels for a recording deal. We decided to go with Thrash Records since they promised a fast schedule to put the album out and they were a known label back then for releasing for example early SENTENCED and TERRORIZER records (TERRORIZER on Thrash Records?? – Thomas). We had a lot of songs to choose from and many of the songs that ended up on the album were just composed before going to the studio, like ‘Cybernetic Summer’ and ‘Cosmocrators Of Tartaros’. Many older songs just did not fit there even though there maybe were better ones there. We wanted the album to have songs that were not exactly pure Death Metal, so that the whole album would have more dynamics, so amongst the Death Metal stuff there is more rockish and Heavy Metal riffs, and acoustic parts, before it explodes to total Death Metal. We also wanted the best sound possible for the album so we booked Tico-Tico for the recording sessions in the summer of 1993. The recording engineer Ahti Kortelainen had done great work for so many Finnish Death Metal bands, so we knew we couldn’t go wrong. We just wanted a more brutal guitar sound, and that’s what we got, and still to this date the album sounds damn good." (understatement of the year, this is one helluva great Death Metal record! – Thomas)
Back then I thought you had a totally own sound which I nevertheless would describe as a mix out of the "Necroticism" and "Heartwork" CDs from CARCASS. Still I think this is such an original release which I count to my all-time-faves. Could you agree when I say that you created something really special with "Dances From Left"?
"As I said in my previous answer, we wanted an album that would have dynamics more than any other Death Metal album back then, we wanted to have different kind of songs on the album. So there were all kinds of different influences that affected our songwriting. Yes, CARCASS is definitely one of them, but also ENTOMBED was a huge influence to us. We got the idea to use double vocals from CARCASS so many people have compared our sound to CARCASS, but the music was more mixed bag. So I guess "Dances From Left" stands out from many other Death Metal releases from those times. Musically I wouldn’t say that is anything really original though, it has just more variety than many other albums, good riffs and the sound of the album is much better than most of the albums released back then." (damn correct – Thomas)
Even though you got fantastic reviews for this CD it became pretty silent after this release around MORDICUS. What happened?
"Well, after releasing the album we just got somehow bored with playing Death Metal. I guess the same thing happened to many other bands also between 1993-1995 as the Death Metal scene collapsed at least in Europe. We were looking for new directions for our music, but as the line up was the same with the addition of Aapi Hämäläinen on bass, we kept the MORDICUS name. Silently all the old connections to Death Metal bands and mags were buried, many bands just quit etc. We wanted to play, so a new direction was needed. And we kept quite low profile."
As far as I know the Thrash Records edition of "Dances From Left" was released in 1500 copies. How did the contract look like and were you satisfied with the label’s job?
"They did what they promised, paid part of the studio bill, got the album out in time etc. that way we were happy with them. But they did not put much effort on advertising, so we ended up doing flyers by ourselves and do a lot of work there."
How fast were these copies sold?
"I don’t know. I remember that the first press was 1000 copies and that was sold out quite fast, so they took another press of the album which I believe was 500 more, but I did not get any official info about the second press…"
Thrash Records did some great stuff back then, like the first LP from CONVULSE, first SENTENCED, MEGASLAUGHTER, EPITAPH, CARBONIZED… or seven inches with REVENANT, VITAL REMAINS, AFFLICTED or SORCERY. What is your opinion about this label. And do you know what happened to them? Guess you were one of their latest releases?
"Yes, they did a lot of good work for putting out first albums of many really good bands back then. So I guess Pat from Thrash Records had a nose for good lesser known bands, but no sense of marketing the bands. So it was just precious work for introducing many good bands to a wider audience, and after releasing albums for Thrash, many bands got a deal from bigger labels. There was some talk about releasing a second album of MORDICUS on Thrash Records with bigger press, but as we were not too happy with their promotion work, and also we did not know in which direction MORDICUS music was going, so nothing came out of it."
What about the other labels you dealed with? As far as I know Skindrill and Wild Rags didn’t have the best reputation back then?
"We found out later that Skindrill was actually part of Seraphic Decay Records (a well known rip-off label from 90s) when we received our EPs, we just got 50 copies instead of 200 which they promised: instead of 150 missing copies there was two plastic beermugs with the Seraphic Decay logo on them. So we knew that it was a fucking rip-off! Wild Rags released the cassette EP "Wrathorn", which contained the songs from our Promo ’92. They also insisted to release our "Danced From Left" album in the US, but as it was released by Thrash Records already, we asked to deal with licensing of the album directly with Thrash. But I guess nothing happened with the deal between Thrash and Wild Rags because everybody knew that Wild Rags were not exactly the most reliable label back then. Back in those days ripping off bands by small record labels was quite common, because there was really nothing you could do from the band’s side if the label was located in the US and you were in Finland or anywhere else far away. Now as the internet and communications are on a different level than just snail mail, the labels have to be more careful. Bad words spread on the internet really fast and your reputation will be ruined in seconds, and in that way internet is a good invention."
Unfortunately I know no recording from MORDICUS after "Dances From Left". Can you tell us something about the releases after your debut CD? Most of them were only promos if I’m right. What was your intention with these recordings?
"We made a few promos with the new line up, but we did not sell those to anyone, just to some local friends. We sent out demos to some labels but the main intention was just to do some songs and record them once in a while just for our own fun, and if something comes out of it, that’s fine."
As time passed by you integrated more and more Hardcore-influences into your style. Why did you choose this way and could you imagine that this might bother some of your old fans?
"We felt that this style was more interesting to us, and as we did not really have contacts anymore with the old Death Metal scene, we did not really care what the others would think. So the style was more into Thrash, Metalcore and Hardcore, and in the end of 90s it was not very popular, like it is now, so it was inspiring music."
What about your 2nd album which you recorded in the year 2000 but haven’t released so far (correct?)… Are there plans to finally release it? After all you write in your biography very interesting details about these "new" songs and the recording process.
"Disintegration Groove" was recorded at the end of 1999 and was supposed to be released by Yperano Records from the UK. We caught their interest with our demos recorded at the end of 90s and made a deal with them, everything sounded great but the release was delayed a lot, and eventually Yperano started to look for a bigger label to release it, so I guess their resources were limited. But this never lead to anything, and the CD is still unreleased."
What was the reason why you splitted up? Hm, did you actually disband?
"Well, after the recording of the second album, there was a quiet phase in MORDICUS doings. We faced the same situation after "Dances From Left" was released, maybe a lack of motivation because we just waited and waited the album would be released, but it never got to this point. I moved to Helsinki from Joensuu, and we could not really rehearse as a band anymore. So Heikki and Jani continued in Joensuu to make music, and formed SCALPING SCREEN. At this point we decided that MORDICUS was dead and buried."
Do you still have contact to the old band members? What are they doing right now? Are they still playing music somewhere?
"Yes, I am in contact with Heikki and Jani, their band SCALPING SCREEN just recorded their third album, we have also organized a gig together with DEMOLISHER. I also sometimes meet with Robert since he lives in Helsinki also, but as far as I know he is not involved in any "serious" musical activities."
Now in spring 2007 Temple Of Darkness Records from Spain are about to re-release the "Dances From Left" album with additional bonus tracks from your 7"EP as well as some demotunes. Who came up with this idea and how does it feel to see this CD available in the shops a second time?
"This actually was a bit of a surprise to us that someone was so interested that he wanted to re-release "Dances From Left". Jose from Temple of Darkness had sent some emails to SCALPING SCREEN about the opportunity to release the album, so we just thought why not. I guess it feels good to see the CD in shops again, since there is a younger audience out there who haven’t heard MORDICUS, so hopefully it will get more attention the second time. As it was released in 1993 it did not get the recognition we hoped for. We are also eagerly waiting to see the album on vinyl!"
Talking about the good old days. What do you think about the time back then with reading fanzines, trading tapes and writing letters for hours day by day? How do you value these days with a distance of a couple of years now?
"Those days it took more time and effort to keep contacts alive, it was rare that somebody had a computer you could use for making flyers etc. It was also more personal with handwritten letters and stuff like that."
Is your myspace page the reason for some kind of "looking back" to these days? Or what do you want to achieve with it?
"There hasn’t been a website for MORDICUS for a long time, and since the re-issue is coming up, we just needed a page where we could gather info about MORDICUS from those dates. We also have plans to put some videos from old gigs up there."
Regarding the underground, what is your opinion about books like "Choosing Death – The Improbable History Of Death Metal & Grindcore" and "Swedish Death Metal"? Have you read them or are you interested in this topic or is it done for you? Do you think books like these 2 are necessary to write?
"I haven’t read those, but I guess that stuff is interesting to those who haven’t lived and experienced the era just for finding info about old bands. But I guess those kind of books are never complete and only give the writers point of view which bands are worth mentioning and which are not, or which band is Grindcore and which Death Metal…"
I love these books, but especially "Swedish Death Metal" makes me wonder if currently someone is writing "Finnish Death Metal". What would you think about that?
"Well that’s a good idea, there is a book about Finnish Metal in general, but it only covers just a few Death Metal bands. Hey, there’s a task for you to accomplish!" (that’s not exactly what I wanted to excite with my question, haha! – Thomas)
What’s your opinion about the following great Finnish bands from past (sorry, I have to list these which came to my mind): DEMILICH, DISGRACE, CONVULSE, PHLEGETHON, FUNEBRE, GOD FORSAKEN, IMPALED NAZARENE, BEHERIT, AMORPHIS, MYTHOS, XYSMA, SENTENCED, DEMIGOD or BELIAL to name but a few?
"Well, from all the Finnish Death Metal bands I have huge respect for bands like XYSMA, DEMILICH and AMORPHIS. They all had very original sound and new ideas, and were not just copycats of some other more known bands. Also XYSMA and AMORPHIS evolved into something else as time passed. But anyway, all of those you mentioned are good bands and it could be said that the Finnish Death Metal bands had a sort of original sound which was different to the Swedish bands. And of course I have to mention PHLEGETHON from our hometown Joensuu, since they were involved in the scene way before us. They have some new material coming up by the way, check it out."
What do you think is the reason why Finnish bands (including MORDICUS) sounded more CARCASS-influenced compared to the Swedish bands who were more in the AUTOPSY, REPULSION vein in the early days?
"I really don’t know, but I guess it has something to do with XYSMA and their early impact on the Finnish Death Metal scene, they were more or less CARCASS influenced in the beginning. But not all the bands had CARCASS influences. But you are right that Finnish bands had maybe different influences to Swedish bands, and Swedish bands had a greater impact on Finnish bands than vice versa." (and for answers like this I love to do those kinds of interviews – Thomas)
I love the early work of DISGRACE, CONVULSE and XYSMA, but the later stuff, their 2nd albums and later, is not really my cup of tea. What do you think about their way of progression?
"Yeah I understand, all of them started to play this Death Rock stuff or whatever you call it so it was not Death Metal anymore. XYSMA and DISGRACE turned into Garage Rock bands, so they turned something very different to what they were in the beginning. And I guess something similar happened to MORDICUS, too, but we were not into Rock’n’Roll stuff."
Many bands wimped out in a way, but AMORPHIS and SENTENCED did it with style and I like their newest recordings a lot. Your opinion?
"I like the new stuff from AMORPHIS, but I’m not too much into the latest SENTENCED stuff. I guess you could say that both of them have wimped out quite much, I see no connection to their roots with their radio friendly hit songs. But there’s nothing wrong with that, if you like to play music and like what you are doing, why should you stay just as a garage band if you want more than that and play the music you like?"
How does it feel to see a band like AMORPHIS who were at the same level like you back then being pretty successful now. Are you in a way jealous that you didn’t reach such a status or wasn’t that the goal back then with MORDICUS?
"Heh, not jealous at all , I wish them all the best. The idea of MORDICUS was not to get popular or to make money, we just wanted to play whatever we felt like playing."
Do you think a band in their size can make a living out of it? I think it’s always an interesting thought at which level you can make a living out of it and I’m sure only a small percentage of the current popular Metalbands can actually live from their music
"That’s for sure that only a really small percentage of all the Metal bands make their living out of it. And I guess AMORPHIS is doing quite good. But usually you have to be the songwriter to get money from royalties. And of course merchandice like t-shirts and other fan stuff is a really big part of the business, if you wanna sell those you have to tour and put efforts on ads etc, so I guess with many known bands it’s a balance between cost and income, and if something is left in your pocket, you are happy about it. Money shouldn’t be the major driving factor to make music, if that leads to music that is just pure shit."
Your current band you are playing in is DEMOLISHER. I really like your "Enter The Suffering" CD-EP and I’m looking forward to follow your further progression. Take the opportunity to promote this new band!
"Great that you like it. DEMOLISHER was started in 2005, and after a few line-up changes I joined in the summer of 2006. We are currently composing new songs and heading into the studio at the start of 2008. I am sure that you’ll like our new stuff even more, they are more into Death Metal than with "Enter The Suffering" EP. We are also looking for a label to release our first full length album, so go to www.demolisher.net, and check out our songs."
What do you think about a website like www.voicesfromthedarkside.de. Is such a page also something you have a look on when you are surfing the internet?
"That is a monster database of bands and reviews you have there! It is definitely one of the best sites out there, and a lot of interviews of bands that are almost forgotten (like MORDICUS, hah). Thanks for keeping that alive and supporting the underground scene!"
Isto, that’s it for the moment, hope you enjoyed answering my stupid questions. Did I forgot anything to ask or is there anything important left to say?
"Well, you definitely have taken some time and effort to make these questions, it was fun to answer them and they were not at all stupid! Check out our myspace site for news and info about the upcoming reissue of "Dances From Left" on vinyl and CD. Take care!"