Blackened doom metal coming from sunny California! That is where Morgion stands for. Or better, stood, because on their new album 'Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth' we can enjoy much more than just heavy doom metal. In the five years after 'Solinari' (1999) the band evolved to a super-talented unit that leaves everybody speechless. The new album bears testimony to so much depth and beauty that the door must be open to a worldwide success. In February 2003 we caught a glimpse of that on the Doomination of Europe tour, but what the band serves us now, goes beyond all expectations. Bass-player Justin Christian and drummer Rhett Davis (one of the founder members of Morgion) tell us all about this long but natural process of evolution.
By: Vera |
Hi guys from Morgion! We met at the final concert of the Doomination Of Europe Tour (21-02-2003) (Ghent, Belgium). Let's have a nice update of things so far then. We are about one year later and it's time for a resume of life since then. Now 'Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth' is about to be released soon (27/04/2004). It must be a relief that everything came to a good end at last…
Yes, we are all quite relieved in having the album finished and seeing its release soon. It's been a long process…longer than we expected, but I think in the end it was worth it. Now we can focus on writing new material and plan the next album (hopefully not years from now! Ha!).
I remember the release was planned to be earlier. What caused the delay of the new album until now?
There were some unforeseen delays in the completion of the album…basically we were getting under the wire and there was still some work to do, so Dark Symphonies extended the deadline. The concern is allowing time for approval, printing, promotion and press of the album. That must be taken into consideration when determining a release date, and so that buffer of time between completion of the album and release of it must be sufficient. In the end, the release date is April 27, 2004.
Did you change many things after the Doomination of Europe tour? I remember the songs of 'Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth' were already written in February 2003 and even played live…
The songs were actually written the year prior to that tour. Nothing changed composition-wise in the songs after the Doomination of Europe. There were some small shifts in arrangement and an altogether feel and playability in the songs that went into the final recording of the album. Also, additional tracks were recorded, along with all the little things done in the studio to fill out the sound of the songs.
Was the studio ready to move into again when you came back (I remember it was moved while you were on tour)?
Yes. By the time we needed to return to the studio in the last half of 2003, Schneebi had a new recording studio location and all was fine.
Can we conclude you are perfectionists then? (which serves the splendid result!)
Well, there's no argument there. If you're one for Astrology, everyone in the band except Rhett is a Virgo, so that should shed some light. Anyhow, yes we are perfectionists, which means we're never really completely satisfied, ever (most musicians in general aren't). The recording of this album was a bit of a scheduling tightrope to walk. With ours & Schneebi's schedules, we had to work when and where we could, but all is well that ends well.
What struck me immediately is the open and more sophisticated sound of the new album. Of course it is normal that you evolved since 1999, the date of the last album 'Solinari'. But can you tell us a bit more about this evolution and the way you came to this new brilliant sound?
When we began writing this record we had in mind to make a guitar oriented, vocal lead album. We wanted to tone down the use of the keyboards using them more for background than in the forefront like the “Solinari” record. We also added a new bass player whose style was complimentary to our new songs, as well as the old actually. In the beginning we had help from Adrian Leroux (ex-Mindrot) to shape the vocal harmonies and later Gary and Dwayne added their own style and delivery to what structure Adrian made. Since we have a track record of recording and releasing new material every 5 years (thus far), I think we evolved maybe quicker to some listeners simply from such long breaks in between releases. After we made “Solinari” we all wanted to make an album that surpassed “Solinari” yet was something that was all it's own. Many people may be upset that we did not make a “Solinari” #2 but with new members and new ideas, not to mention a new studio, our musical evolution could be answered simply…time.
Much more clean vocals, atmospheric and introverted parts in the music, while the monumental riffs stay the base and point of recognition of Morgion. Was the way of working very different than earlier times?
We are in harmony with one another emotionally as well as musically this time around. Tension and strain from the past was replaced with a genuine camaraderie to make songs we all felt were worth putting the time and energy into. We all didn't need 3 day a week practices and 1000 riffs to write each song, we spent the time needed to develop the song, then perfect it. Each member had a stronger connection with their instrument and could skilfully play each song with conviction, talent, and efficiency. So in laments terms, it took less time to write with no conflicts emotionally or performance-wise.
I remember at the Doomination of Europe tour, singer Adrian (ex-Mindrot) accompanied you. What happened to him?
We had a great run with Adrian while it lasted, and he is a talented man and a good friend. After Europe, it became clear that he would not be as available to the band as necessary. It was a tough spot, and it left us with no replacement, until we realized both Dwayne and Gary (guitars) have great voices.
Who did all the vocals now?
Gary does all the clean singing, while Dwayne does all the heavy “growling”. We are very pleased with this arrangement, and I think this album shows their newfound talents.
Since 'Solinari' there were some line up changes. Can you tell us about these changes?
Morgion began as myself (Rhett Davis-Drums), Dwayne Boardman-Guitars, Jeremy Peto-Vocals/Bass, and Mike Davis-Guitars. Mike came and went until spring of '93, we replaced him with Bob Thomas-Guitars and added Ed Parker-Keyboards. Bob and Ed left in '95 who were later replaced by Gary Griffith in '96 taking over both Guitars & Keyboards. We have had almost half a dozen keyboardists in the band since Gary came into the fold...the most notable being Brandon Livingston who was with the band for only 3 months. I quit the band in the spring of 2000 after a long US Tour, which left me with a lot of indifference to my band-mates. I came back to the band in the winter of 2001 and after a short break Dwayne returned in the spring of 2002. A few months after we began writing new material we noticed a huge difference in our relationship with Jeremy (musically and emotionally) that Dwayne, Gary, and I decided to continue the band without him. No animosity intended, we made a decision that we felt benefited the band. A tough decision, but a necessary one!
In February 2003, you seemed to come out of nowhere after a long time of silence. I think the Doomination of Europe tour has changed things for the better for the three bands (Morgion, Mourning Beloveth, The Prophecy). Can you tell us all about this initiative and sudden uprising in Europe?
We wanted to be part of the Doom Shall Rise festival in February 2003, but could not be added because they had no space for us. During the negotiations (with DSR) we asked a couple of local English bands to help us land a date or two in England before or after the fest (thus enter The Prophecy), to make a mini tour out of it. Once we started talking to Heiko from Doom-Metal.com he helped organize the dates along with getting Mourning Beloveth involved. Since we could not play the DSR we made a small 11-date tour instead, not bad for a D.I.Y. tour!
You were looking for a label at that time. Please tell us about the decision to choose Dark Symphonies. Why did you decide to take an American label? (of course it is easier for an American band, but I mean, doom is quite underground in the USA)
Quite simply, Dark Symphonies had the most appealing offer and were most enthusiastic about the band. They have met all of our needs. When choosing a new label, we weren't concerned about where it was located as much as its distribution abilities. In negotiations with Dark Symphonies, it was determined that they would be able to distribute this new album sufficiently around the world. As good as it has been, access to the two previous releases has proven to be a bit difficult for fans in certain countries. Between IDN and label partners of Dark Symphonies, we are quite confident that everyone will have access to this new CD.
One thing I must admit, Dark Symphonies explains your music. It can be described as dark symphonies, or am I wrong?
Yes. A bit coincidental, eh? Morgion definitely performs dark music, and I suppose it's a bit symphonic, but I assure you that had nothing to do with our decision to sign with the label.
Can you tell us about the distribution facilities…where will 'Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth' be released?
I don't have many specific names in each country, but I know that the label is going through IDN and also many label partners to distribute the album worldwide. One of the last things I heard was that Aeons of Metal (one of the biggest webstores in Portugal) was doing promotion and pre-orders for the CD.
A compliment to Gary Griffith again for the excellent artwork! Is he involved in other artwork projects at the moment?
Yes, he does great work! He doesn't have any particular running projects. He has done the cover design for The Prophecy “Ashes” CD, all of our website, graphics and merchandise, and has been working on the Mourning Beloveth DVD. He has done many jobs for many people over the years with photos, video, DVD's, website design, graphics, and even music score writing.
'Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth' is produced by Mathias Schneeberger, the same man as on 'Solinari'. Wasn't it a special thing to work together with him again after five years and see how the band and he evolved, but still working fine together?
The funny thing about Schneebi is we have stayed in contact with him over the years, it would be safe to say we all consider him a friend! Justin and I did some recording with him in 2000 for a rock band we spearheaded, that later disbanded. In July 2002 we demo'd Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth with him that later helped us land our contract with Dark Symphonies. He has always been an easygoing guy and it wasn't ever a headache (probably more for Gary HA HA!) working with him. He has a genuine interest in what we do so I think it is mutual for both parties to make the best music we can. Almost like a marriage, I suppose?
The title of the album breathes a certain atmosphere. Can you tell us a bit more about the significance you meant by using it (for this is something that hadn't changed since February 2003!)
Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth means life and death…within the story it is a metaphor. The characters in the story are lead by their own interests (be it good or bad) that later come back to haunt them… in ways they never expected! The story was something I had written long before all the songs were done so we tailored the music around the story itself.
There is also a story behind the whole album. We can read it on the cover, written by Rhett. Does it mean the album is a concept album in one way or another?
Yes, from beginning to end it is a story or a concept put to music. On our web page (www.morgion.com) we have listed all the lyrics to each song and a page for the story outline. To sum up the story background… it is about obtaining all you desire yet they come with a price? The irony that all you prize is also the catalyst to your own undoing…
The first two albums 'Among Majestic Ruin' (1996) and 'Solinari' (1999) were released by Relapse. Are they still available for people who want to buy them now?
”Among Majestic Ruin” is out of print, and becoming a bit difficult to obtain. We plan to look into the possibility of re-releasing that first CD. However, Relapse has recently re-pressed “Solinari” and it is available from Relapse Records, Dark Symphonies, Firebox Records, Amazon.com, Aol.com, Walmart.com, Amoeba Music and many other record stores and places around the world.
Are there plans for live gigs, in the USA, in Europe, maybe another Doomination of Europe tour?
We are playing a festival in Indianapolis, Indiana called “The Templars of Doom” June 19th, 2004, and are looking into a few gigs near us after the Summer. We have no tentative plans for a tour or any other fests at the moment but we are considering all our options as they are permitted.
Is there something you want to tell our European doom fans in the meantime?
Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave a paradise for a sect, the savage too.
From forth the loftiest fashion of his sleep guesses at Heaven. – Keats 1819
Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions. I wish you a breakthrough with the excellent new album and hope to see you live again soon!
Thank you very much for the interview and all the support, Vera! Nice to talk to you again and we look forward to meeting you on our next conquest through European soil.
Anyone reading please take a moment to visit www.morgion.com for audio samples, lyrics, photo archives, news and merchandise!