Interview: Bay Area Death Metallers 'Mortuous' Talk About Latest Record, Artwork, & More

Updated: Dec 16, 2018

The mighty Mortuous detail the work behind their crushing new record.


Death metal is in a great place thanks to the high caliber of work being released around the world, one of these being the juggernaut of a record that came earlier this year from the Bay Area.


San Jose's Mortuous, consisting of bassist Clint Roach, drummer Chad Gailey (Necrot), guitarist/vocalist Mike Beams (Exhumed), and guitarist/vocalist Colin Tarvin, released their debut full-length Through Wilderness over the summer on Gailey's Carbonized Records and Tankcrimes. The death-ridden record includes guest appearances by Chris Reifert and Danny Coralles of Autopsy, Derrel Houdashelt, previously of Exhumed, and Teresa Wallace of Dreaming Dead.


Consisting of eight blood pumping tracks, this album is death metal at its finest. Vocalists Tarvin and Beams open up a portal to hell with every cavernous growl and scream, pulverizing everything in their path, let alone the fucking incredible double bass pedal work, thumping bass, and slashing riffs and solos.


Heaviest of Art had a chance to chat with the guys from Mortuous about their death metal album of the year contender Through Wilderness, the artwork behind it, and all of the good shit they've been listening to throughout the year.

I just wrapped up my 24th spin of ‘Through Wilderness.’ I’d say this is among the best death metal records of the year, and there have been many! How do you feel now that your debut record is released?

 

Colin: Thanks! It’s nice to have something to show for the 14 month span we were in the studio. We’re very happy with the outcome.


Clint: It’s been quite a journey! The support that has come our way has been wonderful, I can’t say enough. I’m so thankful to be a part of a record with these guys. It had taken a lot of time and energy together to create.

You just wrapped up your ‘Through Wilderness’ West Coast Tour not too long ago and I unfortunately missed your show at ‘Los Globos.’ How did LA treat you?


Colin: LA was a great first stop! My personal favorite shows were the ones in the Pacific Northwest and Phoenix. They rage out there!!!

Given that there’s a shit ton of great metal bands from the Bay Area, how’s the San Jose metal scene like?


Colin: The San Jose scene has always been producing great acts, Exhumed might be the most well known. As for current bands, there’s Deathgrave, there’s another project I’m a part of called Dead Pressure. There’s a two piece of heavy thrashing death called Aseptic. There’s grind legends Godstomper. There’s even a really great black metal band too called Black Fucking Cancer. There’s been a bunch of bands over the years as well, but these I’ve named are all currently active.

Let’s talk about the new record. ‘Through Wilderness’ is very sludgy, crunchy, and malevolent. Would you say this defines the Mortuous sound?


Clint: Death Metal


Colin: There’s a lot of words to describe our music, but I think the best definition of Mortuous is just death metal.

Beams’ guitar work on ‘Bitterness’ is just so good. The solo fucking shreds and it reminds me of the classic Kerry King guitar work from Slayer’s first couple records. Given that the Bay Area is known for thrash metal, was it important to incorporate speed and thrashier elements on the record?


Colin: Yeah I love Slayer, Mike definitely does. There’s a ton of thrash influence. Before finding death metal, I listened to thrash like Sodom and Destruction. Slayer was definitely a band I remember when first trying to really learn guitar that I would play along to.


Mike: The thrash elements just came out. I've always been a huge fan of Gary Holt, Phil Demmel, and every solo on "Eternal Nightmare," all "Reign in Blood" solos, and Hammet's "Kill 'em All" solos, since I was in junior high. So, thrash is a habit and I gotta have it! I've really become attached over the past few years to the blues pentatonic because of players like Matt Olivo, Eric Cuttler, and Angus Young. I've always worshipped Andy LaRoque, James Murphy, Yngwie Malmsteen, but when I have my wah pedal on, I just can't help myself and things get fast, wet and wild! Cheers!


Why make ‘Chrysalis of Sorrow’ the leading single? Aside from the fact that it’s killer.

 

Colin: I think we just liked the idea of that being an art concept for shirts. The first singles we released were Bitterness and The Dead Yet Dream.


The record pummels our ass throughout and ends on such a beautifully atmospheric note, closing with funeral doom elements, flute by Teresa Wallace and sombre acoustic guitar towards the end of ‘Screaming Headless.’ The record ends the same great way it starts: calm. Was this intentional or was this just how the songs played out during the recording process?


Colin: It was intended, I wanted to have a book end feeling that brings you back to the beginning. I wanted flute somewhere on album, and Clint had a vision to have it near the end of the album on Screaming Headless. He was speaking his thoughts about it out loud to his bandmate Ria in Cartilage, and she mentioned she played flute, so it came to fruition.

Audiences can tell that ‘Through Wilderness’ is brutal fucking record by just looking at the cover art, which is a perfect representation of the closer ‘Screaming Headless’, illustrating a beheaded winged beast as if melting into a pool of souls. What was it like working with Marald Van Haasteren on the cover art?  Colin: Marald is a brilliant artist. He read through all of our lyrics and actually came up with the art himself. We all connected with it immediately.

Through Wilderness | Art by Marald Van Haasteren

Haasteren also did the art for ‘Chrysalis of Sorrow.’ Was it important for you as a band to work with an artist that would properly envision with you to bring your morbid visions to life?


Colin: For this, we had the idea of someone being trapped in a cocoon, looking at the epitome of their depression. Once again, Marald took the lyrics to a-whole-nother level with his art. It’s based on a true story of a man from San Jose who found his sister's killer working at a Pete’s coffee, went in there with a gun, killed him, then took his own life.

Chrysalis of Sorrrow | Art by Marald Van Haasteren

The European press of “Through Wilderness” is now available for pre-order through Dawnbreed Records and I have to say, this is one complete package. As a fan of vinyl myself, I appreciate every detail put into it. With the dominance of streaming, why put in so much effort into a physical copy when most would rather stream it? Colin: Streaming is definitely a good way to hear a band if you haven’t heard them before, but when you love something, you want to hold it in your arms in front of you. Vinyl is such a great physical form, because it’s something you keep sacred in your house away from the elements, something that you can build into a library. Tapes originally were my favorite form of listening to music because my car at the time had a tape player and I could find some of my favorite releases online for an average of five dollars, but recently I have come to appreciate CDs because that’s what I mainly listen to in my car at this point.


Your split record with Oaklands’ Scolex is being released on Halloween. I had a chance of checking out the stream via Metal Injection, and holy shit, ‘Dessicated’ is just as brutal as the stuff on ‘Through Wilderness.’ Was it recorded prior to releasing the record or was this recorded solely for the split?


Colin: When we recorded the album, we almost thought to take a song from that for the split, but we couldn’t decide on a song. So when it came to the split, we decided to go back in and record a new song, and stay with the concept of their side as well, being Egypt. We decided to make a song lyrically about the mummification process from each of our perspectives. We each wrote 4 lines in this song. It was great to collaborate in that way, as the whole thing about writing a split is collaboration itself.

Critics argue that metal is on a downward path, and acts like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, etc. will never come around. What would you say regarding this statement?


Clint: I don’t know anybody that’s said that. But I’d tell any of them that they’re missing the point. Sure, “metal” has evolved – but it’s pretty naïve to say that it’s on a “downward path” there is probably more music and more quality at that than maybe there’s ever been.

It’s been a great year for death metal and metal in general. What are you all currently listening to?


Clint: Whatever fits the mood, for me. I listen to a vast amount of music, ranging from Rap/R&B to punk to electronic/noise to whatever the fuck else my brain decides to look for. I’ve loved a lot of records that came out this year – Hyperdontia, Cerebral Rot, Caustic Wound really stood out the most, to name a few. One outstanding death metal band that I just keep coming back to over and over again is Torture Rack (PDX) – their LP “Malefic Humiliation” which came out earlier this May. MACE FACE!!! There’s just about everything there is to enjoy about straight up death metal on that record. Mortuous got to play with them in Seattle while on tour this summer. I thought they were so amazing live that I bought plane tickets with Colin to fly up to Portland to catch them again with Fetid, Cemetary Lust and Divine Eve. Speaking of Fetid – can’t wait to hear their next release.


Colin: I listen to a lot of the same stuff over and over. In my car I’ve been spinning Gorephilia Severed Monolith, Contaminated Final Man, then stuff that never leaves my car like Repulsion Horrified, Viogression Passage, Cathedral Forest of Equilibrium. Then records and tapes at home have been what Clint mentioned, as well as Fetid’s first release, Spectral Voice, Mortiferum, , etc. lots of newer bands.

I had the privilege of seeing Incantation a few weeks ago on the Contamination Tour with Dying Fetus. I’m aware that they’re one of the band’s biggest inspirations. How great are those guys?


Clint: Easily one of my favorite all time death metal bands. Their last record “Profane Nexus” is still constantly in my rotation, probably one of my favorite releases from 2017! Missed the Contamination Tour but had the pleasure of catching them in Oakland with Exhumed and Deathgrave!


Colin: They’re pretty great! Definitely a turning point for me as an influence of how death metal should sound. Mikes always been the biggest fan, Col included. Chad and I way back about 10 years would smoke weed and listen to that album constantly while we air drum and head bang uncontrollably. It was a real pleasure to be able to share the stage with them a couple years ago in Sacramento. John's wife Jill was there as well with her band Funerus. It was a killer show, one I’ll never forget!


This is only the beginning of a great Mortuous career. What’s next?


Colin: We have a couple things we’re working on, but it’s too early to talk about, too many things that need to be worked out before saying anything

. Clint: The only thing that comes to mind when asked this is a quote from one of my musical heroes, Cliff Burton – “The studio is just a labor. Getting on stage is the reward.”

Aside from being great musicians, the guys from Mortuous are all around great people who deserve all the good coming their way. Heaviest of Art thanks Mortuous for taking the time to interview and we look forward to see what's next.


Stream the deadly Through Wilderness and Scolex/Mortuous via Bandcamp and order your physical copies via the band's webstore here.


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