Mortemia: A Journey Through Somber Darkness

Best known for his current work in Sirenia as well as his participation in the early incarnation of Tristania, Morten Veland has unleashed a brand new project called Mortemia.  Combining aggressive male vocals with haunting choral arrangements, Mortemia presents gothic metal in its finest hour.  Misere Mortem is the title of  this new masterwork on Napalm Records, and it’s sure to thrill those who enjoy their metal with a shimmering edge of somber darkness.  Here is a recent interview we conducted with Morten Veland…

After your work in Sirenia, what made you decide to pursue a brand new musical project?
Some years ago I decided to take Sirenia into a more melodic direction. However I still composed a lot of music in different genres and I ended up with a great amount of ideas that basically didn’t fit in Sirenia’s musical concept anymore. So I was faced with two options, either to throw these ideas away or create a new project where I could put these ideas into life. I thought that a lot of these compositions were way too good to be left uncompleted, so I decided to form Mortemia. I began working with all the ideas that I had and that could not fit into Sirenia’s music anymore. Due to that they where either too complex, too hard or did not have the right expression musically speaking. So with Mortemia I wanted to create music that was maybe a little bit back to my roots in one way, but at the same time I wanted it to sound fresh and different. The orchestrations, the symphonic and the bombastic elements still have an important role in the music. It is a balanced blend of metal and classical music. One of the things I decided early on was that I did not want any female lead vocals in this project, as it would obviously bring it too close to my earlier bands in sound and expression. Mortemia’s vocal concept is based on an interaction between extreme vocals and choirs. And personally I feel that I have been able to create a project that sounds quite different than any other band out there at the moment.

Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Misere Mortem?
One of my principles from the very beginning of my career was to not talk about my lyrics or album titles. To me that feels like reviewing my own work in a way, or like tearing down something that I spent years building up. My philosophy was always to leave it up to the listeners to read and interpret my work, and that for several reasons.

How easy or difficult was it to record and produce everything on your own for this release?
I have some years of experience by now so everything that had to do with composing and performing comes pretty easy these days, I am backed up by the routine. Producing is also something that I feel at ease with as I have been involved with that too for so many years. I guess the most challenging part was the engineering and mixing. Especially the mixing, as it was the first album I ever mixed on my own. However it was a great way to push and challenge myself, and I definitely feel that I have learned a lot during the process and stand much stronger today. And this was exactly what I aimed for when I chose to do it in this way.

Is producing something you’d like to do for other bands in the future?
I’ve been thinking about that, but for now I just focus on my own projects. Running 2 bands fulltime takes so much time that I don’t see possibilities to produce other bands at the moment. But that could be something interesting to do later on, when I decide to cut down on my own work as an artist. But the way it seems now that won’t happen within the next few years.

What was it like working with the French choir and how easy or challenging was it to incorporate these arrangements into the songs?
This is also something that I have a lot of experience with, as I have incorporated choirs in my songs for 13 years or so. The French choir that I used for Mortemia is the same that I’ve been using with Sirenia for 9 years, so we have some experience of working together. They are very professional and easy to work with so that’s the reason why I choose to work with them over and over again.

Have you ever performed live with Mortemia or is that something you’d like to do in the future?
As of now Mortemia is a project, which means that I don’t have any other musicians involved at the moment, and therefore I have not scheduled any touring for now. It will be very interesting to see how the album will be received by the press and the fans. If the album does very well I will most likely put together a full line-up and do some touring with Mortemia in the future.

How surprised were you to find that Vibeke has left Tristania and have you heard from her since that time? (Or from any of the Tristania members)?
I heard that she left some years ago to start a family or whatever; this is not something that I have thought about at all. I have not spoken to her since January 2001. I am in contact with Kenneth Olsson, the original Tristania drummer. I also bump into the others every now and then, as we live in the same area.

What do you think of the new Tristania vocalist?
I’ve met her a couple of times, and she’s a very nice person. I have not heard her singing on an album yet though.

Were you at the one and only show Tristania has played in the States to do (California Metalfest) and what did you think of California overall?
Yes, I played with Tristania in the states in 2000 at a festival called ‘November to dismember’ or something like that. The shitty thing was that I caught the flu on the plane from Norway to US, so I was ill during my whole stay in the States. I spent most of the time in my bed at the hotel room and did the show – that’s about it. So I hope I’ll be able to come back to the States sometime soon.

How has Ailyn worked out as the new Sirenia vocalist and will you be working with her on the next album? And did you see her on X Factor?
The cooperation with Ailyn works out very well and we are already working on the new album, which we hope to record this summer. I did not see her on X-factor, not a big fan of these kinds of programs or of TV in general.

Any chance of Sirenia or Mortemia making their way to the States to some shows? Maybe a tour together? 🙂
We’ve been trying to get over to the States for a long time, but for some reason it seems difficult. We’ve toured most parts of the world by now, also Mexico, and we will tour South America in February and March this year. Hopefully we will be able to tour North America too sometime. Mortemia and Sirenia touring together, perhaps some day. Although it sounds like a lot of hard work for me. Haha.

What is your favorite Norwegian beer and why?
Grusomme Lervig. Because it’s brewed in the local brewery and it was invented by a friend of mine. It is also metal beer number 1, no doubt.

What was your favorite CD of 2009 and why?
The 13th Floor’ Haha. Because I can’t remember any other cool cd’s being released last year. Although I got to admit that I mostly listen to older stuff from the seventies, eighties and nineties, so I am not up to date on the scene today.

Any messages for metal fans here in the Los Angeles area?
Cheers to all the metal fans in the LA area. I grew up listening to all the glam rock coming out of LA in the eighties, I hope to come by one day and visit all the legendary clubs in your town, and hopefully also do a show there the sooner the better. And most important; Have a drink with you all. Horns up!!

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

Mortemia on Myspace

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