Blood Oracle by Erika Morgengrau
From the furnace of Texas comes death metal forged in the fires of the old masters. Morgengrau rolls in on treads made of memorable riffs, grinds you into the mud, and leaves you to die. The dire vocals are the last thing you hear as you vanish screaming into the Non. Formed in 2012, Morgengrau self-released their debut ‘Extrinsic Pathway’ in 2013. Mixed and mastered by at Sweden’s Endarker Studios, the band sought to emphasise the importance of the classic death metal approach of the late 80s/early 90s. The album was met with strong reception. At the 2013 Martyrdoom Festival in New York City, Morgengrau put on a molten performance which served as the impetus for their signing to Unspeakable Axe Records. They have since scorched stages across the American Southwest, in support of acts such as Pseudogod, Absu, Midnight and Pentacle.
‘Blood Oracle’ the band’s second album and first on Unspeakable Axe, is superior in all ways to ‘Extrinsic Pathway’ heavier, tighter, all songs thematically aligned. Fans will find themselves lost in the fiery realm of the Steward of the Bone. Forces of Light, led by a malevolent, leprous Prophet, are barely kept at bay by Steward’s blood red Wolves. How will this epic battle resolve… and what is truly at stake? Every listener will find a different answer.
We’re devotees of traditional death metal, simply put. Everyone has invested years obsessing over bands and albums which inspire us. Pestilence ‘Consuming Impulse’, Asphyx ‘The Rack’, and Morbid Angel ‘Altars of Madness’, are our bibles. We’ve all honed our individual crafts in various bands across many genres of music. Some of us have formal musical training, others do not. The training itself doesn’t matter. What matters is everyone brought passion and focus to ‘Blood Oracle’. We did not stray, didn’t let whims, trends or experimental ideas dilute the final output. We’ve arrived on this side with a strong contribution to the traditional death metal genre, and are proud to be releasing it to the public very shortly.
Like Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, this album was “guided by dread”. It is a collection of moments of impossible weight and personal significance to me. These songs marinated for months in the dreadfulness of those moments. The writing process was a molasses-sprint in an anxious dream. Riffs, structures and lyrics had to be violently mined from the tar pit in my brain. Once they were freed, dripping and stinking and sticking to everything, I looked at their ugliness and debated if I should move forward with them at all. They are dangerous, private things, these songs; to release them publicly felt like I was tempting fate, spitting in the face of some cosmic benefactor who had bequeathed them unto me for safe keeping. The recording process didn’t change how I felt, in fact, this growing sense of dread continued with every session. It was immensely difficult, fraught with roadblocks, a thousand screaming reasons to stop.
I nearly binned the album a dozen times. Despite these hurdles, I chose to push onwards. I have a long history of unfinished projects in my life, and there was no way this album would be sent to the grave of my stillborn ideas. As we started cutting vocals, the dread blossomed like a thunderhead. I began to believe that upon committing the album to physical form, some last cataclysmic disaster would occur, some final lesson for my hubris, a punishment. I wasn’t wrong about only one thing. What happened became an opportunity for great personal growth. I don’t regret what I have done with “Blood Oracle.” These songs open doors. Some lead to great darkness and hopelessness. Others lead to tests of our mettle. We can choose to enter and emerge stronger if we face what they offer and accept at the end, that our journey isn’t done, only paused.
Have you ever wished for something impossible or fantastic, all the way back from when you were a child? Something to help ease the pain of loneliness, of lack of connection, of the fear of weakness or maybe even death? What if, throughout your life, you wore the musty stole of this desire across your shoulders at all times, the tickle of its rotting fur soft against your cheek at even the happiest of moments? Its constant nature became as much a part of you like your blood and your bone. Then, a terrible day arrived. You realise you didn’t want it any more, but it’s too late. That exact thing you wished for so ardently as a child has been fossilized within you in such a beautifully perfect yet exquisitely horrible way. It cannot be undone by anything conventional. Going to church won’t fix it. Eating vegan won’t make it go away. Drugs don’t even exist to deal with it. That thing and my relationship with it is the core of this album. It is both conventional and bizarre, simple yet difficult to understand. I believe most people have some raw secret they wish they could reveal to the world, and in the act of reveal, be exorcised. “Blood Oracle” is my auto-exorcism.
Playing this music live isn’t a priority. Perhaps in time, but not right now. It’s much more important people spend time with the album in a meditative environment. Turn off the lights, close the door, put your devices away and listen. Pay attention. Sink. Understand everything on the album has a purpose. Every lyric has three levels of meaning – the surface level story, the personal narrative the listener applies to the words, and the truth only I know. Weighty secrets are hidden within the story of the Steward; I’ve left clues quite out in the open. Pay attention to the visuals in particular. A clever eye has many things to find. I challenge listeners to explore and solve the puzzle. They may find their efforts lead them to interesting realisations about themselves.
Last significant book you read is ‘To Reign in Hell’ by Steven Brust. It’s a fairly quick read, elegantly efficient, a shining example of a dialogue-driven tale. It does a brilliant job in highlighting two lessons: Beware the motivations of others, and don’t believe everything you hear.
Belief for me is the full appreciation and understanding of pure Fear. Not simple anxiety, not fear of missing a deadline at work or having your car run out of gas. I am speaking of massive Fear, coiling around your core with such completeness that when it starts to squeeze, you suddenly understand why billions of people believe a bearded man in the sky is calling the shots and if you do what he says, everything will be all right. You realise you’re about to beg this despised story time construct for help because you’re so afraid and desperate for relief. I imagine some kill themselves at this moment. Me, I was ill and immobile so that I couldn’t get to the knives. All I could do was lie in the dark, soaking in this horrible terror and knowing it was what drives perfectly intelligent and rational people to practice religion. What surprised me as I went through this, was the jealousy and anger I felt at those who so easily put their fate into religious belief and get relief, while I, rational to the death, could not and would not.
I pushed through this pure Fear, with no help from any “God”. Afterwards, I came to understand my Will is all I have. I fully grasped my aloneness and singularity. I understood the humbling animality of such a deconstructive emotion as Fear. My music is my way of capturing these revelations and emotions into something concrete. Perhaps listeners will resonate with their own experiences and feel some relief of their own burdens. My experiences do not make me special. I am just a living creature struggling through the world. Daily exertion of Will against Fear in order to Achieve is my Belief and life approach. When I run out of energy to exert that Will, my Belief will die, and I along with it.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2018 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.