ZT INTERROGATION: DANISH DEMONS UNDERGANG HAPPY TO PLAY THE UNDERDOGS
Undergang’s David Torturdød warns Paul Castles to expect another blast of ‘heavy death metal filth’ on the Danish trio’s forthcoming third album
Q: Congratulations on the new album Døden Læger Alle Sår. Has the title got an English translation you can share with us?
A: Thank you Paul and thanks for inviting us inside the Tolerance! Roughly translated the title means “Death Heals All Wounds” and (as the cover suggests) is a reference to death being the escape from life’s misery when nothing else works. It is the final chapter of our “Døden” trilogy, with our past two albums being named “Indhentet Af Døden” (Caught by Death) and “Til Døden Os Skiller” (Till Death Do Us Part). Like always we’ve kept everything in Danish so people in general will have a harder time figuring out how lame we are, he he.
Q: This is your third album. Do you see it as a progression from the first two?
A: A slight bit is only natural, but as we from the beginning aimed at playing low brow and extremely heavy death metal filth we didn’t want to change things too much this time around either. I’d say it’s a good mixture of our past two albums with some new nastiness thrown into the blend.
Q: As a Danish band why did you opt to record this new record in California and did this pose any particular organisational challenges?
A: We wanted to try out something different this time around and as we had a longer US tour ahead of us at the time we were about done writing music for the new album, we decided to get in touch with Greg Wilkinson, who runs Earhammer Studio in Oakland, California. We knew him from hanging out at Cali shows on our past tours and we really liked his work on the albums I’d heard recorded at Earhammer. Luckily he was up for the job and we got the tour scheduled to end in California (we did a “full” US tour playing in something like 19 states alongside Seattle bands Trepanation and Astraes Pestis) so we could just stay there and start recording after a day’s break from the last gig on the tour. We simply just wanted to try out a new studio and working with Greg in Earhammer seemed like a good idea at that time and I’m very pleased with us doing so! It definitely won’t be the last time we’ll be working with him.
Q: Just share with us how the three of you actually work together. Are the songwriting duties shared?
A: Hopefully without it sounding like me tooting my own horn, I write all the music and lyrics for the band and have done so since the beginning. I usually write the riffs on my acoustic guitar at home and come up with an arrangement for a song when I have enough riffs that suit each other and then bring that down to rehearsal place and present it to the other two. Usually they like what has gone through my “quality check” and our drummer and I start making the arrangement into a song. Then when that is in place, we have the bassist join in and I come up with patterns for the vocals and then write lyrics to fit that and the mood of the music of that particular song. Sometimes our drummer comes up with some riffs at rehearsal, but it’s often because he wants us to jam new stuff when I’m out of ideas and he knows it triggers me into trying to come up with something “better”, or more Undergang fitting, than what he plays, haha. It usually works too. I’m a simple man, heh.
Q: Undergang have impressed with their death metal sound and attitude? Can you pick out a few influences? I know Autopsy are one band you were delighted to support a couple of years ago?
A: Absolutely, that support slot was probably the most proud moment of my personal music “career” having been a big Autopsy fan since my early teen years. It probably sounds cheesy but it was a big honour for me and they were super sick dudes the bunch of them as well. Total support! It even led to me talking to Eric Cutler down the road and him being up for doing a solo on our new album. I guess it got lost in the promotion of the album, but he’s the wicked shredder on the outro of the last song on the album, ‘Det Gør Kun Ondt Til Du Dør’ (It’ll only hurt until you die). But yeah, besides Autopsy being an obvious influence on our music there’s a ton of original death metal bands whose music has made a big impact on all three of us in our early music listening years and therefore has influenced us. I can’t speak on behalf of the other two, but personally I can pick out a few like Carcass, Demilich, Grave and Winter to give you an idea. But also various bands from the genres of punk and rock have played a role in it. Inspiration comes from all over, honestly, but it all ends in DEATH!
Q: There are an awful lot of good death metal bands around at the moment, ranging from older acts still going strong such as Morbid Angel through to rising younger performers? Does that keep the pressure on you to maintain your standards so your voices can be heard?
A: I’m honestly always a bit shocked when people recognise our band in a conversation, me as a person from the band or whatever. I accept we’re an underground band and I truly like it that way. We don’t really do anything on purpose to stand out, we just do what we like and if some others discover us and like what we do, that’s cool. But a lot of people don’t and we’re not very well known, or well liked, in our own country either. There are tons of more skilled musicians in death metal bands out here than us, better lyrical writers and so on… All we can do is be sincere and offer to the platter what we do best and that is Neanderthal like death metal ugliness all the way. Maybe we’re more retarded than the rest and that makes us stand out a bit? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that, readers! I do think we have our own sound, though, and I guess that does make us stand a bit out alongside that fact that all of our titles and lyrics are in Danish. But besides that, I totally agree that the death metal underground community is still very much alive and we have gained some seriously sick newer bands the past 10-15 years that has made albums I already consider classics! Keep it coming!
Q: You’re taking this album on the road with Australians’ StarGazer under the ‘Necro Mergence’ banner. How excited are you about this and how well do you know StarGazer?
A: I’m super excited about this tour! I love being on the road with Undergang, we’ve only really had great times on tour and have so far been teamed up with good people. Can’t wait for this new one either! StarGazer are friends of ours and we did the pairing ourselves, like almost else everything we do with Undergang it’s on our own terms. The tour is kind of a returned favour as we did a tour in Australia last October with Cauldron Black Ram (they share two members) and offered to help arrange a tour for them on European soil when they felt like it. Since they’ve just “recently” released their album ‘A Merging to the Boundless’ with StarGazer they felt it more appropriate to bring StarGazer over for the first European caravan in their 20 years of existence, which we gladly accepted to be a part of too. Their new album has also gotten like a billion spins at my place, simply can’t get enough of it! I can’t recommend everyone to check it out enough! So the tour should be fun, right now we have Doomstar Bookings from the Netherlands, who are in charge of booking our tour, closing up the last open dates. So we should be able to publish the final routing with shows soon. Dark Descent arranged for our new album to drop on July 10 so we could promote it on the tour, as we intended when we decided on the dates for it. We’ll also do a release gig for it in Copenhagen on the last day of the tour, thought it probably won’t be much different than the rest of the shows on the tour. Except we’ll maybe be more tired than on the earlier dates but we’ll play the set hella tight at that point, haha.
Q: How much do you enjoy being on the road and do you have any pre-gig rituals to help you get into the right frame of mind for the show?
A: The road can be rough and I always forget about the hard times when I’m not on tour, but I absolutely LOVE being on the road with Undergang and if I had my way, we’d do that all year long, haha. To me music is the best thing in life and I could devote all my time to it given the chance. Sadly death metal doesn’t pay the bills, so I’m stuck at a Regular Joe day job on the side too. But in the end, I’ll rather do it like this than having to deal with music in the next level, I guess. I like it here in my sewer nest in the death metal underground! No rituals for me, just drinking, smoking and raging with the cool cats around at the given time. I usually just loose myself to the music once we start playing, but nothing more fancy comes out of that than a drunken burping guy on stage fighting his instrument on stage. I do play the right chords at times though. We take our music 100% serious, but not really ourselves and prefer to let the music do the talking for us.
Q: Tell us something about the scene in Denmark at the moment. Is it healthy?
A: I guess it depends on what you’re into. We do have some good bands, but most of the ways Danish bands act or choose to do their music is not to my liking. Sadly, to me, there still seems to be a lot of the “rockstar” attitude amongst some musicians here, which I will NEVER understand nor give a shit for. No support! Attendance at the shows I go to are generally very low these years, maybe the slight death metal trend that appeared some years ago have died down, people are fed up with too many shows all of the sudden or I just have bad taste in the music I like and nobody else gives a fuck. But I’ll recommend checking out some newer Danish bands like Deiquisitor, Mold, Reverie, Pustulation, Cerekloth (R.I.P.), Strychnos, Dwell and Würm’s Tongue.
Q: Many thanks for your time in talking with Zero Tolerance readers. Finally, what can your UK fans expect if they catch you on stage in July and can you just confirm how many UK dates you will be playing.
A: Thank YOU for doing the interview was a pleasure answering your questions and I hope it’s been an entertaining read for all of you. To anyone daring enough to check out a gig on the Necro Mergence tour I guarantee total death metal putrefaction on stage! It’ll be heavy, stinky and ugly, just the way your mothers like it! We’ll perform several songs from the new album but also a good mix of all of our past releases, so there should be a bit for everyone who likes their death metal brutal and filthridden. Currently we have London and Liverpool confirmed but we hope to have a possible Scottish date closed soon. Keep an eye out for the final announcement of the tour and we’re looking forward to seeing some of you on the road!
Døden Læger Alle Sår is released via Dark Descent on July 10