Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chronicle of the Shadowed One: An interview with Rob Yench of Morpheus Descends/Mausoleum

Can you give us a brief history of Morpheus leading up to the name change and perhaps a perspective of the scene in the Middletown, NY area, or lack thereof?

In 1990 when we formed Morpheus, the most popular band in Middletown was the almighty "Prime Evil", we were all good friends and played our first few shows with them. One at a warehouse party in Middletown, soon after that we played again with them and with Morbid Angel in Poughkeepsie NY, Morbid Angel was on tour for A.O.M. It was a great time for metal as it was starting now starting to recognize death metal as a genre, thrash's interest level to fans was starting to dwindle off as a scene/genre. We were the first band in our area that was "officially" dubbing ourselves as Death Metal band. We soon started meeting lots of other bands and people that shared the same specific desire to play Death Metal. It was not long before we were playing shows out of state and with other NY bands, friends like Mortician, Decomposed, Immolation, Malicious Onslaught, Suffocation, Sorrow and Mutilation. It was a a great time to be part of something new. We played tons of shows with so many bands signed and unsigned just too many too list.

What were the primary influences of the band at the time? 

Pestilence, Obituary, Death, Autopsy, Napalm Death Carcass and Black Sabbath are the strongest ones that come to mind at this moment. But everything coming out at that time was being hungrily consumed by all of us.

I remember seeing an ad for ‘Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones’ in a Relapse catalog years ago an next to the CD title it read “New York Death Metal, Yo” and I always thought that was a little off as in my opinion Morpheus played a more blasphemous version of death metal closer in style to Incantation and Immolation rather than the more slam oriented stuff like Internal Bleeding. What are your thoughts on this and was there any camaraderie amongst the bands in the Jersey/NY area?

Well to be honest I think the "yo" reference was more a NY thing, if you talked to any one of the NY bands even to this day I am sure you hear "yo" many times, it’s part of the accent. But as it relates to MORPHEUS DESCENDS, I would say that we had a foot in both sides of the emerging NY Death Metal scene, dark music generally and the subject matter equally dark. We still had some of that NYHC influence from our past lives in us too. We were always good friends with all the bands we ever played with, especially most of the NY/NJ/CT/PA bands.

Morpheus Descends

The early 90’s seemed like a field with landmines scattered throughout in the guise of rip off labels such as ‘Seraphic Decay’, ‘Wild Rags’ and so on. What was your experience with the infamous Turbo/JL America like? 

I think at the time we were happy enough to have someone release our stuff on 7" like Seraphic Decay and put the time into making the packaging something cool, it was much better than making our own dubbed demos and mailing them everywhere, this is long before the internet. Also it got the band and our music in places and scenes that we would have never reached solely on our own. Now that original Morpheus 7" is 21 years old and is a worthy part of any classic metal head's 7" collection. As far as Wild Rags, we traded some stuff with them and didn’t really have any other business with them. JL/Turbo was again a opportunity to get the music out to more people again. The entire “ROI “CD is a collection of recordings the band had done in a 2 to 3 year time span. It was like one day we got a call from the owner of JL saying “We want to put your stuff out and we have great distribution, etc etc. So again it may not have been the "ultra" cool record deal that some bands landed with cooler labels, but on the up-side of the deal, JL did like 10,000 CD, 5000 cassettes at that time. That is more people than we would have ever reached. By today's standards that is mega good!! I met many people touring in all the bands I have played in ( Morpheus Descends, Incantation & Typhus), it's has always been a great honor for me to hear someone say that "ROI" was one of the first CDs they ever got that was Death Metal, or that Morpheus Descends was one of their first exposures to Death Metal. Some die hard still bring Morpheus / Morpheus Descends around for me to sign, I always have appreciated this, it is one of the highest forms of compliment. \m/

Around the time I had met you at Bloodstock in Newburgh Tom (Nokturnel) Stevens was fronting the band on guitar/vocals. What had happened to the previous lineup and how was it working with Tom?

The original lineup when we were Morpheus changed when Craig our first vocalist left the band. Then a year later Steve left, then it wasn’t much longer after that Ken left the band as well. One this occurred, that significantly changed the face of the band, if we had not already changed just changed the name to Morpheus Descends, we should have anyway. It was a different band after, and was different a vibe than "Morpheus". Sam and I were the roots of the Morpheus Descends and we had teamed up with Jeff Reimer of Decomposed right before Ken left the band. I think for most of the guys, they could not or choose not to be in a band that was rehearsing 3- 4 nights a week. Also playing dozens of shows a year, this does consume a lot of time and for some, they get burnt out on it. Sam and I then brought in our friends Andy and Brian from Indiana's Subconscious to join MORPHEUS DESCENDS and to finish recording COTSO and to continue to play shows. When Brian returned home to Indiana we asked "Mot Snevets "aka Tom Stevens to join the band. When we parted ways with Jeff, Tom just stepped in, that is how the lineup for out final recording HOTT came about. We played shows with that lineup until about the end of 1995, I felt this was the strongest lineup we ever had. Sometimes I ponder what else we could have achieved with this line up, I love all incarnations of the MORPHEUS DESCENDS but I think that lineup was the one that could have taken the band to the next level, whatever that was. \m/

It was always a pleasure working with Tom in Morpheus Descends, Brimstone, and Exile and when I joined Incantation we toured for a while with Daniel Corchado (The Chasm) fronting the band, but when we supported Morbid Angel on the "Formulas Fatal to the Flesh", we asked Tom to sell merchandise for us, but this also had another purpose. He was also learning all the tour songs because Daniel had announced to us at the start of the tour, he was leaving to play with The Chasm at Milwaukee Metal Fest. I knew Tom with his ability, could jump in handle the guitar and vocals for Incantation. He stepped up and we finished the tour and several others ones. I would much enjoy working with Tom again.

Shortly after the release of the stellar ep ‘The Horror of the Truth’, MORPHEUS DESCENDS seemed to have faded into obscurity. What happened and did Toms joining Incantation have anything to do with this? 

The Horror of The Truth was the point where I feel Morpheus Descends developed a more matured sound, reminiscent of COTSO but faster and more intricate song structures. I would have loved to record a full length at that time with that lineup and mindset. 
In Morpheus Descends we stopped communicating and things fell apart. While this was going on, Andy, Tom and I recorded and black thrash project "Brimstone", then Tom moved to Florida and Andy returned to Indiana. Before things totally stopped with MORPHEUS DESCENDS, Tom and I recorded a two song demo. It had a track we did for the Venom tribute on Dwell Records “Angel Dust" and an original, ”The Forbidden Path of Unthinkable Evil". Eric the ex drummer from Nokturnel played drums for us. On that session.
Turn the clock 14 years later, and Sam and I got together at my studio in western PA. We played about 8-9 MORPHEUS DESCENDS songs together and it was amazing. We still played off of each other and it was surprising how well we got through all of the songs. It was a great experience and I hope sometime down the road we can possibly do something together again. We are keeping the lines of communication open and that is always a good start.

Speaking of Incantation, I’m more than curious to know of your experience in that band during ‘The Infernal Storm’ era. How much did you contribute to the writing process and what led to you eventually bowing out of the band? How did your involvement in the mighty Mausoleum come about?

I joined Incantation when Diabolical Conquest had just been released, we went on tour right away and did so for the next 2 years. Just like in past Incantation lineups, we suffered several member changes, (after all incantation has had more members than even Napalm Death). Anyway, John and I became the "core" of the band for a while and that is when we began writing the material for Infernal Storm. We also negotiated a new contract with Relapse Records, the previous line ups had owed Relapse for things that they did for the band over time. I did not want this to apply to the new lineup, so Relapse wrote it up like a brand new band, and a brand new agreement. I had a lot of input on this record and also in the studio, I wrote most of the lyrics and about half of the music, and helped run much of the band business at that time. I do not regret the time I spent in Incantation, I got to meet a lot of good friends and had a great time while we were performing all over. In 2001 my interest level dwindled, the new music John had written with Kyle who had returned into the fold, I found uninteresting and it was hard for me to get behind the project whole heartedly, the music had no input from Mike Saez and I. When I conveyed my concerns, all this did was strain my already growing tumultuous relationship with the John and Kyle. The move was to include me less on the writing process and keep my in the dark about many subjects. Now after handling much of the affirs for the last 4 years and living on a shoe string and not believing in the new music, I left the group in 2001 right before they left to record "Blasphemy", After that my relationship with members of Incantation became estranged. I did decided to stay in PA where Incantation was based, rather than returning back to NY again. I re-connected with another ex-member of Incantation Rick "Slim" Boast, Slim had played drums for us on the AngleCorpse / Krisiun tour in 1999. We stilled shared the same interests in metal and in 2001 we formed Mausoleum with some guys Slim had played with in a band called "Necrotomie". We have been a band ever since and without the revolving door lineups of past endeavors. We wanted to just play early death metal and not try to re-invent anything. Just play early sounding death metal and be true to ourselves and our likes and interests.

What bands are “blowing your hair back” these days? Any suggestions?

Repuked, Anatomia, Kommandant , Nader Sadek and Ghost would be the ones that come to mind the fastest right now. I listen to a lot of music and only a small portion of it right now is new bands. I have such a nice collection of stuff that I just can’t ignore and I play many blasts from the pasts. I listen to a lot of Stern too and that kills many hours in my day as well. \m/

As a tried and true old school warrior who’s been there from the start and weathered many a trend, I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on the current old school “revival” that’s sprung up as of late.

It is a cycle that occurs in Metal that something old becomes something new, etc, etc. I do not persecute people for sounding like their influences. Mausoleum is not reinventing the wheel either, we formed and shaped what we sounded like around the same Influences and feelings we had when we formed our earlier bands Morpheus/Morpheus Descends, or when we formed projects like Brimstone and Exile. This "revival" movement will pass as well and I am sure people will be more into something else again. I support any band that plays what they feel best expresses the music inside their heads. Also to have the talent to execute it in the way that it needs to be conveyed deserves respect.

Alright Rob, mega thanks for taking some time out to do this Brother! Any last words for the damned?

Many thanks to you brother \m/ and to the good times we had in our previous metal lives \m/ Please check out any of the bands I play in, Mausoleum, Typhus and Pithfork, I am working on some other projects that I hope work out too. People who use this fucking Facebook shit should get in touch with me there \m/ Mausoleum is playing our first shows ever, 10 years together in NYC & Brooklyn in about a week, 2 Nights of Zombiecult Death Metal \m/

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