The Florida progressive death metal band Monotheist have been around for more than a decade. After an EP a few years back, they are releasing their new full-length album Scourge. Guitarist Michael “Prophet” Moore gives us the scoop on the band’s history, the new record and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Monotheist.
Michael “Prophet” Moore: I started the band back in 2004 as a solo project to write the kind of metal that I wanted to hear, a mix of my strongest influences at the time like Opeth, Death, Suffocation (which are still some of the main influences, actually). Maybe a year after forming the band I found some members since I wanted to play live, but most of them would eventually leave. Eventually, I came across JJ (vocalist) from posting ads online looking for a vocalist. This happened in about ’08 and we hit it off really well. We played a handful of shows at that time until various members departed for different reasons and after posting ads online, we found current members Tyler, Jose, and Cooper (through a mutual friend).
What led to the decade long gap between full-length albums?
Originally after Unforsaken (2007) I planned to put out the second full length record. As a matter of fact, we put up demos of songs for the following record on MySpace, so it was something that was really happening. However, I didn’t feel confident about the direction of the album at the time so I decided to put it on the back burner and focus on an EP made up of shorter songs, something that would be different for us since most of the songs on Unforsaken were over 10 minutes long.
It was kind of a challenge to myself to see if I could write shorter, more focused songs. That’s when we put out Genesis of Perdition in 2013. Changing our release plans coupled with life getting in the way (finishing school, moving to another country, marriage, etc.) delayed the second album’s release. Interestingly, enough, one song that was written way back for the second album did end up surfacing on Scourge, namely “The Grey King.”
Describe the songwriting process for Scourge.
Besides “The Grey King” and “Great Chain at the Neck of the Earth,” the other songs were written specifically for Scourge. With those songs, I really wanted to focus on writing coherent songs. I spent most of the time on the song structure of the compositions as I wanted everything to flow and to make sense, so if you listen closely, you will hear a lot of recurring melodies, or melodies and motifs that evolve from earlier states. I like stuff like that, the kind of thing you would hear in classical music. It took me a long time to get the songs just right and that’s another reason why the album took so long to come out. Besides that, we focused on writing the best riffs and parts we could.
As has always been the case, we wanted to mix brutal death metal, slams and black metal with a progressive twist. What was different this time around was that the other members contributed ideas that would form the basis for entire songs, so that was really great. We also incorporated some more world music influences in our songs, inspired by Afro-Cuban jazz (Jose and I are big fans of this kind of music), Japanese and Turkish music, as well as more Western classical and jazz fusion influence. It’s a lot of stuff but hopefully we achieved making everything feel cohesive.
How do you and Tyler divide the guitar parts?
Tyler is a great guitar player and excels at plenty of things that I don’t on the guitar, so I like to give him parts that I think he would be able to bring to life more than I could, basically focusing on our strengths. He has a really nice vibrato that I’m jealous of, so I like for him to play certain lead parts that accentuate that. Other than that, if one of us particularly likes a part, we will take it.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Probably recording the bass with Jose. I remember sitting in my bedroom studio while he was working on his bass solo in “Desolate, It Mourns Before Me,” and really enjoying all of the cool ideas he came up with. He has a background in jazz so it was great to see him come up with his solos on the spot, as someone in jazz would, just improvising. I remember hearing some of his ideas and being blown away at how beautiful they sounded, but Jose, being the super modest guy he is, would always say they aren’t good enough. That always made me laugh. There are other great memories of the recording but this one stands out the most in my mind.
How did Christian Alvestam (ex-Scar Symmetry)’s guest appearance come about?
Christian is friends with JJ so that collaboration came about from that relationship. I guess JJ asked him if he’d be interested in doing that part in “The Grey King” and Christian graciously said “yes”, so we are super thankful to him because he sounds awesome (as always). I think it really elevated the song having him contribute to it.
How has the band’s sound evolved from your debut and 2013 EP?
I think the songs on Scourge have stronger song structures, even though the songs are longer than the EP. In a way, we kind of went back to Unforsaken with the longer song structures and more adventurous ideas. Besides that, I’d say that the sound on Scourge is darker and more menacing than ever before.
Is there a lyrical theme or thread?
The lyrical themes are up to interpretation but I can share what they mean to me. To me, Scourge is about a spiritual journey. You start out in one place, in a place of darkness, of all-encompassing pride, and then you end up in another place, one of conviction and humility. In between, we can see the consequences of living a life full of pride and a lack of caring for other individuals or for the environment. If you choose to see the album as a journey, you can see a stark contrast from the beginning track to that of the last one. In that way, I think there is a clear theme, but again, that’s just what I see. Others can take whatever they want from the album.
How did you come to sign with Prosthetic Records?
JJ is also the vocalist for the band 7 Horns 7 Eyes and having toured with them for a few years and releasing a critically acclaimed album, he was able to forge many relationships in the business, including with some people now at Prosthetic. We showed them our album and apparently they really liked it so they decided to take a chance on us, for which we are really grateful. They have been nothing but awesome to us.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
We are a small band, so we hope that this album will at least help us land on some tours so that we can promote it further and give the band some more exposure in the states and over the world. It’s a dream of mine to tour in other countries so I hope the album will lead to that. Hopefully, people will like it enough that there will be ample demands for a follow up and we can do a bigger, better album next time.
How was the video shoot for “The Grey King?”
Honestly, it was a very smooth experience considering all the work that had to go into it. It was long, exhausting but things went pretty smoothly. Nothing crazy happened, like lights falling on someone or the shed catching on fire. Just good times and good vibes. The best part was seeing everyone in the band again, as we hadn’t been together in one place since 2014, so I was really happy to see my brothers. I also need to mention that Dan Drescher and his crew were super professional and chill guys. They are talented and great at what they do.
How important are videos these days?
They are probably less important than the glory days of the ’80s and ’90s, but I think there is still a place for music videos. It allows artists to get across their vision in a way that just listening to the music wouldn’t be able to. The visual aspect can add a new dimension to the song and if there are strong visuals attached, can really enhance someone’s experience and memories of that song.
Do you have any shows/tours planned in support of the album?
We are working on that. We sincerely hope that we can do something in Summer 2018, so that’s the goal.
How is the metal scene in Orlando these days, especially the death metal scene?
Considering that the almighty Death is from Orlando, you’d think there would be a much bigger metal scene than there is. Honestly, especially speaking about death metal, there isn’t much of a scene in Orlando (or there wasn’t when I lived there a few years ago, maybe it’s getting better). It’s mostly rock bands, ‘core bands, and other kinds of music. Of course, there are a few death metal bands around that are really good like Abdomen Canvas and Mindscar, but it’s strangely a very sparse scene in terms of death metal from what I know.
Do you ever get mistaken for the filmmaker Michael Moore?
I would always tell people that I lost a lot of weight and changed my skin color, so that’s why I look different these days.
Seen any good movies/DVDs lately?
Bladerunner 2049 absolutely blew me away. After being let down by tons of hyped up sequels in the past years, I had reserved expectations for Bladerunner and it completely floored me, one of the most visually and aurally stunning movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story, acting, pacing – everything was executed so beautifully. I’m a big fan of movies so I’m always looking for new stuff to watch and traveling between China and the States gives me a great opportunity to watch movies I haven’t seen before. Recently, I’ve also seen Three Billboards which was definitely not what I expected given the cast, but it was a really well done movie and one that I remember most from my recent flights.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Lately, I’ve been listening to the Fleshkiller album Awaken which is the brainchild of Ole Borud, who was in Extol (one of my favorite bands). Easily the best album of 2017 for me, and just an all-around kick ass album. I’ve been going back to some oldies recently, like Necrophagist’s Epitaph, Cynic’s Focus and discographies by Death, Pestilence, Immolation, Extol and older Opeth. That stuff never gets old.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
JJ has a new band that he’s really involved in and also includes some friends of mine. It’s called Nekroi Theoi and they are working on their massive debut album so check that out when it comes out (they’ve got some tracks available from an EP they just put out). Also, my buddy Danny Jacob’s progressive death metal band Lamentations is something people should also check out. He’s a really talented guy from Singapore who contributed flute and some lead guitar to Scourge.
Besides that, I want to thank Heavy Music HQ for the interview and for the fans who have supported us all throughout the years, for being patient with us to finally release this new album. It will be worth the wait, I promise!
(interview published March 16, 2018)