The Texas death metal group Morgengrau are in the spotlight for this week’s Meet The Band. Their sophomore album is Blood Oracle. Vocalist Erika Morgengrau introduces us to her band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Morgengrau.
Erika Morgengrau: Reba Carls and I started jamming cover tunes back in 2011. The covers quickly led to originals which led to Morgengrau officially forming in 2012. Jake Holmes and Nick Norris joined and we began writing Extrinsic Pathway and playing gigs. Extrinsic came out in 2013. We were signed to Unspeakable Axe by the end of the year. During the recording of Extrinsic, we started writing for Blood Oracle. Reba left the band shortly after to concentrate on her career. It took us a while to find the right drummer to finish the album. Blood Oracle just hit the shelves and we’ve very happy with the response it’s getting.
Describe the songwriting process for Blood Oracle.
Let’s talk about noodling for catfish. You’re not good at noodling. You feel out of your depth. You’re all sunburned, wet and tired, and most of the time you’re just feeling blindly along the riverbank, not making any progress. You keep it up until you finally happen upon a lunker. When you grab that lunker, oh, how it fights you. You keep grabbing at it and it slips away, time and time again. You get muddy and scratched and dirty water goes up your nose and in your mouth. Your buddies can’t really help you. It’s just you and the fish. Finally, you wrestle that bastard out of the water and into the boat, and realize, damn, that’s a good one. Now, imagine doing that seven more times. That’s my songwriting process.
How did you decide to work with Harris Johns, and how was the experience?
Once we heard Harris’ treatment of Immolation’s re-recording of Immolation, we knew we had to use him. He created the seminal death metal sound. Harris is one of those unique talents who intrinsically understands what sound is right for a band and who works to capture that, rather than apply a cookie-cutter battery of presets to a mix. We knew he would find the essence of Morgengrau and the result would be simultaneously classic and fresh. It was a smooth process, despite working remotely over email. Harris is the consummate professional. He’s clear, concise, very patient and super professional. I couldn’t have wished for a better experience.
How has the band’s sound evolved from your 2013 debut?
Heavier and darker, less thrashy. We’re firmly locked into the traditional death metal style now. Being a concept album, all the songs on “Blood Oracle” had to work together as a single thought. The first album is more your typical collection of individual thoughts. Keeping focus firmly aligned across all the songs was one of the reasons the album took so long to write.
What lyrical subjects do you tackle?
Struggle, hopelessness and desperation, presented in such a way that listeners should find it both fantastical and relatable at the same time.
How did you come to sign with Unspeakable Axe Records?
We knew Eric through Matt from Dark Descent. We had approached Dark Descent after releasing Extrinsic, and Matt was kind enough to recommend we approach Unspeakable.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
That it is enjoyed by fans of the genre. That’s it.
What has been your most memorable Morgengrau live show?
There are two: Martyrdoom in NYC in June 2013 and a small show in San Antonio at the Limelight in 2014. Martyrdoom was chaos overlaid by the crushing, wet heat that only a huge, northeastern city in summer can produce. The whole performance was a fever dream of sweat and heat exhaustion. The San Antonio show was the Saturday before Easter and one of those nights where violence is thick in the air. Three fights broke out during our set. People were hammering on each other in the pit. After the gig, while we were loading out, we had to put a beating on a drunken clubgoer who jumped into all our gear, landing right on top of all the guitars. We sent him home to an Easter Sunday with smashed lips and a bashed-up nose. It was grand.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
None. We don’t have a drummer at the moment.
How did you get started in music?
I’ve been into music forever. Always singing, making noise, jumping around, dreaming about being a performer. At some point, I got this really crappy acoustic guitar from a relative. When I was 13, I made a concerted effort to learn how to play it.
What drew you to metal?
Aggression and heaviness were strong attractors, but I think my parents’ discomfort with my interest in it was a huge driver. I always was attracted to dark things: the night, dead animals, monsters, demons, Satan. My mother was very religious and there’s nothing more delicious than learning how to individuate from your parent by finding the exact thing which makes them the most uncomfortable. At age 6, I became aware of KISS and Gene Simmons: the spitting blood and the tongue and the demon boots freaked out my mom and off I went on my life’s path.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Morbid Angel, Deicide and Pestilence: the unholy trinity.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Mötley Crüe and Y&T at the War Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, NY.
Did your family support you wanting to be a death metal musician?
Not in the least. My musical tastes confused and frightened them.
Austin is known for its varied music scene. How strong is metal there, especially death metal?
Austin’s music scene is running on fumes. Venues are being pushed out by rising rents and a populace which would rather get smashed on fruity drinks while eating vegan tapas in a club themed around upcycling instead of checking out a band whilst swilling cheap beer in a roach-infested dive bar. Metal, like the aformentioned roaches, shall always persist, but the scene is smaller than ever. I don’t go downtown much at all any more because it’s so depressingly stupid down there – perhaps I’m not the most qualified to answer this question. Anyway, check out excellent Austin bands Serpentian, Whore of Bethlehem and Trenchant.
(interview published June 23, 2018)
Listen To Morgengrau – “Wolves Of Thirteen”