Undergang – Hymns of Death

Undergang_logo

New death metal bands seem to be popping up like mushrooms all around the globe, while long-slumbered elders keep on bursting out of their coffins. In the midst of this overabundance, Undergang from Denmark somehow managed to catch my attention. Despite singing in their native tongue, which I couldn’t understand a word of, their message was still very clear to me; this was a band that’s all about the slimy and filthy way of death metal! Combining all the elements I love in the genre and spewing out some of the most wicked and crushing sonic savagery, Undergang is a name you need to remember if you are into death metal (or into heavy metal, for that matter) at all. And so I approached their vocalist/guitarist David Torturdød with a bunch of inquiries, and despite being a busy beaver with his various activities in the scene, he managed to spare some time for us.

1. Hello David! Let’s start with the basic stuff.  Can you tell me a bit about your own musical history? What dragged you into it, and eventually made you pick up an instrument?

Hi Kari, and thanks for inviting me into your pages! Hmm, I think my first memory of music catching my attention must have been when I was around 8 and I was invited into my older brother’s room to listen to the music that he enjoyed. I can’t remember what exact artists/bands it was, but I remember coming back all the time and wanting to hear more and more different things.

As for metal, I must have been about to enter my teenage years when I discovered heavier music.

I started going to guitar lessons when I was 12/13, as at that time I wanted to learn how to play and start a band. It only lasted a year though, as I was terrified of my teacher who was a real dick. I was even scared to go there, haha.

After that I’ve mainly dealt with music on my own or with friends. Learning new things from each other and so on.

I started my first punk band when I was 15, and that was when my virginity of playing live was taken too. I knew right away that was the place where I wanted to be, and I have tried to keep my music life as active as possible ever since.

2. Did you have some earlier bands, and how did Undergang get started?

Yeah, I started my first punk band at the age of 15, called Morbid (pronounced in Danish), as I was really into Morbid Angel. I hadn’t discovered any proper underground metal community at that time, and wasn’t aware of the old Swedish bands.

That band lasted only for a year, and after that I was playing with various punk/hardcore/crust bands for some years before feeling comfortable enough with my guitar playing skills to finally form a death metal band.

I played bass for a local metal/crust band called Realm of Chaos for half a year before I decided to quit. But from the time I spent in that band I got to know the two other members of what was to become Undergang. About two years after my departure I started hanging out with K. Ondsind again, and I played him some of the death metal riffs I had written over the years. As he liked it, we asked A. Dødshjælp to join us on drums, and we arranged our first rehearsal on June 5th, 2008.

Originally, the line-up was K. on rhythm guitar, A. on drums and two other friends separately on bass and vocals, and then me on lead guitar. But since neither of those two showed up for our first couple of rehearsals, K. swapped the guitar for the bass and I picked up the vocal duties along with being the sole guitarist. And Undergang has stayed the same since that day.

We played our first show in support of (now defunct) Canadian Limb from Limb in August 2008 – a set list that consisted of 5 songs that later ended up on Indhentet af Døden – and recorded our first demo song “Evigt Lidende” in September the same year.

Undergang_live

3. There has been a huge boom in death metal overall in the last couple of years. Have you been satisfied to see this happen, and do you think it has helped Undergang’s career? Have you come across any new bands that have amazed you?

 Turned out to be just the right time for us to start playing and recording, as the “recent” boom in the interest in Death Metal was rising at the same time. That fact has definitely helped us, as a few years prior to that no one would have given a rat’s abscessed and blood-spewing ass about us.

But honestly, we didn’t expect anyone to care about our music at all when we started playing. We wrote and played what we liked in death metal, and pretty early on decided that we’d try to have our first release be our debut full-length. So when we had 7 songs ready, we made a reservation for studio time in a friend’s studio, where A.’s earlier punk rock band The Assassinators had also recorded. Recording and mixing took us two weeks over the year change of 2008/2009, and finally by July 2009 we had the final result mastered and ready. So I bought 100 cassette tapes (it was all I could afford as I was studying at the time and didn’t have a job on the side) and started dubbing them with our full recording as a promo that we could send out to the labels we’d like to work with.

But before the first promo tape had been mailed out, we got contacted by John of old UK death metal band Evoke, saying that he had a friend who was about to start up a death metal label, and he was interested in releasing our debut full-length on vinyl. That person turned out to be Jesus of the now infamous underground death metal elitist label Me Saco Un Ojo Records, and we worked out an agreement for the release.

So I’d definitely say again that the newer found interest in old styled death metal must have helped us gain a bit of interest that we might not have gotten otherwise. But still, not many people seem to care back home in Denmark.

Of newer bands that I’ve enjoyed… dang, I could name a fucking shitload, dude! Off the top of my head I’d recommend checking out Vastum, Bone Sickness, Necrot, Reverie, Scolex, Corpsessed, Maveth, Krypts, Swallowed, Bones, Trepanation, Sulphurous, Rude and Solothus!

4. What I first noticed in Undergang is the sound; it’s so raw and dirty, yet extremely powerful – top quality death metal! What bands would you name as your biggest influences?

 A lot of things and bands have influenced us/me for the music we (de)compose. Since the beginning, we wanted to create something extremely heavy and suffocating, chose to tune lower than any of us had tried before, and aimed for primitive riffs and beats and as gurgling low-end vocals as I could possibly produce. Besides the fact that these are the features we love in death metal, not many (if any) bands from Denmark had really produced that previously. At least not any band that I knew/know of.

As for biggest influences, I’ll have to say Autopsy, as they’re my all-time favorite death metal band. But besides that, I’ll say the heaviness from bands like Grave, Mortician, Crematory, Funebre, Demilich, Suffocation, Rippikoulu and Carcass, and the insanity of bands like Impetigo or Blood.

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5. Undergang does a lot of gigs and tours. Was playing live one of your main goals when you started out?

 I’ve always loved playing live, so yeah, it has definitely been a goal for us to come out and play as much as we can, as long as there is interest in it. When we started playing live, we played a hell of a lot of local shows with all sorts of bands, mainly from the punk scene, as the Danish metal promoters didn’t really bother to book us. And they still don’t, actually!

Undergang is the first band I toured with that I’ve played in myself as well. I’ve tagged along and helped out with friends’ bands on tour before, which has also been fun. But I actually never even tried flying out anywhere before we got Undergang going, haha. My first trip like that was in 2011 when we toured the US West Coast the first time. And I sure only have glorious memories of that… well, the tour… Flying will probably never be too fun, unless you enjoy rubbing elbows with strangers, breathing in other people’s farts, and skipping meals because they forgot you ordered rabbit food and therefore have to stick to “liquid food”, hehe.

6. If I’m not totally wrong, you’re involved in arranging Kill-Town Death Fest, a multi-day underground death metal gathering that has taken place in Copenhagen every September since 2010. It seems the event has gotten a lot of positive buzz, and always delivers a strong line-up of killer bands!

 Yeah, I’ve been a part of the KTDF organization group since the beginning, as I’m one of the two founding members. I love what we do with KTDF, and luckily it seems like a lot of people are interested in coming and supporting such an event, even though it’s in little isolated Denmark.

Everyone involved is doing it voluntarily and no one makes any money off of it. It’s all about the passion for the music at the festival, no matter if you’re a guest, part of a band performing, one of our many helping hands or part of the year-long organization group. It’s one of the things I really love about KTDF, and we wouldn’t do it any other way.

The way it looks right now, the 2014 edition will most likely be the last one, though, as we’d really need more people to attend and support this celebration of death than the amount who has attended so far. Sadly, the festival still hasn’t been able to finance itself from ticket sales and funding, so we really need more people joining the ball to make it worthwhile in the end.

We’ll announce the bands really soon for the 2014 edition, as we’re working on closing the line-up right now and replying all who have contacted us. The dates for the 2014 festival will be from September 4th to 7th, so put a big mark in your calendar when you read this and come join us for the party!

For more info check out – www.killtowndeathfest.dk

7. You also run your own distro/label, how has it been so far? What are your plans for the near future? You seem to be really involved in the death metal scene!

 Hehe, yeah, death metal has been a big passion of mine for a good run of years now, so I try to be involved with as many things related to it as I feel like and can manage to find time for.

I run a small cassette label called Extremely Rotten Records, with which I have released tape versions of demos and albums of mainly bands of friends or projects I’m involved in. We have a lot of plans for future releases including new stuff from Necrot, Wormridden, Mortuous and Swarming + cassette versions of albums by Disma, Bone Sickness, Anatomia, and more in the talking.

I just need to find a little extra time and money to finance it. But recently, S.D. of Mold has joined me and has been helping out with various matters on the label. It will be good to have a bit of help again with those activities. Especially the distribution part and bringing the distro out to shows seems like a thing he’s up for, which is cool. ERR mainly distributes death metal releases, be it on cassette or vinyl, as those are the formats I prefer the most myself. We also have various zines; some on death metal, some on horror, and I recently placed an order for the depraved US comic Fukitor. Sick and funny stuff, check it out and get it in Europe through ERR, hehe!

Undergang_Oakland

8. Doing artwork and logos is another one of your underground-related activities. Have you been drawing your whole life? Do you make art for bands by request?

 I used to draw a lot as a kid (like almost any kid not growing up today who’s spoiled by video games, TV and shit), but put down the pens when I hit puberty and started focusing on other things. I then started drawing a bit again back in 2005 and have been keeping it more or less steady since then. I’m really self-taught, so I just tend to do what I like, and I’m eternally inspired by the glorious classic EC comics and the likes.

I take in orders from bands, zines, labels and private commissions, and soon I’ll work on my first cover for an upcoming book by a Danish children’s author called Benni Bødker. It should be fun, as his writing universe is pretty much always related to various kinds of horror.

I do charge a fee for the time I put into my work, as I spend my free time on it, and I really don’t have much of that as it is.

So far I’ve been blessed by working with bands like Anatomia, Cerekloth, Necrovorous, Demilich, Engulfed, Evoke, Avulsed, and of course my own projects and many more.

9. Denmark seems to be an up-and-coming heavy metal country; you have older bands like King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, and then some newer ones like Mold and you guys. Are there other names that you would like to mention or shed some light on?

 Haha, going from King Diamond to Mold seems like a bit of a rough comparison perhaps! But yeah, our national metal treasure is definitely the proper royalty of Denmark, King Diamond.

In general, I’ve never been too fond of Danish bands, as the majority have really never been very good or interesting. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is, but most bands from Denmark sound really Danish… which to me isn’t a really good thing. We’ve always tried not to sound Danish at all with Undergang, which I think we’ve succeeded with too.

As I play with Mold myself, I don’t really feel right about saying too much about the band. But if you like heavy and dark death metal, do check it out! We’ll record a new 7” very soon, too.

Other newer Danish bands I’d say one should check out are Reverie, Sulphurous, Cerekloth (RIP), Pustulation, Würm’s Tongue, Dwell and Deiquisitor, and for more decent polished DM, Deus Otiosus and The Cleansing.

Of older Danish death metal bands I’d recommend Fallen Angel, Infernal Death, Detest, Exhaust and the second demo of Dominus.

Undergang_promo_1

10. Considering you write all of your texts in your native tongue, the lyrics might be a bit of a problem for us foreigners. What are your overall lyrical themes?

 It’s all about death, decomposition, insanity, depravity and other loveliness. Like death metal is supposed to be.

11. You must be quite busy with the band(s), the label/distro, the artworks etc. What else are you up to, when not involved in said matters?

 Well, when I’m not busy with all my death metal activities, I have a full time job, try to exercise regularly for my back injury, and hang out with my friends or family. I enjoy relaxing at home with a dark beer and a good marijuana cigarette, as well as while watching movies. I love 70’s and 80’s slasher/splatter/horror movies, so it tends to be something from that time that gets visited.

…And long walks on the beach, horseback riding and food rubs… oh wait, this wasn’t a dating profile! Hehe.

12. What does the future hold for Undergang? If I’m not mistaken, a new album is in the making?

 Right now we’re writing songs for the 3rd album. At this moment, we’re a little more than halfway through the material for the album, and Earhammer Studio in Oakland, California, is already booked for late July 2014. The album will be released by Me Saco Un Ojo (LP) and Dark Descent (CD) hopefully in late 2014. But as always, I’m the long delay in our releases, as I’m busy and often find it hard to finish the artwork and layout within a short time. Oh well, keep watching those labels’ activities and you’ll be informed when it’s out, hehe.

Other than that, we’re working on next year’s touring. If all goes well, 2014 will see Undergang doing a longer tour on the East Coast of USA and later in the year visiting Japan and Australia. And some shows in Europe around it as well. Hopefully 2014 will also be the year we get to visit Finland!

Undergang_Roskilde_2011

13. What are your top 5 things in life at the moment?

Well, I’ve been suffering from a lot of pain in my back for the last two months and some other issues, so there really haven’t been a lot of positive things going on recently. But I’ll say the following:

  • Quitting morphine as a painkiller (sucked, kept falling asleep whenever I was socializing and such)
  • Getting back to rehearsing with my bands
  • Re-visiting “King of the Hill”
  • Hanging out with my real friends
  • Death Metal

14. Thank you for your time, David. Keep it heavy!

 Thank YOU for doing this interview. It has been a pleasure taking the ride through all of your questions. I wish you all the best of luck with the magazine and your other activities!

For Undergang merch, death threats, booking, or just to drop us a line, you can reach us at undergang666(a)care2.com

Stay tuned for more filth, we’re not going anywhere. Long live the new flesh!

In decay,

D. Torturdød / Undergang
December 2013

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