Thrash Off! … to the Great White North

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Edmonton’s Mortillery gets it right. Debut album Murder.Death.Kill (HPGD Productions) really set the tone for the Canadian thrash metallers; everything from the album title to the artwork to Cara McCutchen’s vocal ferocity to the up-the-irons mentality lived, breathed, and puked METAL. Napalm Records heard it, got it, and snatched up that debut album for reissue, including the vinyl treatment. But it is with The Origin of Extinction that Mortillery have raised the bar and unknowingly dared bands the world over to try and top it. Blazing riffs, lacerating solos, vocals that move from thrash brutality to wailing heavy metal singing, and consistency of catchiness all the way through to the end. I can’t get enough of it, which is why The Origin of Extinction is a virtual lock for my 2013 best-album list. Guitarist Alex Gutierrez spoke to me about the finer details of what it’s like to be in a band of metal fans making music for metal fans and not giving a damn about wheel reinvention.

I just listened to The Origin of Extinction for about the 15th time. It’s outstanding.

Thank you so much, man. We really appreciate that.

Let’s go back a bit, before you released the first album Murder.Death.Kill on Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. You began by self-releasing an EP.

Yeah, it’s a self-titled album. It was never actually meant to be a CD for sale. We actually went in to record a few songs to have on Myspace or whatever and eventually when it came to us playing our first few shows we wanted to have something for sale, so we said hey, why not? It’s not the best recording; it was done in a basement, live on the floor. But it did really well and people seemed to like it. It was a good early start for the band.

How did you hook up with Horror Pain Gore Death Productions for the release of the first album?

Actually, they had worked with another band that Cara [McCutchen], our vocalist, was in a band called Minax. They had some very DIY stuff and decided to put out an album, and Mike Juliano from Horror Pain Gore Death helped them out. I’m not sure what all that involved, but they got into contact. Once that relationship was established Mike found out about Mortillery; that we were new and doing our own thing separate from what Minax was doing. He wanted to help us out, so once we were ready to release Murder.Death.Kill in 2011, although it was re-released later by Napalm Records in 2012, he put the album out. It definitely helped us out a lot to get the name out there. Really what we wanted was some connections with other places. We know how to take care of ourselves in Canada, or at least here in Western Canada, but it definitely helps a lot to have that connection across the border, especially with someone like Mike who clearly knows what he’s doing and has a lot of connections.

I was surprised to see the Napalm reissue, although not for any specific reason; I certainly wasn’t surprised that you made the jump to a bigger label.

I definitely hear you. You can go to the website and look at the thrash metal section and it’s pretty small; it’s only like three bands right now or something. I think what they’re trying to do is expand more. Napalm Records has really done well for themselves and they know what they’re doing. They’ve had over 15 years of experience doing this. It would be dumb to deny that thrash metal has made a pretty big comeback and the female-fronted bands have gotten much more popular too, so we had what they were looking for. And we’re going to take it of course [laughs].

Napalm contacted you out of the blue then?

After the album was released by Horror Pain Gore Death we sent out a bunch of copies to record labels, just to kind of put it out there that we wanted to keep moving forward. Maybe like six months after we sent the album they sent us an e-mail and it was pretty straight forward, saying “Hey, we’re Napalm Records and we want to sign you; this is what’s up.” You can imagine how excited we were. Of course we had to get some help from some people to decipher exactly what that contract meant [laughs]. We couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.

Were you the one that read the e-mail when it came in?

Yeah, I was the first one to read it [laughs]. I immediately texted everybody and said “You’re not gonna believe this, get over here! [Laughs].

Did you let out a yell when it arrived?

Yeah [laugh], it was pretty intense. At the time I wasn’t working and I was just bumming around, sitting at home doing nothing all day long. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Edmonton, Canada; it’s a pretty boring city and not much is going on. That was like the biggest news of the year when we got that e-mail [laughs]!

After you had the deal in hand and you had the task of completing a new album ahead of you, were you feeling any pressure?

We had like half the album already written, so there was no pressure at all. The only pressure was on ourselves to take this opportunity seriously and do what we can with it. Regardless of whether we got signed or not we were going to make more music and release more albums. The Napalm deal just gave us that extra boost of confidence that we needed to keep moving forward. So we just said let’s take advantage of this and go for it.

The Origin of Extinction is certainly the same band sound-wise, but you’ve tightened everything up and the songs hit with more immediacy and stay with you longer. The songs stand out more, while the music is just as aggressive, if not more so, than Murder.Death.Kill.

Yeah, that’s how we feel. We’re definitely way more comfortable with the songs; they seem to be closer to the type of songwriting we want to do. You can tell. Even with our live shows we’ve been watching videos of us from early on and videos from more recent shows and we can see how we’ve developed the sound that we feel most comfortable creating, and we’re really happy about that.

Cara is one of the better pure, raging metal vocalists I’ve heard in a while. She can actually sing during the parts that call for it too, yet she retains that raw edge.

It is very natural. The way that we write the songs and the way that our sound comes out, it is just us being ourselves. We have many, many different influences and we’re not afraid to show them in any way, shape, or form. Our type of music, and thrash in general, is composed of many different types of influences. You’ve got punk rock, power metal, and you’ve got traditional metal, and we’re ok with that; we like to explore all of those. It really all depends on what mood we’re feeling. Some songs lean more toward one style than others, and it all depends on what we’re feeling at that time.

The guitar tone and playing kills. It’s cutting.

I really appreciate that, man. It’s cool to work with Alex Scott, the lead guitar player too. I’ve had lots of different bands in the past, but I’ve never been able to connect with somebody so closely. We weren’t even friends before we got in the band together. We met through the band. He joined when our original guitar player decided to leave, so we just put an ad out saying hey this is who we are and we don’t have any albums out or anything, just the demo. And he found it and the first time he came to play with us he had already learned that demo. When we sit together and write on the guitars it’s just so comfortable. He reads my mind and I do the same with him; we each know exactly where the other one is going.

With the instrumental that opens the album, “Battle March,” there is no question where things are going to go with the album. It’s a great way to kick things off.

That’s all Alex Scott too, man, while we’re on the topic of him. He showed us that piece and I think originally it was just going to become a regular song with vocals, but there was just something about it on its own. We only had three or four songs written for the album when he wrote that and it was automatic to us that it was the way the album was going to start. It was already shaping the way this album was going to sound. I really dig that piece too.

I’m sure you get asked about this song quite a bit, but the fact of the matter is that “F.O.A.D.” is a fantastic song. It’s real attention-getter. What’s the story behind it?

It’s awesome that you feel that way. It’s so cool to hear what everyone chooses as a favorite song from the album. We all have difference choices for favorite songs on the album. It’s weird; that one just came out on its own. It’s funny because in the early years of the band I was helping out quite a bit with the lyrics; me and Cara would do them together. In my style of writing I would use a lot of swearing and things like that. But when the band started she wasn’t really into that. She would use my lyrics, but she would take out my swearing [laughs]. She came out of nowhere with that song. We had the song written, but didn’t have lyrics written. She told us to just play it and let her do her thing and then we could tell her what we thought about it. That’s the first time we heard what she was singing about and we thought wow, this is perfect [laughs].

That’s the one you’ve chosen for the video too.

Napalm decided that it is a song that we should focus on with some of the promotion, so it’s going to be our first time doing a music video. Since they think it’s such a strong song, and so do you I guess [laughs], we agreed to doing the video for that one. We’ve got to keep busy, we’ve got to stay out there doing things.

What other songs have critics been highlighting in reviews or interviews?

Maniac” is probably the other one and “No Way Out” is one as well. We have “Battle March” that starts the album and goes for two minutes and then it’s two minutes of instrumental music when “No Way Out” starts. It wasn’t our intent to have four minutes of instrumental stuff to begin the album before the lyrics start, but it flows really well and sounds like it was all meant to be together. That song seems to grab peoples’ attention. “Maniac” is really fun for us to play. It is really simple and straight forward. It’s pretty close to the punk rock style of playing when the lyrics kick in and all of that. The topic of the song is just about things that we are into; everything that we do, the way that we play, or what we sing about.

The vinyl packages for this album are very appealing.

Yeah, and Napalm surprised us with the poster idea; we didn’t even think of it. When they released Murder.Death.Kill on vinyl we wanted to have the toxic green color, but it didn’t work out. This time around for The Origin of Extinction we were able to go for it and we’re excited about it.

What about touring? Is Europe on the horizon?

That’s the plan right now. We’ve been trying to get some connections through booking companies to take us to Europe. We’re still a fairly new band and there is still a lot of work to be done, so we can’t just jump right up and get out there. We need to make sure everything is all planned out correctly. I think the release of The Origin of Extinction will give us the credibility we need to make things like that happen. So hopefully we can get this tour going sooner rather than later.

And the States?

You would think it would be easier to tour in the States because it is so much closer to us, but most of the response to the music, and maybe because of where the label is located, has come from Europe. Don’t get me wrong; we’re still getting really strong support from the States and here in Canada, and a lot in South America. But going to play in Europe has been a dream of everyone in the band for a long time. At this point if we can jump on something that is fun and exciting we’ll do that too; we’re not saying “no” to anything.

On a closing note, you can hear the varying influences in Mortillery’s sound, but there is also a – for lack of a better way of describing it – distinctively Canadian metal streak in the music, whether it is Sacrifice or Razor for instance. That’s never a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Yeah, there must be something natural that comes from your environment in the sense that you can tell Canadian metal or rock ‘n roll when you hear it. You can immediately tell, but I’m not sure what it is exactly because I’m from here. We are the kind of band that is very proud of our influences and we’re not afraid to show it. We understand that rock ‘n roll really is just a re-creation of itself and we like that. Why not? For metalheads and fans of rock ‘n roll in general the bands that you listen to mean a lot to you. We’re the same way and we respect that, and we want to do our part and keep the ball rolling so future bands can do the same. And if we happen to influence any band in the future, then that’s a job well done.

http://www.mortillery.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Mortillery

www.napalmrecords.com

 

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