Interview: Morbid Death

On February the 28th Morbid Death released their new full-length album, titled Oxygen. Recently, DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen reviewed that album here. He also had an interview with Morbid Death’s vocalist/bass player Ricardo Santos and guitarist Luís H. Bettencourt, as you can read below.

Hey, how are you holding up in the difficult circumstances these days?

Ricardo: We’re just following what our local authorities advice. Besides that, everyone is safe! Thanks for asking. Hope that  you’re also safe!!!

I am, thanks! On February the 28th you released your new album, titled Oxygen. Congratulations with that. I think it’s really nice.

Ricardo: Thank you so much!

Oxygen is released via Art Gates Records. What makes them the best record label for Morbid Death at this moment?

Ricardo: In the past, we had other labels and the contracts ended. We were for many years without a record label doing everything our way. Of course, despite the band’s longevity, we didn’t always did certain things well, without anyone to guide us with the necessary know-how. We were contacted by them and because we also wanted to evolve as a band, we signed with AGR. It is certain that the band / label relationship has to be very good and we are working in constant harmony. They were the only that bet on us and we’re greatful with that.

Last year you released a standalone single, titled One More Day. Did you consider including it on Oxygen?

Ricardo: We never thought of including One More Day on the album because practically this song ended an era of the band. And you can easily see that in the video there are other musicians and in this new era, there are only three of us.

Apart from that single, there was a ten year gap between Oxygen and its predecessor, Methamorphic Reaction. Was there a reason for this gap? If so, what was the reason for that?

Ricardo: Shortly after the release of Metamorphic Reaction, I felt the need to leave the band due to the fatigue accumulated over the years. As you can imagine, being part of a band isn’t only about playing a musical instrument. Mutual help, dedication and availability is required and many times I felt that I was on my own. It was always a constant struggle to keep the band alive. Even so, I became available to help in what was possible and not for my surprise, they decided that the band would be better off. After a 3-year hiatus, the band was back in scene. We did some concerts but ‘old ghosts’ were back, and me as being the only founding member, I decided to ‘put order in the house’. It wasn’t an easy decision but it had to be made and this time it wasn’t going to be me stepping out. Against facts there are no arguments and after the band’s return in 2014, only one song was composed in five years, One More Day…one song! Unbelievable!!! The band needed people with availability, willing to work and I found this in Luís and Rafael. In less than a year, an album with twelve songs was ready to be released. That’s how a band should be. Hard-working!

I’ve noticed that there’s a lot to hear and discover on Oxygen due to the huge amount of variation and the many different layers included. How did the creation process of this album, and especially the implementing of these variations and layers, go?

Ricardo: I confess that with the entrance of Luis and Rafael, new oxygen of enormous quality was introduced in this band and this is portrayed in Oxygen. We are referred to be a band that does not follow a specific genre within metal-land, it’s part of our DNA. It simply comes out in a natural way, not following rules of musical or lyrical composition. This is an album produced entirely by Luís with some ideas from me and Rafael here and there. It was a team effort. There are in fact many elements to be heard and even discovered while listening to Oxygen. We have included, for example, a string instrument of Azorean origin that is used in our folklore, in a track with a Swedish name, Jordsträngar. Twelve-string guitar, clean vocals, child vocals, etc. It is a huge miscellaneous of unusual elements within heavy metal. We just had a good time recording Oxygen!

What is the Swedish-titled track Jordsträngar about?

Ricardo: That Swedish-titled was Luís’s idea. The song was created on a Viola da Terra (traditional Azorean folk guitar, it means Earth Guitar) and Luís didn’t “hear” any vocals on the song, so he decided that there would be only a declamation of a poem or a text. He didn’t want to use either Portuguese or English, hence the Swedish. Jordsträngar means Strings of the World, and it’s a prayer to Mother Earth.

Why is it in Swedish? Is there a link between Morbid Death and Sweden?

Ricardo: We can point out two reasons for Morbid Death being ‘connected’ with Sweden. Luís always had a connection to that country by his musical influences and of course he speaks the language. It’s Luís’ voice on Jordsträngar and the second by the studio. Oxygen was mastered by Jakob Herrmann & Robin Leijon at Top Floor Studios in Gothenburg. Seeing the name of Morbid Death linked to a producer who had worked with bands such as In Flames, Machine Head, Evergrey, Dark Tranquillity, Anthrax among many others makes us very proud because as soon as Jakob heard our songs, he accepted immediately to master it.

Now, guitarist Luís H. Bettencourt and drummer Rafael Bulhões are part of Morbid Death for one year. How do you all look back on their first year in Morbid Death?

Ricardo: I see them as two friendly great hard-working musicians and with very clear goals. Some years ago, Luís was our roadie and at the time he did one show with us replacing a guitarist that was unable to play. He was already an old acquaintance of ours and I knew what he was capable of. Rafael was referenced by Luís. I didn’t knew him and I trusted in Luís suggestion. We booked the first rehearsal and Rafael surprised me positively.

Henrique, your guitarist Luís’ H. Bettencourt’s son also contributed on some parts of Oxygen. Luís, how does it feel that your son also is part of this album?

Luís: You know, Henrique is always around me in the studio, he’s only 9 years old but he grew up in this environment, he plays guitar onstage with a folk group and he’s very musical. There were a couple of songs that I wanted to put his voice on, and we ended up sitting down, both of us, in the studio listening to the 12 songs and he actually gave some amazing ideas to incorporate his voice in places that I didn’t even imagine.

And how does Henrique feel about it?

Luís: Henrique is very proud of being a part of this album, seeing his name on the CD makes him smile. Curious thing about the recording session, he did it all in one afternoon and said it was easy.

This year it is exactly thirty years ago that Morbid Death was formed. Apart from the new album, are you going to celebrate that?

Ricardo: This pandemic just fucked up very well all of our plans. Not only ours, but everyone’s. We just have to see what is possible to do and go from there. Yes, we were planning on doing something…

How do you look back at those 30 years of Morbid Death?

Ricardo: With nostalgy but proud to where we are now. 30 years of passion, 30 years of ups and downs but above all extremely proud. We know that yet there’s a long way to go and a lot to conquer.

You’re from the Azores. How is the Azorean metal-scene?

Ricardo: Yes, that’s right! Well the Azorean metal scene, back in the 90’s and 2000 was very active. Then, for several reasons, started to slow down and a lot of good bands were just going apart. Nowadays, it’s starting to get back on the trails but nothing like those days…

Any other Azorean bands you recommend to check out, aside from Morbid Death?

Ricardo: There’s a band that is doing some great stuff. Well, I think that they’re only a two-musician project. An old friend of mine on vocals, Luis ‘Gazela’ Franco and an ex-guitarist of Morbid Death, António Couto. Drakh is the name. You should listen them. There’s also an hard’n’heavy band that sounds pretty good and they’re Cisco Bottle. In Pecattvm, Kazän, A Dream of Poe, Dreaming In Black, Palha D’Aço, Anomally…everyone just has to check them out!!!

Can we expect some Morbid Death shows as soon as the Corona virus measures are less tight? Maybe coming to The Netherlands?

Ricardo: That’s our main goal! We just want to play those songs live and if you could give us a help there, The Netherlands also could be booked (laughs).

Thanks for your answers. Is there anything you want to say to our readers?

Ricardo: We would like to thank DutchMetalManiac for this opportunity. You and all those that interview and do reviews have an important role in the metal scene. It’s not only all about the bands and we respect your hard work in promoting us. Mutual-help is very important!!!

For all those that didn’t yet listen to Oxygen, just give it try! It’s digitally available on different platforms, on Youtube, Facebook and Instagram. So, no excuses (laughs).

Thank you all for the support and we hope to see you soon on some stage around!!!

Keep the Metal Flag way high!!!

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