The brainchild of guitarist and vocalist Martin Elliott, Durham Death Thrash trio Mortal Chains have set sail on the seven seas of Metal with their maiden voyage a self titled EP that strikes a chord with an Old School sound created with the help of Neil Combstock at Rocking Horse Studios across five intriguing cuts. So without further ado, get a beverage of choice and enjoy an exclusive interview with the man himself – and yes, it is the first of two!
How have you found the reaction to your self titled EP so far? “The reaction’s been good so far. The general feedback being that it’s a good representation of our live sound, and just generally a strong sounding EP. We’ve had good feedback on the vocals and individual instruments too which is gratifying! Another interesting/surprising thing is that we’ve had good feedback from both metalheads and non-metalheads, beyond what you’d expect from friends and family humouring us haha! Maybe they’re just REALLY humouring us… Of course we’re always interested to know what people think of what we’re doing so hopefully as time goes on we’ll get more feedback, good or bad it all helps!”
They say that the first bite is with the eye and the haunting image from Rene Asmussen gives “Mortal Chains” a real “The Woman In Black” vibe. What was behind the decision to use it? “The image originally came from a site that provides attribution/royalty free photos so Rene Asmussen didn’t have any involvement beyond providing the photo to that site. I like the ambiguity of the shot, the juxtaposition of the woman in a nice dress in what appears to be a dilapidated building… as you say it’s quite a haunting visual. It almost feels like there’s a story being told, and not one with a happy ending… It grabbed me the first time I saw it and I knew it would fit the music and lyrics so I’ve had it saved for a long while. When we recorded the EP it just felt right to use it. I have my own ideas about how it relates to the title but I prefer to keep the ambiguity and leave people to make up their own minds, if they care to. It looks great on a t shirt too!”
Before you released the EP you released an EP called “Prophet’s Eyes Rehearsals” which is the band playing live in the rehearsal space. What made you decide to do that as opposed to releasing some demos for example? “We started looking for gigs in May of this year. At that time we had on our YouTube channel some guitar/vocal demos and a few rehearsal videos but we didn’t feel like they really demonstrated what we sounded like – no drums on the demos, and limited sound quality on the rehearsal videos. The rehearsal demo was a quick and inexpensive way to get a clearer sound that we could show to promoters etc, it was intended as a quick stopgap before a proper recording. As it turned out we recorded it the day before our debut gig! The rehearsal demo was recorded at Rocking Horse Rehearsal Rooms in Durham, which is where we rehearse weekly. Our experience recording the demo there convinced us that it was the right place to record a studio EP, though that had pretty much been the plan anyway. It was then just a matter of getting the money together and booking the session, which was why the EP followed so quickly on from the demo!”
We’ve picked out some riffs as perhaps having a bit of Metallica influence, in particular on “These Mortal Chains” so if we are the product of our genes and influences, what’s in your Jeans and who would you consider your influences? “What’s in my jeans? A pair of legs (mine, I think), a wallet and a couple of guitar picks. Very exciting… The comparison to St Anger was interesting. Definitely not an influence I would pick out in terms of anything on that album, but 80s Metallica will be in there. In fact a friend compared that same song to Kill ’em All… I don’t really think consciously of my influences but Exodus, Kreator, Death and Morbid Angel will be in there. Also I’d say My Arms/Still Life era Opeth in getting away from verse/chorus structures, something that goes back to my previous band. At gigs we’ve been compared to Bathory, Cannibal Corpse, Celtic Frost and Carcass which is interesting because I wouldn’t name them as influences. Hopefully that means we have our own style and people are picking up on elements that resonate with them! I also have to say the frontman from my previous band was a big influence since he pushed/encouraged me to write music in the first place, and the style and approach to song structure we developed in that band is naturally a big part of my writing style now”
If you had the opportunity to work with a guest the next time around, who would you like to bring into the studio to work on a cut with you and why? “There are no “big” names that spring to mind but I have considered a couple of vocalists. The first being my aforementioned mate Simon who was the frontman in my former band. Due to constant line-up issues we never got to the point of playing live together but that band was where I started writing music so it’d be cool to have Si on record as a nod to the important part he played in my development as a musician. Secondly, the metal scene in the North East of England is stacked with talented bands. One band who we’ve played with a couple of times and have a lot of respect for is Cast In Tephra, I’d love to have their frontman Ryan do a vocal on our next EP. Answering these questions reminded me to ask him so I’m pleased to say he’s up for it, it’ll be awesome!”
What’s next for Mortal Chains? “We’ve got a few plans brewing… In the immediate future, more gigs. To date we’ve played live four times and we want a hell of a lot more of it! We’ve got four gigs coming up in the next six weeks which is nearly enough to satisfy me but not quite! We’ve got a single which will be released on August 21st. That’s the 45th anniversary of the first Motörhead album release – the song is a tribute to Lemmy and is written like a Motörhead song. As such it didn’t fit on the EP so it’ll be a standalone single. We love it though and we play it live with a cheeky verse and chorus of their song “Motorhead” as an intro! Hopefully it’ll be available on streaming platforms from that date as well as on Bandcamp, we’re currently waiting for the artwork to be delivered. The material for a second EP has been written, we’ve started working on it as a band with plans to record end of this year/early next year. One of those songs is in our current live set and we’re hoping to have another one ready for a charity gig we’re playing in a few weeks. We’re also on a seemingly endless search for a reliable and committed second guitarist…”
“Self Titled” by Mortal Chains is out now and available over at bandcamp.