LORD MANTIS "Praying For Perversity"

By Dr. Abner Mality

You think you know what ugly music is? Try Chicago's Lord Mantis on for size. This band redfines sordid musical horror for the 21st century metal scene. I'm not talking about the usual faux-Satanism of the black metal bands nor the infantile shock tactics of gore metal or porngrind. We are arguably in the biggest onslaught of dark, pessimistic sludge in musical history, but Lord Mantis is a step beyond even the likes of Eyehategod with their misanthropy. With latest effort "Death Mask", most people won't even be able to get past the cover (which we discuss in earnest below).

But the band rings true and their grim reality helps them rise above many contemporaries. I was interested to see what makes such a hateful entity tick so I ventured into the slums of Chicago to speak to guitarist Ken Sorceron, who answers my questions with brutal frankness. If you want to dig beneath the surface of Hell, here's your shovel....start digging...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: It seems like you guys are trying to find new depths of depravity to discover. What was your main motivation behind "Death Mask"?

KEN SORCERON: Every day life. This record is the result of just about everyone in the band having a really rough year. We took the inspiration just from that and put it to music.  That's enough right there! (chuckles)

WC: Was Chicago traffic any inspiration for it?

KS: (laughs) That's the least of our worries.

WC: It sounds like you bled out a lot of poison when you did  this record. Would you say that's what the effect is?

KS: Yeah. It was therapeutic in some ways. We all have our own things going on and we brought different things to the table. Lyrically, it had a lot to do with Charlie's life. Addiction is pretty much what "Death Mask" is all about, you know.

WC: Is there any subject would be taboo for you or are you pretty fearless?

KS: I don't think anything should be off limits.

WC: You've covered about every miserable thing. (laughter)  Do you ever have heated discussions when you're writing? Somebody will say maybe this is something we shouldn't do?

KS: We have a little bit of that. But usually it's more like Charlie telling me about some dream he had or some near-death experience. We'll find a way to work that into the song. For example, the song "Possession Prayer" was pretty much based on a dream he had. We were taking a walk down the street together and he was pretty trying to explain how it should sound. I put it together musically and that's how we came up with that particular song.

WC: Is that how must of the songs go? He comes up with the lyrical idea and you come up with a musical equivalent?

KS: No, it's different for each song. On some songs, Drew will come up with the music first and then Charlie will have to write lyrics to match. Or I come up with the music and then the lyrics come afterward. On some tracks, we'll all collaborate together. We might even have Dylan from Indian come in with some lyric concepts.

WC: Indian is a band you would seem to have a lot in common with.

KS: Yeah, we share the same drummer. Dylan's done vocals on two tracks on "Pervertor" and sang on one track on "Death Mask". He's almost like a fifth member in some ways.

WC: Do you think there's any danger in delving so deeply into negative subjects? Maybe you can go so far in, it's hard to get back out?

KS:  Yeah. There might be danger for some people. I think we're fairly adept at going to those places, though. For us, it's something that comes naturally.

WC: I listen to a lot of hateful sludge and black metal, but every now and then, I gotta take a break from it.

KS:  Yeah! (laughs) You can't always listen to stuff like that, that's for sure.

WC: Music does seem to be getting more and more negative. It reflects the breakdown of the world. Would you agree with that?

KS: That's one thing I've always felt to be true about extreme least, the good forms of extreme metal. It reflects something going on in the world. Not just in your own world, but the world at large. That's why I think there should be no taboos on any subject. It's really just a reflection of something that already exists. Just because you're writing hateful songs...that itself is a reflection of what's actually there. There was some controversy with the lyrics of fhe song "Death Mask". People don't always get what the angle was on that song. But we're not always going to just sit there and explain what's going on.

WC: If you don't mind me asking, what was the angle with that song? What were you trying to get at?

KS: It's difficult because I don't want to speak for Charlie, who wrote the lyrics. But he explained it to me and I backed it. It was all part of a bad trip. The whole concept of "Death Mask" comes from near death experiences and overdosing. Just going through crazy withdrawals. It's a reflection of that twisted state of mind.

WC: You can get great inspiration from those experiences but that's where some of the danger comes in, too.

KS: Of course.

WC: With each new cover art, you are pushing the boundaries more and more. Have you ever gotten any pushback from the labels or anybody else on your cover art?

KS: Some of the media was kind of upset by "Death Mask". The label (Profound Lore) actually liked it. I remember when Lord Mantis turned in the "Pervertor" art to Candlelight Records. I saw the artwork and thought it was awesome. I was at their office and I remember them saying they really didn't like it. I was thinking, "this is the sickest artwork I've ever seen". For "Death Mask", a lot of people don't like it.

WC: One of the last things that will upset even many so-called  extreme metal fans is seeing some guy's willy on cover art. Chicks, they never mind. They get butchered and exposed in all sorts of ways nobody cares about, but if you show the full frontal on a guy, they get real nervous.

KS: If anything, the only people we were trying to offend with the cover would be the average metal fan.

WC: The kind that listens to radio metal?

KS: Any metal fan. Some people were upset and saying that it was oppressive to the transgendered community. That was the last thing on our minds. If anything, we wanted to offend the average metal fan.

WC: Would you say you've succeeded?

KS: Uhhhh...yeah. (chuckles)

WC: I sense that Lord Mantis has some influences that are not obvious, from non-metal sources. What would some of those be?

KS: We have a lot of industrial influence, stuff like Skinny Puppy and Ministry. Those are influences for everyone in the band. We experimented a lot with synthesizers this time around and did things with modulators and found noise.

WC: I suspect there is a Godflesh influence.

KS: Oh yeah. That was something we really tried to draw on for the song "Possession Prayer". We wanted the drums to be kinda Godfleshy. Towards the end, there's almost a Skinny Puppy thing going on with all the modular synth noise going on. That was a song that all of us had always wanted to do.

WC: How was producer Sanford Parker to work with?

KS: He's awesome.

WC: The guy must not sleep. He seems to be involved with every album made in a 100 mile radius of Chicago.

KS: He's a busy guy, that's for sure.

WC: When you keep pushing yourself to extremes all the time, how do you keep topping yourself? Is there a point where you finally reach the end or is there no end?

KS: Sure, there's got to be an end. At some point. When I look back at the careers of most of my favorite artists, they definitely peaked at some point and then dropped off. All you can do is just do what you want to, without trying to think about it too much. Try to at least recognize when you start to suck and then stop.

WC: That's sometimes a hard thing to do.

KS: Personally, I didn't even feel I got good at music until four years ago. Everything I did before that kind of sucks to me. I've been doing this stuff a long time,  but it's only recently that I felt I found my stride.

WC: How do you see Lord Mantis in the future? Do you see it being more industrial, more abstract? Or maybe more stripped down?

KS: We wanted to do songs that are more along the lines of "Possession Prayer". More of the noisy industrial soundscape mixed with sludgy guitars and black metal atmospheres. At the same time, we have no really idea what we will be feeling when we go to write another album, you know.  We can't plan it too much in advance. "Death Mask" came together pretty quick. We didn't really know what it was going to sound like until a week before we went into the studio. That's when we realized what we're going to do.

WC: Did you have to do a lot of retakes on the songs or were they pretty immediate?

KS:  A lot of it was immediate. It was crazy how it came together, it was really natural. We'd add layers and layers of extra feedback and noise and add some extra percussion on some stuff without knowing how it was going to end up. We didn't know the big picture, we didn't even know what the vocals were going to be yet. Somehow everything tied together.

WC: That's how a lot of great albums happen.

KS:  We were making decisions on the fly and Sanford was good for that, because he definitely got where we were going with it. He was practically a member of the band while we were working on this.

WC: You've had a different label for every Lord Mantis release. What's your relationship with Profound Lore like? Will there be more with them?

KS: I would definitely think so. It seems like we have a pretty close relationship with Profound Lore. As far as labels go, I haven't had a label where I could keep in contact with them easily and regularly. They are definitely supportive and stand behind what you're doing.

WC: They seem to be pretty particular about the bands they sign. Is Lord Mantis active on the live front? Is that something you're looking to expand on?

KS: We just did a Chicago show a couple of weeks ago. We're touring in June. we're touring with Hell Militia. In July and August, we're doing a tour with Lord Mantis and Wolvhammer teaming up. In August, we're gonna do a small run with Abigail Williams.

WC: Any plans for Europe?

KS: Yeah. We played at the last Roadburn and then next year we're gonna head over to Europe to do some festivals and see if we can put together a tour with somebody else.

WC: Are you involved with any other projects besides Lord Mantis?

KS: Yeah, I have a band called Abigail Williams!

WC:  Sure! They just played around here. I was really surprised to see a band like that playing around here. In Chicago and Milwaukee, that's no big thing, but around here, it's very rare.

KS: Charlie our singer in Mantis, he plays drums for Abigail, too. That keeps up busy.

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

KS: Aleister Crowley, Kurt Cobain, Akhenaten.

WC: What was the last CD or release you got just because you wanted to check out the band?

KS: Like a band I hadn't heard before?

WC: Not necessarily.

KS: I got the latest from Kintur Del Mar (that's what it sounded like---Mality) and the new Kanye West. (chuckles). When we're on tour, we need driving music.

WC: I know what you're saying. When I used to come back from a big metal concert, the last thing I wanted to hear was something blowing my head off.

KS: That's the thing, man. When we're on tour hearing this stuff every fucking night, we don't want to hear any more metal. We want to listen to Sisters of Mercy or something like that.

WC: What was the last band you saw live because you wanted to check them out?

KS: Godflesh.

WC: Is there any sort of Spinal Tap moment where things went wrong that you could share with us?

KS: Every time we're on tour, we feel like it's Spinal Tap  I'm not even kidding. When you show up in some Midwestern suburb city you never heard of and the venue is huge, you wonder what the fuck am I doing here? And every band opening for you is like a nu-metal band. I didn't even know that stuff still existed. It's a fuckin' nightmare sometimes!

WC: The town where I am, it's still 1998, musically.

KS: Yeah, I remember! I remember when I was there. I had a good time the night when we played there!

WC: Any last words for the Lord Mantis faithful out there?

KS: Not really. We're not talking to people. (laughs)