I spent ten days in Denmark in early 2015, spending a week in Copenhagen and a couple of nights in the second largest town, Aarhus. My girlfriend had lived in Aarhus for six months in 2014, and she was visiting me in Europe while I was completing an MPhil in England. My main memories are of how tranquil and beautiful the country was, from the nineteenth century architecture of Copenhagen, to the incredible greenery of the trip to Aarhus, and the town itself. I also remember that there were a fucking lot of Church of Scientology temples; more than I’d ever seen anywhere else. The Danish people I’d met were friendly, generous, and engaging, so it was an odd realisation that some relatively significant portion of the Danish population is in fact completely fucking mentally cooked.
There is perhaps nothing so special about the popularity of Scientology in Denmark, but I think it gives some nuance to the standard view of Denmark as a utopia. Even with its significant social welfare policies, its affluence, and physical beauty, there are still cunts to hate in Denmark. We need look no further than the small but feverish Danish metal scene for further evidence of this negative aspect to Danish life. For it is only through direct encounter with the scum of existence that death metal as gory, revolting, and misanthropically rabid as that produced by Undergang could be possible. Indeed, David Torturdød’s putrid endeavours have not been limited only to Undergang, for he has contributed his festering riffs and vocals to a slew of bands, including Wormridden, Hyperdontia, and Phrenelith. This cunt is properly fucking busy: Undergang, Hyperdontia, and Phrenelith all released music this year, he has toured the US with Undergang, and he runs the chronically sick Extremely Rotten Productions, which has pumped out some of 2017’s filthiest tapes. You cunts should know how filthy these tapes are: I got 40 tapes to distro from ERP recently and they were mostly gone within an hour. Somehow, he found time between these repulsions to answer my questions and allow us to leer into the body-bag of his work.
Extremely Rotten Productions website
Dark Descent Records website
Me Saco Un Ojo Records website
<$6.66: Hails from Australia, mate. You guys have now finished the Necrot tour, so I assume you’re back in the Danish summer. I was there in 2015 and the summer didn’t seem particularly fucking summery. Could you start by introducing yourself?
Undergang: Hi there, thanks for writing the interview and inviting us into your zine, my name is David and I play guitar and sing in Undergang. I apologise for taking forever on sitting down to reply; life keeps getting busy and presenting new things to deal with, but better late than never, I hope! By now it’s winter here and at the time when I’m replying to this interview I’m on my way to Porto in Portugal to play a show with Undergang and Phrenelith tonight. I bet your summer visit to Denmark wasn’t exactly all that stereotypically summery at all: we tend to only have a few days at the time where it’s warm and then a lot of rain again here, haha. Even the time I was in Australia in October back in 2015 it was almost warmer than Danish summer.
<$6.66: Next year will mark ten years of Undergang, which is a significant accomplishment in itself. You’ve put out 13 records in that time, though that includes demos and promo material. Even excluding them, you’ve released four full-lengths, three splits, and an EP, which is a lot of material. Could you give us a quick overview of the band’s history? Many bands struggle to be so productive; how have you managed to produce so much fucking crushing material in so little time?
Undergang: Well, as you state yourself we’ve played for a good ten years by now, 2018 will be our tenth year of existence, so I think having released what we have in those 10 years seems fairly normal with writing and recording what we have done. We actually usually spend about one year from when things are recorded til they’re finally released, so we’re slow creeps as well! We usually just play a couple of nights a week and then when I have ideas for new songs we work on new songs together at rehearsals, sometimes a lot comes in a short amount of time and other times there goes months without creative outputs at all. But really, Undergang is such a bit part of our lives that hardly any day passes by without some sort of band activity, so it’s pretty normal for us to have a lot going on and coming up all the time. I like doing smaller releases on cassette every once in a while, too, so we always have a bit of something new out there to show we’re still alive. I’m glad to hear that you think our music and releases have held up decent quality.
<$6.66: Two-thirds of the current Undergang line-up are Danish, and live in Copenhagen, as far as I know. You’re also a member of the Danish death metal band Phrenelith, and you were (???) in the Danish death metal band Mold, and also play in Hyperdontia and Wormridden, whose members are spread across countries. I’ve seen you mention in a 2013 interview that nobody gives a shit about Undergang in Denmark. What’s the scene like there these days? I had assumed there was a decent scene, given the strength of bands, but it turns out it’s just the same cunts in each band!
Undergang: Haha, yeah it’s pretty much just consisting of a few people caring about underground death metal and then a bunch of people showing up at shows every once in a while. The scene is good with current bands like Deiquisitor, Taphos and then both Phrenelith and Undergang keeping busy too (if I dare to be cocky enough mentioning both my own bands) but there’s really not a lot of other things going on that catch my fancy. The shows we play locally in Copenhagen usually attract 30-100 people and one never knows how good an attendance and interest there is until the evening of the show, no matter how well you promote it. But then again, there are also likely more tours and shows in general coming to town now than ever, so I think we’re getting a bit spoiled and people have to prioritize what they spend their money on. Sadly, for us, it’s usually not really the underground death metal scene. The wimpy, forest “black” metal, or whatever it is, seems quite popular here right now and attracts most people’s attention. We used to do (and are working on a resurrection currently) an underground death metal festival here in Copenhagen called Kill-Town Death Fest for 5 years, which I guess also did put Copenhagen on the map as a good place for death metal, but it was really more of a celebration and gathering of international death metal more than a presentation of the national scene, which can be spotted in how few Danish bands actually even played there throughout the years.
Oh well, still, I can’t and shouldn’t complain too much. Things could be a lot worse and is in other places, and at least we can just take our death metal elsewhere when people don’t care too much around here!
<$6.66: You’re also behind the Danish cassette-only label Extremely Rotten Productions. The label has put out a lot of Undergang’s material on cassette, as well as material by bands that share members with Undergang – Hyperdontia, Phrenelith, Cauterized – and other bands that you’ve shared tours or shows with, like Necrot and Fetid. Can you talk a bit about the label and its relationship to Undergang? The label has released all Undergang’s promo material; did it start out to just release Undergang? How do you find running a small death metal label in Europe these days? What’s the support like?
Undergang: I started Extremely Rotten Productions back in 2011 and the first release was a promo tape for the second Undergang album that got released the year after. We were going on tour to USA for the first time in May/June that year and we wanted to have something new with us to sell at shows, so I made the promo tapes and decided that it could be fun to start up a bit of a label to push it instead of it just being through the band only. I used to run a distro service from 2006-09 which I called Torturdød, which I used for my moniker in Undergang early on also, so that way I could also pick up on that again and have a bit of a distro stock and then do trades with the “T.D.O.S.” tape releases also. I did more than 800 copies of that promo up till the album was released in February 2012, so looking back I guess it did alright and helped gather a bit of attention to the upcoming second album at the time. Since then I did a slow job of trying to get the distro to work and put out a few more releases, I licensed an album from Danish Corpse Vomit and did that on cassette as I always loved the album, but hated the artwork and thought it’d be cool to have it proper and official on tape and then started releasing my own projects and friends’ bands I liked and wanted to support. Things went up and down and there’s been several hiatuses over the years but now ERP is back stronger than ever and Sam, our bassist in Undergang, helped me get a webstore up and running so now things are getting out for sale easier without me having to write email after email just to find out that someone somewhere decides not to buy that 1 cassette anyway.
Locally there’s not too much interest either, most of our orders come from the US, actually, and the rest of the world has more interest in our releases than the Danish deadheads seem to do. I do offer people to drop by and buy off me in private in my home or meet up around town, too, and sales are going well. ERP is finally on the edge of being able to support itself 100% after me throwing on money for printing, pressing, and postage for years. I’ll likely always stick to releasing music from my own projects and friends mainly, but I’m open to other things and have people write to me offering cool things from time to time. Maybe one day it’ll fit properly to expand a bit further, but for now I enjoy doing it the way I do, supporting the local scene and my friends.
<$6.66: Sam from Cauterized joined Undergang last year on bass, and has performed on all the material released this year – the Anatomia split and the Misantropologi LP. Sam lives in Seattle and you guys also just got back from a US tour. How do you see the European and American scenes comparing? Shit, how was the tour, too?
Undergang: Our original bassist, Kasper, said he wanted to leave the band as he couldn’t commit fully to the band any longer with our busy schedule, back in January 2016. We did a European tour and played two festival shows with him still after that as we had already committed to play those and that was it with him. We were planning on doing a month long US tour in the summer of 2016 with Spectral Voice and we didn’t know who to join the band at the time at all. So Anders and I kept writing music that would end up being Misantropologi and playing just to the two of us til Matt from our label Dark Descent Records asked if we could join the Dark Descent/Invictus Productions showcase festival in Dublin, Ireland, in the crossing weekend of April and May that year and as Sam was coming over to visit me for a few weeks around that time (we’ve known him since his days in Bone Sickness from our first US tour in 2011) we asked him if he’d care to help out playing bass for us at that show. Things went good and it was fun playing together so we invited him to play bass on the US tour that coming summer, too, which he agreed to. He did have obligations with Funebrarum for the first week of that tour, so Eli from Spectral Voice learned our set on bass and helped out for the first line of shows before Sam could join us in Philadelphia. The chemistry was good with the three of us so we invited him to play bass on the album recording session in Earhammer Studio after the tour, too, where I was originally supposed to play the bass. So that was the first recording he did with Undergang. The split with Anatomia was actually recorded back in February 2011 with our “old” line-up, as a test recording in the studio where we recorded Til Døden Os Skiller, it just ended up taking YEARS before finally being released, haha. Well, Sam has been with us ever since that as our steady bassist and backing vocalist. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, and flies over for European shows and we’ll come over for US shows.
My experience currently is that the underground death metal scene in the US is stronger than it is in Europe; the shows have bigger and better attendance and the overall support seems better over there currently, at least for the style of music we do. The US tour we did with Necrot was the hardest tour I’ve ever been on but also the best one. Both bands had just dropped new albums that attracted a good deal of attention, it was Necrot’s first full US tour, and our 6th time playing in America, so the shows were getting bigger than before and a lot more wild and fun. At the same time, I was personally ill a lot of the time and there were a lot of poor sleeping conditions and loooong drives, so it took its toll on me with playing every night for a month. Still, I wouldn’t have done it differently if I were to do it over. Once again we finished the tour in Oakland, California, and entered Earhammer Studio for the third time and worked on a live album that was captured in Portland, Oregon, on that summer’s tour and will be released in 2018 as a celebration of our 10th year anniversary.
<$6.66: Turning back to labels, you guys are working with US fucking powerhouse Dark Descent Records, who released Misantropologi and its predecessor Døden læger alle sår. How’d you guys end up working with Dark Descent? Has it helped being on a label that is responsible for releasing so much of the best and most innovative death metal at the moment?
Undergang: We’ve been in touch with Matt ever since our first release with Dark Descent as a co-release with Me Saco Un Ojo Records in 2011 in the form of a flexi 7” released for the US tour that same year. He came out to our show in Denver on that tour and said that he was interested in working with us so we said we’d pick up on the talk when our contract of 2 albums ran out with Xtreem Music, and talk about conditions when we were at that state. In the meantime, Dark Descent Records grew and started releasing a lot of the more interesting death metal going on at the moment, so we knew him personally from several get-togethers both in the US and in Copenhagen when he attended Kill-Town Death Fest for a few years, so it seemed like the logical choice to work with him and that is a decision we’re still happy with. We have complete artistic freedom and he supports us well both with promotion and finances. Us touring a lot in the US and being on a US label has definitely brought us in on the American market and Dark Descent Records has good distribution worldwide now it seems, so I think that we’ve both helped each other out a bit along the way. I do wish he focused a bit more on his “smaller” bands on the roster than the current golden cows Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice. Granted, they are great bands and nice guys, but I do feel and hear from several other bands that they feel a bit in the shadow of things which we can relate to, but it is often what happens when one or a few bands make it a bit bigger than others and they take up more work for promotion, etc..
We’re just doing our own thing and we’re happy to work with Matt and Dark Descent Records though, don’t get me wrong. I’d still like for Undergang and the others bands I’m involved in to be a part of the DDR family and make that whole thing grow together. I think it’s cool.
<$6.66: While Dark Descent handled the CD of Misantropologi, UK label Me Saco Un Ojo records released the vinyl version, and Extremely Rotten put out the cassette. Do you guys feel there’s an ideal format for listening to Undergang or, indeed, an ideal setting?
Undergang: Our albums ALWAYS sound the heaviest on vinyl there’s no question there. I just believe that our music should be available on all formats that there’s an interest in so we aim to release all of our music on LP, CD, MC, and digitally for those using that, which is a growing number still, too. The ideal setting for listening to Undergang is always LOUD!
<$6.66: I was going to ask about the relationship between Undergang and other Danish death metal bands like Phrenelith, but that was before I realised the inbreeding at work between these bands. That said, I am interested in the fact that these bands have come around at a similar time. Is there something driving this death metal push in Denmark? Moreover, what influence does Denmark have on Undergang’s sound; how does the band relate to its geographic surroundings? I’m interested in this particularly because Undergang’s lyrics are all in Danish – does this give the band a particular voice or style of expression? – and because, on a crude view at least, most people would describe Denmark as a kind of utopian welfare society, but your lyrics on Misantropologi deal very directly with a profound hatred of mankind.
Undergang: There has always been people around burning for death metal here in Denmark. We had a lively scene back in the early 90’s, too, that not a lot of people are familiar with. I’d recommend checking out bands like Exhaust, Fallen Angel, Detest, Nations of Death, Nugatory, Dominus, and Infernal Death to name a few of my favourites. In more recent years I think the Kill-Town Death Fest had a bit to do with things also as it helped put underground death metal a bit more in focus in town, leading to a few local bands at the time and to follow like Mold and Sulphurous and later Phrenelith and Taphos. Other more recent ones I really like are Deiquisitor, Cerekloth, and Pustulation, but only Deiquisitor is still active, but they are also my favourite current death metal band back here. I just put out a promo tape for their upcoming second album through Extremely Rotten Productions, too.
I don’t think our lyrics being in Danish really affects the band too much, I’m sure it either gathers some people’s interest or completely pushes people away, but that’s about it. My way of delivering my vocals are not really in a way where you can hear if I’m singing in Danish or English anyway. I just want it to sound as low and disgusting as I can.
Living in Denmark rules. Life here is very good and there’s a lot of security and support for our citizens both socially and financially, really. I’m lucky to be able to travel all over the world and experience a lot of countries and bits of different ways of living, but in the end I’m always happy to return to Copenhagen and Denmark. I enjoy life and what it has to offer of ups and downs. We have one shot at life so I want to try get the most and best out of it. That a lot of our lyrics deals with torturing and murdering people just deals with what we all have inside, feeling that most people are scum anyway. And death metal is supposed to be about death and dark gruesome things, isn’t it? Sure is to this creeper.
<$6.66: I want to stick with the lyrics for another question. From what I understand, the lyrics of the first three albums, Indhentet af døden, Til døden os skiller, and Døden læger alle sår, all revolve and death and dying, often in particularly brutal ways. Misantropologi, as the title would suggest, and as your comments in another interview suggest, lyrically addresses your hatred of humanity. Can you talk a little bit about the lyrics on the first three albums, and how they relate to Misantropologi? If Misantropologi a continuation of earlier lyrical themes, or does it build on them, or is this a new path for Undergang? As a non-Danish speaker, I can work out almost nothing of the lyrics except for a word or two here or there; nothing significant enough to work with.
Undergang: Well, depending on how you read things and how I’ve sounded before I guess all of our albums deal with a lot of the same, as death metal to me and in the way I manage to create and present it is in a violent, gritty, torturous, nauseating way lyrically so all of our songs usually deal with whatever that might embrace and whatever cruel ideas that come to my mind from being inspired by horror movies, comics, and life in general. Mankind is a selfish ugly breed and Misantropologi deals a bit more with that than the past albums, but it’s really all just disgusting and gruesome tales with a bit of tongue-in-cheek depravity to it, that only the Danes will be able to pick up on. I thought in the past about maybe adding translations to the lyrics in the booklets of our albums but parted with the idea as too much would go lost from how things are written and intended in Danish. We choose to just let the music speak for itself instead and leave our visual imagery to do the description of the lyrical themes, too.
<$6.66: The first three Undergang albums constitute a trilogy, with Misantropologi Undergang’s first non-trilogy full-length. The first three albums all use the word ‘døden’ or ‘death’ in the title, but could you explain in more detail how they constitute a trilogy? Are they conceptually linked, for example? And if there is a close relationship between them, what does it mean for Undergang to now be working on non-trilogy material; does this open up new opportunities or new conceptual pathways for the band?
Undergang: We chose the trilogy of things for the first three albums solely with the album titles including “Døden” in all of them. Honestly not too much more was put into it other than they represent the first 3 chapters of our recorded existence and the expansion of album lengths with about 10 minutes on each new release. With Misantropologi we’ve found a bit more of “our” sound and things came more naturally to us with song writing and the general composition of things. We wanted to be able to try new things and some of the songs were just created in the rehearsal room experimenting, where the earlier albums were more structures and songs I’d come up with at home and Anders and I would then arrange things from a more-or-less finished product together at rehearsals. From now on it’s more of the “newer” way and we currently have new songs for upcoming splits where Sam also contributed to the song-writing and we have a few new songs Anders and I have written over the last 6 months, and new ones in the process where our new second guitarist has input and riffs to add, too. As long as we make it sound like Undergang, I’m open to suggestions and additions from our newer members, too.
<$6.66: Let me ask one more question about relationship between Misantropologi and its predecessors. For me, Misantropologi is a really interesting step for Undergang, because it seems to constitute both a refinement and an expansion of the band’s sound. There’s a kind of doubling down on the groovier and heavier parts exhibited on earlier albums. Undergang has always been dark and sludgy, but Misantropologi sounds even more fucking doom-laden, and there’s less tremming over blast beats, for example (‘Sygelige Nydelse (Del II) Tafefili’ is the most obvious exception here). But the band also seems to use these fucking sick ominous melodies, like on ‘En Bedemands Bekendelser’ and ‘Tvangsfodret Pigtråd’, which makes the sound even darker. The first of those songs also uses some clean guitar and a piano intro, too. The music is just as dark and heavy as before, but there seems to be some really interesting changes. You also added a fucking sick Disgrace cover to close the album. How do you see Undergang’s song-writing changing? My understanding is that you spend a fair bit of time planning releases, in terms of how many songs you want, whether they’ll be faster or slower songs, so I assume these changes were very considered. If so, what prompted them?
Undergang: I’ve always been a fan of clean and acoustic guitar parts in death metal and piano bits, too, to give certain parts a horror-like feel at times. We’re talking about trying to incorporate synth on some new songs, too, but that has yet to be incorporated on newer songs and to be planned and written into songs exactly for that. We’re trying to do different things while not losing the heaviness and crudity of what our sort of death metal brand has become by now. All song composition since we started has always just been a natural progression of what we like and what we want to hear in death metal ourselves and not least play. As for album lengths, we never really set off for a certain limit when composing for the first three albums it just ended up the way it did with what kind of songs we wanted included in that presentation of where we were at the time. I often tend to think of albums, pretty much for any band, as a stamp in time of where the band is at that moment of their creative processes, writing, and skills as musicians. With Misantropologi we wanted to show a bit more of a faster and shorter side of us, like the two first songs we presented on the Søm til din ligkiste 7” back in 2013, but at the same time still offer some “classic” Undergang songs, and last but not least, add a bit of new elements. As for the Disgrace cover to end the album we wanted to end things in a different way than we’ve done from the last three albums. To us it’s important to have the ending of an album be something special so you want to listen to it again immediately or at least want to play it again soon.
We’re already working on album number 6 but it has yet to be determined what ways for it to differ next time around, but it will not be done til 2019 at the earliest.
<$6.66: Regarding Undergang’s aesthetics, you’ve always used particularly gross and gory artwork. You guys are fucking mad fans of horror movies, too. Can you talk a little about the relationship you see between horror movies and other particularly brutal forms of art and Undergang’s music? I’m interested in this particularly as David has done a lot of the band’s art and is always the main song-writer. For me, Undergang’s sound seems similar to both splatter-heavy horror movies, but also captures a kind of existential and misanthropic dread that is also a staple of the horror genre.
Undergang: We’ve all been fasn of all sorts of horror, be it movies, soundscapes, comics, or literature, and all of that has its own way of showing in writing and composing our music from each of our individual channels. We sometimes use samples taken from movies, I could get an idea for a melody or riff from the soundtrack from a movie, or we just want to present a certain atmosphere in certain songs based on a horrific mood. It can show many different faces, but most of all we just write death metal for the sake of creating music as gross, heavy, and memorable as we can. Visually I like portraying the nastiness I feel embodies the individual release and by doing it myself we keep control over our music on a visual level, also, which is important to me and us. Plus it’s cheaper than having to hire one of the many talented artists out there who could do a much better job at things than I ever will be able to, but having a member of the band do artwork for the band itself has always been something I’ve been a big fan of myself, like Chris Reifert, Jeff Walker, or Stevo, for example, used to do.
<$6.66: This is the last question about Undergang’s sound. A lot of people writing about music – and I’ve been responsible for this – are obsessed with describing the current death metal resurgence as a return to old school death metal of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. While I think there’s something in the claim, it seems reductive to just talk about how new bands just sound like Autopsy or Rottrevore, as if they aren’t bringing anything new to the table. With this in mind, though you guys sound like you have a pretty strong influence from bands like Autopsy, who are some more recent bands who have had an influence on Undergang’s sound?
Undergang: I think a lot of the bands we’ve toured with have brought alternative or new ideas to the table of how to write music or deal with things being a band, and to me it’s all a part of the learning experience, and I enjoy the feeling how touring bands can teach each other things while being out together. Unconsciously or not, and I’m not really sure of exact places to point out, but I feel like we’ve gotten ideas for new structures from the bands we’ve played with over the years of our “touring career”.
I do feel like several bands emerging the last 15 years or so have established their own sounds, too, and to me it’s fun to hear from new bands these years how they describe themselves influenced by bands from our generation of death metal. It’s nice to see that people around us have that influence on newer people, too, and that death metal is still a genre that can keep on giving new influences and albums that should be able to stand the test of time.
<$6.66: Misantropologi only dropped this year but I’ve heard you’ve already got plans for two more full-lengths. What is on the cards for the rest of 2017 and 2018? And is there a chance we will see you in Australia at any point?
Undergang: We’ve tried to tour and promote Misantropologi as much as we could, though we sadly had to see a European tour in October fall apart due to slack from a booking agency, but we’ll continue to play the songs and promote it til we have an album of new songs out, which will likely take a bit of time. 2018 will see the release of a live album from us and we’re currently working on the sixth full length to follow after that. We also have a new 7” coming out with 2 songs recorded at the same session as Misantropologi in Earhammer studio, a split 7” with Dead from Germany, and a 4-way split in the works with Deiquisitor, Phrenelith, Taphos, and us. All of those songs are recorded, mixed and mastered. And then some other loose plans and ideas that’ll take place whenever it’s suitable.
Just last weekend we were interviewed and played live on Danish television as a part of a morning TV show, so hopefully that can get some new people to discover us back home. It was an unexpected invitation but a cool experience and as we were the first death metal band to ever play live on Danish television I am a bit proud of that, too.
As I’ve been answering this interview I’m on a plane to Porto in Portugal to play a show tonight with Phrenelith and Undergang and then after this we’ll take a break over the holidays and pick up with new ideas and compose new songs after the year change. We have a lot to show you still, so don’t go anywhere. We’re always open to show offers and we hope to be able to return to Australia again at some point!
<$6.66: The final words are yours.
Undergang: Thanks again for the interview and for the patience. I hope my answers are fulfilling to you and entertaining for you, the reader, to get through. Support your local death metal scene and zines.
David Mikkelsen / Undergang