(Here, Comrade Aleks presents his interview of members of the Ukrainian band Mental Torment, whose new album Ego:genesis will be released on September 29, 2021.)
Mental Torment (Kyiv, Ukraine) was born 12 years ago. Back then the doom/death scene in the ex-USSR territories had already started to grow and develop, yet the guys took their time. Thus Mental Torment’s debut album On the Verge… saw the light of day in 2013. They pointed in the direction they wanted to follow, and though such a doom/death piece couldn’t offer any innovative ideas, it was ok. The band was silent for a few years playing occasional gigs and announcing a rotation in the lineup but out of nowhere Metallurg Music proclaimed the release of Mental Torment’s sophomore work, ego:genesis.
The official press kit sounds curious: “The album will bring a fresh view of the traditional Doom Metal genre. From acoustic ballads and funeral vibes to sludgy and modern progressive music.” As you know “traditional doom” is associated with clean-singing bands whose names are known to any doom-cultists, and at the end of the day I tell you that the second part of this official statement is correct, as Mental Torment really add the afore-mentioned sludge and post elements to a classic doom death fundament.
So, ego:genesis turns to be absolutely another new chapter in the band’s discography, and Mental Torment‘s collective mind is ready to give us some clues about how all of this happened.
Hail Mental Torment! Your second album ego:genesis is on its ways to listeners, so what do you have for doom-fans this time? What kind of experience does this material offer?
Hi there. It is a pleasure for us. This time we will bring to our listeners the whole spectre of feelings and emotions experienced by the main character of the story within the album. Each song will be like a unique chapter of his way. And of course, this will be a huge experiment for us to create a modern sound of the Doom Metal genre.
ego:genesis is a tricky title. What was the concept behind this material when you started composing it?
Some tracks, which will be included in the album, were composed after On The Verge and played live, but for the release we had some “rebuild” of them. Other ego:genesis songs will be totally new and originally composed during 2019-2020 right after Mental Torment’s reunion.
Okay, and what’s the story within this album? Is it connected with On the Verge?
Roman: The story of deep sorrow and personal tragedy. Everything is connected. There is no the one without another.
There are four original members in the band who founded Mental Torment back in 2009, but I see there was a turbulent period and about nine musicians passed through the band. How did your vision of Mental Torment change since then? How far did you go with new material?
These four musicians took part in exact sound writing, so, probably, Mental Torment‘s spirit and vision are still the same. The only difference is that we are more open-minded now and ready for experiments. As soon as we get the logical finish of ego:genesis and perform planned shows, we will start to compose new stuff. Because you have to work hard to get results and be on pulse with an audience and you have to bring them new songs.
Shows? Do you already have planned shows during the pandemic? Please tell more.
We have one show on 25.09.2021 within the Ukrainian Doom And Depression 2021 gig. This will be our comeback. We will play some old stuff and new stuff as well. After that we plan to do a big album presentation, and play a whole new set with our friendly bands from the Ukraininan Doom Metal scene. There are no exact dates yet, but it will be Q4 of 2021 or Q1 of 2022. It will depend on the pandemic situation here.
The tracks are quite complex and multi-layered, as you don’t follow just one “doom death” pattern or the rules of other doom subgenres. How did you construct ego:genesis?
As we said, each song – it’s a separate chapter of one book. And, like in a good story, each chapter should be unique. The main approach is that almost all our songs do not have typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. Each song has its own beginning and its own end. This time, we tried to mix classic Doom Metal with nearest genres as well as unrelated modern ones. And this brought us really interesting vibes, which still exudes sadness, like we love it.
What do you mean when you talk about “classic doom metal”?
Mykhailo: For instance – let’s look at one of the proto-doom songs Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath. You will hear slow tempo, the tasty “tritones” on the main riff, and the kind of structure that I mentioned before. Two verses, bridge and intro. Another great example – ‘Christ Goodbye’ by Saturnus. Now we hear minor doomy vibes and melodics. But still – a typical song construction. These are both great songs from great bands, which of course influenced me. But what I want is to grow the genre, to bring it for modern, usually young listeners. But also to keep it interesting for existing audiences. When I compose music – I wanna tell the story and use my guitar as a storyteller. And, if some dramatic thing requires some aggressive stuff, like blackish blasts or core breakdowns – I will do it. If some part requires to grave down everything – funeral slow beats are here. And this could be easily used in one song. Because it’s really similar to real life. Nothing is linear. The whole human path is a set of uphills and downhills.
The clear and powerful album sound is impressive. Did you record it at a professional studio? How was this session organized?
On The Verge was recorded in a professional studio, Anatolii and Mykhailo attended each step of the recording to get the best result. But ego:genesis was mostly recorded at the home studio of Mykhailo (except vocals) and was fully mixed and mastered by him. During the recording period during 2020 he recorded guitars. Andrii mostly works outside Ukraine, but during the recording period he visited Mykhailo’s studio and recorded bass. Also, we composed all drum parts for all songs. Keyboard parts were recorded and rendered remotely by Yaroslav. Unfortunately, on the last stage, Mad, our first vocalist, left MT, and this caused some delay for production. Fortunately, Roman joined us, rewrote all lyrics, created the whole album art, and recorded vocals right in a couple of months. And in the beginning of 2021 mixing was done. We are very excited about the results and hope our listeners will enjoy it as well.
How did the old lyrics differ from the ones Roman offered you?
Roman: It differs in size.
Mykhailo: And sense.
Andrii: Mad is a good vocalist, but he is much weaker in lyrics-writing than Roman.
By the way, there were seven men in the band when you were recording your first album On the Verge… How could the band work with two keyboards players and such a large number of people at all? Was this lineup effective?
When we started – we tried different ways to achieve a unique wall of sound and get more atmospheric sounding for live gigs. But after we became more experienced musicians we declined this, and one keyboardist took the manager role.
Did you get any feedback after the On the Verge… release? Were you satisfied with the album and people’s reaction?
We think that On The Verge was a successful release for its genre. There are many views on YouTube for instance, and some reviews kept coming after the band became inactive.
The band was also split in 2015, what was main reason for this break? And what made you re-form Mental Torment again in 2019?
Mental Torment took a small pause after the tour in 2013, looked for session musicians, and played a couple of shows in 2014-2015. In 2015, Mykhailo organized a charity gig to support Military Medics, and offered guys to play in the original band set one more time. After that, one more show was done, and that was it. One part of Mental Torment‘s history had ended. We mostly did not contact each other much during that period, but during the time we got back to the friendship, and that was a good sign.
Mykhailo: It started a bit earlier. Yaroslav and me decided to leave MT in January of 2013. Mac left the band right after the On The Verge release. During those years we had unpleasant conflicts. Most of them were related to music that I wrote. I got some criticism on tracks, which were actually being pleasantly met by the audience. That caused me to leave MT and start doing new blackened-doom stuff with Yaroslav and female vocals by Nataliia Androsova. We released our debut album in 2015 and played a few shows, but I faced another bad thing – overburning. I just lost any will to play guitar, make music and be on stage. With this last show of this side project I literally sold all my music staff the same day and left music for long years. Our last shows with MT happened right before this.
Probably in 2018, I decided to start playing guitar again and did a huge reboot. I got a huge push to come back that time from my girlfriend Yana, and I am extremely grateful for this. I restored and improved my guitar skills, and this inspired me to go back into music. We had some old MT tracks, which we played live. In 2019 I proposed to Yaroslav, and later to the other guys, to reunite and to celebrate the reunion with a new album. And then I started to compose new stuff for ego:genesis and refactor old ones.
Andrii: During the MT years I got a bit disillusioned with the drummer role. Wearing the staff the most, sound checking the longest, collecting and sorting the drum staff before and after the show, the terrible condition of the drum kits. It is as if the guitarist was given different guitars for each concert, different shapes, with different numbers of strings. This all motivated me to try out the bass player role. Just at that moment, my friends from another band were looking for a replacement for their bass player, and everything went perfectly in my head, and the two groups would not interfere with each other in any way. And after some chatting I was offered to play there, but the band members of Mental Torment did not approve of this fact and decided to leave the band and I joined another project as a bass player. It happened in 2014 (I don’t remember exactly).
In 2015 I got a message from Mykhailo to play a charity event, and accepted it just because of this reason. I contacted the other guys, and we prepared for the gig. This fact led one of the local concert organizers to offer us to play one gig in one of the best Kyiv halls. We accepted this offer, but played without any enthusiasm. And then our roads were separated ’til 2019.
Can you tell more about this charity gig?
Mykhailo: Sure. As you know, war and conflict appeared in 2014 in Ukraine. A vocalist from our friend’s band Inner Maze moved there as a medic. As we were close friends and played a lot of gigs together, I decided to make this event to gather donations and support Medics. It was called “Soldiers Rescue Session”. I contacted Ihor Nastenko, director of the “Barvy” club (inactive now) and he helped me to manage this event. During that period, I was outside of MT, and had a separate project with Nataliia Androsova called “Endlesshade”. Nataliia was an ex-member of IM and she agreed to do a show with them. We used this fact and the fact that MT would play the original set to attract more people from the local Kyiv audience. As support, we called a few more bands. That was my first organization experience, and I’d say it was successful. All gathered funds were transferred to medics. And, of course, this affected Mental Torment‘s history in a good way.
How do you see Mental Torment’s prospects now with a new album at hand and with no chance to play it live? Do you aim to move further or will you wait for reviews and feedback to follow?
Main goal for us is to keep making music. We are inspired now as never before, so we try to use our out-of-shows time as efficiently as we can. And, actually, Doom Metal sessions don’t happen that often, so, actually, it’s not a big deal. But of course, when we get a chance to go live and share our music with listeners we will do our best. For now, we are completing release activities and probably will start composing a new album.