Jun 292023

Photo by Viviane Eriksen

(Over more than 10 years (yes, it’s been that long!) Comrade Aleks has brought us a great many excellent interviews, but the one that follows is among the very best. It’s a discussion with Morten Søbyskogen, the man behind Death of Giants, whose remarkable debut album was released this past May.)

There’s a tragedy behind the epic and gorgeous Death of Giants debut album Ventesorg. This project of multi-instrumentalist Morten Søbyskogen, who managed to perform one of most remarkable gothic death-doom albums of 2023, is a tribute to his wife Sandra, who passed away from brain cancer in 2018. Morten‘s grief took the form of six grandiose tracks filled with real pain and sincere regret. Ventesorg absorbed all of this sadness and frustration and transformed it into something new and touching.

The album was recorded with participant guest musicians, and moreover Morten performed a few gigs with the session lineup, so there are signs pointing toward Death of Giants becomes something bigger and more global. We talked with Morten, and this honest and long conversation is here before you now, along with a recently premiered video near the end of the band’s live cover performance of  “Horror” by W.A.S.P. at the Oslo release show for Ventersorg.


Hi Morten! How are you doing? What’s Death of Giants’ current status?

I’m doing okay, thank you Alex, it’s just been very intense recently. I am a bit exhausted after the last four months of preparing for the release of Ventesorg and the following release concert in Oslo, but it’s like a burden being lifted off my shoulders getting to this point. I am currently working with promoting the release, sorting out the audio and visual recordings from the concert, in addition to some interviews and booking for future Death of Giants shows.


Photo by by Anine Desire


Do you already have a live line-up or did you turn Death of Giants into a full band?

The current line-up was in the first place intended for the release – and – memorial concert. I asked the guys individually if they wanted to help me realize this with no expectation of them joining in on further events. But I think everyone enjoyed meeting regularly, reahearsing, and experiencing a “band feeling” which the majority haven’t had for a while. And it would be a shame putting in all this work just for one single concert. So currently everyone is keen on continuing this live line-up and playing more concerts, and we will see what happens down the road bandwise. I need to decide how I want to continue the next chapter of Death of Giants when it comes to writing and recording new music.



It’s a hard topic but we have to touch it as we speak about your project. Death of Giants is dedicated to your wife Sandra who passed away from brain cancer in 2018. How long did it take to accept it and make a decision to channel your grief through the music?

It’s absolutely a hard topic but it’s a topic which is important to talk about. At this point I believe it might actually be hitting listeners harder than me. With that, I mean, now is when everyone else gets to listen to and experience what I have been going through since 2018. Or actually since 2014 when Sandra got sick and I started the process of anticipatory grieving, which is the English translation of Ventesorg. I knew from 2014 that she would most probably die within 5 years, but we were of course hoping she would be one of the few lucky ones who just goes against the odds. I don’t know if I really have accepted what happened and come to peace with the life and future which was taken away from us, but I am still here and that is something.

When it comes to channeling my grief through music, there was a quote I read on the internet shortly after she passed: “Someday someone will be the last person to ever think about you and you will ultimately cease to exist”.

And this hit me so hard, it is just so incredibly sad yet grand. When reflecting on this it contains so much more than just the words, at least for me, as I am still struggling with both the traumas of following and supporting a loved one through the final stages of life and also an anxiety of death. But reading this quote, I decided that I would do what I can to make sure Sandra is remembered for as long as possible, by telling our story through music. And at the same time it was a healthy and important channel for me to write down my thoughts and describe what I was going through.



So your goal was to immortalize Sandra through your music… What kind of feedback did you already receive from listeners?

The feedback has been overwhelming. I believe in the music I compose and it is what I want to put out there, but nevertheless you expose yourself to complete strangers who judge your music just based on the music with no bias, and the internet can be a brutal place. And yeah, the feedback has been very good, it seems listeners feel the emotions and experiences I try to convey through the music, my singing, and the lyrics. They feel the desperation and the sadness. Also the mix of different doom metal genres and progressive influences, combined with both growls and heavy metal vocals seems to resonate with people.


Ventesorg is a sorrowful yet epic album; its soaring melodies and your emotional vocal lines build magnificent soundscapes, and if I didn’t know its background… well, it would have left another impression. How much time did it take to shape the form of this album? How did you build its concept music-wise?

Well, firstly, thank you for those kind words. The process of writing and recording took almost three years, but my initial idea was to write and release individual songs on a frequent basis, to document what I was continuously going through. But as I started writing songs, I just realized that this needed to be released as a complete musical document.

The first step was re-recording a song I actually had written to Sandra during our first year together, as we had a two-year long-distance relationship from 2010-2012. We met and became a couple during her exchange year in Oslo, but she had to finish her studies in Austria where she was from. So yeah, I wrote the song “Distance” to her that first year, and the style is very gothic metal in the veins of Draconian. That was a band we both loved.

As a minor digression, we managed to see Draconian live together in Gothenburg in January 2018, four months before she passed; that was such a wonderful experience to share and a beautiful memory. I have become even more aware of the importance of making memories with the people you love and care about, after what we went through.

For the rest of the songs, I tried to find the most important and crucial events which had the strongest impact on me in our years together, and then I started writing the music around these events. So, the music has been shaped more around the lyrics and theme than I have done in my previous musical work.

“Premonition” deals with the uncertainty of whether I would be able to stay strong and be the support Sandra needed when we closed towards the end. “Was It All A Dream” is about our wedding in Austria in 2015, which also contains a narration which is the actual audio from our wedding. It meant a lot to me to add her voice and laughter to the music. “A Sense of Urgency” is about being given the prognosis and how I was supposed to deal with that. “Only The Good Die Young” is naturally not a song Maiden wrote about cancer or grief, but the title fits with thoughts I had, and also, I love that song.

“Das Ende Ist Da”, the grand finale of the album, almost didn’t happen. At one point I thought I was done with the album, and as most musicians can relate to, there is a period where you just listen through your own demo recordings again and again. I realized after a while that the closing song on the album did not give me what I wanted, so I chose to put it aside and start from scratch. I am very glad I did, ’cause “Das Ende Ist Da” is probably the most coherent and best arranged song I have made, in addition to the emotional baggage which lies within. The song deals with the last hour Sandra had before passing, and her death is also very much depicted in the song, so it’s…it’s a difficult song.


Photo by by Anine Desire


Did you think that it could sound in another way if you had decided to record the album like this earlier? Could it be more aggressive and bitter?

Interesting and good question. I think I have had mostly feelings of frustration and helplessness, in combination with just pure and deep sadness. But somehow, I have avoided becoming bitter. Also, anger has for me has often been a futile emotion, it is difficult for me to find any good use for it. It’s not that I don’t feel anger, I guess I just accept it and let it pass and focus on something else instead of letting it absorb me.

Also, cancer is not a person I can become angry at. Sure, I could tip over tables and throw glass at the walls, but then I would just have to spend time cleaning it all up. I have this annoying “reasonableness” which probably has been a help. But musically, with Death of Giants, it was mostly the melancholy that I wanted to project, so I don’t think it would have changed much for this current album.



You tell about glioblastoma in your songs with plain text. Was it difficult to choose this approach for your lyrics? I remember that Daniel Neagoe’s project Clouds was born in a similar way and his album Doliu was dedicated to departed ones, “loved ones who now are no longer amongst us”. But he told about this topic in metaphors sometimes…

For the lyrics on Ventesorg, I knew I wanted to present the concept and theme very directly from the moment I started writing. The thought has occurred to me that it might put some people off, because of it becoming too personal and people are not able to translate it to “their” grief. But the feedback I have gotten from listeners with very different scenarios of loss has been the opposite — they manage to relate to the music, lyrics and how I manage to convey emotions and honesty through my voice. It is an incredible compliment to receive, and as a singer, it’s… it’s almost hard to take in. But the lyrics are not overly complicated and not wrapped in too many allegories and thesaurus variations, and that is intentional for this.


Death of Giants is your personal project, but there were some guests who helped you to record these songs. Why did you choose to ask for help from aside? And how did you communicate with them?

That’s right, I wanted to do most of this myself, both to grow as a musician and also because this is my own personal tribute to Sandra. I didn’t want this to become a doom-opera style concept album with lots of different guest musicians, but as mentioned earlier, I really value creating and sharing memories and moments with friends, so I wanted to include some.

Lars Ivar Stranden made a magnificent solo on “A Sense Of Urgency”; Jack Roger Olsen (ex-Highland Glory) is also a fellow long-time Iron Maiden fan, so it was a no-brainer to ask him to play the solo on “Only The Good Die Young”. My brother Sondre does clean vocals on “Distance”. He is mostly known for growling in his black metal project “Andakt”, but what few know is that he really has a good and cool clean voice. So, he really added something emotional in the few lines he sang, and also it is special for me to have family taking part in this album.

Ingeborg (Skomedal Torvanger) plays the somber cello on “Distance”; she also played the cello in Sandra’s funeral so it felt natural for me to ask her to take part on the album. She also played cello on the Frail Grounds album The Fields of Trauma.  The drums were recorded by Magnus Nødset, who played in Frail Grounds before the band was put on hold in 2014, and he was my first choice to ask for this. A very versatile drummer and I felt he could understand what I wanted with the doom approach, while at the same time bringing his own flavor to the drums. I can play many instruments, but one thing I cannot play is drums, so it was an easy choice not to try that myself, hehe.

There were some other collaborations I tried to realize, I was talking with Jón Aldará (Hamferð, Iotunn) about doing guest vocals on “Only The Good Die Young”. He is also a die hard Iron Maiden fan and he loves the song. Sadly, it did not work out due to a very busy schedule, but it would have been a great contribution!  Most of the communication above was done through chat, emails, and when necessary, phone.


Photo by Anine Desire


You covered Iron Maiden’s classic “Only the Good Die Young”, and it’s easy to understand your choice. How did you decide to take this song and rework it in this doomier manner?

Iron Maiden was the band that inspired me to start singing and writing music at the age of 14, so they have been with me most of my life and will always be “that” band for me. I actually saw them live in Bergen this week. It is incredible how they still deliver the goods, and hearing epics from both Somewhere in Time and from Senjutsu together was powerful. But I am digressing.

I have loved “Only The Good Die Young” since I first heard it at the end of TSSOASS, and I always felt the song had some hidden melancholy inside it that was not prominent on the album. One day, pardon the Norwegian cliché, I was sitting in the forest contemplating about music and life, when my mind wandered to that song, and I started dissecting it and imagining how I could bring that melancholy out. And suddenly most of it fell into place in my mind, so I went home and recorded a demo of it. Most of the final version is based on that initial idea. I didn’t get the middle part to invoke any emotion in me in the first versions, so I spent some time reworking it, and what made it work was actually bringing in an Easter egg from the song Seventh Son of A Seventh Son. I am very happy with how it turned out; it differs much from the original, but it still retains the “vibe” I would say.



Ventesorg is a high-quality work, but you released it on CD and tapes DIY, without any help from aside. Was it a part of your plan from the beginning? Or did you just not want to spend your time searching for an interested label?

In the beginning I was not thinking about a label, as the initial idea was to write, record and release individual songs, and that is not an approach that metal labels seem interested in. At that time, it was also mostly about me getting my inner turmoil out in the form of music. As the project changed towards releasing an album, I understood that this music is very good and solid, and the idea of a label being interested was more actual. When the album was done, I contacted several labels both in and outside of Norway, but the offers I got didn’t really feel right for me at this stage, so I decided to go forward releasing this independently. I am very self-driven and resourceful in all I do, so we will see what happens down the road. I am very open to working with the right label that understands my vision, believes in the music and can be a good cooperation partner.


What was most difficult for you during recording of the album?

When thinking back over these last years, what I can recollect as the most difficult is all the insecurity along the way. There were so many small things I had to learn how to do, and always being insecure about if it’s good enough. The writing process is always a carousel. You write some music and are very satisfied, then you realize after a while it’s actually not what you thought you wanted, or get some feedback from trusted sources that this needs to be reworked.

Then it’s the technical aspects and gear. My main guitar, FR6UCS, I love to play it, it sounds heavy as f*ck, is easy to play and just feels great, but a regular tweaking and tune-up session ended up with 3 months of it being sent to Ibanez Sweden for investigating a tuning issue. So that delayed stuff, and I bought a Solar guitar with evertune to not have to deal with the tuning. But it just didn’t have the same punch as the Ibanez, so ended up using the fixed Ibanez on most material in the end.

When finally all guitars and bass was done, I ended up buying a Kemper to not depend too much on other people for reamping, and that in turn required me to have to buy a new sound interface to facilitate the technical requirements. Then it was the file logistics, the whole process of mixing and mastering which makes me question my own ears on every different device I listen to, etc.

All in all, there were just so many things to take into consideration all along the way, which was exhausting. Very good learning experience though, and the process for future material will at least have less insecurity.



You performed vocals in the progressive/power metal band Frail Grounds since 2005, but the band seems to be rather inactive. What’s its status?

Actually, we are in the middle of recording and mixing the next Frail Grounds album! I had been working on some new Frail Grounds music during the last years up until Sandra’s passing. And though I had a completely different concept in mind for that initially, I started merging those ideas with a concept about Sandra and our journey up until her passing. Sound familiar? It is some of the same ideas which ended up being Ventesorg, but the music in Frail Grounds did not really resonate with the feelings and vibe I wanted to make in the time after her passing, so I prioritized Death of Giants.

But I have been finishing new Frail Grounds songs on the side, along with Trond Carlsen, who was part of Frail Grounds in the early years. Thomas Oppedal is back on bass, and for this current album I got Frank Nordeng Røe doing session drums. Despite the music being more in the heavy/progressive metal domain, the new music is more aggressive than Death of Giants and I would consider the new album a sibling album to Ventesorg, thematically.


Photo by by Anine Desire

So you actually started performing prog and power but what are your doom metal influences? Which band influenced you?

It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific doom band, but the first doom band I heard was Draconian with Arcane Rain Fell, and that album is a masterpiece. Their gothic doom combined with the Luciferian theme is a perfect match. But it was after Sandra’s passing that I actually discovered much more of the doom subgenres. Doom bands which have influenced me are Hamferð, Woods of Ypres, Ahab, Solitude Aeternus, and Bell Witch. Probably some more too, but these bands have influenced me in the sense of…inspiring me, with the mood and atmosphere in their music.


What’s Death of Giants for you now? Do you see it as a project of one album or will you keep on writing new songs for it?

For me, Ventesorg and the release concert was a milestone for me personally, and the closing of a specific chapter. But over the last year I have realized that this is something I want to continue as I have more ideas I want to explore, both musically and lyrically. And while I might let Ventesorg be the album which focuses mostly on Sandra, I want to dive into other facets of grief and the anxieties related to death from a more universal perspective. Also, following the release concert, which was a very special and powerful concert experience, Death of Giants as a live entity will work towards more concerts and presenting Ventesorg live.


Thank you for the interview Morten! I hope that Ventesorg will reach more listeners and Death of Giants’ next album will come sooner or later. Did we skip something?

Thanks the same, Aleks, great conversing with you! I believe we covered a lot here. I guess I would just end with thanking everyone for their support, and if you like the music, please let more people hear it.





  1. This was a powerful piece, of interview and music. Thank you for bringing this out. I can’t imagine the loss.

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