Crushing. Destructive. Ominous foreboding. Deathcore has a new flag to hoist as “Suffer To Rise” ushers in a sonic cluster of dynamic metal violence that will leave listeners weak in the knees. Christian deathcore band Voluntary Mortification have crafted quite thire debut record, one that brings both extreme metal and deathcore to a collide where the end result is invigorating, hopeful and empowering. Don’t sleep on this record!
Recently we conducted an interview with the guys in Voluntary Mortification. You can read it below:
TMR: Hey guys this is The Metal Resource from Holland, how are things going there in Lansing, Michigan in these interesting times ?
VM: Oh you know, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
TMR: Will you introduce yourself and the band please !
VM: This is Jacob and I’m a guitarist with Voluntary Mortification. We’ve also got Conner on vocals, Johnny on drums, and Eric on bass.
TMR: Tell us the brief history of Voluntary Mortification.
VM: As with many bands, we started in a garage – Conner’s garage. Conner and I (Jacob) met in a men’s group and found we had some shared interests, namely our Catholic faith and brutal music. From there, we started pushing forward to make brutal music with a message. We found the rest of the band on craigslist, and despite lineup changes and members coming and going, we managed to record our first single ‘Death Tremors’ and put it out to the world in October 2021. The reception was really positive, so much so that we plodded forward with our goal of putting out a full length concept album. We got a music video recorded to promote another single planned for the album ‘Silence’ in early 2022 and managed to get the entire album done and recorded between March and May 2022. In the midst of all of that, we ended up signing with Rottweiler Records and we put out our record Suffer to Rise with them in July and that’s been very positively received by almost everyone we’ve gotten it in front of.
TMR: Why the name Voluntary Mortification ? Is there a story behind it ?
VM: It started with a buddy of Conner saying something along the lines of “You know what would be a cool name? Voluntary Mortification.” But the deeper meaning behind it is that voluntary mortification – denying yourself and subduing yourself – is the call of every Christian. It’s the idea that carrying your cross, bearing with the pain and suffering that comes our way, has some meaning and a greater purpose
TMR: How do you describe the music of Voluntary Mortification the best ?
VM: We describe ourselves as deathcore, especially characterized by Conner’s vocal style and our low-tuned chuggy guitar work. But in writing our debut album, it really pulled in a lot of different directions due to our influences – thrash, groove metal, etc. We would also say we sound more like the first wave of deathcore, from the 2000s, so think As Blood Runs Black, Carnifex and bands from that era.
TMR: Fortunately, after more than 2 years, bands are now able to tour again. How do you guys look back on the recent period of lockdowns and other measures ?
VM: The interesting thing about our trajectory is that our band really took the time during COVID and lockdowns to form and grow and write. We hadn’t existed very long before COVID, so that time period was really about getting prepared to gig, and we’ve been able to get out there right around the time other bands have picked up.
TMR: How did you get into metal?
VM: For me (Jacob) I was introduced to metal in high school. I had an older friend who was kind of that cool skateboarding, tattoo-sporting kind of guy that had an influence on me, and he got me hooked onto metal. Since then, I’ve always been drawn to the energy, passion and intensity of the music, and especially how amazing the truly talented bands are.
Conner here! I would have to thank my dad mostly for getting me into metal. I grew up listening to Alice In Chains, Deftones, Korn, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. I eventually found the band Slipknot and Linkin Park and just meandered my way into listening to heavier and heavier stuff! I was curious about what “really heavy music with screaming was” and a few guys in high school got me into the bands Elysia, All Shall Perish, and As I Lay Dying. That was it for me….once you go metal, you never settle.
TMR: What is your musical background ?
VM: For me (Jacob) I started playing guitar around high school and for most of my life it was just a hobby. Never got lessons, just looked up tabs and tried to play them, so this is actually my first band experience.
As for me (Conner), I grew up just listening and enjoying music. I sang in choir in grade school and then slapped around with some bass in high school. Once I found out though that I could hone my ability to scream, that is what drew me into getting into a band. When I was young I loved making all sorts of strange noises….I would point towards my GI Joe years as a big development block for my vocals, haha! But seriously, I self taught back in the MySpace era days of deathcore, and was in a band but then life caught up to me…I got married, had three kids, “big boy” job, etc. But the calling came back and here I am back on vocals and still learning always!
TMR: Who writes the music/lyrics in Voluntary Mortification ? … how do you get in the mood for writing music? And which bands/situations have influenced you for writing music and lyrics ?
Conner here. The music is written organically by everyone. It usually starts with a guitar riff from Jacob, or a chorus idea from me, but we all give our input and help with the song structure, funky dynamics, etc. I do all of the writing of the lyrics for the songs. What influences me in my writing is definitely story-telling…..and emotion. Our first album was a concept album so I wrote in the lens of our protagonist Paul.
TMR: For a lot of bands the lyrics are just an accidental circumstance, but for some bands they use them to communicate ! ..can you tell us how that is for Voluntary Mortification ?
VM: Since we consider our band to be a ministry in ways, our desire is to tell stories about how our faith has helped us overcome the addictions, trauma, and suffering that we have been through. The story in “Suffer To Rise” is a way to communicate and hopefully relate to people on a personal level what they are going through and relate to the pain….but also maybe find a greater purpose for that suffering…which is to rise through it and become stronger.
TMR: What is the message you want to bring with Voluntary Mortification ?
VM: One of the core messages we want to communicate is that there is meaning in suffering, and that meaning is found in Jesus. Metal is a genre that really showcases and depicts the immense suffering of the human condition. We want to acknowledge that in our music, but also go deeper. We don’t want to suffer for the sake of suffering. We want to acknowledge that suffering is inevitable, but the difference for us is that we believe it has purpose and meaning. As Christians we believe that Jesus redeemed suffering and death by undergoing it for our salvation. Because of that, suffering, when united with Jesus, can have purpose and meaning, and that’s something we want to communicate to a broken and suffering world.
TMR: Is there a highlight you will always remember, since the beginning of Voluntary Mortification ?
VM: I’ll always remember our first big show – we were set to play Audiofest, going on a few bands before the headliner, but then we got bumped back after the headliner to 11:30 PM at night. We were bummed about it but decided to make the most of it. Our guys rallied and got a ton of people to stay, and by the time we hit the stage, we delivered a brutal performance and had the crowd going crazy, moshing, doing a wall of death. It was an awesome experience, especially for me, being so new to playing live.
TMR: And the worst thing were ? (if there is one)
VM: I’d say all the trials and tribulations that go into being in the band experience, whether it’s when we fight (like any good family or friends do) or go through lineup changes, going through COVID. But it’s part of who we are and as I said before those sufferings have meaning and purpose if we learn how to unite them to Christ.
TMR: What are some of the things you like to do away from the band?
For me (Jacob) I’m pretty busy taking care of my wife and two little boys – one is three and the other is one. In addition to the band, I also play hockey, both roller and now ice.
And for me (Conner) I am busy right now with my wife and three kids, building our new house, and the mingling of the band. For my leisure activities I love to exercise….I do power-building programs.
TMR: Speaking of recording, what can you tell us about your debut album “Suffer to Rise” which is released July 12.. [such as the recording process, the songs/lyrics, record label]
VM: The plan from the early days was always to do a concept album. We got connected with Josh Schroeder, who has produced the most recent work of Lorna Shore. He gave us a great deal if we could record with him in April 2022. That was like two months away, and we had like maybe 5 songs down of the 9 we wanted to record. We busted hard to get those written, practiced decent enough to the point where Johnny painstakingly laid down some MIDI drums to get to Josh to spruce up. The whole process was crazy. Also during that time, Rottweiler picked us up, and we had to part ways with our bassist right before recording. That meant that I had to pick up bass and write basslines for the entire album in addition to my guitar work. We ended up having to rent a bass since none of us had one that could handle our tuning. I also had some guitar issues given my cheap setup and I actually brought three guitars to the studio, one of them borrowed. Conner did his recording in like two and a half days and nearly poisoned himself by drinking too much water. The whole process was insane and quite honestly a miracle that we even pulled it off in the timeline that we did.
TMR: About the cover artwork. Do you think it is as important as your music? Does it visualize the lyrics of your songs or what’s the actual story behind its concept?
VM: The artwork could be just as important. It’s your first impression, especially if no one has turned on your music yet. In metal, it also establishes legitimacy. There’s a certain level of brutality expected in your artwork to communicate to your listeners that you mean business. I know the quality of our artwork really opened a lot of doors for us. For example, our producer Josh Schroeder caught sight of our artwork at one point in the studio and was like, “Oh is that your art? I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with you guys.” The cover of the album encompasses the themes found in every song on the album. We found the artist on fiverr, he was from Indonesia and he did an amazing job.
TMR: How do you prepare for a show?
VM: I don’t have any crazy routines or rituals yet – I just get my gear all set up and just get stoked to play haha.
Conner here; I prepare for shows by pretty much being in an anxiety haze and then when I get up on stage and go….I just let the spirit guide me. Haha!
TMR: What is your favorite Voluntary Mortification song to play live?
VM: There’s parts of all the songs we play that I love, but I guess I would pick Valley of Slaughter because of this awesome buildup we have for the ending breakdown that gets everyone going.
TMR: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked?
VM: “What’s the dumbest question you have ever been asked” might be up there…haha.
TMR: What is the most embarrassing music on your phone or in your collection and how do you justify it to others?
VM: I mean, I listen to Spotify so I guess all the music is on there? I’m not really ashamed of anything I have really.
Conner here, I love The Cure and Depeche Mode and I am not at all embarrassed by it. People shouldn’t be embarrassed by what they listen to. Also, Gregorian chant is awesome.
TMR: If you could pick a band to tour with, who would it be? And where would the tour go?
VM: We’d love to tour with some of our buddies in the Christian metal scene, like Diamonds to Dust, Blue Fire Horizon, etc. I know we would love to share a stage with Impending Doom. If I had to pick where to go on tour, I guess I’d pick some nice scenic spots to make it a fun little vacation.
Conner here, Chelsea Grin, Carnifex, or Impending Doom would be amazing to do a run with!
TMR: Tell us about the hardrock/metal scene in your area please?
VM: It used to be a lot better. Lansing used to have a pretty good local scene, but that has dried up in the past few years, and COVID really killed off some of our good local venues, so that makes it even harder to build up a following locally.
TMR: As a band today, what do you think is the biggest challenge you face?
VM: I think the hardest thing is how much work you have to put in to promote yourself and get your music in front of people. We put our album out, there was a lot of buzz initially thanks to interviews and reviews arranged by our label, but after a few months, we kind of need to find ways to keep the momentum going and promote the album.
TMR: What are the plans for the near future ?
VM: We just want to get out and gig, get our music in front of more people, make friends with more bands and keep playing shows for now. There will be more albums too!
TMR: Thank you guys for your time and the interview. We wish Voluntary Mortification all the best… Is there anything you wanna say at last ?
Video for ‘Silence’
Visualizer video for ‘Vindicator’