Mithras out of England have been around since 1998 and have unleashed three full length albums. The band has never really captured the limelight that much despite having great and extremely technical and high skilled death metal. Therefore it is about time to find out what’s up in the Mithras camp as the previous release BEHIND THE SHADOWS LIE MADNESS came out a few years back. Both Lean Macey and Sean Bean shed some light on what’s up at the moment and other issues.
What’s up in Mithras right now and in general how’s it going there?
Leon Macey: Hi there Arto. Well to give you an update; over the last nine months we’ve held live drummer auditions and had our old live drummer Ben White rejoin the band. We then spent a bit of time getting gig ready and performed our first show in over three years to a packed crowd in London. After this show, long time vocalist/bassist Rayner Coss departed the band (as he could no longer commit to Mithras), so we replaced him with Sam Bean (The Berzerker / The Senseless) who’s working out brilliantly. We’re just gearing up for some shows at the moment and getting everything solid with this lineup, fine tuning the set etc, it’s going really well, we’re playing much better than ever before and can finally do justice to the songs live.
THE FOLLOW UP TO "BEHIND THE SHADOWS LIE MADNESS"
The latest Mithras album BEHIND THE SHADOWS LIE MADNESS saw the light of day already back in 2007, all in all three years have passed by since the third album. Presumably you have created, composed new material and new songs for the next fourth Mithras album ?
Leon: ‘Behind The Shadows…’ was released in April 2007, so it’s actually just less than two years since it was released. The next record isn’t yet written as a lot of the time since ‘Shadows…’ was a bit of a limbo, and I spent some time away from Mithras working on the new The Senseless record ‘The Floating World’ with Sam, as I’m now drumming in that band too.
Sam Bean: He calls it drumming. I call it grinding.
Leon: New Mithras material is being worked out right now, but we’re not at the album stage just yet.
Hmm When Mithras is described and compared to other bands in articles and reviews, it is kind of easy for writers to mention Morbid Angel as one of several bands having influenced you in general. Are you kind of tired of getting compared to Morbid Angel or do you view and feel it is generally great?
L: Morbid Angel are a good comparison as they’re about the only comparison! I’m equally tired and pleased at being compared to them, as I consider them the best death metal band of all time. We are similar to them stylistically, but we definitely have our own sound and vibe.
Besides the kings of death metal being an influence, are you willing to name some other possible influences giving the characteristic sounds and music direction of Mithras?
L: I guess I’ve been musically ‘influenced’ by a myriad of bands, in the metal scene, Bal-Sagoth, Emperor, many dm bands then also ambient bands, rock bands etc. To be honest since Mithras found it’s feet with the debut record, I’ve tried not to take too much influence from other bands and stuck to my own musical path.
Will the newer material be as complex and technical as on the previous albums? Do you usually try to explore new influences or do you rather stick on composing the technical, but brutal stuff without thinking how technical a song has to sound?
L: The new music may be even more complex and technical! Haha. Honestly, I won’t worry how complex or technical it is, just that the music has the right feeling and atmosphere and enough layering. There’s a certain level of detail I like to achieve on the records, and obviously mix it up a bit with some more brutal sounding numbers and also more atmospheric parts.
I can’t help ask if there are some song titles etc. and even if a possible album title have been made up ?!
L: Actually there isn’t a single title right now, just “new song one”, “new song two” etc. Not very interesting I have to admit… I do have a concept for the record and many lyrical and thematic ideas for it though, which I won’t reveal just yet…
How do you usually start working on the material? Do both of you come up new ideas on your own and then gather to a rehearsal place to check out what each of you has created?!
L: You aren’t too far off, on the previous three records I’ve written all the music on guitar then taken it to the rehearsal space and worked on the drum, vocal and bass parts with Rayner. On the next record Ben and I will work with the raw guitar and drum patterns and knock them into shape, then Sam will add his bass work and we’ll start fine tuning structures in rehearsals, and also over the net as we don’t live in the same city or even area.
There was ‘spacey’ elements and feelings in songs. How did you come up these parts and will these cool sounds play a role in the new material?
L: We’ve always focused on the more ethereal parts and passages as a means to putting across the musical ideas and lyrical themes, it just worked better than way and became part of our core sound. I’d imagine such sections will be as much if not more important in the new material.
Do you find it important as well as challenging for yourselves as a musicians to come up killer and catchy songs in order to top the previous older songs on other albums, are you in a way or another perfectionists when composing the new songs?
L: It depends really. I think all records need some standout tracks but I also enjoy albums which are more or less complete pieces of music, which our 2nd and 3rd records ‘Worlds Beyond The Veil’ and ‘Behind The Shadows Lie Madness’ are. On the new record we’ll be making sure to have a good mix or styles and musical colours, but retaining the core of great musical ideas, memorable musical themes.
What is the most challenging part of the whole material writing and composing process in general?
L: For me, probably finding the right inspiration and time in the first instance to come up with the guitar ideas, as once the basic song and musical ideas come together it’s quite easy from then on.
How important are all the feedback and response that you get regarding press and extreme metal toward the past three albums? Is it important for you to learn what people generally think of Mithras?
L: I find it really interesting to receive whatever type of feedback from people about my music, although garnering positive feedback isn’t the reason I make music. We’ve had a really good reaction to all our records, which has definitely helped the band stay energised and more or less on track. I guess if there was a constant wall of negative feedback or just a take it or leave it apathetic attitude, it would be disheartening. We’ve been blessed with a really strong core of fans who are into the music, which is great.
Even though Mithras has been around for years and put out several high quality technical death metal albums, the band’s reputation has basically remained in the catacombs of the underground. This may sound a little bit weird – do you view being more in the underground fits better to Mithas than being a widely known and touring all around?
L: We’re actually pretty well known in the UK but as you suggest, we’ve never broken out and become a particularly visible band on the worldwide extreme metal scene. This is partly because we’ve not gigged much at all, which was mainly as we weren’t ever able to find a good enough live drummer.
There are quite a few metal festivals in England, but Mithras has not been seen on the line-up roster of these festivals. Is Mithras more like studio band or do you systematically avoid getting ?
L: As I said before, this was really due to us only being a two piece band and not being able to have a solid live line up and do said gigs. Now we’ve got a line up together, we’ll be trying to get out there as much as possible.
Will you try to get on the stage when the next album will be out in order to promote the band as well as the release?
L: Definitely, we’ll be trying to do as many good shows as possible in order to push the next record and take it to a wider audience. I’m frankly a bit bored of playing to the walls of the rehearsal room, so gigs are a must if we’re to go onward and upward.
When the next Mithras album will see the light of day, do you view the promotion in order to push the album forward should be more effective that the next album would reach as much attention and interest as possible ?!
L: Yeah, I don’t feel we received enough promotion on the last record ‘Shadows…’, particularly in the USA. We did a lot less interviews than when we were on a much smaller label which was a bit disappointing considering the quality of the record and the amount of work which went into the writing and production.
Are these sites such as Myspace important tools for Mithras to spread out the music for the masses ?!
L: Yes I think so, myspace and last.fm both let people check out our music for free and see what we’re up to while encouraging them to support the band by buying our records and merch. I think the relevance of a band’s myspace site is perhaps a bit overrated, I know bands with hundreds of thousands of friends who’ve sold a lot less records than us, but I guess any promotion helps.
CHANGES IN THE LINE-UP
The Mithras line-up consists of the core of two members, Sam Bean and Leon Macey, and a punch of various hired guns. How closely do you usually work when writing and creating the new art and the material for albums of Mithras?
S: I’m a new recruit. I’m replacing Rayner, who has been with the band on bass and vocals since the very beginning, and I’ll barely consider myself a member until I’ve performed my first show with Mithras.
L: Sam has only just joined Mithras and so has Ben. On the previous records it was always myself basically overseeing the band and doing most of the work, with Rayner adding some lyrics and some small musical contributions. Rayner was also involved a lot on the concepts for the records.
Do these hired and recruited members bring ideas of their own to rehearsals when working on the new material?
L: Whenever we had session players, it was always just for the purpose of playing live really. We’ve never had a member other than myself write music, but hopefully Sam and Ben will make a significant contribution to the next record, if not directly musically, at least through fine tuning and arrangements etc.
Where and how do you usually pick up and recruit other members to complete the line-up?
L: We’ve always found it a real challenge finding a drummer fast enough to perform our music live, other than me (I played drums on all the records). We originally put adverts in music magazines but more recently we’ve put messages up online, and we’ve had people audition from all over the world at the various audition processes we’ve held. Guitarists other than myself are normally people I know or have taught in some way.
Does this unstable line-up cause unexpected problems for the whole band and future plans, as there is always a risk some guy all of a sudden could pull out of the band before some important gig etc ?!
L: We have had problems with this in the past, (with previous live members) especially when players have had commitments to other bands, so we’ll be trying to avoid this if possible.
S: With myself and Ben on board, the band will be a lot more stable now – you’ll be seeing us playing live pretty regularly pretty soon now!
LYRICS OF THE MITHRAS WOLRD
Could you tell us a bit about lyrics, what do they usually deal with?
L: We normally deal with what you’d probably call “science fiction” esque stories, a bit of fantasy, some quasi religious stuff. The last two records actually had a story running through them both, detailing the exploits of a single character and his journeys through some cataclysmic events, set in the future.
Presumably the lyrics play the strong bond in Mithras where do you mainly ladle the ideas for the lyrics?
L: The lyrics are extremely important, and the music is always based around them, and vice versa.
Do you ever mirror your own experiences in life etc in the lyrics?
L: Not directly, but obviously there’s some interplay from “real life” experience. Some of the lyrics to the songs are based around dream experiences I’ve had in the past, such as ‘Psyrens’ etc. We’ve got extensive behind the scenes and lyric notes from each album on the discography section of our website for anyone interested further.
What is the next goal for Mithras and other future plans?
S: To get playing live as soon as possible, rock your world, let everyone know where Mithras is at and where it has been, and then to carve out a new path and a new album.
L: What he said basically. We’ll also be releasing a CD entitled ‘The Sands Of Time’ and possibly a DVD, both featuring all the unreleased material and video footage from the last 10 years. Some footage from Rayners final show with the band will be included for everyone who couldn’t get to the show.
I for one thank you for this short interview and of course the last words are yours …
L: Thanks for the interview, please check out our website at www.mithras.org.uk, and check out our upcoming shows!
The official Mithras sites