If you’ve been following the death metal underground at all during the past decade, you’re bound to have run into the name Undergang more than a few times – the Danish rotheads have been carving a well-established niché for them with a steady flow of solid releases, active touring and in general by being active members of the death metal underground.
Vocalist/guitarist David “Torturdød” Mikkelsen was kind enough to take a moment from his ever-busy schedule to tell us a little about the what he and his bandmates have been brewing in the Copenhagen underworks.
What’s up in the Undergang camp at the moment? It’s been two years since the last studio album, with some smaller releases and a live album after that. When can we expect a new album?
Hi Jesse, thanks for the interest and for inviting us into the dark web vortex of Only Death Is Real. Currently I’m replying to this interview from Calgary, Alberta, during some downtime leading up to Undergang’s first appearance in Canada this Friday at a small festival called Brutal Alberta Vol. 2.
Besides that the band has been busy around various shows for the last year writing material for our next album, which will be the first with our “new” line-up with Mads Haarløv on lead guitar and backing vocals, and Martin Leth Andersen on bass and backing vocals. We’ve now tried that out in the studio twice already within 2019, in February where we recorded two songs for two upcoming split releases, and in April where we recorded three songs for a maxi single that’ll be released in late July/Early August as a teaser for our upcoming next album.
We’ll play two shows in the UK to promote that release for starters on August 2nd in Bristol, and the 3rd in London along with our friends in Deiquisitor and the UK death fiends Cryptworm. The shows are co-organized by Jesus/Me Saco Un Ojo Records, who’s also doing the MLP release of the maxi single, and Dark Descent Records are doing the MCD version. It’ll contain 2 new early recordings of songs to be re-recorded for the new album, a cover song and a live song from Obscene Extreme Fest 2018.
As for the new album, we’re aiming at having it recorded this autumn, but we’re still trying to settle on what studio to record it in and while doing so playing shows around and writing more songs to the mix so we can pick and choose which ones fit the new album the best. Hopefully the album itself will be out by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
Last year you celebrated your 10th anniversary. How would you say Undergang has changed throughout the years, and what has remained the same?
Honestly, I don’t feel like we’ve changed all that much. When we started out we didn’t really know what we were doing, we all just wanted to write and play death metal in the vein of what we grew up with and still loved, and do our own take on it with our flaws and lack of playing skills that came along with our musicianship at the time we started the band in 2008.
We’re still basically drawing influences from the same music as when we started out, I think we’ve grown more into our own sound though, so though some riffs or songs still have heavy nods to bands that influenced us, others will be purely have been made up in the rehearsal room around jamming new ideas and dumb stuff like that. We’ve grown a bit as musicians since our beginning and our drummer Anders and I have developed quite a special bond between our two instruments that I think can be heard in our music too. Having had a bit of bassist changes haven’t hurt the band either, on the contrary, so with the addition of our skilled new additional guitarist in the gruesome shape of Mads who joined us permanently in August 2017, and our third bassist Martin who joined us in March 2018, I think the band sounds better than ever and we’re a much more deadly live act as well.
I’m very excited about all of this and looking forward to sharing all the new music we’ve been brewing with everyone once it’s all ready. We still sound like Undergang, I dare say that it might just sound a bit more mature and better again. Like a good matured cheese… Smelly, sticky and flavourful!
You have a very distinct style with Undergang, both musically and visually, deeply rooted in the traditions of death metal. What would you say are the cornerstones of Undergang, that which differentiates you from other death metal bands?
What we’ve tried to do with Undergang has always just been what we enjoyed with and in death metal, both in ways of composing (which is just the only way we really know) and then the visuals which are usually coming from my hand, sometimes entirely made up by me and other times a concept we’ve talked about, that I then try to put down on paper.
I don’t know what would separate us from any other death metal bands, I guess all bands do their own thing, some more obvious with their influences than others. What we do is just all we know and want in death metal ourselves and if that shines through, that’s cool, but if it doesn’t make us stand out, I don’t really mind. All you can do is be honest to yourself and enjoy what you do and we sure do.
You’ve achieved quite a lot for an underground metal act… toured a lot of countries, released killer albums, even played on Danish morning television. Is there still something you would like to achieve with Undergang?
We’ve worked hard to get all the experiences that we’ve gone through already, and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved too, a lot of things and places we’ve gone already are experiences a 13-year old me would never have thought would be possible, which I’m very happy we’ve made possible. I can only say that networking is the key to any goal you’d want to accomplish and by working hard and helping out others in return through various channels we’ve made and arranged on our own, has paid off in what we’ve been able to do as a band as well.
As for future goals, there are still places we’ve never played in that we’d like to visit, like South America and more countries in the far east, but we hope to be able to do so through serious promoters in the future. Besides that, what we really enjoy is writing and releasing new music, and as long as that continues to be fun and worthwhile we’ll continue down the same path we’re already forming with no end in sight.
We’re in a good position currently working with people we respect and consider friends on a personal level too, in the shape of Jesus of Me Saco Un Ojo Records and Matt of Dark Descent Records, who give us total control of what we want to release musically and visually, and usually are able to fit the releases into their schedules around the time that we wish for.
All in all, based on the communities and friendships we’ve established and maintained throughout the international death metal underground I feel like we can do whatever we please and it’s an awesome feeling. Long live the underground community!
And speaking of your appearance on Danish morning television, which strikes me as a bit bizarre. How did that come about? How have people, both fans and “outsiders”, reacted to it?
I was skeptical and confused by the offer first off too. I got contacted by someone I didn’t know, who recently started working for “Go’ Morgen Danmark”, the morning TV programme that we got invited to, originally just for an interview. At first I was fearing that we’d get ridiculed and made fun of, so I expressed that we appreciated the offer and were interested, but that we’d not go there just for stereotyping and jokes made on behalf of it being heavy music we were playing.
Jimmy, as our contact is called, ensured me that he was a fan of Undergang and had found it interesting that a band from Denmark, who has a Danish name and all the lyrics in Danish, ends up travelling so much in foreign countries performing their music to people who don’t understand the name or the message. So, as he had gained a bit of influence on contents for guests for the show, he thought it’d be cool to invite in some of the music and bands that he personally liked. So the appearance on the TV show was originally built up around an interview dealing with that, but he then also managed to arrange that we were to play a song live in studio. He wished for our song off Misantropologi, Klynget op I en galge af egne involde (Strung up in a gallow of your own intestines), as it was a shorter song which would be approved to be broadcast in national television while still being quite extreme and because I think he’d like for the hosts to announce the song with such a title in the early our while the Danish people were still eating their breakfast, haha.
So, since our bassist at the time, Sam (Osborne, from Washington, USA -ed), was in the country, as we were playing some other shows at the time, we agreed to the entire thing and got ready to rent a van and bring our backline into the TV studio located inside the infamous amusement park Tivoli here in Copenhagen, at six in the morning and then get ready to do sound check, then the live interview and then play our song a bit after. It was all executed within four hours and then we were off and feeling a bit confused but excited about the whole thing.
We’ve honestly only encountered positive feedback about the experience from people we know. I think we handled it well with the interesting and respectful questions we got answered, and as we didn’t completely humiliate ourselves, it was accepted as decent TV and as an OK presentation of a current underground death metal band in Denmark. But there might be more things being said around that we don’t know of, but that doesn’t affect us either.
We haven’t gained anything from the appearance either; we thought that maybe some of the bigger music festivals in Denmark might think it’d be fun to book us after that, but nothing like that happened. So it’s just a fun experience we have behind us now, but that we still have people at shows, etc. come up and talk to us about.
Do you think singing in Danish has ever limited you as a band? Or helped? Or does it even matter in a genre of unintelligibly growled vocals?
That’s the thing, because of the way of our death metal sludge is presented, I don’t think it ever really mattered much that our lyrics are in Danish to people outside Denmark, but at the same time, I can also understand why some people might get a bit turned off by the fact that they won’t understand and perhaps be able to pronounce our album titles and song titles.
When we started out the band we didn’t expect much of an interest in what we were doing, more than hopefully from our local friends, so we just went with a Danish name and therefore it seemed natural to have all of the songs titles and lyrics be in Danish too. I guess since then we’ve been embraced more outside our own country than within our own borders, so it is a bit fun how that is. But going back to your actual question, I have no idea whether doing it all in Danish has been a good or bad decision, it is however just what we work with.
Seems like there’s a ton of great death metal coming out these days, at the same time old school but also time doing new things. Why do you think that is, why is death metal on the rise?
I feel like around the time when we started out playing in the late 2000’s there was a lot of new and young death metal bands coming out at the same time, all offering their take on the early days of death metal, that however died down a bit around five years later with some bands changing their style and others quitting all together. Others stuck around and are even seemingly influences to other new death metal bands these days, alongside some of the originators of the genre.
Currently it does seem like a whole lot of new bands are popping up every week, and I guess some of them are trying to do new things with the genre too, but most of what I hear just seem to be more of the same. At the same time as there are some good new bands too, I do feel like a lot of the newer bands I hear are too generic or try hard for my taste. Maybe I’m just a bit jaded after 20 years of listening to the genre, but these days I certainly do feel that there are too many bands around with not enough to offer.
But at the same time I also do believe that people should do whatever they want to do and play the music they want, as that has always been what we’ve been doing ourselves, too. As long as it’s sincere and not because it’s the newest trend, like you saw black metal become again 10 years ago, I think it’s alright. Death metal definitely seems popular at the moment, which is both cool and lame. Oh well…
Where do you see the genre going in the upcoming years? It seems like the scene is growing with a healthy amount of labels, gig organizers, zines etc. to support the bands, but is it just a fad or a new dawn?
Everything comes in circles, much like what I got a bit into above, so I think that the interest in death metal will die down again in a few years’ time, and fade from the high point it is reaching again these years. People will check in and do things and then disappear again a few years later, when something else takes their fancy.
Death metal is not something you really can make a living out of, and to some I imagine that might be what drags them out of it again. When attendance will decrease at shows again, because of an over-exposed market with it, gig promoters will disappear again too, as there won’t be as much money in it to pay bands on tour, etc. I’ve already seen the interest in death metal rise and fall quite a few times now, and I’ve not even been there all along the genres existence, so I think that’s just how it is.
Trends come and go, the ones who truly love it will be there all the way, and others will come and go. Death metal will always be there for those who love and live it.
By the sound of Undergang, I’d bet my left hand you’re fans of the old school sound and style. What do you think of all these “newer” or less traditional offshoots of death metal, from old Swedish melodeath to deathcore to the symphonic, synth-laden stuff? Do they retain any of the spirit you cherish, or do they leave you totally cold?
People can do and play whatever they want, I don’t pay attention to any of the subgenres or whatever it is you present above, as I’m a bit of a conservative person when it comes to death metal. There’s obviously a market and scene for that too, but it’s just not something I have any interest in, or feeling of where it is.
I know what I like, and seemingly can do rather well and I tend to just stay with that. We all in Undergang listen to other genres besides death metal, however, and I’m sure that shines through to some extent in our music as well, besides the obvious nods to all the classics of the genre. But yeah, the early incarnation of death metal in sound and visuals are what made all of us love the genre when first presented to it, so that’s what we still are passionate about and feel like is the right way of extending the life of the genre through our own expression of it.
So, that’s it! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Do you have any last words of advice or advertisement you wish to say?
Than you Jesse for the interview and thank you to anyone out there who took the time to read it. Best of luck with the continuing the path of Only Death Is Real webzine.
For anyone out there interested in Undergang, feel free to follow our upcoming doings through social media or by writing to our email undergangktdm (a) gmail . com.
We have a new maxi single coming out through Me Saco Un Ojo Records and Dark Descent Records in August 2019 and we’ve booked studio time to start recording our new album in October this year, too. Besides that we’ve got new songs already recorded for the long awaited split projects, a split 7” with German Dead and a four-way split LP with our fellow Danish deathsters Deiquisitor, Taphos and Phrenelith. You can find merch and our releases to order directly from us through metal label Extremely Rotten Productions’ webstore (link can be found at the end of the interview).
We’re playing several festivals around Europe during the death of the summer, and in the autumn we’re returning to Japan and Russia. 2020 already seems to get busy as well, and will likely see our return to US soil for the first time since 2017. Keep your eyes peeled for everything new from the Copenhagen sewers, we’ve still got a lot to share with you…
David Mikkelsen / Undergang
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