2009 has seen a slew of promising young progressive metal acts making their debut on the scene, and one of them just happens to be Germany's In Morpheus' Arms. Their debut album Distrust the Mantra is an exciting mix of symphonic prog and complex metal, but the icing on the cake is some fantastic female vocals which adds a different flavor to what is normally a familiar formula. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with the band recently (vocalist Mira Kohli, guitarist Sascha Gutkowski, drummer Peter Rosinski, keyboard player Karsten Mroszczok, and bassist Natalie Droge), who talked a bit about the band's history and the new CD.
SoT: Glad to see some exciting progressive metal coming out of Germany these days - can you talk a little bit about the metal and prog scene in your country?
Karsten: A real prog scene with constant exchange does not really exist at the moment, as far as we're concerned...nevertheless there are a few bands with prog influences from our area that we often play with. Apart from that there are quite a few "bigger" acts such as Vanden Plas, Dark Suns, or Sieges Even. If you expand to the metal scene in general, there is actually a lively scene - there are several clubs in our area where you can see lots of underground metal concerts. Also, we'd rather play with metal bands than with prog bands, simply because there aren't that many.
SoT: In Morpheus' Arms is a pretty new band-can you tell our readers a little history of the group?
Sascha: Originally we started in 2002 with a purely metal band called Culdesac. However as it is mostly the case the line up split up due to job or study reasons or because of different interest and so today only Mira and me are left over.
First we had to re-place our drummer and when Peter got into the band it became rather clear that we would change from a purely metal band to a more complex, melodic kind of metal. Short after we decided to go for Natalie on the bass and were looking for a 2nd guitarist. Peter always wanted a keyboard player and as we weren't able to find a guitarist that suits our needs consequently we looked for a keyboard player although most of us weren't convinced of this idea. Luckily the first guy we found on the market was Karsten and after an intense audition everyone was fully convinced and we have completed our line up.
Of course it didn't take a long time that we realised we were heading towards prog metal and so we changed our band name into something that would better reflect our music. Thus we have been playing together as "In Morpheus' Arms" since 2004.
SoT: What were some of the member's influences, as far as bands and musicians you all admired?
Mira: Tool, Isis, Mazzy Star
Sascha: Opeth, Tool, Isis and changing band/musicians temporarily influencing me
Natalie: Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Mark King, Tool
Karsten: Steven Wilson & Richard Barbieri of Porcupine Tree (Steven Wilson is one of the most versatile musicians ever, and Richard Barbieri is a genious if it comes to creating unique sounds).
Peter: Dream Theater, Pain Of Salvation, The Mars Volta
SoT: We don't often see progressive metal bands having female vocalists-that seems to be something that often comes up in the gothic metal and power metal category. What made the band decide to go with a female singer (which, was a great choice by the way!) ?
Sascha: We did not decide to go with a female singer. It's more or less a growing into it as I mentioned earlier. In 2002 we were three persons, 2 male and a female, wanting to just make music. It didn't take a long time realising that Mira was the only one who is able to sing without making the people run away. And that has not changed even today !
SoT: Most of the songs on 'Distrust the Mantra' are fairly lengthy and have a fair share of melody, heavy sections, and lots of instrumental interplay. How difficult was it to write longer songs that stayed fairly cohesive for their duration?
Peter: Well, I think it wasn't more difficult than writing shorter songs with less twist and turns. For us this was the first thing that came up during the writing sessions. We wrote the lyrics first and knew which mood or vibe most of the parts were going to have. So we focused on cohesion throughout each song and the entire album. The development in between the parts was a collaborative writing process between the five of us. Every little part glues in with the rest of the song.
SoT: How satisfied are you with the new album, and what are some of your favorite tracks?
Karsten: On the whole we are very satisfied with the album - Christian "Moschus" Moos and Eroc did a great job recording, mixing and mastering the album. We carried the songs with us for a long time (some of the material is more than 4 years old) so that we were very happy when we finally recorded the songs in August 2008. The Songs that we like most are the newest ones - Return of Reality and Pandemonium Pt. 3. In the meantime we already wrote enough songs for the second album, but that will have to wait a while, since the first was just released...
SoT: How has the feedback been so far from the prog-metal fans and the media to the new CD?
Karsten: We are really amazed by the feedback so far, which is much more positive than we had expected; up to now we received around 15 reviews and lots of feedback from progmetal-fans in several online forums, without any kind of negative or bad rating.
SoT: Have you approached or been approached by any progressive metal labels who are interested in signing the band?
Sascha: There were/are a few small labels that are interested in signing us but unfortunately there is no big prog label at the moment.
SoT: Has the band played live or are you planning on touring to support the new CD?
Sascha: We are constantly playing live trying to spread our music as much as we can. We'd also like to go on tour but unfortunately we don't have a label or a booking management that supports us in doing so. Thus playing concerts overseas is not possible at the moment. Nevertheless we are taking every chance to get around in Germany and the bordering states and maybe there is a booker reading this interview and interested in booking us - please just write us. We are an easy-care and housebroken band doing a great live show!
SoT: What are some of the current bands on the scene that you admire?
Mira: ...a lot of Post Rock and Trip Hop, The Notwist, Hope Sandoval
Sascha: Tool, Isis, Opeth, The Mars Volta, Oceansize
Natalie: Oceansize, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Tool
Karsten: Porcupine Tree, Opeth and O.S.I.
Peter: Oceansize, Between The Buried And Me, Bigelf, Unexpect
SoT: Lastly, where did you come up with the name of the band? Very cool name!
Mira: Nice to know, that some people like it. I currently think that it is too long, and not very catchy. Morpheus is the ancient Greek god of dreams. And the name of our band refers to the situation of being asleep and sunken in dreams, which are a portal to our subconscious. Music also can be such a portal...as other types of art are (thinking of surrealistic paintings). These media show us somehow what happens inside of our mind and are a way, how we can understand ourselves and our doings better if we are reflecting them. But maybe it is also a way to express our unconscious self.
Anyway...our band name refers to this analogy between music and dreams as a media of expression.
(Click here to read our review of Distrust the Mantra