I’ve followed Mortiis since his breakthrough album “The Smell of Rain” back in 2001. Unfortunately, I’ve not caught him live as often as I’d have liked since, so I was excited to attend the “Swine and Punishment” double headline tour with industrial legends PIG when it hit Manchester this week.
Håvard Ellefsen AKA Mortiis is both a prolific and eclectic artist, who over the years has released dungeon synth, dark ambient, electro goth and industrial rock, as well as collaborated with other artists in a variety of genres. It’s difficult then, to conceive exactly what to expect from a live show, since he could go in several directions. Mortiis the band, which has evolved since he took a more song based approach to his music is today a 3 piece with Levi Gawron on guitar & Tim Van Horn on drums.
The venue is about half full, probably due to a combination of the midweek schedule and early doors. Glasgow’s Seraph Sin have delivered a solid and enthusiastic support set of chunky industrial rock stompers. Mortiis explodes on to stage with “Feed the Greed”, a track from the last album “The Great Deceiver” with the defiant refrain “you can’t kill me, I’m already dead!”… and then straight into the opening track from the same album “The Great Leap” , similarly sharp and insistent. Ellefsen stalks and convulses on stage like some sort of apocalyptic shaman, he’s an accomplished and engaging frontman, barefoot and lunatic eyes. Having said that, the whole band are animated and engaged, Levi clearly channeling a similar energy an very much part of a cohesive unit with Tim as they churn out a frantic and tribal set of songs taken from all four of the Mortiis albums since “The smell of Rain”. Something to point out is that many of the songs get a live re-working, which has received a mixed reception from fans in the past. A great example of this is “Parasite God” which will have been many people’s first exposure to Mortiis when Earache Records released it with a dramatic video along with the “Smell of Rain” album back in 2001. The track as it appeared there was a moody synth soaked number, with Håvard’s deadpan, Bowie like vocal on top. Live, the track is delivered with more urgency and venom, Tim’s drums more integral to the experience than the melancholic synth melody which is there, but in the background. It’s a bold move to rework tracks that fans will consider classics in such a way, but I for one, really enjoy the approach. I don’t expect to turn up to a live show and simply hear the band deliver a carbon copy of the record. Remixes and alternate versions have always been a characteristic of Mortiis, and the live versions make the most of the band he’s working with. Most of the crowd tonight seemed to have the same opinion. Fan favorite seemed, from my position to be “Decadent & Desperate”, single from 2004’s “The Grudge”. Personal favorite, other than the reworked “Parasite God” was “Demons are Back” from the last album, which is the grooviest Mortiis track so far, a similar vibe to Rob Zombie and should be as big a hit in the strip club as it is in the mosh pit. A wicked show all in all, the only thing I could’ve asked for would’ve been more songs, first of which would have been the single “The Grudge” which I missed in retrospect.
Since it was a double headline show, I have to mention PIG who took the headline slot on the rotating bill tonight. I’ve not really followed the band beyond their association with the legendary KMFDM who I listened to a lot as a teenager but lost interest in after their symbols album in 1997. PIG arrived on stage appropriately in pig masks and belted out a chunky and intermittently funky set of gritty industrial anthems. Mortiis & Levi watched from the crowd who, on the whole seemed to be enjoying the band as much as they had the previous. Given that it was a Wednesday night in a half full venue, there was a real party vibe. The black cherries on top of tonight’s industrial layer cake were PIG’s renditions of “Juke Joint Jezebel” and “Flesh” from 1995’s KMFDM album “Nihil”. I’m pretty sure that JJJ was my introduction to the entire genre back in the day when I heard it on the Mortal Kombat film soundtrack. Probably the most fun I ever had on #humpday, leading right into a #throwbackthursday and a testament to two very hard working and talented bands.
Written by Chris Healey