MORBID DARKNESS...okay, where do I start? After 20 years of conception, existence, extinction, rebirth, being....where do I set into motion the inception of this whole movement? I suppose the easiest way to go about this endeavor is to take the reader through a somewhat rigid but realistic series of isochronal accounts as I remember them (that is to say, to the best of my recollection). Monthly installments seem to be the best way to describe the basic work output of this band in its first 2 years from September 1989 to November 1991. After this point, the ideal way to represent our productivity in terms of time-based periods would be to describe yearly output rather than monthly output.
What was the output? Basically, we got together every 2 weeks or so and having written some new lyrics or some very humble new riffs on our own time since our last meeting, we would express these new ideas in the form of jam-tapes. These jam tapes were 95% improvisational and usually rather redundant in terms of subject matter, but it was how we evolved as a duo and how we learned the first lessons in the craft of writing and playing Heavy Metal music. In those 2 initial years we developed attitudes, identities, and aspirations with everything regarding our future in the Metal world as an ever evolving entity. We had some of the best times of our youths in those 2 years and that was just being us, sitting around doing our thing for almost no one but ourselves and a few close family members and friends. When we exposed ourselves to the rest of the world with our debut demo in late 1991, something began to take form. At the time it went almost unnoticed, but the truth was that we were changing and this entity would see some very turbulent times because of it. The bottom line, and this was on a mutual level, was that when we were alone recording jam-tapes or out walking in the city in the middle of the night talking about our future goals for this band and of our respect for one another as friends and as family we were being sincere. When we were talking to someone outside of the band about the same things on our own, the stories changed.
Our main downfall as friends and as a band was that we weren't 100% honest with each other. Simple. When we went into hiatus, or broke-up, which ever is more suitable a term for what happened initially in late 1995 and finally in the summer of 1996, we had finally come to terms with the fact that we actually did not have the same vision for this band. Of course another somewhat important detail to mention was the fact that one of us was entering a mental breakdown and that what was once an adolescent belligerence was metamorphosing into a blatant mental illness.
The main goal in these writings is to shed some light on the side of the band no one ever knew about. To me the best memories stem from this time, when we were our own band and we had no one to impress but ourselves in our voyage of learning and experimenting and becoming what we wanted to become by merit of how it felt to play and by that alone. I will publish these snippets in monthly installments, so as to almost recreate the initial evolution in real time for the reader. Though I am not publishing these works as a platform to fling shit around about anyone, I will sometimes write in a very candid manner so as to draw as accurate a picture for the reader as I can for them to understand why some things happened with this band and ultimately why I have decided to revive the band without the other co-founding member after all these years of silence. I am under no illusions as to the extent of individuals who even know anything about MORBID DARKNESS, and by no means am I trying to imply that we have ever had more than a dedicated handful of true fans. Furthermore, this has nothing to do with egotism or self-inflation, and as any of my close friends could tell you, I am extremely proud of my work but equally as modest about it.
So now, take a peer into the world of MORBID DARKNESS, beginning with a foreword which touches on some early themes regarding our initial interest in starting up a band years before we recorded our first official jam-tape in September 1989.
...Before The Creation Of Time...
From as far back as I can remember, I've loved music and have been equally as enthusiastic about creating music as I have been about listening to it. But in terms of my love for the craft concerning MORBID DARKNESS, I suppose the dream began somewhere in 1987. In the summers of 1985 and 1986 I had become especially fond of my older cousin Clayton Shaver (aka Nocturnal Necromancer, Nocturnus Dominus, Rex Irae Infernus, Kane Matthews...???). We were good friends from the beginning. I looked up to him as a wise-ass smart kid who was, in the beginning, both a total geek and a bad ass at the same time (style vs. personality). I was the quieter one, he was the louder one...so I suppose that in itself would form the catalyst which one day would create the lethal mix to which MD would draw its energy from.
I distinctly remember that one year (probably summer of 1984 or 1985) Clayton came to visit one weekend and he had everything one would need to know about dinosaurs and the prehistoric eras therein. He was completely obsessed and up to his ears in the shit. I was fascinated. I too shared an interest in such things, as well as astronomy, and I believe he even once came geared up with star charts and stories of all the cool shit he had seen through his telescope back at home. I was jealous! Then one year, 1986 I believe, he showed up with a new obsession. I clearly recall him getting out of the car and adorning an 'Evil Invaders' three-quarter sleeve t-shirt (the ones with white sleeves...total old school) and brandishing a small black duffel bag which later I would discover was full of Banzai issue Metal tapes. This was his new obsession, and it was truly incredible.
I have no shame in expressing that at first, all this scary Metal shit was truly a bit much for my mind at the time. I was probably about 8 or 9 years old when he first played me 'Pleasure To Kill', 'Seven Churches', 'The Return', 'Apocalyptic Raids', 'Hell Awaits', 'Endless Pain' in 1986; all those old classics which were available in Canada via the Banzai Records label on some crappy old tape deck. Some of it made sense, some of it didn't. But back then, Billy Idol was heavy, and I had never heard of any of this shit before. I remember Clayton telling me some of the old bullshit stories such as Tom G. Warrior plunging blades into his leg during the recording of 'Triumph Of Death' or how members of POSSESSED drank human blood during Satanic rituals in the studio...or something equally ridiculous. I believed it; how couldn't I? These people were making sounds of true horror and despair. But, as these things go, I was soon obsessed with Metal myself, being more and more exposed to new bands and new styles of Metal with each consecutive visit from my geeky Metal-cousin.
I was given my first acoustic guitar for X-mas in 1986 but it didn't take. I had been building fake guitars out of plywood and to be honest I had more fun with them than some cheap acoustic guitar. I developed an obsession with drumming shortly after this and used to fashion drum kits out of just about anything I could find laying around. I began to start collecting a humble collection of Metal myself beginning with 'Master Of Puppets' and 'Ride The Lightning' in 1987. In 1988 I finally talked my dad (R.I.P. 1951-2004) into buying me an electric guitar. I remember going with him to Thompson Guitars in Vernon in the summer of '88 and walking around in a daze gawking at all the cool looking instruments which hung almost in suspended animation, awaiting a hand to reach out and pluck them from their luthier-limbo. Of course I didn't really have any say in the matter. As I wandered around in a dream, in that store that smelled like it used to be a pawn shop or a used clothes store, my dad was knee deep in a transaction which would see me taking home a black Hondo strat-copy and a 30 watt Jordan bass amp (with, among other things, a rainbow guitar strap...ugh!).
I was so stoked. I played that thing until my fingers just couldn't take any more abuse (or my ears, for that matter). It wasn't too long, however, until I realized that my bass amp wasn't going to make my guitar sound like Kerry King's or James Hetfield's. I had no idea about distortion pedals or any other effects...I just thought I was shit out of luck. I tried to play from time to time and had created the first early incarnation of MD in the form of REEK HAVOK. Between August and December 1988, we 'recorded' three demos: 'Don't Ask'; myself on guitar and vocals and my sister Jessica on drums, 'F.O.D.'; myself on guitar and Clayton on drums and vocals and 'Slumlord'; myself on guitar and vocals and Jessica on drums. These recordings were horrible, to put it mildly. We banged on old car seats for drums sounds and I strummed away like a spastic child on a clean guitar through my bass amp. And the singing was more like underdeveloped child-babble. It was a lot of fun and though it was short lived in that form, I was totally inspired to get it together and write some real Metal songs.
In late 1988/early 1989, Clayton too had received an electric guitar and amp; a Black Morris super strat and a 15 watt Fender Squier practice amp. I remember visiting him that winter and checking out his guitar. His amp, being an actual guitar amp, included an overdrive channel, which was pretty thin but clearly beat out my bass amp in terms of heaviness. It was during this time that we both began talking about taking REEK HAVOK more serious and to start recording better demos. As it turned out, we got in a bit of trouble that weekend and subsequently were forbidden to talk to each other for some months afterward (Clayton came back to Armstrong with me on the Greyhound, against his mother's wishes, and we had someone bootleg 26oz of whiskey for us...eventually we got shitfaced and were picked up by local police after lumbering around the streets in the middle of the night). During this time I began to devise new ideas and even began writing some songs imagining them to sound heavy even though I wrote them with a clean sound. Jessica had no longer showed interest in the band, but I envisioned her as the drummer nevertheless, despite her inability to drum. I couldn't play either so I believed we would all learn together.
In the summer of 1989, Clayton and I reunited. We shared notes on our individual Metal collections, though mine was small in comparison. I had bought some Slayer, Sodom, Testament, Flotsam And Jetsam, Assassin, Living Death, Forbidden...he had it all and more. We spent some time sharing our new ideas on the guitar as well and after a lot of cigarette smoking I left with a head swimming in visions of grandeur, with new Metal flowing in and out of a centralized dream of creating a real, REAL band. Soon, things in my life would be forever transformed. In some ways it seemed as though this was the beginning of my life, my new life. The past, though still clear, became an almost in-utero era of artistic and goal oriented limbo. Fall 1989 would be the beginning of a new era of my life, which to this day is ebbing and flowing in new and old ideas, inspirations and overall conceptual visions. In retrospect it would also cite the realization of some of the less charming things in my life which would develop and unfold in the coming years, such as my mother's terminal disease, my father's growing depression, my sister's trials and tribulations and Clayton's health related problems which would eventually evolve into mental problems as well. In the beginning, however, all is well and the high of finding this new and powerful meaning of life played out in a way which I would not change if I could.
In early September, sometime before my first day of school, Clayton and I had a chance to hang out for a couple of days. During this visit we had both expressed our interests in putting together a real band, and we each had had some time to practice since our last visit. We attempted to record some stuff straight away but it was brutally apparent that it just wasn't going to pan out. Something was lacking. We couldn't get past a few shitty guitar riffs and I suppose it was this uber-fragmentary product that was leaving us somewhat uninspired. Being 12 at the time, and Clayton being 15, we were probably just guilty of wanting to hear a finished product right away, complete with drums, bass, vocals and flaming-Metal guitar solos. That doesn't happen when you point a 15 watt practice amp at a Panasonic tape recorder and attempt to play like Frank Blackfire when in fact playing like Thomas G. Warrior if he'd come off of a week long meth and whiskey binge (wouldn't happen, but a fairly accurate analogy). We had high expectations and we were disappointed. But in that brief instant of failure and hopelessness, a fire was started in us both to begin our life's work and to start taking this thing seriously.
I would spend the next few weeks at home or at my mom's house (at the time I lived with my grandparents, as my parents were long divorced and both had been dealing with a plethora of personal problems), with headphones on or with a tape player in front of me, simply soaking in all the Metal I had in my collection or that Clayton had provided for me on 3rd generation TDK tapes, seeking out the essences of different Metal styles and trying to crack the code of what makes a great Metal song great. Glancing back to fall of 1988, and recalling my huge affinity for SLAYER's 'Show No Mercy' at that time, I decided to look into some occult themes as inspiration for lyrics. My sources were some 1960's era encyclopedias that adorned my grandmother's bookshelves. Therein I learned of witch's sabbats, witch's familiars, the Inquisition and loads of other Medieval-era related themes regarding Satanism and the Occult. This was great fodder for my otherwise callow imagination, as it allowed me to create situations, stories and visualizations which would eventually become lyrics to my songs.
I got a phone call from Clayton in late September and he seemed to be equally as enthusiastic about trying to record again, yet, looking back after all these years, I vividly recall sensing a succinct tone of fear or of hesitation in his voice. This was soon overshadowed by Clayton's signature erratic demeanor, which I now believe was in large part his defense mechanism; a fear response. Nonetheless, it didn't phase me enough to matter, and we both left the conversation sounding sure and strong and that was momentum enough to carry us through until we would meet again.
On September 30th, I arrived at Clayton's duplex in Vernon with my bag and my guitar. I entered the nicotine smoke thick home and was greeted by my aunt (though, greeted in a very intimidating and unwelcome sort of way). From there I was hastily urged down the hall towards Clayton's bedroom, where we sat, lit up cigarettes and joked with each other in our nervous adolescent ways. Soon, very soon, we would begin recording our very first 'demo tape'.
I had toiled on some lyrics for a song called 'Alone At The Sabbat', but I had also written a humble selection of riffs designed around the lyrics. I hadn't tried full out singing, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to sing and play at the same time, so I asked Clayton to sing them in my stead. We began the recording with an eerie and drawn-out feedback intro before belting into 'Sabbat'. Immediately, we began to record the second song, which was titled 'The Incubus' and also sung by Clayton. Upon the end of that song, and being simply in awe by the aggressive and brutal vocal performance by Clayton on 'Incubus', I decided it was time to take a stab at singing. Clayton took the guitar and I picked up my lined papers with chicken scratched lyrics for 'What Will Tomorrow Bring'. My first words were expelled almost against my own body's will, and my throat burned in a dry hoarseness which was comparable to having acute tonsillitis. Once the initial burn had subsided, I tried another song, 'Last Respects' which went smoother and felt more natural. The remaining 2 songs were 'Call From The Grave' and 'Armageddon', both of which were lyrically modified BATHORY songs which Clayton rearranged and sang. When the session was over, we lit up cigarettes and sat on our clouds of self satisfaction, having finally done 'it'; we had just put into motion the gears and wheels of our lives.
After playing this slab of under produced, guitar and vocal jam-tape viciousness, over and over again, we decided to put the finishing touches on it by naming it, making a cover for the tape and jotting down all our personal thank you's, fuck you's and we miss you's on the inside of the j-card. Clayton had been sitting on the title 'Find The Arise' (ie. Xecutioner/Obituary song title; which he still claims he dreamed up himself, and which I know is total and utter bullshit) so we began tracing and cutting out a makeshift j-card with one inlay panel and discussed all the crude details. We would go under the moniker of HAVOK, dropping the REEK of past efforts, and I had already designed a blocky logo for this name. We used a 4-color Bic pen for the artwork, which was drawn using ONSLAUGHT's 'The Force' cover art as a reference. Inside we compiled a thank list and dedicated the demo to Cliff Burton, Bruce Day (of HELLHAMMER, who we though was dead) and Jeff Beccera (whom we thought had died from his gunshot wound)...we were so young and slightly misinformed. After finishing up the tape cover, Clayton informed me that he had actually written lyrics for a song called 'Find The Arise', and that he would like to use them on our next tape. We then scrapped the cover and decided to title the tape 'Last Respects'. This was the official beginning of what would eventually become MORBID DARKNESS.
So September had ended on a HAVOK note, and we were both eager to meet again and unleash our second 'demo' tape, which we had both agreed would be entitled 'Find The Arise'. We decided to try and get together on Thanksgiving weekend, which was a mere week after the recording of 'Last Respects'. Of course, my family had planned a weekend trip to Spokane, WA on that very occasion. Despite my initial discontent, I soon realized that I'd have a great opportunity to buy some 'hard-to-find' Metal stateside. You see, Vernon in 1989 didn't offer a whole lot of selection when it came to Metal. During the mid-80's, it was quite easy to find anything on the Banzai Records label, which was a Canadian-based licensee of many Metal Blade, Noise and Roadrunner releases. Imports were a rare find around here, and one would often have to embark on trips to metropolitan centers such as Vancouver or Calgary just to find something more interesting than what you could pick up at the local K-mart.
While in Spokane, I stumbled upon a lot of different shit that I hadn't even heard of, but being somewhat unseasoned in the art of Metal-shopping abroad, I stuck to what I had heard of or read reviews for. While we rode back to Canada in our RV on a chilly early-autumn night, I blasted my ears out with Walkman headphones to the sounds of DARK ANGEL, RIGOR MORTIS, VIKING and TESTAMENT. More and more, I found, I was both enjoying and appreciating the music but I found myself equally observant of song structures, style nuances and production factors. Simple joy was slowly becoming something much more complex and profound, and while I can reflect and understand these things after 20 years, at the time, it all seemed a bit bewildering and invasive. This was when I realized that there was a part of me which was growing and growing, more than I even knew at the time. I suppose that a part of me was convinced that as a 'band', Clayton and I would be growing like this together, and the fact that our first tape displayed and celebrated our equality as 'musicians' further proved this belief. Things would soon change.
Mid-October saw our reuniting and immediately we began recording our second tape. We had decided to record 10 or so songs as opposed to a mere 5 or 6. We had also decided to try new versions of a couple of the songs from 'Last Respects'. I had provided a brand new blank tape for the demo, and I believe it was a 60 minute runner of an unknown brand. Once we filled the first side of the tape, we decided to jump the gun and see how the first couple of songs turned out. Much to our casual despair, the tape had turned out to be defective, and all we could hear was the consistent flutter of guitar and vocals weaving in and out like some persistent and annoying Doppler signal from hell. We were pissed, but the day was relatively young, and after spending the last couple of weeks obsessing over this effort, we weren't going to waiver because of some mechanical complication. Clayton abruptly produced a used TDK tape from his 'blank tape drawer' and production resumed. After finishing the main selection of lyrics we had allotted for the demo, Clayton requested that we try a cover of METALLICA's 'Four Horsemen'. I had no idea how to play the song, not even an uneducated guess. I knew how to pluck a string, and I thought I knew how to choose a sequence of notes which would create a relatively satisfactory result, but when it came to other people's music, I was in the fucking dark. The horrible cover attempt did prove to lighten the mood, and we milked it. Before long, we were covering 'Hell Awaits', and DRI's 'No Sense' in a 10+ minute medley barrage and making complete asses of ourselves...but, it was a well deserved reward.
Upon wrapping up our recording session, we listened back in awe at our new and improved sound (only slightly better than 'Last Respects', in reality). We redid 'Sabbat', 'WWTB' and 'Incubus' and added a few new songs such as 'Decapitation', 'Morbid Exhibition' and 'Reaper' (BATHORY lyrics). We were deeply inspired and we were both very proud of each other. Beyond any doubt, we were on this road for good.
Within a few days I was sick, sick, sick. I was ill for over 3 weeks, into November, so we had plenty of time to write new lyrics. I wrote dozens of lyrics in those weeks, and some of them would see their way to a HAVOK recording in the future...but it wouldn't be that soon. We wouldn't meet again until late November.
In November things were relatively quiet. I don't exactly remember why, perhaps it was the fact that I had missed a couple of weeks of school in October due to the flu and had to make up my school work 2-fold, but November just wasn't producing the same enthusiasm as previous months. I was still writing tons of lyrics and noodling a bit on the guitar, and I was buying new Metal tapes and becoming more and more inspired, but the overall feeling in this month was a bit troubling. On a plus side, while glancing through the October '89 issue of Guitar Player 'zine, I discovered 'palm muting'. You see, I had always known about it, as I could differentiate it quite easily from playing open chords or single note runs. But, having no overdrive in my bass amp or any fuzz or distortion pedals at my disposal, I always assumed palm muting was in fact pick scraping. I had attempted to try this on the last couple of demos but through Clayton's guitar amp it sounded horrible. So we resorted to playing mostly single note riffs on our tapes.
When we got together in late November, one of the first things I showed Clayton was the art of palm muting, though I gladly admit it was probably the most sloppy palm muting you'd ever heard. When we began to record our new tape I began by playing an instrumental intro titled 'Necrology (The Endless List)'. It was something new, but I think in the throes of mid-production learning, we decided to ease up on the palm muting once I had finished the intro. It just didn't seem popular at the time. I realize now that Clayton was displaying his disdain for another reason: fear. He was not a natural when it came to playing the guitar. I noted more and more instances of this unwillingness to learn in the coming months, and every time I brought something new it was immediately made fun of or dismissed as irrelevant to what we were doing. Nevertheless, being younger and a guest in his house, I wasn't about to get too heavy about it. We decided then to again re-record some of the songs from 'Last Respects', specifically, 'Sabbat', and 2 versions of 'The Incubus'; one with Clayton on vocals and one with me on vocals. That was the extent of that tape, as I think some unspoken tensions had arisen, literally killing our motivation. Afterwards we walked up to the mall and I purchased DRI's 'Thrash Zone' and HELLHAMMER's 'Apocalyptic Raids'. We spent the rest of the weekend inside as it was becoming quite arctic at that time but I'll never forget our detour when returning from the mall at this old rock quarry on the edge of town. From the summit of the small mound we could see most of Vernon, cold and dark in the wintry night. We sat and smoked for a time, discussing more and more details about our Metal dream and of future goals and scenarios. Before leaving the quarry, which would become a regular hang out spot for us in later months, we named the mound 'Sitting Death', suggested by Clayton after Thomas Fischer's title for his artwork for the 'Apocalyptic Raids' cover. How fitting. We were both excited about the future but there was a sense of death and decay that exuded from every aspect of our relationship and in our personal lives outside of our friendship. I was too young to see anything obviously wrong, I just had a strange gut feeling that things were in a state of decay.
Later in November, long after recording our third tape, and while walking with my mom back to her home (which was about a 20 minute walk from my grandparents house), she fell down on the road. I figured she had hit some ice underneath the light skiff of snow which was lying on the ground at the time. A few seconds after getting up and our walk resumed, she fell again. We laughed together, as she hadn't hurt herself at all with either fall, but inside I was dying because I knew in my heart what was really happening. My mother was developing Huntington's Chorea, which is a neurologically degenerative and ultimately fatal disease. I knew very little of the disease except that my grandmother on my mom's side had died from it in the year that I was born and that my mom's sister, whom I had never recalled meeting, had been diagnosed with the illness years before. I didn't get the big picture at all, and I didn't fully understand the disease because it wasn't a topic anyone in my family seemed comfortable talking about. All I could do was simply worry. And that's what I did; but I did it secretly, on my own time, in the dark moments when my pre-adolescent life wasn't bombarded with all the other more desirable concerns or situations. Despite this mildly haunting realization, life would go on and things would evolve and metamorphose both in my personal life and with Clayton and our band.
December 1989 saw a lot of new and exciting things as well as some deeper themes and coming truths. In early December, we got together and produced a 3 song tape titled 'Easy Prey'. Musically, the effort was standard issue HAVOK, but vocally, things were getting experimental. What was before a straight ahead child-voiced death metal vocal style became reminiscent of Sy Keeler's signature growl/scream style. I had been quite inspired by ONSLAUGHT's 'The Force' during late November, and as with most kids, you try to imitate what inspires you. However, the result was less than great and this tape became more of a joke than anything else after we had listened to it a few times. In our angst, we decided to leave the house and made a voyage downtown, where I was intending to buy some cheap Series A guitar strings. We entered Hypersound, which doubled as a music store and recording studio. While browsing their humble but impressive collection of musical instruments, we were accosted by a young salesman who noticed us gawking at an array of effect pedals. We knew about pedals but had no idea what they did, except that some of them produced echo effects. He plugged into a Boss multi-effect pedal and began his presentation (with hopes of making a sale, no doubt, though we were convinced he was unlocking these 'secrets' out of sheer goodwill). We were floored! Now we realized how all these great Metal bands get that sound that we thusfar were miserably unable to emulate. Immediately we were bugging our parents about buying us this new and exciting accessory. A couple of weeks later, our efforts came to fruition.
While in transit to Clayton's for the weekend, a few of our family members convened at Foundation Music (later Lee's Music) to pick us each out a distortion pedal as early X-mas gifts. When we returned to Clayton's, all we did for hours was test out our new toys. Once we decided on a sound, we began to record our new tape, which we had decided would contain a reworked 'Sabbat' rendition and all new songs with the exception of a newer version of 'Easy Prey' and a poor cover of POSSESSED's 'Swing Of The Axe'. Initially, we were awestruck. Our sound had been transformed from thin and tinny to something which almost resembled SLAUGHTER's 'Strappado' guitar sound! Clayton had also become more experimental in his vocal approach and used an almost whisper-growl, reminiscent of MALHAVOC's 'Shrine' album. One thing was very clear, however, and this was that besides the POSSESSED cover, all the lyrics had been written by myself, and with the exception of the songs 'Carmilla' and 'Stroke Of Mercy', all the guitars were played by myself as well. At the time this wasn't even an issue. I had written so many songs in October and November that this served as a clearance of surplus, in a manner of speaking. Looking back, I have a different perspective. As long as I knew Clayton to be active in lyric writing, I also noticed that he borrowed a lot of song titles and themes from bands he was listening to at the time. Years later I would discover that a lot of the lyrics he used for these tapes were actually used in word-for-word scenarios. Regardless, this was our work and you did what you had to do to learn and grow and to develop yourself as an artist.
In late December, while getting off school for the X-mas break, I decided to record a tape by myself in my grandparent's basement (which is where my bedroom was situated). The idea was to finish the second side of the 60 minute TDK tape which served as the master for 'Stroke Of Mercy'. As we had redone 'Easy Prey' on the last tape, I wanted to record a new rendition of another song which first appeared on the 'Easy Prey' tape. 'The Entity' was a lyric which my mom wrote for me inspired by the early 80's film of the same name. The content was perfect for HAVOK so I agreed to use it. The original version was about 5 minutes long and was less than inspiring. This new version would stretch to almost 29 minutes, which was total overkill, but it was the first tape that was recorded without Clayton and still bore the HAVOK moniker. The purpose of these tapes was in fact to document our evolving style and to record our new ideas as they came to us in more or less an improvisational method of songwriting. The only reason we 'titled' these tapes was for the sake of identity. I suppose deep down, we were regarding these recordings as 'releases' except for the fact that they weren't being released nor did we intend to release them. So, my casual use of the HAVOK name for 'The Entity' was just that; a casual labeling of another facet of our formative recordings.
Though he did not say it in so many words, I believe Clayton was slightly annoyed by this nonchalant move. I played him the recording in late December, just before the new year and I believe it got him to thinking about things over the next few weeks which would bring some changes to our band project in a few notable ways.
Early in the new year, it had become evident that something needed to change in terms of our musical direction, creative processes and overall collective work. At home, I began to put together compositions both lyrically and now musically. The process of improv writing/recording was still valid, and we had no real intentions of abandoning those methods, but as a growing musician I felt it was time to begin putting together works that I could play again and again in what is commonly known as standard songwriting. I must have written 10 to 12 songs in early January, albeit simply structured and very basic ones, but songs nonetheless. I had planned to use some of these songs on the next tape and realized that if I wanted to do any singing, I'd have to do it while I played the guitar. The reason? Clayton had been falling short in both the musical and lyrical departments. He was still eager to play and to be productive but I am sure that as he watched my slow but persistent growth on the guitar playing front, his own insecurities were surfacing; because his playing wasn't really progressing much at all. In fact, as my playing became a bit more structured and methodical, his playing became more and more chaotic and disheveled. It didn't matter to me at the time. I went with the flow and adjusted my role in the band accordingly. There was no pressures back then and we didn't have to answer to anyone so logically we adapted to our environment within the band.
Later in the month, we got together and discussed some things that Clayton on his own had pondered and brought to the table for consideration. In his eyes, HAVOK had come to the end of its creative apex, and his solution for moving forward was to change the direction of the music, lyrics and perhaps by even changing our band's name. He had suggested the new moniker be MORBID DARKNESS, and he gave me a real tale about how he had thought up the name. [Months later I would find, while browsing through Clayton's extensive tape collection, that he had actually lifted the MD moniker from the liner notes of HOLY TERROR's 'Mind Wars', which he had bought a couple of months before suggesting our name change.] I was on board, and the fact that I had been writing songs for the last couple of weeks which were evolved stylistically, I felt it was all very fitting. Back at Clayton's, we began to record the new tape, though instead of playing through his amp, I had brought my amp along (now that I had a distortion pedal, I could actually use the bass amp) and I played all the rhythm while Clayton sang and played guitar solos. I sang on the second track, a reworked version of 'Sabbat' and I attempted to sing on a track entitled 'Spellbound', but the first and only thing that could come out of my mouth was 'Fuck'. The riffs were tricky and I wasn't that coordinated to pull of singing tricky lyrics over them. At that point, we decided our new roles in the band would be myself on rhythm guitars and backing vocals and Clayton on guitar solos and lead vocals. It suited me because I felt Clayton was the stronger singer and it suited Clayton because he couldn't keep up with my guitar playing and he was beginning to develop his own brand of playing guitar solos. We titled the tape 'When Hell Freezes Over' after the original title of METALLICA's 'The Call of Kthulu'.
Nearing the end of the month, I continued to write and became increasingly involved in these new compositions. I had fashioned a makeshift drum kit in my grandparent's basement where I would play along to my recorded single guitar riffs from a writing tape. I decided to make a project of some of these songs and recorded 2 consecutive tapes under the MORBID DARKNESS moniker without Clayton, again, titled 'Enthronement Of Theocracy' and 'Infernal Devastation', respectively. Both tapes boasted 6 songs and showcased my very first experiments in 'tape bouncing' using prerecorded sections of songs, playing drums and singing while re-recording the first recorded elements...kind of like bouncing tracks on a 4-track recorder, but much more degenerative as each new part was layered on. The tapes lacked some magic, but these new techniques would open up new doors for future efforts within the band.
If nothing else, February of 1990 had squarely established our respective roles in the band. While Clayton had basically taken over vocal and guitar solo duties, I was in charge of all rhythm guitars and occasional backing vocals. This really worked for me, as my singing-whilst-playing had produced unsuitable results. As my playing style was evolving more in the rhythm realm it felt better for me to showcase and develop it. I'm sure Clayton felt the same with his own exclusive duties. We recorded 2 tapes in one weekend visit, entitled 'Infernal Message' and 'For Whom The Bells Toll', respectively. At this point our recording setup was as follows: my rhythm guitars through my Profile distortion pedal and Jordan bass amp; situated a few feet from the tape recorder, Clayton's solos through his distortion pedal and Fender guitar amp; also a few feet from the tape recorder, and Clayton's vocals into a cheap Radio Shack dynamic microphone through a portable stereo that had a karaoke feature (mic preamp). The speakers from that stereo were wall mounted quite high in the room, producing an ambient effect on the final recording, which was a basic monaural reproduction. We had also used this technique on the 'Hell Freezes' tape, but prior to this we had simply used Clayton's Fender amp situated 6-12 inches from the recorder and sang into the built-in microphone at close proximity, taking turns either playing the guitars or singing, but never both. The only exception was the 'Entity' tape, which I recorded on a tape recorder that boasted stereo built-in microphones, whereby I sang and played guitars simultaneously.
The 2 tapes featured very long songs and were marginally boring except for the fact that Clayton had used a few prerecorded sound effect snippets as intros to some of the songs (i.e. EXORCIST's 'The Consuming Flames of Redemption', 'The Hex' and 'The Invocation', DARK ANGEL's 'Worms' and BATHORY's intro to 'Raise The Dead'). The sound was very ambient due to the distances of the audio sources from the microphone. Nonetheless, more than a few ideas came from these sessions, such as some of the riffs which would become 'Ascend From Blackened Skies' (MORBID DARKNESS Demo 1991) and quite a few riffs which would soon become composed songs later in this same month (such as 'Culture Of Distort', 'Wake Not The Dead', 'Knights Templars', the first 2 of which appear on the YEARS OF THE LOST: Volume 1 compilation). Clayton's input was also broadening as most of the lyrics on these tapes were his. This month seemed to trigger a lot of musical and lyrical proliferation. After the tapes were recorded early in the month, I began to write fully composed works hoping to further develop my style and prepare for a tentative studio stint that we had talked about possibly doing at Hypersound Studio (where we learned about distortion pedals months earlier) sometime later in the year. By this time and having no real knowledge of standard tuning or chords, I had developed a tuning system which was basically as follows, starting with low E: E, G#, C, F, A, D# (some of the open notes changed from time to time over the next year or so, but this was my standard). Rather than play standard 1,3,5 power chords, I used a diad in the bar position (figure 1), which by my tuning system suggested a major chord. This produced a fairly one dimensional sound, giving a slightly happy hint to some of my riffs, except when used in certain chromatic progressions, which created a slightly eerie effect.
By month's end, our once sludgy Doom/Death Metal style had quite evidently become more like Speed Metal with a hint of Death Metal. As friends we were becoming less conflicting and more comfortable hanging out. Our age difference always created a bit of an offset between us, despite the fact that we were both in many ways alike. As we mutually realized this fact, our visits became more productive and valuable. The evolution of this band would see many twists and turns and alterations of attitude and of reason, but this was the good time; in fact, one of the best. From this point the sheer excitement of making new music would fuel us more than we even realized at the time. We had created a new itinerary with new concepts and were on the path to seeing those new ideas come to life.
I will also add, because it became a relevant source of Metal releases entering my growing collection, that February was the month that we each received our 'Metal Disc' catalogs. A couple days after receiving that catalog I also received my Slipped Disc and Pack Central catalogs, though they were less impressive. These pages and pages of Metal releases really opened my eyes to the grand variety of Metal that existed, most of which I had never heard of before. Thanks in most part to my mother (R.I.P. 1953-2009) I was making orders every couple of months and gaining a much better perspective and appreciation for a lot of different Metal in a lot of different genres.
March saw a load of new music entering my collection, thanks in large part to my mom and Metal Disc (and Ken, too...inside joke), and as the content of my Metal collection grew, so too did my enthusiasm for writing new songs for MORBID DARKNESS. At this point, though I am still uncertain exactly why, I was on a private mission to write 5 or 6 songs for our 'some-day' studio demo (which was at this point untitled). I couldn't really ask Clayton to participate in this task for several reasons. Firstly, and foremost, our playing styles by this time were quite different. I can't discredit Clayton's playing because he was still progressing, albeit in a drastically alternate direction, and being that his main guitar playing input in the band scenario was exclusively guitar solos, his leads excelled (while,admittedly his rhythm playing was undernourished and neglected). Secondly, I had a general vision for what I wanted the songs to sound like. There was a handful of specific characteristics that I hoped to display with these songs. Of course, these characteristics were some which I had not yet developed as a musician and songwriter, so I was essentially striving to create something which I didn't even know how to build. It would require much more trial and error before I could even come close to what I was envisioning. Unfortunately, in a band setting which was primarily recording improvisational jam sessions, I couldn't really focus on specific details of songs without making our 45 minute sessions extremely one dimensional and boring; repeating riffs and testing out riff transitions a hundred times in a row, etc. Any songwriter knows that this kind of involved shit is best done on their own time, on their own jam tapes to develop potential riffs or song ideas without driving the rest of the band crazy. Besides this, Clayton relied on live improv to find his groove when it came to songs, and he wasn't one to sit down and figure out riff transitions or anything remotely song related, so his involvement would have garnered more harm than good. Thirdly, our music consisted of 2 coexisting parts: improvisation and composition; the first being what we mainly did together, the second being what we mainly did alone. We hadn't yet fused those two pieces of the band into a functional and practical process, so to force it would undoubtedly have produced unsavory results. I will underline that the aforementioned reflections were something which at the time weren't really even though about at all; this was simply how things were progressing naturally. Besides all of these trivial details, the fact of the matter was that we didn't even know if this demo would ever really materialize at all. On I wrote.
In the latter part of the month the two of us got together to record a couple of new tapes. I had suggested a couple of cool song titles to Clayton on the phone prior to our meeting and explained a few concepts regarding the titles. When we began recording he pulled out a handful of papers with new lyrics, some of which I had offered my input on regarding titles or ideas but which were mostly his own. The first tape, 'Three Days Of Darkness' exploded into existence very organically. It was basically the first side of a 90 minute TDK tape and boasted about a dozen songs. The first and most prevalent change from the February tapes was the speed. I had been practicing fast alternate picking and palm muting for a couple of weeks while I was writing some songs so by the time we had convened for recording I had gotten fairly fast (215 bpm), though, almost equally as sloppy. The energy was great and we certainly rolled with it. The following day we recorded the B-side of the TDK tape as a new separate 'demo' which we titled 'Slaughter The Remains'. More of the same, really; speedy and energetic, though admittedly lacking song identity like the older HAVOK classics had embodied. These tapes really spawned a new direction for us to embark on, though it wouldn't go on for long before shifting yet again, which really became a common theme for us. This was but another step in our gradual evolution and like in any such instance what tomorrow brought would have to be welcomed with openness lest it would collapse dead on the spot.
Late in the month, after receiving a large shipment of Metal, concepts would stretch and skew and I would become more and more curious about songwriting and guitar playing. Soon I would invest a fair amount of time to learning other peoples riffs, or at least in my own way by using what resources I knew. On a very warm day near the end of the month, Clayton showed up at my house with his gear and excitedly announced he was going to spend the night at his father's house (which was located next door to my grandparents house, a short walk away on the same 10 acre parcel of property). Being that the weather was so great, albeit late coming this particular year, we decided to set up on the deck and record a 'live' demo. [I should explain this concept with a bit more detail. Our late 1988 recording, REEK HAVOK's F.O.D. tape was recorded on this very deck, which at the time we had always fantasized as one day being where we would set up our local shows. The deck overlooked a fairly large field which we felt would accommodate enough people to at least make up the minimum amount needed to put on a Metal show in the first place...we were young, what else can I say?] This 'live' demo was recorded with the idea that we were actually recording it in front of an audience, so Clayton had his little raps and between-song banters. We basically just played some previously recorded songs, some unrecognizable covers and some other fun shit. It was all just for fun anyway, to spend an hour in the warm March sun in the country and record a new tape. Afterwards, we walked to my mom's house via the railway tracks and began to discuss our next tape idea. Needless to say we were at this point going in a different direction than ever before and it wouldn't be without its ebb and flow. We knew by this time that change was inevitable and we usually greeted it with relatively good humor. April would see progression and decline almost simultaneously and would essentially open a door to some activities which threatened to put an end to all of this indefinitely.
"We need like 50 songs."
This was the statement. This was the goal. It would be done. At least that is what we wanted to believe. We decided early in the month that our next tape would run at 90 minutes long and contain about 50 songs. In a series of phone calls during the first week of April we mainly discussed song titles. Being that 50 songs would have to be written lyrically, we needed to collectively create titles and brief concept overviews for them all and discussing our ideas openly seemed to get the most results. At the time we were hard pressed to invent 50 original song titles and I specifically recall referring to my Metal Disc and Slipped Disc catalogs for some cheats. Some titles I lifted included 'Impulse To Destroy' (Blood), 'Depression' (Poltergeist) and 'Evil Friendships' (Deliverance). I only used titles from bands I hadn't heard yet or knew very little about, which I suppose eased my mind from any guilt of such an unoriginal course of actions. I had admittedly used some titles from literary works in the past, but that was a bit different. In this case I was directly fucking with Metal! Aside from the large body of new lyrics, we decided to redo a couple of titles from the March tapes, as we felt we could now achieve an improved energy.
At home I continued working on musical compositions, though to a slightly lesser degree in this particular month. I had developed a hunger to learn some songs which I liked at the time and I began trying to decipher them on my guitar using my offbeat tuning system. Some songs were quite beyond my abilities but others were actually fairly easy to convert. Had I been playing standard power chords I'd say my renditions were 90% correct. At the time, having not been trained in even the most basic guitar lessons, this was a major feat for me. It is safe to say that this diversion may have affected what would on the first weekend in April become our next tape 'Wide Are The Gates', but it is also safe to say that we had already set ourselves up for the disappointments which would ensue.
The recording process seemed like it would never end. Despite the fact that the first song, a redone version of 'Three Days Of Darkness', had displayed a marginal improvement from its precursory attempt the month before, the energy waned fairly quickly into the session. Song after song of monotonous vocals, guitars and guitar solos made this conceptual epic recording one of utter boredom. The most fun I had was trying to sing some of the songs while playing rhythm guitar, which wasn't so much fun as it was a challenge. Somewhere on the second side of the tape I threw in some riffs from VIKING's 'White Death' which I had just learned to play days before. The final high point was probably a song titled 'Metal Road' which Clayton wrote about our future lives on the road basking in the Metal life. We played back the tape with a general and mutual idea of how it had turned out...about the same as it felt recording it: contrived, drawn out and almost devoid of any life or magic. Needless to say I probably have only ever played this tape straight through a handful of times. It bombed. Of course, 20 years later, I now have the upper hand of looking at this recording with a slightly more objective view. I understand now and accept it for what it is.
Our motivation took a bit of a turn after the recording of this tape. At this point we both agreed that we couldn't continue on this path and that more energy would have to be directed at writing proper songs. This was the thinking when our 'dream' studio demo became more and more of a serious goal and I began to focus on developing what songs I felt were the strongest of the batch I had been working on for the last few months. But I was also learning a bunch of cover songs and I personally felt that the experience of having the insight into these other songs might strengthen my own songs as a result. By the last week in April I had learned half a dozen songs and had worked on about 3 of my own compositions to the point where I felt it was time to do something with them. Our telephone conversations consisted of the aforementioned statements and I pitched the idea that we try recording both the covers as well as the originals as a trial of sorts, as well as utilizing established material rather than improv work. I suggested we call the tape 'Immortal Way Of Live'.
Just before April came to a close, Clayton arrived with his gear. After taking a walk in the country to smoke a bunch of cigarettes and discuss the songs we'd be recording we set up our gear in 'the garage', a once humble living quarters which had become a storage shed (this was later named Tormension Studio). As it turned out, Clayton would only be there for a few hours and it was already getting fairly late in the day. I had recorded a backing rhythm guitar track the day before which would act as the first guitar playback track, which would be rolling as I played a live second rhythm guitar part and Clayton performed live vocals and guitar solos. Because the tape no longer exists (it was lost during a move in 1992) I can rely only on my memory as to the track listing. I do know for sure that the following cover songs were attempted: SLAYER's 'South Of Heaven', VIKING's 'White Death' and 'Winter', COVEN's 'Iron Dick' and METALLICA's 'For Whom The Bell Tolls'. We tried a few originals at the tail end: a reworked 'Alone At The Sabbat' with new lyrics, a track called 'The Boiling Cauldron' and another called 'Spurious Warfare', both of which made appearances in one form or another on our tapes since January 1990.
This was an utter failure. I had told Clayton well in advance which songs I had learned to play and I asked him to listen to them and to practice them beforehand. [I might add that my 'well in advance' may in fact only have been one or two days...such is the way when you're basically a kid, days are much longer in the earlier years...] The exception was the COVEN song, which I don't think he had a copy of at the time to use as reference. Even so, it was as if he had never heard any of these songs before. I was so frustrated by the time we were finished that I literally wanted to walk away and never try this again. It was brutal and intensely humbling but after the initial mortification had subsided my drive slowly came back into being. Looking back, we had again set ourselves up for major disappointment. We hadn't practiced any of the songs together, the chords I was playing probably threw Clayton off a bit and we had placed so much emphasis on the idea that everything was going to work out without a hitch that we just died inside when it so painfully didn't. We walked out into the now cold and moist late afternoon air after the playback and both felt humiliated and miserable.
Something about that experience did something to us on a much deeper and profound way than we could even see at the time. It wasn't like we were going to quit playing or anything severe like that. But the sense of accomplishment we had experienced only months before as HAVOK was getting harder to achieve. Our standards were getting higher, perhaps faster than the rate at which our own music was evolving, and as a result it was becoming easier to spew out aural drivel and harder to collectively create something worth listening to ever again. But, as I worked alone on our 'dream' demo compositions and tried to learn all my favorite songs on the side, our once mutual bond was secretly and slowly becoming undone to take on new form and new face. Because we couldn't mutually produce results in the music department that met our rising standards, we turned to other means for kicks...in a word, mischief. Actually, two words: destructive mischief. Over the next few weeks it was this very thing which would throw a wedge between us in more ways than we could comprehend. Actions and consequences were two relative things which we had dealt with in the past, but being young and naive, we took the wrong path again and again. The month began with high hopes and ended with sour notes; all in exaggerated discord and acute dissonance. What a month.
After the disappointing efforts of April and their effects had subsided in early May, a few interesting developments arose. We had both agreed that our direction was becoming a bit shaky and that we should buckle down on something substantial if we were going to continue on our path. After having learned some songs the month before, my own compositions were feeling more solid and organic. We hadn't really discussed recording any improv tapes this month, as that process seemed to be failing us of late, so I focused on the 'dream' demo material to keep me occupied. As it was, we wouldn't be seeing each other until mid-month anyway, so this was a good opportunity to take a breather, so to speak. In the first couple of weeks of May I developed some concepts for the 'dream' demo. I had stumbled upon a 2 x 3 inch thumbnail of a Medieval battle scene in a Social Studies textbook which totally inspired me to write and record some rough tracks at home. This artwork would adorn the cover of our demo, I was sure of this. It portrayed the effects of war; the sadness, the sorrow, the rage, the death. These themes were perfect for Metal, and in line with what 'visions' or images came to mind when I listened to some of my favorite albums. Abruptly, though a very obvious play on words, the title 'The Mourning After' sprang to my mind. Obviously the concept of mourning after a Medieval carnage would be very widespread and prevalent, and the fact that the title boasted word-play held a certain amount of appeal to me.
Having found a working title for the 'demo which we wanted to record but didn't have any idea how or when' or the 'dream' demo, I found a groove with which to carry my composition ideas along on. After polishing up some older riffs and putting together some better structures, I began rough tracking the songs so that I could develop them and decide which ones would be the most suitable for the demo. 4 of these early tracks can be heard on the 'Years Of The Lost: Volume 1' (as tracks 1-4, with additional parts recorded later in 1990). After a week or so of mad tracking, I figured I had the blueprint for the demo, in this order: 1. Untitled (later named 'Premedicated Remedy' and later yet 'Premeditated Remedy'...thanks DEMOLITION HAMMER!), 2. The Boiling Cauldron, 3. Spurious Warfare, 4. Execrations (formerly, and again later, 'Spellbound'), 5. The Mourning After. With this blueprint finally coming to fruition, I spent most of my time developing and bettering this handful of tracks for our debut demo.
Somewhere during this brief period, in what I now conclude to be brought upon by force of habit, I went ahead and recorded another MORBID DARKNESS improv demo on my own titled 'Cry Of The Hangman'. I had felt the urge to record something besides the rough tapes for the demo so this 4 song quickie seemed to do the job. I continued my process from the January tapes of recording a rhythm guitar track first, playing it back on a second tape deck while playing and recording percussion and then playing the 'mixed' tape back while recording vocals and guitar solos. In January I had used a steel deep freeze rack as a hi hat and a sewing stool as a snare drum (no tom fills, kick drum or crash cymbals) primarily for the effect of having some sort of beat to accompany the riffs. This month I had to settle with some other thin steel contraption which when placed on my tile floor produced a washy hi hat effect, and the same sewing stool as a snare. I remember the fun of having to chase the 'hi hats' as they bounced around freely on my floor, momentarily cutting out on the recording as I repositioned them on the fly. It was fun to do something which I could play back and enjoy again, though I was still feeling mildly depressed that the recordings with Clayton of late weren't producing the same results. I recall playing the tape for Clayton over the phone, whilst we both chuckled about certain elements, as we often did with our own recordings. The songs were serious but they had a fun feel to them and it seemed to go over well with Clayton at the time. It was during one of these phone calls when we conceived plans for some destructive mischief as well as some possible theft in the coming weeks. Looking back, it's hard to determine what was behind this shit. I suppose the few acts of vandalism we had practiced before had given us a high which was hard to beat. God knows our musical endeavors as a unit weren't doing much for us, and mischief was a cheap and effective high which required no real effort, or skill, but I truly think deeper and more complex things were at work here. Who knows for sure?
Mid-month, my family had left for a stateside motor home trip for a little over a week. I was left alone in the house during this time and was to use this time to concentrate on my songs. A few days after they left, Clayton and I got together. I had no gear except for my modified jacket, which now boasted huge inner pockets that would soon hold some stolen tapes from K-mart. The air was unsettled and we both knew it, but we went ahead with our plans. I'm not going to get too specific about all the happenings that unfolded that evening nor am I going to divulge what activities were cut short due to our arrests, but I feel the event is significant in this story and this is solely why I am letting it become known now. After a humiliating several hours in custody at the police station (handcuffed together on chairs outside of the hoosegow), I was swiftly escorted home with Clayton, his mother and her half-sister Barb. What a ride of shame that was; rain pouring, cold and dark and with an unspeakable shroud of fear for what ramifications would arise in the wake of this pitiful act. I was dropped off at my mom's house and there I was yelled at some more. I simply curled up on the couch after the riot act ended and entered a most uneasy sleep. It was all I could do to stifle the guilt which was eating away at me like some gnashing rabid dog on a sinewy old scrap of roadkill. Ugh.
After all the shit blew over we were left with new realities. We were forbidden to hang out after this incident and for an indefinite and undisclosed amount of time, though we were allowed some phone calls. This was just the worst thing that could happen, and all for a few cassettes! We talked on the phone in brief at spaced out intervals and decided that we'd let everything settle a bit before deciding what to do next. At this point I was not willing to let go of my musical goals. I continued to record rough demos of the 'Mourning After' songs and wrote lyrics for most of them. I seemed to recall having conversations with my mother in the latter part of the month, and in one instance in the small field behind her house one late evening where someone had been burning grass in a controlled brush fire. We sat out there in the night and smoked cigarettes together, while I talked her ears off about our goals and aspirations to record this demo in the studio. I distinctly remember the moon peaking through the clouded sky, and resembling almost identically the cover of BATHORY's 'The Return...'. I came away from the discussions with the keen notion that she was going to foot the bill for our 'upcoming' studio demo. I'm going to conclude now that it was partly her sympathy for my run in with juvenile law and partly her slowly developing degenerative disease; which affects judgement and speech, among other things. In any case, being a naive young punk who had just turned 13 years old, I was now under the sincere impression that this demo was going to happen once Clayton and I were allowed to hang out again, which in my mind could not be longer than a month or two. Armed with this revelation, my goal was clear: prepare for war. Okay, prepare to record. However, as I've seen first hand throughout my years, to record can be very much like war. Moving on... I had established a few conclusions. Firstly, I had no drum set, but I knew a couple of people who did. A worst case scenario was that the studio would have an adequate enough drum kit to accommodate my boxy drumming style. Secondly, the run time of the tape would be about 20 minutes, so I used a perspective model of 1 drum take, 2 rhythm guitar takes, 1 vocal take and a few solos as my equation and concluded that the session should take no more than a couple of hours to record. Young and naive. Nonetheless, this was the mentality and at roughly $50 per hour for studio time, this demo would only cost a couple hundred dollars at the most...very achievable, I thought.
Quite abruptly, I recorded a doubled up guitar tape (recording track 1 on a my tape recorder and playing it back afterwards on my ghetto blaster while playing track 2 live and recording the two parts as a singular mono mix) which would act as a practice tape so that I could work on the drum parts and as a reference tape for my upcoming week-long class field trip up to Calgary. I distinctly recall setting up a fake drum kit to practice on over the coming weeks. Essentially, the kit consisted of my trusty sewing stool, 5 one gallon ice cream buckets nailed to wooden stands and a very trashy little 8 inch Kimala crash cymbal [see figure 1]. I had no pedals or kick drum so I simply tapped on the floor with my right foot for kick drum hits while I practiced. I also had to improvise for hi hat parts. [Just a note...this 'fake' kit was the one actually used on the 'Morbid Darkness' Demo 1991 , though with real hi-hats, and can also be heard on 'Years Of The Lost: Volume 1'] I remember mapping out songs something like this: Intro-open hat, verse-closed hat, chorus-ride, etc. I applied these principles either by lifting or setting down my left foot for respective hi hat parts and tapping the side of the mic stand which held up the crash as to represent the ride parts. The makeshift hi hat actually was a hat - an old straw sombrero placed on the top of another mic stand, for visual reference only.
While I prepared for my class field trip, I figured the more I listened to my guitar tracks, the less chance I had of fucking something up in the studio, so the only tape I brought with me for the lengthy bus trips and idle time between class activities was the 'guitar tracks' tape...nothing else. My Walkman was loaded with fresh batteries and I had ample back-up. By the time we were in Calgary, I was sick to death of listening to the material. The few friends I had confided in about the demo probably thought I was nuts when they found out I wasn't listening to 'Master Of Puppets' (which was the tape case I brought as my decoy) but in fact a dull and monotonous home recording of guitar parts. Looking back, I think I was nuts, but this was merely an indication of my drive and determination. Music and Metal was my desire, my reason for being, and as well as acting as my goal-setting obsession it also blocked out the negative aspects of the life around me: my family issues, my mom's disease, my dad's absence, my grandfather's dementia, my uncles deaths and afflictions...it was piled pretty high in every direction around me. The extent of these implications were still unseen, however, and years later it would all sink in, nearly sinking me.
Clayton and I, though imprisoned from one another, talked incessantly of the demo during this month, and despite our law breaking delinquency, I was sure everything would work itself out...in due time.
In early June my ongoing work with 'The Mourning After' material was becoming somewhat stagnant. I really wanted to just be able to work on the songs with Clayton present so that the real energy of our dynamic could be realized. I was strictly running on conjecture in assuming that these songs would even work out at all in a studio setting let alone as material we could perform successfully as a unit. Our phone conversations were becoming more frequent this month but an underlying sense of drastic things to come were being realized fairly early on. After a deep talk one afternoon, we both seemed to agree that MORBID DARKNESS may have to come to an end, much like HAVOK did only five months earlier, to make way for another new name and musical direction. It made total sense given the events which had transpired in April and May. This, of course, would leave 'The Mourning After' demo project in an indefinite limbo. This, too, made sense, seeing as a new band name and style would have to be developed before continuing with the recording...possibly rendering the present compositions unsuitable and requiring complete overhauls. We had decided to spend the next few weeks thinking about our new direction, and once we were allowed to hang out again the ball would begin to roll on the efforts of finding a new groove with which to set our course. In the meantime we were still separated and we didn't know for how much longer we'd be masterminding a project that was just waiting to happen. My urges to record something saw me creating new improv tapes a la 'Cry Of The Hangman' - 2 or 3 demos each containing 3 to 4 songs. The titles, which have since escaped me (though I know one was titled 'Thunderstorm') were compiled in chronological order onto a blank 90 minute tape which I simply titled 'DEMONIC' - as our new name had not yet come to be, and MORBID DARKNESS was clearly on its way to the grave.
By this time I had fashioned a hi hat on a mic stand with some steel rings which when placed on top of each other produced a slightly washy hi hat effect. It was necessary to do this as my sombrero made no sound at all. I had a lot of fun recording these tapes and it was a great escape for me. Somewhere during this month my mother become very depressed and her creeping disease was becoming more apparent even in the slightest of intervals. She was also having problems with her landlord regarding the activities of her boyfriend, Brad, who was staying at the house off and on. By June's end she would have to move out of the house she had been in since September 1989...which was when we officially started our little band. Now we were waiting to get together again so we could officially start our next little band, coinciding with my mother's relocation to a new place, which was looking like it was going to be a mobile home somewhere not too far from her current address...which would mean I could still walk there most every weekend just as I did now. Throughout the changes and turmoil which seemed to be omnipresent at this time, music was saving me; yes, how cliche, but it was so true. Music provided what seemed to be a deterrent from insanity (perhaps this is questionable...as future events may suggest), from more crime, from things I shudder to reflect on in any large degree...I can only imagine, and I'd rather not! However, I was still feeling the effects of all these hard realities and decided to make silence my defense. I wasn't one to talk much about my deeper feelings, anyway, except with Clayton and my mother and it was becoming harder to talk to her with her disease progressing and her attention span narrowing. My family spoke little of such matters anyway - politics was generally the topic at the dinner table and I generally stayed out of it. So music was my therapy, my outlet, my focus.
'The Mourning After' would now officially be put on hold as we brainstormed together and individually as to the direction we should take. Mid to late June was when it became certain that we'd be able to hang out again once my school year was finished at the end of the month. On July 1, I would be allowed to stay at Clayton's house for a few days. Fuck yeah!!! When I got the news from my father I abruptly called Clayton to inform him and we talked for hours about the 'new band'. For the next few days I racked my brain for ideas with regards to the new moniker. During a lazy evening of television gawking, I saw the word MORTUARY emblazoned on a plaque outside of a building in a scene from a sitcom I will aptly leave unnamed. I was immediately interested and thusly bombarded my dictionary for a more in depth glimpse of it's full potential. I suppose the initial allure came about because of the slight similarity to the moniker OBITUARY, which was one of my favorite Death Metal bands at the time. This would be my top choice of names for our next telephone conversation. Later that week, I called up Clayton exited about my name idea, though I tried to stifle my glee for at least 5 minutes into the conversation. Alas, the suspense got the better of me and I made my announcement. Clayton, too, had said he had a new name idea, but surely it could not surpass MORTUARY...the feeling in my gut only days before when researching the word was monumental. This gut feeling was transformed to a new gut feeling when upon my suggestion of the bands' new name to be MORTUARY, Clayton's reply was, of all things, "that's the name I was thinking about, too." Fuck me! How could this be? Despite all the speculation, it was clearly a sign to me that we were on some level synchronistic, and this implication was huge...especially after the happenings of the last couple of months. Needless to say, MORTUARY was the new band name and within a week we'd be hanging out again and laying a new pathway for our music with our new ideas. Already, my ambition had seen me rewrite lyrics for 'The Mourning After' songs and my initial goal was to finally practice and demo these songs together with Clayton once we got the ball rolling with our 'new' band.
In late June, my mother's mood seemed to be of slight despair. As well as having bouts of depression brought upon my her illness, she was having deeper and deeper relationship issues and this all presented extensive stress considering it was all affecting my sister, who lived with her full-time. I hate thinking about these things. I tend really to lean towards good memories when reflecting on these times but in writing these blogs I find it my responsibility to try and consider all of the relevant aspects so as to determine their effects on the general outcome of what the band was doing...cause and effect. All of these existential circumstances presented me with my own emotional situations and reactions: happy that the new band would soon be springing forth and content with my current musical drive and abilities, sad that my mom and sister were faced with such personal problems and that I wasn't older or responsible enough to help them on that level. The infamous shit sandwich.
Such is adolescence, I suppose, and we each share its angst in one form or another. Like most others, I simply trudged on and continued forward on my path of life...music giving me the drive to keep moving through all of life's sludgy bullshit, much like today.
On July 1st I arrived at Clayton's house; after a month and a half which seemed like a year and a half. We weren't overly or outwardly boisterous about reuniting but we were both really fucking glad that we were. I stayed for a couple of days, during which time we recorded 2 tapes under the new MORTUARY moniker. First was the 'Practice' tape; kind of a warm-up session for our more serious 'Mortuary' tape, which came on the second day. Both tapes contained the same songs with the exceptions of an instrumental intro on the 'Practice' tape performed by Clayton and a bad cover of SLAUGHTER's 'The Curse' on the 'Mortuary' tape. Much like in January 1990, after changing our name from HAVOK to MORBID DARKNESS, we re-recorded all of our first classics from 1989: Alone At The Sabbat, The Incubus, What Will Tomorrow Bring, Last Respects. I can't remember exactly why we did this. Oh, I remember...after the initial concept of 'The Mourning After' demo had diminished and had given way to some newer concept, the original material which was written had been scrapped for these revamped versions of 'Alone At The Sabbat', 'The Incubus', 'What Will Tomorrow Bring' and 'Last Respects'. This was the precursor to that development, and the reason why we recorded them was to try the revamped versions out, to test the waters. As I recall, it wasn't popular. Something was amiss. I do know that during May and June, when my main musical work was writing and preparing material for a studio demo and perhaps soon a studio album (secretly, I was sure that after recording the demo and awing everyone with our talent that a debut album would be immediate...confidence or delusion or a bit of both), I was working on touching up these songs to better fit our current style of playing, such as incorporating chords instead of single note riffs. Perhaps it was also symbolic of starting over again, as this seemed to have become our ritual in such a case.
The tapes were nothing special, and nothing really new. We did have something extraordinary on the 'Mortuary' tape that seemed to help in shifting our ideas and behavior for most of the summer. It was the outro song, simply titled 'Mortuary'. At some point during the tracking of this song something transpired which when played back afterwards gave us each a bit of a scare. The song was simply a 2 chord progression with the two of us chanting 'Mortuary'; sometimes in unison and sometimes not. I strummed the guitar and chanted in the background while Clayton, hands free, moved back and forth while using a paper towel tube to sing through during some of his chants. It was about 11:00 at night and while recording the previous songs we were each picking up on some weird vibes in the room, so we decided to turn out the light for this last song. I believe this was all relative to what we would hear during playback of the tape. The basic effect which freaked us out was that in some spots on that song it sounds as if 3 voices are chanting instead of 2. When I listen back now it kind of makes sense but at the time given the vibes which were present this was all more than a little fucking creepy...particularly since there were a few strange happenings in this house of late. Of course the type of fear which was created from this phenomena was not the terror kind but rather the kind that gave you a rush of adrenaline. We accepted it and in fact used this as inspiration for future tapes.
When not at Clayton's, or my mom's new house during July, I continued recording sequences for my DEMONIC tape at home. I needed something to do during my summer break, and usually music filled these slots. I recall being inspired by the many storms which were common this year, and on half a dozen occasions between May and July I had recorded huge thunderstorms on my tape recorder just outside my basement-bedroom window. At one point in mid-July, after listening to TROUBLE's 'The Skull' for the first time, a storm started up and I immediately set up and recorded a 3-song session, almost in reply to the energies of the storm. I suppose it is safe to say that I was not an ordinary 13 year old, much like it would be safe to say that currently I am not an ordinary 33 year old. I had little if no outside activities during such times. I lived in the country, away from the few school friends I had, and this was fine for me. Being a lone-wolf by nature, extended time spent on musical projects appealed to me just as much then as it does now.
We decided at one point to begin getting serious about the studio demo again, and I hurriedly threw together some new lyrics for a couple of the songs. I was elated because we were finally going to test the waters with these newer structured compositions together, which to me was much more professional and made this all feel a bit more serious and real. We got together later in the month to work on this material. I went over the basic structures of the songs with Clayton in my crash course manner, hoping he would get it all immediately. The first song, 'Premedicated Remedy', seemed to go fairly well after a few takes. The next song, 'The Boiling Cauldron', went okay, but at the time I was really affected by how well or bad things translated on tape. For me, who had been slaving over this material for months, there was a naivety that even brief references should have sufficed for impeccable and outstanding performances. I was obviously not being very realistic where such matters were concerned, and unfortunately failed attempts really affected me. We decided, or I decided to abort this project for a later time, and we then returned to form and filled the rest of the tape with our improv-poop...something which had become a recurring theme in this band. We simply needed more practice together. The next day, one hot motherfucker I might add, we decided in our boredom to record some more drivel, this time using Clayton's Wieder bench as a snare drum and we took turns between guitars and 'drums'. A few songs in and while getting really fucking silly with high pitched screams and shrieks we both kind of entered a mutual noise induced hypnosis and seemed to channel some chaotic and eerie energy for a few minutes. On the recording this trance was interrupted by Clayton's aunt Barb entering the room and informing us that the new neighbors (the 'frenchmen') were yelling outside; basically for us to shut the fuck up. I was relatively unfazed but Clayton seemed to have taken the whole event a bit more serious. After some strange but characteristic talk, he suddenly wanted to 'run the fuck out of there and not come back' for awhile. So off we ran...sweaty and smelly into the high afternoon heat to purchase some cigarettes and just wind down a bit. This would probably site the first instance, at least that I can remember, where Clayton's behavior actually seemed a bit weird. He was eccentric and hyperactive but his demeanor this day was sightly different...I took it for anger, and concluded that it was simply anger which had produced these irrational actions. I didn't get too hung up on this, however, and our weekends of hanging out and making noise were great for the simple fact that we were able to do it again.
I suppose the prospect of recording a studio demo at this time had drifted off and transformed into a 'wait until we are actually ready' type of mind set. Maybe next month...or the month after... It was quite evident that we weren't ready every time we tried to jam the songs. It certainly wasn't because the songs were hard to play. It was more about chemistry and mostly about habit. We were great at sitting down and belting out improv tapes...90% of the time it sounded like shit, but sometimes we had those moments of synchronicity which made it all worthwhile. We really didn't have to work for it, it just happened. With structured songs, that magic wasn't as prevalent and something felt awkwardly contrived about trying to make them work. What a shit sandwich! This was something which was quite a minor issue at the time, though, and we loved getting together and making these tapes. The novelty hadn't yet worn off and we swayed wild and free in the winds of inspiration. The last thing on our minds was what it really meant to be a band, in fact we didn't really even know what that was...this was our friendship and being a 'band' was less literal than it was figurative in the grand scheme of things back then.
Near the end of July I was informed that my sentence for minor theft in May was to be 20 hours of community service for a small crew of guys who worked for Armstrong Parks and Recreation in early August. It was around this time that Clayton had informed me that he had 'found' a book in some back alley in Vernon called THE NECRONOMICON. Of course, I don't remember his exact tale, but it was elaborate and seemed like bullshit. However, he described some things to me about the content of the book and I must say that I was instantly taken. The whole thing intrigued me and I listened intently as he read excerpts from the book. This book and the images it invoked would fuel our creative flames for some time after this, though it would actually be years before actually reading any of it myself. The summer would get hotter and our music and behavior would get crazier. Just wait.
August of 1990 basically served as a natural continuation of July. We continued our MORTUARY tapes, recording four that I can account for, though I'd guess it could have been six to eight easily; drivel that was tracked and trashed almost simultaneously. What can I say?, but that what was at one point going to be our 'getting back on track' and 'taking this band more serious' was for some reason turning into a real joke. These tapes we were spewing out with reckless abandon were essentially worthless in terms of artistic value and did not display an inkling of progression in our playing or songwriting. In fact, it would be quite fitting to say that these tapes were perhaps doing more harm than good for our dynamic as a unit. Okay all the scrutiny aside, we had a lot of fun recording these tapes. Our Schmier and Mille Petrozza impersonations (Destruction and Kreator, respectively, for those who don't know) on a few of these tapes was pure gut-busting hilarity and at times tears were brought to our eyes from the exertion of hysterical and uncontrollable laughter. I have no regrets and in retrospect it was probably just as well to cut loose and act like the kids that we were, for life around us both was marred with things that kids shouldn't be worrying about in the first place.
I did the crime, and early in the month I did the time...20 hours, or 3 days of very distasteful labor at the local fair grounds and livestock barns in the hot fucking August heat. I felt good when it was over and I vowed to myself, whilst picking up dirty napkins, candy wrappers and rust-brown maxi pads under the bleachers in the 4H barn on day 1, that I'd never be putting myself in this position ever again.
At some point during the month, Clayton's half-cousin showed up to live with his mother, who in turn was temporarily staying with Clayton and his mother in their house. Keith, or as we lovingly called him, 'Stomach Boy', was about my age and essentially much like us in that he was a bit different. You see, at this time in my area, Metal was taboo. I literally can only think of a handful of people who looked like us in our towns...long Metal hair, Metal shirts, leather and denim with back patches...so to a lesser degree, Keith was in this category. For some reason we viewed him as a poser and tried to get out of hanging with him whenever possible. Clayton and I were, to put it lightly, a little strange when it came to outsiders and any newcomers were subject to intense scrutiny. Looking back we probably should have hired him as our drummer or something, despite the fact that he couldn't really play anything. To hear any of the tapes we spawned this month, one would easily assume that we couldn't really play anything either. He sat in on a couple of our improv tapes, and though I'm sure he was impressed by our energy and bombastic demeanor, I highly doubt he was impressed by what he heard. Any indications of dissatisfaction from Keith were non-existent, and I'm glad because we would probably have made his life really fucking miserable. As it was, and in true form of the assholes that we were, we treated him like shit. This is the one thing I hate to think about regarding this time in our history, as our anti-social and zero-tolerance undertones really were uncalled for, especially when one was seemingly willing to stretch it out like Keith. We did him wrong and what's worse is that we did many others wrong in the years to come. Putting these things under the microscope now after all these years while writing these blogs, I am seeing some signs and precursory hints which point directly at many of the problems that developed between us and others in following years. It is strange to think that we regarded this behavior as normal and stranger to think that we weren't told otherwise by someone close to us. Of course, we were a tight unit, Clayton and I, and we didn't really run in other circles with anyone else. I had a few school friends, but never did anything much with them outside of school, and I'm pretty sure Clayton had the same thing going for him, though he was having some real troubles at school and maybe had even less friends than I at the time. I suppose these things served in our distrust of others and our inabilities to welcome others in.
We attempted to dabble with the Necronomicon a few times, though its workings are obviously up for debate. But like any form of suggestive sorcery, if you are mentally inclined to want results, often things will transpire which may indicate that perhaps some intervention was evident. I know now that our proceedings weren't even close to being ceremonially correct, if you want to get technical. In any case, I think that we were influencing ourselves and each other with our fear of the unknown and its adrenalizing effects. The book was the topic of more than a few conversations but more than that, its implications and the energy they created became the fodder for a lot of our lyrics, concepts and in some cases even became subsequent subject matter in both mine and Clayton's dreams. The book served us as a gateway to new concepts about good and evil and duality and really opened our imaginations beyond the basic God and Devil ideologies which we were so used to. Perhaps it even opened avenues of thought for the deities and energies which weren't absolutely positive or negative, but which fluctuated according to their environments or situations. These themes are anything but new, of course, I mean take God and the Devil...one in the same really, if you consider the situation, as they seemingly strive for the same thing...our souls.
Throughout the month I managed to fill a full 90 minute tape, 'Demonic II', in my sprawling boredom. At least with this side project I was creating something a bit more serious, though musically it was still in the improv realm. Later in the month I fell upon a revelation in a dream I had (which, incidentally, was abound with Necronomicon-esque overtones). The dream was riddled with figurative and symbolic activity but I remember distinctly that we were recording an album in some abstract and unreal studio, and it sounded fucking awesome. I remember little else in terms of what we were doing exactly, but when I awoke I realized that my inner thoughts had manifested themselves in the dream. I knew then and there that we were never going to get anywhere by recording our silly improv tapes for the rest of our lives and I immediately began writing riffs which would eventually become full songs. In late August I had nearly completed two songs, 'Reclused For Eternity' and 'Mountain Demons'. I wasn't sure exactly where this was going in the big scheme of things and at this point it didn't matter. I had tapped into something which was providing me with focus and ambition and I was determined to see it through until it was done. By month's end it had become a bit more clear. I had devised that in September we should record a demo which would act both as a nod to our first HAVOK tape a year earlier and as a guiding light to our current activities with MORTUARY and where it should go from here. This would prove to be a symbol of duality in a lot of ways for me personally: progression and regression. I wanted to progress in the sense that we would record new tapes but that ambition was rooted in the fact that I wanted to relive the accomplishments of the previous year. I don't really know what that was all about, but I am willing to bet that it had something to do with my perpetual and mildly depressive interpretations of life in general, something which hasn't plagued me so much as accompanied me in life for as long back as I can remember. I suppose the easiest answer is the best, though, and that would be that I wasn't really happy with what we were doing as a band. It sucked, to be honest. I felt it was time for structure and focus, something we probably displayed more in 1989 than now. I felt that we had a vision back then and it was leading to a result but then somewhere we lost our path and veered into improv hell. Returning to that path is what I wanted to achieve with a solid new tape, and eventually to record an album and become serious musicians. In many ways the gesture would see results, however, it look a bit longer than expected.
Early September was dedicated to writing more songs for our upcoming tape, 'Terror In The Midst', which in essence was to act as the catalyst with which to begin working harder to progress as a band. The tape no longer exists, unless Clayton still has a copy, so I have no direct references to work from, but I believe I wrote 5-6 songs for the tape both musically and lyrically and the other half was to be written lyrically by Clayton and to consist of music by myself on the fly. Most of my songs ran at about 6 to 7 minutes, by my estimates while practicing them at home, and we decided to roll with this mentality and produce a really long and epic tape. We had decided, also, that we'd record the tape in late September, much like the year previous with our first serious tape, 'Last Respects'.
After a couple of very new weeks in a new school, junior high specifically, I was inspired on many levels and it all seemed parallel to our changing attitudes about our band. It seemed as we matured in life, marginally I might add, so too did our outlooks towards the future of the band.
Late in the month, on a cool afternoon, I arrived at Clayton's house. We went over the songs a bit and discussed some specifics regarding our roles on the tape. I was originally going to sing my songs while playing my riffs and play rhythm guitar as well on the songs that Clayton would sing, leaving Clayton to do all guitar solos. We did a trial run with horrible results. We decided then to have Clayton on all vocal and solo duties and I would stick to rhythm and backing vocals. The next day, in the afternoon we began recording the tape. The result was less than great and aside from serving as a milestone in terms of putting a plan together and executing it, the tape was a bit of a disappointment. There was a feel which was lost in our responsibilities to play or sing our parts right and on top of it all worrying about how it would all turn out...something we'd struggled with before. We took a couple of ativan, or incubi as we called them (which Clayton stole from his mother from time to time...), and took all our gear down to the basement to Clayton's older brother's room. Patrick was out for the night and gave us permission to use his room to belt out a late night tape should we feel it necessary. Tonight, we did.
In just over an hour we had a new tape, and this one was miles above what we had done only hours earlier. But, it wasn't MORTUARY... In fact, we didn't know what the fuck it was. We did know we loved it and we had more fun doing it than we had for a long time on a lot of mediocre tapes. Basically, it was an extension of the absurd recordings we'd been doing all summer; more humor than seriousness. But those tapes were restrained because we wanted them to be serious. This was humor at its most unrestrained and though it was of distasteful and low brow subject matter, it was linear to both of our warped personalities. I believe I pulled the name 'Dead Sac Veins' out of my ass and it stuck, abbreviated often during phone calls to DSV. Though at the time we wouldn't have regarded this part of our main shtick with what would later become the MORBID DARKNESS entity, I certainly feel it was huge in our evolution and despite the fact that we never openly acknowledged DSV amongst the circles over the years (besides a few close friends), it was very much a part of us and our relationship as friends and band mates. It began our formal duality in having a serious band as well as a more laid back and comical side-project, much like METALLICA had or were involved with SPASTIC CHILDREN. It made perfect sense and we embraced it. I even recorded a Sac-Metal tape at home a week later titled 'Edifice' which was inspired totally by this new project. Clayton, too, recorded some punk-hardcore type stuff alone which seemed to be a direct result of DSV. It was contagion - but it was right. This was a productive way to be mischievous and we got a real laugh out of it...good times, man, good times.
At the very end of the month, most of my family left for a road trip to Minnesota, which would leave me at the house alone for the entire month of October, with the exceptions of my after-school dinners at my father's house and the many visits at home from my mom. I was hanging solo for a while, which gave me lots of time for music which I took good advantage of.
October of 1990 came and as was arranged my family loaded up the motor home and got the fuck out of dodge for what would be the entire month. I was alone at the house, which sat on 10 acres and was a couple miles out of town. The first thing I remember doing after watching them leave was blasting NUCLEAR ASSAULT's 'Survive' on the stereo and sat out on the deck and smoked my face off. With regards to the band, this would be a quiet month as there wouldn't be any visits. I got a lot of visits from my mom, who would walk down from her house, often at strange hours. I always enjoyed her company, though I was still young enough to take these things for granted. As it was I appreciated her visits and because she held such an interest in my musical obsessions I would babble endlessly about them. I recall one such visit when I heard a terrible noise outside the house late one night. Mom's walking was becoming sketchy, showing further symptoms of her disease, and at times her ascent up the steps to the deck was labored. This night it sounded like someone was pushing a shopping cart up the stairs...then I heard my name being shouted in that inimitable way. I ran to the sliding glass doors to see mom carrying a fucking hi hat stand...with the cymbals on it! I quickly took them off her hands, just as tickled as a kid who just got a bike for Christmas. I had become taken with the notion of having a real drum kit since I got into high school and had spent some time gawking at the band room kit. This kit was bottom line, at best, though the cymbals were Sabian and I distinctly remember the sound of the high hats; crisp and bright...probably 13 inchers. I could continue banging on stools and empty buckets for a while yet, but my cymbal situation had become dire. My 'hi hat' contraption was made of delicate steel rings with very weak welds which by this time had fallen apart. I couldn't devise such a contraption with what I could find lying around, so I asked mom if she could go check out the prices the next time she was in Vernon...I had no idea she'd be bringing a set home!
I let off some steam the next day while recording drum parts for some rough guitar demos I had done while writing material earlier in the year for 'The Mourning After' demo. The hats worked great, though they were pretty cheap and did not have a very crisp tone...more of a boxy rasp...but they were doing the job and it felt a bit more like I was actually playing drums with the addition of the real hats.
School was followed by a walk across town to my father's house, where I sometimes waited hours for him and my future step-mom to return from work. Sometimes not. And those were the good visits because if they got home on time it usually meant they weren't drunk. Perhaps, looking back, my memory is skewed and exaggerated. Those topics are bleak ones for me, because their drinking was a disease. They didn't control it, it controlled them, and eventually this illness played a large part in my father's suicide years later. I must note that despite these drawbacks in our relationship, we did share many great years and my will here is by no means to demonize anyone but rather to bring these facts to light for the greater theme: how these things in my personal life affected me and how I expressed myself and dealt with them through music. After dinner and a visit I was escorted home where I spent nights and weekends...often smoking too much and blasting Metal on the stereo.
Clayton and I talked quite often, discussing music and future ideas and I often played him my recordings or shared lyrics with him, which I may add he would often one-up me when reading his own. One phone call in particular which came later in the month was unusually abrupt. Clayton had experienced difficulty breathing while walking home with groceries. As it turned out, one of his lungs had collapsed! The remainder of this situation is a bit blurry but I believe he ended up pulling through fairly well at first but later had more complications. The bottom line was that he would eventually have to be operated on. This sucked, like really sucked, man. He was 16 or so by this time and far too young to be faced with such mortal issues. For the time being, he seemed to fair well and his spirit was high...a huge relief for myself, who was worrying deeply when I first got the news.
Late in the month, after working on the older recordings as well as beginning a third 'Demonic' tape, I took to the pen once again and began to write some concrete material. For what specific purpose other than to express myself and pass time I wasn't entirely sure, but I always had a vision in my mind of entering a studio some day to record a demo or an album and perhaps this was simply acting on that vision. I managed to write some very cool riffs and songs - 'Gates Of Pain', 'The Pale Horseman', among others - and actually began work on a 30 minute song which I hadn't yet named but which I was enthusiastic about and planned to finish in the coming weeks.
The early part of November was somewhat of a roller coaster. I had written a few new promising songs early on, a continuation of my activities later in October. However, though it now seems quite a trivial matter, I had dumped my guitar during a rough recording session and the tuning key for the high E snapped right the fuck off. I didn't restring the axe very often, in fact only when a string broke did it ever even cross my mind. The whole of it was that the guitar seemed injured; sick and in need of treatment. It took a few weeks, but eventually my father showed up with a whole new set as well as a guitar stand (as a hint and a precaution). So began the slow decline of my beloved/hated Fame Hondo strat copy. Soon after that incident, extreme fret buzzing plagued me to the point of almost being unable to bear playing the goddamn thing. The nut had worn down beyond repair so I fashioned a replacement with a piece of black plastic I whittled away from a Goody comb. Looking back, I am surprised it worked.
Clayton and I finally got together mid-month. His health seemed good despite the recent complications. We recorded a dismal piece of improv for MORTUARY titled 'Rot In Hell'. I don't have it anymore and care much less, except that it contained some riffs from the songs which I had been writing...'Gates Of Pain', 'The Golden Dawn', to name a couple that I remember. There wasn't much magic, if any. This was becoming a common outcome of our work together and was developing into a complex. DSV was the fall back. Over the next 2 days we recorded 3 different sessions which would become known as 'B.U.M.', DSV's second tape, on side A of a 90 minute TDK blank. DSV had almost become our bread and butter. Though we never wanted to take it to the next level like we did with our serious projects, I now firmly believe we could have and probably succeeded...and we undoubtedly would have had more fun doing it.
I had recorded little in my own time due to my guitar problems but I was no less inspired than ever before. I had got a lot of great music this month and it fueled me more than ever. I did continue to track some drums over older recordings, even some of our HAVOK demos, just to try and add a bit of life to them. However, I was quick to delete these sessions as, firstly, they weren't really worth keeping, and secondly, because it felt a bit weird to me to embark on such things without Clayton knowing or being involved. A strange bit of premonitory perception, I'd say.
During phone conversations with Clayton I expressed my disdain towards our failing project of MORTUARY and he seemed quite mutually uninspired with our efforts as well. I had asked my mother if she would purchase a new guitar for me as a Christmas present, one I had spotted in a local music shop which was fairly cheap but looked more Metal than my strat-shat. She seemed receptive and assured me it could be done (I was spoiled, btw). This, I felt, would serve as a symbolic renewal for the band and would coincide with an idea I had suggested to Clayton during one of our phone calls. I had been looking through some old band shit I had kicking around and came across a handmade cassette j-card (one of many I fashioned during 1988-1989, before we even began making recordings) which was simply a caricature of Clayton and myself with a logo above us...MUTILATION. I had used many monikers on these covers: Wexklox, Mutilation, Reek Havok, Havok...among others. Somehow this simple name hit a nerve, invoking visions and concepts which were a shift from current ones, and I decided to propose the idea to Clayton.
He seemed to like the idea, though perhaps hesitantly, and I suggested that we hold off until after Xmas to change over, as it would coincide with the introduction of my new guitar. Part of the new concept was that we would each be equally involved in pitching in material for the songs, so for me the guitar would act as some kind of catalyst to get this whole thing in motion. The ideas were very inspiring for us both though a stipulation suggested by Clayton was that we record one last tape as MORTUARY. Last was the operative word, a welcome end to an era which was less than inspiring, albeit one which had to occur in order for our evolution to play out as it was.
Our final session was put on hold due to an interesting development. Due to our mischief in May, we were each given the right to plead either guilty or not guilty to our crimes, as pointed out by our respective legal representatives. I pleaded guilty without hesitation...Clayton, not guilty. I had no idea what it would mean down the road and in fact once my sentence was fulfilled (20 hours community service) the whole matter was quick to exit my mind... Until one day in late October, as I prepared myself some dinner, and was served with a subpoena to testify at Clayton's court case. I had buried that shit along with all the empty potato chip bags and candy bar wrappers back in August. Now I had to exhume the motherfucker. On top of it all, and surely the most important part of the development, I got a call from Clayton a few days before the court date. He said he was pretending to be mad at me and that we supposedly weren't friends anymore and that during the case we'd be best to stay away from each other...no doubt as suggested by his shit-faced lawyer. 'Okay', I said. I went along with it, but in coming years I would realize this to be the turning point for us...when honesty began to wither, eventually rotting beyond repair. He had received his sentence, which was not much worse than mine, though had he just pleaded guilty in the first place this tarnishing of trust could have been postponed, if not avoided. Any ember of resentment which may have formed in light of that whole situation was quickly extinguished once Clayton called me later that day assuring me it was all okay and we could hang that coming weekend.
Late in November we recorded the last MORTUARY tape, titled 'The Final Attack'. It showed an improvement of spirit from 'Rot In Hell', perhaps due to the fact that we were soon going to bury this rotting corpse, and in turn could manage one more round of smelling it. For whatever reason we did not record any DSV during this visit, in respect to the occasion, perhaps, but perhaps also in an intuitive premonition of coming angst. At the end of the month Clayton suffered more lung complications, this time putting him in the hospital for a few days were he underwent some minor surgery. He was soon back in good spirits and we would go through with our plans, though some unexpected side-trips would be taken along the way....
A couple weeks after Clayton's recovery and countless phone calls building up to our next meeting, we convened in early December to record...a new DSV tape. This had become our priority but there was still a space for more serious material to consider. Our solution, being unprepared as of yet to make our transition to MUTILATION, was to record a random tape using the one-off moniker of EREBUS. This tape was recorded first at a late hour on the day of my arrival and ran about 50 minutes long (the A side of a Denon 100 minute blank). It was somber and doomy, not unlike the previous years parallel, HAVOK's 'Stroke Of Mercy', and similarly it sounded quite good to us as we played it back later that night. This was promising for our future ideas and assured us that we still had 'it' when it came to our serious side...a far cry from most of the MORTUARY efforts. A thirst was quenched, so to speak.
The DSV tape was recorded next, titled 'B.U.S.H.'. It was an instant classic, which opened with a parody of CARNIVORE's intro 'Pizza and Jack Daniels'; myself spoofing a drawn out vomit session, with tracks from DSV's 'B.U.M.' playing in the background, which I recorded in late November. It was a slab of perverted, politically incorrect Sac Metal that seemed to spew forth without a hitch. Clayton was belching out some very long and intense screams while my Sac riffs were oozing out like the pus from a ripe and over sized boil. It all seemed too good to be true. It was a slab of fun which we both really deserved and because we enjoyed ourselves so much in the process it really shines through when playing it back...tons and tons of enthusiasm.
As Xmas grew nearer, which would coincide with the tentative launch of MUTILATION, we became increasingly inspired and having an almost perfect winter unfold before us, speaking to us on our deeper subconscious levels - our themes and musical visions thrived on such things as our environments - we figured our drabbest era of MORTUARY was finally buried forever. DSV had filled some voids we had and quelled our stagnant phases of expression and enthusiasm. Shorty before Xmas, Clayton arrived at my place for an afternoon visit and we decided to record a DSV tape there. Titled 'F.A.B.U.T.A', it was an interesting venture which also featured drums, thanks to my 'fake kit'.
With Xmas arriving it was quite apparent that MUTILATION was not going to be launched as scheduled. I had not received my new guitar, which somehow became the symbolic key to the new projects success (mostly by my own superstitions, I'll add). I was a bit discouraged. But we decided it was out of our hands fairly early on. Perhaps we could record more one-offs until we were finally prepared to launch MUTILATION properly.
And so we did. I stayed about 4 days at Clayton's over the holidays and during this time we bashed out 2 new tapes: JUDGEMENT OF THE SOUL, a 60 minute tape recorded in 2 sessions, and, TEMPORARY INSANITY, which was recorded on the B side of the EREBUS blank. No band names, just titles. This was our solution to being without a moniker and it too allowed us more license to experiment, being unbound by a predetermined mind set. These tapes were good, though honestly they lacked the greatness which was evident on the EREBUS tape, probably as a result of our postponed launch. Nonetheless, we would continue to look to our delayed future project with unwavering anticipation.
I had written some new material throughout the month and decided to give a nod to December 1989 by recording a new 30 minute song, this time with drums and improved playing. I called it 'The Frozen Spectre', based after themes which I worked out on my many walks to and from my mother's house, sometimes traversing through crotch high snow.
A lot of new music was being introduced during this time. We got our first glimpses of some British Grindcore with NAPALM DEATH and PROPHECY OF DOOM, as well as other flavors of Death Metal in bands such as CANCER, BOLT THROWER and WINTER. We were really just pulling it all in and with each new blast of inspiration we felt more compelled to move forward with the launch of MUTILATION. But MUTILATION was becoming much more in meaning than just a new band name. MUTILATION was becoming the figurative indicator of us stepping beyond the comfort of our homes and into the obscure and unknown Heavy Metal Underground. We had numerous conversations about it all and with new and accessible bands emerging such as CANNIBAL CORPSE and DEICIDE the prospect of becoming a real band was becoming more and more realistic. It was only a matter of time but we were both nervous about such a transition and in our own personal ways. For the meantime we felt it exceedingly necessary to have a solid plan and an even more solid style. There was much growth yet for us. The coming new year was the year which we both had little doubt we'd be breaking out in one way or another.
January, for all intents and purposes, was somewhat bleak. The winter was proving harsh this month. The snowfall came severely and then the temperature dropped as cold as fuck. But on a positive note, these conditions made great inspiration for me when writing music during the winter months. I had developed a new style which incorporated more minor feeling chords and tonal progressions. These techniques produced a doomy and eerie sound, though it was easy to veer off that tonal path by playing a 'sour' note or chord and in turn change the mood to a more light-hearted one (this being the by-product of playing only minor diads in any given key - I used almost exclusively a minor diad in the place of a standard power chord...this, of course, was before I had learned about the standard power chord...I'll get to that later in the year...). This slight 'wrench in the works' produced a mingling of Metal genre styles. On one hand, with eerie and doomy chords, I was achieving some riffs which were reminiscent of some DEICIDE or OBITUARY riffs. On the other hand, progressions marred with sour notes or chords captured a vibe somewhat reminiscent to Grindcore or Hardcore stuff, which incorporated Punk undertones, giving a less threatening and depressive result. While I wrote, I had no real idea what would be coming for us in terms of overall style, except that it would be Death Metal in nature, so I just wrote and my stuff would take on hints of this genre and that, depending on what was moving me at the time. The result was a varied blend of flavors matched with my very characteristic playing style. Some elements were beginning to become more clear to me in what style I really wanted to develop and I expanded on these writing sessions for much of the winter. It was during these sessions that I wrote the riffs which would become the foundations for the MORBID DARKNESS sound, which would be heard later in the year on our first released Demo. Of course, we still aspired to launch MUTILATION, and it was with this act that we hoped to break out and become a known band. In fact, the launch of MUTILATION was becoming more and more exciting. However, it all seemed to feel so distant in the future at this point. I now regard this as artistic intuition; knowing when your vision and your product are on the same plain. At this point, they were not, but the vision was becoming clearer and the product was getting ever closer to being right.
We did not get together this month, for whatever reason, so I had ample time for other activities. These activities, as usual, did not stray far from the main focus in my life...music. In mid 1990, I began to catalog our recorded works, hand drawing goofy covers and typing out tracks and credits on plain paper J cards which in turn accompanied whatever copy I had of said 'demos'. Since then, our output had expanded quite rapidly, so I took this time in December and January to update the catalog. I redid most of the existing covers and created covers for all the new tapes and incorporated new cover artwork with various clippings of art I could find in various different mediums: magazines, textbooks, library books, etc. After producing a master cover proof, I would have my grandmother make black and white photocopies for me when she ran errands in town.
Whilst in complete limbo from personal musical activities and finding myself able to just sit and listen to music with undivided attention (the times I should have been spend doing my homework, I might add), I began to pinpoint specific elements from numerous albums which ultimately were those I'd hope to expand upon in my own music. I felt a constant urge to draw closer to the more minor sounding riffs I was creating; the drearier and more negative sounding ones. I wanted to incorporate this into our new style and ultimately into the songs which I was preparing for the MUTILATION launch. They took time to develop, and during improv recordings in the coming months I was often apt to balance these despairing riffs with more lighthearted sounding riffs. I realize now that all the music I've ever written in my life, in some way, expresses what's going on inside my being and what is going on outside my being as well. I see now that I wasn't the most positive person during these months, and one might mistake it for depression, but I believe it was simply sadness: for the people in my life who were dealing with heavy situations, for the uncertain future, for blatant teenage angst and all the weirdness surrounding that. I felt angst in many ways whilst trying to decide what was next with this band, feeling at the mercy of the resources available to me and being able only to be resourceful to myself in such medial and seemingly unimportant matters as finding new ice cream bucket lids to replace broken ones on my 'fake' kit. I had no money, I couldn't buy anything, I could not be the adult I wanted to be...like most teenagers, I suspect. So in turn, perhaps blazing full throttle with my doom and gloom riffs felt slightly uncomfortable to me at first, seeming a bit vulnerable at expressing my true feelings, so I countered the 'truth' with the lighthearted riffage, or the 'facade'. I make it seem so dire. The reality was that most of the time while recording our improv tapes, we were both having a lot of fun, so perhaps this is could be another analysis. Perhaps the fact that the 'truth' hurt instilled more of a need to play more feelgood riffs while recording. Looking back with as objective a view as I can possibly achieve, I would safely say that it was both...it only depended on the situation at hand to determine which applied.
We scheduled a visit to occur in early February and our talks had centered around our new improv tape, for which I had many new riffs to test out. Patiently, we awaited our meeting.
We got together on the 2nd of February and upon clearing up our usual small talk and any other minor things we went directly to recording. We had devised a new technique for recording which implemented a 'Y' adapter to serve both lead guitar solos and vocals to run through Clayton's amp and all rhythms to run through mine. The end result of having a microphone run through Clayton's over driven amp was raspy and distorted vocals. It worked well. 'Extinct Within The Void' was the end product...a whopping 90 minute tape which started and ended strong, but most songs in the middle were mediocre. Perhaps of all the 4 tapes we'd recorded without an actual band name, this was the one which spoke the closest to our desired style for MUTILATION. Still, there was more work to be done and I was sure it could be done sooner than later.
At home I recorded a couple of DEMONIC tapes which strayed away from the more lighthearted riffage and focused more on the minor sounding stuff. My opinions of this material were agreeable enough that I ended up following the 'white rabbit' into the bowels of disdain and found the true seeds of what would become the beginnings of the MORBID DARKNESS sound. Of course, at this point I had no idea what would be transpiring in but a few months time. As far as I was concerned, MUTILATION was the big goal for us, but this material wasn't speaking 'MUTILATION' to me. I didn't know, in actuality, what it was speaking to me. I liked it and the more serious and mature my riffs were becoming the better I felt about my progressions. However, a bit of conflict was being created in its wake. If this material wasn't 'MUTILATION' then what the fuck was it? My solution was to keep it to my own devices for the time being, perhaps thinking that this was simply a style I was adopting for my own personal recordings - I had often used a varied style with DEMONIC recordings as it was. So I'd continue to write in the vein I had been before for MUTILATION material.
The bleakness that came over me during this month was by no means life threatening but it was severe. My internal situations were co-mingling with my external ones and in turn I began to act less and less enthusiastic about daily things. My trusty respite was in music, of course, and I spent much of the month engulfed in its beastly caresses. My urges to get home after school and enter my musical haven saw me walking the 2+ miles rather than waiting for the bus, which took longer anyway. During these walks I watched the land swallowed by mist and fog, almost sucking any color from the landscape entirely. This was fitting to my whole outer existence and in turn reflected on my inner existence as well. I sought salvation in any music which struck at this nerve and almost wallowed in it despairingly. It was comforting and allowed myself to reflect on my situation in an attempt to discover what and who I was as a human being. I suppose my sadness had transformed into depression, but I was still productive and functional. Perhaps it was simply the fodder from which artists thrive from time to time, an inspiration through misery - hope through despair.
As it was, I wasn't the only one going through this. Clayton, too, was entering a dark place and I witnessed it increasingly through our phone conversations. Perhaps this limbo wasn't faring to well with us. Perhaps our subconscious retaliations of being without a band name was producing this misery. I tend to think, of course, that this was only part of a larger fundamental problem with us. It went much deeper into our being as friends, cousins and band-mates. Something was on the rise and eventually, much longer down the road it would play an ample part in the future of our band. For now, we could only see a few steps in front of ourselves, and we weren't about to change that, so we talked about trying to make MUTILATION happen on our next visit, with a debut recording to commence in March. We weren't ready, but when would we be? We had been waiting for some perfect scenario to arise, some sign, something we probably wouldn't recognize even if it did appear. Fuck it, let's do it. Our 'in-between' band names phase certainly wasn't producing any great results - that we could see. In reality, it would all play out just how it was supposed to, like any other band who starts out knowing nothing and eventually learning through trial and error and sometimes through great hardships. As our impending March visit was on the horizon, so too were our own insecurities and they would be thrown out on the proverbial table with reckless disregard for our own true feelings, resulting in some very strange behaviors and solutions to arise.
On the first day of March, while walking home from school as I had been for weeks, through the dreary cold mist of February's purgatory - somewhere between coldest winter and a coming spring - a family friend picked me up on his way to work (thanx, Troy) and dropped me off at the end of my drive way. He was a genuinely positive bloke, and upon asking me how things were, probably thought I was suicidal. I was less than enthusiastic about life, all right, but I chalk it up to the many situations of the time. It seemed as though a sadness had certainly crept up on me around this time of year, but when I finally got to my house I was pleasantly surprised with my Metal Disc package. My new found happiness was mildly taken down a couple of notches when I realized some of the cassettes I had ordered had been out of stock and were replaced with the 'alternate selections'. This was always a bit of a bummer, though many great albums were attained in such a manner. One of these was BLASPHEMY's 'Fallen Angel Of Doom', and because I had intended to eventually buy it anyway (Clayton and I had recently discovered Wild Rags Records and a few of the bands on the label were some of our current favorites) I threw it in my stereo first. Listening to the album took me back to '86, when I was 9 years old and first hearing extreme Metal and not being able to quite comprehend all of it. Of course, in this case it was due in large part to the production quality, which incidentally has seemingly become the holy (unholy) grail to all aspiring elite Black Metal acts worldwide. But there was a vibe which was undeniably awesome about this album and upon riffling through the liner notes in the j-card I realized they were from the Vancouver area of British Columbia. This had a huge impact on what would transpire in our band in the coming months.
Somewhere in mid-March we got together. I remember the weather was still exactly the same as it had been for the last 6 weeks...dark, wet and foggy. Clayton had come down with his brother, Patrick, to pick me up. I had just been blasting BATHORY's 'Hammerheart' when they arrived; counter blasting CELTIC FROST's 'Morbid Tales' on the car stereo, loud as fuck! We had talked much in the last couple of weeks and both agreed that MUTILATION was going to have to wait a while more. In the meantime, Clayton had suggested a one-off tape similar to EREBUS, but using the moniker NECROPHILIAC. It was as good a plan as any, and on our first night we tried to belt it out. The result was less than inspiring, firstly because our energy had become quite low and secondly because Clayton had fallen into a severely, utterly shitty mood. We quit while we were ahead, opting to spend the rest of our time together blasting all of our newly acquired music.
A few days later I had taken a bit ill and decided to stay home from school. Clayton had stayed at his father's the night before, so the next day we hung out before he was to return later in the afternoon. We took a jaunt down the drive way to check the mail and I was happy to receive yet another Metal Disc package, but not happy to be walking in a gusting flurry of fucking snow! It didn't last, thankfully, as by this time snow was literally the last thing I wanted to see or think about. Clayton and I sat around sipping coffee and tea as we each listened for the first time to NOCTURNUS's 'The Key', both really enjoying the atmosphere of this different type of Metal. We discussed the future, as always, and decided to retry our NECROPHILIAC one-off the next time we got together in Vernon. Already, we had developed some new gory lyrics for the occasion, inspired in part by acts like CANNIBAL CORPSE, CARCASS and RIGOR MORTIS.
So a couple weeks later we recorded 'Mutilated', which was 30 minutes of pure awesomeness! At least it was far and above the previous attempt, and we had really went off with the dual vocal arrangements, inspired mostly by CARCASS. Song titles such as 'Left To Fester', 'Fetuscide', 'Piece By Bloody Piece' are self-explanatory, and actually pushed our ideas for MUTILATION in a new direction. I recall sitting at home dreaming up song titles for our MUTILATION demo and referencing Grey's Anatomy, I suppose in a gesture to imitate CARCASS titles. Soon enough all of this would change, and for the better, because what we always knew about ourselves was that we didn't want to follow any blatant trends or put ourselves in a position which would compromise our true expressions.
April brought about some definite diversions in the stream of life, both musically and otherwise. Early on, Clayton had come down for a weekend and we fucked around with a 3rd NECROPHILIAC tape. Nothing...no magic, no inspiration, really. So, as we had done in the past, we turned to DSV as a cure-all for our shortcomings. We belted out a 45 minute tape, off the cuff, in the 'garage' (later Tormension Studio) complete with 'fake' drums. The tape has long since been lost, and titles are beyond me, but what the tape became in later years for the sake of historical reference was part 1 of 6 DSV tapes recorded between April and July 1991 known as 'The Richard C. Tapes'; based around a parody theme in all of the said recordings of a spoof on Richard C. becoming our producer after signing us to his label, Wild Rags Records. Total teenage silliness, but we had a lot of fun blowing off steam while recording those tapes.
Another change was the news that Clayton and his mother would be staying the summer at his father's house while his father was away on a road trip for 3 or 4 months. This was a recipe for elation and anticipation which is almost impossible to describe with total accuracy. This was part of our destiny unfolding and being realized...almost at the perfect time. I had set out a track list for the MUTILATION demo, about 12 songs, and had very distinct visions of what they would be like musically...somewhere between 'Symphonies'-era CARCASS and 'Harmony'-era NAPALM DEATH.
Of course, this would be halted by another development during a visit to Clayton's house. He had expressed an idea which he felt strongly about regarding MUTILATION. He suggested we abandon it for a revival of a name we had used in 1990: MORBID DARKNESS. At first I was a bit taken back. Having been patient all this time for our transformation to MUTILATION, it took me a bit of convincing before it all made sense...perfect sense. We certainly had changed our overall style since MORTUARY's end in November 1990, several times, and had seated ourselves into a darker and more sinister sound...perhaps a bit too much to embark on our intended Grindcore odyssey. MORBID DARKNESS seemed like the perfect name for such things. Clayton also approached me with his concern for being a front-man in our new band. I had expressed a need to concentrate on guitar playing and like in our first incarnation as MORBID DARKNESS I figured Clayton could take over most of the vocal duties. His voice was slowly becoming better and I felt mine wasn't. Initially he agreed to the suggestion but at some point he saw fit to express his concerns. He suggested to me, while we sat smoking on his front steps, that I take the lead and front the band. He expanded on his concerns and really seemed a bit unlike himself for a brief moment or two. I decided then that in the true spirit of what and who we were that we would share vocal duties and approach it all in as much an equal manner as was possible.
As April grew closer to a close we recorded another DSV tape in the garage at my place and whilst Clayton was there we decided to call up BLASPHEMY just to express how much we loved the album and to get any info on their available merchandise. The conversation with Black Winds was short but it was the proverbial bridge to our future as a band. We sent out some dough the next day for a couple of shirts and had become quite elated for having spoke to the front-man of one of our favorite new bands. Everything, even seemingly trivial, which instilled inspiration for our future musical accomplishments was celebrated and cherished and in the near future more and more such instances would transpire.
May would be the last month that Clayton would be living in the infamous 'Shithole', before staying within spitting distance of my house for the summer months. We had talked about doing a warm-up tape under the moniker MORBID DARKNESS to get a feel for our new concepts and to blaze our newest path of Metal. I had written a handful of riffs over the months and had developed some of them into great parts for songs. I had also received in the mail part of the Mechanics of Metal guitar lesson program. I spent a few days re-tuning my guitar to the standard tuning configuration (E,A,D,G,B,E) and tried to wrap my mind around the theory, particularly when about to embark on the newest era of our band. I learned a lot in those few days, but it all seemed a bit overwhelming to just change my whole system. After writing a few new riffs and learning some other ones I opted to re-tune my guitar to the old configuration and take what I had learned into my tried and tested system...and it was that much better, though marginal.
The tape failed miserably (a common theme...). All the same symptoms of every other tape which we made high expectations for... There was a glimmer of hope, however. We decided to throw around some ideas together and to write the songs completely before trying to make any further magic happen. There were too many loose ends and unfamiliar transitions when we improvised, and though it brought about a lot of great moments thus far, it wouldn't hold enough momentum to get us off on our new path...we thirsted for something more consistent to fuel us forward. We figured in a few months that we'd have enough money kicking around to enter Hypersound Studio and record a demo properly, in the manner which we had hoped to a year earlier, and with material that far out shined anything we were producing a year earlier. Of course, that aspect hadn't changed; we were young and wouldn't make enough allowance in 10 years to cover the costs of recording in the studio. We figured our talents and our charm would allow for generous donations from members or our immediate family to accommodate our musical dreams...quite an unstable foundation for any band to rely on.
I received my BLASPHEMY shirt early in the month (Fallen Angel Of Doom artwork) with some live photos of the band and a shit load of flyers for underground based bands. I immediately sent away for SAMAEL and BEHERIT 7"s and BLOODSHED 'ZINE (Vol. 2). I riffled through all my newest tapes in search for addresses for corresponding with these acts, in general just to say hi and to inquire about available demos or merchandise. This sort of thing never before seemed so appealing, probably because 'Fan Clubs' didn't seem to be direct links to the bands themselves. Now that we were getting some results, we became more and more inclined to try and contact these bands so we could blah, blah, blah about how much they ruled...which was true, even if our compliments seemed overblown and insincere...it was our ignorance in etiquette. I began to correspond modestly with a few bands and each reply brought more flyers and interest in what was going on beneath the surface of Metal, the Underground; a place we had been looking for since our beginning and a domain we had entered with absurd ease.
Our final recording in the Shithole was a DSV tape called 'Formaldehyde'. It reeked with hilarity and silliness and proved a fitting swan song to our musical activities in that house...as well as a great 'fuck you' to his landlord/neighbor...what noise, what noise...
Early in the month, we had discussed our impending summer and a score of things we hoped to do with our band during that time. Since we had virtually taken over the 'Garage' on every weekend that Clayton had come down, it seemed fitting to be the most suitable place to jam and hang out during the summer. It had served mainly as a storage facility since my father had moved out of it in the early '80s, and by now it had become a hoarding pit. The building was quite suitable for us as it stayed relatively cool during hot spells and it could accommodate our needs for working on music together. I took a few days to clear out a whole load of shit in there to prepare for the coming writing and jam sessions; my fake drum kit, my guitar and amp, all my tapes and my stereo, as well as some posters and magazine clippings. Only a few years earlier, this same building was where we had divulged in our dreams of forming a band, and where we had produced our first recordings. It was kind of a trip thinking about it and it certainly imbued me with a great pride to see how far we had come and how much further we wanted it to go.
During my final week of Grade 8, and amid my few remaining final exams, I decided to record a Sac-tape, under the DEMONIC moniker, as a follow-up to 1990's 'Edifice'. It became 'The Second Cumming', a raunchy and tasteless slab of Sac Metal which surprised even myself in its greatness... Okay, now I'm bullshitting. It only became relevant in the course of our history because around that time I received my first underground Metal 'zine: Bloodshed 'Zine, Issue 2. I recall having to get my report card from school and having no ride into town. I opted to walk the train tracks (which took longer, but was a nicer walk), gawking at the 'zine as I went, sweating inside my leather in the blazing sun, momentarily breaking to pull back a cigarette. I was mesmerized. This was no regular 'zine. It was on a baser level of human interaction and it seemed so accessible. I felt an urgency to get involved in underground Metal unlike any other time I had felt prior to eyeballing this 'zine; a xeroxed confirmation of my destiny. Furthermore, as I read on, page after page and with consecutive steps closer to either heat stroke or orgasm, or both, I viewed the reminder in the review section (I think?) for all bands to get their demos or promo packs sent in before July 20th (I think??) so as to make the deadline for inclusion into the next issue. So began the 'one month mission'.
At this point any ideas of booking studio time and hoping to have money to make it happen were unceremoniously thrown out the window. We had to have our demo done by that date, come hell or high water, and I was going to do everything in my power to make it happen. I threw together a few solid songs, and a few not so solid ones, and began the one month mission of creating the music which we had yearned to create but could not yet identify with. We decided that for extra edge on our guitar tone we'd use Clayton's amp (Squier 15), as it was an actual guitar amp (mine, a Jordan bass amp). We'd have to skip on a bass track as we didn't own one and our fake kit was going to have to do. We'd record the thing like I'd been recording my own tapes: guitar track1, drums + playback of track 1, guitar track 2 + playback of drums and track 1, vox/guitar solos + playback of everything...and hope the mix was okay.
I spent the remainder of June working on the songs and preparing to begin recording them once Clayton had finished moving. In an odd set of happenings which would begin in early July and manifest in various ways into fall 1991, an age was born for both of us, and our naivety would be tested on many different levels.
We weren't two days into July when I decided I was ready to record the first rhythm guitar tracks for about 5 songs. Clayton had moved in and was getting settled while I toiled over the arrangements. We had decided to each do two songs vocally and have one instrumental ('Obscurity' aka 'Obscurum Per Obscurium'...see GODCURSED - Sunrise Ad Subnoctem). 'Return From Death', 'Nocturnus Dominus', 'Ascend From Blackened Skies' and a very rough rendition of 'Into Rites' made up the bulk of the to-be demo. I had made it known to Clayton that I wanted him there while I tracked the guitars, as he had not yet heard all of the material. We packed his gear into the Garage (aka Tormension Studio) and I fiddled with his amp settings a bit to get a suitable sound. About a minute and a half into the tracking of the first song ('Return From Death') a string snapped on my guitar, the A string, if I recall correctly. Faced with this situation today, I'd either grab another guitar, or at the most restring and continue. In those days things were drastically different. We only had one guitar each, and Clayton's was missing both A and D strings (he generally only used bottom strings for his guitar solos, so it wasn't of great concern to him to have a full set on his guitar). We were both beginners at best and neither of us had any idea how to set up our guitars properly or to maintain them with any more knowledge than simply cleaning them occasionally. Neither of us had spare strings, ever. Even when we got double high E strings in a set we'd chuck 'em out. We were typical short sighted teenagers and we were now both living in the 'sticks'. Armstrong had no music stores then and Vernon was eons away when ready transportation was unavailable...the closest thing to transit between cities then was the Greyhound. Anyway, we both freaked out (an audio clip of this event will undoubtedly pop up somewhere in due time) and because we had set up a rigid deadline for this demos completion, a broken string was looking to become the straw that broke the camels back. Typical, really. Looking back on all of these milestone events, I see a pattern of great expectation met with huge disappointment. We never quit, though, and each hurdle, as trivial or complex as it was, only reinforced our need to overcome and become stronger in turn.
It wasn't only the string breaking, either. We walked for hours after that incident and really spilled our feelings out on the table about everything. The songs could be stronger, and we wanted more of them on our debut demo. To us 4-5 song demos were so cliche and we wanted to reinforce our convictions of not wanting to be cliche at all. We knew our style was different and we were beginning to really embrace it. We both felt that we'd have to come in strong and true if we were going to ever get a deal and we wanted that in such a colossal way that it seems almost a distraction as I think about it now.
We decided then that we'd go back to plan A and prepare for a studio demo after all. It all happened for a reason, of course, and our unmet deadline of July 20, if nothing else, had stoked the meager embers of our ambition into flames which seemed at times difficult to control. We recorded more 'Richard C' DSV tapes and a rough MD practice tape but left most of our serious time to write lyrics and new riffs for our impending demo.
We shared some incredible times together during this month and we bonded as brothers more with each day. We'd begin hanging around 1 or 2 pm, and usually walk the tracks into town or away from the property to talk and smoke for hours. I'd generally retire to my bedroom at midnight and stay up until 3 am listening to music whilst writing lyrics or just sitting there thinking. Sometimes I'd write riffs or rummage through old tapes looking for inspiration. All to crash exhausted and sleep until noon...no summer job, no real chores aside from mowing the lawns. I was like a spoiled rich kid in some ways, though I always coveted the more fortunate in many ways. I wanted to be an adult and to fend for myself, like any 14 year old kid, I suppose.
We had each got steady streams of underground demos in the mail and both learned a lot about the UG in turn. As the month drew to a close we were well on our way to establishing a majority of the demos contents, and I had many more ideas on the horizon. Needing a bit of rest from the serious music and knowing full well a studio appointment was probably months away, I decided to record a 3rd Sac Metal tape for DEMONIC, titled 'Basketcase'; based around the 1982 B-flick 'Basket Case', which consequently included sound bytes from the film which I recorded from the TV on a cassette deck at my mom's house one weekend shortly before. Clayton's project was a bit more serious. During the few days that I recorded the tape and went to visit my mom, Clayton decided to record a tape himself, a project which he dubbed as DEMI-SORCERER. The tape was titled 'Sword Command' and was largely based around the Fighting Fantasy books which we had both been into for some years.
In the midst of all our planning and writing and recording, an aura of blackness and misery was beginning to manifest itself within our attitudes and actions. I can't even fully describe it now, having lived 20 years since and developing a very different outlook on life in general. I suppose our adolescent angst was acting as a personality trait in which all things good were bad and vise versa. A vague analogy, I agree, but in a lot of ways those aspects of the past are best left to vagary and obscurity. Much like one tends to remember the lesson of a mistake but often tries to forget the mistake itself. In any case, things became strange in the MD camp on more than a few occasions and they'd get stranger as the summer progressed. But these episodes were nothing new. We were only now being exposed to one another on dangerously concentrated levels. Hanging out on a daily basis was something we had each wished we could do for years, but to suddenly increase the dosage like we had done for a month now was an exercise in over-exposure. Simply put, we needed a bit of space from time to time to become a bit more grounded as friends. Ironically enough, just such a break would be granted to us, though not nearly in the context either of us would have ever wished.
A good week into August, following our usual activities, a situation arose which put a wedge between us for a time. We had, in our frustrations of certain things, beat the shit out of an old wrecked truck which was on the property; smashing windows, mainly, and adding a few dents. We figured the wreck was refuse, after all, and were unknowing of the sentimentality which the truck had to certain members of our family. Days later, when the evidence was discovered, a witch hunt ensued, leaving me with little choice but to confess to the act, though not without naming my accomplice. Needless to say, a shit storm erupted and in its wake was what seemed like the broken remnants of a once strong and progressive friendship: a ruined destiny, an end. How melodramatic, indeed, but in all honesty the foundation had lost its integrity and despite having put our differences behind us only a week or more later, things were a bit different after that. We were on edge a lot more, and behavior was sometimes a bit more odd than usual. We would sometimes get into heated discussions about the most trivial of things, only to eventually simmer down again on a dime. Regardless of these disagreements, we had some fun during most of the month, recording a DSV tape at one point and things moved on again as one would expect.
We got into smoking bones on occasion and had some fun with that. We walked endlessly, sometimes listlessly, without the ambition to do much else, and shared many thoughts on our identity as a band, our lyrical directions, our beliefs... You name it, we discussed it. At times there was some doom and gloom, undoubtedly brought on by our asinine beliefs that people in bands like ours were supposed to hate the world and everything in it (we had a couple of acquaintances via correspondence which may have triggered such views). Later in the month, as dreaded school crept closer and the realization of our eventual separation was setting in, we had more doomy days. But we were still determined to make the demo happen. The studio idea fell through during a phone call to Hypersound Studios for a rough estimate. They had given us some ridiculous assumption as to the number of hours we would need to record our demo in and we were simply flattened afterwards. Fuck 'em, we said eventually, and as the underground demos kept rolling in through the mail we became increasingly aware that production wasn't necessarily at the top of the spectrum here. We decided to record the thing at home and as I continued writing I also dabbled in some new techniques for recording my parts. If only we had a 4-track like any normal band... Many tests failed but I wrote on, hopefully in time to get something accomplished before Clay moved back to Vernon.
Back to school, again. But before this we had a couple of adventures. Firstly, we both got just as sick as fuck of some viral infectious strain...oh, the lung butter that was coughed up in those few days rivals most any other sickness I've had before or since and still brings about some nausea just thinking about it. When our spirits improved a bit, we decided to perform a string of prank phone calls and record them to use as intros for any upcoming DSV recordings. It started out mild enough but soon got out of hand. We started acting more hostile, acting like crazed lunatics and finally Clayton made a call which, to sum it up without naming names, would undoubtedly be traced back to us....it was a crazy call, one which was sickeningly exciting to listen to but equally nerve wracking because it would be a miracle if some consequence would not soon be upon us. We sat drinking coffee and blasted tunes for about half an hour before the dogs started barking. I rose to look out the kitchen window to find two police cruisers pulling up to Clayton's place, where his mother was at the time, probably enjoying her day in peace. Within minutes the fuzz was at the front door; the terror of what would transpire mingling with the tunes still blasting and all 3 of our dogs barking and growling, fighting, all at once in a cacophony of gut wrenching doom. Of course we denied it all, though these officers were no fools, and we were warned that if anything like this happened again that we'd be charged heavily for the crime. That was our final prank call.
There was an underlying sense of melancholia during this month because our summer of 'Darkness' would soon be over and Clayton would be moving back to Vernon. His father had returned from his trip a bit early and the combination of Clayton, his mother and his father was tense to put it mildly. There was also some mild friction between Clayton and myself, much like back in the days of 1989 and 1990, on Sundays when I'd be leaving his house; those days we'd always fight about something...kind of a shield of defense against our own disappointments of our separation. We didn't work on any music together this month, but I did record a Sac Metal tape for DEMONIC, which incidentally included some of our recorded prank phone calls as intros. I was writing a lot of material this month, part of my dealing with my emotions, and a lot of new ideas came about during these sessions. I was desperately attempting to find a way to record which would yield the best possible quality for our impending demo sessions, and in some instances became very frustrated and angry at my failures. A couple of holes were punched in the wall at one point. It was then that a lot of reality came flowing in for me. If music was going to be this large a part of my life, it can't be bringing about these feelings. I mean, sometimes people have bad days, this I can accept. But for something like music creation, I couldn't accept that it was going to make me feel like this all the time. So I took a step back and tried to remember what music really did mean to me. I decided to record all the songs I had thus far wanted to do on the demo onto a tape for Clayton so he could practice them in his new house in Vernon, because I knew that it wouldn't be getting done during this month. As it was Clayton had a lot of lyrics but he hadn't decided which ones to use. So this practice tape was a perfect solution for him to make up his mind.
The remainder of the month was fairly quiet. We took a couple of long walks and did a couple of photo shoots for upcoming correspondence and for the demo j card, flyers, bios, etc. We got really fucking high a couple of times, one time behind the Memorial Park in Armstrong, in a treed area, whilst some event was transpiring across the road at the fair grounds. This was the most stoned we had been yet, smoking my friends low grade leaf. As we stumbled out of the trees, through the park and on our way to Cranes Drive in for some coffee, AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' began playing over the PA at the fair grounds. I was so stoned that I though it was KRUIZ's 'Knight Of The Road'...wow. As we approached Cranes, I expressed to Clayton that I would feel a bit uncomfortable sitting in the restaurant being this blitzed. As it was, dry mouth had come on in a big fucking way...I thought I was going to swallow my tongue! I suggested we get some extra large slushies to go and just get the fuck out of there. We entered the restaurant and immediately I got severely paranoid. As Clayton made the order, I told him quietly that I'd be waiting outside. Of course he was as stoned as I was, and my mumbled statement confused him. I repeated myself a couple of times and he nodded but not like he fully understood. So I pulled out my change to give it to Clayton, who at that moment was going into his pocket for his change. I waited. The girl at the counter, whom incidentally Clayton had a thing for, stated the amount for the slushies. Just then Clayton's hand whipped out of his pocket, clenching his fist full of change. I nudged him to take my money, and he turned around, opening his hand for the exchange. As I began to walk towards the door, I heard Clayton say to the girl 'um, okay, you might have to count this...'. CLANG!!!! Suddenly a huge clashing of loose change bouncing and spinning on the glass counter top and Clayton expelling the words in a very stoned manner, 'Oh, shit!'. He had dropped the entire fist full of loose change from about a foot above the counter. I had turned my head to see the scene just before I briskly hauled ass out the door. Outside I laughed my ass off, definitely to the state of tears and almost to the point of all out weeping. What a day. We both laughed about that one on our walk home.
The month came to an end and Clayton moved back to Vernon, much to my dismay. Though, as it was, some things were meant to be and this was no exception. Life would get back to normal eventually. The main thing was that we get our demo recorded before too long so that we could secure that milestone and move ahead from there. It would be a matter of weeks and we both knew it now for sure. It was going to happen.
Clayton had now moved back to Vernon, and despite a loneliness which at times felt unbearable, I was filled with that slight bit of fervor which sometimes accompanies changes in a persons life. Phone conversations were lengthy again after 3 months and Clayton's descriptions of his new place were attention grabbing, particularly as it was an area of Vernon which was essentially unknown to me. Soon enough I'd be going for a visit and I awaited the occasion desperately.
In the meantime, on a Friday night early in the month, having just reached my mom's house, a knock at the door turned out to be a couple of acquaintances from school. They had informed me that they were going up the mountain to camp for the night and indulge in some under-age drinking. I had no money and wasn't sure I wanted to partake, but upon hearing that one member of the party wouldn't be making it and that I could have his portion of the spirits and almost on a whim, I opted to join.
Wow, did we get shitfaced that night, and I had a really fun time bonding with what was becoming my new group of friends. I talked with most of them at school, of course, but I had become quite a loner outside of school. After a few hours of intoxication and almost unbroken laughter, people started either puking or passing out or both, and suddenly I remembered that I had told Clayton I would call him this night. Realizing that I was not really equipped to camp out for the night, I decided to go for a piss and then just keep going down that dark forest path back to civilization (okay, a 5 minute walk down the mountain back to the trailer park) as quietly and unknowing as I could, so as not to offend my new pals.
I staggered back to mom's house where I fell in a drunken giddy heap on the easy chair, still clutching a bottle of beer. After expressing my new experience with my mom, who was probably mortified at my babbling demeanor, I decided to make my tardy phone call. Clayton seemed less than impressed at my out-of-sorts behavior, though it didn't really bother me that much at the time. New experiences often cancel out any objective criticisms, after all. I don't exactly remember what we talked about, but I'm sure it included much about our demo and how I had been working at length on the music and how much I missed him being around.
A week later I was in Vernon, at the Greyhound station, making another call. This time to Clayton letting him know I had arrived and if he could meet me halfway, about a 15 minute walk. It was an exciting day, to finally see Clay again and to see his new digs and to check out this exemplary new batch of music he had been informing me he'd acquired. I believe we stopped at a White Spot on our way back. He had brought with him a duffel bag full of new tapes which he unveiled in his inimitable way; one at a time, very strategically. When we got back to his new place, we played a bunch of the new tapes and talked fervently about our upcoming demo. I had expressed to him my many failed attempts at producing multi-track recordings which would meet the level of quality I was looking for. I had decided that the best bet was to proceed with my usual techniques and hope for the best. He agreed. We had been waiting to do this for what was becoming almost an eternity and we were both very eager to get it going. Of course, the material wasn't really ready yet...Clayton still had to assign his many lyrics to his share of the songs and there was still the matter of which songs I was going to decide to put on the demo. Despite the check list of things to do, it was definitely getting very close.
The next day we recorded an improv tape called 'Voices In The Dark' just to cut loose a bit and to get back to form. The tape had an unmistakable vibe to it, which was both eerie and evil, or something close to it. There was emotion, however, that wasn't there before. When we stopped doing serious improv tapes in early summer, we had stopped on a low note. The tapes at that time weren't coming across like they had once, which was one of the main reasons we stopped in the first place. This was new energy, new emotion, new inspiration.
Back at home and having completed all of the music for the demo, I was still struggling to develop that recording technique despite having decided to just go for it. I opted to make a couple attempts at mastering it. With a huge quantity of material that wouldn't make it on the demo, I decided to record a full-length demo under a new moniker, CRUCIFER, which would act more as a test recording for our upcoming demo than as an actual serious release. I worked on it for about a week before finishing it up on Halloween night. I was quite proud of the tape, despite its shortcomings in the production area. I went so far as to design and print a cover for the tape, but opted not to release it.
In only a few days I'd be seeing Clayton again and I'd play him the tape, both to show him what I had created as well as to point out some problems which we would have to straighten out if we were to produce something better.
At the first of the month, on a Saturday, I began tracking the first guitar tracks for our demo. As I recall, it all went pretty smooth. I had, after all, been jamming on most of these songs for months and I had passed the awkward learning curves (much to the joy of both my walls and my fists). The CRUCIFER tape had established firmly that we could manage a home recorded demo and the prospect of using my aunt's stereo instead of my shitty ghetto blaster for playback during the second guitar tracking and then again during the vocal/guitar solo tracking, which was a solution we discussed on our last visit, seemed to instill a confidence that the quality would be increased substantially. In hindsight, knowing what I know now and faced with the same circumstances, I would have done a few things differently, but considering our knowledge at the time I'd say it worked out just how it should have.
That night, I ended up staying at my dad's house. I had brought a tape recorder with me with the intent of writing and recording some intros on my dad's Technics keyboard. I managed to invent 'Morbid Darkness' using the organ voice, which was the only one that seemed usable. I tracked it early on Sunday before returning home, balancing my recorder on a book so as to pick up the quiet sounds through the keyboards speaker. I would have cranked it had I not been a bit bashful to play for my father to hear. I always gathered that he disapproved of my involvement in Metal music. I'd learn later that it was my involvement with my cousin which concerned him. I'd learn later, too, that though he never really understood what I saw in the whole thing that he was proud of my dedication and humble accomplishments...and that he would also warm up to the fact that my cousin was my best friend and had been for a large part of my early life.
By the following weekend I had tracked all of the guitars and made a couple of failed attempts at the drums. I couldn't get the sound I was looking for and the microphone I had set up inside my 'snare' (a square sewing stool) was sounding like ass. This wouldn't be the weekend for the demo's completion, but I was scheduled to go to Clayton's anyway. We recorded 'Blasphemous Desecrations' on the Saturday and were pleased with the dark and eerie vibes that were present. Of course, we were a bit pretentious at this time in regards to the whole anti-christian thing. What did we really give a shit about what complete strangers chose to put their faith in? What right does anyone have to covet that type of control? Nazis, I suppose. We were no Nazis, I assure you this. It was simply misdirected angst. It was how we chose to rebel, I suppose. Nevertheless, and despite some misguided input from some of our contacts, we mostly were ourselves, acting like teenage punks and mostly we were just trying to have some fun. We took Metal serious, which is perhaps why we got so dark and moody sometimes. Despite our side project in DSV, we had a great disdain for some of the silly Metal which was surfacing. To us Metal was serious shit, not to be fucked with or treated with disrespect, like some hair-Metal or funk-Metal or the portrayal of Metal heads being clowns or morons. That whole cliche was blasphemous to us.
The following week I played around with the drum shit and by Thursday I had them all tracked. We were collectively quite nervous about releasing anything without a real drum kit, but circumstances outweighed choice so we proceeded, though cautiously. I had often used the mic stand which held up the one small Kimala crash I had as the 'ride' cymbal, simply by tapping it sideways with my drumstick. Its sound was quite obvious to me so I abandoned its use during these sessions. Similarly, the crash cymbal was hella bunk, and I chose to omit its use as well, instead accenting any crash hits with my hats, which were at least passable. The toms (5 of them) were all empty buckets but at times they were almost reminiscent of roto toms or octobans or something (or whatever Ventor was using on 'Pleasure To Kill' - ie. the intro to 'The Pestilence'). There was no kick drum so I simply tapped my shoed foot on the tiled floor to achieve a snappy bassy sound, on some of the slower riffs. Of course, the frequencies which I heard while recording couldn't be translated with the crappy tape recorder microphone that I used.
I arrived at Clayton's on the 15th, equipped with my guitar and amp and a tape containing the first guitar and drum tracks. That night we toiled over vocal and lyric arrangements. My lyrics had been done for months, and though Clayton had more than enough lyrical material it was in quite a random manner. Although he had a few references to the music he would be singing over, the final drafts of those songs were going to be slightly different. We spent a few hours sorting it all out and I helped him to assign any given lyric to its corresponding part. Finally, once this was finished, we wrote the 'Deicidal Execrations' lyrics together. It was quite organic. I wrote one line, and he'd write the next.
On the 16th we got up at noon (or later) and headed downtown, I believe to walk with Clayton's mom to her part time job - it was detrimental that she NOT be in the house while we record...in fact if she were there it wouldn't have happened, because I'm still not sure she knew we would be using her stereo in the recording process. On our way back we both wondered whether our one-take vocals would work. We were in a strange place between anticipation, determination and fear and we were desperate for a distraction. As we approached Clayton's street we noticed a couple of young ladies checking us out from the mall parking lot which was across the railway tracks from us. There seemed to be a lulling flirtation in the air and as they walked towards the mall and we walked towards Clayton's house it was quite evident to us with their constant glances and smiles that they wanted us to follow them. Look, our imaginations were exceptional, which didn't help, and the fact that we both had blue balls from checking out some skin mags the night before made this situation one of great temptation. Thankfully, as we watched them enter the mall and almost sadistically glance back smiling one last time, we snapped the fuck out of it! Believe you me, if we hadda taken the bait it would have ended in failure anyway, believe it! Besides, we had four hours to track this demo and it was our job to do...the ladies would have to wait (and wait, they did...). Back at Clay's we set up in the living room and began our tests. The first session, the second guitar tracks, took about an hour. Then we moved on to the vocal and guitar solos track, which took a bit more than an hour. Afterwards we rifled through the takes to sequence the final master. We realized we'd have to cut one of the songs in order to bring the playtime to 30 minutes. Look, we hated when we bought demos from bands and the 16 minute playtime was at the first side of a 90 minute tape. We wanted to offer a tape which you didn't have to rewind a million times or fast forward for 3 minutes so you could get to the repeat on the 2nd side of the tape. Flip-repeat...that was our goal. We each agreed that 'Witchdom Worship' was perhaps the weakest song vocally, as by that time Clayton's voice was quite tired.
After we were done, we sat comfortably at the table over coffee and chain smoked while playing back the finished demo. We were jubilant! Ecstatic!! Proud. Any flaws were transparent to us because the moments which were magical far outweighed them. The real saving grace was the use of Clayton's tape recorder and his mom's stereo system. Of course, when she arrived back home, we were reprimanded for having hot boxed the house with our constant smoking and having made the place smell like a sweat shop.
The following week I did the cover layout and near the end of the month I hooked Clayton up with the masters. We were in a big rush to get the tape and our interview out to Mike May (Infected Voice 'Zine, SARCOMA, later ABOMINANT) as well as a couple of other close friends. Before the end of the month, I had gone back to Clayton's to finish the interview, to type it out and to also type out a lyric sheet.
In a strange twist, I felt a pang of depression moving in near the month's end. Perhaps it was in sensing that our relationship would be changing because of our new accomplishment or maybe it was completely unrelated. I do know that Clayton had become slightly more cold, having been pissed that it took me a bit longer to come up with the master cover print than I had hoped. This coldness would progress. In another twist, I was given a drum kit by my uncle Colin at the end of the month. The stipulation was that I had to keep up on lessons for a year. It was a blue sparkle Westbury 4 piece with no cymbals but the hi hats. I used my other hi hats as crash cymbals. I thought I was a pretty good drummer before and was humbled to realize that adding a kick pedal into the mix was going to create a learning curve. Nonetheless, I was happy to announce to Clayton that our second demo would feature real drums. That was tomorrow, however, and we tried to relish in the excitement of today.
Early December was a blur of promotional activity, including a few interviews and send-outs of the demo for prospective reviews. During the early month we had decided to embark on a photo shoot which would take us up some foothills which we had planned to climb for some time now. We were especially attracted to a treed crevice which we could see from town and which in the fall had appeared very dark and atmospheric. There was very little snow this year, so the hike was fairly easy. After the very steep climb at the start, a path traversed around the berth of the hills and led to the areas which were out of view of town. It was quite interesting to see this part of Vernon, and felt it was a bit more like my home in Armstrong, where you could easily escape civilization when it was necessary or when one needed some space. We spent hours up there, scouting out new backdrops for our Metal poses, being especially drawn to anything that appeared dead or evil. It was a great new experience to wander out of town and off the grid into a space which almost seemed as though it was there just for us. We filled up only a 24 roll of 110 film during the shoots but felt we had captured what we needed for the upcoming promos and shit. Speaking of shit, I distinctly remember being panged with the need to shit about an hour into the shoot. One can often tell the body to hold off for a bit, but due to the fast food breakfast I had eaten that day my ass was being more than a bit insistent. Look, I was not at all opposed to the idea of dropping a coil out in the bush, but there was literally nothing in sight which would serve even remotely as ass wipe, and I firmly believe in wiping. Peanut butter ass is something I vaguely remembered as a toddler - and those days were over! Instead, I pinched and refrained as best I could without shitting myself and slowly my bowels became numb enough to their discomforts that we could continue. When we returned to Clayton's, I headed straight to the shitter and had the longest shit I can remember. Anyway...
Back home, some developments were afoot. My uncle Daryl, on my mother's side, had showed up early in the month and had stated that he'd be staying with my mother and sister, I suppose to help out, as by this time my mom was getting more and more affected with her condition. In a bitter twist, my uncle, too, was showing very prominent symptoms of the disease, sometimes seemingly worse than my mom. I was doing my best not to think of the implications of all this, though it creeped in at times. How could it not? But at this point I felt I had more things to offset realities such as these. I played the demo constantly, very proudly, but also to fuel my need to continue writing. When I finally began spacing out playback of the tape to a more normal basis, I began writing the odd riff for what would eventually be material for the second demo. I for one was eager to proceed to the next stage, having had relished in the pride of putting out the first demo for what was becoming more than enough time before moving on.
Clayton's health was still a concern and he was being scheduled for surgery in the coming months for his collapsed lung issues. Though it was not overtly manifesting itself as an obvious drawback I believe he was deeply affected by his problems. I believe his concerns morphed into anger and eventually into resentment towards the world. I suppose I was probably doing the same exact thing with regards to the concerns of my mother, my concerns for everyone, in fact. We each ended up hating God and blaming religion for everything. This may be a stretch, but there was obvious hatred for something. It was easier to hate something which was already established than to use that energy to create our own beliefs and to live according to our own concepts. Looking back on this topic seems a bit vague to me now, and I trust it was because some things were changing between us. It was no overnight thing. We had seen a few things differently of late and it became somewhat of an evolution, is suppose. Clayton was becoming very taken by all things underground, making many new contacts and attaining many new recordings. Though I, too, was making contacts and enjoying the new demos and sharing my fervor with fellow musicians, I couldn't help but feel it was in some ways a bit of an escape from not only the sad aspects of my life but also the necessary responsibilities I had with my family and with my education. Of course, I did not act on these impulses immediately. I kept saying to myself that it was a necessary sacrifice in order to get somewhere in this business. I often sat in class at school, failing exams and being reminded of overdue homework, and just saying to myself, 'yeah, well I'm sure Quorthon didn't give a fuck about failing a math test' or 'when we score a record deal I can just drop out once and for all'. These of course were attitudes that didn't stem from my love of Metal or music in general, but from my internal angst and my rebellion against the injustices I felt were all around me in this life which I was leading and it seemed to compound more and more as I got older. I probably should have talked to more people about some of the things which were crawling around in my mind and in my heart at this time but it honestly felt like no one would have listened anyway. I felt that having a bad attitude about all this shit was enough armor to block out the real heavy shit in my life. I suppose it worked to some degree, but with a few consequences I have no doubt.
On a more positive note, I was liking my new drum kit, and I played it a lot; to the dismay of my grandparents, and no doubt close neighbors. I decided to record a new 30 minute song during my Xmas break using most of the new riffs I had written this month. I had read a review of CATHEDRAL's debut album and was taken by it. The prospect of something very doomy and apocalyptic was just what I was feeling right about now, so I opted to call the recording 'Forest Of Equilibrium'. It had instilled a vision and a concept which was so fitting it felt like fate. I hadn't seen the cover art or heard the album, but I knew that I would eventually. For now, and considering this would be a personal recording anyway, I felt it wasn't a total sin to lift the title. I recall recording it on some dollar store blank cassette (not a good idea at all) and having to dub it onto a more decent tape before it ripped. The atmosphere of the tape was exactly what I wanted for our next demo, perhaps with a few tweaks, and I was confident that our upcoming recordings would take us places in every sense of the meaning.
Shortly after recording the tape and having spent a few days with Clayton in Vernon, I became very ill. I recall feverish dreams and deathly sickness. Perhaps this was a personification of the state of coming events between me and Clayton. It couldn't be predicted. But we both had developed ways of thinking and ways of dealing with things which would eventually drive wedges in more than one facet of our relationship. For the time being, however, thoughts were on a new demo and on hoping for the best in our future. Reflection often unearths the obvious, but in many ways we each had suspicions of what may be. Every time we hit a wall we built a new wall around it, one which would hide the old one. Eventually the walls would collapse and we'd have to rifle through the rubble and detritus in hopes we'd find ourselves again or at least the hidden path which we had once embarked upon. 1992 would bring many such things and a lot of those walls came crashing down on and around us. And though that path was again found it was very, very many years later and after many life changes.
This concludes my coverage on the monthly activities of MORBID DARKNESS. In 1992, we became less and less active together recording very few improv tapes and eventually we weren't talking much at all. I've opted to continue these historical recollections in years rather than months, as monthly activities would often not warrant much at all in the way of blog material. I will continue to post new blogs monthly until the story is done and will offer a conclusion in the end.
After having released our first recorded effort even close to being worthy of release, we entertained the activities which would follow, and a lot of them became real. We did interviews with some underground 'zines and began receiving the odd order for one of our demo tapes, usually by very enthusiastic and passionate underground Metal followers. I immediately began working on new material which was direct lineage from that which I had been toiling over for the past 8 months or more. I had found my groove and it was a personal-best level of output which was coming forth.
I got news early on in the new year that Clayton would be going in for surgery, at last, for his failing lung. I could not help but take it all in on a bit of a negative bend. My mother was deteriorating (though minimally when compared to later years) and that whole situation with her brother also being around now and showing evident symptoms of the same dreaded disease brought unto my reality an amplified feedback which was at times unbearable. And now this; my blood-brother to go under the knife and perhaps he might not make it out! It was certainly a horrific thought, and many cigarettes were smoked out in the fog and the cold, during those few days when I couldn't talk to him, in the shadows and in the dark corners of the property...pondering what may or may not be. What a ghastly glance into one's future - and it flung me into a bit of a depression - but after hearing of the success of the surgery, my melancholia moved away from all that and into my own introspection...many questions of my own life and the future on a personal level came into being and I laid on my bed most nights in the early year listening to music and just wondering about what was going to happen in my life.
My recorded efforts were mainly done early in the year. The first was an EP type tape which contained a song I had written solely dedicated to Clayton called 'The Ascending Sorrow, The Ascending Frost' [aka Sorrow In Frost] with rehearsal cuts on the second side. I also recorded some other DEMONIC tapes, which included some cover songs as well as containing a lot of the new material I was putting together for the second demo. In March, after Clayton's own work with DEMI-SORCERER, we decided to record an improv tape, under the moniker of APOLLYON SUN. It wasn't anything much like our past material, perhaps more inspired by Clayton's solo stuff and maybe ORDER FROM CHAOS (which I was personally digging via a 'Stillbirth Machine' advance tape I got from Pete) than anything else we had done before.
By late spring I had written the second demo; about 60 minutes worth of material, what I considered to be great material, in fact. Something by this time was astir, however, during phone calls with Clayton. A great deal of negativity was tormenting him and in usual fashion, I was feeling the brunt of it in our conversations. He couldn't seem to just come out and say what was bothering him, rather, he'd express it through some sort of metaphor or some rabid philosophy which often left me feeling opposed in some way. At some point I stopped calling him. I did not want to be unkind to him or to leave him in his despair but I couldn't relate with him on many levels any more - or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I didn't want to. We each had our share our hardships but I no longer wanted to let them fuel my existence, which is what seemed to be coming across in recent conversations with Clayton. I was molting my despair and depression and finding new friends and activities which felt less threatening or contrary to my own well being. I began to jam with new friends, even entertaining the idea of starting another band with them. By this time I had adopted standard tuning, which left the material for the demo obsolete, as I hadn't yet figured out how to adapt it to the standard tuning. 'Enter The 7th Sacrificial Domain' would never happen: and it seemed all for naught. I sold my first guitar [Hondo Fame Strat copy] to a friend and soon after bought a white Morris Hurricane, which was the exact model as Clayton had [his in a black finish]. We briefly got back into hanging out during the summer, and even recorded a DSV tape in the process. Things were not the same as they once were, and as one should expect given some of the things which were happening, but something really felt off, like some magic was absent and was unsure if it wanted to return.
For the remainder of 1992, we talked very little. I had moved to my father's before the school year started and he cared little for our relationship or our activities together as a musical act. My move resulted in more than a few awkward situations when it came to many things in my life. I hadn't lived with my father for at least 5 years and one might understand the strangeness of such an arrangement. Of course, this did not stop me from communicating with Clayton from time to time or me from caring deeply for him and missing him a great deal. Clayton had been assigned to exclusive band correspondence as I was needing to concentrate more on my education. My grades were horrible last year and I was warned about hold backs and all that shit if it continued. I definitely missed writing to the few friends that I had made over the last year and a half, but I hoped that Clayton could continue where I left off. It certainly didn't look as if any recorded efforts would be released this year so I set my attention to a solo project named PENUMBRA and began to write what would eventually be a demo but which never went beyond rough tracking. I also began writing for a 30 minute song, the likes of which I had been recording for the last 3 years in December, but this too fell short and did not make the production stage. And though MORBID DARKNESS was not officially defunct during this time there was a lot of doubt and the determining factors would have to be the ones which were mutually apparent. I'm not sure, upon reflection, what really was apparent between the two of us. We were embarking on our own paths now, without one another to be at the other's side during any shit storms, and we each came out with different scars, different wounds, different views. Eventually, next year, we'd repair our bonds and proceed on our path together and so would continue a roller-coaster ride on almost every level fathomable.
Early 1993 consisted mainly of myself writing material for my PENUMBRA project. I got quite into it as this was a new leaf turned in terms of style and approach. I was still struggling slightly with the new tuning system, almost like learning how to play again. I departed with my trusty Profile distortion pedal, for a measly $25, as I was expecting to attain a new amp; an actual guitar amp. However, due to a misunderstanding with my grandmother, whom I had worked for casually to earn the cash for the amp, the purchase was delayed and I was left to write my material without amplification. This didn't really matter that much, in hindsight, because I write quite a bit nowadays in the same manner, but the idea of not having an amp and playing Metal guitar was beyond awkward for obvious reasons. I recall walking out to my grandmother's house on Sundays and cleaning up my grandfather's face. His Alzheimer's had gotten quite bad and he'd lost his ability to shave so he'd grow it out all week and I'd come by and trim him up on weekends. It was a strange way to re-bond with him, looking back, as we were for most of my childhood like best friends. As his condition had developed I felt a great disconnect from him, as if he truly didn't know me or I him. During these weekends as 'the shaver' we were on a similar plain again, if only for a few months. He'd accumulate quite a growth over a week, so I'd practice on him, giving him a handle-bar mustache or leaving a goatee on him sometimes. Dreaded diseases then put you in check when he doesn't recognize or trust you one weekend and it's all over again. On my walks home, on the tracks, I'd hum out my new riffs and try singing some lines, usually in the twilight during that mild portion of winter, and I'd be taken back to years past when I'd walk to my mom's house doing the exact same thing.
Clayton and I began to talk again at some point during spring, after I had acquired my new amp, a Hughes and Kettner 30 watt combo. He had said that he had made some deal with a European indy label [Dog Eat God Records?] to release a 7" EP. After conversing for awhile it seemed genuine and I began working on new material for the project. PENUMBRA had dwindled into nothingness as the new material took form, due mainly to the fact that I no longer needed it to exist. If MORBID DARKNESS was truly about to converge again I needed not to fill any void. We had hung out a few times and rekindled our friendship as much as we could. I had felt that the newer material was somewhat disconnected from the material of the past and in my pondering had come to the conclusion that we should start anew and move forward with a new theme and incorporate new ideas. MORBID DARKNESS was not just our band, it was rooted in our friendship and our common bonds. Though we were still friends even after the conflicts things were different on many levels now, and I thought that it would perhaps a healthy idea to direct our new found friendship in a new found way. I suggested to Clayton that we change our name to CRIMSON REQUIEM, and to take our lyrical themes into a different realm - one involving little or no religious tones at all. At first he was quite receptive. I had sketched out a logo which was well received and he seemed to be on the same page when hearing the new riffs I'd written. It wasn't a week when he called to back out, however, stating his and his mother's concern for this change and so we went on, after all, as MORBID DARKNESS - with some of the said thematic changes. In hindsight, this was probably for the best. Or was it? I will touch on this debate later, when things are more clear to the reader.
My mother had some problems mounting early in the year. Due to some nosy neighbors in her area, who probably though she was a drunk - a common misconception when observing one who has Huntington's disease - she had been served an eviction notice from her pad. She would move back into town, which may have suited her needs better anyway, into an apartment we later named 3545 DIVE. I liked this because it brought her closer to me and made it easier for me to spend time with her. The walk from town before this was quite lengthy and often discouraging, particularly during the winter months. Now I could be there in 5 minutes. I went there often, feeling the need to escape my father's and step mother's functional alcoholism. I also enjoyed unabashed phone calls to Clayton here, where I could freely talk about things which I felt were held back in the presence of my father and step mother. I remember John Greene coming up in the conversation more than a few times, a guy who had started working at Ebeneezer's - which was a mainstay for Clayton's and my used tape collections. John had taken an interest in Clayton and was enthralled by Clayton's constant ramblings concerning MORBID DARKNESS.
During the latter part of the year Clayton had told me that John was going to front the dough for us to record our 7" in the studio - the same studio, I'll note, that we had wished to record in back in 1990 and 1991 but could not afford. This certainly added some fuel to the proverbial fire and put me on a writing stint which I hadn't seen since late '91/early '92. I recorded a few rough tapes for Clayton to hear and perhaps write lyrics for and maybe work out a couple of solos. He seemed to like the material and these compositions seemed to be on the path to becoming our long awaited second demo. Actually, it turned out that the 7" deal fell through, and this opened up more freedom with song length, etc. I had worked during most of the summer at a poultry packaging plant, so this would help to fund the demo as well. At some point, Clayton busted up his Morris Hurricane bad. It had taken its beatings over the years but had finally come to its end. I had bought the same guitar in a white finish a year ago and as I had some cash around now decided to present the guitar to him as a gift. I took his as a future project [which incidentally never happened] and went out and bought myself a used guitar at Raven Traders, the same pawn shop I bought the Hurricane a year earlier. It was a Profile, which for some reason I thought was a good thing. The neck was like half cooked fettuccine, flimsy as fuck, though it did sport DiMarzio pickups. A part of me wished I would have bought this thing for Clayton and kept the goddamn Hurricane. It served it's purpose, however, and we ended up recording a DSV tape called 'Is Anything Worse?...'. This tape served as probably one of the best DSV tapes ever made and really lightened the mood for us. We also recorded a MORBID DARKNESS improv tape, titled 'Underground Warriors' [at least, I think this is the tape and title I'm referencing, as was suggested to me recently by Clayton during a phone conversation - two other unknown titles were recorded in 1994 and 1996 which could in fact be the title in question]. We certainly still had something together, albeit something a bit different than before, but it seemed to work and for the most part we were getting along.
The day before school (almost in the same manner as last year) we moved into a new house in the Gardom Lake area past Enderby - roughly half an hours drive from Armstrong. I attended a new school in a new town. What a change. I didn't much care for being further away from my family again and most weekends I was taken back to stay an my mom's or sometimes into Vernon to hang with Clayton. I made some good friends in Enderby, most of which I haven't seen or talked to in ages and whom I do miss. I never could open up 100% to them, though, it seemed. I was always of the mind that this new town shit would be temporary and that I best not get too attached to it, which in hindsight is strange indeed. As it turned out it was only temporary in some ways, but I made great friends and lost a couple of them [RIP Otis and Chris]. Enderby had established a new facet in my musical journey, however, with Evan Panchuk. We became friends in Music Composition class and began writing and recording class projects together on a cheap 4 track recorder. It was a good outlet to have besides MORBID DARKNESS and it opened me up to experimenting with new influences on current material. I played some of our tapes to Clayton, who of course laughed or scoffed, but which I paid no great mind. We continued writing and recording up until my departure from Enderby in early 1995.
At some point in late 1993, we had established that we'd be entering the studio some time in early 1994, so we decided to let off some steam by recording a rehearsal tape. After X-mas, I began laying the rough backing tracks on drums and guitars. I had been given a Boss MT-2 distortion pedal which beefed up the weak overdrive channel on my H and K amp and I was really feeling that vibe. I decided to quickly learn a handful of old Metal songs to include on the b-side as bonus covers. Days later we convened at 3545 DIVE to track the main guitars and vocals live. After recording 'Rehearsal 12/1993' we embarked on a late night photo shoot around town, with my sister Jessica shooting many of those photos. We ate a turkey dinner that night and discussed our future. It all seemed exciting again and it hadn't for so long that I simply relished in it as long as I could. Things would change eventually, as nothing stays perfect too long, particularly where this duo is concerned, but as I truly do believe - it all happened for some reason.
There wasn't much going on musically up until March, after it had been established that we'd be entering the studio in April. We got together as often as possible to practice the songs together, mainly to put the final touches on lyrical arrangements and vocal ideas. These sessions were not our brightest moments, as Clayton was having some real issues with which tonal and stylistic direction he would take on the demo. We were both somewhat nervous about our upcoming studio experience, though on my own part the nerves were more of excitement. Clayton's nerves were more of anxiety, as he was very self-conscious about the outcome. The 'Reh 12/93' tape had caused some issues for him, being that his voice was passing through one of the cheapest Radio Shack microphones money can buy and into a Jordan bass amp, no less. One cannot have any expectations when dealing with such a sound reproduction. But we were fairly green in these areas and more often than not it was the act itself which made the experience in these times, as we didn't make many recordings together these days. Unlike the days of old when we were recording at least once a month, often twice, and our major focus was on the final result, these days it was great just to share the experience. We had released the tape, however, and I can understand how this may have created some insecurities. My voice was equally shitty on that recording, though I didn't much care.
Despite the anxiety, we eventually found our groove. At that point we were mostly looking forward to the studio stints and experiencing what it was like to reach this milestone in our evolution. In a rather unorthodox twist we would first record all the guitar tracks and bass track, and of course this was my area of anxiety. I knew these songs like the back of my hand, of that I had no fear, but I was concerned about the scratch tracks which I created at home, playing the riffs along with a tempo beat produced by my dad's Technics keyboard. We entered Valley Recorders to work with Lawrence Gashler and Jeff Long on April 2, a Saturday, to put down the first tracks. After the basic set up and tests were finished, I began tracking; over 2 hours of constant riffage and another half hour of bass tracks. At this point we played back some of the tracks to get a basic sound mapped out and though the guitars sounded fucking great the experience was a bit lack-luster due to the fact there were no drums or vocals. Not something I wasn't used to by this time. This would come soon enough. Over the next few weeks we got together once or twice to finalize some vocal arrangements. Everything seemed in order and we awaited our next session. Of course, the next session would be another bout of work for me as I'd be laying down all the drum tracks. I still had my old jazz kit but with hi hat cymbals and nothing more. I had no double kick nor would I have known what to do if I did. There had been some speculation that perhaps the drums could be programmed after the completion of the guitar section or perhaps that a studio kit would be available at the very least. For whatever reason this fell through and I was left to figure the rest of it out. Thankfully, my Music Composition teacher at A.L. Fortune in Enderby, Joan Southworth, was a super nice person and offered that I borrow some cymbals and stands from the music room drum kit (a Pearl 5 piece with mostly Sabian cymbals) over the weekend that we'd scheduled for tracking. I jumped on the offer, though opting to only take one crash and a ride with accompanying stands. I took the school bus at this time, and there was no appropriate baggage I could use to transport a bunch of hardware and cymbals. Besides, I hadn't had crash cymbals on my kit since I'd beaten the shit out of my old hat cymbals, deeming them unusable. To use a real crash cymbal was fuel enough to get me all fired up about slamming on the drums.
After getting the gear back to my house that Friday, the 22nd of April, I set it all up and prepared to practice my drum parts for a few hours, or as much time as I could before my dad and stepmother got home from work. It all came together naturally and I was fairly satisfied with the parts I had developed. In a predictable twist of shit-luck, on my last run through of the songs I put a fissure in my old and weathered snare head, which had been stacked with pieces of old skin and duct tape to dress old splits and dents. It didn't matter so much, as I simply applied more duct tape and it sufficed. Minutes later I noticed something weird going on down south and as I glanced down at my foot I noticed the kick beater was flying back and forth through a huge gash in my kick drum head. I uttered some black oaths as I threw off the headphones and picked at my brain for some piece of Macgyver-ism which would save me from this situational stab-hammer. I patched the skin with a piece of old skin I had kicking around and amply layered pile after pile of duct tape over it. The kick drum takes some serious punches and I didn't need this shit happening again in the studio tomorrow. A new skin may have seemed to be the real solution, and today it would have been obviously, but any money I had was going towards the studio bill. I had already sold my fucking guitar [I hated it anyway] after finishing up the guitar sessions in the studio to produce funds as it was. No, this was how young musicians with no money did shit. It seemed to work.
On the 23rd I met Clayton at the studio and we unloaded my kit from the trunk of the courtesy car my dad was driving. His truck was in the shop and I really felt that the kit wasn't even going to fit in this tiny little car. I set up the kit in the studio with haste and we went through some basic board set ups and sound checks. Afterwards, Jeff and Larry told us they'd need an hour or so to set up all the tracks so Clayton and I walked to a nearby coffee shop and drank our fill. There was a great deal of nervous excitement flying around and we simply babbled endlessly until the zero hour came. The sessions went fairly well, though my biggest complaint would have been the headphones I was using. They weren't sound cancelling cans so the live kit slap-back was loud as fuck. In turn I kept asking that the volume in the cans be increased, which lead to even more eardrum agony. I lost my timing in 'Warfare'; losing a single quarter note during the bridge section. It wasn't that big of a deal. All the skins held up and I recall Lawrence referring to the sound of the snare as 'someone slapping a leather saddle with a wooden boat oar'. It sounded better than a vinyl covered sewing stool, was all I could think at the time. We tracked the vocals last, sharing the vocal booth during all tracks, as we had some doubling sections. When all was done, we sat in the control room listening to Jeff setting up the rough mix process. At some point Larry and I went outside and blasted a spliff. We talked music for awhile and decided to go back in when we got the beckon from Jeff inside. I recall distinctly the feeling of almost overwhelming accomplishment as I sat there really stoned, gulping down grape Gatorade and really digging the sounds which were coming out of those Peavey studio monitors. That first glimpse of studio production was unbelievable, just so enlightening. To hear all of these elements of our own music with such clarity and definition felt just fucking great. We were on top of the world, the two of us, much like we had been upon playing back the 1991 demo. This time, however, we were looking beyond that scope - seeing possibilities becoming realities.
That night we bought a bunch of beer, played Sonic the Hedgehog and got right pissed. We had to wait a couple of weeks before getting the final mix so we prepared our liner notes and other such things for the j-card as we repetitively played the rough mix we had. Clayton had become close with Stevo Dobbins of IMPETIGO over the last couple of years and at some point Stevo had provided him with a sketch which we could use as cover art on any future release. Though the artwork really didn't represent anything on this demo, Clayton was insistent on using it. I had no real objections; it was after all a demo, and in the future when perhaps we'd have Stevo do album artwork for us it would be more in line with specifications we'd provide for the album in question. This demo was a means to gaining the necessary connections we'd need to start putting out albums. I think that perhaps having a sketch done by Stevo was part of that equation. I had never talked to Stevo but I had a great deal of respect for the friendship he shared with Clayton. Eventually, sometime in May, the first copies were sent out to close friends and to prospective 'zines. We also put a bunch of copies in Ebeneezer's for John Greene to endorse and pitch to Metal heads when he worked there. The future looked great for us and as we awaited the repercussions of this demo we simply rested easy in thinking that doors would eventually begin opening for us, one by one.
For the next couple of months, as I was without a guitar, I practiced my chops on my friend Mark's bass (which I also borrowed for the studio sessions) and borrowed Clayton's guitar for a week or two at a time to work on new riffs. I had also finally got my driver's licence and had begun to take great pleasure in bombing around the back roads in my green Skoda, blasting the demo. Some distance eventually became evident between Clayton and I. We talked regularly but something was askew. I had been spending a lot of time with friends, smoking lots and lots of herbage but my love and drive for music never waned. During a couple of visits with Clayton, there seemed to be a bit of coldness which was not really new but which had been absent for some time. Sometimes it seemed to be all about business with him and on more than a few occasions I felt like I wasn't even part of it. I expressed this to him and for a while it would normalize. But it fluctuated throughout the remainder of the year. At some point we had established that a fall studio session would be in the works. Whether John Greene was actually going to invest in it was beyond either of us at this point but I suppose we had expected it. When we all talked together, he seemed to still have an interest in us and in our musical exploits, albeit at times there was a real tongue-in-cheek vibe in our conversations. I suppose we thought that someday he'd manage the band or have a part in our management. Ah, the naive young bands and their naive ideas about how the industry works. That was us.
At some point, Clayton had called with some exciting news. He had befriended a couple of tape traders in eastern Canada over the years and one had turned him onto another young underground rager by the name of Dale Roy (later, of Canadian Assault 'Zine and Autopsy Kitchen Records). They had corresponded fairly often and eventually Dale had told Clayton of a friend of his who wanted to try out for the band. In a few days the two would be coming down from Alberta to do just that. We knew we would need to find some musicians to round out the band and though we had no real game plan this seemed like a very suitable time to start. Dale and his friend Sean arrived and hung with Clayton that night. The next day I came into Vernon to meet them for a late breakfast. These guys seemed like some really cool cats and we all hit it off pretty well. I drove us all back to my house in Enderby where we would do some jamming and Dale would do some video taking. I suppose Sean's first reaction was 'what the fuck is this drum kit?'. I know it would have been my first reaction. It was the same kit I used in the studio - minus the cymbals. He seemed a bit thrown off but he was willing enough to play on it. We went through the demo songs as well as a few covers. It was fun enough, but there was no real magic. In the end, I suppose it wasn't what we had envisioned. It must have seemed like garage band hell, with our crappy kit and our dinky little practice amps; to any professional musician this would have been a joke. We weren't pros, though, and this was all we really knew. Time would change this but until then we used what we had, despite how crappy or insufficient. We would have loved to have heard what Sean could do on a real kit, and I believe we actually entertained that very idea. We all hung out for the rest of the evening getting a bit high and talking about music and other such things. We never talked to Sean after this, but Clayton and Dale remained friends for many years afterwards. He had provided clips of those few days to us on a VHS tape, which gets fairly regular circulation even now.
As the summer came to an end I found an Ibanez guitar sitting in a pawn shop in Vernon and decided to hit my grandmother up for the dough to buy it. Much to my amazement she agreed and I soon had a new guitar with which to belt out some seriously needed shredding. I had by this time written most of the material which would be appearing on our 'Ascend' EP, which was tentatively scheduled for production late in the year. The songs were much more melodic and groove based, which seemed like a suitable evolution, and a new version of 'Ascend From Blackened Skies' was arranged and seemed to fit into this newer style. Again, I got a call from Clayton about a guitar player named Damon who wanted to jam and try out. We humored him and after his mother rented a local hall for the night we met him there to check out his chops. He certainly could play, probably better than myself, and we all shared similar influences but there was some element of disconnection which was impossible to ignore. Perhaps a dash of attention deficit disorder? I really can only speculate. We decided to turn him down. There was no magic, none that was obvious anyway, so it felt like a bad idea to bring him on board. He would remain an acquaintance of Clayton's for a few more years but I never did see him again. At this point there was a strange hopelessness which began between us. Discouragement would maybe just touch on the spectrum of the feelings we were having by this time. My herb use at this time was also increasing beyond my own comfort zone and began to erode at my esteem and my zeal. Things were also getting very serious where my mother and sister were concerned. My mom's disease was getting worse by the week and my sister was becoming overwhelmed by it to the point that she was simply running away at any opportunity possible. I too was running and at some point I felt it was time for us to stop and deal with this thing, or at least try to.
Late in the year, Clayton and my relationship was growing more distant than either of us liked. Our EP was obviously not going to materialize and Clayton had had more than a few disagreements with John Greene for reasons which are only up for speculation. I continued to write songs quite regularly, partly to get my mind off the drama, partly because my style was becoming more and more interesting to me. Soon most everything in my life would focus on the things that really mattered and all the grey noise outside of them would be shut out for a time. Soon dark era dominoes would be set up and knocked down, one after another.
The early part of the year was quite dismal. I had entered a bit of a depression of sorts near the end of '94 and by this point certain elements of my lifestyle were beginning to take their toll. School was going downhill fast and my relationships with people at school were becoming rather distanced. I was often missing my bus in the mornings and then walking into Enderby half way through the day after realizing that skipping school wasn't helping anything in my life. Herbage was becoming my escape and I found myself wanting to pull some Brian Wilson shit and to just vanish into my world of music, such as it was. I was certainly writing a lot of material and whether or not it was material for MORBID DARKNESS was questionable. By this point I had no real idea where we were going as a band and probably less idea where we stood as friends. The shelving of all the material for the prospective EP, 'Ascend', was a bit of a flashback to the 'Enter The 7th Sacrificial Domain' demo, wherein material just got ditched when it became evident that the final production wasn't going to happen. For any artist there are throwaways from time to time, but for me it felt like an unnatural act; to devote and dedicate such time in molding songs from my core just to have it all left in some suspended limbo, never to be experienced by anyone - a theme which still makes me cringe just a little.
In all honesty, my memories of Clayton during this period are vague to say the least, as I had alluded in the previous blog to the fact that I had developed tunnel vision which focused on my greatest concerns. Now, this by no means would suggest that my care for Clayton was non-existent. Quite the opposite, in fact. My problems were mounting in a huge way, though, and often when with Clayton our activities were less than exciting. Clayton had developed a fixation with video games at some point in 1994 and this slight obsession of his was expanding to the point where it was something of a daily thing for him. This was good for him in some ways. It gave him something to do besides correspondence for a band that had essentially lost its momentum - yet again. On visits with him we'd try playing these games together, though I had absolutely no interest in them beyond initial 'that's cool' or 'wicked scenery' and often would retire and just sit there and watch him play - often in a state of 'what in the fuck is happening here?' and 'is this going to get any better?'...themes which were by now becoming quite repetitive. Music between us wasn't as important a thing any more, at least not to any great extent where passion and obsession were concerned, and often it was touched on in conversation but quickly brushed to the side for talk of other things.
In February my grandfather had died, after a long battle with Alzheimer's. This was a tragedy, as he was at one point in my life like my best friend - when I was living in the country as a child and playmates around that area were hard to come by. He had been in a state for some years which was unlike the man I had known as a child and it was hard to visit him for this reason. It was painful for the whole family, but what I hadn't really considered at the time was that, at last, his worries on this world were finished. A couple of friends from Enderby had also died in a tragic car accident not long before this [RIP Otis and Chris]. I recall being at school the following day, in my own cloud of darkness, going out to the smoke pit on break and no one was there...a strange parallel to my own inner feelings. An acquaintance of mine gave me the news, and I was just in awe at how fucked up everything around me was becoming. I had been at my mom's house the weekend before and shit there was in a state of complete chaos. I was so upset by how my mom's disease was progressing, and at such a time where everything else seemed to be revolving downward into a pit of blackness and despair that I suppose I had a bit of a breakdown. I stayed home from school one day and got as stoned as I could with my humble bit of herb and I just sat there in my room tripping out to some song - BATHORY'S 'A Fine Day To Die', in fact - and just pondered what life was becoming for me. I had to turn the music off at one point and really focus on what I was going to do with my life. After some deep reflection and solution I concluded that I'd have to move out of my dad's and in with my mom and sister. It was the only way I felt that I could really help anything there. I proposed the idea to my dad and stepmother, in tears, because the truth of the matter was that I didn't want to ditch my dad either. He and I had grown closer than ever in the last couple of years and this decision felt like a betrayal to him. He had his own problems and no doubt had just as much conflict within himself where my mother's disease was concerned, not to mention the future implications, which at this time weren't so much at the forefront of my own though - but they soon would be. This period of my life was one of the worst, one of two eras which I often don't think about too much.
After moving to my mom's and transferring schools, I felt slightly better about my life but not a lot. I struggled to attend school in Armstrong, despite the fact that I was back with the people I had grown up with and much closer to my old friends. I soon found myself sleeping in and eventually not bothering to show up at all. I felt that I needed to be with my mother as much as I could be and I'd rather see my sister go to school while I dealt with the problems of the disease. Everything was becoming strange to me and at times I felt like I was really fading out of existence. Time with friends was becoming uncomfortably quiet and strange. I noticed that I was becoming increasingly paranoid while getting high - thinking that perhaps I was developing Huntington's Disease, at times thinking that I was starting to twitch and entering panics which were indescribable. This was when I began pondering the implications of this disease and at times I thought deep and hard about what would become of me if I was in fact showing signs of it.
In a strange way, my growing distance from friends and family during this time lended itself to providing a lot of inspiration to write songs, and as I expelled my inner turmoil into these songs I began to feel more and more like a light was in sight and that I'd get through this shit after all. There were some unsavory elements which were around us on a daily basis which I won't elaborate on, but I became very good at ignoring them and focusing on the shit that really mattered. It took some months but I eventually had written over an hours worth of adequate material for a new demo. Clayton and I had gotten together a few times during this time and had actually reverted to our old improv ways, recording 3 tapes during the spring of '95. One notable advancement was that Clayton was using riffs and songs he actually wrote on a couple of these recordings. His playing was definitely progressing and though his usage of repetitive figures sometimes sounded obvious, he was absolutely on a path to writing some great music. Of this I was sure, and the fact alone that he could someday offer his musical input to our songs was really exciting. These visits were sometimes bitter sweet, though, and my apprehensions while recording some of these tapes can be heard quite readily. Clayton's own ideas for vocals and lyrics were shifting into a place which made no real sense to me. There were, of course, some great moments, in which he displayed a real effort for himself to be versatile, flexible and fresh. He had taken an interest in the old-Heavy Metal/Power Metal of the early to mid-'80's [ie. OMEN, ATOMKRAFT, EXCITER] and seemed intent on including this re-found influence in our new songs. He attempted some Power Metal vocals on one of the said tapes, and believe me, he was no J.D.Kimball. His off pitched, half-hearted high screams were akin to DSV tapes from the past and the fact that he was being at least somewhat serious about this direction had me in a real state of worry. All of the said concerns were mounting in some strange way and it was time for me to revert to within myself to find some sort of root to something which was real and desirable again. This fueled my inspirations for going forward and through a series of deep meditations and very lucid and symbolic dreams I came to peace with most of the conflict which had been dragging me down for the last half dozen months. I had also quit smoking grass, which helped with my focus and my coming to terms with reality.
During the late spring, early summer, I developed the concept for our newest demo idea. I decided it should be called 'The Pondering Sun', as a bit of an acknowledgement to the problems which I had overcome in the process of writing it, between March and May of that year. I tracked all the guitar parts on my uncle's old Akai 4 track reel to reel during a stay at my grandmother's house in June and took the rough tape to Clayton's house one day while I was driving my grandmother around in Vernon on errands. I remember knocking at the door and being quite openly unwelcome by his mother. By this time, for whatever reason, her hatred towards me had become unmasked and very hostile. For what, I can only now guess. But it all came down to the band and my apparent part in destroying it. I look back on this with a clear sense now, because I was doing anything but destroy this band - I was acting responsibly to keep it alive...not through correspondence and promotion, but through intense song-writing. Of course, the fact that perhaps I wasn't writing material that catered to certain individuals in Clayton's circle of friends or even to Clayton himself may have seemed a failure - but it certainly wasn't mine. I made things very clear to everyone I talked to that I would cater only to myself when writing - it was and always would be my expression, after all. That was what I thought was the thing which made us unique. Clayton seemed impressed by the tape and even said that his lyrical and vocal ideas were coming along when I talked to him sometime afterwards. However a great darkness was opening itself in his life, no doubt as conflict between he and his family escalated. I often walked to my favorite phone booth during the summer months [at that time I had no phone] with great ideas of things to discuss and plans to lay only to be completely discouraged by his depressed demeanor. I couldn't blame him then nor do I now. I cannot express resentment towards him about what he would go through later, either. I can only express how much of a contrast it was for me to talk to one who had essentially lost his lust for life after I, myself, had essentially just found mine again. It is strange that only months before the tables were slightly turned. We always tried to help each other, with varying degrees of effectiveness. The real concern in my own mind was that perhaps we couldn't keep up with our own expectations any longer. Perhaps we were trying to fool ourselves, afraid to admit the defeat which had come in the form of deep personal issues. Perhaps we were shelving demo upon demo for a reason. I see now what I either didn't want to see back then or what I truly couldn't see. The sad truth was that since late 1991 or early 1992, we were never on the same plane together - we were never in unison and this example of such disharmony had become the norm for us on almost every level. We have been on a mutually varying uncommon ground ever since.
In the late summer, I first saw a local act which was making waves around, named INSLAYN. All of the guys in the band were acquaintances of mine [I would later play in numerous acts with the drummer Jeremy Machlachlan between the years 1998 and 2008] and I had been invited to jam with them on a few occasions. My loyalty always lay with MD, though, and this fact as well as the fact that I had still been in the process of dealing with a lot of my demons kept me from taking them up on their offers. They played on the side of Rose Swanson mountain, using a generator to fuel the electronics and a huge bonfire to act as a light show. I was floored. I had no idea that these guys were this good. They played a style of Thrash Metal that I only heard on tapes of bands that I grew up listening to. That exposure to something which was alive in my own community really opened my eyes and allowed me to tap into some very new inspiration. Almost immediately I began writing new material, most of which was directly influenced by that performance. Talks between Clayton and I had come to be random and often quite unenjoyable. I surmised, therefore, that our work on 'The Pondering Sun' demo probably wouldn't happen. Before this I had tried to put together a plan for what we'd do after recording the demo, and had asked my friend Chris Procyk if he would care to perhaps learn the material and possibly play some gigs with us. Those sessions ended rather quickly, both for differences of artistic opinion and a lack of concrete plans to make gigs happen at all. It would seem that the demo would become yet another footnote in many unfinished projects that we had started, or I had started, but did not finish.
During the fall I continued writing, though for what real reason I wasn't sure. I was still alive with the inspiration that INSLAYN provided for me, having had seen them play a couple more times since that first time on the mountain. I figured Clayton would exit his slump eventually and recapture the fire which was now lost, so I embarked on laying out a concept for a new demo idea, which I tentatively titled 'Refuse'. By the time I had written the material, Clayton had agreed to come to my place in November so that we could go over the songs and do some practicing. I showed him the riffs and gave him some lyrics to follow along with. This was the strangest session we had ever had. We tried going through the first song several times before realizing that it wasn't working - our dynamic was dead, our comfort together had waned and the saddest part was that I was on fire with determination and drive and Clayton was simply cold and indifferent. I couldn't figure it out. I certainly didn't press my disappointment on him and tried very hard to be as understanding as possible. I knew that something was gnawing away at him from inside, and even had he been completely honest to me about it all I probably still wouldn't have totally understood it. Inside I was sure this was the end of us, certainly as a band and more than likely as friends as well. I never wanted that. Despite how hard it became to make any music together I never wanted to sacrifice our friendship for it. He didn't stick around long that day, not even long enough really to talk about what was going on. Another footnote, it seemed, would be made of my efforts.
Afterwards, I often took long night time walks thinking and thinking about what it was exactly I was going to do. I wasn't depressed like a year earlier. I was determined to figure out how to move forward and I needed lots and lots of thought to achieve this. I had considered asking Jeremy Machlachlan and Dave Blithe of INSLAYN to join up with us to try and make something happen, but when I presented this idea to Clayton I got little to no response. I was at a loss as to what I would do. After many lonely wanderings around town I eventually realized that if I wanted to put any of my music out it would have to be alone. I often felt that being a two-piece was demanding and now being a one-man band would be even more of a challenge. Looking back I realize that it was only my aspirations to get signed and to start touring that made anything challenging. I now put out my own music on a very regular basis, and though things now are much more accessible and available to home recording artists it still comes down to the common paradigm. My new views on being a musician and producing material have less to do with a final result [record deal, subsequent touring] and more to do with the moment and with my expressions and visions. I conceived two projects EYEFACTOR and ANGST; both of which never did materialize. They allowed me to focus on something which did not require the activity of anyone but myself. The real shit sandwich concerning the last year was that I was going and going but I was moving nowhere. I felt I was being held back, and for what? I did not truly know. Looking back I realize that Clayton was inadvertently holding me back. I'm sure in my heart that he didn't intend that. He was simply battling with his demons and I was being very patient while he did. It wasn't much to ask, after all, as we were still blood brothers despite our distance and disagreements. In wanting the band to succeed, I was also inadvertently holding myself back. My drive was fierce, but I wasn't prepared to venture out alone as I would many years later. I would wait if I had to but there was a growing fire within me that just wanted to be in a Metal band that was an active one. By the end of the year I was deep into writing EYEFACTOR material and I was excited about it. I had no real plans, besides perhaps picking up a 4 track recorder and producing the demo by myself, but this wouldn't happen anytime soon and I found myself in between things again, waiting for something to happen - maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't.
Early on in the year I toiled away at my new project EYEFACTOR, which was essentially a very heavy alternative style, mixing my influences of TYPE O NEGATIVE and TIAMAT with Thrash and Death Metal. This newer inspiration was exciting for me as it would require me to do some stuff which I was not comfortable with at all, such as singing some passages with cleaner tones and at times implementing very mellow and very non-Metal approaches to playing the guitar. In my heart it was still very much Metal and I'm sure that some liberal thinking listeners would also agree. Throughout these writing sessions life was somewhat uneventful and though my sister and I had terminated some of the trashier elements [individuals] which had sometimes been present in our household, the vacancy lent itself to some other elements making their way in. Good old displacement. My sister had become friends with some people which I simply couldn't stand and in her need to be sociable and having a very hospitable nature these individuals were a constant presence in our home. In turn, I took some time away from that masque of alcoholic belligerence and stayed at my grandmother's house for a time during the early spring. I truly don't recall speaking to Clayton on any grand level during this time. He had moved from his old place [the Noctabide] across town after some very turbulent happenings which took place regarding neighbors, among other things. I visited him more than a few times during the first half of the year and though the future of MD was opaque we still tried to enjoy each others company. I really have no precise memories of these visits, except for flashes of activities or themes which I still recall. I know that Clayton had began to write some obscure and descriptive passages of literature which he had expressed an interest in publishing eventually. He had been reading more of late and had become very inspired by this. I read some of his passages and though I myself didn't read that much at this time in my life his vision and mythos were quite apparent and effective. I don't recall much musically between us, other than a mediocre DSV recording which we did sometime in late spring. I don't recall much about Clayton's playing and, as I had alluded to his improvements in both playing and writing before, I am unsure if it progressed much further.
In the early summer months I had become taken with some new music and thematic directions and was interested in sharing this inspiration with Clayton. I had developed these ideas of going into the wilderness with Clayton and just trying to write some music together - no amps or electricity at all, just the two of us shelling out some material on our guitars in the most primitive fashion possible, a few days at a time. The tentative title for this new conceptual release would be 'Zenana'. It may have come off as some hippie shit but in essence it was an idea that sparked some new inspiration for what we could accomplish together. In my heart, though I knew it was unorthodox for any Metal band to do such a thing, I felt that this experience would bring our focus back to each other, to our friendship and brotherhood and that in the end we could flaunt a demo or an album which came into being through the sheer conviction of making experiences and memories which we would never forget. I felt that all of the attempts up to now which had fell by the wayside since the '94 demo may have been a product of the separation which was evident in the creative process. Perhaps in bringing our two expressions together we could achieve the style which we both desired. I scouted out some spots around Armstrong which might act as suitable camp-outs for these sessions but it wasn't until Clayton and I took a hike up the hills around Vernon [the same ones which we hiked up in '91 for a photo shoot] that I realized this would be the perfect place to pitch a tent and write this material. We walked for hours beyond where we had ever been previously and found some very interesting places. People came up here from time to time, usually to walk their dogs or to hike and, by some obvious evidence we found on our explorations, some people came up here to drink and fuck.
I began planning a weekend which we could begin our writing sessions up there and looked forward to it. I was working a part-time job again this summer so I had to really work around this new schedule. When the time came I had my uncle drive me into Vernon as I had some gear which would have been uncomfortable to juggle on the Greyhound. I went into Clayton's with a feeling of excitement - of which I hadn't felt for some time when regarding our musical activities. Much to my chagrin, Clayton was acting very like and/or unlike himself and was basically throwing every excuse at me for not doing this thing at this time. I perhaps came across a bit harsh when expressing my disappointment to him but I really thought I could see through some of the bullshit. This was something which I felt shouldn't be put off, like it was the saving grace of our friendship and our band and the idea of just shrugging it off like every other thing we'd done over the last 2 years was unacceptable. I soon realized that he wasn't really on board with any of my ideas. I wished he had just been honest with me. Anger and temperament brought about words from his mouth and gestures which would not be soon undone and I ultimately left - in a state of confusion and sorrow for having finally seen the side of Clayton which would mark the end of our friendship as we knew it...perhaps forever. Of course, I realize now that things were at work which I didn't understand - couldn't understand - and it went beyond mere personality conflicts. There was sickness afoot.
In some strange twist, though which I can now look back on as par for the course, Clayton began sending letters expressing his strong and often disjointed views, often in a hostile fashion and eventually, after our mail-war had escalated to where his mother even sent me a hateful and spiteful letter, we terminated our friendship in a very mutual 'fuck you'. Something about this was not right. We had quarreled in the past and I had seen my share of inappropriate conflicts but this was different than anything before. Years later I would realize that things weren't right for awhile and that things would never be right again, if you take my meaning. Clayton was battling things within himself which he had only touched on in conversations, vaguely. Perhaps I wasn't as understanding as I could have been. I chalked it up as continued teenage angst or just a very poor and worsening attitude. I got the feeling during conversations with him that he was taking the wrong stance on life in general. I really didn't take into account his bouts of depression and his problems with doctors and the affects which manifested themselves in his behavior. Confusion? What was really going on was unbeknownst to me then, perhaps it still is in its entirety. What I did know was that I was both relieved and sad that this had happened. On the one hand I was glad I wouldn't have to hear another one of his dreary phone calls or read another schizo letter but on the other hand, obviously, I had just lost my best friend and I would miss him dearly. I wish I could have helped him on a level which was effective, and despite my failed attempts I suppose it all comes down to one having to want to help himself before he can be helped effectively. Who knows? It was a messy time and I would have some real soul searching to do for some time afterwards.
My mother had become very ill. She still stayed at home with us and she tried to go about her daily life but a couple of times during the year she had taken spills and broken some bones in the process. She had fallen from a couch and broken her wrist one night while trying to close the window. Months later she took a fall while walking our dog and broken her ankle. She was a tough woman, and her determination to do her daily things overcame these injuries in almost every way. I recall some conversations with her, or attempted conversations, which left me in a place of real sorrow. I always looked back to June of 1990 when I had first seen a glimpse of her inability to communicate, though at that time it was more of an unwillingness. The circumstances were different, of course, but now after all these years I was feeling the same unsatisfying sense that I was talking to someone who could no longer reciprocate. What a dreaded disease, Huntington's, one of many, but the one which to this day I am seeing and which still invokes the same sadness and helplessness to act upon in any other way but to accept it and make the best of the time I have with those who are fighting with it on a daily basis.
I had found myself in a strange place after breaking off my nearly life-long relationship with Clayton. My brother was absent and I needed someone to act in his stead. My relationships with other friends became more regular and we all enjoyed some great times together. For me it was refreshing to have people to talk to and in some cases to play music with. I am forever indebted to them for even considering to spend those times with me in this time of my life, when most everything was a challenge to the heart and the soul.
Most of the remainder of the year was spent casually writing new material and studying new styles of playing. I had abandoned EYEFACTOR and was just writing what came to my mind in whatever state it happened to be in. I began to consider making amends with Clayton at some time, and began to plan out a recording project called 'Megaliths and Monoliths', which would essentially be a collection of re-recorded songs from our 1991 and 1994 demos as well as reworked songs from our formative years of 1989 and 1990. I also considered recording some covers as a bonus. I had conceived this elaborate release to be offered up as a multi-cassette package and would try to fund it myself. This was a real shot in the dark at this time of my life as I had no money nor did I have access to recording equipment which would be a suitable vehicle for the project. Nevertheless, I worked on some of the material and a few of the reworks in my abundance of free time after my summer job had ended and held on to the dream that someday we could put all the ugliness behind us and go on as friends and brothers.
Though technically MORBID DARKNESS was dead now, I felt in my heart that it wasn't. Be it denial or actual intuition, this thing was never realized to its full potential and all the hard work I had devoted my time to - my sanity to - would not, could not just be buried unborn like some mindless abortion. Looking back now I was fervent in this mindset and it would take a few years to push it into a territory for which it could begin to flourish - and then many more years for this to come to fruition. Talking with Clayton years later, it was quite evident that his views and beliefs in the band were very similar. He also put a lot of work and energy into this band. For him, perhaps, it was the only thing going for him. I've had conversations with him since then that left me thinking that perhaps he had put too much stock into something so volatile and uncertain. I certainly had my time in dreaming about things which could have been. He is very proud of his work in the band and he should be, because without him and his personality this band would never have existed. It was a partnership which went awry, but which still glowed as a burning ember in both of our hearts. In fact, in his heart he may have believed that MD would never be truly dead, that it would surpass conventional existence and prevail - as the sum of the two parts which were the both of us together. I feel this way to a large degree myself and in my heart MD will never be truly dead, either. However, some things must come to an end, some things will never come to pass as we might one day have hoped. My fervent belief is that MD was meant to be as it was in its beginnings and that at some point it was supposed to end - to make way for a new leaf to be turned for both Clayton and myself, either collectively or individually. By the stubborn nature of us both it never played out like that...at least, not in the way that it would have for most. The sum of all the parts of the real MORBID DARKNESS were so disjointed and fragmented, mixing friendship with art - entertainment with expression, that it was truly predestined to be broken.
So ends the initial incarnation of MORBID DARKNESS...
...years later we would consider rekindling this act, and for a moment it seemed like it would work, but to fool oneself from such an obvious outcome would be an exercise in absurdity. The key to any act is activity and it became very apparent that this would be an element which could not be integrated to its necessary extent. As a result, some more years later, I decided it would have to be put to rest properly, in accordance with my own views and because I couldn't speak for Clayton or act on his behalf, I did it alone. Whether it would be done right or wrong would be irrelevant, but that it would be done in a way which would hopefully shed light on the collective workings of this complicated act, and perhaps open new doors in the ongoing passageways of my personal workings were both of paramount importance. Renewal would come at a price...but with a trade off.
Written, revised by Christopher Ian Shaver 2010-2016. All rights reserved.
Loose Demo-ography, mostly consisting of jam tapes:
REEK HAVOK 'Don't Ask' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) August 1988
REEK HAVOK 'F.O.D.' Tape (Status: Lost) September 1988
REEK HAVOK 'Slumlord' Tape (Status: Lost) December 1988
HAVOK 'Last Respects' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) September 1989
HAVOK 'Find The Arise' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) October 1989
HAVOK 'The Incubus' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) November 1989
HAVOK 'Easy Prey' Tape (Status: Lost) December 1989
HAVOK 'Stroke Of Mercy' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1989
HAVOK 'The Entity' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1989
MORBID DARKNESS 'When Hell Freezes Over' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) January 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Enthronement Of Theocracy' Tape (Status: Lost) January 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Infernal Devastation' Tape (Status: Lost) January 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Infernal Message' Tape (Status: Lost) February 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'For Whom The Bells Toll' Tape (Status: Lost) February 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Three Days Of Darkness' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) March 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Slaughter The Remains' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) March 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Live At The Deck' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) March 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Wide Are The Gates' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) April 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Immortal Way Of Live' Tape (Status: Lost) April 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'Cry Of The Hangman' Tape (Status: Lost) May 1990
MORBID DARKNESS 'The Mourning After' Rough Writing Tapes (Status: Original Recordings Lost) March-May 1990
DEMONIC '1' Tape [Side 1 only] (Status: Lost) May/June 1990
MORTUARY 'Practice' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1990
MORTUARY 'Mortuary' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1990
DEMONIC '1' Tape [Side 2] (Status: Lost) June/July 1990
MORTUARY 'Practice 2' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1990
MORTUARY 'What Will Tomorrow Bring' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1990
MORTUARY 'Blitzkrieg' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1990
MORTUARY 'Griffiren' Tape (Status: Lost) July 1990
MORTUARY 'Necronomicon' Tape (Status: Lost) August 1990
DEMONIC 'II' Tape (Status: Lost) July/August 1990
MORTUARY 'The Forest Of Torment' Tape (Status: Lost) August 1990
MORTUARY 'Terror In The Midst' Tape (Status: Lost) September 1990
DSV 'Call Of Command' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) September 1990
DEMONIC 'Edifice' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) September 1990
SATANIC SLAUGHTER 'Unknown Title' (Status: Partially Preserved on Disc) September 1990?
DEMONIC 'III' [Part of Side A only] (Status: Lost) October 1990
DEMONIC 'Rough Demo Sessions' (Status: Preserved on Disc) October 1990
DEMONIC 'III' [Remainder of Side A only] (Status: Lost) November 1990
MORTUARY 'Rot In Hell' Tape (Status: Lost) November 1990
DSV 'B.U.M.' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) November 1990
MORTUARY 'The Final Attack' (Status: Lost) November 1990
EREBUS Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1990
DSV 'B.U.S.H.' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1990
DSV 'F.A.B.U.T.A.' Tape (Status: Lost) December 1990
DEMONIC 'The Frozen Spectre' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1990
JUDGEMENT OF THE SOUL Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1990
TEMPORARY INSANITY Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1990
DEMONIC 'III' [Side B] (Status: Lost) January 1991
EXTINCT WITHIN THE VOID Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) February 1991
DEMONIC 'Fates Presence' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) February 1991
DEMONIC 'Twisted Cross' Tape (Status: Lost) February 1991
NECROPHILIAC 'Necrophiliac' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) March 1991
NECROPHILIAC 'Mutilated' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) March 1991
NECROPHILIAC '3' Tape (Status: Lost) April 1991
DSV 1 and 2 of 'The Richard C. Tapes' (Status: Lost) April 1991
MORBID DARKNESS 'Practice' Tape (Status: Lost) May 1991
DSV 3 of 'The Richard C. Tapes' (Status: Lost) May 1991
DSV 'Formaldehyde' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) May 1991
DEMONIC 'The Second Cumming' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) June 1991
DSV 4-6 of of 'The Richard C. Tapes' (Status: Lost) June 1991
MORBID DARKNESS 'Practice Tape' 2 (Status: Lost) June 1991
DEMI-SORCERER 'Sword Command' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1991
DEMONIC 'Basketcase' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1991
DEMONIC 'Abstract Farts' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1991
DSV 'Speed Kills Muthafucker' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) August 1991
DEMONIC 'An Obscure Vision...' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) September 1991
VOICES IN THE DARK Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) October 1991
CRUCIFER 'Crucifer' Demo (Status: Lost) October 1991
BLASPHEMOUS DESECRATIONS Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) October 1991
MORBID DARKNESS 'Morbid Darkness' Demo #1 1991 (Status: Preserved on Disc) November 1991
DEMONIC 'Forest Of Equilibrium' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1991
DEMONIC 'The Ascending Sorrow, The Ascending Frost' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) January 1992
DEMONIC 'IV' Tape (Status: Lost) January 1992
DEMONIC 'Memorial Memoriam' Tape (Status: Lost) January 1992
DEMI-SORCERER 'Sorrow And Frost' Tape (Status: Unknown) February 1992?
DEMONIC 'Haussibut Arise' Tape (Status: Lost) February 1992
DEMI-SORCERER 'Goat Feast' Tape (Status: Unknown) March 1992?
APOLLYON SUN 's/t' Tape (Status: Unknown) March 1992
MORBID DARKNESS 'Enter The 7th Sacrificial Domain - Rough Tracks' Tape (Status: Lost) February-April 1992
DEMONIC 'Forests Of Equilibrium' Tape (Status: Lost) May 1992
DSV 'Question Mark' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) June 1992
DSV 'Is Anything Worse?...' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1993
MORBID DARKNESS 'Underground Warriors' [?] Tape (Status: Unknown) ? 1993
DEMONIC 'Rough Morbid Darkness Demo Sessions' Tapes (Status: Preserved on Disc) Summer 1993
MORBID DARKNESS 'Rehearsal 12/1993' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) December 1993
MORBID DARKNESS 'Return From Death' Demo # 2 1994 (Status: Preserved on Disc) April 1994
DSV 'Unknown Title' (Status: Unknown) Summer 1994
MORBID DARKNESS 'Rough Ascend Writing' Tapes (Status: Preserved on Disc) October 1994
MORBID DARKNESS 'The Last' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) March 1995
DSV 'The Final Demo' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) April 1995
MORBID DARKNESS 'Finale' Tape (Status: Preserved on Disc) April 1995
MORBID DARKNESS 'The Pondering Sun' Rough Sessions (Status: Preserved on Disc) July 1995
MORBID DARKNESS 'Refuse' Rough Sessions (Status: Preserved on Disc) November 1995
EYEFACTOR 'Rough Writing' Tapes (Status: Partially Preserved on Disc) Spring 1996
DSV 'Unknown Title' Tape (Status: Lost) Spring 1996?
MORBID DARKNESS 'Zenana' Rough Writing Tapes (Status: Partially Preserved on Disc) Summer 1996
MEGALITHS AND MONOLITHS 'Rough Sessions' (Status: Partially Preserved on Disc) Fall 1996
See CSHIVER PRODUCTIONS link for post-1996 demos and albums.
ALL OFFICIAL MORBID DARKNESS RELEASES/LINKS ARE PROVIDED BELOW.