With their new album Volume Two: Mendacium, Edmonton, Alberta-based death metal duo, Tales of The Tomb is looking well beyond the surface. Released last September, the five-song EP investigates narratives behind certain government cover-ups, the lies they consistently spew out each and every day, and the atrocities that are carried out in the dark, out of view of the public eye. Tales of The Tomb pride themselves in making music that will not only shake your bones with its hardness and intensity but will also make you think, taking into consideration certain things that you, perhaps, never before did. There’s a whole other version of the world out there and the band is here to shed some much-needed light on it.
Together now since 2013, Tales of The Tomb are most inspired by supernatural horror, conspiracy, and the harsh realities of real-life terror. Their music is the product of 1990s death and murder metal which serves as the foundation from which they built off to shake up the extreme music scene. The band is perhaps most well-known for their grinding blast beats and menacing, sinister-sounding growls. Volume Two: Mendacium is the long-awaited follow up to the group’s 2015 debut, Volume One: Morpras.
Not only is their music unique, but Tales of The Tomb are not satisfied with being ordinary in any regard. All you have to do is look to the artwork to Volume Two: Mendacium to see what we mean. For our latest edition of UnCovered, we spoke to the band about the EP’s 9/11-themed artwork, why they chose to make this event the focus of the cover, and how this event ties into the songs on the album.
The main concept behind your new EP’s cover art, two planes being puppeteered into the Twin Towers, is pretty self-explanatory, but may you elaborate on the image?
“Whether you believe it or not, the theories are there that say the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks (or at the very least knew about them) and used them to distract the public from over a trillion dollars missing from the U.S. budget. Also, to push American citizens towards hating the Middle East and support more invasions and attacks on the Middle East. When our artist Tony Midi showed us the first concepts of the artwork, which had the puppet hand, we thought it was a good display of these theories.”
What made you want to tackle the topic of 9/11?
“Originally Tales never planned on focusing on or doing much with conspiracies. We had some songs already written, that sort of fit into that category but it wasn’t a big focus at the time or the reason we wrote those songs. But, we were offered to play the final show of a ‘terrorist metal’ band Villainizer and we wanted to have a song that would play to the crowd since Villainizer was pretty known out here in Edmonton and they were expecting a pretty big crowd. We chose 9/11 because it was a topic that Villainizer had tackled themselves with songs like ‘Twin Tower Two Step.’
We also felt that the events that happened at 9/11 fit well with what Tales of the Tomb is about; reality is scarier than fiction. Whether you believe any side of the argument, what happened on September 11th would horrify anyone. Tales does not condone or support the acts in the events in our songs. We try to objectively retell details that you can argue may or may not have happened to remind people that there is real evil in our world no matter how much you try to ignore it or try to avoid it; and that you should question everything.”
Who came up with the idea for the artwork? Was it a vague idea the artist ran with or something more concrete?
“Unlike our first album cover, which the band thought out meticulously, we really had no idea how to even begin bringing all the concepts of our songs into one piece of cohesive artwork. So we sent our artist Tony Midi descriptions of all the songs and what happened in them. Then we asked him to try and come up with something that would look great and bring everything together. When he sent us some of the first drafts we were blown away with how well he incorporated everything into the album cover and through the CD case. I don’t even think we made many changes to the very first draft he sent us. I remember trying to add things to make it better but we ended up not liking anything we tried to add and stuck with I’m pretty sure the first draft.”
Please elaborate on the medium(s) used when creating the art. We’d love to know how the artwork was created.
“Not sure if this is more for the album artwork but our artist Tony Midi lives in Indonesia so we are not sure what he uses. When we were coming up with ideas for the first EP artwork I recall the band sitting around brainstorming ideas and sketching shitty drawings of our ideas to send to Tony. With this one, we really had nothing but what our songs were about and we sent that to him. His company is called ‘Tony Midi Artworks,’ check it out if you need any artwork done! We when are working on demos or riffs (guitarist) Trez (Thomas) and I both do it a little differently. He mainly likes to write using guitar pro programming the drums and the guitar riffs into the software so he can share it. I mainly like to record my riffs into the software called Studio One by Presonus and program the drums and everything there. I’m not as quick as Trez is with tabbing his ideas out so for me I use Studio One. I think when Trez goes to record audio of the riffs he’s working on (since GP6 midi sounds are only so good) I think he uses garage band.”
Did Tony hear the album beforehand? Or, what kind of input did you give him?
“I can’t really remember if we even sent Tony the songs or demos for him to work from. We did send him descriptions of all the songs and told him about the events and what they were about, some of which he was already familiar with. I think we had the album artwork done before we even recorded the final versions of the songs! Which may or may not have led to some song order changes, and some typos making us have to have our own ‘coverup!’ Anyone who buys an original pressing (which there are no shortages of yet) should get it when they check out the song list on the back. I remember sitting on the artwork for quite a while before we even went into the ‘studio’ to record the final versions.”
The artwork leads one to think this is a 9/11-themed album, yet each song seems to tackle a different topic. Is that accurate?
“Yes, the ‘theme’ of the album is ‘conspiracies.’ Like our first album, we decided to call it a ‘Volume’ since every song was about a different event or topic. The word Mendacium is Latin for ‘untruth’ or ‘to be told a lie.’ Which is what conspiracy theories are. The belief that you’re being giving false information about something that happened, so you make theories about what did happen. Like our first EP which was Volume One. Which was a concept on ‘murder,’ it had three songs about three different serial killers and the title word we used was ‘Morpas’ which is the old English word used for ‘unlawful slaying’ or ‘to slay by night’ which eventually evolved into the word murder. So 9/11 is just one of the topics we go over.”
When people look at the album cover artwork, what do you want them to see/think?
“I don’t think we ever thought of ‘what are people going to think when they see this.’ We didn’t even have an image in our minds when we set out to create the album artwork. It was more we were focused on trying to get Tony to get all the separate song ideas into one album cover. Once we saw what he came up with we just felt it played so perfectly into the songs and ideas. Having the skeletons of Paul McCartney and David Koresh symbolizing their passing.
The inside cover is a representation of Dyatlov Pass Incident where nine hikers get lost and perish in a remote mountain pass in Russia. The back is showing a city-scape which an evolutionary chain where the end is of an interplanetary creature which ‘The Nightmare Hall’ is about. Which are underground alien bases where aliens are rumored to genetically test on humans. Of courses, the marionette hands symbolize the rumours of the government’s hand controlling the events that took place on September 11th. There are even mermaids in the upper right and left corner sort of hidden in the engraved artwork for the song ‘Mermaid in a Manhole.’”
How do you think the album art will affect the listener’s perception of your album?
“We think it will have a polarizing effect. Some people will be very put off and maybe even may be offended by the artwork. ‘How can my government lie to me!’ Some people will also be really into it either being into conspiracies themselves or just for the great piece of art it is! Either way, it will be like the band Rush, you either love it or you hate it. Rush is awesome by the way.”
“A bomb just went off in the World Trade Center, it’s… it’s unbelievable” Track five, “Nine Eleven,” begins with that quote. To you, what’s the significance of the quote, and how does it relate to the song’s lyrics?
“So when Trez and I were trying to add some final polish to the EP, we were looking for other quotes or samples to put in songs so we went on the hunt for something that might fit 9/11. After many bowls of the good green stuff, we came across some home video of some college people playing hooky and having some drinks in their apartment. Which you could see the WTC through the windows from. So we’re watching this video of the people who were having a good time and then it happens. The camera pans to the window you see the towers and that quote is said. I tell you I never felt such a bone-chilling shock go through my body from watching something like that. It was fucking terrifying. These people having an epic awesome day of having fun turned into this fucking absolute nightmare. What I felt from watching that video and not even being there made me feel I needed to put this in the song. It relates to the song lyrics because it was a look at ground zero as the event was just starting to take place.”
In your opinion, was 9/11 an inside job?
“There is a lot of interesting things that try to suggest that it was, but we have not come to any concrete conclusions ourselves as to what may have happened.”
What are the most compelling pieces of 9/11 content you’ve watched or read?
“There were interviews with people who said they were in the underground levels of the building, that said they heard and witnessed explosions in these underground levels. Which may have been explosives put there to bring the towers down. The towers, from what we’ve read and heard, were designed to resist accidental impacts with airplanes so they wouldn’t collapse if it did happen. Just like in the home video we witnessed to discover that quote the people say ‘a bomb went off,’ not a plane just flew into the tower and they could see the towers clear as day through their window in their apartment. Wouldn’t they have noticed some sort of airplane hitting the tower or wreckage from the plane fall to the ground or be left sticking out of the towers? Again we have no idea what happened, we are not telling people (that) we know. We just like to look at all the wild theories involved with this tragic event.”
What’s the significance of the bonus track, “Mermaid in a Manhole,” and how does it fit in with the EP’s theme?
“Back when we had our original bass play Bryn, he introduced the band into these films called the ‘Guinea Pig Films’ from Japan. Which are fucking messed up. One that seemed pretty interesting was the one called ‘Mermaid in a Manhole’ about a depressed Japanese painter who wanders Tokyo and enters the sewers to find inspiration to get out of his lump. He finds a mermaid and brings her back to his apartment and the story goes from there.
So we ended up writing a song about this movie which we all really liked but the band was starting to think that we should try to stick we to nonfiction because we really wanted the band’s songs to showcase how reality around us is more terrifying than fiction. So we had this awesome song we liked but never really planned on writing more fictional songs and we didn’t want this song to never have a ‘proper release’ and recording so we decided to add it to this as a bonus song so we could have a proper version of it out.
Also, if you may or may not have noticed that in the upper right and left of the album cover are mermaids which is a subtle nod to the bonus track. I think that may have been the only sort of instruction we had aside from the song descriptions was for Tony to hide a mermaid in there somewhere since it was the bonus song and did not fit with the theme of the album so we wanted some sort of mermaids in the artwork but not to be a major element of it.”
What’s your favourite thing about this album cover?
“My favourite thing about the album cover is really just how awesome Tony got it on the first try. He really brought all these concepts that were really not directly related to each other together. I would have never been able to tie everything together the way he did and I think that it really speaks to him as an artist. Since he just had a bunch of paragraphs about the songs and that’s what he came up with. I worked with Tony in another band Trez and I were in called These Colours Don’t Run and I’ve always liked his sort of engraved-looking artwork so anytime I’ve needed album covers done he is the first guy I will hit up.”