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Mortiis: 10 albums that changed my life

(Image credit: Soile Siirtola)

When it comes to record buying, Mortiis describes himself as ‘“a danger to myself.” The dungeon synth pioneer is an unashamed nerd when it comes to buying rare vinyl.

“I think the most money I’ve spent on something is 1500 euros, which was for a dark green, olive-coloured vinyl version of Venom’s Black Metal,” says the man born Håvard Ellefsen. “Some of these bootlegs are so rare that without Discogs or Facebook groups, most of us wouldn’t stand a chance of finding them.”

Mortiis, of course, rose to infamy as original bassist with black metal linchpins Emperor in the early 90s before departing to embark on a prosthetically-enhanced solo career. 

His sound has shifted from the dank atmospherics of early records such as Født til å Herske through to the harder-edged industrial influence of later albums such as 2004’s The Grudge and 2016’s The Great Deceiver.

“These albums I’ve chosen aren’t necessarily my favourites,” he says of the records that have soundtracked his life. “They just have to have had a certain meaning to me at some point.”

Tangerine Dream – Hyperborea (1983)

"This is the first Tangerine Dream album I heard. It’s not necessarily my favourite period of theirs, but it’s what got me into them. Their early stuff was really soundscape-y, a lot more experimental, but here they started getting a bit more atmospheric, futuristic. 

"They started putting all these melodies and hooks into their music, which I like because I’ve always been a sucker for a good melody."

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Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile (1999)

"This record meant a lot to me, and a lot of other people. I heard it when I was very doubtful about what I was doing – I was at this fork in my life, where I wasn’t sure if I was going to go into self-destructive mode and not care about anything and stop music, or if I was going to try something completely different with my own music and feel good about myself. 

"I was actually given it by [then-NIN multi-instrumentalist] Danny Lohner, and I listened to it probably a hundred times, just to analyse all the stuff that was happening on it. It was a great record for me to hear, but at the same time it made realise that I’d never be this good."

Enigma - Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! (1996)

"They were German, a kind of new age-y pop group. They were the masters of layering sound and making it sound like nothing you’d heard before. This was their third album – it’s amazingly dense, but also poppy and atmospheric and mysterious. 

"There are all these choirs and layers of reverb, but underneath it all you have really good songs, and that pushes Enigma over the top for me."

Venom – Welcome To Hell (1981)

"I love Black Metal, I think At War With Satan is great, and I love Possessed as well. But this has better songs than any other record they did. It’s got this evil-Motörhead vibe – it’s wicked and grimy as fuck. They just don’t seem to realise they’re making an album!

"What inspired Emperor about Venom was not so much the music as the whole vibe – they were over the top and just didn’t give a fuck about anything. And Cronos’s lyrics were fantastic – he was always about ten levels about anyone else. He was the Jim Morrison of black metal."

 

W.A.S.P – W.A.S.P (1984)

"I was ten years old when it first came out. I’d been listening to Kiss since I was, like, four. My brother, who was two years younger than me and has never had an ounce of interest in music, got it for Christmas on cassette. I thought, 'Wow, what are my parents going to get me?' So I opened up my present and it was fucking Huey Lewis And The News. It’s like, 'You don’t even know me, do you?'"

"I still think it’s one of the best debut albums ever. School Daze, L.O.V.E. Machine, I Wanna Be Somebody – man, all that stuff is great. The live show overshadowed everything else, but Blackie Lawless is a great songwriter. [W.A.S.P’s 1985 single] Wild Child came on the radio in the car the other night and I thought, 'Dude, this guy’s amazing!'"

Pentagram – Pentagram (1985)

"Pentagram have a very confusing biography – they were in existence since the early 70s in a variety of line-up, and they split up and reformed more than once. This was the most catchy, fuzzy, well-written doom metal album since [Black Sabbath’s] Master Of Reality

"Bobby Liebling has this really distinctive voice – you’re not going to mistake him for anyone. And how he managed to stay alive, I don’t understand. Iggy Pop has got nothing on him. There’s a documentary on him [Last Days Here] – just look at his face for two seconds. That’s the face of crack."

Iggy And The Stooges - Raw Power (1973)

"Talking of Iggy. I discovered it in the mid-90s, when you could still walk into a record store and find good stuff and it would cost more than a fiver. I was becoming a bit more horizontal in my musical tastes, and I was digging deeper back to see when shit started.

"David Bowie produced Raw Power, and I’m not going to say it sounds great, but it sounds awesome – it’s heavy and aggressive, and Iggy has the energy of 10 grown men in one little body. For three years in a row, I would play it at every after-party I had."

Ministry – Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992)

"I was really torn between The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste and Psalm 69, but in terms of what inspired me the most, it's probably this one. I draw an insane amount of inspiration from it. 

"I was definitely thing to be a bit Ministry-ish on Scalding The Burnt, which is on [2016’s] The Great Deceiver. It's got stuff like Jesus Built My Hotrod – it's a bit more of a metal record. That doesn't mean it's better, it just means that I tried to rip it off more."

Skinny Puppy - Too Dark Park (1990)

"They’re an early industrial band and the inspired a shitload of bands. Too Dark Park says it all in the title - it's one of their darker records. There' some fantastic rhythmic synthesiser programming going on there, mixed with some organic sounds. 

"I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I was listening to that a lot in the mid-90s. I analysed the fuck out of it when I was making [2001’s] The Smell Of Rain. Obviously, I failed totally, cos nothing on that record sounds like Skinny Puppy."

Angel Witch – Angel Witch (1980)

This is the record that pretty much introduced me to the first wave of British Heavy Metal. It’s a record with this fantastic melodic content. They were brilliant players for a band who had only been around for a couple of years. There isn’t a single song on it that isn’t really powerful.

I didn’t really discover that scene until I lived in Sweden in the 90s and I started hanging out with these older guys who had been buying records since the early 1980s. They introduced me to stuff like Angel Witch and Demon, and then you discover all these cool, obscure bands like Bashful Alley and Traitor’s Gates – all these kids from weird villages in England who made a single then split up. 

"Then the gates open and you find there are, like, 4000 seven-inches were released between 1979 and 1982 that are impossible to find. It’s like this whole new universe opens. A really expensive universe if you collect records.

Mortiis' latest album Spirit Of Rebellion – a re-interpreted 2 track long expansion and continuation of the 1994 Era I classic Ånden som Gjorde Opprør – is out now on CD, Vinyl and digital format via Omnipresence Productions / Dead Seed Productions.