While I’d been hearing their name pop up here and there on the internet, I was fully introduced to Voluntary Mortification’s music when I caught them opening for As Lions and Lambs here in Indianapolis. Shortly after that press manager, Mason Beard got in touch to request an interview. I got the lowdown on all things Voluntary Mortification, including the origins of that interesting band name, when I caught up with guitarist Jacob Kanclerz, and vocalist Conner Luttig.
IVM: Tell me a little about the band name. What are you trying to convey with it? Do you ever get confused with classic band Mortification and/or is your name in any way paying homage to them?
VM: Voluntary Mortification is rooted in one of the core principles of Christian living: to voluntarily deny yourself on a daily basis, modeled after Christ and His example, is the path to redemption and salvation. And to voluntarily deny yourself, in practice, can make for a brutal experience, which is why we thought it made a lot of sense for a metal band name. The path of mortification, and the journey of life in general, involves suffering as well, and we each identify with suffering in our ways and recognize that it’s God who works in us to redeem us. So we are also trying to connect our personal experiences of suffering to the general theme of redemptive suffering, which we hope something that anyone – Christian or secular – can relate to. Suffering is a universal concept. We believe we are redeemed and renewed through our suffering, that there is a purpose. We’re hoping that’s one message that gets across in our music and our testimonies.
As for Mortification, we have been asked about us having a similar name to that band. To be completely honest, none of us had heard of Mortification upon forming Voluntary Mortification, but we have heard plenty about them since we’ve been on the scene.
IVM: You guys are from Michigan, right? What’s the Christian metal scene like up there?
VM: Never heard of a Christian metal scene in Michigan! There are a few bands we know of in the state, one being Collapse/Revive, but honestly we are less focused on the Christian metal scene and more focused on bringing Christ into the secular scene.
IVM: How did you come to be affiliated with Rottweiler Records and how has it been working with them so far?
VM: We saw that some crazy label named Mythic Panda had bought out Rottweiler and merged them. Our vocalist Conner sent them an email and started talks with Jairus, the new CEO. Coincidentally Jairus had heard about us as well and the talks started and shortly after we were discussing and then signing a multi-record deal contract! It’s been good working with them so far as they are not like what would be your typical label that controls all merch, CDs, promotion, etc. We work more as a team together on things and we maintain much of our independence as well because of it. It’s been a good partnership and we’re looking forward to more years with them and of course, more releases!
IVM: You guys have an interesting take on deathcore. You’re one of the few deathcore bands I’ve heard that seem to be as much or more influenced by traditional death metal, than by anything -core. Is that intentional?
VM: It’s just who we are and where we have come from, musically. Our drummer Johnny is into a lot of old school death metal. Conner, our vocalist, is very much influenced by the mid-2000s era of deathcore, which some may say was the first wave of deathcore. So a lot of our direction just comes from those inclinations. I know some of the guys also aren’t as fond of the newest wave of deathcore, whether it’s the overreliance on guttural vocals or other stylistic differences. Our old school sound, if you will, is kind of our attempt to bring back some of the old influences of deathcore and death metal.
IVM: I also hear quite a bit of slow, sludgy riffs in your sound. What are some of your musical influences?
Each of us brings something different to the table, but I will say when push comes to shove and we are deciding what direction to go, we usually go slow, sludgy, heavy and just filthy! As I mentioned before, Conner is very much influenced by the mid-2000s deathcore. Bands like Chelsea Grin and As Blood Runs Black are bands he’s mentioned as influences. Johnny has a wide range of influences, ranging from the old school death metal and 80s thrash to a good variety of a lot of different new and modern metal bands. Jacob, the guitarist, cut his teeth on 80s thrash bands but is also very influenced by mid-2000s metalcore, ranging from Killswitch to All That Remains, August Burns Red, As I Lay Dying and the like. Our two newest members did not appear on the album, but our bassist Eric brings a wide variety of influences, including from punk. Matt, our other guitarist, does not have extensive background playing metal but he’s a well-rounded guitarist who is quickly getting up to speed in the metal genre and applying his musical chops to new material we’re slowly starting to develop together for the first time as a five-piece.
IVM: When is the album coming out? Do you have touring plans? What are your plans for the near future as a band?
VM: The debut album is out! Suffer to Rise was released on July 22 and is available for sale and for streaming on all major platforms. We have talked about doing a little Midwest fall tour but nothing has materialized just yet. Our plans for the immediate future are just to promote, promote, promote this album that we worked so hard to put out. We’ve gotten so much positive feedback already that we just want it to hit as many ears as possible. We’re hoping to get more shows under our belt and continue to make connections with bands in the scene and get our music in front of more live audiences. And when we’re not busy with that, we’ll be working on some new ideas. We’re excited to add two new guys to mix and I think now that things have cooled down after the recording process we’re starting to get filled up with new ideas so that is exciting.
That’s right, you heard (er, actually read) it here first! Check out Voluntary Mortification’s new album Suffer to Rise, out now on Rottweiler Records. You can buy the download, or order physical copies of the CD from their Bandcamp page, linked below.