PROFUGUS MORTIS - Armed For A Second Round
May 21, 2008, 10 years ago
If beer-clouded memory serves, Profugus Mortis came to BW&BK;’s attention in 2006 following a glowing endorsement of the band’s debut album by Kataklysm guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais. The hyperblast kings are a beloved and respected entity amongst the BW&BK; crew, making any claims from Kataklysm’s members worthy of second and third glances. And while the Profugus Mortis debut, So It Begins, wasn’t exactly sonic bloodletting some people might have expected, it was readily apparent where Dagenais was coming from. The band’s folk metal sound was loaded with potential, going well beyond the trendfit norm of the European scene in a fit of Ensiferum meets Suidakra meets Cradle Of Filth violence. Anything but refined, to be sure, but impossible to ignore.“I think I said this the last time we spoke, but the problem with the last record was that it was basically a collection of all the songs we had, which dated back a couple years,” says frontman Paul Ablaze, the prototype of Alexi Laiho without a guitar. “When we approached doing the record we were more concerned about having enough songs for a full CD. The last two songs we wrote for the CD, ‘The Fallen’ and ‘Arm Yourself’ (leading off the album), were the direction we wanted to take the band, so you can hear that some of the tracks are night and day to each other. I’m sure there were some people wondering if it was the same band all the way through the album.”
In spite of the debut’s schizophrenic nature it has done extremely well for what is essentially – with all due respect to their label ProDisk – a word-of-mouth release.“The first album’s done amazing. It’s sold 2,000 copies so far, and I never thought it would do so well. Some people look at that and say it’s no big deal, but we’re an underground metal band from Quebec that’s only done limited touring, sticking around Ontario and Quebec, which kinda sucks. I think for the amount of shows we did we’ve done pretty damn well.”
The number of shows under Profugus Mortis’ collective belt is, like So It Begins, nothing to sneeze at. Unintentionally recalling the late ‘80s club band heyday, Profugus Mortis are well known on the Ontario - Quebec circuit, having supported major international acts in both provinces as well as doing headline shows. Ablaze says the band is hungry to tour as much as possible, a point driven home for them during their brief Canadian jaunt with Finnish folk metal pioneers Moonsorrow in 2007.“That was so much fun, actually,” he says of the tour. “It had its ups and down, but that was our first real tour experience and it was amazing. It was fun, and at the end of that tour we all realized that we can do this. Not only that, we knew it’s what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to leave the road. We were uncomfortable, we were crampled in a van with all our gear, we weren’t playing in front of a hell of a lot of people, but just being out there we knew this is what we want. There was absolutely no doubt after that.”
“When we first started talking about touring I was always saying how I wanted things to be as uncomfortable as possible,” Ablaze continues. “That always pissed Terry (Deschenes/guitars) off (laughs). The reason I said that is because if you go through hell at the beginning so in the future we know what to expect and can enjoy moving forward. There’s a book called Get In The Van by Henry Rollins, and anyone that plays in a band has to read this book. He describes the shittiest touring conditions ever – getting spit on at shows, getting beer bottles thrown at him, the van breaking down, and everything in between – and after reading that book, no matter how bad I’ve got it, it’s probably not going to be as bad as that.”
The next step for Profugus Mortis is their all-important second album, which they hope will push them up into international territory. Having heard a few examples of the new music, I can reveal that the band has indeed found an effective musical direction in the spirit of tracks like ‘The Fallen’ and ‘Arm Yourself’. There will be one major change in the band’s sound, however, as violinist Emilie Livernois was given the boot earlier this year. She has since been replaced by a second guitarist.“I can pretty much chalk it up to a deteriorated personal and professional relationship," Ablaze says of the firing. “The band and Emilie were drifting apart on a personal level. We were on the road a decent amount last year, and touring is when you realy get to know each other a little bit more. Emilie was tough to deal with at times, but I’m sure if you ask her she’ll say the same thing about us. We just weren’t feeling it anymore with her on a personal level, and on a professional level she wasn’t digging the new music. She told us as much in an email, and there were hints of egotism in there, so I wanted to kick her out then. We came really close, actually, but we talked it out at a band practice, Emilie put on her best Clinton face and got away scott free. I think that was the catalyst for the deterioration. That’s not to say there weren’t good times, but there was always that kind of negative undertone, something lurking in the background.”
It wasn't an easy decision to make considering Profugus Mortis' sound was easily identifiable thanks to the violin within the mayhem.“We had to sit down and think about that a lot,” Ablaze admits. “The question was, when we ask her to leave the band how are we going to continue? Were we going to find another violin player? Me and couple of the guys, when we kind of saw this happening, we discussed that and none of us really said yes, we needed another violin player. We realize that she was a big part of the Profugus Mortis sound and - Emilie played a big role, no doubt - but there were flaws. It seemed Emilie always had to play something. She had some really good parts, but there were also parts that just didn’t need a violin player. I didn’t want to be the guy to say ‘Don’t play this part, don’t play that…’. I mean, who am I to say that? Still, it was overkill at times, where there was just too much going on. We needed to find a balance of some kind."
“One of the other things that also suffered was having a stronger rhythm. If Terry was doing a lead and Emilie was doing a lead and Jonathan (Leduc/keyboards) was doing his own little thing, the songs could end up sounding pretty weak. Joe’s not an atmosphere keyboardist playing chords all the time, and what he writes is amazing, so I’m really glad he’s getting more of the spotlight now. It’s absolutely fantastic having our new second guitar player in the band now, because he beefs up the songs like crazy. The first time we jammed…we sound like a frickin’ beast (laughs)."
Profugus Mortis have done a number of shows with their new axeman, but with this interview Ablaze makes his position official.
“The new guitarist is Kim Gosselin, who used to play bass in a band called Gotherfall. He’s been a friend of the band for a long time. He plays in a side-project called Deathrow with our Joe and our bassist Etienne (Mailloux), who is the main composer. Etienne is actually an amazing guitar player but he plays bass for Profugus Mortis because he had pity on us (laughs).”
From Ablaze’s point of view Profugus Mortis is stronger than ever without a violinist, a point he and his bandmates have already proven live several times. In particular with a new song entitled ‘This Round’s On Me’, easily their most aggressive work to date.“It’s definitely the fastest song we’ve done so far,” says Ablaze. “When I was writing the lyrics for it I had the music playing on my computer, and I had the concept for the song in my head; I wanted a beer anthem. European bands like Korpiklaani, for example, have drinking songs, and I decided we need a North American beer drinking anthem (laughs). I stuck with the title ‘This Round’s On Me’, but as I was writing it I didn’t realize just how fast I’d have to actually sing the lyrics. I didn’t even give myself a break, so I decided I’d have to sing it as fast as possible.”
All that remains is to hit the studio and put the song and its new siblings to tape.“Most of the material for the new album is done,” Ablaze reveals, “so if we can get someone interested in us so that they put it out I can see us having something out by the end of the year.”
‘This Round’s On Me’ (live)