Conflict is Inevitable: An Interview with Moral Void

Over the last five or so years, there seems to have been a strange merging of genres between black metal and hardcore punk. While something like the crust and black mixture seemed somewhat inevitable, hardcore elicits more of a strange reaction to a lot of fans of black metal and vice versa. The only time these two really met in my memory is when one of the members of Belgium’s seminal act Congress would wear corpse paint in the mid-90’s but beyond that, it seemed like these two worlds were about as far apart as possible.

And that’s the difficulty with assumptions like that, because they’re just somewhat fragile barriers to be battered down. Chicago’s Moral Void is one such battering ram. Their form of dark hardcore bends around and behind the light to real and urgent darkness. Through two 7 inches and a split with another genre bender, Young and in the Way, Moral Void has created brutal and darkly captivating music. I spoke to guitarist/vocalist Matt Russell and drummer Ryan Emmans to see if they felt their music would be something that genre purists would have a difficult time classifying.

“Yes,” Russell begins. “We have gone through a ton of stages in our musical growth over time. I feel like we pull elements from a lot of genres to try and make a more unique and interesting sound with our music.“  

Emmans somewhat disagrees.

“Not necessarily,” he says, “but I could see where some may have difficulty. The initial concept has always been to pursue a sound that has a focus in dark d-beat hardcore. We’ve always liked European stuff, and we’ve definitely incorporated influence from other subgenres, but we’ve just been doing what feels natural – maintain aggression, yet interrupt the speed when necessary.”

Aggression is delivered in spades on their debut full length record, Deprive. Unlike a lot of modern bands, Moral Void didn’t rush from having a demo into recording a full length but allowed themselves to mature over time, like a fine wine. And, much like wine, when their record was first consumed, it probably fucked you up. But why the wait?

“We wanted to ease into a release of this depth, take our time, and be sure that it would be well thought out and dynamic,” Emmans explains.

“We wanted to take time to figure out our sound before rushing into a full length,” Russell adds. “We also would rather put together one piece of cohesive music instead of a collection of songs that might not flow together as well.”

Deprive is unrelenting without being exhausting, but more of an exaltation, a release. I ask them if they feel there is a catharsis through Moral Void.

“This band is very much our escape, and we value it as a creative outlet and artistic expression,” Emmans says. “I think just about any passionate musician would agree in regard to their own projects and endeavors, otherwise it could be viewed as a waste of time.”

As we slog through another fucking hot summer, it seems that the only news that we ever hear is grim. Though they say ignorance is bliss, it seems that ignorance is the problem. Are the ideas of ethics and morality dead? Is morality just defined through the ideals set by religion or is this too closed off of a definition?

“I would keep morality completely separate from religion,” Emmans states. “One easily has the ability to be good without the influence of an idea surrounding a deity or faith. It correlates with being open to new ideas and embracing positive change instead of abiding by dated principles and blindly adhering to ignorance.”

“We all somewhat live in our own worlds,” Russell offers. “I tend to surround myself with people who have not lost sight of ethics or morality and strive to change the world for the better. I think morality is larger than any religious ideals and people should just treat each other with respect.” Is there any kind of optimism for a more open, critically thinking world or are people with that dream delusional?

“The outlook is grim,” bassist/vocalist Rus Holler interjects, “though at times when in the sanctuary of the right small room, amidst the company of the right people, the notion is tangible. However, upon taking a step outside the prospect often dissipates with haste.”

Emmans continues the thought stating “This world is far too vast and diverse. As far as living in the present goes, it’s very hard to be optimistic when realism gets in the way. Conflict is inevitable, and there are daily reminders that so much hope is lost. Serious progress has surely been made, but over very long periods of time, and never without severe opposition. But in the grand scheme, there is a constant cycle of ebb and flow. Nature will always take its course of collapse and rebirth.”

I’m always curious what, if anything, musicians want their listeners to get out of their music.

Ultimately the listener wasn’t in our minds while writing this record,” Russell quickly states. “We don’t really think about pleasing an audience. With that as an afterthought of our music, I think that each song touches on different feelings. Some of anger and desperation and some touch on despair, anxiety, or depression.”

As our conversation winds down I wonder if, with the world seemingly crumbling apart around us, if this isn’t the perfect time for such a devastating record. Holler seems to agree and I’ll end the interview with him: “ In the breadth of human existence, when hasn’t it been the perfect time for a violent record? Shit’s been fucked for a while.”

Deprive will be out on CD and LP through Translation Loss on August 11th. Preorders are available now.