Copenhagen death metal favorites Undergang have logged more than a decade as a band, but they’ve done it the right way. Beginning with a 2009 demo, Undergang slowly and steadily have become a force in the death metal underground, first with their Indhentet af døden LP all the way until 2017’s buzzy Misantropologi. Undergang’s style is decidedly in the OSDM camp, relying on chainsaw guitar tone and simple punk structures as opposed to guitar wizardry. They’re mean, nasty and unrelenting but with riffing that is surreptitiously melodic and definitely memorable.
On Aldrig i livet, the bands latest LP due on December 4 via Dark Descent / Me Saco Un Ojo, the Danish band up the doom quotient and are somehow more worm-ridden and terrifying than before. Fans of Autopsy, Convulse and Asphyx will particularly identify with the latest track “Rodt dodt kod” which makes it’s debut here and features a hateful mid tempo before breaking into a doom-y riff that goes clean to super dark effect. It’s an important one to frontman David Mikkelsen, who states that “the song is likely my own favorite song off Aldrig i livet and I think it represents a bit of all the various things we do with the music in Undergang, so it seemed like the perfect second warning for the album just before its release.”
Undergang’s Aldrig i livet is on sale now ahead of it’s release. Stream “Rodt dodt kod” for the first time below and check out our interview with Mikkelsen that discusses the similarities between their album art and the classic Totalitär LP, how they’re dealing with the pandemic and what the future holds for the band.
The cover of your new LP bears a striking resemblance to the classic Totalitär effort Sin Egen Motståndare. Was that intentional? If so, was there a thought process behind that?
Weirdly enough to me, though aware with Totalitär, I wasn’t familiar with the album or the cover you mention here too, before the announcement of Aldrig i livet and the publishing of the art for our new album. Though I can see a certain resemblance, I’m sure there’s plenty of other things that strike resemblance to various people, as the idea and presentation of the “man in front of the mirror” visuals likely aren’t the most original of things in the world. Our story for the choice of visuals is a bit different than what you then perhaps thought, as we were writing songs and coming up with song titles for the album and decided that the Aldrig i livet, which roughly can be translated into the English phrase “Over my dead body,” had a good and fun charm to it fitting with the Undergang universe. So once that was settled we were discussing ideas for what the cover art could be to project that and our drummer Anders suggested a resemblance to the scene in Evil Dead 2, where the character Ash is standing in front of the mirror and his reflection comes to life and grabs him. But instead of doing that, having the reflection having the character cut his throat and then I in the end added a sort of melting green shroud of his possible demos surrounding him in the reflection too. I guess in a way it’s another familiar Undergang theme of death being the escape from life, when life gets too much.
So, even though some seem to see the punk album cover influence, I guess others will see the Evil Dead influence, which I didn’t even try to hide either as I kept the shirt blue and the hair black for the resemblance too, haha. But I think it’s usually fun to see and hear what your visuals make other people think, sometimes it’s the same as yourself, other times something you’d never even imagined. I like that part, too.
You’ve played quite a few shows since the pandemic. What has that been like? What are plans regarding the cancelled US dates, will they be made up?
Denmark was out quite early acting with restrictions and lock.down to the pandemic back in March, so because of that we also were able to in summer open up for some cultural parts of the society again, though with restrictions still, so in July I got offered from my favorite venue in town, Pumpehuset, to set up a show on their outdoor stage where up to 200 people were allowed at the same time, all having to be seated during the shows. So we did a show like that first off in the middle of July with Undergang and our fiends in Deiquisitor and it went well and was well attended, people were standing in line out on the street to get in all day and at night as people would leave, to be able to get in, as it was the first metal live show in town since the lock.down in March. I have to say that since the last years has seen a decline in people going crazy at shows, at least here in Copenhagen, getting used to the audience sitting down instead of standing up, hasn’t really felt too weird to me. Though it certainly does leave a lot to be desired for a heavy metal live show and interaction with your audience, but in these times it’s great just being able to have live music again at all and I think it’s a good substitute till the world hopefully gets a safer place for all of us again. Since that one July gig Undergang has played a show in a library in the Copenhagen suburbs, which originally should have taken place in April but got postponed, and recently we pulled through a road trip to the other side of the country playing with a handful of our local bands performing in Aarhus, which was also a show that had been set up back in March or so and having that being a possibility was great and made you long a bit more for the trips and journeys around playing gigs again.
We very much hope to be able to set up the same line of shows on the East Coast of the USA with Pissgrave and Mephitic Corpse as we were supposed to have this past summer in the new year or whenever it becomes possible. We’re not going anywhere and are continuing what we do until the world allows for us to travel and play our sonic putrefaction where we’re invited again.
Undergang has been playing for more than a decade at this point. What do you make of the current surge in death metal popularity?
Trends come and go and I feel like it’s a bit like it was back around when we started out too, where more younger people start playing death metal of yesteryear again. Only the time it’s on a much more international scale, as it felt more northern European focused in the late 2000s compared to now where it’s a very global thing, it seems. I think it’s cool but I also feel the market gets a bit flooded when everyone and their dog has a death metal band and label these days and too much that maybe doesn’t deserve the attention gets promoted and published. But others might say the same about what we and I personally do, so it’s all just another butthole’s opinion, isn’t it? It’s good for death metal at the same time though and bands like ours have never been more popular and it makes it easier for people to get shows set up now that more people actually attend them. Same goes for here in town where maybe 30-50 people would go to the shows I’d set up in the mid-late 2000s and now we have several hundred people interested in and attending live death metal shows. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it lasts too. Nothing is forever.
As a musician and someone entrenched in DM for so long, does inspiration still come from the genre? Or elsewhere? What are some recent records that have inspired you that may be surprising to some readers?
Oh yeah, it’s fun, still soaking wet from the sewage of death metal here every day and I wouldn’t want it any different! Inspiration comes from all aspects of life, really, as cheesy as that might sound. I still watch a lot of various horror movies and read horror comics so visuals can come from that. I also run a label and record store here in town called Extremely Rotten, so I’m surrounded by death metal every day and when I work on art I often work in front of the TV with some horror movies on through the days I do that, so there’s always something horribly surrounding me. Influences for the music I write for Undergang still comes from a lot of the genre defining bands that has always influenced our band, but over the years more riffs and structures just come along naturally as Undergang more than maybe getting inspired by other bands’ work, though that certainly also still is the case sometimes. I guess our influences are generally pretty obvious to our listeners, but behind the scenes for me there’s always been a bit of an influence of the music I listened to before discovering the world of death metal, like Alice in Chains, Meat Puppets, Nirvana and so on. Likely not pleasing some people, but being born in the ’80s rather than growing up in the ’80s, I had the ’90s variety of rock to fuel my first interest in music leading to the discovery and love for death metal that has since formed a lot of my life. As for more recent records that influenced anything, I don’t know if there are any, but I do like a lot of the newer music coming out too as well… well, mainly death metal, I guess.
Today you’re unveiling “Rødt dødt kød” for the first time, the last song to be released before the album hits. Why do you think this song is a good representative for the album? What are some of the ideas behind it?
It has the eeriness of reverberating clean guitars, rocking mid-tempo deadliness, gloomy creeping doomy grotesqueries and sudden grinding bits that I feel all makes up all the fun and SICK parts of death metal, just melting into the same song and without getting a 10-minute borefest either. With Undergang we try to mix up things with a bit of all of the things we love in death metal and make songs that are fun for us to play and not less important, that are fun to listen to. I think a good death metal song needs a hook or two like any good rock composition, as even though death metal is extreme music, it’s also still a rock hybrid to me and notes of that should be taken into consideration when writing songs.
So here’s a take on that from us!