• Axl Rosenberg

If you enjoy melodic death-tinged power metal – and really, who doesn’t? – then it’s hard to imagine that you won’t enjoy Luna Mortis’ Century debut, The Absence. This shit is heavy, infectious, and epic as all get-out.

A big part of the reason why the album works is vocalist Mary Zimmer. A classically trained singer who once had aspirations of doing opera, Zimmer put to shame all the over-processed, auto-tuned vocalists that will inevitably let their fans down in a live setting. Her voice isn’t only powerful – it’s undeniably real.

Luna Mortis have just released a new, David Brodsky-directed video for the song “Forever More,” which you can watch above. They’ve also just hit the road with Edguy and Epicurean. You can get a complete tour itinerary here; then, after the jump, read my chat with Zimmer regarding all things metal. Raaaaar.

zimmer1So, first of all, congrats on the album.

Thank you.

Why is it called  The Absence?

I dunno. Maybe we just like to name things after other bands [laughs]. I dunno. We kind of looked at the track listening [of the album] and picked the one that sounded best. I wish there was a cooler and more interesting answer than that, but that’s it [laughs].

No, it’s good not to get a pretentious answer every now and then. So something else I was really curious about is that I noticed one of your guitarists, Brian Koenig, does a lot of the writing for the band, including a lot of the lyrics. And it’s a little unusual these days, for  the singer to be singing someone else’s words part of the time. I was wondering if you find it hard to express yourself through someone else’s lyrics?

I really don’t. A lot of the singing I’ve done in my life, before I was doing the metal thing, was as a classical singer. So you just get really accustomed to singing stuff that other people wrote. And I know this sounds really weird, but I’m not much of a writer. I’m definitely a performer. I never even dabbled in writing before this album. And I feel like with a lot of the lyrics that Brian writes, I can relate to them personally. Sometimes I’ll be singing [his lyrics] and I’ll think “Wow. This really means this to me.” So it was never really an issue for me.

And how did you decide that you’d write the lyrics for “Never Give In” and “Embrace the End” without Brian?

Well, they weren’t quite finished when we went into the studio [laughs]. And Brian didn’t have time to finish the vocal melody and the lyrics. So he looked at me and he was like, “You know what? Why don’t you do this? It would be really cool if you tried this.” And I was like, “Yeah!” Y’know, I’d never done that before, so I was like, “Why not?” So we were in the studio and Jason [Suecof, producer] would play the instrumental, and I just wrote on top of it. So I could take what Brian had done and just expand upon it, which was easier for me as my first sort of creative endeavor, because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing [laughs].

So to get a little more specific about those particular lyrics. You can tell me if I’m way off-base on this, but “Never Give In” seems to have something of a political undertone… or am I reading too much into that?

No, no not at all, it’s super obvious, actually [laughs]. We were in the studo in September, watching the election, and I was just getting really frustrated with it, and really pissed off that people wanted to vote for John McCain [laughs].

And you guys recorded the album in Florida, which I imagine increased your frustration…

Yep, yep. Florida is kind of… I just couldn’t figure it out. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I couldn’t figure out why people wake up and look at the situation around them and don’t want anything different, don’t want anything better than the last eight years. So there are political undertones to that song, for sure.

Can we also talk about “Embrace the End” for a sec? As far as you feel comfortable telling me, what do the lyrics to that song mean? Because you go to a pretty dark place with those lyrics…

Yeah. I don’t have trouble talking about it. Basically, death is freedom in so many ways, on so many levels. We try to fight to avoid it, but death is inevitable, and comes for all of us, and is a part of our existence just as much as life is. So…

zimmer3Have there been a lot deaths in your personal life that brought these feelings up?

Sure. I’ve definitely had to face it… it’s not something I’m afraid of at all. I mean, I’m a really positive person [laughs], I’m not super-morbid, but I definitely understand the dichotomy [between life and death]. I think I do, anyway [laughs]. And I also think that death that can be a release for a lot of people. I know that sounds weird, but… Are we getting too philosophical here? [laughs]

No, not at all. But let’s back-track for a second. You said you started singing with classical music?

Yeah, that’s true.

So what did that involve?

It’s so weird. When I was growing up, I didn’t have any exposure to metal at all. I didn’t have an older brother or anybody like that to introduce me to it, so it just never happened. And being a child of the late 80s and early 90s, the internet really wasn’t the thing then that it is now, so I never got exposed to [metal]. But I was always a singer and a performer. So I decided to go to school to learn to be a classical singer, an opera singer. And I did that, and that’s where I met Brian – he was at the same music school. We didn’t even know each other for the first couple of years [that we were at the school]. And then I was approached by some people, a completely different set of people, about singing in their metal band – that was a different band, a different band altogether. And the only metal bands I knew were Dream Theater and Tool. This is when I was about eighteen. So they exposed me to all this metal, and I was just in love. I knew from that day forward I didn’t want to do anything else, ever.

It’s cool to hear that you actually have a lot of training as a singer. It seems like we increasingly have a lot of singers who are very reliant on auto-tune and what have you…

Oh, yeah. And I’m with you man, I think that [auto-tune] is bullshit. I was really lucky to work with Jason, because he didn’t use auto-tune really at all. He knew I could do it, so he made me fucking do it [laughs]. And that’s how it should be. I was really happy that we kept the vocal tracks simple and didn’t rely on trickery.

I don’t know why people wanna rely on that stuff, anyway. I know they make rack models so you can use auto-tune live, but, seriously, wouldn’t you want your live performance to sound like the CD?

It drives me nuts when I go see a band live and the singer clearly can’t do any of the singing they did on the record.

Yeah. And there are some really bad-assed programs now that can take any shitty part you sing into the microphone and make it sound pretty good.

What about the screaming? Do you find it hard to make that shift between vocal styles?

Y’know, actually, I don’t have any trouble at all with that. I go back and forth really easily, without any issue. I’m really used to it now that we’ve band a band for a few years, I’m really accustomed to it. At first it was a little tough to wrap my head around it, mentally, because it’s really kind of the opposite of singing. But it’s actually way, way, way easier for me to do the screaming. Me, personally – I’m not saying that it’s easier for people in general, because everybody’s different. But for me, personally… if all I had to do was scream, I would be off the hook [laughs]. That would be awesome, I wouldn’t have to worry about a lot of stuff if that’s all I had to do.

Do you find that any of your training as a singer helps with the screaming aspect, or is it two completely separate techniques?

Oh, no – it’s because of my training as a singer that I can do the screams. When I first decided that I needed to learn how to do that vocal style, because it’s another color that I had to add to the palette… there were people who’d been doing it for so many years that I knew there was a way, whether those people [were conscious of the technique] or not, to do it without completely ruining your voice. And I just spent time sitting there, fucking with it, figuring out what the right technique was, and figuring out what the mechanics were. And I think I would never have been able to do it without the training that I had.

zimmer4So out on the road, do you do a lot of vocal warm-ups? Are you one of those singers who’s on vocal rest all the time?

Not really [laughs]. I try not talk too much, but I do like to have a couple of, um, beverages, so… I don’t know. It’s more important to me to keep my mental state. Like, I’ve had times where I wouldn’t even have caffeine. No beer, no booze, no caffeine, no nothing at all. I’d be like “I gotta keep my voice in shape!” And it turned out that the stress was so intense that I’d actually lose my voice. So I kinda have to not take it too seriously or I will get stressed out. And I know that everybody’s different, but for me personally, that’s how I have to roll. I have to kind of play a little bit faster and looser with it, or that stress will come back.

Right on. So what’s next for Luna Mortis?

Well, I dunno. We have a video coming out that David Brodsky directed…

How was that?

He’s great. He came out to Wisconsin, which was crazy because this is small town America. We took him out to Cory [Scheider, guitarist]’s parents’ dairy farm to see the cows, which was awesome [laughs], and we had beers… that’s just sort of the life out here, steers n’ beers [laughs].

So he filmed the video here, and we did it in… it used to be a church, but it’s a concert venue now. So it looks really cool.

And then we go on tour Edguy and Epicurean, so that’ll be sweet.

That’s all very exciting. Is there anything else you wanna add?

Nah. I think you covered it, man!


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