Photo Credit: Selena Salfen
Fresh off her visit to L.A. and the black carpet of the Revolver Golden Gods Awards this past April, lead vocalist Mary Zimmer of Luna Mortis talked up the event in a phone conversation for The Metal Minute as one of her true "metal" moments.
The classically-trained Zimmer is one component of a well-oiled heavy metal machine which thrashes and bashes then intoxicates and luxuriates throughout their debut full-length album The Absence. A truly cohesive band with outstanding talent pegged in all five posts of the group, Luna Mortis may strike some at first sight as Lacuna Coil ship sailer.
Make no mistake, however; these dwellers under the eclipse ride no coat tails. Defying those who'd shoo them into the cattle chute of coincidental female-led metal groups, Luna Mortis bears little to compare themselves to Epica, Nightwish, Leaves Eyes or the previously-mentioned Lacuna Coil. With the production touch of the in-demand Jason Suecof (Trivium and All That Remains being only two of his well-known clients) assembling spectacular guitar parts from Brian Koenig and Cory Scheider, not to mention Mary Zimmer's diverse pitches, consider Luna Mortis on the fast track for something special.
The Metal Minute proudly welcomes Zimmer to Take 5...
The Metal Minute: Coming from Wisconsin where I imagine the weather can be some of the most challenging in the States, I'm not surprised your group came up with the name Luna Mortis. I've always felt the colder the climate is, the more starlit the sky becomes. Tell us a little about the area you're based in and what it might contribute to the music Luna Mortis creates.
Mary Zimmer: (laughs) That's a nice way to put it! Wisconsin is dark and cold for six months every year and I've seen the Northern Lights a couple times even though we don't live that far north. It is freaking freezing because we have certain polar winds that go through which are colder than other places that may actually be further north, like Washington. It's just freezing here, but I think traditionally in places where it's cold and dark, people like fucking metal! (laughs) It's just how it is, you know? I don't really know why that is, but we have some good metal here; Lazarus A.D. is from Kenosha and they're on Metal Blade now. There's also some good metal from the Twin Cities, Epicurean, who are also on Metal Blade, so if (the region) is cold and dark, then it's about time!
MM: Do you think the environment affects your overall mood when you're trying to perform? There's been studies on winter's tolls on the human psyche.
MZ: Not really. I have to say playing in extreme heat is never comfortable! Sometimes the cold is okay for playing, but man, loading stuff? Forget it, I hate it! Loading gear in the snow is literally awful; I'm just terrible about it, but we do it and we keep a good mindset when we play in the studio or live. We've had our share of blizzards, ice storms, you name it. We don't care; nothing's going to stop us.
MM: Your vocal style is one of the more unique I've heard in modern metal. I get something as a collision between Angela Gossow and Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes to a certain extent if you follow me there. For me, a lot of the modern female vocalists are almost compelled by rule to go towards one extreme or the other; you're either a screamer or you're a neo-classical impresario in the European tradition. I think there's a bit more of a rocker in you.
MZ: Oh, wow, thank you! The irony is I have all of this classical training and what-not because I went to school for music. I trained to be a classical singer but we tried that with the band and we hated it! (laughs) Our music is too aggressive and I definitely like to give off more of a tougher persona onstage. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it always works in music, you know? I'm actually more inspired by male vocalists even though there's a few female vocalists who've inspired me. It's mostly male influences in that way, especially since I have a lower voice. I think for female, the vocalist I was most influenced by is Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering; she was a big influence on me vocally. Floor Jansen from After Forever I think is also terrific. Male vocalists, Bruce Dickinson was a huge, huge influence on me for clean singing. For guttural and harsh vocals, Jeff Walker of Carcass and Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates left big impressions on me. They both do it different ways but they do it really well. They have the color I wanted to add to the palette after hearing people like them.
It was actually very easy (to mold a broad range of vocals); because of the classical training, I was able to do it and do it right. I guess you wouldn't say I just woke up one day and it was all awesome; that's not what happened since it's been developing for awhile. Because of the training I think it made my life a lot easier than it would've been otherwise.
MM: Obviously from the press I've read, the attention to Luna Mortis is centered around your vocals, but also your guitarists Brian (Koenig) and Cory (Scheider). Those guys are almost their own show as much as yourself, using "Ash" or "Forever More" as examples. Do you feel both compartments of the band raise one another to excel the entire group as a whole?
MZ: Definitely, it's very clearly a band in that respect. It's very clear this is a band and a group effort. It's great and I love it. I love there's a balance in the spotlight where everybody gets their time to shine because we really are a band, a group unit and a project, you know? Together we function as a unit and the fact I get to be in a band with amazing musicians is terrific. I couldn't ask for anything better. I really like during the live set being able to just have a break (laughs) and let Brian and Corey do their thing and let people pay attention to them for awhile! It's nice, because they add a lot to the show and they're amazing.
MM: One of The Absence's biggest assets I think is its dynamics and change of pace. You have moshing on "Forever More," some prog on "Ruin" and you have the ballad feel on "This Departure." Do you feel exploring different avenues keeps Luna Mortis honest?
MZ: Yeah, Brian is our principal songwriter. If he was on the phone with you, he'd tell you he doesn't like what he calls "same-y sounding" albums. He really likes a lot of writing and I totally agree because it's not too often anymore where you can listen to a whole album from start-to-finish because you get tired of it or whatever. He and the rest of us, we all set out to make sure the record had a lot of diversity and a lot of pulls from different musical areas. It makes it much more interesting and much more enjoyable. There's something for everybody on there yet we still make it all come together.
Copyright (c) 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute