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Obscure Uniqueness: Morgoth on 25 Years of “Odium”

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Band evolution tends to divide fans, as they rarely occur after the first few albums that endear an audience, but these developments represent the fruits of hard work to push creative forces beyond their initial influence. Wolverine Blues marked Entombed’s transition to a stronger rock ‘n roll influence, and Individual Thought Patterns showcased Death’s transition into a progressive metal juggernaut. Along with those 1993 releases, Odium represented such a change for Morgoth.

Released two years after their 1991 debut Cursed, the German group had clearly progressed beyond their early-Death influence and supplanted a balance between the adventurous and the commercial. From opener “Resistance,” Odium undeniably summons death, thrash, industrial, and rock into a singular message. Marc Grewe somewhat abates on his previous rasp to allow greater insight on his dystopian philosophy, while the riffage continuously pens gold. I’ve struggled for years to pinpoint the album’s uniqueness but ultimately a blind person could pick it out of a lineup; it just sounds like Morgoth.

Twenty-five years later, the album sounds as fresh and inspiring as upon release. I emailed guitarist Harald Busse for his thoughts on its legacy.

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Odium shows an incredible leap in songwriting and composition from Cursed just two years prior. What contributed to that growth between albums?

We toured a lot after Cursed was finished. After many concerts and rehearsals we improved a lot and I think that is quite audible on Odium.

Did the band sense that you were recording something special or did it feel like business as usual?

Every album we recorded was something special. It was never business as usual. Everything we wrote was a reflection of what we felt at that time and so it was with Odium as well. It’s always the best we can give, from the heart of our souls.

Where there any themes, either lyrically or musically, that you aimed for as a group during the songwriting process?

We were (and still are) all interested in different musical styles, movies, literature and art. Everyone brought his own influences and I think everyone had his own interpretation of a song during the songwriting process. But in the end this is the strength of Odium — a mixture of different musical influences was gathered in the spirit of brutality, sickness and hopelessness.

What were both you and the band listening to during the recording? What were some influences both metal and non metal during the recording?

At that time, we all loved the upcoming industrial stuff like Ministry, or Nine Inch Nails for example. We also listened to bands like Prong or Pantera and we also liked this creepy stuff, like Fields Of The Nephilim, The Mission or Dead Can Dance.

What are you most proud of about the album and what, if anything, would you change in retrospect?

I would say, the thing I’m most proud of is that Odium has passed the test of time. It took a while for people to understand that Odium was very unique. It is cold and brutal on one side, and disastrous and creepy at the same time. I think this mixture, combined with the industrial atmosphere, is the true strength of Odium. I wouldn’t change a thing nowadays, the album is absolutely perfect in this way.

What’s your favorite track on the album and why?

Hmm, difficult. I like all of them. If I had to choose, I would say it’s “Under the Surface”. I like the rolling structure of that song a lot. It reminds me of an unstoppable group of tanks, crushing everything that gets in their way…

Do you feel that the greater metal community recognized its ambition?

As I said before. I think it was quite unusual for the fans in the beginning and it took a while until Odium reached the status that it has now. Maybe we were ahead of our time back then, but time has proved us right, I think.

Are there any anecdotes or memories from the recording process that stand out for you? What are you personal connections to the album?

We wrote one half of the album in a small cottage in the middle of the forest and the other half in a bunker from the second world war (this is probably also a reason that Odium sounds the way it does). Both the rehearsals and the recordings were very relaxed. We hung around together very often and we had a really good time back then.

How did the album art come together?

We took care of everything ourselves. We assembled some pictures on the computer, put our logo over it and added a band photo. It’s certainly not the best artwork of all time but it had a high recognition value and is very unique.

What songs do you keep in the set-list and what gets the best reaction live?

“Under The Surface” and “Resistance” are still an integral part of our setlist and I think you can say that they are now among our classics.

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