Baltimore’s black metal entity known as Unendlich return next month with their latest full length Thanataphobia which comes quickly on the heels of last year’s EP Misanthropic Sedition. Unendlich, in German, means infinite / without end and that would certainly make sense with their quantity of output since forming nearly five years ago but in this context it would seem it’s a descriptor of mastermind Michael Connors plentiful creativity. He has found unique ways to meld Scandinavian and US black metal into a melodic force with philosophical lyrics and ideals in lieu of your standard satanic fare. And with Thanataphobia, the sound is pristine and clear which is a welcome progression from their previous outings. Ahead of the album’s release, we had the chance to mull over our Profile questions with Connors and he was more than gracious in giving us the details. Head directly below to see what he had to say and if you like what you hear from the embed, throw him some support.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
I got into playing music from the desire to replicate the sounds I was hearing on some of my favorite metal albums. The way metal music was able to directly tap into my darker emotions as well as giving me a feeling of control/power was something I loved and I wanted to know how it was done. My curiosity led me to wanting to learn guitar as it was the instrument I was most drawn to. A school mate of mine in 8th grade had this little mini-guitar called the Terminator with a built in amp so I ended up making copies of a bunch of my metal tapes and trading him a couple of Megadeth, Metallica, and Anthrax tapes for the guitar to try to learn what I was hearing. It was around this time that I started getting into more extreme forms of metal thanks to a school friend introducing me to Slayer, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, and Morbid Angel. This sparked an arms race of wanting to find more and more extreme metal (which our local record store carried a good amount of) and we supplemented with orders from the Relapse Records mail order catalog (where I discovered black metal). All the while I was learning what I could on guitar by ear and eventually got better.
Odd fact about the Terminator guitar – I gave it to a Goodwill thrift store and later found it on the wall as some generic rock swag at a family restaurant chain (either Applebee’s or Ruby Tuesdays). I knew it had been mine because I had drawn an anarchy symbol over the speaker.
I would like to make Unendlich a live unit which is planned for this year. In the past I’ve been very self-reliant and learned what was needed to complete albums, but I hope for more collaboration in the future. Recently adding Anthony Rouse on drums has been great and I look forward to what we come up with. It would be awesome to be able to have music as a full time career but I’m realistic that it is the exception. Overall, I love writing music and feel it is very cathartic. I get the most gratification from writing and creating, so as long as I can keep doing that, I feel accomplished.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
Can’t say I’ve debased myself ever other than odd press requests for materials and seeing no return. I suppose littering the porta-potties in Edison Lot at Maryland Death Fest 2014 with promotional material of my first album release may be shitty (hah!). You have a captive audience for a few moments so I was posting up business cards to promote my new album with download codes etc. It worked pretty well.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
I can’t say I keep a heavy pulse on the local scene but do feel spoiled nowadays with the amount of great bands that come through the Baltimore/DC area compared to the past. In addition, Baltimore has some killer metal festivals like Maryland Death Fest and Shadow Woods Metal Fest. I have jammed with some local bands but always tend to keep things professional and not get bogged down with any unneeded drama. Some of these past interactions are what led me to do my own thing with Unendlich.
As for what I do not like, I am not interested when certain metal media outlets drudge up needless drama, pointless witch hunts on bands, and/or rumors as it feels cannibalistic to the metal scene. I find elitism rather annoying as well.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
I would say my music is mostly a reflection of self and the interpretation of the world more than any one cause. I believe in freedom of expression though have no overt desires to sway a listener politically or socially (with the exception of general misanthropy). I would hope people do not seek out political guidance from a band.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
I tended to always enjoy darker music as a kid though not really knowing what ‘genre’ was. My mom was a music fan and would often play a lot of early rock. I remember hearing Pink Floyd “One of These Days” and loving the buildup and energy and the darker vibe of the song. She would also go to the record store and I would tend to always gravitate to the rock/metal section to look at album covers. I remember picking up Iron Maiden and Megadeth as the covers were killer with Eddy and Vic and wanting to learn more and find out what was on the tape. No one else in my family is a musician nor a metalhead so I found that path on my own, starting and committing around 13 I would say. Though having a more open-minded parent helped.
There was some backlash in the early years when things got a bit too dark but at this point that is history. Though my family members don’t necessarily like the type of music I play, they appreciate the amount of work and passion I put into it. Not to mention, I’ve converted my wife into a quasi-metalhead over the past decade or so!
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
It is hard for me to answer this as I feel it is best to criticize/advise only after having some degree of understanding and expertise in the profession. I would imagine the amount of bands to be daunting these days not only as a music fan but as a promoter or reviewer. Only a personal observation, but I do feel either by advancements in music production perhaps or just by playing it safe a lot of music reviews tend to always sit at the “good” / 5-7 level. When reading a metal zine/site I tend to gravitate to bands I know, to 9/10 reviews, and to 4/10 and below reviews. As example, I’d rather a critic tell me my music is not good and why they think that vs. a “meh, it’s alright”. So perhaps be willing to take risks with harsher criticisms of the music.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
I hope my music provides cathartic release to other people out there that may feel the same as me. I’ve always loved this lyric from Pantera’s “War Nerve” which still sums up how I feel to this day: “Truly, fuck the world, for all it’s worth, every inch of planet Earth, fuck myself, don’t leave me out, but don’t get involved, don’t corner me.” It’s simple, blunt, and to the point. I have a general misanthropy towards aspects of humanity and do not feel things are improving or that technology has made life better. I feel there is a constant dissonance between nature and human ego. Though I am aware, I am part of the system/problem, I still seek solace in myself. Unendlich is my release of a lot of this tension.
My general goal for the future is to continue to write and find more members to play live.
I do have a day job in IT Security. It is mundane compared to music, but am thankful it funds what I do with Unendlich.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
This is rather hard as you are right when involved with one’s own material it is hard to surface from it to hear what is currently out and being released in metal. When I have time I find I’ve been going to 1960s and 70s classic bands/songs or ambient/electronic music (Goblin, Tangerine Dream, Sinoia Caves). Here are the last couple albums I bought and find myself returning to:
Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign
Funeral Mist – Hekatomb
Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis
Samael – Hegemony – Band that introed me into black metal with “Ceremony of Opposites.” They are a band that kept some groove within their brand of black metal.
I am hoping now that the album is done I’ll have time to start catching up though.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
Release of an EP December 2018, release of an LP early 2019 (Jan. – Feb), and planning to play live in 2019.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication)
Many thanks to Michael for his time!