Interview: Lord Mantis Deals With The Horrors Of Reality On ‘Universal Death Church’

Interview With bassist / vocalist Charlie Fell and guitarist / vocalist Andrew Markuszewski

Since releasing their first EP over ten years ago, Chicago’s Lord Mantis have released three albums of some of the darkest, most depraved, blackened sludge metal the underground has ever heard. It’s a churning, malevolent sound, rooted in real psychosis and catharsis. It shuns the cartoon darkness of many extreme metal bands and deals in the horrors of reality. It’s quite the head trip.  

In the course of their run as a band, they have seen it all: break-ups, drug abuse, and even death. But as their new album, Universal Death Church, out now on Profound Lore, can attest, the band is far from finished. 

Lord Mantis was dealt its biggest blow when drummer Bill Bumgardner committed suicide in 2016. But something good came out of that tragedy, and the seeds were planted for a new album. Bassist and vocalist Charlie Fell, who had left the band in 2014, came back into the fold.  

“After Bill went, the anger I held onto just went away,” Fell says. “I kind of just called Andrew [Markuszewski, guitar and vocals] on a whim thinking, ‘well this is gonna be stupid.’ To my surprise, we were both in the same spot. I was pretty ecstatic how it went down.” 

“I paid a visit to Charlie in Denver for a weekend back in 2018,” Markuszewski says. “We started writing the record then and there. During the following months we exchanged riff ideas. [Then] we all met up together in Chicago – me, Charlie, Ken [Sorceron, guitars], and new drummer Bryce Butler – with literally only a few days of working together before going in to make the record with [producer] Sanford Parker.” 

The new album features all the noisy, ugly, punishing sludge the band is known for, but this time there is a slight hint of industrial and some melody buried in between. Once again, the band keep it real in the lyrics as only they know how. 

“Charlie and I have our own individual ways of writing, but I’ve always enjoyed the outcome whenever our lyrics cross paths,” Markuszewski says. “We’ve all been plagued by similar demons in this band, so it was easy to reach into the mental states needed to show you what that means.” 

Lord Mantis have an interesting ritual that is part of their creative process every time they make a record. They watch a movie for inspiration. In this case, they chose Bad Lieutenant, a classic slice of early ’90s transgressive cinema.  

“I love the look of NYC at that time and the whole realness of it,” Fell says. “Just an unflinching look at the life of swine in urban colors and decay.”  

They may have gone through hell to make Universal Death Church, but the results are compelling. From the music to the lyrics, the artwork and the samples, the album paints a dark picture of its creators’ psyches. Unlike other bands, Lord Mantis aren’t doing it for show, they’re doing it because they have to. It might be grim, but it’s real, and that realness is at the core of the band.  

“It’s the essence of the band,” Markuszewski says. “We couldn’t be what we are or make records that sound the way they do without it.” 

Fell sums it up perfectly. “You are the sections you make, and you are how you live. If you sing your own song, it will be a perfect reflection of the people who made it.” 

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