June 25, 2009

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Reborn
Mortuus Ortus makes metal harmony
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

The past year and a half has been a period of constant change for local heavy metal band Mortuus Ortus. For one thing, its lineup has changed, now containing two new core members in addition to longtime member Andrae Dumont, a.k.a. Drae Graveyard. And for another, the band has traded in its longtime moniker, “Graveyard Shift,” for its current name.

“It didn’t serve us any good purpose,” says bassist Jason Freitas, known by his stage name of Jason Skulls. “If you go on MySpace, for instance, you’ll find 10 other bands with that name.”

Mortuus Ortus (pronounced mor-TWO-us OR-tus) is frequently mispronounced, and its Latin meaning may elude longtime fans of Graveyard Shift. Freitas says that the name is symbolic, as it roughly translates as “to die and arise.”

“The old band kind of died and this one rose in its place,” he says. “So it’s kind of metaphorical in that sense, and it sounds kind of cool and creepy. It works.”

And after seeing musicians come and go, Mortuus Ortus’ current lineup is working out well, too. Dumont, 35, is joined not only by Freitas but also by younger brother Shawn Dumont (“Shawn the Dead.”) Freitas came on board after crossing paths with Drae, who also performs in the local groups Human Wine and Vintage Flesh. Meanwhile, Shawn, a decade younger than Drae and Jason, says he grew up watching his brother’s involvement in other bands. All the while, he was studying the trumpet and piano and knew that he wanted to one day learn the guitar and play with his brother.

“When it comes to playing guitar, it was something I taught myself,” he says. “I picked it up, I really wanted to play it, and I wanted to try a different genre of music.”

The songwriting process in Mortuus Ortus, says older brother Drae, has felt more organic than in his past musical ventures.

In the past, “I wasn’t the songwriter, I wasn’t the guy composing and putting the stuff together,” he says. “When it came down to Graveyard Shift, my own personal evolution in music just became, ‘Why are you going and trying to put together someone else’s thoughts and their work, when you have so many of your own?’”

For a band that grew up on Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, there’s a great degree of formal musical training in Mortuus Ortus’ past. Shawn’s training was in classical and sacred music, but that hasn’t hindered him as the guitarist for a heavy metal band. Meanwhile, Freitas studied jazz composition at Five Towns College on Long Island. Nowadays, he’s put aside his jazz training to perform before audiences with his body completely wrapped in chains (and, occasionally, dangling from the ceiling). Freitas says that while heavy metal bands dominate the northern New England music scene, Mortuus Ortus stands out because its members’ backgrounds are varied and their music is fun, though the lyrical content may be dark.

“We hope that sets us apart from so many other groups, where everyone has the same influences and they go straight up for that,” he says. “The market for that is a little bit smaller. We hope to branch out to more people.”

Adding to Mortuus Ortus’ heavy metal harmony are the brothers Dumont. After years of learning under his brother’s tutelage, Shawn says it’s nice to finally call him a bandmate as well.

“The greatest appeal of it is that it’s homegrown,” Shawn said. “A lot of the music I appreciate now, I have to say that he introduced it to me years back. This is as much my baby as it is his. It’s something we’ve developed and that we’re creating and fostering.”

Look out for Mortuus Ortus’ appearance in Lucretia’s Daggers’ video “The Horrors of Retail. They’ll play at The First Players Club in Derry on Saturday, July 18; at Milly’s on Wednesday, Sept. 9; and at Rocko’s on Wednesday, Sept. 19. Samples from the band’s self-titled demo can be found at www.myspace.com/graveyardshiftmusic.