Extreme Metal Is Not Dead! An Interview With Prophet of Monotheist
A Brief History of Monotheist
By nature, extreme music appeals only to a subset of folks. While extreme music may lack the mass appeal of pop music, the fans of extreme music tend to be the most passionate in the world. Extreme metal is no different. In fact, extreme metal fans may set the bar for loyalty.
One such band that may create this kind of loyalty is Monotheist, which formed as a solo project for Michael “Prophet” Moore in 2004. This Orlando, Florida based outfit melds old school death metal with progressive/technical death metal, resulting in musical soundscapes that keep your attention for eight minutes at a time. Beginning with 2007's Unforsaken (rereleased and remastered in 2012), Prophet assembled a set of musicians in vocalists Jake Rice and Elyssa Coultas to help his heterogenous extreme metal vision come to life.
This groundbreaking album, overflowing with youthful energy and fearlessness, introduced the world to a band who combined the brutality of Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse, the melodious sensibilities of Extol, the technicality of fellow Orlandans Death, and stunning yet dark wanderings of bands like Opeth, against an underlying influence of classical music and even jazz. In a genre that can often be tired and repetitive, Monotheist stands out.
Monotheist released their next album, an EP entitled Genesis of Perdition, in 2013. On this EP, Monotheist's shorter, more focused arrangements displayed a progression in their songwriting that was a hint of things to come. This was also the first release to feature JJ "Shiv" Polachek IV (7 Horns 7 Eyes), whose inimitable guttural vocals lifted the music to powerful heights, and Cooper Bates, whose thrashing drums helped bore the intense guitar riffing into the soul of the listener.
In March 2018, Monotheist released their second full-length album, Scourge, on the Prosthetic Records. Scourge sees the band take their progressive and technical style of death metal into the next stage of their musical development, with more mature song structures while spelunking deeper into the classical and jazz styles that have always been a staple of Monotheist’s sound.
Yet, even with the experimental and audacious nature of their music, no-holds-barred death metal endures as the foundation of Monotheist's sound and is sure to please lovers of extreme metal. Scourge serves as a commanding testimony to the musical validity and exhilarating nature of progressive death metal. In the interview that follows, Prophet shares his thoughts on the new record, the extreme metal business, and his dream touring lineup.
Interview With "Prophet"
Justin Price: Can you give my readers a little background on Monotheist? How and when did the band form? What are some of the various incarnations of the band, both personnel wise and in sound?
Prophet: Sure, the band was formed in 2004 as a one-man project and then gradually expanded to include other members. I just wanted to write some progressive death metal as I was heavily into bands like Opeth, Suffocation, and Extol at the time (and still am). The first incarnation of the band that recorded included the lead vocalist named Jake and another vocalist, Elyssa, who provided some female vocals on the first album. We performed live a bit around 2008 with my buddy Anthony on guitar, a guy named Eirick on drums and Shiv (JJ) on vocals. This is when he first joined the band and he’s been with us ever since
Then by 2013, we got Cooper in the band to play drums and released the Genesis of Perdition EP with a guy named Christian on guitar. As you can see, a bass player was nowhere to be found for most of the band’s existence.
JP: What is the current lineup for Monotheist?
P: Well, eventually we DID find a bass player named Jose around 2013, as well as second guitar player after Christian left. Our current guitarist is Tyler, who also is a great vocalist and toured with Gigan for a year or so as their vocalist. Including these two guys, Cooper, JJ and I make up the current incarnation of the band, which has been the same for the last four years.
JP: Who are your primary influences?
P: Personally, I’d say that bands like Death, Extol, Opeth, Suffocation, Immolation are some the biggest influences for Monotheist. Each of these bands has contributed so much to extreme metal and have produced very powerful music; I wanted to channel some of their energy through my own personal filter. However, I’m also highly influenced by non-metal stuff like J.S. Bach and Chick Corea.
JP: How is the new record being received?
P: It’s been absolutely fantastic to see the feedback to our record. You know, this is the first major release for the band and of course in my heart I had hoped people would like it but I wasn’t so sure, you know, with the really long songs and some off-the-wall ideas we used in our music, so I am really glad people are actually digging it and get what we are trying to do. We’ve been really humbled by the response.
JP: Where do you see Monotheist over the next decade?
P: I hope that we will be able to tour the world and release some great music that will impact people in a deeply positive way. We have a lot of ideas for future releases and we hope to push ourselves and our music to more interesting territory.
Monotheist: The Grey King
JP: What are some of your musical and lyrical inspirations? Does Monotheist have a specific message or underlying theme to their lyrics?
P: We’re inspired by tons of music, from brutal death metal to Afro-Cuban jazz, anything that we think sounds good. As for lyrical content, the lyrics on the last two albums have been written by myself and JJ. Both of us have contrasting views of spirituality but we try to bring and mesh those together in a meaningful way.
JP: What is the songwriting process like for Monotheist? Is there a primary song writer or is it a collaborative effort?
P: For most of the band’s existence I have been the sole songwriter but with our current lineup, things have been more collaborative which has been great. I still write the majority of the music but it’s been so refreshing to utilize ideas from the other guys. Maybe they would have an idea or two, and it would inspire me to create an entire song out of just what they showed me. It’s been really cool and different from what I’m used to.
I keep and archive a lot of riffs and have been doing this since 2006. Sometimes I look for those for inspiration and write stuff that is a mix of things I’ve written in the past and brand new stuff. Most of the time is spent on the arrangements though, making the songs feel right.
JP: Which big 80’s pop hit would Monotheist be most likely to cover?
P: It would have to “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson, man. Great song.
JP: Florida is the birth place of American death metal. How does being based in Florida affect your sound? Does it add any pressure to do something different? Does it make it harder to stand out?
P: In a sense, I’d say that being from Florida has had an effect on our sound because I love the classic Florida DM bands like Death, Cynic, Monstrosity, Morbid Angel, Deicide, etc. that’s the good stuff, man. They made me proud to be from Florida (which isn’t something that happens often) and with our music I wanted to pay tribute to the bands from my state that laid the groundwork for this kind of music, so I think you can hear some strong Florida DM influence in our sound.
However, in Orlando, there isn’t much of a death metal scene these days so in a way it’s been easy to stand out just by virtue of playing death metal. Deathcore/metalcore is infinitely more popular and if we were playing those styles, I think it would be harder to stand out.
JP: How often do you guys perform?
P: We haven’t performed live since 2014, unfortunately. I moved to China in 2015 and two of the other members moved out of state. However, we are planning to start touring this year some time. Being a teacher, I have long summer and winter holidays so I’m hoping we can utilize those to do some touring during the year.
JP: Do you have any advice to young musicians out there—especially in extreme metal—about how to handle yourself in the industry?
P: I think a big thing, and this is not just for young musicians but for anyone, is not to burn bridges. Relationships are key in this industry (and pretty much any industry) so take care to build and maintain relationships with people.
JP: What is your favorite food?
P: Pizza. Interestingly enough, I thought that coming to China would mark the end of my time as a pizza consumer, but actually there are some legit pizza places here. Sure, you have your WTF flavors like Durian pizza everywhere and the incomprehensible obsession with pouring mayo on the pie, but there are some great places here that know how to make pizza the perfectly delicious way.
JP: Monotheist is given the option to tour with four bands for your dream tour. Who are those bands?
P: If it’s a dream tour I’m going to assume that it includes bands that are no longer together. It would be so sick to tour with Death, Extol, Anata, and Martyr. I think we’d fit in well with those bands. But if we are talking about bands currently together, I think touring with Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Immolation, and Fleshkiller would be really awesome.
JP: With all of the bands out there, why should people devote their time to listening to your music and going to your shows? What makes you guys different and special?
P: I think if people listen to Monotheist, they will notice, first, how long some of the songs are. 10-minute songs are not typical for death metal bands. But that in itself isn’t necessarily a good thing, so I think within those long, winding songs people would be able to hear a lot of great riffs, which I feel is something lacking in a lot of modern prog/tech/whatever metal bands. Where are the riffs? Most of is just chugging in syncopated rhythms. No, we have riffs and lots of them. Tight, coherent song structures, a balanced mix of melodic-ism and atonality, beauty and brutality, these are things that I hope people will hear in our music and inspire them to continue to listen to our music.
JP: Where can folks purchase your music and keep up to date on upcoming shows and events?
P: Our music can be found at most major digital retailers like Amazon, iTunes, Bandcamp, etc. but for Scourge physical CD copies (or a sick
For older stuff they can hit up our webstore.
Monotheist on Amazon
JP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
P: A big thanks to Justin for the interview and for the fans who have supported us overwhelmingly. It means the world to us, whether you are someone who has just gotten into the band with Scourge or an OG from back with our first release. Stay metal and play it loud!