The Monoliths of Cursed Slumber with Hibernus Mortis
Art: Chris Placeres
In 1995 in South Florida, Hibernus Mortis was started by primary songwriters Ralf Varela and Cesar Placeres. Influenced by the original 1st and 2nd waves of death metal, the band began crafting its brand of dark cavernous crushing death metal. With a demo, live album & full-length LP under their belt to go along with several dozen shows sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in the genre, the band went on an indefinite hiatus. The band returned in 2012 for more shows with the addition of original bassist Yasser Morales and 2nd guitarist Randy Piro. Not only did the band return to the stage, but it also culminated in the long-awaited release of their next full-length offering, ‘The Monoliths Of Cursed Slumber,’ released by Blood Harvest Records in 2022.
Our music is deeply personal and reflects the music we grew up with. All four of us grew up listening to late 80s/early 90s death metal, and our music is our tribute to that period. Our sound and vision are the same as when we started the band in 1995. While some bands strived to be the fastest or play blast beats from start to finish, our goals differed. We wanted to be the heaviest. We’ve always had a ‘riffs first’ mentality. The guitar riffs had to be crushing; everything else was secondary. That’s how I describe our sound—crushing vintage death metal. Some have called us ‘Cavernous Death Metal’, ‘Old School Death Metal’, ‘Dark Death Metal’, and even ‘Murky Death Metal’. It’s all about being as heavy as possible while creating a dark atmosphere.
Our new album has been several years in the making. We had broken up in 2006 and decided to get back together in 2012. While most of the new album ‘The Monoliths Of Cursed Slumber’ was written in the last couple of years, there were a couple of songs/ideas written as far back as 2005 which had never been recorded. The songwriting process usually involves Ralf (guitars) & myself sharing ideas. He comes up with most of the guitar riffs while I come up with drum parts to complement them. Usually, my best ideas aren’t at band practice but at random moments like driving or relaxing at home. I’ll scramble to my phone, open up the voice recorder app, hum out parts, and transcribe them to guitar. Randy (guitar) and Yasser (bass) also contributed significantly. They come up with their unique parts; whenever possible, they do things that are not an exact copy of Ralf’s guitar parts. It adds dimension to the music through the use of layers. If everyone were playing the same thing, it would sound very one-dimensional. We recorded the album ourselves, ensuring it came out 100% how we wanted it to. Once the recording was done, we contacted Rodrigo at Blood Harvest Records about putting out the album since he had shown interest in working with us.
This was the first album I took over the main vocal duties, while Ralf mainly did some backups. He was adamant about me doing them on the new record. So along with doing the vocals on the album, I also had to write the lyrics. I had written lyrics for some of the songs on previous albums, but this was also the first album for which I had to write all the lyrics. The only theme the lyrics carry is that they are all dark. This album has a recurring theme since several songs deal with the concept of sleep. Some are about actual sleep in the literal sense but also slumber as eternal sleep and nightmare-induced somnambulism. Even though I touch on various specific topics, I write about them very vaguely. I purposely write them in such a way because I’ve always been a big fan of the lyrics being open to the listener’s interpretation. I enjoy the mystery behind it and letting people use their imagination about specific songs.
As far as the lyrics are concerned, I find inspiration from many different places. They could be from dreams, they could also be based on fiction or even non-fictional events, some are just random thoughts, and in the rare case, they could even be based on a movie. But as I stated earlier, I want the listener to come up with their conclusion about what the songs are about and what inspired the words in each specific track on the new record. Each piece is a separate entity. Each one has its characteristics. The music is always written first. Once each song has its basic form, the lyrics flow naturally. We pattern the lyrics to the music, not the other way around. We create music as a release to express ourselves, our creativity, our art, and our message. This is the music we’ve been listening to since the late 80s. It is a homage to those who came before us and those who will continue afterwards. Creating ‘REAL’ death metal is something we will always find inspiration in.
As a band, we all have our own beliefs. We rarely, if ever, find inspiration from ‘real world’ events. So from the ones you’ve mentioned, we are geared more towards the fantasy/escapism aspect. Some bands base their entire identity and lyrics on either gore or things of an occult nature. If it works for them, then that is great. There are enough bands out there doing that style. For us, it’s more about mystery, the unknown, fantasy worlds, desolate realms etc. We are all products of the 80s, so we grew up in an era where we were fascinated by movies like Conan The Barbarian, Clash Of The Titans, and Mad Max. Not to say that the films are depicted in the lyrics exactly, but certain films, as well as music and literature, shaped us at an early age, thus shaping what we would eventually create as adults. Performing music for me is an escape. It’s like taking a little voyage away from the real world just for a bit. To forget about all the problems in the world and live in the moment. That is why the lyrics for these compositions have to go hand in hand with that same escape. It’s all in the name of art and filling a void in the universe with something you’ve created that comes from the soul.
It’s hard to pinpoint when I was first introduced to metal, but I remember being a kid in the early 80s. Once in a while, I would catch specific hard rock videos on either MTV or America’s Top 10 with Casey Kasem. I remember once in a while; they would play Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister & Van Halen videos. While it wasn’t full-on ‘metal’ per se, I was intrigued even though I was too young to consider myself a full-fledged fan. I remember being about 6 or 7 years old when Iron Maiden’s ‘Number Of The Beast’ album was out. I was in a department store with one of my parents, and there was a display with all the new records at the time. I was drawn to that Maiden album cover and was fascinated by the artwork, even though I had no clue how the band on that album sounded. Fast forward a couple of years, and more hard rock & metal bands started becoming prominent. While I’ve always listened to many different types of music, I noticed around 1987 or so my tastes were mainly focused on music of a heavier nature. The first metal album I purchased was Iron Maiden’s ‘Maiden Japan’ on cassette. I bought it used by some guy at school who was in my concert band class. I think I paid $2 for it. Another album that changed my life was this strange little compilation I purchased at K-Mart the year after I was 12 years old. It was a compilation album named ‘Thrash Metal’. This was the first time I had ever heard Slayer, and it was ‘Evil Has No Boundaries’. To say I was blown away is an understatement. I saw other kids at school wearing Slayer shirts and heard all this talk about Slayer being the heaviest band ever at the time. So as soon as I saw they were on that comp, I had to pick it up to hear them. I was satisfied. As far as death metal goes, in late ’88 or early ’89, I heard Death’s ‘Leprosy’ album and was hooked.
We’ve always maintained that we write the music for ourselves at the end of the day. The music that we enjoy. If people want what we do, that is a bonus. We play a brand of death metal that is not everybody’s cup of tea, which is perfectly fine. It is a spiritual experience since you bring something created from your soul’s deepest parts into existence. You are creating art. You are summoning something that never existed before into existence and making it perpetual. Thousands of years from now, CDs can erode, records can become unplayable, and even digital files could be corrupted or deleted altogether. All physical proof could be gone forever, but that energy and presence of everything you’ve created are eternal. While music is entertainment for all of us, it will always be much more important to us as a form of release or to have moments of clarity where you forget all the world’s problems. You throw your headphones on, stare at the album art, read the lyrics and completely immerse yourself in the moment.