A Mourning Star are a White Rock, BC-formed metalcore group making moves in 2023. To be fair, the group did heat things up quite a bit in 2022 via the release of their hammered-down To See Your Beauty Fade EP, as well as a split tape with Calgary’s Serration, and the brutally beautiful bit of high-speed madness that was last November’s “A World Beyond” single. But I digress…
On New Year’s Day, A Mourning Star got a big boost when hate5six’s Sunny Singh uploaded their set from last year’s Wild Rose hardcore festival onto YouTube, putting thousands of international eyes on the band’s wrecking ball performance style. This past week, they’ve been laying down the bed tracks for an upcoming 12-inch release through DAZE, which will feature new tunes on the A-side, and their full back catalogue on the flip. They also head below the border with Serration for their first U.S. tour in March.
I recently spoke with vocalist Elijah Robinson and guitarist Kurt Cuffy for a feature through the Georgia Straight (you can read the piece here), but while I had the group on Zoom, I also nabbed a few gear q’s with Kurt.
Since he’s also a photographer, I thought it could be cool to get into some camera gear, too...but it seems like he’s way more into sculpting his guitar tone these days, alongside A Mourning Star co-guitarist Christian Frizelle. Works for me!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Are you more of a gearhead when it comes to music or photography?
KURT CUFFY: Way more with photography — [though] honestly, I don’t shoot much anymore. I’ve been working on some other things, [like] a lifestyle clothing brand and putting on events in the city for community purposes. I haven’t shot more than two or three times in the past couple months. I’ve really tried to pivot out of it, because I wasn’t having a lot of fun this last year or so. I haven’t bought that much gear lately. That stuff is too expensive to just sit on my shelves.
What was your first guitar?
CUFFY: My first electric guitar was a gold LTD MH-1000. I sold it to an eight-year-old kid and his dad at a mall.
Did you set that up through Craigslist?
CUFFY: Yeah. I’d been traveling so much [as a photographer] that I wasn’t playing [the guitar]. I needed money for tour. I was like, “… just take such good care of the guitar.” Fuck…I wish I hadn’t sold that guitar; it was so good. I haven’t seen one like that since.
What’s your basic set up with A Mourning Star?
CUFFY: Right now, I’m using a Fender Jazzmaster, which is not typically used for metal. I swapped the two stock pickups out for EMG active pickups, so it’s a pretty-looking but mean-sounding guitar. I’m currently running a Line 6 Helix LT — so I can have multiple tones — through a [Peavey] VTM head, which is a powerhouse. It’s a 120-Watt amp. Christian runs a very similar set up, [but] with another amp modeler.
Before that, I was just running a cab to the VTM, [along with] an overdrive pedal, a tuner, a chorus pedal, and a noisegate.
Christian seems to be big into chorus or phase — like, there’s a lot of watery-effected shreddin’ to something like To See Your Beauty Fades’ “Original Mind.” What’s your general aesthetic when it comes to tone and effects?
CUFFY: I go for a less-is-more approach. A lot of this stuff [i.e. effects] matters, but at the same time I prefer a raw guitar tone. I need a bit of reverb — I have that on the Helix for certain parts — but typically during our sets I only touch my pedal two or three times. Really, I just want a nice, gain-y, raw, scooped-lows tone — rhythms just piercing through everything else.
At one point in that Wild Rose footage that went up through hate5six, Christian is tackling a behind-the-back solo. What’s your fanciest stage move?
CUFFY: Spinning. I spin all the time. I’m pretty much like a Beyblade on stage. I never stop moving, that’s my thing; Christian has that [playing behind his back], and he head bangs.
ELIJAH ROBINSON: We’re trying to up the moves
CUFFY: We’re definitely trying to get our headstocks up at certain times. [laughs] As corny as it is, it does look cool to people who aren’t our friends.
Crucible of Sorrow “Eternal Meditations Among the Monoliths”
A Mourning Star guitarist Christian Frizelle has also been busy this winter getting a new project off the ground: Crucible of Sorrow. The Pacific Northwest trio traffic in more of a black metal-flavoured melancholia. Their “Eternal Meditations Among the Monoliths” single was delivered in December, ahead of being included on the just-released Sadistic Hymns of Sorrow EP, and it’s an epic wrecker, for sure.
While incorporating some of the rippling chorus effect tones you hear in A Mourning Star, Christian’s playing here also dials into an especially treble-heavy decrepitness. Early on he matches a furious double-kick drum pattern with maniacal trilling, but eases up on the picking to line morose chord work up with an undulated requiem bell. It all comes to a head with a jud-judded blast beat finale, making for an efficiently brutal addition to the black metal canon. A promising start!