CMI rich as the devil

In the days before email, the internet, P2P networks, etc. I got my music by sending cash in envelopes to people who sold things that I was interested in. Of course I also did my share of “tape trading”, since I could not afford to buy everything I wanted to hear. Working that way has given me quite a few of (mostly temporary) contacts. One of those was Mortiis. When I grew tired of all that similar sounding black metal, I started to explore the rapidly rising amount of electronic side-projects (usually that is) of black metal people, but when I got to know Mortiis and he got to know Cold Meat Industry, I learned that there was a very different and very interesting other underground music scene. I remember asking Roger Karmanik if he was not afraid that releasing Mortiis’ material would throw his label in the grey area around the metal scene with a whole new audience and that dark underground music would become a hotchpotch instead of a (black) metal scene (in decline) and an industrial scene. He answered:

Rich as the devil

You can see the date there. In the same year the double “And Even The Wolves” compilation was released, a European and an American version. The European version has Mortiis’ head on the back, the Americans got a different line of tracks alltogether. I guess Roger realised that using Mortiis he could indeed enlarge the customer base of CMI. I guess you all know what happened next. Being an ex-member of Emperor, Mortiis was stigmatisingly filed under “metal” and the same went for other CMI-releases that were also the first industrial records to be sold in Dutch recordstores (because of the popularity of black metal). The metal audience embraced CMI as a label (apparently also looking for something different), CMI got the growing audience it was looking for and the style that the label was mostly famous for “dark ambient” became both a trademark for ‘that other scene’ and the label. Did much change after all this? Yes and no. CMI is still connected to the metal scene in the eyes of many, because of Mortiis, but also because of cooperations with other (ex-)metalheads, especially on the sublabel Cruel Moon International. CMI went from being a purely Swedish, to being a Scandinavian a European (making Cruel Moon obsolete) and in the end a global music label, yet still mainly focussed on Scandinavia, because Scandinavians seem to be best in producing the sound that typifies CMI. The label did not reject its industrial/noise roots, but some sidesteps to (too) popular music were made, mostly only for one or two releases; gothic/medieval, martial industrial, much of it did not really seem to work out and for me personally in due time being a release from CMI did no longer automatically mean that it is good. Every now and then some brilliant finding is made (Pimentola or Vestigial for example), but the label seems to play safe in the last time with their own ancient projects such as ORE, Deutsch Nepal, BDN, Desiderii Marginis.
I have much more of such letters. Of course the authors never wrote them to be made public this way. They could be nice for ‘historical’ talks such as this. What do you think? It would be nice if mr. Karmanik read this so he could let us know and perhaps give his side of the story, but I would be surprised if he actually read Gangleri.nl.

3 comments

  1. So you think CMI sold out? I don’t really get your point to be honest.
    I don’t think they release music to become filthy rich, but maybe are just getting more eclectic in their musical taste. Which is not a bad thing, in my humble opinion.

  2. There not really is a ‘my point’ in the above, it is just a flinch of history with some personal notes. No I do not think CMI signed Mortiis in order to become a million-seller label, but as it happened, it seemed as if there was suddenly a new strategy. A sublabel with not too interesting projects, while the main label continued doing what it has always done: releasing top-class music in top-class packaging. Later some new sounds turned out good (Sophia, Rome), others did not (Stormfagel, Medusa’s Spell) and then some of the old sounds started to be less interesting (Letum, even Raison d’Être and ORE). CMI used to be a label I bought almost everything of (except the noise), nowadays I just see ‘another CMI release’ without really raising attention. Looking back, I do not think it was smart to jump into other popular kinds of underground music such as gothic/medieval, martial industrial, etc., the label might have better remained at catching great new dark ambient, industrial or noise projects, such as Coph Nia or Vestigial. Perhaps that style has had its peak and CMI needs to keep up business, but maybe the motives were less economical and they “are just getting more eclectic in their musical taste”. That is not for me to say, nor to judge, these were just very subjective observations.

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