originally written by Craig Hayes
The roll call of New Zealand metal bands finding fans offshore is ever growing. Bands like Vassafor, Ulcerate, Diocletian and Witchrist have led the charge, and in recent years, groups like Heresiarch and Sabbatic Goat have found their share of far-flung fans too. On July 8th, you can add another name to that list, because that’s the date that formidable titan Exordium Mors unleash their annihilating full-length debut, The Apotheosis of Death.
Exordium Mors specializes in diabolic destruction. The band have a well-deserved reputation for intense live shows, and their sound mixes the jagged bite of black and death metal with adept blasts of technical thrash. The Apotheosis of Death is a truly epic album, both in its themes and execution. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most savage and ambitious metal albums ever released from New Zealand’s shores. Last Rites caught up with Exordium Mors’ guitarists Santi and Raj (Black Mortum), and vocalist Scourge, as the countdown to their attack looms.
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Your debut full-length, The Apotheosis of Death, is set for release on July 8th worldwide, but for those unfamiliar with the Exordium Mors, what are the roots of the band?
SCOURGE: The idea of Exordium Mors first festered in the minds of Santi and Black Mortum who were introduced by their mutual friend and original bass player Adam ‘Dubby’ Dzarowit (RIP) in 2004. Late in 2005 I joined the band on vocals, and this lineup was also fleshed out with Adam and Pete Bloomfield who were also in Apokalyptik Goat Messiah with Black Mortum as well as brutal death metal band Soul Infected.
This lineup recorded our first demo, Serva ad Mors, with the help of VK from Vassafor. Shortly thereafter, Adam and Pete left and there were numerous lineup changes until Vaark (bass) and Pierre (drums) joined around 2008 or 2009. This lineup recorded the 7″ EP, Verus Hostis – A Hymn to Fire, with Alex Selman; who we have recorded with ever since. The EP was distributed by the French label, Legion of Death Records. Late 2010 saw a new lineup change with Hades on drums and Assailant on bass, and once this was solidified, we released a split DVD release with our brothers-in-death Nullifier and Dissolution in 2011.
That same year, the band conquered the Siamese True Metal Fest, in Thailand, and in 2012, the precursor to The Apotheosis of Death, the Sacrifice, Perish and Demise EP, was mixed and mastered by CjS of Diocletian/Witchrist fame, and released on CD by Hells Vomit Productions. Also in 2012, Exordium Mors toured with bands like Absu and Impiety on their first Australasian tours in New Zealand. 2013 was our first Australian tour, and the band supported notable acts such as Marduk and Behemoth on their tours in NZ. 2014 sees the release of our debut full-length The Apotheosis of Death, the first pressing on CD being released via Iron, Blood and Death Corporation, who also did the cassette version of Sacrifice, Perish and Demise and the flames of battle rage on…
Exordium Mors taps into that barbaric nexus where black, death, and thrash metal meet, and the band’s managed to find that perfect balance between red-raw ferocity and highly skilled musicianship. Tell me a little about how you see the band’s sound. Are there, for example, any key influences or inspirations that you’re drawing on?
SCOURGE: Our influences are quite varied between musicians, but at the core of it all we are all big fans of Destroyer 666, Impiety, Absu and Dissection. You can say those are our primary influences, but we are not mere imitators. We are quite eclectic within the genre (and sub-genres) of metal, and even beyond.
RAJ: From the start it was always about pushing the limits of our playing, and the extremity of our music, while maintaining a fair bit of melody. We want to write songs, not technical wankery. The mind set was as simple as that, and the result is what you hear. We spend a lot of time making sure some songs have sudden twist and turns, but also not forgetting to let riffs flow into each other when it calls for it. Tasteful, HEAVY and epic extreme metal is what we strive for. We go by our instincts on what sounds right to us in terms of style when we write. What the “Exordium Mors” sound is.
As far as influences, we’re all fans of multiple genres and sub-genres of music, so the list of “influences” and “inspirations” would be huge. The bands Scourge has noted I believe will share that same ethos when it comes to song-writing. As far as “Key” influences though, I would like to add Iron Maiden and Kreator (the sheer unrelenting aggression of their earlier work especially) as they are both notable inspirations to us.
The Apotheosis of Death begins with an epic, multi-part title track, but then you follow that up with a whole bunch more Promethean punishers. Kudos to you guys for opening the album with such a bold statement, and overall, the release is a hugely ambitious piece of dark art. You’re poured everything into the album, so how long did it take you to stitch it all that together? What was the songwriting and then recording process like?
SANTI: The six-part title track came up as an idea around early 2009. For me, the inspiration for that song was equal parts Order From Chaos’ “Conqueror Of Fear” Opus, and 70s prog rock. Basically, I wanted to create a Metalized answer to Genesis’ “Supper’s Ready”, ELP’s “Tarkus”, Gracious’ self titled album, or Biglietto Per L’Inferno’s self titled album etc.
Like those songs and albums, the title track of our album is composed of individual songs that stand on their own, but they’re also part of a greater work and you can hear that continuity when you listen to the whole epic. There are riffs and melodies that come up in one song and then re-appear in another song – sometimes the same, sometimes under a different arrangement.
I proposed the idea to the guys, and we all started getting to work on it. It was a long process, with riffs written and discarded. We’d try different movements and moods – arranging and rearranging them. If there was something that someone didn’t feel was quite right, he’d speak up and we would get rid of whole parts. We in fact dismantled an entire song that we wrote around 2006 called “Bestiari Honostave Libitina”, and grafted sections from that into The Apotheosis of Death. Another thing we dredged up from the past was “Part IV” of The Apotheosis, entitled “The Corpse Of Your Divinity Now Burns.” This was a song that we originally wrote back in 2007.
The whole thing was finally complete circa late 2011. Side B of the album however came together surprisingly quick. “Fire & Triumph” for example was written in just two songwriting sessions. “Abandon All Hope” and “Blade Of Brutus” took slightly longer with writer’s block happening, but then the floodgate would burst all of a sudden and before we knew it the songs were complete.
Songwriting is a strange thing, there are times when you’re trying so hard and nothing is good enough, and there are times when everything just happens and you just don’t know what hit you.
SCOURGE: Lyrically, it was a challenge for the title track, as the music was written in their respective parts. I wanted to create lyrics that, like the music, could be read stand-alone and also flowed (and was stronger) all together. As a whole, once the full song was completed, I only did two rewrites, one for “As the Vultures Descend”, to make it flow with the rest of the song, and “..Unto the Lightning Swords of Conquest (Mars Invictus)”, to give that song more cohesion and barbarity. The rest of the tracks on the album, I had a clear vision as to what I wanted to write about, other than “Fire & Triumph”, which was a bit of a challenge, as I felt creatively exhausted by that point. This song was written after “Blade of Brutus” which is the last track on the album. I was able to find inspiration in Venus, and that led to one of the strongest lyrics on the album I feel.
In terms of recording, I recorded the bulk of the vocals in one-take as I have previously done in other recordings. This is because I believe that you get quite a fresh, natural or live vocal approach doing it this way. There are touch-ups here and there, of course. Once I get the rough mixes back, I tend to listen to it obsessively to see if there are any further touch-ups needed or additional vocals to be added, or effects such as panning or extra reverb, etc.
RAJ: Santi has pretty much covered the songwriting process for this album. As you can see this album did take some time to write, and we were all developing our songwriting skills together as a band while doing so. I think it’s good that we didn’t rush to settle on riffs and structures, and it’s good that we worked together in writing it, rather than individually. The last thing we want is to release another record that sounds just like the last, so having multiple members putting their input in the music is crucial. Time gave room for us to develop our sound together. What’s observable in many bands these days that churn out release after release, is that they start to stagnate with their song writing. It is important to us to ensure that we are never one of them. Expect something new, from every one of our releases.
With the recording process, we have worked with Alex Selman (a brilliant sound engineer) many times before, so he knows how we work, the sound that we’re trying to achieve (clear but ear piercing), and he’s a fan of the music (he played the piano part in our outro track). We decided to take it up a notch and recorded and mixed the album at Revolver studios in August 2013. Our previous recordings were done with his own gear at a home studio, so it was a huge step-up as Revolver has some of the best recording gear in the country. All rhythm guitars, bass and drums were tracked live in three days. We had our amps in separate rooms, and we were all in the main room with the drums tracking together as we have done in all our previous releases (except Serva Ad Mors where the amps were in the same room).
There were no click tracks, drum sampling, or quantising. Just us playing to each other as we would at a live show. When we’re in our element, we have room to play certain parts faster or slower, really feeling the rhythm changes and the song, playing off each other, so we would rather not use a click to keep us in time to a set speed. All up, a very organic recording. It was a fun process! Staying on site at the studio, out in the backwoods (it’s about an hour’s drive out of Auckland City), spending 12 hours a day recording fuelled by coffee, then the rest drinking beer and talking shit as we do. We recorded the solos and vocals out of the studio, and spent another three days mixing/mastering at Revolver in January.
Death, destruction, and chaos all feature heavily in the band’s aesthetic, and Nick Keller’s stunning artwork for The Apotheosis of Death speaks of violence and domination too. But, what are the lyrical veins, or overriding themes, that Exordium Mors explores?
SCOURGE: The artwork was a culmination of all the previous releases to date, and is also heavily tied in with the artwork and lyrics from the previous EP, Sacrifice, Perish and Demise. As a whole, our lyrical themes stem from my own philosophies; Nietzschean philosophy, and ancient Roman or Hellenic themes. For this album in particular, the songs focus on iconoclasm, vengeance and the cyclic nature of death. These songs are incendiary hymns to incite the public to obliterate their gods, cast off the shackles of modern mediocrity, and progress forward into eternity.
The Apotheosis of Death is gathering strong reviews, and New Zealand extreme metal has a higher profile around the globe than ever before. But, New Zealand is still a long way from anywhere. Do you see any challenges in getting your music heard?
SCOURGE: Personally, I don’t think so. As you’ve stated, it’s an album that has garnered strong reviews as a complete package (music, production and art). If you’re not a trendy fuckwit, you should find something in the album to enjoy. As always, even if it doesn’t receive international recognition, we will keep the fires of Hades burning eternal!
RAJ: Our next step is really getting out there to play some shows overseas, and this is definitely the most difficult part of being a band from this corner of the world. But we are dedicated to our art, and will do what it takes to bring our music to fans worldwide in the live arena! We are currently solely working on getting this album released and heard. We’ve had help from Catharsis PR in getting our record out to the overseas audiences, and they have helped us a great deal in a short period of time. Once it is out we’ll start looking at getting some shows booked. All soon to come. Keep an eye out! Promoters book us! Then prepare to be slaughtered in the pit after! Metal maniacs buy our record and play it LOUD!