Memento Mori has established themselves as one of the standout labels releasing death metal and death/doom of the old-school variety. With each passing year they’ve unearthed more and more promising newcomers while also reissuing some material from veteran acts. One of their first releases of 2017 is ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’, the debut full length from Italy’s Ekpyrosis. Formed in 2013, Ekpyrosis has released two demos and an EP prior to this album, giving them plenty of time to hone their take on gnarly, heavy hitting death metal. Compared to some of their other European peers, this group pulls a good deal of influence from classic U.S. acts and they’ve done it justice without coming through as a mere retread. Today we’re excited to give you the chance to listen to ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ in its entirety before it officially releases on January 23rd.
While the sound that Ekpyrosis is pulling from is sure to feel familiar for anyone that’s listened to their fair share of death metal, they do it in a convincing fashion and have the substance to keep you coming back. ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ kicks off with its longest track Profound Death, which after a short, ominous intro launches right into the dense, gnarly riffing that makes death metal so appealing. It’s dense and downright filthy, with the drums hitting you right in the chest as the guitars and bass swirl around your eardrums. What this band does particularly well is to transition between fast and slow passages on a regular basis, and they switch the tempo up in ways that keep each song from becoming overly predictable. The fast moments bludgeon and carve away at your eardrums, while the slower sections let the filthy riffing expand outwards, coating everything in a layer of sludge and grime. Ekpyrosis’ vocals skew towards the lower, guttural ranges but they employ a dual attack of low and higher pitches during some key moments to fill out the sound.
‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ is a strong debut from a fairly young band, and even at this early stage they’re showcasing a bit more variation to their writing than can sometimes be typical on a group’s first full length. It’s definitely another winner for Memento Mori, and if you can’t get enough old-school death metal you’ll want to pick it up on January 23rd. We also had the chance to ask guitarist/vocalist Nicko some questions to find out more about Ekpyrosis’ creation and some of their influences, which you can read below!
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): For those just hearing Ekpyrosis for the first time, can you give us a brief introduction to the band and how you guys met?
Ekpyrosis (Nicko): We’re a death metal quartet from Milan, Italy; we can say we’re mostly inspired by US death metal tradition, and especially from Incantation, Immolation, Sadistic Intent, Imprecation, Malevolent Creation, Deicide, and Autopsy.
Low end guitar sound, frequent tempo and riff changes, double-vocal assault (guttural and harsh), doomy low-tempos contrasting grinding rhythmic sections are perhaps our most evident features.
We’ve been around for about 4 years now, we met at the high school and starting rehearsing some old school black and death metal songs before we became an actual band. Since then, we put out a couple of demos, the EP ‘Witness His Death’ (on CD and tape) and our full-length ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ will be released on 23rd January (on CD, vinyl is planned later in 2017).
TO: How does your writing process work? Do you come up with ideas individually or are a lot of ideas hashed out during practice as a whole band?
Ekpyrosis: Mostly, I personally develop a song at home, with riffs and structural scheme, than each one of us learns his own stuff and we make the final arrangements together (especially drum patterns and vocal lines), then we rehearse it until it gets tight. A couple of songs have been written by Mark alone, too, with almost the same routine.
TO: ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Carlo Altobelli at Toxic Basement Studio. Altobelli was also working the boards for ‘Witness His Death’. What made this the right studio to return to and what sort of feedback did Altobelli have for you guys?
Ekpyrosis: Carlo did a very good job with our EP ‘Witness His Death’, and his studio is now one of the best quoted in Milan hinterland, while still really affordable. He’s professional, he’s got top notch gears, and he’s capable of understanding immediately which direction to take when it comes to the recording and mixing of any musical project he takes care of.
Actually the EP and the debut full-length album have a sensibly different sound: the first one is closer to the brighter sound of early Terrorizer or early-Malevolent Creation, while the album’s got a low-end massive sound in the true New York death metal tradition.
We all live quite near to the studio, also, and we can’t forget to mention we’re in great friendship with Carlo, who actually took care of the CD version of ‘Witness His Death’, via Slaughterhouse Records and FOAD distribution.
TO: The song Morticians of God appeared on both the ‘Black Aspid of Doom’ demo and ‘Witness His Death’ EP. It’s definitely a killer song to feature once again. How long ago was this song written compared to the others on ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’?
Ekpyrosis: I’m quite sure I wrote it in late 2014, since we played it for the first time on stage on my 19th birthday! This also makes Morticians of God the oldest song featured on ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’. It was our most intense and articulated song so far when we wrote it, and it featured also some down-tempo/up-tempo changes that quickly became a sort of trademarks for us. On the album though, we did a few re-arrangements, in fact vocals are more on the lower side, slow parts got slower, and fast ones, of course, got faster.
The three out of the nine songs were composed in 2015, after the ‘Witness His Death’ recordings, and the remaining five tracks were written during 2016.
TO: The artwork César Valladares created is fantastic and immediately caught my attention. What sort of idea did you have in mind when you approached him?
Ekpyrosis: We wanted a black and white china/ink artwork, first of all. Also, we wanted it to be sick, horrifying, full of macabre details, but also somehow more introspective, rather than a plain “skulls, bones & gravestones” artwork.
Actually, I liked a lot Cesar’s latest works since they fit my personal taste and they also succeed in being truly anguishing and sickening. It turned out that he’s been working with Memento Mori for a while, so we picked him up for the ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ album cover!
The subject mainly gets along with the album title: a man, on his knees, his gasping for air with a rosary gripped tight around his neck, suffocating in an ossuary, the macabre scenario of triumph of death over life, as forewarned by the fatalistic branch of Christian creed.
TO: I don’t hear quite as much about the Italian death metal scene compared to some other European countries, but I know there are plenty of groups out there adding their own take. What are your thoughts on death metal in Italy?
Ekpyrosis: I think it’s definitely getting strong. As you can see, Italy has an internationally recognized technical/brutal death metal scene. Talking about those with a classic, 90’s inspired approach to the genre (not to mention the term “old school”), the underground is literally festering with sick bands, with great musicians and intriguing projects.
It’s cool to see that more and more of them are signing deals with respectable European and American labels. It’s not easy to make a difference, while you can still do something worth a mention, but I think some bands here do have the potential. Yet it’s always up to any band to realize their goals, of course.
So here we go with the unavoidable list of recommended death metal (and the likes) bands from Northern Italy and surroundings! We have Necro, Mefitic, Demonomancy, Blasphemer, Funest, Voids of Vomit, Valgrind, Gravesite, Haemophagus, Uncreation, Necromutilator, Presumed Dead, Terrorsaw, Extirpation, Maze of Sothoth, Into Darkness, Daemoniac, Profanal, Sepolcro, Hateful, Dominhate, Morbus Grave… They’re all worth a listen, don’t be shy!
TO: Seeing as you’re inspired by some of the classic death metal bands, what do you feel it takes to write a standout death metal song in this day and age?
Ekpyrosis: As it was back in the day, and as it is in any aspect of one’s life, the more you’re devoted (even obsessed) to the music you’re playing, the better the results – especially if coupling with talent, good musicianship and clear ideas. I personally can say that I’m deeply sunk into death metal music in every aspect, and this surely incentives a more solid songwriting.
I enjoy listening to an insane amount of records, very carefully, I let any of them grow on me and somehow analyze them. That’s the point in being inspired, it’s like learning a lesson. On the other hand, it also takes originality, which lies in riff, vocal lines, and in the way you shuffle the cards to give your personal interpretation of the genre.
TO: This is your first release on Memento Mori, a label that’s known for quality underground death metal. How did you get connected with Raul and Memento Mori, and are there any other particular bands on the roster that you guys are into?
Ekpyrosis: After the recording of ‘Witness His Death’, I wrote many emails to several labels that I had been following lately, judging from their catalogue and releases. Raul from Memento Mori offered us the best deal for a full-length. That contributed in giving us a huge motivation for the realization of this album.
I firstly knew Memento Mori for some classic reissues or outstanding demo-compilations, like Centinex, Goddefied, Acrostichon, Anatomia etc., and because they released Funest’s first album, and they’re friends of mine.
Memento Mori definitely has some killer bands in their roster/past release list, for sure! Ataraxy, Carnal Tomb, Necroven, Solothus… As a label, it’s getting stronger and becoming well respected in the underground scene. Also, Raul is extremely professional and reliable!
I personally can say that I’m deeply sunk into death metal music in every aspect, and this surely incentives a more solid songwriting
TO: You had the chance to play with the legendary Sadistic Intent back in December. Can you tell us more about that show and what that experience was like?
Ekpyrosis: Well, that night we had a blast! Sadistic Intent is one of my favorite bands on earth, and I can talk for my bandmates too when I say they’ve been a huge influence on us in the last few years. Needless to say, we were excited to say the least.
Rick and Bay Cortez are definitely cool guys, we had a nice talk before and after the concert, they gave me the impression of being still sincerely passionate musicians. Of course, they played one of the best death metal shows I’ve ever witnessed – I was speechless.
TO: With the album almost out, what else does Ekpyrosis have planned for 2017?
Ekpyrosis: The album is coming out on 23rd January on CD, while a vinyl version will be likely published this summer, and it’s soon to be announced. We’re planning a few notable shows and festivals in Italy, and also work is in progress for some dates abroad, in Germany first, but not only!
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ or Ekpyrosis?
Ekpyrosis: Follow our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ekpyrosisband) to keep up with news and stuff, especially on advance tracks on streaming, and the upcoming premiere of the whole album. If you want to support us directly, you can find ‘Asphyxiating Devotion’ pre-order on our Bandcamp (https://ekpyrosis.bandcamp.com), along with some other merch, shipping worldwide from 23rd January!
Thanks for your time reading this interview!
– Nicko (vocalist and guitarist of Ekpyrosis)