Hey, are you into old school Death Metal? If your answer is “yes”, you must know about one of the current revelations in the extreme Metal community. Yes, we’re talking about Italy’s EKPYROSIS. We got in touch with Nicko, guitar and vocals in EKPYROSIS, to find out more about their impressive debut album“Asphyxiating Devotion”, which was released in January 2017 through Memento Mori and which is, for sure, an early candidate to be one of the best releases of the year already.
“Asphyxiating Devotion”, your debut album, has received a good reception from the extreme Metal underground community worldwide. Can you tell us something about the composition process, how long does it take to record the songs, mastering and mixing, who made the artwork, etc.
"Mostly I personally develop a song at home, with riffs and structural scheme. Then 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. 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. As you can see, the track ‘Morticians Of God’ has been re-recorded, since it was also featured in our latest EP. Even if the songwriting took place in a period of 12 months, it took a lot of efforts, indeed, and I spent a lot of time writing riffs, thinking about the right arrangement, fixing the lyrics etc. and then rehearsing any single part with the guys, over and over, and then working on the album concept and so on… About the recording session, that went really smooth. We’re in great friendship with Carlo of Toxic Basement studio, who also did a very good job with our latest EP, 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 which direction to take when it comes to the recording and mixing. We recorded everything in about 8 days in August 2016, we had a blast but it wasn’t effortless of course. About the artwork, 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 Cesar’s latest works a lot since they fit my personal taste and they also succeed to be truly anguishing and sickening. It turned out that he’s been working with Memento Mori for a while, so we immediately 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. It was drawn during October / November, circa, along with our new logo and the album / merch graphics."
Can you name the current EKPYROSIS line-up?
"We’re lucky enough to say that it’s literally the same as we started: it’s me (Nicko) on guitar and low-gutturals, Mark on the other guitar and higher-register voice (the vocal duties are about 50% me and 50% him), Ilaria “Jo” on drums (the woman in the line-up, if you’re not used to Italian names) and the guy going under that mysterious “M.” pseudonym is Marco, our bassist."
How did EKPYROSIS get in touch with Memento Mori to release “Asphyxiating Devotion”?
"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. Rául 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, yet they also have some killer bands in their roster / past release list, for sure! As a label, it’s getting stronger and becoming well respected in the underground scene. Also, Rául is extremely professional and reliable!"
In some reviews I’ve read that the EKPYROSIS style is commonly compared to bands like INCANTATION, IMMOLATION, SADISTIC INTENT, etc. Do the band members agree with this statement? Are you into this kind of Death Metal? Tell us more about your influences.
"Most of the reviews have taken this comparison to the reader’s attention: we’re both honored, since those bands represent our background and speaking for myself, the main part of my daily listening, yet somehow I’m afraid that this kind of comparison could enforce the idea of EKPYROSIS being essentially a “worship band”, which isn’t true I think. We have a strong old school Death Metal identity, as most of the reviewers have pointed out, even if we’re all in our early 20s – but I think there’s a difference lying between "Asphyxiating Devotion" and a standard “whatsoever worshipping” release. While the album’s got a low-end massive sound kind like the New York Death Metal tradition, I think the strongest aspect of our album lies in the riffs – as literally every article about this record has underlined. I suppose that’s the main spot for EKPYROSIS personality and originality. Not to mention that the riffing clearly takes inspiration from a large number of classic (and obscure) Death Metal acts, not limiting to a few names. Of course we didn’t mean to change anything or invent something new (rather the opposite), everything you can hear on the album is the direct consequence of a genuine passion for this kind of music and of the will to play it as we love it. I personally can say that I’m deeply sunk into Death Metal music in any very aspect, and this surely incentives a more inspired songwriting. So apart from the bands you mentioned (INCANTATION, IMMOLATION, SADISTIC INTENT), we’re strongly influenced by AUTOPSY, especially on the more Doom oriented sections, MALEVOLENT CREATION, MORBID ANGEL and DEICIDE, especially where the guitar work gets a bit more intricate, DEMIGOD, PURTENANCE and the whole Finnish Death Metal scene, for the obscurity of melodies and guitar lines, but the list goes on."
EKPYROSIS was formed in 2013, right? What was the motivation for you to form a Death Metal band?
"Yes! We’ve been around for about 4 years now, we met at high school and starting rehearsing some old school Black and Death Metal songs before we became an actual band. We felt the need of playing this type of music, although we weren’t sure about the direction, since we were all very young at that point, between 16 and 18 years old actually. We put our influences together and saw what happened, even if it took some times to find “our way” and our most suitable style."
What are you planning to spread “Asphyxiating Devotion”? Are you planning touring with EKPYROSIS in the near future?
"We’re doing a handful of shows and festivals around in Italy, while we’re planning to do some dates abroad (weekend dates, not tours so far), firstly in Germany, Romania, but there’s definitely something more to come!"
Is there any plan or offer to re-release “Asphyxiating Devotion” on vinyl format?
"Yes, the LP version has been announced by long running Italian cult metal label Terror From Hell / Elektroplasma Musik. It will be likely released this summer (it is currently in production), and it will come out both as standard black vinyl and a limited splatter edition, along with some other features. We’ll open up the pre-order section on our Bandcamp soon!"
Now, about your lyrics, what kind of topics is interesting for EKPYROSIS members?
"Lyrics often deal with the inexistence of god, or moral, in a nihilistic view which I usually reconnect with some philosophers or writers, so it’s not rare that my lyrics get inspired by a book, a poem or something similar. Obviously, to better fix this kind of music, the themes are mostly depicted in a grotesque way, spotting tribulation, meaninglessness and suffocation due to faith, which also gets along with the title “Asphyxiating Devotion”."
Can you tell us something about the current extreme Metal scene in your location? Is there some interesting underground bands can you recommend?
"I think it’s definitely getting strong. As you may know, Italy has an internationally recognized technical / brutal Death Metal scene. Talking about an old school approach to the genre 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 is always up to any band to realize their goals, of course. I’ll recommend some Death Metal (or similar) underground bands near my area, or that we’ve been playing with: NECRO, MEFITIC, DEMONOMANCY, BLASPHEMER, FUNEST, VOIDS OF VOMIT, VALGRIND, GRAVESITE, HAEMOPHAGUS, CENCER SPREADING, UNCREATION, NECROMUTILATOR, PRESUMED DEAD, TERRORSAW, EXTIRPATION, MAZE OF SOTHOTH, INTO DARKNESS, DAEMONIAC, PROFANAL, SEPOLCRO, NECROMORBID, HATEFUL, DOMINHATE, MORBUS GRAVE… They’re all worth a listening, don’t be shy!"
Are the EKPYROSIS members involved in another project in the extreme underground Metal (bands, zines, radio shows, etc.)?
"Personally I’m now also playing in BLASPHEMER, a long-running Italian Death Metal band (more on the brutal side) and we’re currently working on the 3rd full-length album, while the line-up is getting ready for some European festivals later this year. In the last year I’ve been playing with DAEMONIAC, a Swedish styled Death Metal act from Milan – we recorded our debut album at Sunlight Studios, Stockholm. I used to write for an Italian webzine, too, and lately I’ve been organizing some Death Metal shows (for bands coming from abroad or local extreme metal acts)."
Which bands / albums are you listening today?
"If you mean in these last few days, I’ve been spinning some CDs I recently bought, like PURTENANCE – “Member of Immortal Damnation”, MASSACRA – “Enjoy The Violence”, ABSU – “The Sun Of Tiphareth” and VOMITORY – “Revelation Nausea”, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of AUTOPSY (as usual), CIANIDE, early MALIGNANCY… Also VOIVOD is kinda the biggest constant in my listening session, always, and I’m quite obsessed with “The Outer Limits” (again!) in this period."
What can we expect from EKPYROSIS the current year? Are you already working on new stuff?
"We’re going to start putting together some new material very soon. We were thinking to release something on a 7” format (which we haven’t yet), be it an EP or a split – that would also work as a promo before another full-length release."
Italy has a really rich Rock & Metal scene growing strong from the 70s with bands like GOBLIN, BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO, LE ORME, PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI, BIGLIETTO PER L’INFERNO, MUSEO ROSENBACH, etc. and then in the 80s with DEATH SS, BLACK HOLE, STRANA OFFICINA, PAUL CHAIN, BULLDOZER, MORTUARY DRAPE, NECRODEATH, DARK QUARTERER, etc. As you can see there are some cult Progressive Rock bands and some Heavy, Thrash, Doom and Black cult acts in the list. What happened with a genre like Death Metal in Italy? Why wasn’t it as popular as it used to be in Sweden, England, Finland or Poland in the late 80s and early 90s?? To be honest, the only three Death Metal bands I remember right now from that period are ELECTROCUTION, SADIST and CATACOMB (pre – NOVEMBRE).
"I guess that the most worldwide-respected Italian Rock scene is clearly the 70s Prog one, which delivered an insane amount of classic (mostly obscure) records, much of which I personally enjoy, even if I’m far from being an expert. Also, I think that the Italian 80s Hardcore Punk scene is one of the most appreciated by fans all over the world, even being more underground (as often entangled with the DIY attitude), but it had a strong impact on the ‘80s Thrash wave (on SCHIZO and NECRODEATH in particular). Old school Italian dark Heavy / Doom Rock / Metal (as you pointed out) might be overlooked abroad, but it is one of the most notable sources of inspiration for the entire Metal in this country, being fairly recognizable in the most notorious Black and Doom Metal acts (such as MORTUARY DRAPE, to take the clearest example). To answer your question, it seems that Italian Death Metal acts (which are quite rare, anyway) in the ‘90s didn’t last very long, dying out after a handful of demos or an album in the luckiest case scenarios (like ELECTROCUTION), or taking fairly different ways (like SADIST). With Death Metal being extremely more difficult to commercialize for a standard label, and having had his own peak of popularity between 1989 and 1993, anything that came out in Italy couldn’t find any spot for a professional release. Actually, the whole Death Metal mass-appeal thing suffered of depression since the middle 90s, causing almost every underground band to disband before putting out anything. It’s not because Italy had no solid-based Death Metal labels (neither Sweden, nor Finland, nor Poland had), I just guess that anything here happened too late and nobody took the risk to offer a proper deal, as it was for other genres that blossomed in the right moment. In example, BULLDOZER might have become the biggest act on the peninsula by riding the “VENOM inspired satanic Speed Metal Punk” thing in the middle ‘80s, while NECRODEATH were playing Black / Death / Thrash in the most suitable period – the late 80’s. Apparently no Death Metal band made it to the international scene at the right time."
Interview: Miguel Negrón
Live pics: Valerio Achille Semenzin