Heavy metal having reached its commercial zenith almost 40 years ago, it's often hard for the uninitiated to believe that pure heavy metal still pumps furiously and truly in the hearts of those who chose to hear the call. If you've got well-developed fist-pumping muscles, then chances are that last sentence probably doesn't sound especially verbose or smack of the same grandiosity as it does to normal humans. I often struggle with how to explain to them why what we do on a regular basis is so great but a band like Exmortus, whose latest offering is that hydra of virtuosity and bombast that I crave, does it for me.
The flying dual leads, thrashing intensity, and newfound songwriting prowess found on Slave to the Sword surpasses just about all that is currently being given the rhetorical felattio at your favorite publication.
On their way through town for the third time in 6 months, I sat down with drummer Mario, in whom I found a a soft-spoken musically like-minded professional.
ThrashHead: How's the tour been?
Mario:Tour's been great! The shows have been awesome and we've been on the road for quite some time now. It's been great.
ThrashHead: So, you've been on tour with Destruction for not too long but, by and large, you guys have been in the thick of it for a while.
Mario:Yeah, we've been with Destruction for about a week now but we've been on the road since late January.
ThrashHead: Are there any plans for Europe?
Mario:We have stuff in the works but nothing really solid, no confirmations. Still feels like the album is still fresh, hasn't been out that long. It's only been out a month and a half...
ThrashHead: If even that. It doesn't even feel like that it's been that long
Mario:I know, it hasn't been long at all. So, we're hoping that by summer we have something like that lined up, maybe do a festival or two.
ThrashHead: Speaking of the new album (Sworn to the Sword), I've been following you guys from the first record to the second and, now, to the third.
ThrashHead: The first not as much but I am pretty familiar with the Beyond the Fall of Time and have now gotten to know the new record. I feel like the last album had a few songs that stood out but, on the new one, every single song is a banger. How do you feel the songwriting process changed on this one?
Mario:The song writing process was...I think the word would be "strict." On the second album, we were messing around, trying to fine tune songs. On the first, we basically just plugged in and played. On the second one, you know, you always want to top the album before. So, when we did the third one, we tried to do everything we didn't do on the first two and I think it shows. The production is there and the songs we've fine-tuned as much as we could without being absolute perfectionists. Otherwise, we'd still be writing it.
ThrashHead: What are you guys listening to now that you might not have been listening to before?
Mario:Ya know, I think it's more about what we were listening to more of. A lot of Judas Priest, etc and we've always listened to these bands but now we're really taking in, specifically, a lot of heavy metal elements. Manowar is one, which is an element that our previous bass player brought in. He was a big Manowar guy and I think it kind of spilled over into some of the writing on this record.
ThrashHead: When did he take of?
Mario:He took off in July of last year. Yeah, he is gonna be a father and he knew. We decided that when the album comes out, we were going to tour as much as we can and he was like, "ya know what, I just can't."
ThrashHead: That tends to happen.
Mario:Yeah, yeah, of course.
ThrashHead: What would you say your personal influences are as a drummer?
Mario:Over the years, Scott Travis [Judas Priest], Mikkey D [Motorhead]. I kind of try to go back and pick up things from Lars Ulrich.
ThrashHead: Like the first couple albums...
Mario:Yeah, yeah, he does these weird pop accents that follow the guitar a lot. These are the kinds of things I think are cool and try to work in here and there to kind of pay homage. Basically, it all goes back to classic heavy metal drummers, especially those that are playing almost a speed metal styling.
ThrashHead: It sounds like it's less thrash and more traditional heavy metal.
Mario:Yeah, definitely. Of course, our vocals aren't traditional heavy metal vocals but I guess that's our twist on it.
ThrashHead: It's weird, ya know, cause when you're listening to the band for the first time, it sounds like a thrash metal band for the first 10-15 seconds but it quickly evolves into something closer to a traditional heavy metal band. And, I'm sure you've noticed but there are quite a few bands doing this kind of traditional heavy metal thing over the last 5-6-7 years in Canada for one.
Mario:Yeah, like Skull Fist.
ThrashHead: Yeah, totally. But also Sweden. So, you know, Canada, Sweden, are the two big hotspots. Why do you think that is?
Mario:You know, I think it has to do with a genuine appreciation for the music. I also started noticing a lot of bands don't tour here.
ThrashHead: I noticed too [laughs]
Mario:[laughs] So, you gotta think, man. Those countries are getting exposed regularly to all kinds of metal. I feel like in the US it's kind of limited; you only get what sells.
ThrashHead: So, do you think it's about record sales? Because I think that.
Mario:Not 100% but I think they do play an important factor. If it doesn't sell, nobody wants to invest in that. So, therefore, you get generation growing up without any of that and what does it then evolve into? Ya know, you then get other countries spawning bands like that. Of course, in the US you do have Night Demon.
ThrashHead: I love Night Demon!
Mario:Yeah, they're fucking badass!
ThrashHead: But they don't even have a full-length out. Just the EP.
Mario:Yeah, but that's even cooler, I think, because those guys are constantly playing shows and coming up with new stuff. So, it's good that they're sort of carrying the torch in the LA area.
ThrashHead: So, are there any local bands in the Southern California area that you might want to give a shout out to that are doing good things?
Mario:There's a lot. It's Southern California.
ThrashHead: Anybody who is doing good things that we may have not heard about? Someone without a release?
Mario:Insentient is a good kind of technical death metal band. Cerebrus, another great tech death band. In the Whittier Area you have Infinite Death. They are a type of black metal. (http://www.reverbnation.com/infinitedeath). There are so many but those are the ones that come off the top off my head.
ThrashHead: What would be your dream band to open up for.
Mario:Ah, shit. I mean, Judas Priest. [Laughs]
ThrashHead: [Laughs] Well, yes.
Mario:Honestly, any of the bands that I and many other people grow up on. You know, Slayer and the like. Those are the titans, the gods. To open for any of them would be insane.
ThrashHead: I guess at this point, I would have asked you to sign my vinyl which I left at home.
Mario:I'll definitely sign it next time. Let's just say I did!
ThrashHead: Thanks, Mario. Have a great tour.
Mario:No problem, man.