Ekpyrosis is a total brutal crushing death metal band and here is an interview with band member Nico I did:
Let’s get the boring question out of the way. How did the band form and who formed it? How did you end up all meeting each other? I see all the members are the same since 2013. Do you all pretty much get along with each other for the most part?
Marco and I (Nico) attended the same high school, and as soon as it became obvious we were both into extreme metal. We started playing together in his basement and eventually came up with idea of starting a band on the black/death/thrash side. He got engaged with Ilaria, the drummer and after a few months, and since she was into this kind of music, too, we started rehearsing together.
The “other” Marco joined as bass player at the end of 2012 (he was a classmate of mine, actually), so that in January 2013 we picked up the name Ekpyrosis and began composing original material. This line-up has never changed, we’ve always kept in utmost friendship, but sincerely more now than ever before, which is definitely cool.
What were the early practices of the band like? Did the band fool around with any cover tunes at all? When did you start to write originals?
We spent a few months playing cover to get used to play in a band, and to get into the attitude any metal band needs. At our very first rehearsals we covered Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost, and went on practicing until the band became tighter, and then we covered also Kreator, Slayer, Death, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Destruction… We were all quite young at that time (I was 16, in fact, and nobody was in the legal age ha ha), so that “garage days” period was quite mandatory. Improvements showed up quickly anyway, so we started writing riffs at putting them together in early 2013.
Where is the band located at and is there at least a decent underground metal scene there? Any clubs to play at all? Have you seen any good shows over the past few years?
We are located near Monza, less than 20 km North from Milan, so we’re lucky enough to be close to one of the most active centers of Italian metal music scene, if we dare to say it. In Milan it is generally easier to put up gigs, there are plenty of excellent bands in the Lombardy area, and a decent amount of good venues. Almost any international metal tour, underground or big-selling, comes across Milan of course, so I’ve seen literally a few hundreds of gigs within a 1 hour driving area.
Talking about “scene” always sounds like a taboo, but actually in Lombardy there are plenty of good bands also signing for international labels, venues and promoters working their asses off to get shows done, and cool underground situations in general, and personally I’ve always been enjoying the bright side of it all. I must name a few death metal bands of my area (and nearby) I personally admire, often play with or organize gigs, and support: Necro, Funest, Mefitic, Voids of Vomit, Valgrind, Terrorsaw, Fuoco Fatuo, Blasphemer, Morbus Grave, Gravesite, Into Darkness, Sepolcro, Maze of Sothoth, Riexhumation, Winds of Disease, Presumed Dead, Macabro Genocidio, Daemoniac (which I’ve been playing in, in the past 12 months)…
How long was the band together before you put out the demo called “In Pulverem Revertis”? How was it going into the studio for the 1st time? How many songs were on this and did you sell it or send it out to any labels and if so what was the feedback on it? What are your thoughts on the demo these days?
We’ve recorded that demo in September 2013, so we’d been together for way less than one year when we hit the studio to record it. Quite frankly, we were a bit unsure about the path to follow, musically talking, so it sounds like a sort of mixture of different influences that me and Marco, the guitarist and composers, had at that time.
We were also not totally aware of all the difficulties and issues of professional recording, and even if we had fun, recordings were not that smooth, but production was quite much neat for a demo. We produced and printed it ourselves, it was useful to help the band getting known in the underground, get called for some gigs, and also getting some interest from a few local minor labels.
In 2015 you released a 2nd demo called “Black Aspid of Doom”. What did you do differently with this demo as opposed to your 1st demo? Did you go to the same studio or a different one?
Actually that one is a rehearsal demo, recorded directly with the full band playing in a room, one take. In fact it’s raw, but still very listenable to be a live recording. Then we put it on tape with the help of a friend of a so called Evil Distro, who also traded the tapes with some fanzines and distros all over the world! That was the time I got stuck with the so called “old school” attitude, which can easily be heard from the music. Some of the songs ended up in the Witness His Death EP some time later on, some never got recorded properly, but they were pointing in a more definite direction.
Did you send this demo out to any webzines or fanzines or magazines? If so what were the reviews like?
Since it was a raw recording, it was mostly a sort of statement on the band intention of joining that kind of 80s/90s underground metal attitude, trying to deliver something filthy and lo-fi on a format (the tape) closer to the taste of this genre’s aficionados, like I understood and appreciated from that time on. Anyway, we got an unexpectedly warm reaction from all those other bands going in that same direction, trying “to keep the ancient feel” alive. It was a natural development of band’s style and attitude, and we felt like doing it.
Did you send it to any record companies and if so what was the feedback like?
I actually sent a few promos and got some replies, but never as much as I did with the master of Witness His Death (which was worth, since we got signed with Memento Mori, after that).
Now did you come up with the band name? Does it mean anything? Were any other names considered? Who came up with that killer logo?
I came up with the name Ekpyrosis after I read in Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of The Rose when I was 14 or 15. I loved it enough to keep it secretly safe until I started a band ha ha! In ancient Greek, it means conflagration, of in general the attitude of something to burn or get afire. In Stoic philosophy and belief, Ekpyrosis was the cosmic conflagration of the Universe which occurred cyclically at the end of an era, in order to allow another world to rise from the ashes of the previous.
The first logo, which appears on the demos and the EPs, is the one that I made with photoshop when we published our first demo. This one which you’re referring to, appearing on our new album, was made by César Valladares, who also drawn the album cover, the promotional t-shirt design and the CD layout.
Also in 2015 you released an Ep called “Witness His Death”. Who put this out and are there demo tunes on it or is all brand new tunes? What are your thoughts on this release and is it still for sale?
Witness His Death is actually our first properly professional studio recording and release, and as long as I can say, the first step of Ekpyrosis as a more well established death metal band. Even if it’s still a bit far from our current incarnation, it features most of the characteristics of our sound, and it’s purely death metal this time, left behind any kind of more black-oriented or melody-friendly contamination.
Musically, it’s stuff in the vein of Incantation, Sadistic Intent and the likes, with a more vitriolic production and a ruthless approach à la Grotesque and Merciless.
It features 4 selected songs from the 2014 period, and some of them are also included in the rehearsal tape we did a few months before (yet not actually a proper recording, as I said). The CD version has been released by Slaughterhouse Records and distributed by FOAD Records, while the tape version has been edited by Unholy Domain Records.
We still think it’s a solid record, and Carlo of Toxic Basement, our trusted sound-engineer, did a very good job on it. It’s still available on most of distribution channels (digital version also), some metal mail-orders and of course through our Bandcamp page.
For someone who has never heard the band what would you say you sound like? Do you think you’re an original band?
It’s death metal founded on the purpose of keeping intensity at any of the speeds, from the frequent doom-like low-tempos, to the rhythmic sections, to the grinding part (avoiding the too-abused hyper-blasted approach), with many tempo-changes, a very thick guitar and bass sound, double vocal assault. We’re far from being innovative, of course, but I guess originality lies in the songwriting, since I think we achieved the goal of playing properly called death metal yet without losing intriguing song structures and vocal lines.
I guess we can say that we take inspiration mostly from American ‘90s death metal, especially from Incantation, from whom we also got that ticker low-end sound that characterizes the album Asphyxiating Devotion. Also influences by Immolation, Sadistic Intent, Deicide, Autopsy, Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel and the likes are easy to be heard. You can spot some Finnish death metal à la Demigod or Purtenance in some passages, or a few Asphyx and Bolt Thrower in the mid-tempos.
Nicolò and Marco handle the vocals. Now do they both sing pretty much the same amount or does one sing more than the other pretty much?
Marco and I sing for almost the same amount of time, with me taking the low and guttural vocal register, and him singing on an little higher and throaty register. It depends on the mood of any single song part whether I’ll be singing on that riff, o it will be Marco covering it. We can say we have not a frontman or vocalist by the way, and this kind of double vocal approach as always been and Ekpyrosis feature.
In 2017 a brand new full length release is coming out on Memento Mori called “Asphyxiating Devotion”. Are these all new songs or are some Ep songs on it as well? Where was it recorded and how long were you in the studio for?
There are 9 songs, 8 of them never recorded before, while Morticians of God has been re-recorded from the previous EP.
We recorded it in Toxic Basement Studio, near Milano, which is a super cool studio for metal, grind and hardcore related production. It’s the same place where we recorded the EP Witness His Death, and this time Carlo, the sound engineer, did a fantastic job, delivering a heaviness beyond any expectation, without losing clarity nor natural features of the sound. We spent 8 days in a row in the studio in the beginning of August 2016, we worked hard and got everything done the way we wanted it. Again, working with him has been a pleasure and an utmost fun.
This new album totally kills did you spend a lot of time getting ready to record and stuff?
Thank you. These tracks have all been composed in the last year, actually, and perfectly represent our current style and way of playing, being without any doubts the Ekpyrosis album we were longing for as musicians. Even if the songwriting took place in a period of 10 months, it took lots of efforts, indeed, and I spent a lot of time writing riffs, thinking about the right arrangement, fixing the lyrics… and then rehearsing any single part with the guys, over and over, and then working on the album concept and so on…
Who writes the music and how does a song idea pop into your head? How about lyrics who writes those and what are most of the subjects you right about?
I generally write most of the music and lyrics, while Marco sometimes write some songs on his own. Often, I get inspired by a gig I saw, or a CD I heard, or just find a good idea while playing randomly, but I enjoy thinking about a suitable song structure, and then look for the right riff that would fix into that plan. It can take a few minutes or some days, but I usually work on the same song over and over until I’m totally satisfied, and bring some modifications later, when the song has already been rehearsed a few times.
About the lyrics, they 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, these 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”.
Does Memento Mori pay for the recordings? If so what sort of budget do they give you?
They actually helped us out with mixing and recordings costs, and provided album cover, logo, illustrations and layout.
Have you played live much and do you hope to do some type of touring behind this release?
In fact we have an active live activity, we’ve been playing tons of shows in Italy lately, played a couple in Spain too, and has been a total satisfaction to open band like Necrophobic, Pentacle, Funerus, Ares Kingdom, Vulcano, Taake, Azaghal, Drowned and many more, and in the future we’ll be playing with Sadistic Intent, Avulsed, Dead Infection…
We hope to play more and more abroad in the upcoming months, in festival, weekend dates or also some touring, why not? We have some contacts and for sure we’ll soon start planning something in order to promote the album in Europe.
Please plug any websites or social media sites you have…
CF: Any last words? Horns up for doing this interview!
Thank you very much for this interview, for your time and dedication in supporting underground metal music. Hail darkness!
Interview by Chris Forbes