Whether singing about ancient battles and wars or playing some of the most shredding riffs out there, Exmortus have developed a reputation in the metal scene for being unrelenting when it comes to cool musical themes and increasingly creative records. We spoke to vocalist Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez about the band’s direction on their most recent release and the reemergence of thrash.
What are you most excited about with this new record, and how do you feel your sound has changed over the years?
I’m just excited to play new tunes! I always am. I enjoy creating and performing music, and as a result the Exmortus sound has developed over the years. Ever since I’ve learned more theory and I’ve applied the newer knowledge from studying classical scores to my music, now you can hear a difference big difference between In Hatred’s Flame and The Sound of Steel. I like to believe the new music is more well-structured and not as chaotic, but the passion and intensity remain in more tame and tasteful kinds of expression.
What is some of the lyrical subject matter on the new album, and what inspired it?
A lot of the themes have to do with the generic, but every so real, saying “keep on keeping on.” I feel everyone needs a little positive reinforcement now and then. Mario and David left at the band the end of last year and wrote some of these new lyrics as a kind of self-encouragement to carry on and in a way, I hope others can feel motivated with some of these songs. Other songs still invoke familiar sentiments of fighting against cruel tyranny, while others in a way relate to the perspective of the oppressor. A lot of ideas are going on in this new album, so I think there’s something there for all listeners.
What was the recording process like for the record?
I was a bit worried at first, considering new members would be filling the role of second guitar and drums. There’s always a risk of feeling awkward when you first jam with someone new, but that wasn’t the case with Chase and Carlos from Warbringer. We’ve known each for so long and they’re both phenomenal musicians, so everything played out smoothly. Also, working with Zach Ohren again was awesome since he understands the Exmortus vision and helps to get the best out of all of us for the recording.
How do you feel the sound on the record differs from previous releases? How have you changed?
I love to learn, and I feel that I’ve learned a lot since my first efforts as a songwriter, composer and musician. I think this new album has a better balance of ideas than the previous ones. I love variety and I paid special attention to balancing groove and technicality, not only within a song, but also within the album in its entirety.
What future plans do you have as far as touring, recording or writing goes?
I kind of treated this new record as a conclusion to the heroic fantasy cycle of Exmortus. This is represented in the artwork by Phil Lawvere. I like to think that the clash of the Slave and Rider from the previous albums reflect the music well. For future albums, I want to continue to expand my lyrical and visual ideas but not exactly avoid heroic themes, either.
Classic, thrashy sounding death metal seems to be having something of a renaissance, as the popularity of slammier death has died down. How do you feel about this, and do you think it has surged your popularity?
Maybe so. I myself have a hard time categorizing Exmortus because when I write the music I don’t specifically want a certain thrash or death metal sound in my head; I merely put my musical ideas together simply for the music’s sake, but the result tends to have a thrashy sound. Trends are rather unpredictable, so what I think sets us apart is my insistence of using classical harmony and forms with a modern twist.
Who are some other bands you are listening to right now?
A lot of our friends’ bands and bands that we’ve toured with, naturally! Warbringer, Havok, Skeletal Remains, Extinction AD, Lich King, the Absence, etc.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The Sound of Steel came out June 8. You can get it now on the Prosthetic Records’ website, and expect a North American tour very soon!