Entering the Underground #13: Hexorcist Summons “Evil Reaping Death”
Florida has a long history with death metal of all sorts. Both the most primordial sounds and more musically developed ones thrived through the ‘80s and ‘90s, particularly in Tampa but to some extent across the whole state. Unfortunately, that largely stopped after the ‘90s, but even if the scene is a shadow of what once was, Florida still has cool bands.
One of those cool bands that’s still tirelessly doing their thing is the mighty Gnosis, who blend primitive black and death metal together in Miami to make some of the most exciting and ritualistic extreme music around. When I heard that one of their members was playing more straightforward, aggressive Satanic death metal I knew it merited listening and the result, the cleverly named Hexorcist, does not disappoint.
Blazing fast goat-worshipping death from start to finish, Hexorcist approach evil death metal with the gnarled hate of experience but without the tiredness that can come from years of playing the same genre. Every song sounds off the rails, ready to fall apart without care but precise and measured in approach. The Floridian swamp that Morbid Angel's Trey Azagthoth perfected on Abominations of Desolation lives on here, but without sounding at all like a band copying them; a great contemporary reference point is an even faster and more hellish Sijjin, with long-form necrotic vocals dropping occult verses over riffs that are pure, sped-up molten lava.
Joining us today to talk about Hexorcist’s morbid music is Hexorcist IV, the band’s drummer.
We were already talking about the album’s recording sessions before the Bestiarum Vocabulum demo even came out. How far ahead had Hexorcist planned out the first steps for the band?
To start with we didn’t have anything solid planned out. The original plan was to restart our old band Devastator, but we couldn’t get all of the original members so we scratched that idea. We then decided to change the style completely and incorporate some of our main musical influences. All of us are huge fans of the mid to late eighties Death Metal sound, when Black, Thrash and Death Metal were so similar and influenced by each other that it didn’t make a difference to fans as long as it was heavy.
The demo took about a year to record in its entirety. By the time we started recording “Bestiarum Vocabulum” in September 2019 we had about half the songs that are in the full length. Other stuff like the name of the album wasn’t decided until it was completely recorded. The original name was going to be “Denouncing the Immaculate”, and that was what was sent to the labels originally. Then one night we decided we needed something more representative of our sound and decided to go with “Evil Reaping Death”.
Why did the demo take a year to record, and what kept the album a bit shorter?
The demo took so long through a combination of line up changes and COVID. When we started we had a different singer and a different bassist. Once they left we kept writing music as a duo but were not able to finish the demo recording. We then recruited the vocalist from my other band, Gnosis. The new bassist that recorded the demo left soon after he recorded his parts. Because of this hiatus in recording by the time we finished the demo we had most of the songs for the full length.
Circling back you said that you changed the album’s name to directly represent how the music sounds; do you try in all ways to align your aesthetic to the way the music is?
Music is the most important component. The aesthetics of the band comes from our influences and a desire to show respect to the early bands of the style. I am a strong believer that the way the band is represented must match the music. Traditionally there’s different ways each style is represented whether it’s Black, Death or Thrash Metal, we try to honor the pioneers.
You go by Hexorcist IV in this band. Why the uniform stage names?
The decision to go by uniform names really came from having so many members come and go when we first formed the band. We decided that no matter who played bass, guitars or vocals, the important thing was the music and not who played the instrument.
Has the lineup solidified now that the band has been around a little longer?
So far it seems like it, we’ve had the same members longer than six months, that hasn’t happened before. We will start working on new material soon and hopefully start with a full band. We don’t have plans to play live, we are focusing on new material and recording.
Songs like “Sentry at the Seven Gates” rely on cleverly putting together just a few riffs across a short playtime. How do you approach drum arrangement for something that relies more on drums to carry a song than on something that has more riff changes?
I actually approach every song in the same manner. Most of the time when we start a song we do not know how it’s going to end. We play by feeling what feels right after each riff. This song is a perfect example because the drum roll at the beginning of the song was never rehearsed, I improvised it the day we recorded it. I approach drum playing by thinking about what would make the song sound better. It’s about the song as a whole, not the individual instrument and how talented the musician is. I also know my limitations and what I can consistently play.
Are songs all written in the room together without much being brought beforehand structurally?
Final structure is always done in the room together. The guitarist brings riffs and some basic structure to the songs, and then we work out riff order and add or take out riffs. Some songs are discarded completely, and some the riffs recycled for new songs. We respect each other enough that he knows that if I say something doesn’t flow well together it doesn't mean it is not good, just that it doesn’t match the specific song we are working on.
Artist Johny Prayogi painted the lovely cover art of goatmen off to war for Evil Reaping Death. Did the concept for the cover come from any specific song?
The cover of “Evil Reaping Death” is an example of planning way ahead of time. I have been a fan of Prayogi’s art for a while. When he posted the artwork I knew immediately that it fit the conceptual vision we had for the album. I contacted him and purchased the artwork in July 2020, at this point we only had about 6 or 7 songs for the full length. The artwork was actually one of the reasons we decided to change the name of the album, we wanted something more fitting, more aggressive.
Did you write any songs to specifically pair with the cover?
We chose the cover specifically because it represented the overall style of the music. The artwork, layout, band pictures or any other aesthetics are chosen around the music, not the other way around. Everything surrounding the music must represent it. We are already throwing ideas for the cover of our second full length, we hope to use the same artist and style. We may work some Lyrics more around the cover because we will have more input into what exactly goes into it.
How involved is each member in the lyrical and aesthetic content of the band?
Lyrics fall almost 100% on the guitarist. He has a really screwed up mind, and it helps that he finds inspiration when he’s drunk out of his mind. We decided with lyrics we wanted to go back to when lyrics were written about Satan and Evil, nothing complicated, no politics, no zombies or social problems. Once the lyrics are finished, the singer makes minor changes according to how his vocal patterns fit the song. Aesthetics is more my department. We make the final decision as a band, but I am usually the one in charge of looking for cover ideas or a specific artist. The singer has worked a lot on the layout of most of the demo releases, he is better at looking at smaller details and overall design.
Is it important that the lyrics that the guitarist write match your ideas for how the band should be presented?
Definitely, when we first started talking about what the band should represent we said that it should follow in the footsteps of Possessed and Deicide lyrics wise, Satanic Death Metal. The guitarist also writes the lyrics about what he is familiar with and what has influenced him.
Evil Reaping Death released July 26th, 2021 via Memento Mori (CD), Godz ov War Productions (cassette, digital), and Unholy Prophecies (vinyl).