(Our Russian friend Comrade Aleks returns to NCS with this new interview of Eugenio Meccariello, vocalist of the long-running Swiss band Excruciation, whose latest release (via Auric Records) is a substantial compilation of rare songs that have been produced since their reunion in 2005.)
Originally formed in Zurich in 1984, Excruciation seems to be one of first death-doom bands. They did some successful experiments ’til the late ’80s and gained a reputation with a bunch of demos and the Last Judgement EP in 1987. They almost recorded a full-length album, but the band was split up in 1991. Who could expect that Excruciation would return in 2005 with new material, and with all original members in the lineup? However, their reunion EP Arise did lead them to a series of new releases including four full-length albums and nearly a dozen shorter recordings.
The band’s fresh compilation [e]met sums up Excruciation’s non-album legacy, and this 16-song collection will give you a pretty good impression about their way into this crude, heavy, and yet emotional doom-death metal. Excruciation’s vocalist Eugenio Meccariello sheds light on [e]met and the band’s current status.
Hail Eugenio! I’d like to congratulate you on the release of [e]met, a decent compilation of the band’s rare tracks and covers. All your albums have “readable” names, but what does “[e]met” mean?
Hi Aleks! Thanks! Well “emet” is Hebraic and means “truth” while “met” means “death”, so both together are more or less a shortened derivation of “only death is real”. Why Hebraic? You may know the Golem, a figure from Jewish folklore based in Prague from the 16th century. It’s some kind of monster made of clay, an artificial life-form similar to Frankenstein’s Creature or maybe even Adam & Eve… :-), with the difference that it has an on/off facility. It has written EMET on its forehead and then he is awake. But you can erase the “E” and then he falls asleep or he is dead. And maybe this is where we’re heading today, to a biomechanic and artificial life. If this is the future, this will be the moment when Death will be defeated because there won’t be anything left to die.
Nice concept! So saying this… do you believe in the mystic power of words and the power of the way they’re delivered?
Thanks! Of course! It all depends on who and delivers and how, and who receives them and how they accept them. Don’t wanna get to deep into politics but that’s what it is about. History is full of good and really bad examples of how words can change history, how they can change the views of the masses. Words are the only thing that makes us superior to any other life on this planet. That does not mean that it makes us in any way better, but it’s a powerful instrument, especially the written ones, to spread our wisdom over generations. And of course if words are accompanied by big gestures, pictures or music, their power can be increased.
What will this collection of songs tell your listeners? Do you feel it’s a kind of reflection of both your influences and different stages of the band’s development?
Well, this is something the listeners should answer. It was not meant to be some kind of reflection but, listening to it now, it shows pretty well the evolution the band has taken since its reunion, even though most of the songs never made it on an album.
Excruciation – Last Judgement
This year is Excruciation’s 35th anniversary. How does it feel to realize that you’ve passed such a huge way? By the way, do you plan to celebrate this date in some way?
To be honest, I don’t really think about it. It has become a part of my life and it seems so natural to go on. With all the ups and downs. We already did some special shows and releases for our 25th and 30th anniversary so we do not have the urge to do it again. Actually at this age we should maybe celebrate every anniversary. 🙂
After all these years do you have your favorite studio and a sound engineer with whom you prefer to work? It seems that nowadays a lion’s share of bands have their own home studios or at least they’re able to record some song parts at home.
We would be able to record ourselves and also have the equipment for it, but that would be a never-ending story. You always have the option to change something and there’s always something to change. So I like the idea of entering a studio with just a certain amount of time to record the album. To capture this moment. I also like working with other people. We’re so close to our music that maybe we miss something and someone else can point that out. That’s also the reason we usually work with other people for the master than the people we record with.
It’s hard to say who’s my favorite studio as each one has had its pros and cons.
Engineers like Alberto Solieri from the Blu Velvet Studio or Fred Herrmann from the Hitmil Studio which usually do Pop productions have another approach working with sounds than say the guys from Real Sound Studio or Mario Dahmen from Liquid Aether who are very familiar with Metal music.
All have their legitimacy.
I’ve heard that Hannes Reitze left the band not long ago, is it true? How can it affect the band’s activity?
Yeah, Hannes left the band for personal reasons and he has left a big gap behind. We had similar ideas to where the sound should go and how to achieve it, being both really open-minded for that matter. How it will affect our future activities is yet to be seen.
Eugenio, you have written lyrics for Excruciation songs since back in the ’80s. How do you work with it nowadays? Does the band have a kind of lyrical message which you try to keep from album to album?
Most of the lyrics are about things that happen to me or persons near me, things I deal with or just pop up in my mind or just annoy me, especially some political stuff. Of course there are songs about my dislike of any religious dogmas, especially the Roman Catholic church, being raised that way. But I’m neither a teacher nor a preacher. If my lyrics make people think, great, if not, then they shall enjoy the music.
Excruciation – Golgotha
Being Russian I can’t avoid a question about the “Murmansk” songs. What’s the story behind those two tracks? I was thinking about the Kursk submarine catastrophe, but geographic-wise it did not take place there…
That’s a nice one or in this case two…. After rehearsals we usually go out drinking a beer or two and Andy our drummer talked about a documentary on Murmansk he saw and that he said must be the most depressing place to live. But I didn’t get it because I was talking to someone else. A few days later Hannes wrote me that he had written a few riffs for Murmansk.
I was perplexed and didn’t get the idea why someone would write a song about this city. So I searched the web and found this nice urban legend about some scientists who were looking for oil near Murmansk and found the gates to hell instead. There were even audio files with the screams of the tormented souls. Well I thought this would be a nice way of doing a song about how the greed of man opened the doors to hell, and had an aggressive vibe in mind for the music.
At the rehearsal room they started playing the riffs he mentioned and they were on the depressing side and I was pretty perplexed. So they told me their story and I told them mine. The same evening we wrote “Murmansk II”, the “hellish” one, and started working on “Murmansk I”, a song about being lost at the border of no man’s land… A few people from Murmansk wrote me that I had nailed it pretty good. [Editor’s Note: “Murmansk II” appears on [e]met; both tracks are included in 2014’s [g]host album.]
WormHoleDeath released your EP Lutheran Psalms in March 2016. The title song has a kind of anticlerical message, which is common for metal in general, but the second track “Lybia 1942” is something more tangled. Can you tell more about the origin of these songs?
Most of the time when you read about Luther, watch a documentary about him or talk to Evangelists, he’s being put on a throne, how heroic he was rebelling against the Catholic Church, but they tend to forget that he was one of the biggest anti-Semites to walk Germany or even the world, only topped by Hitler, who admired him. Especially his pamphlet “Über die Juden und ihre Lügen” (“About the Jews and their lies”) published in 1543, which was a blueprint for what was to happen in Nazi Germany. Just to say, another Christian, religious fanatic, who did not make the world better, but worse.
“Lybia 1942” is about my grandpa. During WWII he was stationed in Lybia until one day his best friend was killed by a shot in the head and he was injured. So he decided to go home. Hiding during the day and running through the night, feeding on whatever he found, on roots and small animals etc…. It took him over a year to reach southern Italy. He went to war with full hair and all his teeth and got back with almost no teeth and even less hair. When I was a kid I always wanted him to tell about this “adventure” but he never made it to the end, starting to cry every time in the middle of the story. At least he made it back or I wouldn’t be here! Thanks for getting home, nonno!
Eugenio, what launched your hostility towards Christianity? Is it such an annoying phenomenon in Switzerland?
Well, it has nothing to do with Switzerland, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not annoyed by religions per se. Actually I think it can be a good thing for those who believe, it gives hope to the hopeless, love to the loveless. But I don’t see the need of an institution that tells you how to believe and how to practice your religion. And the Catholic Church is what makes me mad. My family originates from Southern Italy, and at least when I was a kid, the church dictated there how to live. When there was a procession in the name of whatever saints, and there are a lot of saints, especially the poorest of the poor donated half their income to the church, hoping for a better life. While the priest bought himself a new car every year they did not even have money to feed a donkey.
The Catholic Church is one of the richest organizations on earth and they’re still asking for donations and taxes and I never see them doing something good. Building churches and cathedrals in Africa while just nearby children starve. That makes me shake my head. They do not need a house to pray in, they need food and medicine.
And let us not start on pedophilia. That seems a regular thing to happen behind the curtains but you rarely see that any of them get sentenced by a regular court.
I could go on and on and I’m sure these are not only phenomena of Christianity but of any other religion.
“Lutheran Psalms” appeared on your next album, [c]rust, which, subjectively, continues the theme of [g]host directly. How comfortable do you feel yourself playing this kind of music nowadays?
Well of course, it all feels natural. The music evolves, we’re getting more open-minded or at least not being afraid to let other views and musical styles into Excruciation. Actually it’s also a kind of getting back to the roots, allowing music I always loved like Punk, Post-Punk, Crust, Wave to incorporate into our sound, and still trying to sound like Excruciation.
And what about your death and doom metal influences? Where are they rooted?
Let’s talk about 1984/1985. There weren’t many doom bands around at that time, apart from the obvious Black Sabbath. There were Saint Vitus, Paul Chain, Trouble, and the pre-Candlemass Nemesis. So we were influenced by the slower songs by Venom, for example “In Nomine Satanas”, or Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death”, Death SS‘ “Black and Violet” or Crude SS‘ “Who’ll survive”, etc.. There were of course some proto-doom bands around like Coven or Black Widow, Black Hole and a lot of Italian prog bands, but at this time we did not care much about them. Later on bands like Death, Possessed, Morbid Angel, Celtic Frost, but also some post whatever bands like Neurosis had a huge impact on us.
Excruciation – Days Of Chaos
Eugenio, you started your own label Auric Records a few years ago. Do you still feel it’s a good idea to support the scene this way? How often did you think about finishing it?
Yeah, any support for underground music is needed. I like to spread music for the sake of music and not with profit in mind, but based on passion. I thought about ending it when Hannes left. We worked together on Auric Records, and when leaving Excruciation he also left the label. I never asked him why, but I assume that it may have been strange leaving a band and still releasing their records. But now I’ve got a new partner, Mario from Liquid Aether Audio, a studio based in Germany. We have similar ideas and a similar taste in music, he’s a nice guy with the same passion like me, and of course it’s a nice plus to have a studio at hand.
What do you plan to release through Auric Records in 2019? As I understand, there were no other releases besides Excruciation for the last two years or so?
We signed a few bands and the first releases will be unleashed in September or October.
The next releases will be an EP of Evangelion, Swiss Black Metal, Nauthik, a German Funeral Doom band with lyrics based on Sardinian folklore, and an EP of Schwermut, a German melancholic Black Metal outfit, and then to be followed by the crusty Death Doom band Collapse Instinct, an experimental Black Metal album by Wacht from Switzerland, Babylon Asleep with some avantgarde Death Doom blackness, and the Dutch Dodenkrocht are currently writing their new album. So you see, a lot going on.
The band’s latest album [c]rust appeared three years ago. What’s your progress considering new material? How soon do you plan to return to a studio?
We just started the writing process with George. Since Hannes left a big gap, we first had to find the direction we wanted to go. So let see’s what happens. Of course I’ll keep you updated!
Speaking about Excruciation’s full-length albums – there are just nine years between the debut album Angels To Some, Demons To Others and [c]rust. How far do you feel you have gone from that “original” sound?
We got more open-minded during these years and allowed other musical influences to get on the surface. In the beginning we may have been afraid of changing the sound too much, but nowadays I don’t really care anymore. It’s music. If we think it fits and we like it then it’s okay even if other people think otherwise. I like to try to capture the darker side of life. And for me, this is Doom.
Eugenio, that’s all for today. Let’s finish it with one last question: How would you sum up Excruciation’s ultimate message?
Do whatever you want and the way that you want! Or to quote Amebix, “No gods, no masters!”
Really interesting. I was not familiar with Excruciation. I probably heard them on my friend’s record player back in the 80s cause he had everything metal at that time. This latest album is really good. I do hear Celtic Frost and Neurosis influences as he said. Libya 1942 is intense.