Exmortem is about to release their much anticipated, new album Funeral Phantoms. The Danes are now on Mighty Music and with a label change from Earache Records, the band is back on Danish soil business-wise. The direction of the music has likewise undergone a major overhaul and Exmortem 2008 sound as versatile and organic as ever. A few days ago I had the chance to interview guitarist Martin Thim and talk about all the changes and the reborn joy of playing live.

Martin Thim interviewed by PSL

2008 shows Exmortem with a somewhat different line-up, a new label and a new album. Do you feel you're back stronger than before?
Yes, isn't that what you're always supposed to say?! But I actually think that it's the case. The chemistry in the band is great and what we've achieved on the new effort is something we've wanted to do for a long time. I think it's been worth the wait. We've been looking back and done some soul searching, thinking things through and from there we've slowly uncovered and moulded the style we wanted to play.

Like you just said the style is a little different. What has motivated this change in direction?
There are many things, but perhaps the metal scene in general is what has motivated us the most to do something rawer and less polished and we have also for a long time wanted to do something different soundwise as well as approach things differently both structure and stylewise. We wanted to incorporate more variation and try a few other things as well. For the last three records or so, we've been playing death metal with 200 kilometres per hour and we would have been up against the wall if we were to continue that way and the motivation was just not there to give it another try.

My impression is that the music is far more organic and varied now.
Absolute, I completely agree. There are more to it, but personally I didn't want to make another fast record similar to the old ones and perhaps it's also some sort of rebellion against the trend in the death metal genre where everything has become a little too clinical and nice nowadays. It's like it's more about technique than making good songs. We've tried to be opposite and make good songs; at least that's what we aimed for.

On Nihilistic Contentment you did almost all the song-writing. Has the approach been different on Funeral Phantoms?
Yes, we've been working far more collectively. If I were to divide it, me and Andreas have written about 50% each of the riff material, but it has been more of a work-process between all in the rhythm section this time as opposite to previously where I had more or less finished tracks I would come and present. It differently has been a lot cooler way to make the music this time, I think.

You also decided a different approach regarding the recording. Could you say something about the reasons for doing so?
Well, first and foremost we're back and a Danish label with Danish budgets [laughs]. No, it was actually because we wanted to control more ourselves. Also because that way we could get more time to work with the songs and the sound. We could chose to put a lot of money in a studio and then have three weeks to record and complete everything or we could do it ourselves and then spend the time we thought was necessary until we were 100% satisfied. That it then took a little longer than expected because we had to move to different locations and studios is a different story, but the expression and the sound is a 100% like we wanted it.

I think you've achieved a very dark and heavy production sort of in the vein of Celtic Frost on Monotheist.
Yes, but that's not a bad album to be compared to. We wanted it to be a little gloomier and have room for mistakes and weird sounds as long as it sounded right. We've been working on it a lot and it's been a very cool process to be a part of.

How prepared are you when you enter the studio? Is there room to improvise a bit along the way?
Actually we've never been as poorly prepared as this time. Of course we had the songs built up rhyme and song-structure wise and so on, but for instance none of the lyrics were written and a lot of the leads we put on, which I guess is also something new Exmortem-wise, where something we came up with in the studio. So yes, we've allowed ourselves a little more freedom this time and again this also because we've had more time to work on things. It's kind of different from when you're just having the clock tick away like in a studio. So there was definitely room for a bit more fun and goofing around this time.

You write all the lyrics. Are they an important part of the music or just something that needs to be there?
No, it's very important, in my opinion, and especially on this album things have come to fit very well together. Nothing is left to the circumstances at all, whether it's the music, the lyrics or the graphics. It all comes together in a way that makes sense. Actually we've always been conscious about this, but on Funeral Phantoms it came out really well.

You're doing the design, layout and pictures on the album. Do you think the visual aspect of the music shouldn't be taken lightly?
Definitely. We might not have been able to do a whole lot about it in the past and we're also somewhat limited since we're an underground band. We don't have the big budgets, but we do have certain capacities in the band that make us able to do a lot of the things we want to. But yes, the visual aspect of the music is very important, no doubt about that.

Has it made any difference to be on a local label like Mighty Music compared to the major Earache?
It's probably too early to say something about, but so far it hasn't meant anything other than they speak Danish and perhaps are a little easier to understand sometimes. It's a little different to see how the distribution and all the other things work, until everything is up and running and has been for a while. With Earache, it was like they didn't really do a lot for us and perhaps we didn't do a lot for them either. I've always thought the thing with labels has been weird and kind of different. As long as we get the album printed and put out, then everything is fine [laughs].

There's been far between your concerts the last few years. Is this something you expect will change?
Yes, I think we now have the aspiration to play live again and especially with the new songs, which we probably also will spotlight the most from now on when we play live. It's a whole different feeling playing the new songs live and it gives much more energy to have fun. In the past it was more like running a 100 metre 45 minutes in a row. I definitely expect that there will be more shows and things beginning to shape up with the Aalborg Metal Festival, Copenhagen Deathfest and so on. So it definitely should become easier to catch us live than it has in the recent years.

Has the scene transformed for Exmortem the last couple of years?
I actually don't know, but on the other hand I would say it's a good time for the album to be released. Hopefully it can stir things up a bit and show the ugly face of metal again. I think that's a good thing.

Yes, a lot of it has been a little too polished in the last couple of years.
Yes, Danish metal is doing well, but a lot of it has been somewhat pretentious.

How difficult was it to say goodbye to Illdisposed?
[Laughs], it wasn't difficult at all. I simply couldn't stand playing live with that band anymore [laughs]. No, they play live a lot and it's something I don't want to anymore and I just can't play guitar when I'm drunk and I constantly was when I was playing with them, so all in all I think it's a win-win situation [laughs].

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