An Interview with Exmortus: Born To Battle

Exmortus are a Whittier, California-based death/thrash metal band that was formed in 2002. The group released the albums In Hatred’s Flame (2008) and Beyond The Fall Of Time (2011) through Heavy Artillery Records before signing to their present label, Prosthetic Records. They just released their third full-length album, Slave To The Sword, in February, and are fresh off a tour with the Gothenburg, Sweden, death metal group, Dark Tranquillity.

In the interview below, drummer Mario Moreno discusses the band’s new album, some of the equipment used, advice for young musicians and more. The transcription is below:

Thinking back, what do you remember the most about the studio sessions for Slave To The Sword?

It was the first album we used a click track. That really helped us; it put what we play live onto audio properly. I remember spending time on detail and tone on making sure everything was crisp, solid, and as tight as possible.

Was this the first album recorded with a metronome?

Our first album was done without a metronome. Out second album, Beyond The Fall Of Time, was done halfway with a metronome. This last album was done to a click track in order to keep things as solid as possible. It is hard to layer things when you are just going at it full speed. Live it is cool, I think. On an album, if you really want quality, you really need to take the time.

Can you explain the process your band goes through for picking out the right takes to use for an album?

I guess with Slave To The Sword, I think the right takes were just spot on. Having the click, we didn’t use it to just make things easier. We used it as a guide. We used it to translate what we do live onto an album and have the best quality possible from those takes.

With the click, you kind of see if something is off. There is a kind of template that you can go off of and helps to pinpoint mistakes. Picking the best takes was just looking at the template. Maybe this doesn’t sound good; a lot of stuff just doesn’t naturally sound good. We did the drums first. When you start layering on top of that, you tend to notice mistakes, so whatever sounded right.

For the first single for your new album, “Immortality Made Flesh,” what were you guys trying to say in the lyrics?

[Singer/guitarist] Conan wrote all the lyrics. I helped out with the idea of the song. We got the idea of the song from the Playstation videogame God Of War. In the game, there is this character that needs to kill Ares, the god of war. The song is about killing that god and becoming immortal. It’s like in Predator, if it bleeds, you can kill it.

The track “Battle Born” has a very unearthly guitar intro a little bit like a King Diamond song, setting the stage for an intense song. Can you remember how this song came together and what it was like in the recording sessions for it?

Battle Born” was originally two songs. I don’t now remember what the working titles were when we were writing them. There were two great songs that were incomplete and they had pretty much the same tempo and same style, so we ended up putting them together. The leads for the beginning intro were just there. I don’t remember how we came about it. It was worked in with old material.

What was the most difficult song for you to play on the album?

“Moonlight Sonata (Act 3)” I think was difficult for everybody, mainly because there are no lyrics. There are no drum parts for the song, so there is no drum riff. Beethoven didn’t write drums. I followed what the guitar was playing. The guitar had some insane, shreddy shit on it. It’s a hard song to play because of the length.

For the closer, “Metal Is King,” the lyrics, “When the reaper makes his deal, trust in your steel,” are chanted numerous times throughout the song. What do you think of when you hear it?

When death comes knocking, have your sword ready. Trust in yourself, really. That is what comes to mind when death comes to mind. Not to get too deep, but you can’t control those things. We sing about those things in an uplifting, positive way. Words like “slave” are negative, but it is all positive at the end of the day. When the reaper makes his deal, trust in your steel; always be ready and trust in yourself.

What are some valuable things you learned from playing DIY backyard party shows over the years that can apply to young musicians just beginning to start putting on live performances?

I learned, I think, those shows are fun to do. The atmosphere is different compared to the atmosphere you have when you start playing venues and bigger production things. It’s a process; there are sound checks, load-ins, you have set times, whereas with a DIY show, it’s a free-for-all. Those are cool since it is more casual.

You need to take charge or you can end up getting your stuff stolen sometimes. Watch your stuff. Get cases for all your stuff, and put your band logo on them; that really separates your stuff. The DIY show can apply to anything, really. You have your equipment with a bunch of other bands. It is really easy to get gear mixed up. A lot of times things get taken by accident; it’s not that uncommon for two bands that will have the same guitar case. For DIY shows, just keep an eye on your stuff and label it. Pack up after you play. A lot of bands take it too easy. At DIY shows, they think it’s pretty easy to leave your stuff and go party.

What type of advice do you have for young bands trying to make t-shirts and posters to sell?

I would say buy in bulk. Save up the money and buy things in mass quantities because it is cheaper, and the other recommendation is to print it yourself. For a long time, Exmortus was printing our own t-shirts and silkscreen patches. That really helped but also, getting some of the equipment and learning how to use it can be expensive—but it is worth it in the end. We have also had shirts made for us. That’s less of a hassle, but you do have to pay more. We noticed that buying in bulk is better and it is good to just learn how to do it.

When you are breaking in new members into your band, what are some dos and don’ts that you always need to adhere to?

I would say practice; don’t not practice. When we got new members, one thing we did was lay it down, practice a lot, and do runs. If you are going to do any extensive touring, I think it is good to do some weekend runs and get into the flow of things. Make sure everybody is used to that sort of lifestyle and work environment where you are constantly on the road. A lot of guys don’t like that. They don’t like to be away from home and sleep in a van. That’s understandable. It sucks, it smells. That comes with the territory of rocking out. Understand the kind of band you are joining. Be prepared to do what it takes.

Slave To The Sword has got physical copies of CDs, cassettes, 12” and 7” releases for it, as well as digital files. Personally, for you as a music fan, what is your favorite way to listen to music?

I don’t have a vinyl player, but I have liked what I heard on vinyl. I have only listened to a few classic albums on vinyl. With vinyl, you get the most authentic sound. Vinyl has been the most pleasant experience for me.


Exmortus’ new album, Slave To The Sword, is available now through Prosthetic Records. For more information, go to