Ekstasis is a new project started by Damien Moyal (As Friends Rust, Culture, Morning Again) and Dave Williams (Crusades, Surrender) that fans of '90s death metal should take notice of. In other words, if classic-era Roadrunner Records, Peaceville, and Century Media is near and dear to your heart, these gentlemen have you covered.
In this exclusive, I not only chatted with Damien and Dave, but we're also streaming Paralyzing Impermanence, the debut Ekstasis EP. We also get the skinny on their newest member of the band, who certainly has a pedigree most death metal musicians would envy.
What's the genesis story behind Ekstasis?
Damien Moyal: Dave Williams (Crusades, Black Tower, Surrender) and I have been friends for some time, and one day during a text exchange the idea of doing some classic, thrashy death metal came up. It was a sort of malformed, off-the-cuff idea, but within days Dave sent a really developed demo of one song, and in under a few weeks we had the four songs that appear on this debut, Paralyzing Impermanence.
It's been a really nice experience in terms of workflow: Dave, who lives in Ontario, Canada, writes and records all of the instrumentation and sends it over, and I offer up arrangement suggestions and occasionally submit a riff or whatever. We're both very open to revisions, and the focus is always on doing what will best serve the song. Because we're both kind of high-urgency workers, feedback comes fast and changes are made even faster, so some of our best songs were born, reworked and finalized in a day or two.
Dave Williams: I was a huge fan of Damien’s bands—namely As Friends Rust and Morning Again—and we initially connected via email in the early aughts, I guess. After both spending much of our twenties and thirties on tour and recording with our bands, things kinda slowed down for both of us music-wise and the focus turned toward our young families for a while.
As luck would have it, we each got the itch to do something new at around the same time and—both of us originally being metal kids who grew up in our respective hardcore scenes—doing something in the vein of the first “extreme metal” bands we fell in love with felt right.
How would you describe the Ekstasis stylistic approach?
Damien: I like to think we meld Teutonic thrash with older Swedish death metal. Comparisons have included Merciless, Kreator, Death, Sadus, Dismember, and earlier, At the Gates. Some have noted tinges of Japanese hardcore, and there probably is a bit of punk spirit underpinning it all.
We both share a love for Morgoth as well, and the release includes a cover of "Eternal Sanctity." While we didn't set out to sound like anything specific, there were certainly some death metal spaces we did not want to play in. We knew we wanted to steer clear of anything cavernous or guttural, which explains the lean toward higher, faster, more thrash-influenced death metal.
Dave: Ya, I think Damien’s take is pretty accurate. I always loved the death metal that still incorporated elements of thrash - before the two truly became separate musical entities. As much as I love the gory, campier stuff like Cannibal, Autopsy and early Death, it’s definitely bands like Bolt Thrower, Pestilence, Morgoth, early Sepultura—bands with a real, grounded, focused anger—that speak to me the most and that I try to draw inspiration from.
A lot of newer bands too, especially Cist, Sepulchral Curse, Oath of Cruelty, Inhuman Condition… so many others. It’s a truly great time for death metal right now.
In terms of lyrics, what kinds of themes did you touch upon on Paralyzing Impermanence?
Damien: Of the three originals on Paralyzing Impermanence, two are about existential dread. The title track, as the name implies, focuses on reconciling the pleasures of being with the knowledge that ultimately none of it will have mattered.
Similarly, "Holes" is about the pointless arc of emerging from one hole at birth only to be buried in another at death in, as far as the universe is concerned, a matter of nanoseconds.
"Magmatic Decimation" is about the earth's magma surfacing and scorching everything, and then, because of this massive, now-hollowed space under the earth's crust, gravity collapsing the planet in on itself.
Now that the EP is coming out, what's next for Ekstasis? Do you have plans to keep working together?
As far as what’s next, we’ve got the bulk of an album written, and have since expanded the lineup to include Fred Estby (Dismember, Carnage) on drums. That’s massive for us, as Fred is a legend in his own right, and Dismember is one of a small handful of bands that directly informed the Ekstasis concept.
Fred and I became friendly through a mutual close friend, Nathaniel Shannon. When Dave and I finished mixing 'Paralyzing Impermanence,' I sent it over to Fred along with some comment about hoping he’ll like it enough to want to play drums for the band. He replied, saying he did, and that was that.
We’re super excited because Fred has an ear and a depth of experience (he’s also quite the engineer and producer) that will really benefit the songs, in terms of arrangement and refinement.
Paralyzing Impermanence is available now on cassette via Unspeakable Axe Records, a sub-imprint of Dark Descent. World Eater Records, an off-shoot of esteemed French hardcore punk label Destructure Records, will follow with a vinyl release in early 2023.
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