With a name as seemingly prosaic (at least in the context of death metal) as Exhumation, this Indonesian trio is in contrast quite a breath of fresh air, especially considering they hail from Indonesia, known for more straightforward and outright brutal death-metal type of acts. Exhumation instead presents a rather matured and remarkable brand of death metal, with their ear for structural dexterity and compositional architecturing, showcasing a knack for the placement and embedding of melodicity in a most tasteful manner subtly invoking their eastern roots and sensibilities, while combining this with an orthodox death metal mould taking cues from the likes of Morbid Angel, Hate and Vader, with an addition of guitar wizardry to the creative potpourri. However, even the band name's etymology and its premise, as well as the thematic explorations of the band are far more shrouded in underlying profundities and a sagacious vision that isn't immediately inferred, but understood with a little more scrutiny.
Exhumation's founding member and axe-man Yoga G a.k.a Grave took the time out to sit down for an interview with Putrid Ascendancy (with correspondent Achintya Venkatesh providing the line of questioning) and discussed a variety of topics surrounding the band. The interview follows below —
Greetings from the Putrid Ascendancy horde, Exhumation! It’s an honor to have you on here. Could you briefly tell us how and when the band was formed, and how the current line-up came to be?
Grave: From hall up high greeting to you my friend, thank you for having us. The band was formed not a very long time ago, precisely 6 years ago when we're still in a very young age, innocent, fragile, and being outside of the world. As the ideas appear, it was me Grave and our past member Kusnan who build this vessel at the very first time. Then we found Bones as vocal in 2010, then it just so natural when A and J both agreed to join our dominion. So here it is, Exhumation are Ghoul, Grave, Bones and two live sessions hordes A and J of Headkrusher.
What are the etymological origins of the band’s name? Is there a particular reason you chose the name Exhumation?
Grave: The name is entirely about digging our own grave. Within its power and energy, Exhumation sincerely deliver the reflection of our liberation as an artist to dig and dive deep its idea. The name that derives a true heart who lives in their own world, own law, own path, and own role. The name that the echo of its fury would forever aflame. In one form of our language and sound, Exhumation could portray here some where, where we end up like everything needs to have a certain purpose.
What was the primary premise behind the formation of the band? What were your primary musical and artistic motivations or visions that drove you to embark on this project?
Grave: To let ourselves embrace the ultimate power of its fire. To let ourselves embrace the infinite energy of our heartwork. To feel the world as we see it. To free our will then translate it into haunting sound and words!
Could you elaborate on the primary influences of the band that have influenced the stylistic leanings and overall sound of the band? Which are the bands that have helped forge your own sound the most?
Grave: Our hearts. Our diverse personal experience toward our essence as Exhumation. Those the only things that real for us even more influence us, it make us solid in many ways, when we can deeply understand our own diversity and capability on our musicianship or whatever, as humble as we appreciate the way we see things, perceive things and gather it to one, Exhumation. And we had to be honest each of us is possessed by the band that are really diverse to our musical direction yet it also influence us in many ways. Since we know, we never limit our capability in the process of it, writing material. We let every core and role of death and dark music infiltrate our vein and blood. On other hand, no introduction needed when super tiny band like us are heavily raised from band such Morbid Angel and stuffs.
Is there any specific literature that inspires the band’s lyrics, or are the lyrics wholly the handiwork of the band itself? What are the inspirations for the themes employed by the band?
Grave: Regarding to our debut, Hymn To Your God, those words are based on our handiwork and we don't elevate those words into our music but the words itself, from the depth of the depth that surround us, expressed in infinite ways. Further, from the devotion and dedication to a power that is just beautiful, our next material would be based on some neoclassical stuffs, inspired by most words of John Milton.
Onto the discography of the band, you initially had a demo called ‘Dunia Buta’ in 2009. Why didn’t this ever see the light of day as far as being released on a physical format is concerned? Also, I notice it isn’t listed as part of your official discography. Why is this the case? Has the band expanded stylistically after this demo, or did Exhumation stick to its root sound even for ‘Hymn to your God’?
Grave: Thank you for asking this. As you know, Dunia Buta is recorded back then in 2009, and it's behind us. Dunia Buta is already sit between its core of ours, our progression as a band. And Whatever comes to our progression, everything we do is very based on one idea, one vision, one root, ours. I hope everyone would notice this. And if people still try to wonder where's the song actually? we would say the song is already buried deep there, in our heart.
The band’s debut album ‘Hymn to Your God’ was released in 2012, and I have to say the arrangements on the album are fantastic. Fairly unconventional, with heavy doses of sensible melody with an almost classic heavy metal sense of tonality, with many segments that are more mid-paced and riff-oriented, rather than the usual continuously blasted indulgence. Could you tell us a bit about the typical song-writing process of the band, and how compositions eventually fall into place?
Grave: Fairly unconventional, you say so? Thank you for your kind words, all hearts! Well through years we tap into different creativity as human being, our song-writing process are so natural for real. It should come with no surprise, where the songs are start with one riff and rhyme, we feel it, swallow it, so be it. Then it just come from one word, each of us asking why how and what we write this, what is mean to each one of us, what you can you say about this, how do you feel? We would love to feel every core of the song that written in our paper is a way to start our path to being there, being one with our songs indeed.
The album artwork for ‘Hymn to your God’ is also very vivid and detailed, and the sepia tone makes for a very appealing effect. Who was the artist behind this artwork, and did the band have anything to do with the conceptualization of it? What does it represent with regards to the music of the album?
Grave: The artist behind this artwork is Bayu Putrasangfajar. Blast from the past, when we asked him to do this artwork "just draw a man with tree, one tree" feel the connection between its song and lyric, and be inspired of it. Well he's so talented in many ways, certain way. Our artwork genuinely means everything to us, a very magnificent artwork who deliver a message of evil music and haunting sound. The artwork itself become our vehicle to translate everything we do as Exhumation. It is our expression towards the divine, light or dark. Then we take as a hymn as our true voice to sing and praise as if there's a energy that lives in our heartwork, our own world.
The band’s first official release seems to have been the split with Goddess of Fate and Nocturnal Kudeta. Was there any specific motive behind the release of this split (given that it features two songs that are also on the debut album), and what do you have to say about the bands that participated in the split alongside Exhumation?
Grave: It's been our honor to work with them, they're extremely good people in many ways, it always is. We have shared experience a lot together, did a tour with them last year and plus Headkrusher was one of our massive experience that ever written in the history of Exhumation. We feel like we have a new world that each of us taking role in it.
The band’s debut was re-released by Dunkelheit Produktionen in February ’14. How did this alliance with the label come about, and have you seen, perhaps, a surge in exposure since? Is there any difference between the 2012 and 2014 release?
Grave: The attraction and its adoration of the album that says all. Our reissue album would include the cover of canadian cult Blasphemy for the song Ritual.
Songs like the title track of the debut album also have more eclectic elements atypical for orthodox/traditional death metal, such as traditional instruments and female vocals. Will we see more such subtleties and experimentation in forthcoming Exhumation releases?
Grave: Sure thing! That's the last song that we're dive into anyway. That song is the actual reflection of our debut, Hymn! If you able to feel the song and aura in it. Its content, essence, presence of the hymn itself, an absolute track which greets and pave our way on artistic level. As we growing older and wiser, all I can say is we can't get enough to make something like this and that, we would make every song means something on the second opus. Something that really you can feel, something that you can draw on your walls, something that actually you were there, you will be the part of that.
The band hails from Yogyakarta. Could you tell us a bit about the scene for heavy music in the city, and how receptive audiences and aficionados have been towards the music of Exhumation?
Grave: Pretty much great I would say if some people could throw away the blueprints and stigma about our music/scene/circle/world/or whatever. So far I can see there's strong acts that emerged recently in our shore Yogyakarta, even more they've build something new, something that could change their own world, something that is visible and it is a must to some people to dive into. For years before we released our debut not so many people noticed that we're still alive here and it take some time for them to know us, realize that we're exist as a band and understand our reasons what we are doing in Exhumation, even more go inside to our world. Back then, our debut was released two years ago, maybe yes maybe they shift their perception about us, Exhumation. Who knows? we don't care though. What we care is as time goes by, we would continue to refine our creativity in art and in one form or another, we walk to dissect the world with our music as well.
The ties between Indonesia and India is an ancient one, going back to the times of the Ramayana, where ‘Yawadwipa’, the traditional name of Java is mentioned; or the connections the country had with the Pallawas, Cholas and other dynasties. The very name Yogyakarta is derived from the city ‘Ayodhya’ from the epic Ramayana. Also, the Sanskrit influence in Indonesian languages and culture in general is undeniable. In light of the same, what are the prospects for an invasion of Bharat by Exhumation? What have you heard about the scene for heavy music here?
Grave: Well spoken my friend, I adore how you put it into words. As I can see there's a deep connection within it, it ours, eternally. Well then I would put the term adoration here if we reach can your shore, since I know the bands like Necrodeity, Dhwesha, Dying Embrace, and so on. Their attitude, devotion, dedication towards their music so understandable for us plus those bands make sense to us. Very inspirational bands in many ways.
Where can fans outside of Indonesia obtain the debut album from? What are the physical formats it is available in?
Grave: Only CDs are available, cause the tapes are already sold out. You can update everything you need to know about us, well down this link; http://www.dunkelheit-produktionen.de/
Finally, what are Exhumation’s plans for the near future like?
Grave: Work more, second opus, tour, would be done this year! and to see the world on fire!
Thank you for taking the time do this interview. It’s been an immense honour. If you have any closing words for the Indian hordes and beyond, please do go ahead!
Grave: We've had the most surreal for years! We really had to say a massive thank you for listening our music, thank you for being there. See you on the road. HYMN OF DEATH!