Edinburgh heavy 3-piece Exdestrier are a new progressive blackened sludge band on the underground heavy music scene of Scotland. Consisting of Tommy Concrete (ex-The Exploited, ex-Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves, ex-Jackal Headed Guard Of The Dead) on guitar and vocals, Chris Smith (ex-Jackal Headed Guard Of The Dead, ex-Lords of Bastard) on bass and vocals and Didier Almouzni (ex-Dragonforce, ex-Razor Of Occam) on drums, the band has plenty of experience and influences to draw upon.
Exdestrier is preparing to unleash the brutal debut EP, Glorious Barbarism. Unveiling an onslaught of thunderous instrumentation, monstrous vocals and a dynamic approach to songwriting, Exdestrier’s offering leads to heinous new worlds.
The creative process behind the EP involved a journey of discovery into what Exdestrier’s sound should be. Each member draws from a different musical background ranging from doom, to extreme metal and punk / hardcore. Together a common ground was found in progressive structures and combining elements of predominantly black metal and sludge. The band’s lyrical themes emerge from dark fantasy realms – tales of medieval landscapes, gruesome warriors and a looming gloom. From ‘To Glorious Oblivion’ about terrible warriors charging into certain death and exulting in their demise, to ‘The Place of Grim Reckoning’ – the aftermath of a forgotten war, frozen in ice, Exdestrier produce dark and heavy soundscapes.
Pounding percussion, powerful rhythms and technical riffs manifest an ominous mood across the tracks on Glorious Barbarism. The band showcase a distinctive style concocted from an array of genres which is enhanced with their own thematic twist.
We asked Tommy Concrete about three releases that have influenced him a lot throughout his vast musical career, which you can read below. Glorious Barbarism will be released on April 8th and is available for pre-order here.
Anathema – Crestfallen
Anathema used to be very heavy, most folk are unaware of just how much. For the better part of 25 years they made a name for themselves as a forward thinking progressive rock act, blending different genres together into an epic sound. I absolutely love the early 90’s ‘scene’ of European 2nd wave death metal bands such as Paradise Lost, The Gathering, Amorphis and Anathema who made the crazy leap of faith to turn their heads away from death metal and towards 70’s prog and 80’s goth. I find this to be the most fascinating era of metal, and a phenomena impossible to occur in our current risk averse ‘stay in your genre lane’ climate. All of the previously mentioned bands made their names in their post-death metal careers, but all of them made incredibly interesting heavy albums pre their experimental transitions. Most people know Anathema used to be death metal, most people also think their debut album Serenades to be the beginning. Whereas, that album was more of an epitaph to that sound. The previous EP Crestfallen, was Anathema in their heaviest form. This isn’t even on streaming sites.
This EP had a colossal and lasting impact on my concept of harmony in heavy music, that can be traced all the way from then to the guitar and bass interplay in Exdestrier. Anathema had a unique and more complex approach to the twin harmony guitar work I was familiar with like Trouble or Iron Maiden. I was used to one player doing the main line and the other guitarist would play it the same but consistently a 3rd or 5th or whatever. On Crestfallen, specifically on the epic title track ‘Crestfallen’ the harmonies appear to move and shift. Chords are created between the bass and guitars, harmonies are inverted and all sorts of simple but very effective magic way beyond my knowledge back then was going on. It was clear that there was at least a bit of classical training going on in there. However this was definitely not Yngwie Malmsteen neo-classical shred, more like a weird alternate timeline wherein Celtic Frost had musical theory.
Apart from the musical impact, Crestfallen had a personal effect on me as it was the first time someone I had met and gigged with got signed. Back in 1991 I played, along with Mike Shepard of Mastiff in a progressive thrash band called Warp Spasm. We had a small tour of four gigs with Anathema, but they pulled out after the first gig. We also pulled out a few gigs later due to the promoter being a dodgy rip off. So apart from being musically light years ahead, they were ahead of the game in terms of suss. For some reason lost to time their 4x12s spent a night in my parents garage, and that was pretty much about the beginning and the end of us knowing them. Back then, there was a lot of talk as there always is from bands boasting ‘we’re going to do this and that’, Anathema were the first people I actually met to achieve anything significant, it was deeply inspiring.
F-Minus – Wake Up Screaming
I got into ‘real music’ very early, there was no pop or shite gateway genre phase. Thanks to my older brother and his punk friends my musical tastes at seven years old was Motörhead, Black Flag, Killing Joke, The Damned, The Exploited and all sorts of other punk, alternative, goth and post-punk sounds. I discovered my own tastes in 1986 with Reign In Blood and Master of Puppets. But punk has always been my first love and my roots, even though I began to drift away from it. My relationship with punk as a movement ended with bands like Rancid and Green Day. It had evolved into something that wasn’t for me. The elements of what I loved about punk had also evolved into bands as varied as Sick Of It All, Napalm Death, Man Or Astro Man? And Atari Teenage Riot, so it was all good.
By the time 2003 came about, for me the word punk had almost ceased to mean anything. Almost every band were claiming to be punk… from hairspray glam posers declaring their ‘punk attitude man’, seemingly every shitty alternative loser bands said they were punk and most prevalent was the pop punk ska peado boy band plague with glossy videos all over the fucking place. I’d like to say that F-Minus slapped me in the face with Wake Up Screaming, but they didn’t. It was more like they casually walked up behind me, firmly but gently put their hands on my shoulders and pointed me in the right direction. Punk hadn’t changed or gone, I’d lost touch and Wake Up Screaming was my reconnection.
I’d delve into the minutiae of this album and say why it was so specifically important, but that wouldn’t be why it was important. Unlike the other two albums I have picked which are ‘specific examples’ this one is just a punk album. It’s raucous, obnoxious, fast, raw and exploding with energy and I heard it at exactly the right time. For over ten years, my relationship with punk had been slowly fading. I realise now that was my deep relationship with why I played in bands in the first place. Although the impact it made on me wasn’t immediately obvious, eight years later I joined The Exploited as guitarist. That would not have happened if it wasn’t for F-Minus refocusing my roots which permeated and underpinned everything I have done since. Just like when I was writing dumb punk songs about vivisection when I was 9.
If a musician has a punk influence that is true, then it will affect every single decision they make in their band. From art, to music, to lyrics, to business, integrity, who they associate with or won’t etc etc. I like to compare it to dogshit on a pizza. If you put one tiny thumb print of dogshit on just one slice, the entire pizza is dominated. Punk is the same, the entire band, every song, every gig is affected in exactly the same obnoxious way even with 1% influence, so long as it’s true and deep. Exdestrier has punk in there, not much, not up front, but it’s there just like a tiny thumb print of shit on a 12” deep pan. At least one person at every gig comes up to me and points it out. Never forget your roots, especially if they’re punk/hc.
Khonsu – The Xun Protectorate
I’m always trying to expand the music I’m working on, how far can it go? This is a perfect example of the harmony between juxtaposition and coherence. For the best part, this album musically sits somewhere between Emperor and Morbid Angel. Whereas in other parts the influences of industrial and trance are dominant, especially the final couple of minutes of ‘Liberator’ which drifts smoothly from utterly savage black metal into a wash of ethereal keyboards and choir with an ease that should be impossible. It’s a bizarre mix that works extremely well and makes the album utterly unique. I sometimes forget how heavy this album actually is as the lasting impression it leaves is one of ethereal beauty. ‘Death of The Time Keeper’ is based around a single Domination era Morbid Angel style riff that absolutely pummels you into submission so that when it goes all synth pop it’s an actual relief. I know that sounds shit, this album shouldn’t work which makes it all the more incredible that it does.
Although the 00’s had some incredibly wonderful albums, its zeitgeist was the most personally unrelatable decade of my life. The 10’s were much, much better and when it came to the end of 2019 I struggled to make a top ten albums of the decade due to an overwhelming amount of fantastic music released. Including the number one slot which was an absolute tie between Everything Is Changing by Anneke Van Giersbergen and The Xun Protectorate by Khonsu. As I’m writing this from the context of guitarist for Exdestrier it’s best appropriate to chose Khonsu over Anneke. Believe me when I say that it’s usually a cold day in hell before I chose anything over Anneke, so this in itself is praise of the absolute highest regard.
I’ve always been a fan of concept albums that tell a story such as Dreamweaver by Sabbat, The Chronicle of the Black Sword by Hawkwind or Abigail by King Diamond. This format when used properly can give context to stylistic choices and guide the listener along a journey. When the story and music gel, the experience is incredibly satisfying and deepens the creative impact. The Xun Protectorate is my favourite of all these mentioned albums. Not just musically, but for the story which really got under my skin in a big way. So much so that I dreamt it in a nightmare so vivid that I woke up screaming. No other album has done this to me, not even Wake Up Screaming (sorry not sorry).
The Xun Protectorate tells a tell of a time far beyond the end of humanity. Earth was lost untold aeons ago and the survivors escaped on a vast space station, after spending an unknown time drifting in space they all died. The space station has been taken care of by clones who solely exist to maintain the functioning of this empty tomb floating through space. The protagonist is a caretaker clone who becomes self aware and upon realising the utter bleakness of the situation decides to pilot the space station into the heart of the sun. This ultimate finality that we all face as our own sun will engulf Earth is a deeply affecting concept to me. So much so that the final track on my solo album Hexenzirkel, namely ‘All Of This Will Be Eaten By The Sun’ was a homage to ‘Toward The Devouring Light’, which closes The Xun Protectorate.
The Xun Protectorate is a reimagining of black metal, saying exactly the same thing just in a very different way. The cover of Borknagar’s debut album twenty years previous depicted a lonely shed in a bleak forest, Khonsu updated the loneliness and isolation with The Xun Protectorate presenting a uninhabited and forgotten space station in an empty galaxy. Ulver’s lonely werewolf in a dark forest has been updated to a clone in the infinity of space. Immortal’s fictional kingdom Blashyrkh ‘The realm of all darkness and cold’ is expanded to a nameless galaxy in the outer emptiness of space… you get the picture.
The music we make in Exdestrier is very different to Khonsu, but similar in scope. We have a vision and a purpose and seek to use musical juxtaposition as a weapon. Personally this is a huge influence on how I approach my role as an extreme metal player. Not influenced in the sense of copying, but more in the sense that this album inspires me to be better at what I do and search the outer echelons of my perception for the ultimate riff.