INTERVIEW: Finland’s Gorephilia on playing death metal Sunshine State-style

Seeing as Florida’s output of death metal has slowed to a trickle as scene veterans spend more time on the road, less time in the studio, or just sweat it out in semi-retirement, you could do worse than check in on Finland’s Gorephilia.
Gorephilia’s long-awaited debut LP Embodiment of Death is old-school all right, and eschews the brittle necro fuzz of their Northern European contemporaries in favor of a sound that’s heavily accented with a Floridian drawl. Embodiment of Death is just that: straight up DM a la Morbid Angel/Deicide et al. We spoke to the band’s songwriter-in-chief and guitarist Jukka Aho about the band’s evolution since forming in 2006 to play high-concept Wild West-themed death metal, calling themselves Goretexx—a ridiculous portmanteau of Gore and Texas—before adopting the (relatively) more sensible DM handle Gorephilia and singing about more traditional subjects such as death, gore and Mesopotamian mythology.

Firstly, a bit of background. You started out as Goretexx, which was Wild West-themed death metal: how did that come about? Did Gorephilia exist under different names before Goretexx?

Jukka: We’ve always had this habit of making up ideas and concepts for bands. We always started with inventing the name, genre, lyrical themes, artwork of the third album and so on before we even had any songs done. Few of the ideas actually went beyond the brainstorming stage and Goretexx was one of those. Initially we only knew what we didn’t want to sound like and only later slowly started to grasp what we actually wanted to sound like. It was defined by words like “anti-modern”, “anti-technical” and of course the lyrical theme, which didn’t last very long, as no one of us was really interested in the Wild West thing after a while.
Musically, was Goretexx much different in focus than Gorephilia or was it more a lyrical distinction?
Jukka: Very much different, I think. It was much more simple in terms of song writing, more straight forward. There was a different way of doing things at the time and we weren’t maybe as serious about it. I consider Gorephilia as a more serious project in many ways.

I guess Goretexx could only go so far, especially the name would have people thinking of weather-proof fabrics … But how important was that period in developing your sound?
Jukka: The name was meant to be a combination of Gore and Texas and we thought it was a really great idea to add a second X for distinctiveness, but that was then. But it was important time for Gorephilia’s development as a band and especially my development as a songwriter.

As I understand it, the Ritual Exhumation demo was really Goretexx material under the Gorephilia name; do you still play any of those songs live or are they looked on as the band simply cutting its teeth and learning to write songs together?

The thing is, we changed our name first, then after some time and some gigs—like the one “Ritual Exhumation” was recorded in—we “rebooted” the band. After that we decided not to play the old songs anymore, because we wanted to progress and somewhat had come to dislike the old material. I’ve since started liking the old material again and we played one song at a gig last year when our old drummer was filling in for Tommi.

I can hear a lot more American bands’ influence in your sound than necessarily Finnish or Scandinavian death metal: was it a conscious decision to try do something different from your peers, from bands playing old-school Swedish styles?
Jukka: Yes, it was partly a conscious decision but also very intuitive. For me, the best death metal comes from USA.

Who were the biggest influences on you? I can hear a bit of Immolation, Incantation in the darker parts…
Jukka: Yes, Immolation, Incantation, Sadistic Intent, Suffocation… Personally, Morbid Angel is the single biggest influence. From the contemporaries I could mention Dead Congregation and Slugathor.

What do you make of the current death metal scene? Who or what is exciting you in heavy music?
Jukka: Great new releases are popping up all the time. It will be interesting to see what will happen to this new wave of bands. I’m starting to notice maybe a little bit too many bands doing the same thing now, but most of the groups are just doing their first releases like us, so it’s understandable if the true personal sound of many bands is still yet to surface. It will be interesting to see the development. I just hope the Swedes and Finns wouldn’t turn to death ‘n’ roll after the first albums like last time.

What was the songwriting process for Embodiment of Death like? Who are the main songwriters?
Jukka: I mainly write the music and Henu writes most of the lyrics. After we did Ascend to Chaos I had nothing ready for the full-length and it took some time to get creative again. After a while I wrote “Gods Stand Aghast” and we recorded it for a Finnish death metal compilation, Metal on Metal IV. Then I just tried different things and brought some songs and riffs to the rehearsals, and a few of them were scrapped and went through a rewrite. When the bulk of the material started to take form we were going for an album under 40 minutes in length. “Exist to Suffer” was re-recorded because we always liked that song very much, but thought the In Death version didn’t do justice to the song. “Bloodspawn” was supposed to be recorded in the Ascend to Chaos sessions, but we couldn’t get it to sound good due to no prior rehearsal.

What were the sessions like for Embodiment of Death? Did you have more studio time than when you did the EP?

Jukka: The sessions were great. Everything just came together so easily. We spent three days in the studio. The first day we recorded all the instruments live, second day we did guitar solos and vocals and the third day was spent screwing around with a synth part that we actually decided to remove after it got a little bit out of hand. The EP was recorded in three days also, but it didn’t go that smoothly and we had to rerecord some parts later and it took a very long time to complete.

Is there anything you would like to add to your sound that you didn’t have time or haven’t quite developed yet?
Jukka: I’d like our sound to develop in some way with every new release, but it’s too early to say anything about the direction of the new material yet. But we certainly are going to stick with Death Metal.

Does the album deal with any recurring themes or motifs? I was wondering about the song “7 Gates, 7 Spheres”: is that inspired by Greek Mythology?
Jukka: Our lyrics always revolve around death in all its forms from different perspectives. There are some Lovecraftian themes and “7 Gates…” was inspired by The Simon Necronomicon and space.

What is Finland like to live in? You have an abundance of truly sick bands, to what degree is the nation’s character disposed to extreme metal?

Jukka: Hard to say anything special when I’ve lived here my entire life and haven’t traveled much. Finland is a peaceful and stable place to live, with high prices, lots of metal and drinking. The people are as cold as the weather, except when drunk. These are all common stereotypes of Finland, but there is much truth to them I think.

Tami Luukkonen: Bass
Jukka Aho: Guitar
Henri ” Nemesis” Kuula: Vocals
Jussi Takanen: Guitars
Tommi Makkonen: Drums

Gorephilia’s Embodiment of Death is out now on Dark Descent Records: Order it HERE.