Decibel found a virtual spot on the shores of Lake Vermilion with guitarist/vocalist Carl Skildum of Inexorum to talk through the band’s newest album, Moonlit Navigation (Gilead Media). Inexorum are an American duo — Skildum and bassist/vocalist Matthew Kirkwold — who ply an ancient form of melodic death metal, the kind that verges on black metal or flirts with and employs surreptitiously black metal tenets. Indeed, Inexorum’s new album picks up and jets from 2018 gem, Lore of the Lakes. Throughout Moonlit Navigation, Skildum’s fascination with mid-’90s Swedish death metal is pronounced, and rendered with skill and respect.
Read on with Skildum and then stream aloud the closest any American band has gotten to a sound somewhere at the crossroads between Dawn, Unanimated, Mörk Gryning, and Vinterland. The melodies… oh, the wicked aggro melodies. Moonlit Navigation is our new favorite album.
I see you’re fans of ‘90s-era Swedish melodic blackened death metal. What is it about this intersection of darkness and death that sparked the need to create music with Inexorum?
Carl Skildum: I’ve been a fan of various forms of heavy metal going back to my childhood, and got to follow along in real time as increasingly more extreme forms of metal developed. I grew up geeking out on the pillars of NWOBHM, speed/thrash, and early death and black metal. In the early ’90s, when there was just so much new stuff coming out from all directions, I caught wind of a new wave of bands that were seeming to capture everything I loved in terms of melody and aggression. Hearing the Wrong Again Records WAR Volume 1 comp was revelatory. Those bands were taking the framework of twin guitar interplay that I loved from traditional heavy metal and combining it with a wonderful intersection between black and death metal, and it just grabbed me and never let go. I’ve always wanted to play this kind of music and made plenty of tape demos of primitive attempts but never really found anyone who wanted to do this stuff with me (until recently).
What are some of the key attributes from bands like Dawn, Unanimated, Mörk Gryning, and Vinterland?
Carl Skildum: A big part of it was that the melodic content of what they were doing was so memorable. I only needed to hear “Life Demise” [Unanimated] once for the riffs to became permanently embedded. I loved the movement and interplay of two or more guitars at high speed. They had hooks that sunk in the same way traditional metal snared me as a kid. Blending this sort of guitar playing with fast drums and raspy vocals was just the ticket for me and remains exciting to this day.
How are you bending these influences to your will to create something distinct?
Carl Skildum: I had always had this idea in the back of my head that I wanted to hear something in this vein with more guitars than were necessarily practical for a four- or five-piece live band. I’d hear these melodic riffs in my head and think about what they would sound like with three or four different harmonies or counterpoints happening simultaneously. I had been working with Tanner Anderson on another project and just learning the ropes of recording from him, and when I found myself with some open time I decided to see if I could make this idea work. I thought it would be something that just a few of my friends would hear and appreciate and that would be it. But then we did the Lore of the Lakes LP and had a great time with it, so it felt natural to keep going and try to push the concept further.
I understand the lyrics aren’t from a happy place. Can you walk us through some the main themes and where they originate?
Carl Skildum: I wrote all these lyrics in spring 2019 around the time that a dear friend died after a long fight with cancer. So some of the songs were certainly part of me processing the loss and reflecting on how to move through that. I certainly had no idea how 2020 was going to come along and just be so much of a shared moment of grief and hardship for pretty much everyone. So these songs definitely take on a different character today, but they still make sense to me. Maybe even more so now.
Why is the ability to persist, to not give up, an admirable trait? Perseverance is a main theme on Moonlit Navigation.
Carl Skildum: I write about some heavy things, but I don’t ever intend for this to be a downer — it’s my hope that to the extent anyone would care about the lyrics at all that they are ultimately invigorating or empowering. But I do think about what a messed-up world this can be and how the stress and challenge of daily life can be a lot to carry sometimes. For me, it’s important to acknowledge that, and then think about how we all have our different approaches to carrying on despite whatever may be going on. Listening to heavy metal as a kid made me feel better no matter what was going on around me, and that’s all I want to do with this as well.
What do you want to say about Moonlit Navigation to Decibel readers? I gather Inexorum would be relatively new to most of us.
Carl Skildum: It feels weird talking about this record at a time when there are so many more important conversations going on. But music has been important to me in the hardest times so if this record can give anyone even a momentary charge then that makes it all worth it. Thank you for talking to me and thanks to Decibel readers for checking us out.
Fans of Dawn, Unanimated, Mörk Gryning, and Vinterland… Your American counterpart has, indeed, arrived on Moonlit Navigation, now streaming in full below.