Exmortus

Los Angeles based neo-classical shredders Exmortus, founded by guitarist and vocalist Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez, have racked up achievement after achievement. From appearing in a national TV commercial for Virgin Mobile to being played constantly on Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal, from appearing on the first Ozzfest meets Knotfest in San Bernadino to touring with heroes Children of Bodom and Marty Friedman. However it’s probably the band’s 5th album, The Sound of Steel, that Conan will be most proud of. It’s his most personal album, an album forged together after a bit of a setback but also one that given his upbringing could never have not seen the light of day.

One can say the sound of steel injected Conan at an early age. Born into a family of musicians, he grew up listening to his grandparents sing and play guitar, while his father and uncle both were in rock and metal bands. At just 5 years old, his father took him to watch his uncle play in a death metal band at the Whisky. The experience left quite the lasting impression on him. He soaked in the vibe and the atmosphere and begged for a guitar of his own. He was gifted a beginner Crate guitar and combo amp and once his father saw him stick to practicing, purchased him a solid Gibson SG. It was just a few years later at the age of 12 that Conan formed Exmortus, which would not have lasted had it not been for his parents.

Conan reflects, “My family has been and continue to be very supportive of my endeavors with my music. I don't think Exmortus would exist if it weren't for my parents driving the band to our gigs. My dad also acted as our first manager and made sure we played on time and were taken care of at the gigs, since we were so young when we started performing.”

An LA fixture for well over a decade now, they released their first LP, 2008’s In Hatred’s Flame, when Conan was just 18 years old, but had already paid their dues through their shows and buzzed about demos. The mixture of thrash, death, black and especially neo-classical that made them stand out from the LA thrash revival in the '00s.

“Classical influence came from watching Fantasia and Looney Tunes a bunch as a kid," explains Conan. “Of course I got into Ozzy because of Randy Rhoads's neo-classical style and then into Yngwie during my high school years. Ever since I've delved deeper by studying counterpoint and harmony with old theory books that have all the classic examples.”

It’s the many influences that have made Conan a guitar hero to many. He’s constantly covering solos from a diverse group of players on the Exmortus TV Youtube channel. Everyone from Boston’s Tom Scholz, Brian May and Jason Becker to Bach and Tchaikovsky, though out of all the classical composers, Beethoven gets the most love from Conan. Exmortus have done interpretations of his music on their past three albums, with Tempest, being of Piano Sonata No. 17 on The Sound of Steel.


2014’s Slave to the Sword was the album that took all their influences and forged them together the strongest. Touring nonstop in support of that LP with the likes of Dark Tranquillity, Krisiun, Destruction, Arsis and many others prepped them for a more mature sound on 2016’s Ride Forth. Constant touring with Amon Amarth, the aforementioned Children of Bodom, Abbath and this year’s run with Kreator and Sabaton proved too much for some of the members, as founding member and drummer, Mario Mortus as well as long time guitarist, David Rivera, stepped down to pursue other interests. Conan had been used to line-up changes, starting a band with preteens can see many of the members change as they get older, but this one seemed especially tough since Mortus was not just a member, but family.

Family was what started him on this path, but it was ultimately his family that told him to keep going. Mortus urged him not to give up and while speaking with his parents and uncle, they all told him he had gone too far to quit now, so he hunkered down in his studio and crafted his finest songs to date, enlisting Chase Becker (guitar) and Carlos Cruz (drums) of Warbringer to help record the tracks. That line-up did a run with Darkest Hour and Warbringer prior to recording The Sound of Steel to see how they all gelled together and needless to say, they all got a long great.

With The Sound of Steel, Conan once again revisited the team that made Slave... and Ride Forth such successes, working with producer Zack Ohren (Machine Head, Fallujah, Suffocation) at Sharkbite Studio to sonically capture the tracks while artist, Philip Lawvere (Kreator, Celtic Frost, Helloween), created the cover art.

Immediately after finishing the album, the band headed to Europe for a month-long tour with FL death metal legends, Obituary. They’ll come home, start up the US promo cycle and expect to be back out on the road, where their steel shines the brightest, this summer and throughout the next year.

Florida’s THE ABSENCE came onto the scene in 2005 with their crushing, Erik Rutan-produced Metal Blade Records debut, “From Your Grave.” The album and its two follow-ups, 2007’s “Riders of the Plague” and 2010’s “Enemy Unbound,” showcased the perfect mixture of heart-wrenching melodies and skull-pounding aggression, truly making them one of the premiere bands of the melodic death metal scene. THE ABSENCE further ensconced their reputation via several tours supporting some of the biggest names in metal, including Cannibal Corpse, The Black Dahlia Murder, Goatwhore, Kataklysm, Destruction and Entombed.

And then they seemingly disappeared.

Despite some setbacks in personnel coupled with a desire by some band members to explore new terrain recording/performing with additional groups or working in related fields producing or handling live sound/tour managing for others, THE ABSENCE was merely put on hold until the time was right to return. Last year, the regrouped outfit of singer Jamie Stewart, drummer Jeramie Kling (Venom, Inc., Infernaeon, Necromancing The Stone) and bassist Mike Leon (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy, ex-Havok, ex-Arsis), along with the addition of celebrated guitar duo Joey Concepcion (Sanctuary, Jasta, Armageddon) and Taylor Nordberg (Soilwork, Ribspreader), teased fans with the face-melting “Septic Testament.” The reaction was phenomenal and motivated the band to continue writing and recording their epic return, and be absent from the scene no more.

THE ABSENCE's new album, “A Gift For The Obsessed,” further proves why All Music Guide called the group “the greatest Swedish melodic death metal band ever to emerge from Florida.” Mixed at Sweden's Panic Room (Watain, Scar Symmetry) and mastered at the country's Ghost Ward Studios (Katatonia, Opeth), and featuring a striking layout by HKB Design (Sepultura), the album deftly mixes melodic death and thrash with incendiary guitar playing, pyrotechnic drumming and a sense of renewed hunger. Over its 10 blistering tracks – including a cover of Suicidal Tendencies' “You Can't Bring Me Down” featuring guest vocals by Soilwork / The Night Flight Orchestra front man Bjorn “Speed” Strid – the group not only shows no signs of rust whatsoever, but also sounds more potent than ever.

THE ABSENCE is now managed by the legendary Jon “Jonny Z” Zazula and his partner Marsha, who founded Megaforce Records (which helped to launch the careers of Metallica, Anthrax, Testament and other seminal acts), for CraZed Management.

Hatchet

Growing up in the San Francisco area suburbs as young metal heads can make it quite likely to take influence from the pioneers of metal that spanned the area in the 1980’s. So it’s no surprise that Hatchet describes their sound as “Pure, Uncompromising, Bay Area Thrash Metal”.

Since hitting the Bay Area Metal scene in early 2007, Hatchet quickly made a name for itself. They worked hard to gig as often as they could and also not compete with, but group together bands of the like to help strengthen the scene.

After self-releasing two demos, the band’s debut album, Awaiting Evil, was released in mid-2008 via Metal Blade Records. The album was well-received by thrash enthusiasts around the globe and proved a great beginning for Hatchet. During the album cycle, the band completed 3 full DIY U.S. tours that helped put them on the map for up and coming thrash metal bands.

Their sophomore effort, Dawn of the End, released on their new label, The End Records, showcased a much more aggressive and professionally oriented band, as they introduced a new lineup. The band hit the road and performed over 200 shows throughout 2013/14 touring and performing alongside national acts such as: Soilwork, Jeff Loomis Band, Blackguard, Trivium, Flotsam and Jetsam, Exmortus, Warbringer, Havok, Black Tide, Cellador and Threat Signal

The band’s third release titled Fear Beyond Lunacy is highly anticipated among thrashers and metal heads worldwide. The album will debut a new Hatchet lineup behind founding member, vocalist, and lead guitarist, Julz Ramos. The new members have injected the band with a surge of raw energy, and fans of Hatchet will be overly satisfied with this revived enthusiasm laid into the recordings. Says Ramos, “the faster, thrashier tracks hit harder than ever before, while the melodic stuff is catchier and we’ve even experimented with some heavier, slower tempos.”

The band is eager to release this monster of an album and look forward to spending as much time as possible on the road in support.

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