Legendary German thrashers Exumer (who formed in 1985) have returned to the scene with their fourth album ‘The Raging Tides’ (their second since reforming in 2008). It’s a fierce slab of energetic Teutonic thrash metal that showcases a band clearly firing on all cylinders, sounding rejuvenated with new blood in the ranks and burning bright with musical fire. Original vocalist Mem Von Stein gave Kat Gillham an insight into the new album and the recent events in the Exumer camp…
Your new record ‘The Raging Tides’ has just been released, are you satisfied with how it turned out?
Mem: It’s definitely a step up from our last album ‘Fire And Damnation’ in terms of how it’s a lot more direct, I think. We tightened the edges in many ways and I think it just pops a lot more. It just has a bigger punch than ‘Fire And Damnation’, we did like the sound of that album but I think this is a step forward in regards to bringing the mix upfront and really making sure that the guitars and drums are really punching you in the face so to speak, so yeah we were really happy with how it turned out overall. The entire package I think has turned out really well.
It’s a vibrant, aggressive record which has one foot very firmly in the old school and true to your ’80s roots but still sounds in touch with modern times too, would you agree?
The way we approach writing the music in regards to what we do and our sound is to keep the aggression and energy up at all times, and we mean on the recordings as well as on the live shows. Our intention has always been, since we came back in 2008, to deliver thrash metal that actually sounds up to date but with an ’80s vibe and our own ’80s vibe for that matter. We set out, from the start, to incorporate these elements and aspects of our sound into the 2000s and what we do now in regards to the spirit of the ’80s and of having that vibe of the ’80s is not just to have a throwback sound. So we really made a conscious effort on both records (‘Fire And Damnation’ and this one too) not to be pegged down as an old school band but rather a traditional band that can compete in today’s metal landscape if you will. We defintely achieved everything we wanted to with the overall sound of this album.
The production is punchy and powerful, where was it recorded and why did you choose there?
It was recorded in Dortmund with Waldemar Sorychta who also recorded our last record. He used to play guitars in a band called Grip Inc with Dave Lombardo and has also produced a ton of records for Century Media, bands such as Tiamat and Moonspell. He also produced Sodom’s last two records! We chose him on ‘Fire And Damnation’ after we heard Sodom’s ‘In War And Pieces’ and we liked the sound of it and we thought it was a really nice approach. Then after working with him on ‘Fire And Damnation’ we became pretty close and a good team, so there was only one logical choice, to go back to him. Waldemar does bring out the best performances in us without curbing our sound or our music in general so we’ll defintely go back to him again for the third album we are gonna do for Metal Blade, sometime in the future obviously. Not anytime soon but sometime.
You have new blood in the ranks too, what do you think the new guys brought with them to the band and onto the latest record?
Marc Bräutigam’s contribution was huge as he played all the solos on the record and helped in the songwriting process with good ideas about expanding certain parts or adding melodies to Ray’s [Mensch, original guitarist) song structures.
Exumer never quite got the same level of exposure and attention back in the ’80s as Kreator, Destruction or Sodom… why do you think that was?
Because, well, quite frankly I left the band right after ‘Possessed By Fire’  and then Paul [Arakaki] came in. Paul used to actually be the rhythm guitarist in the very first line up of Exumer and is a good friend of ours and a logical choice but I think the band went through too many line up changes especially in terms of singers. You can’t really change singers all that much and then Paul left the band and then there was yet another singer. It just kind of fell apart, the ideas just didn’t come as they needed to come. It was definitely frustrating but everything happens for a reason and I think now because we only have four records out we are in this unique position where we have two records that are regarded as cult albums from the ’80s and we have two albums from the 2000s that people are genuinely into and are very open and positive about, so we are definitely happy about where we are now. That compensates for the frustration and the lack of exposure that was present in the ’80s, we made up for it.
How did the Metal Blade deal come about? Do you think you are finally getting the exposure and attention you deserve?
The Metal Blade deal came about because I had been friendly with guys at Metal Blade Europe, and they actually were instrumental in bringing us to Wacken in 2001 for a one-off show. They really rallied around that and I became good friends with the whole office in 2000. After we recorded ‘Fire And Damnation’ we shopped around the record and they approached us with a really nice deal, among other labels, but it was clear after a few attempts talking to other labels and Metal Blade that they had the best deal for us and it proved to be the right choice. They are not on our case for producing records in a cycle of two years, theres a four year gap between ‘Fire And Damnation’ and ‘The Raging Tides’ so they were never really on our case about that or anything. So, yeah they are putting our products out there and we are definitely getting the exposure now. We’ve toured worldwide so it worked out really well.
What keeps you hungry and inspired to play such music after all these years?
What inspires us and keeps us hungry to play music after all these years is that we feel like we still have something to say. We feel that now after we had this huge hiatus that we are coming into our own. I started the band with Ray in 1985 and it was always kinda like my baby and Ray’s baby, and Ray stuck with it throughout the entire time but we were together in other bands after Exumer. Then when we decided to bring back the band we really felt that we could bring something to the table in terms of music and to the scene and now I think we are stronger than ever. That might sound cliche but we have a pretty large desire to play live, record records and all that. I haven’t felt like giving up making music with Exumer and this is certainly gonna be my last band for that matter so we’re gonna be here for a while.
Lyrically what topics do you touch upon on the new album. Please tell us about the title.
The lyrical content of this record is all based around things that I’ve been following over the last few years in terms of politics and what is happening around the world. I was especially touched by some Amnesty International reports I read about hotspots around the globe where there was a lot of torture going on and about these tendencies that are happening politically in countries where there’s war, so this new record is basically touching upon that lyrically. All ten songs discuss one form of human abuse through torture and how people try to have an advantage over others by using religion, politics or monetary means. Every song discusses one form of human misery employed by others. I have songs like ‘Welcome To Hellfire’, which is actually based on a prison in Nigeria that is especially brutal and corrupt and there was a sign on the entrance of the prison that says “Welcome To Hellfire”, so I took that idea and put it into a song. ‘Shadow Walker’, for instance, talks about how a young person with a promising future from the West goes and fights in the Middle East and how once they leave their life in the West they already are dead, and even if they might make it back alive they are emotionally dead or psychologically dead, how they get brainwashed, so it all ties together in the title of the record ‘The Raging Tides’, which is the ebb and flow of human misery all around the world. Basically how we resort to these measures of hurting each other just to get ahead. It’s not a concept record, it’s more a way of making it a little whole and more conclusive.
Can we expect Exumer in the UK to support this release?
We hope to come to the UK. The UK is one of our favourite places to play but unfortunately it’s not easy to play there. If we do come you can expect some high level energy shows. We just got back from a two and a half week run in Europe where we played Spain, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Austria and Italy. That was Roadrage 2016 and that was really successful, so I hope we can replicate something like that in the UK. It has to be with the right package and hopefully we can make that happen. We’d love to do it, obviously the UK is a big market for us, we love the fans there and there’s a history with the UK going back to Kerrang! and the people who bought ‘Possessed By Fire’.
Speaking of which, it’s 30 years this year since ‘Possessed By Fire’ was released, any special anniversary plans?
We don’t have any special anniversary plans as we don’t wanna do that throwback thing at all. We play a good chunk of that record live every night so we pay homage to that record anyway and have been since we started touring again in 2008.
How do you feel about your debut looking back on it?
I feel very happy looking back to ‘Possessed By Fire’ because it was the record that started it all for us and is definitely one of those records I can be proud of and say I’m a part of history even though it might not be Metallica’s ‘Ride The Lightning’.
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