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AEXYLIUM's Matteo Morisi: "When I'm on the drums I feel I can do what I want, to be free to be able to let off steam and put everything that comes to mind in my instrument.”

Interview with Matteo Morisi from Aexylium
by Gary Hernandez at 04 January 2022, 4:33 PM

AEXYLIUM is a Symphonic Folk Metal band heralding from Vareses, Italy. They formed in 2014 and have released one EP and two full-length albums. Their latest album, “The Fifth Season,” was released on October 29, 2021, on Rockshot Records. Gary Hernandez, writer for Metal Temple, caught up with Matteo Morisi to discuss AEXYLIUM’s history, their influences, their future, and, of course, their latest album, “The Fifth Season.”

First things first. You probably get this question all the time, but what does AEXYLIUM mean?

Well, for starters, I'd say it's a good question. The name was born from a set of words, from a sound, in our opinion, that evokes a sort of exile (taken from the Latin word “exilium”), a kind of imaginary world we have invented and where we get lost when we compose our songs . . . we can say that stimulates our creative imagination.

How did AEXYLIUM form?

Aexylium formed like many bands — in front of a beer and for an idea of two members, Matteo Morisi (me) and Roberto Cuoghi, who then incorporated Fabio Buzzago as guitar player and all the other members into the project. We were fascinated by the musical world linked to folklore and its atmospheres and we tried to merge it with our genre of origin, metal for me and punk for Roberto.

What was the vision for the band at that time?

When we started, we all had different ideas due to the fact that all of us founders, and subsequently the other members of the band, came from different worlds and musical influences. We started playing covers to get familiar with the genre, from ALESTORM, ELUVETIE, DROPKICK MURPHYS and other successful bands. Little by little, over the years we have all put something of our own and created our hybrid, let's say.

Would you characterize AEXYLIUM as a band with a permanent lineup or as a project with alternating musicians?

Looking at the present, I hope to keep this line-up, also because they are the real AEXYLIUM, but we will never know what will happen in the future. It is not easy for a large band like ours to always be able to reconcile time with commitments.

There seems to be a lot of musical styles woven throughout your music from Folk to Symphonic to Power Metal to Prog. How would you characterize the musical style of AEXYLIUM?

It is difficult to give a definition, I think it is more correct to say that each of us has put a piece of himself, of his training, of his experiences and, why not, even of his own life because it inevitably ends up influencing tastes and the final result of so many different people and styles. Perhaps the most beautiful thing is not being able to define it in words, but only being able to listen to it.

How do you feel band has evolved over the last six years?

In these six years the band has grown as we have grown. As a result, we have tried over time to insert new musical ideas, new instruments, new influences, to try to have increasingly complex and creative compositions but still respecting the initial idea from which we departed. From my point of view, I have to thank my travel companions in this project for always bringing new and more complex ideas in order to make the pieces more harmonious and varied and hopefully never repetitive.

There are eight members of AEXYLIUM. How is the song writing process? How do you get eight musicians to align to one vision?

Most of the ideas and of our production are thanks to Fabio Buzzago, our guitarist, but generally we start from a draft for a new piece, then me and the bassist Gabriele Cacocciola add the rhythmic pattern. At the same time, with the help of our singer Steven Merani, we define the lyrics of the song. Lastly, all together we go to finalize the details of the song, in order to reach a version that satisfies everyone.

I believe all your songs are in English. Any plans of doing songs in Italian?

For the moment we have no plans to write in Italian, but . . . who knows?

“The Fifth Season” is the name of bestselling fantasy novel in the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin. In the context of the book, the fifth season is a kind of environment apocalypse. The cover art of “The Fifth Season” certainly seems to echo this theme. Ironically, I think you guys wrote the song right before COVID hit. Do you see the trajectory that the world is on is leading to a fifth season?

Let's say that it was not really our idea of the fifth season, but it is certainly true that there are sad coincidences with the current situation in the world, unfortunately. I would say that it was an unfortunate coincidence to write this song just before the pandemic, even if it follows in part the situation we are living. In fact, it's a bit of an anomalous fifth season! We know that book, but none of us actually read it. The idea of writing "The Fifth Season" was already born before becoming aware of the existence of the fantasy novel written by N. K. Jemisin, but we must admit that, having read a summary of the story, this too has certainly fueled our inspiration.

You had multiple guest artists on your latest album, “The Fifth Season.” What led to this?

We have never considered ourselves a closed group, we have always been open to new ideas and we were very pleased to have the support and collaboration of very talented artists such as Arianna and Samuele in our project. We obviously thank them for the time spent together and for their great contribution to our work. We were looking for a singer for a couple of tracks because we were sure that a female voice could fit perfectly in those songs. Leandro (our flutist) had known Arianna for some time and therefore he proposed this collaboration to us, and to say that it worked great!

I think the addition of soprano female vocals added another dimension to your music. It creates a rich contrast to the guttural vocals of Steven Merani and underscores the lyrical intent of the songs. Will we see more of these type of collaborations in the future?

Hopefully, it certainly added a lot and merged well to the voice of our frontman Steven, and a beautiful vocal alchemy was created between the two that gave an artistic touch that we all liked when the work was finished. We certainly consider the idea to work with Arianna again in future.

I loved your performance on tracks like “The Bridge,” “Immortal Blood,” and “The Spirit of the North.” You really seemed to expand your space musically speaking. Was this intentional?

Let's say that we like to compose without taking into account musical limits, and this allows us to create very different songs, we consider this our strength. Furthermore, in each song we dedicate a lot of time to write the melodies, in order to make them unique and possibly etched in the mind. Thanks for your appreciation, by the way!

Favorite drummers?

Difficult question, I admire too many drummers to prefer one, from Ian Paice to the late Nick Menza, Dave Lombardo, Nicko McBrain of IRON MAIDEN, Matt Kelly of DROPKICK MURPHYS, etc.

You have done covers of the theme songs from “The Game of Thrones” and “Vikings.” Any plans of releasing those on an EP or as bonus tracks on future albums?

I think this is unlikely, actually. However, the videos of those songs are still available on YouTube.

A lot of metal fans are also gamers. I believe you guys are big Elder Scroll fans, hence the track “Immortal Blood.” Are there other video/computer games or even card games like Magic the Gathering or RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons that members of the band are into?

Yes, as you rightly say many of us are fans of videogames, such as The Elder Scrolls series and other masterpieces like The Witcher or God of War. We also like board games like Magic or Gwent too. We can say that, in a certain way, all this contributes to influence our songwriting.

If so, are there are other hidden references in either of your albums that fans might be on the lookout for?

“Spirit of the North” is somehow also inspired by the video game of the same name. As for the other songs, we often refer to Norse mythology, which we are very passionate about and as we know it is often repeated also in various video games or TV series.

What bands or artists have influenced you?

There are so many bands that have influenced our music, we can mention KORPIKLAANI, ELUVETIE, DROPKICK MURPHYS, FOLKSTONE, and many other.

If we were to look through your personal music collection, what album do you think we’d be surprised to find?

Good question, lots of electronic, jazz and classical music albums, but mostly electronic.

Tell us about the Folk Metal scene. How competitive is it? Do bands tend to get along well? Are Folk Metal bands able to access more mainstream venues than traditional metal bands?

Let's say that given the period it is difficult to talk about competitiveness or it is easier to find concerts than traditional bands, the Italian scenario has always been difficult. From my experience I can say that I have found a lot of solidarity with many other bands like ours and it helps us to find dates and opportunities to play.

I’m starting to see Folk Metal influences in all styles of metal, including more extreme subgenres like Blackened Folk Metal, Melodic Death Folk Metal, and many more. What are your thoughts on the future of Folk Metal?

It's certainly expanding its influence into other genres and is being appreciated by more and more people, but I think it's going to be a long way . . . hard to say.

How do you prefer to consume your music? Vinyl? Cassette? CD? Digital?

Surely the most comfortable method is digital, but I'm a nostalgic and I really appreciate vinyl and dear CDs.

Clearly the digital world has dramatically changed the production, marketing, and consumption of music. Do you think it is harder or easier to make it in the metal scene?

It depends on the point of view, clearly digital has given much more visibility to many emerging bands than in the past, but it has also created a lot more competition and a multitude of changes. With digital now everyone has the possibility to record an album, you have to be good at standing out for quality in your music.

What motivates you to play music? Is it the thrill of a live performance, the experience of recording, the need to express yourself?

Passion. When I'm on the drums I feel I can do what I want, to be free to be able to let off steam and put everything that comes to mind in my instrument. My companions and the complicity and alchemy that are created when so many different ideas and sounds are merged and the final result that follows. The roar of the crowd when you get on a big stage, the tension, the emotion, perhaps alongside the most important artists to deal with or to learn from . . . are many things, but passion in the first place.

I see HEILUNG just announced a North American tour. It seems the world may be opening up again after a long spell of darkness. What long-term impacts do you think COVID will have on the music scene?

Like all people who have undergone this unhappy period, I hope we can go towards a reopening, and I hope we can return to a sort of normalcy that does not preclude bands and organizers of festivals and concerts from being able to perform and organize tours, dates and other artistic performances.

What’s next for AEXYLIUM?

Well, I hope only good things even if it seems like a sentence from a fairy tale. Surely we have to organize ourselves based on the trend of the reopening decisions of the various festivals or live venues, but in the meantime we continue to work on new ideas and projects in order to always be ready and on the piece as soon as we have a clearer vision of what this period will bring.

Before we close, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Thanks for this interview, greetings to Metal Temple editorial staff and to all readers!

Thank you!


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Edited 04 February 2023

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