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  • Words by Faye Coulman

US doom metallers Pulchra Morte discuss making of pivotal second album ‘Ex Rosa Ceremonia’

Forging music out of the darkest, most unspeakably tortured and broken parts of ourselves has long been something of an occupational hazard in extreme metal circles. Aside from the obviously messy business of spilling one’s proverbial guts to hundreds upon thousands of literal strangers spanning all corners of the globe, there’s always the naggingly persistent doubt that maybe, just maybe, your music will somehow spectacularly fail to move and resonate with other human beings. That the private universe of existential torment raging in your own head will barely register as so much as a ripple of half-distracted interest in the track-hopping, chronically impatient mind of the average modern music consumer. And in a world laden down with tidily compartmentalising trends and genres, the act of loudly and fearlessly asserting one’s artistic identity certainly requires no small amount of metaphorical cojones. But with a richly nostalgic sound whose every ghoulishly elongated line of distortion and vocal cord-shredding howl audibly reverberates with emotion of the most intensely harrowing character imaginable, it seems American doom metallers Pulchra Morte are more than up to the challenge…

“It's a perfect representation of where we are mentally and spiritually right now, but there's also a bit of fear about that, right? I mean, is anybody actually going to give a shit about this?” reflects Pulchra Morte sticksman Clayton Gore on the groundbreaking yet evidently anxious run-up to the unleashing of the US doomsters’ second anticipated long-player, ‘Ex Rosa Ceremonia’. Established back in 2017 out of a line-up numbering players sourced from such prestigious names as Skeletonwitch, Eulogy and Abigail Williams, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the principles of sheer, uncompromising extremity would likely be the foremost priority fuelling this exceptionally talented circle of musicians. Yet, while there’s no shortage of delectably pulverising aggression to be found within the densely muscled, ink-black contortions and raggedly visceral screams that richly abide here, it’s clear that this is but one facet in an altogether more complex and darkly intriguing musical vision. Specifically, reports Clayton, it all began with a desire to rekindle the eerily entrancing majesty of that very particular strain of early ’90s doom that Yorkshire genre legends Paradise Lost were famously instrumental in the making of.

“I’m not sure what it was exactly, I don't think it's something you can necessarily just put your finger on,” the drummer muses. “There was just something about the way that it all came across, particularly on ‘Gothic’. It was something that kind of came under the radar, back when a lot of people were paying attention to that Tampa death metal, Deicide kind of sound, and didn't really have a whole lot of interest in that. But me and lots of my friends were going around waving the Paradise Lost flag, like, no, no, you guys are missing the fucking boat here, ‘Gothic’ is amazing and it was on endless play at our house, for sure. And just that idea of creating songs that have a feeling that's not just necessarily aggression, but something deeper and more melodic, but still very heavy and brutal, and not overly technical either. And that era just seemed to kind of come and go with a couple of albums and then people were kind of moving on to faster stuff, and black metal was really on the rise too. In fact, Paradise Lost themselves also kind of abandoned that sound too, until just a few years ago when they kind of came back and it was really heavy again. So it just kind of felt like, hey, you know, there was something there, there was a lot of feeling. Personally, I felt like I'd kind of done the death metal thing already with Jarett [Pritchard, guitars] in Eulogy and that I’d said everything I wanted to say there. But I’d never really played this kind of music before, so it was a personal challenge to see if I can kind of slow it down, pull it back a little bit and create something that's got some weight and feeling behind it. And I used the idea of that early Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride kind of sound as an influence.”

Having made an exceptionally accomplished studio debut with 2019’s ‘Divina Autem Et Aniles’, the US collective’s richly nostalgic early melding of skull-splitting heaviness and ghoulishly immersive atmosphere was impressively quick to beguile listeners and critics from all corners of the extreme metal spectrum. But for all this deliciously sinister vintage charm, the need to establish a sound of their own inimitable design fast became an increasingly pressing priority as Gore and co. set about crafting a sonic identity forged from the most unflinchingly soul-baring content imaginable. Indeed, from the earliest outset of the creative process, it was abundantly clear that the anticipated follow-up to ‘Divina…’ was destined to be so much more than just a misty-eyed homage to the old gods of the genre.

“We were like, okay, we've established that we have given a nod to this era of music on the first record. Now we want to stretch our legs a little more, and give you more of a glimpse into what we sound like,” long-time bandmate and guitarist Jarrett Pritchard explains. “Not that we didn't sound like us on the first record, but the first record is a very much a respectful nod to an earlier era of music. And I think that one of the main concepts going into this one was, you know, we're going to take this a little further now. Now we want you to see a little more who exactly we are, as far as the subject matter and content for the record is concerned. I've worked Adam [Clemens, frontman] on many other projects, so I kind of know what to expect from him and I've always really liked his writing. I didn't know what he was going to write, but I knew we’d be roughly on the same page with everything. It's interesting, because as you're producin