There are some places around the world that just seem to breed great music. Whether it’s the climate, the attitude of the natives, the local water…some places just seem to be hotbeds for creativity. Anyone that loves extreme music (or Hell, music in general) knows that New Orleans is one of the strongest scenes for pretty much whatever type of tunes you’re into. For those of us with a penchant for the heavier side of life, New Orleans has given us Down, Crowbar, Eyehategod, Goatwhore, and Exhorder, just to name a few.
It’s pretty much impossible to judge how a career is going to go based off an EP but if Herakleion’s debut, Curse of Eternity, is any indication, they could reasonably be mentioned as a NOLA great before it’s all said and done. Founded in 2021, Herakleion burst onto the scene with their 2022 debut, a ferocious blast of death-infused thrash that made many a metalhead sit up and take notice. If you haven’t checked it out yet, give it a listen and you’ll definitely understand why they were tapped to open for Goatwhore earlier in the year. I recently talked to Speed, Christian, and Apollo to get the story behind NOLA’s next great export.
First off, how did Herakleion get started? How did you guys meet and what made you want to form this band together? How did you decide on the name?
Speed: Apollo and I found each other through an ad on Craigslist a couple years back. We both had two different ads up looking for the same thing: “Musicians to play thrash metal, early Sepultura-Voivod-Kill ‘Em All Metallica sounding stuff.” When we met we had no idea how similar our music taste was. The two of us started talking about all of our favorite obscure old thrash records and got onto the subject of old school death metal. Testimony of the Ancients was our jumping off point. We thought it would be cool to write something in between death metal and thrash metal. The next day we wrote the basic structure for the song “Curse of Eternity.” Around that time, Crowbar was doing two consecutive nights at a venue in town and Apollo and I went out to the second of the two. Toward the end of the night, I saw this this dude with a Morbid Angel shirt and before we left, I suggested we go up to talk to him. This was the exchange, “Hey man. Sick shirt, Morbid Angel rules.” To which he replied, “You guys need a bass player?” That was Christian. We met up once to “audition” him, and began writing what would become our EP the following week.
Apollo: That’s how that happened.
Christian: I was watching a mini-documentary on Herakleion, the mythological sunken city that was recently found. It felt like a good centerpiece to the themes we were writing about. We definitely didn’t want to add another name-generator cliche to the world.
What got you guys into metal in the first place? Who are some of your influences for Herakleion?
Speed: My dad got me into older music when I was very little. I started out with bands like the Ramones and The Who. Later, he showed me KISS and Judas Priest, and I found Iron Maiden. One day, he put on Ride the Lighting and that changed everything. From there I found Megadeth, and then Exodus, Sepultura, Kreator, Death, etc. Some of the music that influenced my writing on our first EP, Curse of Eternity, was early Voivod: Rrröööaaarrr and War And Pain.
Apollo: I was given a copy of Master Of Puppets for my ninth birthday. It was one of the heaviest things I’d ever heard. Combined with the photos in the insert, I decided that’s how I was gonna look and that’s what I was gonna do with my life. Bands like Kreator, early Carcass, Obituary, and Morbid Angel influenced my guitar style while I was learning, and that certainly carries over to what we’re doing with Herakleion.
Christian: Like these guys, I got started pretty young on classic rock, punk, and heavy metal. That led me into old school thrash and death metal. Those bands play a huge role in how I approached writing when I joined.
How do you guys write the music for the band? Is there a set process or does it just depend?
Speed: The three of us just write the stuff that we want to hear, and how we get there kind of varies from song to song. Most of the time someone will bring a riff idea in and we branch off from there, adding parts before and after it then tweaking stuff as we rehearse it more. The songs on Curse of Eternity were only rehearsed for a short time before we recorded. “Obsidian King” was structurally completed but the drum part wasn’t done until we hit record.
What do you try to do with the lyrics to a Herakleion song? Do you turn to anything for inspiration and what themes do you like to explore with the band?
Apollo: Thematically, Lovecraftian horror has been a recurring source of inspiration. It gets mixed in with mythology and poetry. Then, it gets processed through my imagination.
Curse of Eternity was a really, really fun debut EP. What was the writing/ recording process like for that one? What did you learn from that experience that you’ll take to future recordings?
Speed: It was a blur. We met Christian and recorded maybe two months later. The EP was intended to be a demo, we recorded it in my bedroom, and the songs weren’t hammered on for half a year beforehand. Since the intention was just to be a demo, there wasn’t really any pressure. It was a fun experience since I had never tracked anything before.
Christian: I had to learn two of the songs that were going to be on the EP as my audition. The other three songs from the EP came from riff writing with Apollo at my place. The arrangements, though, come from all three of us in the rehearsal room working the song. Speed has a lot of input on song arrangement. The EP was written and recorded before we’d played our first show. We’ve since learned how valuable stage-testing new songs can be.
Apollo: I wasn’t originally supposed to be the singer for the band. So, how’s that? I’m focused on writing guitar parts and lyrics for the band, and then we decide I’m going to be the vocalist too. It all happened so fast. I’d never been a lead vocalist before, so Curse Of Eternity is the very beginning attempts at learning a brand new instrument for me. It’s been a process. Learning how to care for that instrument so I don’t ruin it. I think I’m just starting to learn what I can do with it.
I wanted to ask about a few songs on there and get the lyrical/musical inspiration for those. What’s the story behind “28 Days Later?” I’m gonna assume you guys are also big fans of that movie!
Speed: I have honestly never seen that movie.
Apollo: It was loosely based on that movie. I love it.
Christian: That movie rules.
How about the origin of “Cryogenic Death?” That’s my favorite on that EP.
Speed: “28 Days Later” and the basic structure of “Curse of Eternity” were written before Christian joined the band. “Cryogenic Death” was the first song that the three of us wrote together. The song is about freezing to death in space.
Apollo: Speed brought in the idea based on the movie Alien, and how the premise of sleeping in a cryogenic chamber wouldn’t work. You’d just die.
Christian: And we all thought it was funny. It was a running joke for a few days, and then we wrote a song about it.
What about the title track, “Curse of Eternity?”
Apollo: Existence is a curse.
Christian: Based on the Buddhist principle of “life is suffering,” living forever would be a curse.
Being that the band has been just the three of you, what makes you all work so well together? How do you keep a healthy band dynamic?
Christian: What makes your best friend your best friend? It’s just a chemistry we’ve had since we all met. We have a very unified vision for the band. A healthy band dynamic comes from open communication and patience. We’re a family and we all look out for each other.
Apollo: Similar goals and musical interests.
Speed: It’s a shared vision.
Are you guys looking to record your first LP? If so, how’s that process going and what’s the goal with the first full-length?
Speed: We plan on making more songs that complement the previous EP. The three of us are always working at the new material we have and tweaking it until it is to our liking. No matter what the next thing is we put out, we want it to sound purposeful and for people to be able to connect to it in the same way that we do.
Christian: There are new songs being filtered into the set. Whether we end up with an EP or an LP depends on how the next batch of songs feel together.
New Orleans is a great home for pretty much any kind of music. How much influence has the local scene had on the development of the band and how involved in your local scene are you guys?
Speed: I’m not sure the local scene has had any influence on the band, in that way. We’ve always had a plan for what we want to sound like and where we want to go with it. In a way, I think we could have been from anywhere and we’d still be what we are. The New Orleans scene though, is unique. There are a lot of great bands here, and more people need to get out and support them.
Christian: We have a lot of friends in bands and New Orleans has [a] thriving underground metal scene.
Apollo: There are a lot of good shows every week. It’s hard to be at them all, but we get out and support whenever we can.
Lastly, what’s next for Herakleion? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Speed: We’re constantly writing together for new songs. That never stops. We’re also focused on touring as much of the U.S. as we can. At some point this year, we’re going to record our next release. That’s taking shape, as we speak.
Photo at top: Curse of Eternity album cover.