Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Francesco Bucci, Bassist for Stormlord

By Michael De Los Muertos

If you're into epic-sounding metal or follow the European scene closely, hopefully you've heard of Stormlord - and if you haven't, you need to rectify that! Stormlord is a unique and very powerful band. These intelligent and very talented Romans are fresh off the release of their second full-length album, AT THE GATES OF UTOPIA, which follows their much-praised 1999 debut, THE SUPREME ART OF WAR. Both albums are hard-hitting, fast-paced, and extremely epic, borrowing heavily from Black Metal and Power Metal, but also firmly rooted in old Thrash and other classic metal styles. I recently had the chance to interview Francesco Bucci, Stormlord's bassist. He was responsible for bringing me to the studio in Rome where the mini-CD prelude to AT THE GATES OF UTOPIA was recorded in the summer of 2000, and I was quite pleased to get a chance to talk to the band again and see what's up 18 months later.

 

 

AT THE GATES OF UTOPIA is clearly your best work to date. What did the band do differently on this record than on SUPREME ART OF WAR?

A lot of things for sure. First of all this album took us much more time than SUPREME ART OF WAR to be composed. We had a lot of problems with our former label, so we were obliged to stay far from the scene for almost 2 years. We spent a whole year composing the songs of AT THE GATES OF UTOPIA, so we had a lot of time to discuss the arrangements and a lot of other things. On SUPREME ART OF WAR there was only me and Cristiano composing, while on UTOPIA we had much more teamwork and the result is much better. Another important point is about the lyrics: I wrote almost all the lyrics because I think they are 50% of the work of a band. I spent some time studying the topics to reach the best goal I could. I'm fucking tired of stories with dragons and brave heroes. We're going to keep the epic side of our sound, but lyrically I wanted to go much deeper, discovering once again what the word "Epic" really means. And for me there's nothing as epic as Roman and Greek mythology. I know that a lot of people prefer the Scandinavian sagas, but I felt more comfortable with our mythology because I feel it in my roots. I spent a lot of time studying it and I LIVE in Rome, the city of the Gods, so I have this feeling basically every day.

I can say that there are two different kinds of Stormlord lyrics. On one side we have songs like "And Winter Was," "The Curse Of Medusa" or "A Sight Inwards" that speak about well known myths like Orpheus and Eurydice, Medusa or the kidnapping of Persephone by the King Of Hades. Through these stories I try, in a certain way, to analyze the present reality. For example, through the myth of the descent of Orpheus into Hades, his quest to find Eurydice once again and the loss of his beloved one, I try to make a comparison with a dream. In a dream you always get what you want, but then you wake up and all is gone, like fog in a summer morning, like a faded silhouette in the entrance of a cave. His dream ends when he comes to the light. The light is the awakening. This was just an example anyway.

On another side I take inspiration from the work of two of my favorite poets: Coleridge and Blake. I wrote these lyrics in a really strange mood and I still feel them inside of me. I always loved English poetry, and this time I decided to express my love in my lyrics. "I Am Legend" is something different, it was written by a friend of mine, Brigida Costa, who already wrote some stuff on SUPREME ART OF WAR, our first album. These lyrics are based on the novel "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson. It's an amazing book about a man left alone in a world of vampires. It's a brilliant metaphor about how hard it is to define good and evil in an absolute way. I hope these lyrics would be as interesting for a reader as they are for me, the writer.

Also the title of the album has a special meaning for me: AT THE GATES OF UTOPIA means that the Man, intended as a human being, could arrive in sight of Utopia, but he will never enter the city. You know that Utopia is an imaginary city created by the unique mind of Thomas Moore in his opus titled "De Optimo Republicae Statu Deque Nova Insula Utopia," released in 1516. It was the city of perfection (from an economic, social and religious point of view), and in the modern age the word "Utopia" is used to describe something perfect, and impossible to achieve. I think that Man will find forever some gates between Him and perfection, and he will never be complete because being complete would mean that he's turned into a God. The gates are inside of Him, are the human boundaries that make him still a man, the gates ARE Him. On the cover [of the album] you can see a proud, ambitious and arrogant dark knight on a rampant horse, dark because he could be every one of us, like a modern Ulysses trying to reach Utopia. He can even see the wonderful domes [of the city] silhouetted against the horizon. But Utopia is hidden and protected by the flames of the demons. The demons are the boundaries of Man, it's like Don Quixote against the windmills. He's fighting a senseless battle, but he still fights like the Gods of the Scandinavian mythology in the Armageddon days. They've known since the beginning of time that they will lose, but they still fight because this is their doom. So are we.

 

 

Like many metal bands, Stormlord draws imagery and inspiration from the band members' culture, tradition and history. However, you are from Rome, which is fairly unique in the metal world. Why do you feel ancient Rome is a good basis for metal songs and albums?

I think I've already answered you. Personally I feel really influenced by the unique atmosphere and from the amazing feeling of the eternal city.

 

 

Having seen the band working on the album in the studio, it appeared there was a tremendous amount of preparation and precision that went into recording. While playing live shows you obviously don't have that controlled environment. How does Stormlord preserve its sound in a live setting?

Well, don't forget that Stormlord is mainly a live band. We are not like some other bands that adjust all in the studio, and when they are live they suck! We all give our best in live shows, and we [balance] the less precision - which is normal in a live situation - with much more strength and groove. I'm sure that if you see us live you'll not be disappointed at all…ask the people who were attending at our shows on the last tour!

 

 

Nearly everyone who listens to Stormlord comments on the incredible drum work. I've seen David play and it's amazing. What's his secret?

Red Bull, tons of Red Bull...

 

 

What non-metal music influences and inspires Stormlord? I know, for example, that Cristiano listens to a lot of non-metal music.

Yes, it's true, we all like about all sides of music. For example, I really like EBM and all the Goth and Wave Electronic music, and [lately] I just love to relax listening to The Cure and Depeche Mode, but this is not influential for Stormlord. I think all this non-metal music could give a few good ideas for my songwriting, but my main influences remain the Thrash Metal scene and the pure Black Metal scene of the early 1990s. All the rest is just for my listening pleasure, but it has nothing to do with Stormlord and I think that you'll never hear Stomlord playing an EBM tune!

 

 

You characterize your sound as "epic metal." What would you say makes an "epic" sound?

This is a good question. We call our sound Extreme Epic Metal, and we love the epic feeling of our melodies. Honestly I don't know what makes an Epic sound...it's something that is normal for us. For example, I think that Manowar, Bolt Thrower, Bal-Sagoth, Candlemass and Rhapsody are all really epic bands, but their ways to achieve that result are very different. I know I [create an Epic sound] when a riff I play makes me feel in an Epic mood, if you know what I mean...

 

 

It's obligatory to ask this: what are Stormlord's future recording and touring plans? Can we hope to see the band at the summer festivals?

You can hope and we do too, it's not forbidden. We just returned from our European tour with Ancient and Thyrane. Our label is doing really good promotional work, so I hope they will try to put us in one of those big summer festivals. I know that maybe Wacken would be too big for us, but at least it would be cool to see us on the Italian Gods of Metal stage, or maybe at "With Full Force," an open air festival that I really like. Or maybe we'll just stay here in Rome composing the new stuff. We don't know yet, we are talking with our label about this and we're going to plan something for sure. In the meanwhile we're performing some dates in our country, and probably we'll be on the road again in February, with Ancient, for a tour in Spain. Once again, if there is any promoter that wants to take us to the US - and we know that we could raise some hell there! - they just have to write us at stormlord@stormlord.net

 

 

Few people realize that Stormlord has been around for nearly 11 years now. How similar is  Stormlord today to the Stormlord that first appeared 11 years ago? Has the band really changed a lot since those days, or are you still pretty much the same people you were back then?

Today's Stormlord is completely different from the Stormlord in '91. Everything is different: the people involved, the sound, the technical skill. In the beginning Stormlord used to play a kind of melodic Death Metal, without any keyboards. Cristiano was almost the only composer and leader until the mini-CD UNDER THE SIGN OF THE SWORD, an album where the style of the band changed to Epic Black Metal with keyboards. Then in '97 Pierangelo joined the band and I came in '98, bringing David with me. From that year on the situation changed, we all joined the songwriting and there wasn't a leader anymore, we learned how to work as a team. The good thing is that we're all good friends and the situation in the band has been really good since the autumn of '99, when Simone joined the band and we made our first European tour.

 

 

In the past few years the band seems to have distanced itself from the "traditional" Black Metal elements -- such as corpse paint. Are you uncomfortable with being recognized as a black metal band?

The face painting is gone! We respect the true Black Metal music and attitude too much to wear it anymore. Surely the old masters of Black Metal are strongly in our roots (and you can feel it especially in the last track of our new album, "The Secrets Of The Earth," my personal tribute to the Black Metal scene), but to me Black Metal means an attitude, a very raw music, and [that attitude is] anti-Christian. I'm talking about Darkthrone, Mayhem, old Burzum, Immortal, Marduk, Mysticum and stuff like that. We are not similar to these bands, we walk on another path. I know that looking at our [past] photos we could appear to be another Black Metal band, and that's why we don't use the war paint anymore. It was conceived to be tribute to the scene, but now too many people are being tricked by our look, accusing us of not being true Black Metal. Yes, that's true!!!! WE DO NOT PLAY BLACK METAL!!!! WE PLAY EXTREME EPIC METAL!!! There's a lot of difference, it's like saying that Children Of Bodom play Black Metal because Alexi Lahio uses the scream approach to the vocals. We were also really disgusted with seeing a lot of children wearing the face painting without knowing anything about it, and also seeing a lot of people listening to us and considering us only because of the paint. WE ARE STORMLORD, WITH OR WITHOUT THE FACE PAINTING - LEARN IT!

 

 

If you would, briefly describe the metal scene in Rome today. What do you see as Stormlord's role in the Italian metal scene?

Well, there are a lot of interesting bands in Rome. The first ones that come to my mind are our good friends Novembre. I really consumed their last album. [Also] Rosae Crucis, probably the best Italian Epic Metal band; Run With Wolves, a really cool Goth-oriented band; Hour Of Penance & Ghouls, techno-death in the vein of Morbid Angel; and the old fashioned thrashers Enemyside. I don't know if we have a role in the Italian scene and honestly I don't care. For sure we are one of the most popular extreme bands in our country, but Italy is such a strange country. Surely there's also a strong extreme metal scene, but also a lot of rip-offs. The main sport for some bands seems to be to talk behind others' backs all the time, and this doesn't help the scene very much. We don't give a shit about these children and we walk our path with pride. We also know that there's a lot of good people working their asses off for metal every day, and we really respect them!

 

 

Any plans for the third full-length album?

OH MY GOD! PLEASE GIVE US A REST! OK, I'm kidding, but right now we're really tired. We spent a full year composing UTOPIA, then we had the recording session of the album, and they were heavy. Then we left for the tour, and it was heavy too. Now we really need a little rest or we will go crazy for sure. We'll start to write the new stuff in February of this year and I hope that all [the writing] will be finished by the end of the year, so we can record the new full-length in the beginning of 2003. We don't want to stay too far from the scene, we already had our problems and we were obliged to rest in silence for too many months...now it is time for Stormlord to rise!

 

 

The band has released a mini-CD prior to the release of each of its full-length albums. Why did you do this, and will you do it again before the third album?

This is an interesting question. We don't know yet, but I don't think so. All of our mini-CDs have a strange history. WHERE MY SPIRIT FOREVER SHALL BE is simply the promo we sent to Last Episode to reach the deal. They were so convinced by the promo that they released it as a mini-CD to present the band. THE CURSE OF MEDUSA has a similar history. The first two songs we recorded (when you were in the studio) were intended to appear in a promo for labels only, so we sent it to a lot of labels and we finally got the Scarlet deal. The problem was that too much time had passed since the release of SUPREME ART OF WAR, so together with the label we decided to add some live and studio stuff to those two songs and to release a mini-CD. I still like THE CURSE OF MEDUSA very much, I think is full of good stuff, and it's not usual to see a 37-minute long mini-CD, is it? Now we will work on the new full-length album because we want it out soon, and I don't think about releasing another mini-CD...but I can't be totally sure of this. We'll see... keep yourself informed checking www.stormlord.net!

 

 

When I saw you guys recording at the studio in Rome two summers ago, it appeared that each member of the band knew their part very well and each person had a lot of freedom to interpret the songs as he saw fit. Could you talk about the process of writing the songs, and how each part (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums) is developed within each song?

Normally me and Simone, the keyboard player, are the main songwriters. I bring some riffs to Simone's studio and we [both] start to work on it, together with the help of Pierangelo, until the song is finally ready in a really raw form. Then we take the stuff to the rehearsal room, and here we work on the final result with all the band [members], giving the typical Stormlord sound to the song. In the end, when the feelings of the song are really clear, I write the lyrics that try to catch the spirit of the song. As you noticed, it's really important, the freedom of interpretation every member has. For example, often I write some guitar riffs or some vocal lines, but it's the performances of Pierangelo and Cristiano that make that part work and grow. This is what we call team work.

 

 

Do you think the European metal scene is currently healthy, and if so do you believe it will continue to be healthy in the future? What, in your opinion, could be done to improve the metal scene in Europe (or anywhere for that matter)?

I think in a few months we all will be drowned by these Power Metal bands growing everywhere. I've listened to Power Metal - the real Power Metal of bands like Not Fragile, Chroming Rose, Scanner, Running Wild etc. - since the beginning of the '90s, but I really don't like this new wave of Power Metal. It seems to me that everyone could just pick up a guitar, make a cartoon-theme-like melody and he's ready for an album. I think the metal scene is in a big crisis, and I also see that the sales are not as good as they were one time. I just discovered that DEMOLITION from Judas Priest only sold 36,000 copies. OK, it's really a horrible album - but we're talking about one of the most important heavy metal bands ever! The market has a lot of problems, the CDs are too expensive and the people prefer to download them or to burn it, but I can't say anything against them because often I do the same shit. I think the metal scene needs more ideas, more originality. I'm really much into the metal scene and I receive tens of CDs per week from a lot of labels. I only hear people copying At The Gates, people copying Helloween or Rhapsody, or people copying the old thrash school - this is not a good thing. The only original album I've heard in a long time is the new System Of A Down...and this is quite strange.

 

 

Are you or other members of the band into fantasy or medieval type of things, such as Lord of the Rings, or science fiction, etc.?

We all like that topic. I think me and Cristiano are the ones most interested in this kind of stuff. I read a lot and I prefer other kinds of topics, but I really like people like Howard and Tolkien, but my preferences go to Poe, Lovecraft, Stephen King and Borges, and to English poetry overall. I also like a lot the science fiction and I think it could be cool to write something about science fiction topics in the future. Maybe on the next album, I've got to think about it...

 

 

Please name five other metal bands from Italy that you think Metal-Rules.com readers should be aware of, and why.

Novembre: the charisma of Opeth and the feeling of Katatonia, all revisited in a very personal and amazing way. Artists, not simply musicians. Necrodeath: the godfathers of the Italian Heavy Metal scene, the best Thrash/Black band from our country and not only that, but they are also a killer live band! Node: techno-Death in the sign of Death and Carcass, totally amazing. Death SS: the ones who began it all, the GODS! Undertakers: one of the most impressive live sets I've ever seen. Undertakers plays a mix of Brutal, Thrash and Hardcore, they are on the scene since a lot of time and they deserve more.

 

 

I'm going to name a few subjects -- some metal-related, some not. Please tell me what you think about each of them.

A) Use of keyboards in metal.
Useless (Simone is going to kill me for this!)

B) Rhapsody.
They are the ones who gave a big kick in the ass to the whole Italian scene. [Even if you didn't] like it, you couldn't deny the importance they had for our scene. Before them, our scene was deeply in the underground, and there were only some bands like Bulldozer and Alex Masi who were known outside of it. Now the situation is really changed.

C) The "Lord of the Rings" movie.
I prefer the book.

D) Bal-Sagoth.
A great band. A lot of times the press has told me that we sound really similar to them, but the truth is that, even following them since their very first album, I'm not really influenced by their work. I don't listen to them really often, but I really like them.

E) The Visigoths.
The Samnites were better.

F) The movie "Gladiator."
Really funny to see for someone who lives in Rome. Almost all of the story and the locations were totally invented with no historic comparison. And it was boring too.

G) HammerFall.
A really oversupported band, but they're not so bad after all.

 

Thanks very much for your time!

Thanks to you man, thanks for the support and keep the flame burning!


Other Stormlord material in Metal-Rules.com

Interview with Francesco Bucci from 2000

Featured Artist Article: In the Studio (And Around Rome) With Stormlord

CD Reviews

Visit the official site at www.stormlord.net

 

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