Interview with Francesco Bucci, Bassist for Stormlord
By Michael De Los Muertos
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
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.
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
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
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
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 email@example.com
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
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
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
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!)
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.
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.
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
with Francesco Bucci from 2000
Featured Artist Article: In
the Studio (And Around Rome) With Stormlord
Visit the official site at www.stormlord.net