Guitarist Fabio Buzzago, keyboard player Stefano Colombo, bassist Gabriele Cacocciola, and flute player Leandro Pessina – Aexylium
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.
I sat down with members of Italian pagan/folk metal band Aexylium and had a chat about the band’s new album, THE FIFTH SEASON, and the inspirations that lead to the their creation. Prior to the album release, the band covered the themes of TV-series Game of Thrones and Vikings, so one of my questions had to be why they chose to do those. We also covered the band’s past, present, and future as well as their cooperation with their label Rockshots Records, and many other topics. If you’re a fan of Eluveite, Korpiklaani, and Alestorm, then Aexylium ought to appeal to you.
Hi guys how are you doing today? Ready to kick off the interview?
First of all, what’s the status regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy at the moment? Do you have any curfews or restrictions?
Leandro: The pandemic is still afflicting our everyday life, even if the situation is quite good compared to other countries like Germany or Ireland. Italy’s regions are divided by colours, from white to red. While a red zone is equal to a “traditional” lockdown, white and yellow allow us to live our days quite normally (no curfew, public events are still allowed etc.). At the moment, all the Italian regions are classified as white and yellow, so it means a moderate risk. Not a single area is facing the orange or red zone right now.
When and where was the band founded? Was it given from the start that you wanted to incorporate traditional instruments like flute and violin into your music?
Gabriele: The band was officially founded in October 2014 with the first formation of just standard instruments: two guitars, drums, bass and voice, but since the beginning the idea was focused to incorporate also a violin and a flute to the ensemble, aiming to a more specific folk scenario.
Was it easy to find members to join the band?
Fabio: No, I would say it was difficult, because it is not easy to find so many people who are willing to spend time and passion for a musical project.
When did Roberto Cuoghi leave the band?
Fabio: Roberto left the band at the end of 2019 due to personal reasons that did not allow him to have much spare time.
Leandro: Violin player Federico Bonoldi joined in 2017 and flutist Leandro Pessina two years later. Are those two the newest edition to the band?
Leandro: Leandro Pessina joined the band in June 2018. He was asked to replace Gabriele Guarino (former flute player) for some of the events scheduled for that summer. The last member who joined the band is Andrea Prencisvalle, in substitution of Roberto Cuoghi. He arrived just before COVID-19, in January 2020. Now on our new album, you will be able to listen to his wonderful guitar solos.
Do the band members have any artists or bands in common they are inspired by?
Leandro: We usually look at Korpiklaani, Alestorm, Eluveitie, Folkstone and Mägo de Oz. We try to mix their most representative elements, adding the “Aexylium secret ingredient”.
What did the world think of your EP, AEXYLIUM, which was released in 2015?
Fabio: It was a self-produced demo; the sounds were of poor quality and consequently was not advertised much. It was more like a kind of “introduction” to the public at our first gigs.
The year after came your second EP, titled THE BLIND CROW. What did fans and reviewers think of it?
Fabio: That record was shortly advertised too. We did a slight upgrade of the sounds, but at least it helped us to emerge a little more.
What response did you get on 2018’s full-length debut, TALES FROM THIS LAND?
Gabriele: I’ll say it was good, even considering that on our first full length some of the composition was pretty raw, but nevertheless I’m really satisfied of TFTL.
Where does the band name come from? Does it have any special meaning and who came up with it?
Gabriele: Aexylium is a crippling of the Latin word “exile” and wants to express the condition of being sometimes alone and far from one’s own reality but in any case always linked to one’s origins; the condition of exile.
Vikings Theme – Folk Metal Cover (If I Had a Heart)
In 2018 you did covers of the themes to Game of Thrones and Vikings. What made you do that?
Leandro: Actually, we released those covers in 2019. The objective was simply to promote our music by presenting ourselves playing those extremely famous themes. 2019 saw the release of these shows’ new seasons, and so their related contents were highly researched on the web. We simply tried to follow the flow, showing new folk metal arrangements.
Game Of Thrones – Epic / Folk Metal Cover (Main Theme)
The band haven’t done much touring yet, why?
Fabio: It’s not easy to plan long trips for a big band like ours, especially without a booking agency behind us. We recently played in Germany at the renowned Backstage Club and for next year we already have some other dates abroad, we hope it will be a good omen in this regard.
I know you did shows at some festivals, which festivals and how were they?
Fabio: Yes we played in various music festivals, like Tanzt!, Malpaga Folk and Metal, Montelago Celtic Festival, Druidia, Rock inn Somma, Feffarkhorn etc.
Which of the festivals was the most fun to perform at?
Fabio: I think Tanzt! in Munich and Montelago Celtic Festival, the energy of the audience was thrilling.
Is the band big in Italy and do you have a big fanbase?
Fabio: No, unfortunately we can’t call ourselves a great band at the moment. This is what every band hopes to become obviously, but it is not easy to emerge, especially in Italy where metal is an undervalued genre. Our fanbase has been growing lately, especially thanks to the new album, we hope to continue in this way.
Why has the band mostly performed in Italy and nearby countries and not in the rest of Europe?
Gabriele: We firstly wanted to build up some experience in the folk-celtic scene, and there are many important events in Italy linked to the music we make. We had the opportunity to play abroad for the first time in 2020 but due to the pandemic we had to wait until September 2021 when we performed in Munich.
The new album THE FIFTH SEASON
When did the band start to write material to the new album and why has it taken you so long to follow up TALES FROM THIS LAND?
Leandro: The first song we started for the new album was “Battle of Tettenhall”. At the end of 2019, we had something like two or three songs that were already completed. During the first months of 2020, we completed other songs, but the rise of the pandemic stopped us a lot. If it wasn’t for the virus, THE FIFTH SEASON would have probably been published within 2020. During the first lockdown, we continued to work and write new pieces and so, when we finally met after months, the track list was completed. Sadly, COVID-19 stopped us again during our recording days (we started during October 2020, and they lasted until January 2021 because of new social restrictions in the middle). Once the recording session was done, we had to find a label. We found that, but you probably know better than us how much time the publishing of an album can take. This is why you had to wait more than three years between the first and the second album.
Who writes the music and the lyrics? What are lyrics about on THE FIFTH SEASON?
Fabio: The lyrics are usually written by me (Fabio), Steven (the singer) and also Gabriele (the bassist). We are often inspired by Norse mythology. As for the title track instead, the lyrics tell of a hypothetical future where mankind depletes the planet’s resources, and this leads to an age of famine and extinctions of species.
I read that your songs handles things like Celtic/Norse mythology, folk tales, pirates and legends. Is that correct and how come you’re so fascinated by that?
Fabio: Yes that’s correct, in particular Steven and I are very passionate about Norse Mythology, and therefore for music and lyrics we are often inspired by that.
Where do you find inspiration to write songs?
Fabio: It is hard to explain how inspiration comes, often a riff or a melody comes to mind even while I’m at work, then I try to sing it in some way and record it with the phone. Later, at home, I transcribe it entirely on the PC.
Would you say that the band changed anything music-wise if you compare THE FIFTH SEASON with the debut?
Fabio: Yes, I guess, in a way: I think we’ve grown up as a band on a musical level. I think our sound is more refined, but we have not abandoned our way of experimenting musically.
Did you use all of the songs you wrote on the album or were there any songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
Fabio: We used all the songs we have written.
How come you chose to add a final instrumental song in “On the Cliff’s Edge”?
Leandro: That instrumental has been almost entirely composed by Leandro (flutist). Leandro’s intention was to give the album a final acoustic outro that could evoke ideas and feelings associated with a particular landscape. That piece of music is nothing more than a translation into sound of the sensation of being at the top of a cliff in the middle of the ocean, facing the wind and a coming storm in the distance. In a few words, it has a contemplative aim.
What are the longest songs “Immortal Blood” (5,54) and “Battle of Tettenhall” (5,59) about?
Fabio: “Immortal Blood” was born inspired by a book that is found in the Skyrim video game, from the saga “The Elder Scrolls”. “Battle of Tettenhall” tells the story of a father and so in the historic battle that took place in 910, where the Northumbrian Vikings faced Wessex and Mercia.
Why did you call the album THE FIFTH SEASON?
Fabio: “The Fifth Season” is an imaginary future age where famines will prevail and near extinction of all species will happen.
The famous Jan Yrlund did the cover art work. Was he given free hands to create a cover or did you have any restrictions or suggestions to him on what you wanted the cover to look like?
Fabio: We only sent him the lyrics of the title track, and we gave free rein. I’d say he did a great job!
Samuele Faulisi (Atlas Pain) and Arianna Bellinaso and the members of Coro Facoltà di Musicologia Vocal Ensemble made guest appearances on the album. How did they end up on THE FIFTH SEASON?
Leandro: Samuele is an old friend of ours. We simply asked him to join on “The Bridge”, since we thought his vocal style could fit perfectly within that song’s mood. Arianna studies music with Leandro at the Civica Scuola di Musica Claudio Abbado, in Milan. When we decided to search for a female guest, Leandro proposed her, and we decided to engage Arianna once we realized how good she was. Incredibly, the combination of her voice together with Steven’s has been perfect. Their voices worked very well together. At the same time, Stefano tried to invite a group of music students from the vocal ensemble he works with. They were enthusiastic about the idea, and so Stefano started to arranged their part for three of the new songs. They all made wonderful work, and it would be amazing to play with the entire ensemble in the future.
Mountains (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
In the info sheet there’s a statement made by the band that goes “we definitely wanted to compose songs without setting limits in terms of composition, so each song will sound unique and different from another” . Would you like to elaborate what you mean by that and do you think you managed it?
Gabriele: I’ll say that we just don’t want to use our genre as a limit of our composition but rather an opportunity to express our music in any shape even really far from the primordial idea of a particular song, thus creating songs that are really different from one to other.
How would you like to describe what kind of music you play?
Leandro: We describe our music as Symphonic Folk Metal.
The info sheet claims that fans of Eluveitie, Korpiklaani and Alestorm are going to like your music, do you agree?
Gabriele: Most of our music was directly inspired by those bands, so yes.
Do you think that fans of more “ordinary” metal can appreciate your music?
Gabriele: Metal is a huge and amazing world, our background as first of all a listener and metal enthusiasts is present in our compositions, and I believe that our metal is metal for all.
How come you have medieval/viking kind of clothes when you perform, is that a part of the Aexylium experience for the fans?
Gabriele: The performances, besides music, are an artistic experience, clothes as well as movements on the stage are part of that.
Tell us about the release party the band held at the beginning of November, did you perform live?
Gabriele: Yes, we had a concert for the occasion, the album was presented to the public on November 7th in a historical music club in our province, the “Arlecchino”, known as the birthplace of many artists nearby.
Have you read any reviews of the album yet and do you and the band care about what critics have to say about your work?
Fabio: Criticism is fundamental to the musical growth of a band. We always read reviews very carefully; so far they are all positive, but we always listen to the advice.
How have the fans responded to the album?
Gabriele: So far the reception was mostly good especially for the innovation of the sound and the composition, compared to the previous work.
How come you chose to only release a lyric video to the first single “The Bridge”? The video’s got almost 35,000 hits so far, congrats 🙂
Gabriele: The sound of “The Bridge” is a metal kick and also the lyric is different from the other songs of the album, that’s why we came up with the decision to first release that clip as an album presentation.
The Bridge (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
Do you think the band is going to gain more fans with the release of THE FIFTH SEASON?
Gabriele: The response of the public was extremely good in term of presence on social platforms.
Studio and production
How come you chose to record the album in Twilight Studio in Milan where you also recorded the debut album?
Fabio: We have been working with the Twilight Studio for a few years; we like to cooperate with Davide because we share ideas and musical tastes, and also because we are super satisfied about the quality of the products that the studio produces.
Davide Tavecchia, who also produced the debut produced the new album as well, how come you wanted to work with him again?
Fabio: There’s feeling with Davide because he is a great professional, he knows music well and often gives us really useful suggestions during production process.
What is his strongest feature as a producer?
Fabio: I could say many things, but perhaps the most important (because it is not very common) is patience.
Was it any different to work with him this time around?
Stefano: Yes, this time was a bit different not because of Davide, which is always very patient and professional, but because of us and because of all the experience we gained during these 3 years, since we recorded TALES FROM THIS LAND when we didn’t have any experience at all entering the studio, and I think the audience will notice the big improvements as far as the production concerns.
Where did the guests record their parts?
Stefano: Arianna and Samuele recorded their parts at the Twilight Studio in Milan, but Coro Facoltà di Musicologia did their choral recordings in Cremona, in the rehearsal room where they usually practice.
Did the pandemic put any obstacles in the way of the recording process?
Gabriele: The last part of the process was a little difficult in terms of combine the appointment of everyone, but pretty much nothing we couldn’t overcome.
Tavecchia also did the mixing and mastering were any of the members part of those processes?
Fabio: He usually proposes to us his basic idea on sounds, then obviously we collaborate and try to agree through a common idea, even if it is not always easy.
How come you ended your co-operation with Underground Symphony, who released your debut album?
Fabio: Our collaboration with Underground Symphony was only related to the first album, after we decided to sign with Rockshots Records.
Was the band without a label for a long time?
Fabio: Only the first EP was self-produced and therefore not released through a label.
Rockshots Records is the new home for the band. What made you ink a deal with them and are you happy with the work the label has put into the band and the album so far?
Fabio: We met Roberto Giordano of Rockshots Records a few years ago, then our paths momentarily parted. When he listened to the new album he immediately showed interest and we relied on them and yes, we are happy about how Rockshots is working to advertise our album.
Were there other labels that showed interest in signing the band?
Fabio: Yes, a couple of labels answered us but Rockshots Records’ proposal was what we thought was the best.
What’s it like to work with RR compared to with Underground Symphony?
Fabio: I would say that RR works in a perspective closer to the way of working in recent years and guarantees a wider press coverage.
THE FIFTH SEASON is now available on CD and download, but are there any plans on releasing it on vinyl?
Fabio: I think it is unlikely that it will also be released on vinyl.
Would you like to have it on vinyl?
Fabio: Yes, it would be interesting, maybe in the future with a new album.
Is the band’s music available to listen to at Spotify and similar services?
Fabio: Of course, our music is available on all major streaming music platforms.
What are the pros and cons with working with a minor label like RR?
Fabio: The exposure that a band can have by signing with a major label is obviously much higher than a smaller label. Probably signing with a major also involves a greater investment of money, at least at the beginning, but I’m not 100% sure.
The band has a Bandcamp site. Are there many people that buys your albums from the site?
Fabio: I would say we can’t complain; Bandcamp gives an important hand to the emerging band.
Why aren’t the EP’s and the demos available to buy on Bandcamp?
Fabio: We decided to remove our demos from the stores because we had run out of CDs and we wanted to focus on our higher quality content.
Is RR releasing the album worldwide or only in Europe?
Fabio: RR distribution is worldwide.
Past present and future
The band did a performance at the Tanzt Festival in Munich Germany at the end of November, how was it?
Gabriele: That was absolutely a wonderful experience! Can’t wait to visit Germany again.
Any plans on doing live shows or tours next year?
Gabriele: Live shows by the spring, and hopefully a tour on summer.
Do you think it’s going to be possible for bands to tour next year because of the pandemic? I see that many bands already are postponing their shows into 2023.
Leandro: Nothing is sure during these times. We are living in a very disruptive moment, and everybody needs to be as resilient as possible. However, we are quite sure we will be able to gradually return to play occasionally in Europe by 2022, but only in 2023 there will be a concrete possibility for tours, at least for small and medium bands.
If the band is going to tour next year is any of the guests on the album joining you?
Gabriele: We would love to perform with all of our guests, probably on the main events.
Who runs the band’s very good looking website and Facebook site?
Fabio: The website and our social channels are managed by me, and sometimes also by Stefano.
The band has a little more than 5,000 followers on FB; do you think that numbers are going to increase now that the new album is out?
Leandro: Much depends on the sponsorship activities we are managing together with Rockshots Records. That number will grow for sure; the question is “how much could it grow”? We need to work a lot with social media marketing campaigns for that.
Why are some of the updates on your FB page in Italian and not in English? Is that not a little bit limiting for your fans to read what you have to say.
Fabio: Actually almost all the posts on our social networks are in English, only sometimes it happens that we publish something in Italian language but only because it concerns information about some live show in Italy, or some interview in Italian language.
What can you tell us about the shooting to the video to “The Fifth Season”? I see that the video has 38,000 hits on YouTube so far.
Leandro: So we guess you enjoyed that, thank you! That video was recorded at Twilight Studio, and Davide Tavecchia shooted for us. Those takes were made once we finished to record our parts. Even if the video was ready in January 2021, we waited until September to publish it. We decided this together with the label, in order to increase the hype for the new album, one month before its publication.
The Fifth Season (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Has it been hard to shoot videos and make PR for the album because of the pandemic?
Leandro: It has been extremely hard! As we said, everything has been realized as soon as our region switched from a high risk to a moderate risk classification. Even the title track video and our photoset in the woods suffered from this unstable situation, just like the recording sessions.
Any plans on shooting more videos to any of the songs on the album?
Fabio: Probably another video (visualizer) will be released on the RR channel, you will have news soon!
When can the fans expect to find the next Aexylium album out in stores?
Fabio: It is not easy at the moment to give timings on a next album, I can say that we are already working on new songs, but for now it’s time to enjoy THE FIFTH SEASON, which is currently available in the stores.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Aexylium yet?
Stefano: What are you waiting for??
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy THE FIFTH SEASON?
Stefano: It’s a very passionate work, full of different influences, and it is also a wonderful journey through different emotions as well.
Well, that was all for me and Metal-Rules.com this time around. Thanks for taking the time making the interview, I wish you and the band all the best. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Stefano: Go to school, sleep at least 6 hours each day and listen to Aexylium!