Guitarist/vocals Alberto Cassina and singer Marika Vanni – Eternal Silence
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.
Eternal Silence is an Italian symphonic gothic metal act that’s been active since 2008. Dating back to 2013, the band has released four albums, as well as several EP’s and singles. In 2019 the band released a Spotify-only album called RENEGADES, while 2021 saw the release of their latest album, titled TIMEGATE ANATHEM.
I had the pleasure to talk to guitarist/vocalist Alberto Cassina and singer Marika Vanni about work on the new album and the concept of time, which was the main theme that inspired the record. We also spoke about their new label, why the band has both female and male lead vocals, and how the member changes have affected the band and their music. The interview’s a long one, so read on to see what they have to say about things. If you like bands like Epica, Within Temptation, Evanescence, and Lacuna Coil this is something for you to check out.
Hi Marika and Alberto, I hope you’re doing fine today. Are you ready to kick off the interview?
Alberto: Hi Anders, we’re doing great! Let’s start.
Let’s begin with, why has it taken so long to follow up 2017’s MASTERMIND TYRANNY?
Alberto: We have grown a lot after the release of MASTERMIND TYRANNY. We played a lot of shows supporting great bands, we went om tour, and we get a lot of inspiration from all these experiences. We wanted to put this creative flow into an album as soon as possible, but decided to took our time to make our best album so far. We used a new approach in the writing process, focusing more on details and we felt free to try unexpected solutions and inspirations. All of this took time, and the arrival of the pandemic put everything on hold since last year.
The band released two demos in 2018-19 titled METAMORPHOSIS 2008-2018 and RENEGADES. Could you tell the readers a little about the EP’s?
Marika: These two EPs are the proof that we haven’t rested in the years between our last two albums. We released METAMORPHOSIS to celebrate our first ten years together as a band. It contains a new song called “Tempesta”, three re-arranged songs from our first album, and a cover song to celebrate the early years when we used to be a cover band. It represents the past, present and future of the band. For RENEGADES, we released another new song and live versions of some older ones.
Why are the EP’s only available for purchase digitally?
Alberto: Nowadays digital music is progressively replacing the physical version of a record. It’s sad somehow, CDs are becoming more and more a collector’s item. We decided to follow this trend for these EPs, but we released the physical version of our new album as usual.
New album TIMEGATE ANATHEMA
When did the band start to work on material for the new album?
Alberto: I personally never quit on writing new music. I try to write down riffs, melodies and everything that comes to mind when I’m inspired. Right after the release of MASTERMIND TYRANNY, we were busy with live shows and promotion so the writing of new material was secondary. About a year later we started to meet and gather the ideas we had to create the new songs.
Who writes the music and lyrics? What are the lyrics about on TIMEGATE ANATHEMA?
Alberto: I used to write all the music, but for TIMEGATE ANATHEMA we used a more shared approach . Our ex-guitar player Enzo had an important role in finding new ideas and led the sound of the band to new shores. The lyrics are all written by me, Marika, and our bass player Alessio. The main theme of all the lyrics is time; all the songs talk about looking at the past and the future, exploring the feelings this leads in many different ways.
Did the pandemic have any affect on the recordings of the new album? Did you suffer any set backs because of it?
Alberto: Obviously we had to reckon with the pandemic and with the forced stoppage of live shows. We had the album ready to be released in 2020, but we decided to wait another year to release it with the best conditions. We believe a lot in the potential of this album and it would have been a shame not to have the chance to promote it live.
Ancient Spirit (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
Can you elaborate on the concept of time running through the record?
Marika: Yes, to say that the theme of the album is simply time is an understatement. We see the concept of time as the comparison of the present with the past and future, time as the rhythm of life, memories from the past and the hope for the future. This theme is elaborated in many ways in the various songs, each one tells about it from a different point of view.
Were there any songs that didn’t make it onto album or did you use all of the material you wrote?
Alberto: There are a lot of unfinished songs. When we got close to the final steps of the writing process we realized which songs had the potential to be on the album and which weren’t good enough to be included, so we focused on finishing the chosen songs. The unfinished songs aren’t lost forever, sometimes you pick them up after years and with a different approach or inspiration they ends up in a new album; it has happened a few times in the past.
What are the longest songs “The Way of Time” (6,59) and “Edge of the Dream” (6,00) about?
Marika: These songs best represent the concept of time in this album. “The Way of Time” is a long power metal track where every element of the album is fully expressed. The lyrics tell about an intimate meditation, about the awareness of being just small grains of dust carried in the coils of the immensity of time. “Edge of the Dream” is a powerful song, with heavy riffing and a strong orchestral section. The alternating female and male vocals design a catchy melody together with the inserts of the choir. In the lyrics we look behind our past and what led us through the years, with an eye to who we were and to all the troubles we got through, we took the other towards the future, ready for new challenges.
Glide In The Air (Official Music Video)
There are two ballads featured: “Lonely” sung by Alberto, and “Firefly” sung by Marika. How did you decide which of you would sing them? Was it intended that you would sing them separately?
Alberto: At the beginning, “Firefly” was written as an instrumental intro for the following track, “Red Death Masquerade”. We decided to make it a short acoustic track and added a beautiful vocal line that entwines with the string trio and the guitar solo. It wasn’t necessary to have big harmonies and duets for this simple song, so we kept it clean and clear and assigned it to Marika’s voice. I wrote “Lonely” by myself, just singing with the guitar in my hands, not really thinking about writing a ballad for my band. I realized that this song was too good to not be featured in the album, so I arranged it for the entire band. I shared it with Marika and we came with the idea of keep it sung by me, to keep it close to the initial idea and make something different from our previous ballads.
The credits don’t list who handles the keyboards and orchestrations. Who takes care of those parts?
Alberto: Me and Enzo managed all the keyboard parts in this album. I personally take care of writing and programming all the digital orchestrations, and arranging the music sheets for the strings trio.
Do you think the band have changed anything music-wise if you compare TIMEGATE ANATHEMA with the previous album?
Alberto: Of course. On the one hand we have tried to use new elements, new sounds and atmospheres, we were completely open to welcoming anything that seemed interesting and stimulating to us without forcing ourselves to stay within the standards. On the other hand we wanted to push our skills to a new level, so you can find all the elements of our previous albums refined and perfected. We went out of our comfort zone both in writing and performing the new songs.
What made you decide to have two lead singers?
Alberto: It was not a planned decision but it’s due to the evolution of our sound over the years. Marika and I are childhood friends and we share a passion for singing. When we started the band, my role as a singer was just to take care of choirs and backing vocals. Over the years we have come to realize that using two lead voices and the opposition of male and female singers was something that could make our music even more interesting.
The info sheet also states that a real string orchestra and choir are on the album. Who are the people behind orchestra and choir?
Alberto: We recorded a string trio to add a realistic touch to the orchestration of this album. The violinist of the band Aexylium, Federico Bonoldi, recorded all the violin and viola parts, while the cello part was performed by a talented young musician called Francesco Tamburini. The choir was a group of women directed by the music teacher Elena Borzoni.
Red Death Masquerade (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
Who did the cover art work and was the artist given free hand to create the cover?
Alberto: The artwork was designed by Hans Trasid, an amazing artist who also dealt with our past two albums and EP METAMORPHOSIS. He always surprised us by taking our few ideas and indications and creating something unbelievable.
Why did you call the album TIMEGATE ANATHEMA? Does the title have any special meaning to the band?
Marika: The meaning behind the title is that somehow we all have an anathema over us, we all are stuck behind the past and the future. We live our lives constantly recalling what we’ve done and what we were, and at the same time we look at the future with hopes and dreams. Somehow we live lingering on the gate between past and future, the present is just the curse of staying still between memories and dreams.
How would you like to describe the music Eternal Silence plays?
Alberto: We are part of the line of bands playing symphonic metal. In our music we have a strong metal section, we pay a lot of attention to the rhythm parts and the riffs, believing these are the most important part of every song. Above this we have a symphonic part, also very present and developed, but still secondary to the metal one. We like to use the melodies and atmospheres borrowed from symphonic music and make them live through the use of the electric violin. Another characteristic element is the use of the double voice, male and female to create interesting duets and intertwinements.
I read that fans of Epica, Within Temptation, Sonata Arctica, Lacuna Coil and Evanescense will enjoy your music. Do you agree with that?
Alberto: These are the great bands that we have always listened to and loved, and that influenced us from the beginning, so it’s natural to hear elements of these bands in our music. Of course, we don’t pretend to be compared to these groups, but we do enjoy being associated with them.
Which of the above mention acts would you say the band lies closest to?
Alberto: Actually none of them in particular. Each of these has influenced us in some way, and we could name a hundred others that have helped shape our sound. Our music has different facets and influences, I think defining it as similar to a particular band is limiting.
The band said in the info sheet that you think the introduction of new elements and musical inspirations will attract “new ones”. What do you mean by that?
Alberto: It was referring to the fans. Our sound has evolved over time and we hope this will lead to more people being curious and passionate about our music. That’s what we hope for, but it’s not the main reason we worked.
Have you read any reviews regarding the album? Do you care about what critics have to say about your work?
Marika: Yes, we have already had a lot of reviews on the new album and they are mostly very positive. This satisfies us a lot and encourages us to continue. We’ve also seen some not very positive criticisms, and often one can feel dejected by them. What we try to do in these cases is to take constructive criticism and treasure it, without letting the more frivolous ones influence us and make us feel insecure. It is always very interesting to read what critics think of our work and we appreciate that time is spent listening to and analyzing our product.
Are there any differences in how the foreign and native press writes and treats the band?
Alberto: In general, when we are asked to make comparisons between our country and abroad, we often tend to say that in our country music is not appreciated as it should be. This is unfortunately partly true, due to the cultural differences between our country and others. Here in Italy, metal music is not present in the popular media and is considered a niche genre that for the majority of the public doesn’t make the news, which also happens in other countries. As for the specialized press in the music field, we must say that it has always shown attention and interest from both Italy and abroad.
How have the fans responded to TIMEGATE ANATHEMA?
Marika: In a very positive way. We were sure that those who appreciated our previous works would love this too and so it was. We have also received great appreciation from those who met us through this latest work. It is very stimulating to feel all this affection!
The band threw a release party for the album at the Legend Club in Milan, how was it to party and perform live again?
Alberto: It was amazing. The perfect concert! We couldn’t wait to get back to playing live and doing it by bringing the new songs live for the first time with a new line-up gave the evening a very important meaning. The audience also responded very positively. It was nice to reunite old and new friends and meet so many people we haven’t seen for a long time. It was an evening that we will surely remember as one of the most special.
What’s the status regarding the pandemic in Italy at the moment, are you allowed to visit clubs and restaurants now or are there restrictions?
Alberto: Here in Italy the infections are still high but the pressure on the health system is alleviated by the high percentage of vaccinations. To enter the clubs you must have a vaccination or healing certificate, keep a safe distance and wear a mask. These are the best possible conditions at the moment to be able to hold concerts safely.
Studio and production
This time you used two different studios to record the album. Why and which studios did you use?
Alberto: We recorded the bass, guitars, choir and string section at the Line/Out studio in Trecate, by our former guitarist Enzo. Then we relied on The Groove Factory in Udine to record drums and vocals with Michele Guaitoli.
The previous album was recorded in Music Ink Studio, why the change?
Alberto: We recorded all three previous albums there with Giulio Capone and we always felt at home. After that we recorded our EP METAMORPHOSIS at Michele’s and we understood that it could be a qualitative leap to entrust the whole album to him. I must say that it was a smart choice that certainly contributed to building the new sound of this record.
Which other bands have used Groove Factory Studio and Line/Out Studio?
Apeiron legacy and Ride Out recorded at line/Out studios. As for Groove Factory, Perpetual Fate, Overtures, Animal House, Kaledon, La Corte di Lunas, Manam, Temperance, Carved, Aevum, Hells Guardian, Kalidia, Vision of Atlantis, Sandness and many others.
Who is the producer this time?
Alberto: Michele played the main role in producing this album together with me and Enzo.
Where did Michelle Guaitoli (Temperance, Visions Of Atlantis, Kalidia) do the mastering/mixing?
Marika: He did it at The Groove Factory studio where we recorded also the vocals and the drums.
Were any of the band members parts of those processes?
Alberto: Marika and I spent a whole week in Udine to record the voices for the album, and the last few days we dedicated to a first mix of the tracks. After that Michele worked on it remotely, keeping us constantly updated and sending us updated versions of the songs to get our opinion.
How was it to work with Guaitoli and do you think you’re going to work with him in the future?
Alberto: As for the vocals I can say that recording under the guidance of a singer with Michele’s experience was something that took our performance to a much higher level. We are also very satisfied with the mixing and mastering done by him, and it would be really nice to repeat this experience with the next album as well.
How long did it take overall to record the album and get everything done?
Alberto: More than a year from the beginning of the writing phase to the final product. Initially we collected the ideas that each of us had, we recorded at home some pre-production versions of the songs in order to have a clear idea of the final result. We worked to get the best possible result and get prepared for the registration phase, this was the longest and most demanding phase. After that the mixing and mastering phase took a few more weeks to get to the best possible result.
Did each member record their own parts separately or did you record together as a band?
Alberto: We recorded separately or in small groups. Enzo and Alessio recorded guitars and basses together at the Line/Out Studio, Andrea spent a few days at The Groove Factory to record the drums with Michele, and after him Marika and I arrived to record the vocals together.
Was it hard for the band to land a record deal?
Marika: It was challenging. We searched for a long time and managed to get several interesting proposals before coming to the conclusion of signing with Rockshots.
Underground Symphony released RAW POETRY; why did you leave them?
Alberto: Underground Symphony has been a major metal label for the past few decades. It led to the debut and promoted many Italian and international bands. Talking with its owner Maurizio is like opening a musical encyclopedia and it is always interesting to discover stories and anecdotes from the past. We will always be emotionally linked to this label, and the choice to go elsewhere was certainly not easy. We always have the desire to improve and grow, in every area of what we do, and it was this that pushed us to change even in this case.
Then the band inked a deal with Sliptrick Records; why did you later leave them as well?
Alberto: Here, too, the desire to grow has pushed us to go further. We have always been happy with Sliptrick’s work and we knew he would do a great job with the new album as well. Despite this, we looked around because we were convinced that this record deserved more, and in fact there was no lack of proposals.
So what made you ink a deal with Rockshots? Are you happy with the work the label has put into the album and the band so far?
Alberto: We had known Max and Valerio for some time as members of Sound Storm, and we knew they had a record label. When there was an opportunity to tour with them in support of Haggard we got to know each other personally and musically. At that point, once the recordings of the album were finished, they were the first to listen to it and they immediately showed interest. Their proposal was always the first on the list for us and despite receiving other offers, we chose them. We are very happy with how they are working, despite being a small label they’re very competent and innovative in the musical field; this gives them an edge.
Your previous label wasn’t based in Italy but RR is. Is it easier to work with a native label?
Marika: It is certainly very positive. We often have the opportunity to meet in person and this is something that greatly enriches the working relationship.
What are the pros and cons with working with a smaller label?
Alberto: The biggest difference is in how a band like ours can be considered by a record label based on its size. In our case we realize that a small label like Rockshots pays a lot of attention to us, which probably wouldn’t happen on a bigger label. This was one of the reasons we preferred Rockshots over some of the biggers labels that made an offer.
What’s the difference in between working with RR and your previous labels?
Alberto: The working relationship with Rockshots was born from a personal relationship, and I think this helped what we’re building with them. On both sides there is a lot of dedication and commitment to what we do and the bond behind it has created something we haven’t had with the other labels we have worked with.
Besides CD and download, are there any plans on releasing the new album on vinyl?
Alberto: Releasing on vinyl is something that has always fascinated us but we have never been able to do. We’ve definitely thought about it and we will evaluate it in the future, because vinyl is something that goes beyond the simple musical content of the album and represents a collector’s item that binds the listener in a deeper way with the band.
Is the band fans of the vinyl format?
Marika: We don’t see ourselves as collectors, but we are all fascinated by vinyl.
What do you prefer – CD, download, vinyl or streaming music?
Alberto: For the type of use that I personally have of music, I prefer streaming; simply as a matter of convenience and immediacy. Even if the physical format of an album is something very important in terms of the support it gives to a band, it is much more concrete than that given by streaming.
Are the EP’s going to be released on CD or vinyl?
Marika: No, I think not. At the moment we look to the future, and we think that republishing the digital EPs of our past in physical format again is not constructive at the moment.
Does the band have many listeners on Spotify?
Alberto: Yes, we have some. Personally, I don’t really like measuring the importance of a band by numbers on streaming platforms, but I realize that this is the path that the music of the future is taking so it is important to adapt.
When and where was the band founded? Who is the founder/band leader?
Alberto: Marika and I are childhood friends and have always shared a passion for music and over time the idea of forming a band was born to give life to our music. Although we are the founders of the band we do not like to consider ourselves leaders, we prefer that everyone has the same weight in the decisions, whether it is us historical members or newcomers.
Was it easy to find members to join the band?
Alberto: It’s never easy to find someone who takes such an important place as being part of a band. Each time it is an exhausting search and often the morale in the group suffers. We have always been lucky enough to find some fantastic people, who have always made great contributions, despite the fact that sometimes the collaboration did not continue.
Is it correct that the only remaining original members are you two and bass player Alessio Sessa?
Alberto: Yes, it is. As I said, even though the three of us are the oldest members of the group, we don’t want to impose our ideas on the newer members. Decisions are always made collectively.
Where does the band name come from and who came up with it?
Marika: When we started the band we really liked everything that was gothic and dark, and that was the style we wanted our music to have. From here we wanted to look for a name that reflected these atmospheres and Eternal Silence fit perfectly.
Has the band gone through many member changes through the years?
Alberto: Some. Often, especially when you are no longer a boy but you become an adult, priorities change, you go from playing for pleasure to wasted time to having to devote more time and money to this passion. It happens that you are not always aligned on the priorities you want in life, so there were those who chose to leave the band because they could not give what the band needed.
What did fans think of the 2010’s DARKNESS AND REGRET EP?
Alberto: It’s part of our very first years together, and I think only early fans know about it. It was a sort of demo with the very first recordings of some songs which then ended up on our first album. We are emotionally very attached to it and we look at it with tenderness, remembering how young and inexperienced we were.
And in 2013 the debut album RAW POETRY came out. How did the world respond to the album?
Alberto: It was all new to us. It was a bit like letting go of something that had always been ours alone, we were afraid of the audience’s reaction but we were also determined to make our voices heard. Starting to get reviews, interviews and appreciation from the public and the press made us realize that perhaps we had the potential to continue doing this.
Was it given from the start that you two will sing lead vocals in the vein of let’s say, Nightwish, where you Alberto sings a bit more than Marco did?
Alberto: Probably yes, I’ve never counted the minutes! Nightwish are among the bands that have influenced us from the beginning and we still think they are among the best bands ever. Despite this I think it is quite useless to make comparisons of this type, especially if they concern the personal style of a band.
On the debut you had keyboard player Matteo Bulldozer Rostirolla. Whey did he leave the band and why didn’t you add a replacement?
Alberto: We were already using playback orchestral sequences for live concerts even before Matteo left. Once he decided not to continue playing with us, we simply didn’t find the right person to take his place and we continued playing by entrusting the keyboard parts to the sequences. As mentioned before, it is not always easy to find the right person to join the band, and in this case we have chosen to give up the figure of the keyboard player.
Did the band do a lot of touring during the early years?
Marika: Not much. Initially, we played several concerts in small clubs which were used to gain experience. The foreign tours and concerts came later.
During 2018 the band did a lot of shows in Germany, Switzerland, France and Hungary. Were you out on tour or were you support act to any other bands?
Alberto: During those concerts we were supporting Temperance. We have often been an opening act for them. It was on these occasions that we got to know Michele Guaitoli thoroughly and decided to work with him.
Why have you not played more in Europe, like Scandinavia?
Alberto: We just didn’t get the chance. Often it is not enough to decide to go play somewhere and organize, but there are many variables to consider and often you can’t do it. Northern Europe is definitely at the top of the list of places we would like to play and we will certainly succeed in the future.
You also supported Therion on some Russian dates. When was that and how was the experience?
Alberto: It was another of the most rewarding experiences of our career. It was in the spring of 2018 and we performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The stages we walked on were immense and the audience very warm. Combined with all of this, the journey itself has brought us together even more as a band.
Is Eternal Silence big in Italy?
Marika: We cannot define ourselves as a big band. We are a band that has done a lot in the past but that has a long way to go, with the desire to always improve.
Edge of the Dream (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
In October two new members entered the band. Could you tell us a little bit more about them? Are they solid members in the line-up?
Alberto: They are Martino Boneschi and Katija Di Giulio. Martino is our new solo guitarist, he is young and very talented with a lot of willingness to do more. He brought a breath of fresh air to the band, both musically and personally. Katija instead is our violinist. In the past few years, we have happened to do some concerts with a violinist as a guest, and with the last album, we have decided to include her as a permanent member of the band. She is a musician with a lot of experience in various genres and in various bands and we are sure that she will contribute to enriching our sound even live.
When are they going to be added on press pictures?
Alberto: Of course, we have already taken pictures with them which will be posted soon.
The band’s Facebook site has got 5,450 followers so far. Do you think that number is going to increase with the release of the new album?
Marika: I believe that the number of followers may increase. Our new album has a more mature and complete sound and may appeal to new listeners, and together with the label, we are promoting this product using the channels available to us better than we did working alone in the past.
Why is the FB page is written in Italian and not in English, doesn’t that exclude fans?
Alberto: We are an Italian band, our Facebook page, like many others, is written mainly in Italian, but our bio is available in English.
The same goes for posts intended for a worldwide audience and not strictly for the Italian one. When it’s to the latter audience, we use our mother language. Therefore, I don’t think that the choice made can in any way make fans feel excluded.
The FB doesn’t include much info about the band, the info stops after 2018 why? Who runs the page?
Marika: As you know, in recent months there’s been a lot of news about the band. Surely the lack of updating the bio on Facebook is an issue, but this is due to the choice to opt for more direct communications to the fans. The use of Instagram as a platform seemed more optimal.
Among the future news you will soon find the update of the bio on Facebook as well as much more, do not worry.
Why doesn’t the band have a proper website?
Alberto: Marika was talking about novelties, the website is one of them. Actually, we had already released a version a couple of years ago, but in all honesty, it was little used and little-visited, so we decided to close the site to overhaul it and put it back together working altogether in order to release a version that fully represents us.
Besides that the band is active on Twitter, Soundcloud, ReverbNation and YouTube, etc. Who runs the sites?
Marika: Every member does his part in running the pages, so it’s kind of a teamwork.
What’s the most common question you get from fans on mail?
Alberto: We are often asked more about the meanings of our lyrics, what inspired a certain song or the meaning behind our album artwork. More frequently we are asked to send signed copies of our records.
Are there any plans on touring or playing live next year?
Alberto: Sure. We already have some dates scheduled but as you can imagine everything is very uncertain until the last moment due to the pandemic situation. Playing live is definitely our priority.
Is the band eager to head out on the road and meet the fans?
Alberto: We certainly are. It is very satisfying to create music, to record it and to publish it but the essence of what we do is the contact with the public. It hasn’t been easy to bring live music in recent years, but it’s something that can’t be replaced by streaming gigs. We really can’t wait to get back on stage.
What are the plans for the band during 2022?
Alberto: As I said, our first goal is to get back live. We also want to start working on new music and start thinking about the next album.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Eternal Silence before?
Alberto: That they must remedy as soon as possible! Give us a few minutes of your time and you will not regret it. Our music is made with passion and you will surely feel it.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy TIMEGATE ANATHEMA?
Alberto: 1 – If you are our fans you can’t miss our best work so far. If, on the other hand, you don’t know us yet, it will be a good starting point to discover us. 2 – It is a truly multi-faceted album that you will be able to grasp more and more over time and this will not bore you. 3 – If you buy it you will offer us a small but very important contribution, very precious to be able to continue in our passion.
Well that was all for now, thanks for taking the time making the interview. I wish you all the best and really hope to see you live on stage in Scandinavia soon, stay healthy and safe. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Alberto: Thank you very much to you for this wonderful interview, it was a pleasure to tell you everything behind our new album and behind our band. Keep supporting emerging music and making room for small bands like us, see you soon!