Saturday 19 July 2014

Interview with Return From The Grave

Today's guests is Italian Doom/Stoner Metallers – Return From The Grave – who are turning the Doom/Stoner Metal community upside down with their excellent new album – Gates Of Nowhere.

Trust me when I say these guys are the real deal in Doom/Stoner Metal with their heavy mix of Doom, Stoner Metal riffs with a hint of dark occult vibes holding it all together. I called their album recently:

Return From The Grave’s new album – Gates Of Nowhere – is a delicious and twisted blend of Stoner Metal, Doom and Occult Rock that will appeal to fans of Uncle Acid, Bloody Hammers,Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus.

Return From The Grave have delivered a truly hypnotic and powerful album that shows you why the Italian Doom/Stoner Metal scene is so highly thought of. Gates of Nowhere is a must have album. Plain and Simple.”

I thought I would get the low-down on one of Italian's best kept secrets. Well it is my job to promote the best bands currently out there. And this is no exception. So I have gone on long enough. Lets get started.

Q1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today.

CHILO: Hi Steve and thanks for this interview, for us is important to have some space to promote ourselves and our music!! Things are going well, and also the album!! We’re just having a little rest after three months with lots of concerts, and we’re starting to plan something for the next season!!

Q2 – Can you tell our readers a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.

SPARTA: We started in 2011, as a sort of a side project from our other bands. It was like a bet, four people with different musical tastes playing together was really something new and “mysterious”!! But our common passion for heavy/doom/stoner was strong, so it was simple to begin writing something since the first rehearsal! We were friends also before founding the band so the writing process was really smooth. We put out our first self-titled demo composed by six songs, then after some months we added three tracks to record the first full-length, “The Rebirth From The Last Breath”.

We did a lot of “do it yourself” promotion, the album has had a lot of positive feedback and finally we found a label to publish the second opus, “Gates Of Nowhere”! We’re so proud mainly because we started like a sort of a joke and now we’re here doing interviews! Sometimes things go f’n wild!!!

Q3 – How would yourselves describe your music as you have a lot of different sounds going on.

JACK: We try always to have our own personality. We know that playing this kind of music it’s not so simple, stoner/doom is a really “abused” genre, we don’t pretend to write the best riff of all times, but we try to do everything in our own way, by mixing elements, different styles, and so on. All this is given also by our different personalities. I think that in our songs you can hear some doom, some heavy metal, some stoner! I don’t like to be labeled with one “classic” subgenre, we prefer just playing metal, a very dark, occult thing with obviously strong Sabbath influence!!

Q4 – Why did you choose the name Return From The Grave.

SEMENZ: This name comes from our passion for horror movies, especially the ones from 60’s, 70’s and 80’s!! Our first demo was a concept album, it was an history of an entity that has the possibility to return from his grave and have revenge of everything and everyone who had killed him. There’s an occult master who guides him in this purpose, it’s a very strong and mysterious story! So the name comes out from this idea, we wanted to give to the public something to read, and not only to listen!!

Q5 – Your new album – Gates Of Nowhere - has been released. Can you tell us what the album is all about.

SEMENZ: “Gates” is something we’re really proud of. We started writing it just after “Rebirth” was released, so all the tracks represents all our feelings of that period. Starting from the lyrics, this time the things are a little bit different, personally I used some natural elements like the fog (Words In Words), the sun (The Rage Of Rays), the water (River In The Sky) together with some personal issues and negative experiences .

I spoke about the hidden meanings of life and death, the troubles of coming back from something difficult, so now it’s all more “introspective” in a certain way. Regarding the music, we started to act better. Cohesion between us is stronger, so now it’s easier to understand how to write something that makes us satisfied. I think that everyone can hear the difference with the old one! The songs are much more articulated and longer, even if we don’t like to use more than like three riffs in a track. The structure is not so linear like in the past.

Q6 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for.

SPARTA: I think that the best word to use to describe the recording process is “satisfying”. We’ve decided to try something completely new, by using the analog. All the music, the old music, that we love has been recorded in this way. One take and analog. And so is our new record. I’m still astonished when I listen to the first Black Sabbath records, they’re really actual, even if they’ve been recorded forty years ago!! This way to do the things is the best for what we play, the sound is more live, more strong, it’s a sort of “live in the studio”, the atmosphere is completely different compared with the sound that you can obtain by recording in digital. I think that we will do the same also with our next album, we’ll see.

Q7 – Why did you call the album – Gates Of Nowhere. Any particular meaning behind it.

JACK: The “Gates Of Nowhere” are the symbol of the unknown. These big gates on the front cover, who has been painted by Sparta’s uncle Sandro, are just everything you have to deal with when you want to understand the meaning of your life. There’s not a unique sense for this, everyone has to discover what there’s behind HIS doors. And when you’re able to find it, than you can finally live in the best possible way. It’s a sort of resume of all the lyrics and the themes of all the record.

Q8 – What influenced you when creating the album as it's a very dark album.

SEMENZ: Like we said before, the main influences have been some personal issues together with some events that happened during last years. We wanted to detach ourselves from the horror stories in general, which were the main theme of our other works. I don’t exclude that in the future these arguments will come back again, but I think also that we can maybe mix all the things together to create something new and unique. I would like to have each time something unusual and really interpretative. Everyone has to live personally the experience of our music.

Q9 – It's been released on Argonauta Records.. How did you hook with them. Ran by a great guy – Gero. Who cares about the Italian Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene.

SEMENZ: Argonauta Records is now the best thing for us. Mainly for two reasons. The first one is that it collaborates with bands really similar to us, and it’s a newborn label, so we’ve the same goal, that is to grow up and work together as best as possible. The second reason is Gero, the owner, a great person, a friend that has been so gentle, a person who you can talk with, without any problems.

He’s working so well to give us everything we need, and we’re very very satisfied of all his work. I knew Argonauta Records before making a deal with them just because I made some reviews of some of their other albums. So it has been a good choice to try to contact, together with a great number of other labels. But since the first time I got in touch with Gero the choice to make this deal was clear!

Q10 – Did you have any offers from other labels before signing with Argonauta Records.

CHILO: Yes, some other labels has made some proposals, but nothing important to share with all of you. I mean, it was something not definitely bad, but it seemed that people who was running them was always thinking only about the money first, and secondarily on the interests of the band itself.

Q11 – What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

SPARTA: We like to write songs. We like rehearsal, and improve ourselves! The writing process is really collective, everyone gives his contribute to the songs and the dynamics. Usually we start with a bass or guitar riff, and we begin to work together to give the song a shape that satisfies us. And we need to see each other to make things well, we’re not that kind of band that can work like online, with a stupid webcam or something like that. File sharing between the musicians can be good, but the rehearsal room is important, is the place that makes things possible, when the ideas takes shape and the music grows up!

Q12 – How big of a help has the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community and BandCamp in getting your music across to the masses.

CHILO: Digital world for me it’s something enormous, and very important. Internet is the best way to diffuse your music, everyone in the planet can get in touch with you, buy your albums or songs, or maybe a t-shirt. Now every band can have the possibility to reach some goals that in the past were not possible. Bandcamp is something we like so much, even if it’s only for streaming or also for sell something, it’s beautiful to have your own personalized page and share all the news of your band with other people. And also the “merch” section is interesting. A simple website, direct, immediate, and clear!

Speaking about the doom and stoner community I think there’s a lot of respect between the bands, and also a very strong support for each other. It’s a sort of “little world”, even when you play live people is always happy to see some “new blood” and also to support the bands by spending some money for the merchandising!

Q13 - What is your musical set-up when playing live or recording your music. Any hints and tips would you like to give to the budding musicians out there.

JACK: We’re always searching for the “perfect sound”, and I think we made to find it! Hahahaha!!! The most important thing is to have the same sound in the studio and when you’re playing live. I hate when there’s something in an album that you can’t be able to reproduce on stage. And also we love to be simple, in everything we make. Even the drum set is minimal. The power of your music comes out from HOW you play. It’s not important to have the most expensive and good instruments. You have to believe in what you’re playing, you have to be able to give to the crowd exactly what it’s expected from you!

Q14 – If you could change anything within the Hard Rock/Metal scene. What would it be and why.

SPARTA: I think it’s only difficult to emerge from the mass. There’s so many bands out there, each one with his own personality and style. I would just like to see more places where to play. Here in Italy heavy music it’s not popular, when you play extreme sonorities you’re not well seen by the “normal” people. This situation is so frustrating, pubs and venues love to put in their programs only stupid cover bands and there’s not enough space for emerging groups. This is the main thing we would love to see different.

Q15 – What is your favourite song off the album and why.

CHILO: Maybe each one of us has his favourite! Every song has his own personality, we’ve chosen “Words in Words” for the videoclip because is the shortest and the fastest one, and it represents exactly the perfect song to bang your head for four minutes, with the central doomy part that advance like a mammouth! Also “River In The Sky” is something that we love, it’s a sort of a mellow tune that cuts the tension and is able to finish the album in a very dramatic way!

Q16 – We all know that the Italian Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene is thriving at the moment. Thanks to a whole range of great bands. What is the scene actually like over there. Do you get many gigs to perform in Italy or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly.

JACK: It’s the same problem that we were talking about a couple of questions before. The best way to play here is to collaborate with other bands and search for places when you’re free to play your music without any problems. The owners of the different venues have always doubts about letting new bands playing live. We need more places for concerts, everyone can confirm this kind of thing. And maybe invite some other bands to play in your region, so they can make the same with you after. This is one of the most important things to do!

Q17 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band. What would it be.

SEMENZ: Just be yourself. You have to play things that you like. You must be the first fan of your band and enjoy what you’re doing. If you make great and strong efforts to do this, I’m sure that people would like and admire your music. This is important. Don’t follow the mass, try to find your style and do what you like the most!!!

Q18 – What are your thoughts of the entire crowd-funding scene. It seems to have its defenders and people think it's a waste of time. Would yourselves ever participate in a crowd-funding project.

JACK: I’ve seen people asking for money for the most stupid things in the world, and gaining ridiculously high amounts. I think that this fundraising process is good if it’s used well. It’s not simple for the members of a band to promote themselves and to find always money for everything. So this could be a solution. The only doubt that I have is that I believe only big and famous bands can have a good answer from their fans. It’s not a simple thing to ask money to someone!!!

Q19 – The last thing before you go, Do you have anything else to say to your fans.

SPARTA: Keep following us in our channels, help us by purchasing our record, and we hope you will like it!!!! We’ve tons of news coming in the near future so go to our facebook page and like it for being updated everytime!! Thanks again for this interview!!!


Well guys thanks for doing this. All the best with the new album.

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Written by Steve Howe