Latest Release: Veleno (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.fleshgodapocalypse.com
Combining traditional classical musical forms such as orchestral styles, symphonic offshoots, and chamber music plus choral arrangements with the uncompromising ferocity of death metal may sound implausible. However, for Italian band Fleshgod Apocalypse, who seemingly identify loosely as symphonic death metal, that challenge has been met, explored and pushed into the realms of musical extremities with a fair degree of success. Substantial line-up changes in 2017 meant that original front man and multi-instrumentalist, Francesco Paoli, moved from his eight year live drummer tenure within the band back to lead vocals and rhythm guitar duties, at least for the live aspects. Studio wise, Paoli still works with accomplished pianist Francesco Ferrini and bassist Paolo Rossi, alongside session contributors to create ambitiously epic musical adventures that may take some listening adjustments for the uninitiated death metal fan to warm to musical tangents including soprano vocal parts. It is worth investing time into musical appreciation.
Their fifth album Veleno is incredibly varied without being obtuse to different musical fields. Rather, they embrace the melting pot of influences to produce something creative and manage to entertain a wide range of musical interests fittingly. The recording process was also equally ambitious but their desire to take advantage of new opportunities has reaped musical rewards. Now, Fleshgod Apocalypse are back in Australia as part of a long trek encompassing their world tour. Loud Online caught up with Francesco Paoli to discuss the new album and processes involved in creating one of their best albums to date.
The latest album is very complex with a lot of things going on. It is also pretty brutal. Were there any issues in moving back from drums to guitar and vocals?
No, it was easy in a way because I have always done it on the album. It was tough for the live shows and everything but when we started, I started as the front man of the band. So, I was playing guitar and singing. Then, I switched to drums for some years. But, you know, I always took care of the song writing, arranging and I would say, the overall creative process or creative vision of the band. I have always done this in the background and as I said, I moved to drums for eight years and then on coming back, it was such a spectacular experience for me. This time, I had the opportunity to play drums, guitar and provide vocals on the album. It has been pretty natural, I would say and also for live, it has been a little bit tricky for what concerns the entertaining part. You know, to become a front man all of sudden, once again and without the experience that Tommaso [Riccardi – ex lead vocals, rhythm guitar] had provided during the last eight years. But, right now I feel very comfy, people are enjoying the shows and my relationship with the people is great for me. The album was super fun for me and every time there is a different challenge, I really like it. I am super happy with my new position and I don’t miss drums live that much because it was a fucking stressful and demanding work every night. So, right now it is much more fun for me.
You’ve got some empathy for your current live drummer [David Folchitto] then, especially when there are so many blast beats going on.
Yes, Fleshgod Apocalypse is very demanding music for a drummer so right now I feel that, well, I wouldn’t say it is easier but it is just less stressful physically. David, the guy that took my place, is doing a great job for the live shows. He is growing with the band and we super solid and super consistent now in our live playing. We are confident when we go on stage now and it is because this guy is delivering every night and that makes it all very stable. So, we’re very happy with how things turned out.
Who’s doing the guitar solo on the album?
I write the guitar solos and always have written the guitar solos together with Francesco [Ferrini – pianist, string arrangements]. I will write the guitar solos but I have some technical limitations and I really don’t like to edit it note for note so I have somebody else play it live. Fabio [Bartoletti – lead guitar], came on board in 2017 and from late 2016, he was performing the solos. So I wrote the solos, he learned the solos and then he performed them on the album. He is very talented and such a great guitar player. He really knows his shit and he also throws in some extra ideas and puts his touch on them. I really love his solos on Veleno.
Even on a song like Absinthe, the soloing is very fast.
Yeah, for the solos, it is the same story as it is for the songs. We are always looking for something unique and with lots of dynamics. We like to have as much variety as possible on the album. On Veleno, we have this approach and it is also in the solos where we’ll go from super-fast, technical shredding stuff like on Absinthe to very melodic and more atmospheric solos like on Monnalisa or even like weird and visionary solos like on Carnivorous Lamb. It all depends but the good thing is, is that this guy can really play. He can do very fast shit, he can shred a lot but at the same time, he has a very good touch and has a very good tone when it comes time to play slow stuff with more melodic, long notes, things with that sort of mood. What it does is that you can perceive it when you are listening to the album so it is great to have a versatile guitar player because then you have no limits and the only limits you have are in your thoughts.
Your instrumentation has increased a lot. You’ve got a string quartet, classical percussion and a baroque choir.
Yeah, what we were doing before is that we were programming most of the parts. We were using MIDI and Francesco was taking care of the arrangements and was doing a great job. We also had some extra acoustic stuff, especially in King but this time we wanted to focus more on the acoustic instruments and since we had the opportunity to work with a string quintet for the live DVD [An Evening In Perugia – Live In Perugia, Italy 2018], we were like, ‘okay, let’s do this and let’s use them for the album as well’ so we wrote this chorus and Francesco took care of the recordings together with Daniele [Marinelli – classical engineer] and they doubled all the parts then we recorded the strings and most of the percussion there plus the real choir [Snavis Sonus Choir]. Then we had some other performances from different musicians who played like a bagpipe or a mandolin and so on. We focused a lot on this stuff as well as focusing on the piano parts for this album. Most of the job that Francesco had done was not for the orchestration like on the previous album from Agony but it was more on the piano parts because actually, that is what he plays live. It is not a backing track and he wants to write some parts that were as long for the song for the whole of it. We had already started to do this on King but it was less like solo piano parts, it was more like arrangements. This time it was totally different, we treated the piano as a guitar and so we do had very visionary or very technical stuff because it is like a constant solo piano. He wanted to do that and we said, ‘okay, I wouldn’t go there’, it is fucking tricky and very hard to play every night. But it is good when you see people put in full dedication into what they do, you know.
The average death metal band does not think about Paganini’s Caprices.
Yeah, well, it is part of the heritage of Fleshgod Apocalypse, it is part of our basis. We just wanted to have a unique sound and include as much as possible in there; all of the influences that we have. There’s classical, opera and symphonic music and nowadays that is even including more film score styled music and stuff like that. At the same time, I was a death metal guy so imagine me and Francesco working together on something and we put all this stuff together. You have to be free minded and with no prejudice at all. When you work with the music, you just have to have an artistic vision and you just go with that. You can, you know, debate on what is death metal, what is more or less true, what is more or less symphonic or whatever. We just go together and we now have this sound which is somehow very personal and we just go with the flow and try to write the best material possible, put the stuff together and then have song and then albums. We just don’t care about anything, we just try to stick to our sound and try to put out something which is unique and at the same time, artistically relevant, at least for us.
You’ve mentioned some film score aspects and you recorded at Bloom Recording Studio in Rome.
Yeah, we recorded this album in three different studios. Most of the parts of where we recorded drums, guitars, bass and vocals was in this new recording studio called Bloom Recording Studio which like this huge, mainstream pop studio. We had the opportunity to record there because the producer or engineer [Marco Mastrobuono] that was recording us on King had started to work in this big studio. So we had the opportunity to go and work with him there. Then we put some final touches and we mixed it at Kick Studio which is the studio where we tracked the most part of King. For what concerns the rest, all the other instruments instead, we recorded in a big hall [Musica Teclas Studio] which is in Perugia and there was another engineer [and musician] Daniele Marinelli, who is specialised in recording classical and acoustic albums. So, many times there are this classical labels that re-record symphonies and music from the classical repertoire – technical classical pieces and they make albums out of it. They record in this studio and this engineer he specialises in this so it was really easy to record them and it took care of everything. So we just had to mix it. Jacob [Hansen – mixer] had to mix the stuff that was already pre-mixed a little bit by Daniele. Then we finished the job at Hansen Studios in Denmark where we did the mixing and the mastering together. Then the album was done. It was a great experience and it was great to work with all of these professional people who are just great and very humble, very focussed and very talented. All of them and it has been a great journey for real.
The title track is a different musical statement for people not familiar with your music.
For the new fans, yes, they would never expect something like this but we always use a piano piece as a title track. We always do and that is some kind of trademark or some kind of ritual. Since Oracles, everybody was into this and they expected it. Francesco is a great performer and a great artist so every time, he delivers a magic masterpiece as a title track for an album title track. I think Valeno is one of the best compositions that he has ever done.
Italy has massive cultural history for music and the arts. Does metal get encouraged over there?
Metal is not the most known and supported genre over here in Italy. We have a lot of different styles of different things and have much more market for festivals so to speak so more opportunity to play big things. We have this sort of everything so we really try to include metal and mix metal with these things. The more we go on, the more we show that we have some skills and experience at doing this, we even have people from the classical world coming to us and asking us if this is some sort of evolution of the genre. I know that this kind of crossover is happening in a lot of the genres. Of course it is happening in the classical world because it is a way to bring out some attention and light to that kind of music which is not in the spotlight anymore. Yes, we got a little bit of hassles or complaining about this but most people are curious about what we are doing. They know that we are not acting like classical composers and we don’t expect to be understood and perceived as them. We are just using these influences in our music so it is a different thing. But still, what we are using and what we are doing in our music theoretically, academically and also technically is very close to what they are doing. They really appreciate and respect us for this and so we are proud of it. So, yes and no, there are some people that understand it and think that what we are doing is right whereas some other people are just complaining but they will go on and complain forever about everything so none of that makes sense anyway.