sábado, 2 de setembro de 2017

Interview - Metatrone: "Music is life, Metal is music, so Metal is Life!"

Founded in Catania (Sicily, Italy) in 1997, initially baptized Metafora, then changing to Metatrone (whose name means "Metaphysical Throne of God"), this talented Progressive/Power Metal band, where the melodies elaborated, beautiful timbres and accurate technique, has evolved in all terms, musical and lyrical, developing a strong identity. Shortly after keyboardist David Brown became a priest, a new phase began, taking the band in a natural way, seeking inspiration in spiritual and Christian themes, as well as playing on strong social themes, making it one of the most popular among bands of this segment, but that has admirers and followers in the Metal scene in general.   (Leia aqui a versão em português)

Last year the band released their third full-lenght, "Eucharismetal"(Rockshots Records), acclaimed as the group's best and most complete album so far, drawing even more attention, and opening more doors for Metatrone, which raise the flag of Progressive Power Metal, with their technical sonority, loaded with feeling and great melodies. We talked with the guitarist Stefano Ghigas Calvagno, who told us a bit of the history of the band, commenting on the latest album and previous ones, as well as subjects related to the Metal scene, and themes like the delicate subject of prejudice of some people with styles, ideologies and thoughts different of yours, when what really matters is the respect for all people and love for the music.

"As artist, if we want to be called artist, we all have the responsibility to avoid creating walls in communications, and music is one the strongest way of communication."

RtM: Hello, first of all, thanks for the opportunity to talk about the band. I would like you to start by telling us how the band came about 
Stefano Ghigas: Thanks to you, Carlos! Well, I think the more important reason we went out it was our innate passion for music.  It was back in ’97 when we used to be named as Metafora. We already used to write and sing metal music with Italian lyrics at that time. Our first demo was released in the end of 1997, entitled “Reazioni e Memorie”. Yes, we definitely love music,  and Metal music even more, that’s for sure. 
Each of us, in Metatrone, was somehow involved in music world even before we came togheter as a band. It’s more than a simple dream come true.

RtM: And what facts specifically made them change the name to Metatrone and also the thematic and musical direction?
SG: It’s hard work, it’s focusing the challenge to make our music out in the mainstream and as one of the most popular Christian/Catholic power/prog metal band in the present scene, it’s a matter of our identity and message. The turning point to become the band we are now must be found in David Brown’s (our keyboards player and growler) decision to enter the way for the priesthood. It opened a new and more defined identity of the band that inspired all in our songwriting, even if it must be said that we all did not feel any constriction. It was a free and shared by all band members (at that time we had different drummer and bass player). And even now that David is a priest no more (as you might know he released an official press communication past on April this year, through our management about that!) band’s inspiration and identity didn’t change at all.

RtM: Do you feel that there is some resistance to the Christian direction of the band? Have you ever had any problems? 
SG: Well, it’s not so easy to be Metatrone, you know, because it’s really hard to make Christian people like Metal music and let see it’s simply and definitely a musical genre, as well as to let non religious or atheist people understand the metal and Christianity can live togheter in the same artistic conception. There’s an almost invincible defensive approach to such a new and unexpected communion, by both cultural positions, really. 

We tried all times to show with an opened and genuine mind that it is possibile instead. We always tried to demonstrate this critical matter all the times we hand the chance to do that. We are not preachers, we never were; we do not act as preachers and we weren’t born as band, I mean, to evangelise people and make them find conversion. Furthermore we did choose to play heavy metal to epurate it from the historical corrupted idea that metal (as well rock music) is naturally filled with negativity, violence and all those bullshits.

"We are not preachers, we never were; we do not act as preachers...we aren’t a Christian band… we are Christians metalhead who play in metal band, because we love it!" 
RtM: Because we still seeing many cases of discrimination on the part of producers and even other bands. In today's world where respect for diversity is preached, we still have a lot to evolve.
SG: We think times should be enough mature now to break these fucking stereotypes and throw them out from life itself. In the end, after more that ten years of musical activity, even Catholic church we belong to is still not prepared for a band and for an idea like the one in Metatrone, to be fully recognised. It’s only by the opening mind of some priests we always be grateful to that we have been acclaimed by official religious institution. Despite all these difficulties, we can truly say that there are anyway myriad of persons who love us and support us since the beginning, a lot of fans from around the world that agree with us and believe in our songs, who like the music and lyrics.

We received and still receive full support from many Protestant confessions, maybe because they used to merge faith and rock/metal music more than Catholics. We got respect and acknowledgement from both laical and religious rock and metal press. We got favour of many important metal labels all around the world too. So, we won’t give up, man. We are still now to say to the world: we aren’t a Christian band… we are Christians metalhead who play in metal band, because we love it! It’s the more simple but correct statement we ever said up to now!

RtM: I think that any kind of discrimination is something stupid, And what matters is the music, because both some Black Metal band that refuse to play with bands of White Metal, and the opposite, as happened with Dave Mustaine, who refused to go on stage for disagreeing with the theme of a band Which would be in the same festival.
SG: No Carlos, I don’t know what happened exactly with Dave Mustaine (which is one of my favourite guitar player, by the way) but I think it’s basically not only a problem of the bands. We have a lot of dear friend who play in non-religious and/or Black metal band, so what’s up? We would not have any problems to share the same stage with them all, and they would do the the same to us. One problem are the fans, people at least. The other problem are the musicians. As artist, if we want to be called artist, we all have the responsibility to avoid creating walls in communications, and music is one the strongest way of communication, of course. If you read between the lines in our music, we never, and I repeat, never said something denigrating about Extreme Metal and Black Metal as well. If we do not agree with the message, we must respect the person who’s behind it, we have to. Is it so difficult to arrange?

"If we do not agree with the message, we must respect the person who’s behind it, we have to. Is it so difficult to arrange?"
RtM: Wise Words!
SG: I make an example. I think you know Schizo, one of the most important Italian extreme metal band ever. They are good friend of all Metatrone members, that’s sure. Well, think this: Metatrone and Schizo are gonna playing in the same metal festival, maybe close each others in the band list. Would be fans really ready for that? If I was this festival promoter I’d start sweating and asking to myself: “Would I sell enough festival tickets to cover all the expenses or get some gain from it? Would be there public order problems during the show?” And so on… So the day fans will be able to respect all artists’ point of view, music and message, and musicians stop building walls of a defensive-oriented incomprehension, well we’ll see black and white metal bands play togheter in the name of metal and freedom.

RtM: I remember a phrase from Michael Sweet (Stryper), who said he did not want them to be called White Metal, that they are actually a heavy metal Christian band. What would you say about Metatrone? Did you ever fear that the band would be relegated or limited to any niche?
SG: Ha ha ha! I did not know this Michael’s phrase up to now! But Metatrone are pretty on the same way. I said, we were, are and will be Christian metalheads who love metal music and play it until our arms and legs and voices will resist, no matter what label people prepared for us!

RtM: Speaking a little bit about the albums, the full-length debut "La Mano Potente", which won an English version, "The Powerful Hand". Did you realize that there was audience for the band outside of Italy and then invested in this alternative version?
SG: No, it was not a commercial decision. When we recorded the songs of La Mano Potente, we had already recorded the English ones for The Powerful Hand, which features some tracks on the other hand you don’t find in the Italian version. It’s not a translation. It’s a typical Metatrone feature. It responds to a communicative need. Italian, English, Spanish and Latin are some of the languages we used to write our songs. So we do not consider them as “alternative versions” in the classic way you might think of.

"Music is life, Metal is music, so Metal is life!"
RtM: And how would you describe in sonorous terms and musical direction the album "The Powerful Hand"?
SG: TPH is pretty a more AOR oriented album, our first strike to merge some classical AOR inspirations with those typical drumming and riffing power metal elements in it. It’s all quite “clean” in that album, with all things placed in order. It’s been 10 years ago… Wow… We’re getting older.. Eh eh! Yes it’s a very melodic album. As any of our works, it speaks all about us, it sounds about what we were at that time and the things and happenings we were getting through, including David’s entering the priesthood way, as we sing in "Mirror City Train", the queen speed track of the album.

RtM: In "Paradigma", it seems to me that the band incorporated more elements of Prog Metal, besides also bringing songs in different languages, like Italian, Spanish, English and Latin. Tell us a little about this album. 
SG: Yes, "Paradigma" is one of that album the you can lead as a changing point. We filled it with an overall more progressive inspired mood. It sounds quite more dark, I think, probably for a fully d-tuned solution for guitar riffing and a raging higain sound of the rhythmic session. It’s a more mature album, of course. It’s the album that set forth band’s identity, both in music both in lyrics. Paradigma it’s a complete Christian Catholic statement from album title to each main significant in the songs. But is is also a concentrate of energy. It’s a metal album in its deepest nature.

RtM: It also have this feature, of having songs in several languages.
SG: As you know it contains song in all the languages we had used, just to increase our artistic resonance. In particular the song called “Hombre” was our first try with Spanish language. As Metatrone we gained so many fans from all Latin Countries of Center and South America, that we thought it would be righteous to have a Spanish song in the final track list. Sanctus 3 (as well as "Ave Maria" on "La Mano Potente" and "Regina Coeli" in our last new album), is a song with Latin lyrics. This is another typical issue in our album. It’s definitely a tribute to our Latin and Romanic origin and traditions, which we are sometimes inspired too.

RtM: After six years, you have presented a new album, "Eucharismetal", which, in addition to the changes in the line-up, has been hailed as the best work of the band. 
SG: "Eucharismetal" brings Metatrone to a higher level. It represent the band as its best way at this moment. As you can see again we wrote songs in English and Italian language. Some songs are more explicit some others they keep themselves more cryptic, but all songs are written with a Catholic spirit and point of view. We are really proud of this album! The album have been written along the past 2 years, and it was recorded at Castel Rock Studios in Mascalucia (CT) by Ignazio Schirone and me, and then mixed and mastered at TRP Music Studios (Tremestieri Etneo, CT) by Riccardo Samperi, our hystorical sound engineer. Great times!

 "'Eucharismetal' brings Metatrone to a higher level. It represent the band as its best way at this moment." 
RtM: I would like you to talk about the main differences of "Eucharismetal" in relation to the previous ones and how the results are so far.
SG: The new record is heavier, faster and more metal than our previous ones. “Eucharismetal” is the state of the art in Metatrone songwriting, and it’s definitely due to the awesome line up the band went to. All the songs sound more aggressive and melodic at the same time. All sound bigger and closer to the listener’s ears, as we wanted it to be. David’s growls have become fundamental for Metatrone news metal identity and more growling parts have been recorded as you can hear, more than in Paradigma. “Eucharismetal” comes out after the change in line up. Bassist Dino Fiorenza and drummer Salvo “T-Metal” Grasso entered togheter and there were really important the give the band a new horizon, bringing a stunning new wave of energy and enthusiasm. Their role in the songwriting was crucial. Dino’s virtuoso approach on bass gave a new life to the rhythmic section. Salvo, who is not only a great drummer, was very important in the overall songwriting and even for the definition of the final vocals, being himself a very cool singer.

RtM: "Eucharismetal" has also been praised for strong themes, such as those covered in "Molokai" and "Alef Dalet Mem",  so I would like you to tell us a little more about them.
SG: "Molokai" is maybe one of the heaviest songs of the whole album, and it was written in opposition to any religious fanatics, but especially those who lies inside Christian and Catholic world. Just like Saint Damien, who took care of people with leprosy in Molokai island, we betray the spiritual leprosy of fanatics. "Alef Dalet Mem", that stands for the ancient Hebrew word AD(A)M ("man"), is a song who speaks about child abuses. It's a raw topic, you know, and we feel we have to write a song about this human shame. As metal musicians and Christians we feel we have to talk about real life, which is made of joys, tears, rage, hope, mercy and humanity in the end. 

RtM: Something that caught my attention when I heard the band, is that, despite the very technical instrumental parts, you never neglect the melodies,always striking.
SG: This is one of the most important characteristics of Metatrone. Melody in vocals is the final chord of any song. It’s the first element that we work on. It’s the leading path to the complete work. Is alway was and always will be. The best song you can create is the one you can always sing aloud. Melody states as the heartbeat of all our musical history.

"Well, it’s quite uncommon to have a priest in a metal band who play keys in a virtuoso way and who sing in growls!"
RtM: Another interesting element is the guttural vocals, something not very common in bands of Prog and Power Metal. I'd like you to comment about that.
SG: Growl slowly became another typical feature in band’s way. After "In Spe Resurrectionis", which contains an Italian language growl in the middle part of the song, we choose to record growls in another two songs, “Passion” and “Heavenly Field”, that have been added as bonus track in Paradigma 2017 reissue. Now David is definitely a keyboard player and a growler in Metatrone. This mix of melodic vocals with raging growling parts works great and it represents what we really are and what we want to be as a prog/power metal band in 2017.

RtM: A fact that attracted attention was that the band had a Catholic priest in your line-up. How was it to reconcile this question? Were people surprised to discover that Bruno played in a Metal band?
SG: David’ priesthood began when he entered the theological studies inside the main seminary. He took the sacred orders in 2010. But he was anyway a musical and a metalhead and he kept playing metal during his formation inside the seminary, and that’s how "La Mano Potente" was born. We never found opposition by the ancients in the priesthood and even Pope Benedictus XVI has been informed about Metatrone existence. Well, it’s quite uncommon to have a priest in a metal band who play keys in a virtuoso way and who sing in growls! Any way as I told you before, David left the priesthood on April 2017, after a long period of thought, with an official communication the we delivered on socials. It was too much difficult to keep playing in the band and lead a Parrish, so he made his decision and now he continues his artistic mission with Metatrone in the laical form, as a Christian musician.

RtM: And what is Metatrone's great mission in this universe of music and Heavy Metal?
SG: We want to be ourselves and play the music we love fulfilling it with our own life and thanks our Lord for the awesome gift of music. Music is life, Metal is music, so Metal is life!

RtM: Stefano, thank you for the opportunity of this conversation. I let the space for your final message.
SG: Well, we really thank you Carlos, for this great opportunity, for this nice interview. We wish to say thanks from the depth of our hearts to all our fans in Center and South America to be so cool and for supporting the band so far! We are working to arrange some promotion and some live dates in this wonderful country, so keep the faith alive and stay connected to the band on socials for upcoming news about!
Love life, people, and love metal music! May the Lord bless each one of you! See ya soon.

Interview: Carlos Garcia

Jo Lombardo - Lead vocals;
Stefano "Ghigas" Calvagno - Guitars/vocals;
Davide Bruno - Keyboards/growls;
Dino Fiorenza - Bass;
Salvo "T-Metal" Grasso - Drums

The Powerful Hand (2006, TRP Records)
The Powerful Hand (2007, Scarlet Records) - "The Powerful Hand" international release
Paradigma (2010, TRP Records)
Eucharismetal (2016, Rockshots)

Paradigm and Powerful Hand were re-released in remastered editions (with bonus tracks) by Rockshots

Official Website

Worldwide Distribution: Rockshots Records




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