Interview with Fabio Caruso of As Memory Dies
Italian melodic death metal act As Memory Dies recently released "Transmutate," a disc that blends beauty and savagery and adds some definite progressive sounds near the end, with a mind-blowing three-song arc that blends heavy metal with Christopher Marlowe's "The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus," which was written in 1604.
I recently had a chance to trade e-mails with As Memory Dies singer Fabio Caruso, who talked about what inspired the band to record such a unique trio of songs, and how they managed to compose the music around those 400-year-old words.
Caruso said he had admired the play since high school, and when he shared the idea of recording the portion that comprised Faustus' last hour with the rest of the band, they got excited about it as well. But it wasn't easy to record, by any means. Caruso said, "We knew in advance that it would be very difficult to compose the perfect musical melodies in order to stress the different moods and nuances of Faustus’ last hour and to find the proper vocal lines due to the prose nature of the play, so we decided to be done with all the other 'Transmutate' songs before starting to compose it."
Caruso said the three-song suite took four months to record, but that the band is so pleased with the result that it isn't ruling out composing "another huge dramatic suite like this in the future."
We also talked a lot about some of the band's history and future plans, as well as other tracks on "Transmutate."
EdgeoftheWorld: As someone who's fascinated by how bands pick their name, can you
tell me how "As Memory Dies" came about?
Fabio Caruso: The main idea we had when it was time to pick the band’s name was to find a moniker that could perfectly explain our musical style. We were fascinated by that kind of contradiction that defines melodic death metal, torn between aggressive impact and melodic intents, always balancing on the edge between instinct and refinement.
As we came up with “As Memory Dies”, we thought it was the ideal expression to describe the charming paradox behind our music: the mixed emotions generated by a remembrance that is disappearing, the process through which Thesis and Antithesis transfigure into one and become
Synthesis, the instant in which the opposites gracefully collide and celebrate their newborn union.
We conceive our music as the soundtrack of that very moment, so we needed a band name able to remark on this concept ... and we sensed that As Memory Dies was really the one we were searching for.
EdgeoftheWorld: There's a lot of overtly melodic content on "Transmutate," but not a lot of more overtly melodic vocals. Is it a conscious decision to avoid going that route? You've definitely got the pipes for more melodic material.
Caruso: It’s a 100% conscious decision: we prefer to keep the distinguishing melodic death metal clash between melodic music and harsh vocals rather than going with the modern, peculiar metalcore alternation between clean vocals and screaming. We grew up with bands like Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates and so on and I think their influence is quite evident if you analyse our approach to vocals.
Moreover, I consider myself more a screamer than a “regular” singer so I prefer to explore that “extreme” dimension.
Nevertheless, some minor clean singing can be heard here and there on “Transmutate." During the composition process we noticed that there were a couple of riffs that called out for melodic vocals in order to express their complete potential and the proper feeling, so we didn’t hesitate
to combine those musical moments with the clean voice and we went
straight for it.
In the end, in As Memory Dies everything is meant to be for the song’s sake. Usually the screaming vocals suits our style the most but some exceptions are more than welcomed if needed as they help in giving the song more variety and the right atmosphere to any single passage ...
EdgeoftheWorld: What is the writing process overall like with this band? Music first? Lyrics first? Both at the same time?
Caruso: Well, there is not a rigid process concerning this particular matter since it always depends on the song we are working on. Sometimes I come up with some lyrics and structure in mind and I ask the other guys to follow them and to create the music that fits them best, while sometimes all the riffs and the song’s sequences are ready and I have to write
some lyrics on them.
For example, “Eyeway To Identity” and obviously the whole “The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus” suite had the lyrics first and the music built up around them later while other “Transmutate” songs were instrumentally ready before I wrote down the words. We can work it out one way or the other equally. What matters is having a strong connection between music and lyrics, with words and melodies emphasizing each other, pushing the whole song to a higher level.
EdgeoftheWorld: What's your favorite track or contribution to "Transmutate?" Why?
Caruso: Well, I know it goes without saying but it’s really hard for us to pick up one song and to say it’s the best one ... I think that when you have a multi-layered album like “Transmutate” with so many moods and atmospheric changes inside any single song then it’s really difficult to choose one track since all of them are needed to have a
global portrait of the music.
Nevertheless, I think that probably the whole “The Tragical History Of Doctor Faustus” is the most complete song of “Transmutate” since it shows all the different trademarks of our style, spanning from aggression to acoustic sections, from melodeath riffs to more introspective
moments ... I don’t know if it’s our best song but I’m sure that by now it’s the most ambitious one we wrote and surely the one we are proud of the most.
But you see, I’m also in love with “Eyeway To Identity” for its ever-changing approach; with “Fifth Day, Leviathan” for the epic pace; with “A Season Of Failures” for its monolithic melodies and with “Distress In A Velvet Room” for the nursing feeling it gives me so I was
totally serious when I said that’s rather impossible for me to choose one song out of the others …
EdgeoftheWorld: It seems like Europe in general has a more vibrant metal scene than many other places in the world, with Italy particularly standing out. Is it difficult to stand out in a more crowded environment (or do you even think about such things)?
Caruso: All I can do is agree with you: though the USA is usually top of the class
when it comes with exporting mainstream and worldwide successful acts, I think that the European scene is the most vibrant and prolific one ...
Moreover, there’s a promising thrash/death metal environment in South America and a vivid Asian underground movement, but I think that the European scene, whether it’s the Scandinavian one for its death metal and black metal roots (just to name a few: Dark Tranquillity, Opeth, Bathory, Marduk) or the Eastern one with its brutal leading acts (Behemoth, Vader, Decapitated), the Central one for its more classic and power metal-oriented scene (Helloween and Accept in the beginning, Blind Guardian in more recent times) or the Southern/Mediterranean one with its differently declined extreme vision (from Portuguese Moonspell to Greek Rotting Christ, passing through bands like Nightrage), is probably the most rich and brilliant metal stage ...
Talking about Italy, our country is mostly known for its power metal scene with bands like Rhapsody Of Fire, Labyrinth and Vision Divine as the most famous outfits but I think that there is lot of room for melodic death bands since only Disarmonia Mundi and a few more by now
were able to reach a larger, wider audience. I think that there are good chances for Italian bands to stand out in the international melodeath environment. The underground scene is quite healthy as I hear high-quality music and see the right approach in lots of bands playing our style and I think there’s a urgent need for new genre-leaders.
Anyway, we currently try not to mind such thing that much as we prefer to focus on composing good songs and to promote the band in the most professional way we can without thinking of if we can make it or not. Let’s see what future holds for us…
EdgeoftheWorld: What's next for As Memory Dies? Shows? Festivals? New material?
Caruso: Here is breaking news for MetalUnderground.com! Yesterday we had confirmation that there are high chances for As Memory Dies to play at the MetalCamp Festival in Slovenia next July. We can’t wait to take part in such a great and respected event and we are honoured at the possibility of sharing the stage with bands we were huge fans of when we were teenagers ...
Talking about labels, we recently received some proposals and we’re still waiting for more to come in order to pick up the best one among them, so we feel quite confident that some record deal will come up soon and that we’ll have “Transmutate” on worldwide and large-scale distribution by the end of the year.
Finally, we started the composition process for the “Transmutate” follow-up, and some newsongs are taking form these days. We are very satisfied with them. They follow the path traced by our debut album with new sounds and styles surfacing and mixing with the ones we displayed on “Transmutate”, a sort of musical transformation we are surely glad and excited about.
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