Dario Beretta: "We Just Kind Of Waited For Each Other To be Ready And To Find The Right People To Do This With..."
Band Photo: Drakkar (?)
Many fans of European power metal, and the Italian scene in general, equate great music with Rhapsody Of Fire. However, were you aware that one Italian band, who has been around just as long, has virtually gone unnoticed in the “New World”? In 1997, right around the time that Rhapsody Of Fire, then Rhapsody, was just releasing its “Legendary Tales” album, a band named Drakkar (a variant of the Norse word “Dreker” or Viking long boat) was starting up in Milan and demoing material for what would be the first, and appropriately titled album, “Quest for Glory.” The album was released in 1998 through the Italian record label Dragonheart Records. The band played epic power metal, but with a slightly less symphonic element at the time. They went on to record two more releases with the label, “Gemini” (2000) and “Razorblade God” (2002), with various lineup changes along the way, most notably the addition of vocalist Davide Dell’Orto and keyboardist Corrado Solarino on the latter.
Just as the band became more cohesive and defined with the release of “Razorblade God,” they fell off the face of the earth. The longboat was not seen again until the “Classified” EP, which contained material written just after the tour for “Razorblade God,” was released in 2007. The release was meant to tell the world that the band had not split up as one might have suspected. It took another five long years for the band to release what is arguably the best material they have ever written, in the form of the science fiction concept album “When Lightning Strikes.” With strong label support from My Kingdom Music, the Drakkar seeks to recapture its place in the Italian metal scene, with an even greater eye towards a global attack on the entire epic power metal scene. By reaching into its past with a goal to firmly grasp the future, this more mature group of musicians have not only closed the gap of a ten year absence, but propelled itself forward.
Guitarist/songwriter Dario Beretta and vocalist Davide Dell’Orto checked in with Metal Underground for a light-hearted chat to provide the "tell-all"story of the band and the new release “When Lightning Strikes.” In addition, we break the first in-depth news behind Crimson Dawn, a band that started as a traditional metal project and now resurrected by Dario Beretta as regular epic doom metal band. Crimson Dawn has tapped Betoken frontman Antonio Pecere for vocals.
CROMCarl: So, first off, congratulations on the new album “When Lightning Strikes.” Davide, I think your vocals have become so much better since “Razorblade God.”
Davide: You know, on the last album I was 10 years younger and it was so new for me. I had that characteristic that I could talk really high and so everybody, and even me tried to push that at the maximum, but finally you lose the feeling. You try to show your ability and stuff like that. After 10 years, of course, you understand a lot of stuff and I prefer to have a voice that is more groovy than really loud and high.
CROMCarl: I noticed that you were a lot more high pitched back then and now you found a nice lower range with a little grit which I thought worked out really well.
Davide: Thanks. Even the sound, we are using one tone less, from E to D. So even the whole mood is a little bit bigger and, I think, more groovy.
CROMCarl: The songwriting itself was much more mature than previous efforts with a lot more depth to it. It had a Deep Purple feel to it, which I found to be one of the more interesting things about it – the combination of power metal and Deep Purple.
Davide: That is thanks to Corrado, the keyboard player. He loves Deep Purple. We are friends and we go to the same place on vacation. We are from Milan and we live quite close to each other. But we met at the mountains and, of course, the music was the glue for our friendship. After a while I enter into the dark for Drakkar for the “Razorblade God” album and we all needed to have a keyboard, so I called him and we all knew he was a Deep Purple fan. In fact, he was even playing in a Deep Purple tribute band. In fact, the organ sound of the ‘70’s makes a sound a bit different from the other bands.
CROMCarl: I can almost guess who some of your influences are as a singer, but who are the ones who influence you the most.
Davide: Starting from the past, James Hetfield. He has a really good groove in his voice and his sounds. Now I love Russell Allen (Symphony X). Everything around Whitesnake, David Coverdale is one of my favorites, absolutely. Not as technical as the others, but so groovy…fantastic voice. His voice is a little bit rough in the back, quite loud and groove
CROMCarl: No Rob Halford…huh?
Davide: Of course! Of course! I went to the last Gods of Metal in Italy and Rob Halford was fantastic! I was in one of the first rows to hear him and WOW… it was like two hours and a half and he was perfect from the first to the last minute. Unbelievable….one of my heroes, of course.
CROMCarl: So now are you taking part in the Crimson Dawn stuff, guesting or background vocals?
Davide: No, until now, no. Maybe in the future, who knows, some backing vocals. Of course, I am always available for that. But now, no, I am just playing in Drakkar. Until now, Drakkar is enough. Maybe for the recording, probably yes, they will ask me and I will be really glad to participate, but until now we didn’t talk about it. I always tell Dario that I am always available, don’t worry, ask me. Not as a lead singer, because that takes too much time and I don’t have it, but if he needs help for backing vocals I am always available.
CROMCarl: Are you involved in the writing process at all for Drakkar?
Davide: In the beginning we always followed the same structure. The structure of the songs and the riffs are written by Dario. Then the whole music, the orchestration, is Dario together with Corrado, that as with all keyboard players, he has a lot of knowledge about music, the lyrics and stuff like that. Then once we play together, I beginning to do some line without having the words in the back. It depends, sometimes the song starts from text and I begin to play reading something. Otherwise, I sing lines and Dario writes something around them. Sometimes, Dario says ‘Davide, for me that line was fantastic, why don’t we try this.’ It is something that we do together, basically. Or maybe I propose at the beginning what I think should be changed, but basically we write the song together in that case. A lot of nights playing together…but we are friends.
CROMCarl: Now former singer Luca Cappellari provides guest vocals on the new album, right?
Davide: Yes, on “My Endless Flight.”
CROMCarl: Did he just do background vocals?
Davide: No, no. We are still friends, we are still in contact and he follows us in all of our concerts. We are all keeping in touch.
CROMCarl: He is in another band, right?
Davide: This I don’t know. I think you will have to ask Dario. But last year we were together, and I was really happy to have him, because for the fans I think it’s good to know we are still in contact…it’s a line that still continues. And so, it was quite natural for us to say ‘why don’t you guest on our new album.’ He said ‘fantastic!’ Then we decided that the bridge on “My Endless Flight” was the right place to sing together. The last gig we played, he was on the stage with me and we did “My Endless Flight” and we ended the concert together with “Dragonheart” and we did “Eridan Falls” together. I was really happy and we did a good show. The people were happy to see us together, hugging and singing together. He has a fantastic family, a kid and a wife, and everybody was there. The little kid was there with earphones in the front of the show. It was fun.
CROMCarl: Do you guys have any other shows lined up?
Davide: Until now, we have just one concert, but we are working on that. We have a lot of contacts and we will see. Hopefully, in the next month we will work out something.
CROMCarl: It would be great to go around Europe on a bigger tour.
Davide: The big problem is always that this music is underground music, of course. So the money is not so much. It’s quite expensive, we have to move five persons plus the instruments, so it’s not so easy to find a bill that allows us to buy tickets and stuff like that. It is one of my dreams…its one of the dreams of everybody, to do a small tour around Europe. We are trying, we have some contacts around. We are trying to organize something. Of course, the USA is a little bit far. I personally love the USA, I stayed there for three months, half in New York and half in California, so I would like to come back there. To play music there would be great! The only Italian band to do that was Lucuna Coil…..
….At this point guitarist Dario Beretta joins (or rudely interrupts) the conversation
Dario: Hello, can you hear me now?
CROMCarl: Hello Dario! Should I follow the pre-approved script now?
Dario: As you wish….(laughs)
Davide: We have already been talking for a little bit.
Dario: Yeah, I thought so.
CROMCarl: Should I read it word for word? Due to your computer complications Dario, my questions are now completely out of order.
Dario: There was something wrong with the mix settings, so I had to poke around on the computer and kick it until it finally started working again.
Davide: Dario, you have to invest more in the technology!
CROMCarl: I’m not sure how many American metal fans realize that Drakkar has been around just about as long as country mates Rhapsody of Fire (then Rhapsody) has, yet Rhapsody ended up becoming an institution around the world. When I read reviews, mostly because both bands hail from Italy, Drakkar is usually compared to Rhapsody. At the time Drakkar started, did Rhapsody’s style have any influence on the band?
Dario: I don’t think so, because of what you mentioned. We started, basically, in the same period. Their first album came out in ’97 and we were already creating “Quest for Glory” at the time and we already had a lot of songs recorded. I think we share some influences, like Virgin Steele is a big influence to them and to us as well. I like them very much, especially the first three records. I don’t think there is any direct influence. Of course, I understand with the fact that we both come from Italy and that they are so famous, it is obvious that people make this kind of comparison. Also, the record companies usually tend to make this kind of comparison because they know that it’s a famous name. So, basically its some commercial sense, I think, to make some comparisons. I think we come from pretty much the same background more than anything else.
CROMCarl: In Italy, in the mid-late ‘90’s, did you see the same grunge movement that was around the United States? It seems to me that metal survived in Europe more than it survived here. When you were starting up did that actually affect Italian scene at all?
Dario: Dave, you want to take this?
Davide: When we started, for me, the music scene in Italy was like two halves: punk rock and heavy metal. The grunge rock wasn’t so famous. There were a lot of people that were listening to grunge music and were going to gigs and stuff, but it wasn’t big exactly. Until now, just one quite famous group that plays grunge music is Verdena… [who] live not far from us. Until now the metal changed here a little bit, because Germany still produces a lot of very good music. There are a lot of bands in the northern part of Europe. Yeah, of course, a little bit more than you said. What do you think, Dario?
Dario: Yeah, I think so. I have exactly the same feeling. At the time when we were starting, basically there was no real grunge movement between the musicians. I think it is very, very American as a kind of style. At the same time, the general public was definitely deep into Nirvana, Pearl Jam and all those kind of things. At the time, there was this kind of split between the general listeners and the people who actually starting to make music. You also have to consider, at the time, I mean we’re talking about the mid-’90’s, the Italian metal scene was very underground. Most of the big bands from the ‘80’s were disbanded already. So basically, there was a lot of extreme metal around, I think, between young musicians. I think we were one of the first at mid-’90’s to actually start to do some classic metal again, together with Mesmerize and a couple of other bands, of course, Rhapsody and Labyrinth and so on. So basically, it was kind of like a moment where we were starting to make classic metal again in Italy. It was kind of the beginning of something, I think.
CROMCarl: Yeah, grunge nearly destroyed metal here in the U.S. and back in the ‘90’s we used to get albums from Europe without a problem and then for whatever reason everything was only available as an import so I was paying $200/week for 3-4 albums. That has changed now, and that strangely enough has a lot to do with the internet. For all its faults, it actually brought fans of metal together. So now, you go through all the lineup changes between “Quest for Glory” to “Gemini” and then to “Razorblade God,” and the band’s sound changed a bit as well, going from traditional power metal to a more symphonic power metal style. Would you attribute that to your own change in influences or the various influences of newer members?
Dario: Well, it was a combination of both. When we started, we already had the idea to put some symphonic influences into the music just to make it more grandiose, a little more epic. But we didn’t have a full time keyboard player at the time when we did “Quest for Glory.” So we had Emanuele from Crown of Autumn and he gave us a little bit of help. We knew he wasn’t going to be available for many live shows, just a couple of shows right after the release. So what we thought when we recorded “Quest for Glory” was ‘ok, we can put these influences in, but we don’t have a full time keyboard player so we have to make the songs in order to play them live even if we didn’t have a keyboard player. Basically, that was the reason why it was little toned down on the first record compared to what it became after that when we started having a regular keyboard player. At the same time, I would say that, of course, every member has brought their own influences because we really do create the songs all together, so basically, Corrado brought a lot of his influences in and so did Dave when he entered the band. It is a combination of opportunity and the evolution of the band.
CROMCarl: So now “Razorblade God” comes out and then there is this huge gap. I can almost guess at some of the reasons were for that. But let me just side step here…and ask about the ”Classified” EP. Was that a compilation of some stuff you had written previously, or was that new when it came out?
Dario: Basically, when we finished touring for “Razorblade God,” we immediately started writing new songs. But then we started having all kinds of difficulties….many, many things happened along the way that slowed us down. When we were in 2007, we looked at the material that we had and we had those four songs. So we thought ‘ok, these are good but they are not quite what we want to do now.’ So instead of throwing those away, because we felt they were good songs, we thought ‘why don’t we release them for free’ so we can give a hint to people and tell them we are still here. At the same time, those songs would not be on the same page as what we did after that with “When Lightning Strikes.” So, that was basically the reason we decided to throw them around in a free format.
CROMCarl: So at any point during this big gap, was there ever a thought in your mind where you felt that the band might never come back?
Dario: For sure there were a couple of times when we thought we mind as well end this. But, in the end we are friends. Myself, Dave and Corrado have been playing together since 2000, so that’s quite a long time. We enjoy being in each other’s company and doing stuff together. So every time we thought we mind as well put an end to it, in the end we didn’t really want to do it because we enjoy playing with each other. So we thought ‘ok, no rush. It’s not like we have to do something right now.’ We can wait for each other to sort out all the kinds of things that went through our lives all these years. We were all students when we did “Razorblade God” and now we are all working. We all had to change our lives to adjust, find a job and all those kinds of things. We just kind of waited for each other to be ready and to find the right people to do this with and I am speaking of course about Simone on the bass and then Mat [drummer, Crown of Autumn] in the studio. It was kind of a situation where thought about disbanding a couple of times, but in the end we always thought it was worth it to go on, especially because we had no rush. We were friends and we took it as we came. Dave, you want to add something?
Davide: The answer was always ‘why should we quit?’ I mean it would be too much of a pity. We all care about Drakkar. Ok, it was a creation by Dario and other persons, but we even feel Drakkar is a creation of us. I mean, we all love this band, we are all friends, so why should we quit? If we take our time, there will be a chance to do a new album…just take our time. The big, big problem was, and I think Dario would agree with me, is when Christian [Fiorani], the old drum player, decided….
Dario: Of course.
Davide: ….to go to live in another country since we were really, really friends together. In the beginning, we were quite disappointed; we didn’t know what to do. Finally, why should we quit? That is always the answer.
CROMCarl: Right, it wasn’t as if you were pressured by a record label or anything. When did My Kingdom Music come into the picture?
Dario: It was when we finished recording “When Lightning Strikes” that we came in contact with My Kingdom Music. It was prompted by our friends of Crown of Autumn, because of course we recorded with Mat on the drums and they had just signed a deal with My Kingdom Music for their new album, their comeback. Mat told us they were very satisfied with the deal and the way things were turning out with them. So, we already had a couple of labels interested, but we thought there was no harm in asking My Kingdom Music what they thought about it and talk with them as well. In the end, they made an offer that was the best we received. It was the one that really showed that they really did care about the band and wanted to invest in the band both in terms of money, but also in terms of promotion and taking care of things and being always very, very available for every question we have. We are pretty satisfied with how things are going with them.
Davide: Yeah, I am feeling so happy with Francesco from the label. He is really doing a really good job. Once we were looking for a label, we didn’t look about money, of course, but about a person that was dealing with us in a good way. Francesco is really doing a great job.
Dario: Yes, yes I completely agree. He is doing a great job. As I said, he’s always there whenever we have something to ask him. He is very collaborative. He really does care about the band and it shows. I think it is good that we are getting such good reviews…it’s good for all of us. I think he is very satisfied as well, because he believed in what we had done. He took something of a little risk with the band, which was out of the radar for a while and it paid off, I think.
CROMCarl: So when did the conceptual idea for “When Lightning Strikes” come about?
Dario: Actually, when we starting writing the songs, it wasn’t supposed to be a concept album. But then again it was at a certain point I started looking at the songs I had already written and the more I looked at them and I looked at the lyrics that I already written, the more I felt that they really belonged together. There were similar things and aspects of the songs that really kind of linked all the lyrics that I had already written up to that point. So basically, that’s when I started to think ‘ok, maybe it’s time to do another concept’ to take all these close, but seemingly unrelated things, and put them all together. So that’s when I started to think about it in a more complex way. So then I thought ‘ok, now I need a framework to put all these things together.’ So that is when I started writing the story that links all the different episodes that we have on the album. Then of course, with the help of the other guys in the band we started to look at ways to connect the different songs. We made a couple of plans for the track list for the position of the various songs on the album. In the end, we were all very satisfied at the way it turned out. It was very natural. It wasn’t planned before, like it was with “Gemini,” which was always supposed to be a concept. So this is something that came really natural to me when we were well over half of writing the songs…that I started to think about putting them all together.
CROMCarl: For the benefit of our readers, tell me a little bit about that story.
Dario: It is a story that begins with an alien invasion, but then we discover that this invasion is really only to see out one single person, who is a man called Hal Garner, who is a fighter pilot. It begins in a distant future, where the aliens abduct this single person and then we will discover that this person they abducted is a man who has been reincarnated several times. It all began when he was on a Viking ship, so that is the link with the Drakkar. So, in the year 800 AD, more or less, he was abducted and modified, sort of, by the aliens so that they are responsible for the fact that he is always reincarnating, although he doesn’t remember his previous lives at the beginning. So what they did was to make this man into a living recorder of the evolution of humanity. That’s the reason why he continues to live different eyes, because these aliens, through his eyes are basically establishing if humanity as a whole is worth to be saved or if it must be destroyed. It is kind of difficult to tell this…I am a bit out of practice with spoken English.
CROMCarl: I’ll give you a lot of practice today!
Dario: Laughs….I am trying to make sense as much as I possibly can.
CROMCarl: I understand you just fine! So “when the lightning strikes” is really the actual invasion itself, or when Hal gets abducted?
Dario: There is a lot of lightning in the album. It is kind of a constant that the protagonist in all his lives. It is a lightning storm when he is first abducted in the year 800 something when he is on a Viking ship, in his first life. There is lightning when he is taken by the aliens the second time when they come back to earth in the second song, “The Armageddon Machine.” There is lightning through all of his life. In “When Lightning Strikes,” the song, it is about one of his past life when he was a fighter in the resistance in Italy towards the end of World War II. There is lightning there too. So basically, it is kind of a common theme that runs through the album. Of course, it was a very metal title (laughs)…so that was the main reason for choosing it.
CROMCarl: Would you say that there is a deeper message here about mankind itself and how we treat our planet and ourselves?
Dario: Absolutely, absolutely. I think you nailed it when you said it is about mankind, first and foremost. Of course, it’s presented in an allegorical sort of science fiction setting and all those kind of things, which makes it more fun, more interesting and probably better suited for heavy metal. The idea behind it is….it is about humanity, about our success and failure as a people, as a whole. So basically, the message is a kind of bit of an optimistic, if you will, message in the end because it says ‘we have a lot of failures, we have a lot of violence, we can be stubborn, we can be very bad’ and all those things. But, at the same time, there is still a lot of decent people in the world. There are still a lot of people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. Many people help other people. My view is that as much as we are failing every day, we are still always trying to get up and do better. There will always be someone striving to create a better world. I don’t know if we will actually mange to get to the situation which is presented in the end, which is very optimistic, of course, very Star Trek like, if you will. It is worth giving it a try and stop complaining and stop only looking at the bad side of it all. We are living in difficult times, there is no denying that.
CROMCarl: So is it just a coincidence that “When Lightning Strikes” comes out in the wonderful apocalyptic year of 2012?
Dario: (Laughs) Yes, yes…it is actually a coincidence. Although…I found it funny, because I saw the shift from October , when it was originally supposed to be released, to January . We entered, not only the supposed apocalyptic year, but also another year of the dragon, if you look at the Chinese astrology. We are on the “dragon ship,” after all, so that is a good sign.
CROMCarl: Do you think the concept of this album would make a really good comic book?
Dario: It might, yeah. Both me and Dave….we really like comics. I am much deeper into the American comics, while Dave, I think, is more on the….I don’t know – Dave?
Davide: Italian, European….but really all the comics. ‘50’s, ‘60’s, stuff like that.
Dario: Same goes for me. I love all the American comics and especially those of the ‘60’s. The whole story behind “When Lightning Strikes” is actually inspired by pulp science fiction and typically American of the ‘50’s and the ‘60’s. The comics of Jack Kirby, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and all those kinds of things.
Davide: A few years ago, we sort of had a link with the world of the comic books because [the song] “Killer Elite” [“Classified” EP] was written to launch the presentation of the comic book “Killer Elite” in Italy.
Dario: Yes, yes exactly. The first song from “Classified” was connected to an Italian comic book. One of the guys who drew that comic book actually is the same who did the cover of “When Lightning Strikes” [Alessandro Bragalini]. He is the artist who did the cover.
CROMCarl: So you actually have a comic book connection that you can pitch the idea of “When Lightning Strikes” as a new comic book series.
Dario: (Laughs) Yeah, I don’t know if you know the “Fear Agent” series, it is an American comic book.
CROMCarl: I am familiar with the name.
Dario: Basically, the artist who did our cover. He is not just doing comic books in Italy, but he also did things in America as well for American publishers. He did one of the back up stories for “Fear Agent” as well. Alessando Bragalini is the name. He is a very nice artist. At the moment he is actually working more with concept designs for video games then with comics. Still, he is a great guy.
CROMCarl: Since we are on the topic, what are both of your favorite comic book superhero and villain?
Dario: Dave, you go first.
Davide: Uh…..Wolverine, probably, because of the whole history around him. I love him.
CROMCarl: And your favorite villain?
Davide: Yes, yes….si, si. The Penguin!
CROMCarl: Not even the Joker, you went right for the Penguin! Dario?
Dario: Laughs…I have been, I mean I love so many comics, but probably there are two characters that I loved the most. When I was a kid, I was all about Spiderman…it was my absolute favorite. Growing up, I developed a real affection for The Flash from DC Comics, especially the Wally West version, which ran from the end of the ‘80’s up to a couple of years ago. As for the villains, I am going to go for the obvious one here and say Dr. Doom.
CROMCarl: Ok, now my script is destroyed, Dario. I am all over the place here. I had a nice script here and now I don’t.
Davide: It’s Dario’s fault! It’s Dario’s fault!
Dario: It’s my fault, of course (laughs).
CROMCarl: Let me get back into “When Lightning Strikes” a little bit. So now you tapped Mat from Crown of Autumn for drums and you have your live drummer, Paolo Pirola (Cididodici), but are you searching for a permanent drummer or are you ok with the platoon of studio session/live drummer?
Dario: Dave? You want to take this?
Davide: Uh….we still don’t know exactly what to do. Until now, we created a situation that perfectly fits our needs. Paolo is becoming a really good friend of ours, so we still really don’t know what to do in the future. I really don’t have an answer to this because, of course, Mat is one of the best drummer in Italy for heavy metal. He’s fantastic! He did an incredible job on “When Lightning Strikes.” I love the drums set on the disc. Paolo is a very good musician; he has a very good feeling, a very good groove. Our link is growing a lot because we play together a lot, so we still don’t know. We still have to decide what to do…
Davide: …and we still have to talk to Paolo to understand what he would like to do even.
Dario: Yeah, exactly.
CROMCarl: You might still ask Paolo to join permanently, you think?
Dario: It’s possible. It will depend on how he feels about it. I don’t know what the plans are with his other band and what we are doing. We might end up with him as a full time drummer if he wants to, but we haven’t really talked about this with him yet in detail, so he is going to find out through this interview (laughs).
Davide: His actual band…they play different metal close to Machine Head, Pantera and stuff like that. So, we will see.
CROMCarl: Well, you know these days the way the music business is evolving, we have so many band members, and you know this personally, that are in five or six bands.
Dario: Yeah, exactly.
CROMCarl: It’s not like the old days where if one of the members left it was like ‘oh my god, he left the band!’
CROMCarl: Dario, I already asked Davide this earlier, but for the new album you bring back Luca Cappellari as a guest vocalist. I wanted to get your take on this, so when he leaves after “Gemini” you kept in contact with him the whole time, right?
Dario: Actually, when we had the split after “Gemini” we weren’t on really good terms, honestly. But you know, it’s been years and stuff like that happens in all bands, I think. We were at a point where we really couldn’t work together any more at the time. But then a couple of years past and then we started to get back in touch and we buried everything that happened at the time. We threw it all under the carpet and we started again. So, we’re friends. We’re very good friends. It was a pleasure for me to invite him to take part in “When Lightning Strikes” for a couple of guest vocals and all the choirs in which he took part of. We are on very good terms right now. I mean, we had a little bit of a clash, but once again, that was 2000, 12 years ago and time heals everything. We probably both made our fair share of bullshit at the time, so it is really not a problem. We’ve been in very good relationships since many years now. It was only natural to invite him to take part in the new records.
Davide: It didn’t pass too much time when you quit your friendship, because I remember that when I entered Drakkar after a few concerts we did together, I saw him. That’s what…one year, probably.
Dario: Yeah. Well, I don’t know actually. I don’t remember precisely. It was probably a couple of years before we fixed that problem we had between us. It was very natural, it really wasn’t anything planned. At the end, we probably needed to take a step back to see things more clearly. We were probably too involved at the time so we really had to stay apart for a couple of years, but then stuff really started to fix itself.
CROMCarl: I am just curious, but do you know whether his other band White Lilith is still around?
Dario: Ah, White Lilith. I don’t think that the band is active anymore. Basically, that was the band that pre-existed Drakkar and it was the band of the bass player Alessandro Ferraris. So when we had the split and they were both out of Drakkar, Alex started to bring back White Lilith on a more active capacity and Luca, of course, was free, so they kept working together. But then, I don’t know how long it lasted, but they are not active anymore. Now Alex is in another band called Edera, which is another progressive rock band….very ‘70’s. I don’t think Luca is in any band at the moment. Honestly, we have been talking about doing, maybe, another couple of songs again for the future. Of course, outside of Drakkar, something completely different, but who knows, maybe…we’ll see. I am always have lots of ideas with different genres and I can’t use them all in Drakkar. Most of them would not fit anyway. So, I am not ruling out the possibility to do something with him in the future.
CROMCarl: I asked this of Davide, but are there any live shows or tours in the works?
Dario: We’re trying at the moment to get in touch with some agencies and the like. Since we have been silenced for so long, the agency that we had for live shows, before we took this kind of long hiatus, does not exist anymore. So we have to look for a new agent for live shows. We are currently organizing some shows on our own and we are having a look around and we’ll see what happens. Really, we have nothing set in stone at the moment, so there is nothing I can really talk about as of now. I hope that we will be able to find as many chances to do some good shows as possible. I hope that the good results for “When Lightning Strikes,” in terms of good press, can make some good shows around, especially outside of Italy. We have only been playing in Italy so far. It would be a pleasure for me to be able to do a tour, but we will have to wait and see.
CROMCarl: Well, you are not too far away from Switzerland and Germany, so you can just shoot right up there….
Dario: Actually, we are thinking about something like that, because we live in Milan, so we are not so far from Austria, Switzerland and Germany so it might be affordable to do something over there if we could find the right places and the right people, especially, to work with. We’ll see, we’ll see what happens.
Davide: We are a live band, basically. The CD sounds in a way, but once you hear us live we sound a different way. We would like the people to listen to us live, because the music becomes more powerful and we play faster songs than the disc ones. It is a different show and the people should like it.
Dario: Yeah, I think so. We’ve never been the type to stand still and perform exactly like you can hear on the CD, with everything clean and perfect. Nothing against those who do stuff like that, it is not easy. We come from a more traditional way of seeing metal, so when we are live we want to have fun, we want the people to have fun and we want to make some noise. I really don’t care if we make some mistake here and there. I prefer to make a couple of mistakes and then be running around the stage and having fun than standing perfectly still and playing exactly like the CD.
CROMCarl: I cannot stand it when I go to a show and see perfection. To me, if I wanted that, I ‘d stay home and listen to the CD. What is the point? I hate to bash bands like Dream Theater, but I have to tell you that they are so perfect live that I fall asleep. I need something different….change the chorus up a bit, screw up on the words, do anything, you know?
Davide: I agree with you.
Dario: Yeah, I mean we are talking about heavy metal.
Davide: I remember a couple of years ago I saw the gig of Dream Theater and the opener was Symphony X. The music is quite similar, let’s say quite similar…it’s progressive metal, but Symphony X did a show! Wow! They played just 45 minutes, while Dream Theater played two hours. Damn, that 45 minutes…I will remember it forever.
CROMCarl: Right, and I bet you remember one of the Dream Theater songs. Now I asked Davide who his vocal influences are, so now I will ask you Dario: Who are your biggest guitar influences?
Dario: There is not a single musician that I can pinpoint…that he is the one I can get inspiration from, because I always wanted to have my own sound. Of course, there are a lot of guitarists that I like that were definitely important for me when I started playing guitar. I would say Vivian Campbell, because I absolutely adore the work he did with Dio, especially on the “Holy Diver” record, which are some of the most incredible solos that I ever heard. He was just 18 or 19 at the time, so its amazing. Another one was Kai Hansen, of course, especially with the old days of Helloween and the first Gamma Ray albums up to “Land of the Free,” especially. Probably, my all-time favorite…I don’t know if I can directly speak of an influence, because his way of playing is so unique, but my all-time favorite is definitely Tony Iommi. There is no question about it, the man is a genius both with riffs and solos and everything. I really don’t know how he is able to put out consistently good material. Also, the records from Black Sabbath that are considered to be minor, they have some wonderful riffs and songs and stuff. So, I really wish him well and I hope that he will recover from his current health problems. I already lost one of my all-time favorite artists, which is Ronnie James Dio, so I would like, at least, for Tony to be around for many years.
CROMCarl: Ok, Dario, I am going to shift into some Crimson Dawn questions if that is okay with you?
Dario: That’s cool for me, if Dave is not against it (laughs).
Davide: Don’t worry, don’t worry. I am drinking coffee.
CROMCarl: Are you interested in hearing this too, David?
Davide: Yeah, of course, of course. Dario, we talked about it before with some backing vocals and stuff.
CROMCarl: Yeah, Dario I actually asked him whether you were going to have him sing anything on the new Crimson Dawn material.
Dario: (Laughs) Well, probably…if he is available, I will definitely love to have Dave around for choirs and the like. We have so much fun in the studio together. We had a lot of fun in the studio during the “When Lightning Strikes” recordings with Antonio, who is the singer with Crimson Dawn and Dave and Luca. We were all together doing the backing vocals. I would love to do that again.
CROMCarl: If I may speak for Dave, I mean I COULD play the tape back, but basically Dave said that he is waiting with baited breath for your call…he cannot wait! (laughs)
Davide: Of course, Dario, whenever you want.
Dario: Yeah, I know.
CROMCarl: Ok, with all of the activity surrounding Drakkar now, obviously your mind is on that at the moment, but you also have another long standing project, the epic doom band Crimson Dawn. This was a project originally created by you, Dario, and Crown of Autumn multi-musician Emanuele Rastelli back 2005. Now it has become more of an established band. You tapped Betoken frontman Antonio Pecere for this, right?
Dario: Yeah, exactly.
CROMCarl: So now you are hoping to have a debut release out this year. Can you give me any juicy details on it?
Dario: Yes, of course. Actually, we are more or less half way with the songs….a bit more, a bit more of that actually. We hope to be able to record the album this year, during 2012 and to aim for a 2013 release, if that at all possible. Things are going quite good. I wanted to bring Crimson Dawn back as a real band, instead of a studio project. It took a long time to find all the musicians, but at the moment we finally have a complete lineup of six people. I will be playing with another guitarist. From the very first days of Drakkar, so we are speaking about ’96, I haven’t been playing with another guitarist since 1996, but I will be in Crimson Dawn. It’s a lot of fun. I am playing on a seven string guitar, while the other guy [Marco Rusconi] is on a regular six string. So we are basically trying to create the right mixture between the guitars. It’s gonna be definitely an epic doom metal album. It’s akin to stuff like Candlemass or Thunderstorm to sight another Italian band, which I absolutely adore and of course, Black Sabbath. They started it all (laughs). Those are the main influences. It is going to be very heavy, slow in parts, but not always slow, because we have some up tempo songs. It’s not funeral doom, I mean (laughs). It’s more epic doom, it’s going to still be very melodic, but very heavy at the same time. I really have a good feeling, because we really have some strong songs. There will also be some influences from the northern way of epic metal from Bathory especially. I cannot wait for that interview you mentioned with Quorthon.
CROMCarl: Oh yeah, that was one of my favorite interviews. I cannot believe I found that. He was a perfect gentleman and one of the most intelligent guys I ever spoke to.
Dario: That’s great.
CROMCarl: We had a lot of stuff that a lot of people didn’t even know about, because I have a friend who was a die hard Bathory fan from Russia help me out with a lot of that.
Dario: It fits perfectly, he was a genius. It is really sad he was taken from us so early.
CROMCarl: He would have been only 46 this year. So back to Crimson Dawn….you started this with a traditional metal sound originally and shifted to an epic doom sound. This will have a clean vocal style, I assume, but are there any ideas about adding a death vocal element a la The 11th Hour?
Dario: Not at the moment. It might happen in a song or two, an insert or something like that.
CROMCarl: You can have Dave do that, right (laughs)?
Davide: After one song, I would finish my voice if I sing that way!
CROMCarl: I just wanted to make sure you were still there!
Davide: Yeah, yeah. I’m here.
Dario: Yeah, actually, I like the growl vocals on some bands and there are a lot of bands with growling vocals that I actually adore, but as a composer I don’t feel like my material would fit with those kind of vocals. I would always feel the lack of the more melodic singer, so basically that is the idea. And Antonio, especially, is one of those very old school singers with the very ’80’s influence. He is in love with bands like Loudness, for example.
Davide: It’s his favorite band.
Dario: Yeah, Loudness is his favorite band.
CROMCarl: You can do a doom cover of “Crazy Nights”!
Dario: Actually, we are thinking about one song from Loudness, which is already, in my opinion, a doom metal song. It is one of their old songs. I am not going to tell you which one it is, because it has to be a surprise, but we are thinking about including a cover from them because Antonio would love it. I listened to the song and I thought ‘ok, this is great.’ It fits perfectly with what we are doing, so I thought ‘why not.’
CROMCarl: So now Crimson Dawn is your doom outlet now, so now when is the folk metal band coming out? When is the progressive Dream Theater-esque band coming out? (laughs)
CROMCarl: Was that the goal of Crimson Dawn, to be an outlet for your love of doom metal, which wouldn’t be Drakkar type metal?
Dario: Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, I don’t really understand why some musicians, apart from the fact that they want to work with somebody else which is not in their main band…and that might be a reason, but other than that, I really don’t see much of a point in being in two or three different bands if they all play the same kind of music. It would just dilute my output for Drakkar if I was to write another ten songs, or whatever, in epic power metal like I do for Drakkar. I really wanted to do something different and I love doom metal and basically I love Heaven & Hell, the verison of Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio. That is probably my favorite band. I think “Heaven & Hell” and “Mob Rules” are probably my favorite records ever. That was the original idea, to do something a bit like that. And then I began to be more and more interested in doom metal and I discovered Candlemass and Thunderstorm, and I was really in love with that. It allows me to do something quite different than what we do in Drakkar, but at the same time there is a connection in the fact that there is still an epic element to it. I think that is just part of the way that I express myself with music. I can’t really do anything that doesn’t sort of have an epic feel to it. It’s kind of my trademark.
CROMCarl: So Crimson Dawn starts recording when? I mean, you are still writing at the moment.
Dario: Yeah, as I was telling you…half the album is completed and the other half – we have the skeleton of the songs, but we still have to finish them up and to write the lyrics and things like that. What we want to do is…we are aiming to record in the summer, more or less, so we can get to the end of the year with the finished album. It will, of course, depend on what we can actually do. We all have day jobs, of course, so we have to take that into account. I also have my stuff with Drakkar to do and all those kind of things. But I have been inactive for such a long time, concerning music, so I want to kind of make up for that and do as much as possible right now. Also, this ten years, I might have only put out a few songs, but I have been writing lots of material, so I really have lots of things in the closet are waiting to come out.
CROMCarl: It’s funny you say that, because one of those recent interviews that you just posted, you had indicated that you pretty much have the next Drakkar album done.
Dario: Yeah (laughs)
CROMCarl: So…my question is are we looking at next year or the year after for the next Drakkar?
Dario: Yeah, we are talking about trying to record it by the end of this year, more or less, and the beginning of 2013, so we are aiming to have it out before the end of 2013. Of course, with Drakkar you never know, so…(laughs). But that is the plan we have at the moment, right Dave?
CROMCarl: Well, just don’t wait another ten years. Dave, were you aware that Dario had the whole album written already? Or did you just learn this now? (Laughs)
Davide: The whole album?
Dario: (Laughs) No, Carl is just joking. We work in a way where actually I write kind of a skeleton of each song and then we work on it all together. So, as much as skeletons in the closet go….(laughs)…I have lots!
CROMCarl: Yeah, David, what Dario didn’t tell you was that he had the whole thing written and Luca is going to sing (laughs)!
Davide: Ok, I said I am a friend of Luca, but….
CROMCarl: Now back to Crimson Dawn, are you working with My Kingdom Music on that as well? Are they interested in putting that out?
Dario: Well, actually, we haven’t really thought about the label, so far. Of course, with the relationship I have with Francesco and My Kingdom Music, they will be the first that I will talk to, because they also do quite a lot of good doom metal…they have very good doom metal bands on their roster, so I will definitely talk with them. But, we are still too early to think about that. Before that, we have to finish the album properly and see how it turns out. I am confident that it will be a good work, so let’s hope it can be released like we hope to, of course.
CROMCarl: Ok, so you tapped me out of my questions. So I will actually ask the questions that I absolutely LOVE (a/k/a hate) to ask any band…..is there anything else you would like to tell readers about Drakkar?
Dario: Well, I have been talking way too much, so I think I will let Dave take this…(laughs)
Davide: (Laughs) Me too, just enjoy the CD. I hope you like it! Visit us on www.drakkar.it and tell us what you think!
CROMCarl: That’s it…..that’s all you got….? Dario….can you make up for this?
Dario: (Laughs). Basically, we have been talking about pretty much everything. I just hope that people will like the album and will have a good listen to it. What I really would like people to do for this one…to really enjoy it, I think you have to take your time. Sit down with it, open the booklet, read the story, read the lyrics and follow it through. It was being constructed as a real voyage. It is a whole trip through different eras and different styles and everything. I don’t think it is for the “fast food” music listeners (laughs)…it is for people who really want to sit down and enjoy the album from start to finish and listen to it with an open mind and delve into it a little bit. It is great, because those are the kind of records that you end up listening to after many years, usually. The more “throw away stuff,” you might enjoy for a month or two and then it is forgotten. I think this one can be an album that you can enjoy for a long time. So, I just hope that people will take the time to sit down and listen to it and if they like it, buy it. We all know that many people will be listening to it without buying it! Let’s hope that at least 10% of them buy the record actually (laughs).
Davide: For me, the important thing is that they listen to our music, really. We are not looking to money or stuff like that, we just want people to listen to our music.
Dario: If we were looking for money, we were sadly mistaken….(laughs)
CROMCarl: Dario, just admit to me now that the only reason you don’t have your webcam on during this interview is because you don’t want to show the palatial estate that you have (Laughs).
Dario: (Laughs) Actually, I don’t want you to see the bat cave like I said (Laughs).
Davide: Dario, you love to be in front of Skype naked (Laughs).
Dario: Yeah (laughs)
CROMCarl: As far as I am concerned, the bat cave is a pretty damn technological masterpiece! You are hiding something….you just want people to believe it is not just about the money! Then you see the pillars in front of the house…..(laughs)
Dario: (Laughs) Yeah, I also have a swimming pool full of coins! (Laughs)….like Uncle Scrooge.
CROMCarl: Well this has been a sincere pleasure. As I look at my recorder, I have an hour and thirty minutes to transcribe. You see why I didn’t want to make you do this by email?
Dario: (Laughs) For once, I am not the one who writes it out!
Davide: Sorry for my English!
Dario: It is always a pleasure Carl! Let me take this chance to talk to you personally and thank you for the review, which was great. It was very deep and well written and I am so glad you liked the record, really.
CROMCarl: Thanks guys!
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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