(Our Russian guest writer Comrade Aleks returns with a wide-ranging interview of the very articulate guitarist for an Italian doom band named Fangs of the Molossus.)
Fangs Of The Molossus are a psych-doom metal band from the Florence area. This bunch of doom-occultists have been doing their sinister deals since 2011, yet the band’s debut self-titled work was released only in July of 2013. Fangs Of The Molossus’ album represents some of most recognizable features of the Italian doom scene – the stuff sounds mystic, slow, and progressive, with that good well-known horror-vibe of the local scene. Ancient Roman and Etruscan history and mythology, early 70’s horror movies, escapism conception, science fiction literature, a Beksinski painting, and a comic book by Hideshi Hin are all reflected in Fangs Of The Molossus songs. Count J. Vendetta (guitars) reveals some secrets of muscial occultism from Florence.
Hello Count Vendetta! Fangs Of The Molossus released a self-titled album in July of 2013. What has happened in the band’s life since that moment? Do you already concentrate on the writing of new stuff or still watch listeners’ reaction to the debut LP?
Hi, and thanks for contacting us: it’s always nice to get in touch with people from different places and with different cultural backgrounds. Since the self-produced album came out we have spent some time writing new material (three or four new songs, depending on how satisfied we will be in the end), we’ve played a few gigs with other Italian bands, like Caronte and Shinin’ Shade, and opened for Mondo Generator at Castellina Musica W, last August. Then the “I Drink Your Blood” single was released. The rest is recent history: trying to understand how to move for the second full-length release and considering some offers from small independent Italian labels.
Okay, and what’s now? Do you feel a right direction to move further with Fangs of the Molossus?
We have two urges at the moment. On the one hand we feel it would be cool to strengthen our sound even further. On the other we’d like to experiment with psychedelic passages more than we’ve done on the debut CD. The challenge is to keep these two different souls united and make the songs work. Sometimes I notice that bands that dare doing so get a bit lost and they don’t sound tight, in the long run. That’s why we discarded something that we initially liked: it sounded good by itself, but either too ethereal or just too straightforward and hard, when combined with the other songs we had. It’s hard to explain if and why you think a song works, anyway: it has more to do with instinct than reason.
Molossus is a very capacious term. It means – first of all – a genus of bat, but also an extinct breed of dog and even a metrical foot used in Greek and Latin poetry. There’s a bat muzzle on the artwork of your self-titled long-play and there’s a kind of dog on the cover of the I Drink Your Blood EP. Don’t you also want to add Latin poetry into your songs to make this conception whole and… intellectual?
Hey, you make me so happy! Really. Thanks for getting into this detail that many others skipped. When I came up with the name “Fangs Of The Molossus” I thought there would be no mystery, because “molosso” (molossus) should be quite a common term in Italian language, so I thought it would be clear what the band’s name means from day one… But, believe it or not, I haven’t found many people around here who have an idea about it.
Anyway… yes, it is quite a broad-spectrum term, as you correctly said. But this time I am the ignorant one, since I didn’t know that its meaning referred to Latin metrics! Shame on me (and hooray for Wikipedia), for I’ve studied Latin for five years at high school… Well, some Latin words were used by our former singer on the record and it could be a good idea for future songs as well. As a part of our historical roots, it would certainly add something meaningful and unique. The only problem is that we could hardly do anything better in Latin than what Mario Di Donato has already done, with his band The Black. Oh, before I forget… the one on the CD cover is a dog too: it’s “Zoltan, the hound of Dracula”, from the 70’s movie of same title. A very bad movie, before you ask…
There’re not too much vocally-oriented songs on the album. Is it your goal to focus on the songs’ melodies and sound instead of the lyrical part and vocals?
It is our goal to focus on the music first. Vocals are part of it, and people should take them as just another instrument: on some songs you may like to hear a flute, or some dark synth pads, but no one is forcing you to use everything every single time. Same thing with vocals. The only rule is “use it only if it fits and you like it”. So it may happen that some songs have very brief vocal lines, obsessive repetitions, effected vocals, or no vocals at all. For us, songs are sonic paintings that should suggest, inspire, move one’s soul; not describe, or necessarily tell a story. We definitely see music closer to poetry than to prose. And there is no room for unnecessary words in poetry.
Members of the old Italian black-metal band Necromass did help you to record some tracks of the album. What were the reasons for that sinister collaboration?
We’ve been friends with some of them for years, and live in the same area. Even though there are evident stylistic differences between us, we thought that black metal vocals and JC Chaos’ guitar style could both work on a couple of our songs. Of course, aside from the gloomy atmosphere and the evil approach, our music has little to share with black metal, especially in terms of speed and brutality. It’s always interesting to see what happens when different genres “touch” each other, though. We tried and we think it worked. It could be done again in the future, even with new guests from rather different bands. In this case too, if we like the result, we’ll do it. In Necromass’ case we were also particularly honored by their availability, because their name is highly respected in the Italian underground scene, so we can consider that a great favor that, sooner or later, we must return somehow, haha…
Your I Drink Your Blood EP has only shortened version of two songs from “Fangs Of The Molossus”. What did you expect to gain with such release? What is the difference between the LP and EP versions of these songs?
Single edit versions are shorter, to fit the seven-inch storage capability, and they are only sung by our former singer Acid King Khanjia. The album versions are the ones that host the special appearances of Ain Soph Aour and JC Chaos. We particularly love vinyl and wanted to have one release in that format too, even if (as it happened) it was self-financed. Since we had those two songs in both versions, we decided to use the “all Fangs” versions for that format. It’s kind of a gift to ourselves, and something that vinyl lovers can appreciate too. Adding that those versions are exclusive to the vinyl release and that it’s limited and comes in three colors, some crazy guy who really likes us might find it cool. Well… we hope!
Black Widow’s roster is extremely limited, but it’s one of the labels that we are considering for the next release. Unfortunately the point is that, famous label or not (and, within this genre, your range of activities is always very limited anyway), most of them offer new bands more or less the same: you record everything by yourself, then you pay the label to put their little brand on your record, they pay for a couple of magazine ads, give you back a few copies of your record, and that’s that (and maybe they will re-release it in years to come, without telling you anything, and not giving you anything).
In the “good old days” this would have been called a rip-off. Now it’s the rule, also because of the music industry crisis. Labels are little more than press offices. Plus, there are no real big labels interested in a niche market like this, and the smaller the niche is, the more they make you feel like they’re doing you a “favor”. So it’s easy to realize that self-production, together with some DIY online promotion, is more than an “option”: it becomes almost mandatory. That’s what we have done so far, and Zoltan Records is nothing but ourselves and our records. We decided to keep operating this way until (and unless) someone shows a little interest in our music and they have something to offer for it. If they do, then good. If they don’t, we go ahead. Luckily the same digital technology that destroyed the music industry (as it was) is the same that has allowed musicians to by-pass smart corporate parasites and independently release music like never before. Two sides of the same coin.
Some of the songs deal with really interesting subjects, for example, “Caligula”. The band’s Facebook profile tells us that no one expects cocky social commentary or political commitment from a doom outfit, but as old and good Ekklesiast wrote: “There’s nothing new under the sun”. We have our modern caligulas, little napoleons, and other dudes. Didn’t you regard this song from that point of view? Why did the image of Caligula attract your attention?
There are many aspects indeed. Caligula, Nero, Heliogabalus, and many other emperors have been judged by men, and that judgment turned to history. But several exaggerations, biased by both pagan and Christian later analyses, have crystallized a negative fame that is not entirely deserved. One of the most important sources in Roman history, the “Historia Augusta”, is largely unreliable and full of lies and defamatory descriptions. Obviously this is not to say that Caligula was a legendary and glorious leader, as he was not. We liked what Caligula’s name implies and inspires, including those exaggerated myths.
We were not moved by an explicit political instance, but it’s damn true that historical figures like him evoke more recent nuts that have drowned us in the mud. Pretentious clowns like Berlusconi, to name one, can only do harm to their people. But let’s not forget that people have the leaders they deserve. As with Hitler’s rise between WWI and WWII: he did not pop out of nowhere, and many books analyze the consent (or silent acceptance) his regime got from the middle class of the time. When you accept anything, no matter what motivates you, you just can’t complain later. That’s why we should all keep our eyes open to the Caligulas we find entertaining and maybe even “funny” today. Tomorrow could be too late to go backwards. As Huxley ends up suggesting in Brave New World, once compared with Orwell’s 1984, what we like can sometimes harm us even more than what we fear. It’s “panem et circenses”, with all it implies.
I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but there are some novels that I’d like to use as an inspiration for single songs, or maybe an entire concept album. Not science fiction, though. Two titles that come to my mind are Hunger, by Knut Hamsun, and The Stranger, by Albert Camus. I adored the desperate sense of “hanging on a string” typical of the former and the ineluctable alienation described by the latter. Two different kinds of loneliness and isolation, both deep and very human. If it weren’t for Metallica (the real Metallica…) I would say also Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. Too late, unfortunately…
And what is a role of escapism theory in Fangs Of The Molossus’ artistic vision?
We used that term in our bio because that is what we think music is: an escape, the search for a way out. Inner or outer space, fantasy or reason, it doesn’t matter: music is some sort of “elsewhere”. Hopefully, a better place. Certainly, a place where you are the one who makes the rules.
Florence was one of centers of European civilization in the 13th-17th centuries, a city of ancient history and cultural legacy. Do you feel a kind of responsibility before your audience as you represent your city through the music? Or is Florence not so positive an influence on the art of modern men?
Florence has a heritage beyond question. Its modern appeal, though, is almost non-existent. And I’m not referring to a technological kind of modernity; that I wouldn’t fancy anyway. It’s just that Florence, over the last century, has been led and lived like nothing but a bell glass, to preserve the past and feed on tourism. One can reasonably claim that all that is good in Florence is dead. And not even well kept. Contemporary arts here are either mere exercises in style, or pathological cases of modern day nerds’ self-absorption. Like fashion: it appears, everyone talks about it, then it dies and leaves nothing. It’s easy to see the difference between the breed of futile “artists” of today (that lot includes architects, too) and their noble predecessors.
So, all in all, if we have to represent a self-centered, pretentious dead city, well, there’s nothing to be happy about! It’s way better to think of what Florence has meant in the Renaissance. Maybe we will consider some old stories regarding our hometown, for future lyrics. Something not so well-known and, of course, coherent within a doom context. We do like the folklore and local myths of our Country, which is full of anecdotes and surreal figures. It’s not accidental that one of the tracks we are working on right now covers old religious rituals held in Molise (a southern, not so well known, Italian region). And we already “paid our dues” to southern Italy with the instrumental track “O Fera Flagella” that you can find on the CD. That was inspired by a similar religious ceremony that only survives in some small towns in Calabria (another southern region).
You did play in a lot of bands before Fangs Of The Molossus, so is it just another temporary project for you or are you striving to achieve the top of the Italian doom pedestal? Though I bet that Abysmal Grief will not give up their throne 🙂
It’s a full-time thing, even though the term “full” needs to take into account the fact that we all have jobs, or families, that require a lot of attention, especially in these troubled times. But it’s a real band: no “side project” or experimental “one-off”. Certainly Abysmal Grief’s throne can be considered safe, because they’ve been around for a lot longer than us, and they have a precious element in their online promoter, a nice guy we talked to through Facebook who really does the best he can to help the band. It will be hard to achieve their status, but who knows?
The doom scene here, although small, is quite vital. There are both traditional doom metal bands and acts that try to merge the doom mood with different styles. We appreciate the old school sound of bands such as Misantropus, Focus Indulgens, Doomraiser (the most “metal” of the lot), L’Impero Delle Ombre (with their peculiar 70’s atmospheres and the use of Italian lyrics), our friends Funeral Marmoori, and Caronte (one of the few doom bands in Italy to have a great vocalist with a really unique style). Everyone tries to vary the original formula with something personal.
As for what we may have to fit this scene, I’d say the metal crunch, fused with an open-minded approach to composition. By enhancing the psychedelic passages, occasionally daring with unusual instruments and arrangements, and not limiting ourselves to the already acquired “Electric Wizard” standards, I think we can find our little place in this scene, close to those names, but not to the point of sounding exactly like them. After all, the first CD is always just a starting point: we’ll aim at something higher next time, no matter what it will sound like. As long as it is slow, chilling, and evocative, we know it will be OK.
Thank you for interview Count! Would you like to share a few more thoughts with our readers?
Thank you, Aleksey. Message is simple, and not even that original: keep listening to the music you like. Ignore labels and silly sub-genre names: it’s good music when you only decide so, independently from what magazines and other “cool people” say. There are so many ways to get to know new cool bands that it would be a shame to skip some, only because we don’t want to waste our precious time, giving them a chance and actually listening to them. Be curious!