(Greek writer John Sleepwalker returns to NCS with an in-depth interview of Deathmaster, frontman of Italy’s DoomSword, shortly before their appearance at Greece’s Up The Hammers Festival. Themes in the interview span the band’s entire epic metal career, as well as the status of DoomSword’s work on a new record. A Greek version of this interview originally appeared at Avopolis.gr.)
DoomSword haven’t released a new album since The Eternal Battle (2011). A wait that has been quite long, I must say. When should we expect the new opus? Have you been writing/rehearsing any new material?
Hi John, I hope you are well. To your first question I can answer that I do not have a precise timeline for the release of a new album, but works are underway. The guys in Italy are rehearsing and I am continuing with the songwriting. Therefore, I expect that completing the album is a matter of months. As for the long absence: I had in fact an album ready (and enough ideas for 2 albums, I would say), but if you let compositions sit for a while, then when you go back to them, you may feel dissatisfied with what you had. It may be because your mind has evolved, or because you are not in the same mood and want to express other emotions on your next album. Either way, what you have is unsuitable.
I wasn’t in Italy to rehearse with the guys for more than 2 years, so when I finally concentrated on the new album, I decided to start from scratch. That’s not to say that everything I had is to be trashed, but I am simply going in a different direction now, one of a rediscovery of our roots. If you were in Athens for the show in which we supported Warlord and had a chance to listen to “God of War”, then you would have listened to what the new album in 2013 might have sounded like! So, we have a new album on the go now, with different ideas and different themes.
DoomSword have always been heavily influenced by epic themes. Is there some particular storyline you haven’t used that we should expect for a future release? How important do you think lyrics are in your case and how well should they bind to the atmosphere of the songs?
One of the things that bothers me a bit about The Eternal Battle is that the music, in certain parts, is not as dark and introspective as the lyrics are. Therefore, the binding you talk about did not really happen, as the atmosphere and lyrics were at times misaligned, or more than I could accept anyway. Lyrics are vital. A song is the musical representation of its lyrics, otherwise it’s just entertainment. While we do not take ourselves so seriously, we do not want to release tracks in which the lyrics are tragic and the music is happy.
As for new themes, they are practically infinite. You cannot dispatch a theme as used because you wrote a couple of songs about it. For example, I only touched on the border conflicts between Germanic tribes and the Roman Empire in Varusschlacht, so I would never say that I exhausted the “Germanic tribes vs Romans” theme. I could possibly base the entire career of a band on that theme alone, seeing that it spans over centuries of conflicts and battles. So, if we bundle into major themes, e.g., “celts”, “vikings”, “elric”, then yes there are still some missing from the DoomSword discography that can be used.
One of them is the Langobard theme, which is very dear to DoomSword as we are from Lombardy. This is going to appear on our next album, specifically in a song regarding the Hildebrandslied, the earliest piece of Germanic literature dealing with a tragic Langobardic story that occurred – according to the poem – in Northern Italy around the VIth century. I also believe we only brushed on the whole Arthurian theme with a brief mention of the sword Excalibur in “Claidheamh Solais (Sword of Light)”. On the next album, I will be including a song about the final clash between Arthur and Mordred, father and son, as a parallel to the Hildebrandslied (also a “father and son fighting each other” story).
A new theme, never included before, is the mythology of the Warhammer universe, something that is very dear to me since I used to play WFRP 20 years ago. My first band was also called Warhammer. And finally, we only referenced Conan (without explicitly mentioning him) in “Days of High Adventure”, but I feel the character deserves countless compositions dedicated to him. So, we’re going to make a start on this on the new album with a song about a Conan story. I won’t reveal which just yet.
As far as I know, DoomSword’s existing vinyl releases have been selling for inflated prices. Plus, some of your releases have never been out on this format before. Do you have any vinyl reissues in the cards, and if you do, what should we expect in regards to editions?
Dragonheart is not allowing us to reissue the vinyls ourselves. You will have to wait and see if and when they put them out.
What album would you cite as the highlight of DoomSword’s discography and for what reason? I would probably pick Resound The Horn, as it was my personal gateway to the band — among many others.
I always liked that there is no agreement on the best DoomSword album among DoomSword fans. I like them all, naturally, and it’s difficult to pick a highlight. There is probably a hypothetical one, which would be My Name Will Live On with a better recording. Plus, so far, I would say the next album is looking good.
How well do you think your voice is preserved nowadays? I imagine the older you grow, the more you need to take care of yourself. You always delivered very powerful and epic vocals, at the same time. What advice would you give to new singers?
My voice is doing very well lately, while I don’t do anything in particular to take care of it. Maybe I should, but in my experience it is less important to take care of it than it is to ensure you are not damaging it (which – at one time – is what I was doing). The first thing to realise as a singer is that you are your own person, with your own voice. Other singers may be completely out of your realms of vocal possibilities, because they possibly have better technique. Most importantly, their throat and mouth and vocal chords are physiologically different from yours, so they can do things that you cannot. Just as you can do things they cannot do.
The second most important advice is to learn good habits. Go to vocal lessons that teach you to use your singing devices correctly, because if you don’t, you will most likely develop bad habits that can ruin your voice — maybe even irreparably. I have gone through a similar experience, when I damaged my voice for a while, around 2008. It took me a long time to return to a good level of form, but it was really the lessons I took from Gianni Nepi (of Dark Quarterer) that changed my life, because it made me understand I could achieve a lot more with a lot less effort and without destroying my vocal folds.
Metal singers are in my opinion under a much greater pressure than those of other genres. Where your classic mainstream singer can get away with using maybe 1 or 2 octave ranges, singers in metal are expected to use 3 or 4. Some crazy singers like Midnight are even spanning 5.
In my humble opinion, DoomSword’s sound differs from that of other Italian bands. Your approach sounds very mature and concise at the same time. What do you have in mind before writing a new record and what bands of the Italian scene would you recommend to our readers?
I don’t have a set process I follow, but there are a few standard ways I begin writing music: one is to look at a painting. I find paintings very inspiring, easy to represent in music, especially because I have my own “colour code” if you know what I mean. Dark tones represent lower notes and light tones higher notes. This has been the case for all the paintings I used as a cover. It’s funny though, I just noticed “tones” is an anagram of “notes”.
Other source of inspirations are literature and movies, but I would consider myself pretty standard in the way I compose. I am especially attracted by tragic stories: throughout the years we have reiterated many times that we do not glorify war, rather we highlight the dramatic and negative aspects of it. I think we have a healthy admiration for courage and bravery, without instigating conflict.
As for Italian bands, there are plenty bands I like. My favourite Italian production is probably the Wotan demo Thunderstorm. But I think your readers are more knowledgeable of Italian metal than I am.
Moreover, in contrast to other regions, the Italian scene has always been highly popular on Greek grounds. What would you cite as the main reasons for that?
I believe there are commonalities between Italian and Greek culture, especially in regards to the attention and respect that is given to the culture of our ancestors. Greeks and Romans constitute the entirety of what is historically considered the “Classical Antiquity”. While Roman culture evolved from Greek, it later developed into a very strong and separate identity. So, maybe this heritage is somehow still alive within us and maybe there is a certain mass-subconscious that is aware of this -hence why there is – I believe – a reciprocal appreciation. Italians love Greek metal, or at least I am under that impression.
DoomSword have been releasing thoroughly solid albums for a matter of 20 years. How important do you think it is that every song on the record is good?
Very important, in fact vital. DoomSword do not have fillers. If I don’t feel very strongly about the theme of a song, I won’t write about it. And if I am satisfied that the lyrics, or a musical idea, are good enough to become a classic, or at the very least a DoomSword classic, then I will only publish the track if the lyrics (or music) that matches it is good enough.
If you had the chance to go back in DoomSword’s history and change something you did, what would that be? Maybe the production on My Name Will Live On?
You know, I’ll keep this answer short. The production of MNWLO is essentially the only thing I would change. I am positive that the quality of the recording out of the studio was less than optimal, but the real disaster occurred at the mastering phase. All I know is that we delivered the recording to our label and when we received the CD it sounded muffled and dark. It was quite upsetting, and to be frank, I am still in denial of it, as I tell myself everything is fine.
Also, to an extent, I would have preferred some better preparation as a band before recording TEB. I believe that misalignment I was talking about at the beginning of the interview would have been resolved, or at least mitigated.
You are about to take part in the upcoming Up The Hammers festival scheduled for the 25 & 26 of May in Athens. What are your thoughts about the show and what should people expect? Is there any band participating you are most looking forward to sharing the stage with?
UTH is going to be incredible, the entire line-up of bands is fantastic, and fans can expect DoomSword to raise hell, especially with the return of Geilt on bass after a period of absence. We are going to make it special for our Greek fans. Plus, as far as the rest of the line-up, where to begin? Attika, Emerald, Saracen… all are incredible bands!
I’m really looking forward to Northwind, as I love Mythology and I think they are one of the best bands to originate from Greece. Manilla Road will crush as always, and of course, there’s the metal event of the century, Heavy Load returning for a live show. Metal History!