Fleshgod Apocalypse: The Spectacular Armageddon
Italian symphonic tech-death metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse on their plans for
BIG69 Festival in Mumbai and realizing their dream of performing with an orchestra
Italians and opera are like fish to water. But what Perugia-based technical death metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse draws from opera goes beyond the theatrics. Vocalist-guitarist Tommaso Riccardi says they draw from classical music structures in their riff progressions, operatic vocals and nothing less than a grand piano for some of their arrangements. Fleshgod Apocalypse’s music stands out from the rest of the symphonic metal in that it is a breakneck mix of metal and opera. Says Riccardi, “I think it’s very connected to our heritage as Italians and classical music in general. It makes it a bit different from other symphonic metal bands, that maybe have a”¦ let’s say gothic approach and more dark. In some way, we have progressions that are very connected to actual classical period, especially the Romantic period.” They’ve been touring with operatic vocalist Veronica Bordacchini since 2011 and roped in pianist Francesco Ferrini in 2010 to handle string arrangements and orchestral effects. Says Riccardi about the band’s symphonic influence, “Randomly, on a winter afternoon, it was like 2007, so I was still not in the band but I was working with Francesco [Paoli, founding member and drummer] because we were really good friends. I remember he was coming out with this kind of riffing and I was like, ”˜Okay, this is very interesting. This kind of progression from classical music fitting into metal’. From that point, everything developed.”
But that was just the first step. Riccardi says there was much more experimentation inÂvolved in establishing the sound that FleshÂgod Apocalypse presents today, and then there was the bigger task of overcoming the economically weak arts and culture scene, which lacks government funds due to the current recession to make it big in Europe. Presently on tour with Finnish melodic death metallers Insomnium, Riccardi says he wishes for a more supportive country. “It’s not easy. On the other hand, it’s good to see that the credibility of Fleshgod ApocÂalypse as a band has increased. This year , we had our first headlining tour. We’ve seen a lot of things starting to change for us, at least, because we’ve been working very hard. From that point of view, we’re very satisfied.” They’re also touring different parts of the world including China early in 2014. Fleshgod Apocalypse make their way to India for the first edition of the two-day metal festival BIG69 in Mumbai between January 17th and 18th. Says Riccardi about playing in India, “We can’t wait to see this country. We’re very excited about it.”
RS: Looks like I caught you guys on the first day of your tour. How is it going?
Tommaso Riccardi: After a while, I alÂways start missing the touring, actually. Even if we’ve been touring a lot, I like it. I’m always pretty excited ”” it’s like the first day of a new adventure.
What is your schedule like for the rest of the year?
When we come back from this one, I think we will start working on new material. We have a lot of ideas going on. I don’t think we’ll completely stop playing gigs, though. Either way, we’ll concentrate on writing. There are a few things we know for 2015: [Going to] India, for example. We’re playing a festival in Spring and we’re doing a festiÂval in South Africa and we’re working on a few other things.
What led you guys to consider a show in India?
First of all, I think India, like China, is one of those new markets for metal that are opening their gates. A lot of things are going on. These are also markets for the future, in some way. There are a lot of people who lisÂten to metal music in those countries and yet only few bands have played there. We alÂready had a very good experience in China. We’re pretty excited to play these places. We really like to see places in general. It’s obviÂously part of our job, but it’s a chance to see a lot of different places. I was very fascinated by India since I was a kid. [laughs].
You took over vocal duties from Francesco [Paoli] in 2009. It seems like he’s done everything for this band, going from guitars to vocals to drums now.
[laughs] It is a pretÂty great story, because he started almost from nothÂing. The point is, when you do things, you need to know what you want and need to do. Francesco is very aware for what is needed for the music itself. This is why he’s been playing very many inÂstruments during his exÂperience in music because he needs to have very wide vision on what he does. When he realized being beÂhind the drums would be a chance not only to have a drummer who plays the songs, but also have a drummer who does the conception of the music. That’s better than hiring somebody who is not into the music we’re composing. It’s very good for the rest of us, because it took him a while to reach the proper level, but now he’s one of the best. It’s amazing playing with him. It’s good to know that the guy behind the drums is one of the main guys behind the music.
You also have VeronÂica Bordacchini joining you live for most shows as a touring vocalist. Is she going to be on the next album?
She started singing in the albums since Agony , so the first time we introÂduced her to our music was during the recordings. She’s been playing live with us for about a year-and-a-half now. Of course, she’s going to be present in our next recording and also on stage. Until now, we had some tours like Japan in which we couldn’t bring her. It was just the matter of fact that when you have to go very far, you have to lower your budget. The final focus is to have the same production everywhere we go in the world, so we are now trying to bring her for every show we do. It’s a very important element for the show, musically and visually, for us as a band.
Speaking of the visual element, what do you have in mind for India?
I think that what we will try to do is bring Veronica. I’m 90 percent sure we’re coming with the full lineup. [But] there are still a few things we can’t afford to bring with us when we go so far. If you saw the Wacken Open Air shows, we had CO2 Geysers and a lot of strobes and of course, the piano, which is now a trademark for Fleshgod. For this kind of single show [BIG69], it’s very hard to bring all this stuff. We obviously have to reduce a bit on the production, but with reÂgards to the theatrical elements, it’s very connected to the people who are on stage ”“ the way we play the songs and act on stage. I think that is still very strong even when we don’t have the full thing. I think it’s safe to say that we will bring Fleshgod Apocalypse, we will bring the energy that we have just because we are Fleshgod. This is us.
Watch Fleshgod Apocalypse’s full set at Wacken Open Air
What stage are you at with the new album right now?
We actually are at the very start. If you think about it, Labyrinth  is out since just one year and three months. Not much time has passed since Labyrinth. On the other hand, we already have many ideas with regards to the concept and we have a lot of riffs here and there, but this is the acÂtual start of the composition process. Now is the moment we start writing down stuff and start pre-production. So it’s going to take time. I actually can’t say if the album is going to be out in 2015 or 2016. We take our time to do that, because we’re very picky when it comes to music.
Is it going to be a concept album as well?
About the new one, I can’t speak about anything [laughs]. It’s pretty much top seÂcret, but I can tell you that we’re going deepÂer into things. We pretty much know what the concept is going to be. Like in the past, there’s going to be something that connects the whole story, the whole visual. That’s how we like to do this. When we’re thinking about writing, there’s always something that changes in the process. Even when we have a certain idea, things can really change from the beginning to the end of the process.
How did the operatic element in FleshÂgod’s music come about? Was it drawing from existing symphonic metal or purely from Italian opera?
I think it’s those two things combined ”“ the symphonic and orchestral elements exÂisting in metal and the opera stuff. I can clearly remember the first time we were looking at opera elements in our music. Randomly, on a winter afternoon, it was like 2007, so I was still not in the band but I was working with Francesco and we were really good friends at the time. I remember he was coming out with this kind of riffing and I was like, ”˜Okay, this is very interestÂing. This kind of progression from classical music fitting into metal’. From that point, everything developed. It takes a long time to define all the little elements that make the sound of a band and these things only come with experience and with a lot of attempts, a lot of mistakes. Things you put down and you don’t like and want to change. It’s been a very instinctive and long process to start from there. I think like many people say, our approach to symphonic elements is really different from a lot of other bands.
So does that mean you’d one day like to perform with an orchestra?
Of course! That’s one of our first biggest goals. It’s always good to have dreams on this side. It’s also normal that it will probÂably take time to do that, because it’s very complex. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s just one of our dreams, so why not? I think it’s gonna happen, it’s just a matter of time. The only thing that doesn’t make it easy at this point of time is that, unfortunately, in Italy, it’s not a big place for this kind of music unÂlike northern Europe, for example. It’s not easy even economically to be helped by the state, for example as it happens very often in Norway, Sweden or Finland, where they have a much more professional approach to this kind of stuff, even from the state itself.
You mentioned in an interview back in 2011 that the Italian metal scene was not in a very good place. Has it improved?
From the general point of view, no, it hasn’t, unfortunately. It’s also because the economic crisis in Europe has been one of those elements that hasn’t improved. There’s still a lot of problems with the economy and jobs. These are exactly the kind of things that create problems, especially in art and music business that’s less essential for the people. It’s not easy.
This article appeared in the January 2015 issue of ROLLING STONE India.
Fleshgod Apocalypse performs at BIG69 on January 17th at Richardson and Cruddas, Mumbai. Buy tickets here.