Italian symphonic death metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse are riding high in 2016 following the release of their fourth album King, and are in the midst of major tour in support of the release.
RUSHONROCK’s Richard Holmes caught up with vocalist/guitarist Tommaso Riccardi, plus lead axeman Cristiano Trionfera, at Hammerfest VIII last month, to get the lowdown on their breakthrough year, their unique visual style… and if they could be the next Rammstein.
RUSHONROCK: You recently completed a headline tour in the UK – how is the band been received in this country, compared to your earlier days?
TOMMASO RICCARDI: It has been amazing, with very big growth during the last two or three years. I still remember the first gigs we played to small crowds in 2009 and last year we were headlining the second stage at Bloodstock – that gives you an idea. We have had such great support from the UK and see a lot of people showing up at the clubs.
RUSHONROCK: Why do you think the UK metal scene ‘gets’ Flesh Apocalypse?
TR: What gets people attracted to our band is that we are adding so many elements, we like so many different types of music and we are really putting a lot of musical knowledge into what we do. We really try to put more and more personality into our sound – maybe it’s this personality and the fact that we have these kind of elements bound together that people like the most.
It started from death metal but it is becoming something else, that’s the interesting part, even for ourselves – we are discovering things and surprising ourselves. We are very curious. I think that’s the secret, not just getting stuck into one idea but being open to what you like and feel that it’s right to do.
Obviously it is normal that not everyone likes the direction of the band or understands it but you can’t make everyone happy – you just have to be yourself.
RUSHONROCK: You have a very distinctive visual style on stage and in your photo shoots. How important is that in marking you out as a ‘different’ band?
TR: It’s really important to us. In 2016 there are so many shows, so many bands, so many things going on in music that when I go to a show I really like that idea of a show that is actually a ‘show,’ not just music, but something that gives you a very wide experience.
We conceive our music from a visual point of view, all connected to the lyrics, the video clips and the artwork, so we are actually a conceptual band – our form of art is both musical and visual, we can never think of it in a disconnected way. The look that we have on stage and the kind of show we put on is not just us wearing costumes, it’s representing our music. You have the chance to have a more complete experience when you come to one of our shows.
RUSHONROCK: Do you feel that a band’s personality – and visual identity – can get lost in the digital age?
TR: There is dark side and a light side (to the digital era). With streaming, you get the chance to check out so many different things and discover different music. But of course you also get lost there… that’s also why we put a lot of invention into pushing the band on the visual side and putting out albums that make sense as an ‘album’, not just one song and the rest is filler.
CRISTIANO TRIONFERA: I think the main thing that has changed is the attention period, the time people actually focus on one thing – it’s a thousand things at the same time. It’s a lot more distracting so what you need to do as an artist is take care of everything that can actually keep the attention level high.
TR: That’s why we really work on the personality of the band, on the concept, because that’s the thing that can make the difference – the fact that you have that idea and stay true to that idea of yourself. If you do that it pays off.
We work really hard in rehearsals and are perfectionists with many things. But we have energy are not the kind of band to stay still to pick the perfect note – we prefer to make a few mistakes! I really think that most of the people come to our shows see that we are a group of friends doing what we believe in. The people inside the project are so important, it’s this energy that passes through, something more than the music. We are a group of friends more than we are a band we fight for everything – you feel (on stage) that next to you is a friend, not just another musician.
CT: I saw on TV that they were showing the Arctic Monkeys performing at a festival and I was so disappointed, they were absolutely not in the mood… or they looked like they weren’t. I actually think they are a good band, when they came out at first I thought they were fresh. But then I saw them live and at that exact moment I lost interest. You need to make it memorable – it’s not just about ‘this is a good song’ anymore.
RUSHONROCK: In comparison with many other European countries, Italy isn’t known as a hotbed of extreme metal. How had that affected your career?
CT: It’s extremely difficult but we have been lucky in a way. We formed nine years ago and started touring eight years ago internationally and that gives us a bit of experience. Being Italian, people look at us with a bit of suspicion… because it’s not exactly usual (in extreme metal). On the other side it was a good thing, because there weren’t many bands from our country coming out and saying, ‘ok this is what we do’.
TR: What really hurts me is when you see bands who come from countries who give you money because you are in a band, and they are complaining that they can’t survive and then they go on tour and first thing they do is get on a giant double decker tour bus! We have been driving our own car – not a van, a car – in the US for years, playing every night, then 800km with switches of two hours sleeping, not having showers.
Most of the Italian population don’t even know of the existence of metal and thinking of drawing on support from the Government is totally science fiction. But we never complained about it we just did it, if you choose to do something that is your responsibility, you could choose something else – we knew what we were doing.
CT: Scandinavian countries invest in their own artists, which is a very good thing. It has been more difficult for us because we are not in a country that actually invests – it can’t afford it or it doesn’t want to. I think that the path we have chosen has been difficult, it is difficult, it will be difficult – but it is still awesome and can be even more so!
RUSHONROCK: With the success of King, is 2016 a breakthrough year for Fleshgod Apocalypse?
TR: This is the first time that we have entered certain charts in different countries and the attention from the label has been good, and we have had a lot of attention from the press.
It’s the first time we have gone on tour and I’ve seen, three or four days after the release date of the album, people singing the choruses – that means that there are fans who are waiting for the album.
RUSHONROCK: So what’s next after this?
CT: We are still growing up as a band and artists, so who knows what’s next? But we want to reach as many people as possible.
TR: The most important thing about the band – the main thing that brought us here – is the fact that we have always been willing to just get better. Fleshgod Apocalypse is a project by people who want to get better at what they do, that really comes out on not just a commercial level but also on a personal level, if it keeps being like that it means that the band is healthy, in every aspect – concentrating on details, listening to the people who are attending the shows…
RUSHONROCK: So are there any bands that you would like to emulate, in terms of success?
TR: We are big fans of Rammstein – that is a huge level (to reach), but still, dreaming is always legal! They put a concept behind the whole band, they’re so meticulous with their video clips and all the stories that they put out, and there’s the grandiosity of their show.
We have always been big fans of Behemoth too, they have brought death metal to the next level. It’s so important that there are bands who do that.
King is out now on Nuclear Blast.