London-based, multinational quintet Calligram scorched the underground in 2020 with their debut album, The Eye Is The First Circle. And they’re set to unleash another abrasive mix of black metal, d-beat and hardcore in July, when their second full-length, Position | Momentum, is released via Prosthetic Records.
As the band geared up for their May 6 show at Newcastle’s Anarchy Brewery, Rich Holmes checked in with vocalist Matteo Rizzardo and drummer Ardo Cotones…

Rich Holmes: How has your sound evolved since you recorded The Eye Is The First Circle? What can we expect from the new Calligram album?

Matteo Rizzardo: Position | Momentum is way more intense than the last one, because we came to terms with what was troubling us on the previous album.

“One thing that everyone told us is that on record, we don’t sound as intense and as furious as we sound live. We have always struggled to put that intensity on record. That was a major issue for us. But this time, I think we managed to capture the energy that we always channel in our concerts.”

RH: Tell us about the lyrical themes behind the new album…

MR: Position | Momentum is a concept that comes from quantum physics. It says that when studying a particle you can’t know its position and its momentum at the same time. We wanted to do an album about chaos. We wanted to celebrate chaos. And I thought the concept would work nicely.

“Life can be tough and painful sometimes. And it’s fine. You don’t have to stress over it and control everything. Just go with the flow.”

RH: You recorded Position | Momentum with producer Russ Russell, who has worked with the likes of Napalm Death and At The Gates. What did he bring to the table?

MR: “He played an important role. He gives you freedom and space, but at the same time he knows better than you do where you want to go. I think he ‘got’ us. He understood what kind of band we are. What kind of people we are. It was easy for him to give us the sound that we were looking for.”

Ardo Cotones: “Working with Russ was really good. He wanted to work with the band from the first contact we had with him. He really liked the music and so by the time we got there, we had demos exchanged with him.

“(While recording the album) we were isolated from reality so we could focus on everything we needed to deliver. I think that’s how we ended up capturing the essence of our live performances.”

RH: You’ve mentioned that the new album sounds more intense than its predecessor. Did you have to push yourselves harder as musicians this time around to achieve this?

AC: “Absolutely. Everyone did. There are a lot of things that aren’t in The Eye Is The First Circle, in terms of drumming. There was a lot of stuff where I really pushed myself to my limits to see if I could do it.  

“I spent at least a month before going to the studio just practising almost every day to be able to go in there and deliver.”

RH: You’re part of a UK extreme music scene that keeps on producing real quality, with the likes of Svalbard, Dawn Ray’d, Hellripper and Mastiff all making major headway in recent years.  What is your perspective on that?

AC: “There are older bands reforming, there are smaller bands as well and new bands coming up all the time.

“Since we released our first album at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a certain scene. And then coming out of the pandemic and while we will still writing our new record, there were a few bands that just started to really come through.

“It’s a different scene now.  There are bands that we played with and used to go and watch a while ago, like Ithaca and Svalbard, who just keep growing, which is great to see.

“And now you have bands like Burner, Celestial Sanctuary, Hidden Mothers and Underdark coming through.

“I think that’s got to do with some of the bigger festivals – such as Damnation – giving opportunities to these bands to play. If you’re in a band and you see a band that’s just a slight stage above where you are, and they’re playing that festival, you know that you can achieve that too.

“I also feel from a Brazilian’s perspective that it’s a lot easier to get things done here, because the scene moves a lot, bands are doing things all the time. So all you need to do is talk to someone, like, ‘Hey, do you want to do some shows together?’ and it’s easy to organise and get a weekend sorted out. And there are people who want to see it.”

RH: You have strong black metal element in your music. Do you see Calligram as part of the UKBM scene?

MR: “I don’t really see our band as a black metal band. I mean, I love black metal but we do what works in the moment.

“There is a lot of variety on the new album. It is obviously extreme and dark, but there are parts that don’t fit into the classic black metal stereotype. Also with the way we act on stage… we don’t really follow the rules of black metal. We are just five nerds doing noise!

“In black metal there has always been an issue with people being close minded. ‘Anything that goes off the rails is shit’ is an attitude that used to be around until 10 or 15 years ago. And that’s quite bizarre because black metal allows for so much experimentation. I think that in metal it’s the genre that allows for the most experimentation. There are so many sub-genres in black metal and every one is interesting in some way. It’s bizarre, the attitude you would get from ‘true’ black metal fans – ‘it’s either this or it’s shit’.”

AC: “If a black metal band wants us to play with them we will be more than up for it if we like them and if we agree that they are not dickheads – because there are a lot of them in black metal!

“(Playing black metal shows) can be a bit of a challenge and can be confusing to people sometimes. We played with The Infernal Sea and Dawn Ray’d in Liverpool and you could tell that people were confused. ‘Do I like this band? Is it black metal?’.”

“If a show has some post metal, some post black metal and some hardcore, that’s where people would see us and not be too confused.

“If the bill has more of one thing or another, then we notice that people are watching and trying to understand what’s going on. But it works for us. That’s exactly how we want the band to grow, for people to understand us for what we are and not what genre we’re trying to fit into.”

RH: Position | Momentum drops on July 14 and 2023 will undoubtedly be a big year for Calligram. Where do you want to take the band?

AC: “When we started talking about doing shows and coming back, we wanted to do support tours with bigger bands. That was the main target. But it’s been proving difficult because post-pandemic, there was a backlog of shows that had been cancelled or rescheduled and albums that were sat in someone’s drive before they could be released. All of that came through in one go!

“We’re now taking an approach of doing everything ourselves. We’re going to do our own tours, we’re going to play as much as we can. We’re going to do maybe three UK tours this year and then take it out to Europe in October.

“And then we really need to see what the response is going to be for this album because we really don’t know. We know that we did all we could and we are confident that the record is great. We’re just anxious to see the response and see if people are going to really enjoy it.

“Where the band goes really just depends on that. If people dig the record, then great.  We get more opportunities, we get to play the shows that we want to play – which is obviously all of them – and we get to play all the festivals we used to go to as punters!”

Calligram play Anarchy Brewery, Newcastle upon Tyne on May 6 as part of a series of shows to replace May’s cancelled Dominion Festival. They’ll be sharing a stage with Green Lung, Dawn Ray’d, Weedpecker, Mars Red Sky, High Spirits, Kylver and Crowley. Check out Byker Grave Bookings here for tickets and info.

Calligram photo by Andy Ford.