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With a long and largely dormant history behind them, Sicilian Epic Doomsters Gothic Stone finally saw their debt album released in 2019, 28 years after they first formed. Comrade Aleks talks to the founder, guitarist Salvatore, about this long back-story.

Interview with Gothic Stone.
"Yes, yes, Gothic Stone is named after the old Candlemass track, and to make it clear I'd like to quote their song 'The Oath Of The Gothic Stone', from new album 'Haereticus Empyreum':
"You will die in the eve of Candlemass/You will rise in the eve of Candlemass/By the oath of the gothic stone!"
This album saw the light of day through Black Widow Records in November 2019, but the fact is that, despite the band initially forming in 1991, this is still Gothic Stone's debut. They could have been one of the first Doom bands in Sicily, but they folded in 1993, then reunited twenty years later in order to slowly work on their songs. The band now comprises three original members, with a new drummer and ex-DoomSword vocalist Gabriele "Nightcomer" Grilli. We spoke with founder Salvatore Fallucca (guitars), who can tell a lot about Doom metal as it is."

Gothic Stone: Salvo Sicilia (drums, keyboards), Salvatore Fallucca (rhythm guitars), Gabriele "Nightcomer" Grilli (vocals), Vincenzo Mandarano (lead guitars), Rodan DiMaria (bass).

Hi Salvatore! So Gothic Stone now has its debut album 'Haereticus Empyreum' released, a quarter of a century after the band's foundation. How does it feel to have this material finally published?

As you can guess, I am very happy and excited to have my music finally released. About 65% of the album has been composed after the reunion, in 2013, but a very primitive version of "Sidereus Nuncius" as well as some part of "Dies Irae" and "Caereris Mundus" date back to the early nineties, so they remained on the shelf for a very long time.

The band was formed in 1991 and split up in 1993. How did you spend this period? What led Gothic Stone to disband?

I spent those three years trying to compose some songs and occasionally rehearse them, with a couple of schoolmates, Rodan DiMaria (bass) and Biagio Oliveri (drums). But both of them used to play with other bands, so they couldn't devote 100% of their time to my project. Gothic Stone disbanded because of several reasons: lack of commitment, poor technical skills and the impossibility to find a stable singer and a good lead guitar player. To me the nineties were really awful years, nobody seemed to be into traditional heavy metal and the internet wasn't widespread enough to allow people with similar interests to get connected. I was fed up by trying to keep the band together, but I never stopped loving this music and collecting albums (from this point of view the early nineties were a great time, because you could buy true metal rarities at a quite cheap price!). In 1993 I also started to express my love for doom and traditional metal by contributing to several Italian magazines, Flash, Metal Shock, Psycho and so on (I still write for the Classix Metal magazine up until today), so, even if doom metal is a bit trendy now, my long time loyalty to this music is very well documented ahah

That reminds me a bit of the stories of Italian bands like Focus Indulgens and Sinoath, well, was Gothic Stone known back then in the early '90s? Did you play any gigs?

No, we never played any gig, so we were known only by those friends of ours who used to come at our rehearsal place. By the way, you mentioned Sinoath and, them being Sicilians too, I remember that a couple of them (keyboard player Adriano Cucinotta and former drummer Dario Casabona) were good friends of our bass player. I still thank them because, during those adventurous years of tape trading, it was through them that I got hold of Metamorfosi's "Inferno" (the singer Jimmy Spitaleri comes from Catania as well as Sinoath) and it surely contributed to build my musical vision.

What made you gather again under this banner?

It happened very spontaneously. During the last 20 years the resurgence of classic metal got more and more people involved in this kind of music, so I happened to hang out with people who shared similar tastes. Once, one of them (Dario Albano, who later played some guitar parts as a guest on our album) suggested brushing up the old songs and trying to gather some friends to play them properly. It definitely worked and new ideas started to flow too. I decided to use the old name just because, even if it's a quite simple, almost ordinary, name, to my surprise nobody took it. So I thought it was a sign of fate for me to keep it.

Gothic Stone - 'The Oath Of The Gothic Stone' (Official, 2018):

Do I get it right that you resurrected Gothic Stone with an almost original lineup, just a new drummer and vocalist? Didn't Simone and Biagio share your enthusiasm?

Biagio moved to another city many years ago and I guess he stopped playing drums too (by the way he was more interested in funky music than in heavy metal), so he was not really available. As far as Simone is concerned, he is still quite busy playing drums and sporadically singing in a hard n' heavy cover band (Mud Pud) here in Palermo, but he has family commitments and was not likely to dedicate his time and efforts to my project (pretty much the same as back in 1991 ahah).

Did you have any demos from the early period which you could use anew? As the band was reformed in 2013 and your album 'Haereticus Empyreum' came out just a few days ago, how much time did it take to complete this work?

We did not have any proper demo, only some very crappy rehearsal tape without vocals and lead guitar, just enough for us to keep in mind the riffs. We spent the years from 2013 to the summer of 2017 by setting up a new line-up, reworking the old tracks and composing new material (at first we recorded our songs with me on vocals, so to show our singer exactly what we wanted), and taking care of all the graphic concept. Then we found the deal with Black Widow Records and, even if it implied a long time to wait for the release, we just accepted their schedule.

Do you mean the album was ready two years ago? Why didn't you include a song with your vocals as bonus on CD?

Yes, the album was completed in the spring of 2017, even if we spent two or three more months in order to realize the artwork. As far as I can guess, people might be interested in bands' demo material only if those bands already have some sort of established brand and career. Only proper fans can be curious enough to dig up the leftover stuff, in order to see the primitive versions of the songs they like. As we still have to build our fan base, I think it's better to show to people our best material only.

How did you recruit Gabriele Grilli to Gothic Stone? His vocals suit well the band's epic vibe, though he hasn't "sung Doom" since leaving DoomSword twenty years ago!

We were introduced to Gabriele by our common friend, Maurizio Chiarello (the owner of the Underground Symphony label). I used to love the first DoomSword album (the later ones are good too, although in a different way) and those operatic vocals with big vibrato. My songs have always been written for a voice like this (you can bet why we were never been able to find a suitable singer during the nineties ahah). So it was either move to Stockholm and try to track down Messiah Marcolin or to ask Nightcomer if he was willing to sing with us. Luckily, even if he didn't "sing doom" for many years, he still loves this kind of music and enjoyed our material. Everything went very smoothly since day one, because besides coming from similar musical background, we also share similar attitude and sense of humor, so we find ourselves straight on the same wavelength.

We know that the band is inspired by a Candlemass song and this band itself is your guide in the world of doom. But what do you think now about the name? You know - doomheads have prejudice against everything "gothic". And that includes you too, right? : )

Yes, of course, I am the first one to have strong prejudices against everything "gothic" ahah ...But we have to remember that we chose our name slightly before Paradise Lost released their second album and started a whole successful phenomenon with its specific traits. As a contributor to some metal magazines and a reader myself, I have seen first hand the transformation that the word "gothic" has undergone through the years and I can tell you that, up until the early nineties, it was not related at all to violins, female vocals and neo-romantic features (I have seen Cirith Ungol's "Frost And Fire" labelled as "gothic death rock" on a 1981 Italian magazine!). Maybe I would have chosen a different name, in later years. But considering that our name remained untouched by anyone for more than 20 years, it sounded right to us to keep it for ourselves. I just hope that most people will immediately recognize that it's after a Candlemass song and not after anything related to the nineties.

What about influences from the Italian scene? Usually Italian doom bands mention Paul Chain or some dark prog acts among their influences, so what about you?

Although the Italian hard rock/metal scene was/is, for the most part, derivative of the UK/USA scene, in my opinion Italy used to have a very strong progressive scene with its own personality, especially during the seventies. In particular, the Italian dark sound (with bands such as Goblin, Balletto Di Bronzo, Metamorfosi, the very obscure Lydia Et Hellua Xenium or the controversial Jacula) had very few similarities with the foreign counterparts and I think that Death SS, Paul Chain, Black Hole, Requiem, Arpia, The Black etc has brought forth that heritage on the doom territory. I am very fond of that tradition, that's why we decided to use a pipe organ and the Latin language in some parts of our songs.

Nice choice! And yes, Italian Progressive Rock is a kind of local trademarků It's something natural considering Italy's cultural legacy. However, do you remember when you heard the term "Doom Metal" for the first time?

I am not 100% sure, but I guess it was around 1988, when I first heard a Candlemass song ("Mirror Mirror") on radio and immediately fell in love with this band. I was already into Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and King Diamond, but I guess it was Candlemass to show me the right "tag" to find my direction.

How do you see the necessary components of real Doom metal? Do you feel you put 100% of it into Haereticus Empyreum?

Real doom was born with the "Black Sabbath" song back in 1970 and their author's purpose was to create heavy music which was as scary as the movie (by the Italian director Mario Bava) with the same name. It has not to be necessarily slow or sad, but it must be sinister and menacing. That's what real doom is about, in my opinion, and that's what I try to put in my music. I must add that I am also a metalhead, so I am particularly bound to what Judas Priest did a few years later, namely bringing doom to a metal level. That's where my taste for solemn vocals, twin guitars and dynamic song structures come from.

Can you pick a certain song from the album which could be presented as a perfect Doom Metal example?

I don't think we have a perfect doom manifesto, because we try to incorporate some more influence in our music, such as traditional heavy metal or hints of seventies progressive rock. By the way, "Sidereus Nuncius" is maybe the closest we've got to that style.

I believe you had a certain sound in mind when you were planning the album's recording. Did you search for a certain studio with certain equipment to realize that?

We chose the Rock Zone Studios here in Palermo because our lead guitar player, Vincenzo Mandarano (also with Hellraiders), is one of the owners. So we were sure that we would have got total control over the whole process of recording and mixing our music. Having said that, I can add that we didn't have a specific sound in our minds, but we were determined to keep a vintage approach and let our our instruments sound pretty natural, without down-tuned guitars, bombastic distortion or anything like that.

Gothic Stone - 'Caererir Mundus (The Necromancer)' (2019):

How long did you spend there working on your songs?

As you can guess, it was a very relaxed work as it took almost four years to be completed ahah ...All the songs have been written at home just by myself. Then I used to show them to our drummer/keyboards player, Salvo Sicilia, for him to arrange them and refine their structures so, as we entered the studio, only the guitar solos and few other minor detail had to be composed yet.

Do you want to play Gothic Stone material live? Or have you already played it?

No, we never did. It would be great, but it is very difficult, because our singer Gabriele Grilli lives in Lombardy and a couple years ago also Salvo Sicilia moved to a city near Milan. With half of our band in Sicily and the other half in the north of Italy, unfortunately it is nearly impossible for us to rehearse and play gigs.

Thanks for the interview, Salvatore! Let's summarise it with a final question: what are your ambitions towards Gothic Stone now? Will you just collect reviews for this album or do you have ideas for a next release?

Our original ambition was just to release some stuff that stayed on hold for a far too long time. At present we have only one unfinished song in our drawer, and we are quite slow to write new music, so there isn't any proper future plan. At the moment we collect reviews and see if people enjoy our album and might want to hear some more from us. Thank you for your questions and for your support. Haeresis vobiscum!

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Visit the Gothic Stone bandpage.

Interviewed on 2019-12-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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