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With their latest album earlier this year, Italian veterans Doomraiser offered a vision of 'The Dark Side Of Old Europa'. Vocalist/keyboardist Nicola enlightens Comrade Aleks as to what that means.

Interview with Doomraiser.
"I was a bit busy, and skipped the release of Doomraiser's fifth album, 'The Dark Side Of Old Europa' in January 2020. A crime in a face of the Doom cult… But it became just a natural necessity to find out more information about the band's new work. After seventeen years on the Italian stage the band still has a lot to say, and - as three of the line-up have stayed together since 2003, and their two guitarists have had many years in which to prove their skills - 'The Dark Side Of Old Europa' seems to offer some absolutely tough and classic Doom metal. Old Europe, New Europe and Dark Italian Sound - there's a lot of things to discuss with vocalist/keyboardist Nicola."

Doomraiser: Marco Montagna (guitars), Andre "BJ" Caminiti (bass), Nicola "Cynar" Rossi (vocals, keyboards), Daniele "Pinna" Amatori (drums), Giuseppe Nantini (guitars).

Ciao Nicola! How are you? How do you keep yourself sane during quarantine?

Quarantine is tough, but luckily at home I never get bored: reading books, listening to records, watching movies, playing music and writing a lot, are stimulating pastimes, which keep creativity profitable and I must consider myself lucky for keeping the multiple interests that I have developed alive through time.

'The Dark Side of Old Europa' was released in January, did you get time to support it with a few live shows? Now that all gigs and festivals are cancelled, it's hard to imagine how soon the scene will return to its normal state.

Unfortunately, since the release of the album we have only had the chance to perform live twice, we presented the album in January in Rome with a special set and then in February we played in Florence, just before the pandemic broke out. We had several scheduled concerts over the months and were booking more through the summer and fall but now everything is stuck. I hope this emergency period will end soon, we really want to play live to promote the record.

Release party show, Rome.

I know that a good Doom album demands some time, but there are five years between 'Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)' and 'The Dark Side Of Old Europa'. That's the longest break between albums in Doomraiser's career. How did you spend these five years?

We have been some things going around which took us some time. Giuseppe, our first guitarist and also co-founder of the project, took over and came back to cover his guitar duties in the band, which led to a temporary readjustment of all the band and of the composition process. While writing the new stuff we participated on the Death SS 40th anniversary tribute published for Black Widow Rec., among a lot of acts from the international metal scene and we carried on our live activity sharing the stage together with acts such as Venom, Angel Witch, Pentagram, Moonspell, Candlemass, Tiamat and so on. Of course a lot of time was spent to compose the new album and build its conceptual themes, probably this time we took it a bit easier than before and arranged everything in our 'doom' timings.

'Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)' was released by BloodRock Records both on CD and vinyl; now you're on Time To Kill Records. How big is the difference between these labels? Did you ever work with a label who could solve all your questions concerning promotion and organizing gigs, for example?

We wanted to change the label to try new promotional and distribution channels, we are still in contact with Enrico Spallarossa of Blood Rock Rec. Since he's been and is a friend of ours since a long time, and the separation between the label and the band occurred completely spontaneously.

About live shows, we've always been managing this aspect quite independently, although the new label is definitely trying to help also on that side.

Doomraiser - 'The Dark Side Of Old Europa' (Lyric, 2020):

Again you recorded with Danilo Silvestri, how do you work with him after three albums recorded at his studio?

Danilo is a dear friend of ours and a fan of the band, he knows our musical nature, our musical tastes and our intentions, so working with him leads to clean and at the same time stimulating WORK. He can be considered a member of the band on the whole as he has our own tastes and knows how to shape our sound, modeling our work in the studio.

I remember there were a good amount of friends from different bands who performed guest parts on your second album 'Erasing The Remembrance' (2009). How did the current recording sessions differ from that one?

Each album has its own nature, its distinctive brand, each of them represents a compositional and research path that leads to innovation, while keeping the Doomraiser imprint, that is the one we love and like to follow. Over time, we have always tried to experiment with new compositional paths, trying to keep our distinctive features and characteristics vivid. So the new album naturally tries to explore other sound and compositional areas while maintaining a basic coherence and cohesion.

What kind of sound did you aim to explore on 'The Dark Side of Old Europa'?

We wanted to create a dark and dark disc, with a rocky, direct and very heavy sound, but at the same time melodic and sulphurous, experimenting with more intimate and reflective sounds.

By the way, Doomraiser started in 2003, can you compare the Italian Doom scene back then with the current one? How has it changed since then, in your opinion?

At the time there weren't many strictly Doom Metal bands in our region, the only active acts were us and our friends Misantropus, while all the other projects dedicated to this musical theme were scattered throughout the country (Thunderstorm, Doomsword etc.). There was no real scene and the historical bands which can be considered progenitors and pioneers of certain Doomier sound (Paul Chain, The Black, Zess, Malombra etc.) were not properly dedicated to the genre, but lived closer to a certain type of Dark sound and to that experimental path that has characterized Italian dark rock since the seventies. Today the scene has changed, there are several acts that approach Doom Metal and I must admit that most of all have great value and personality.

And again I hear about the (Italian) Dark Sound! Do you remember when you heard this definition for the first time? Which factors do you think formed this phenomenon?

Italy has always been a country rich of dark and mysterious culture, connected to occultism and esotericism; this is not only found in music but also generally in art. Just think of a certain type of Gothic cinema like the films by M. Bava, A. Margheriti, or the Horror / Thriller by L. Fulci, D. Argento, P. Avati etc., which subsequently influenced a large part of the world's Horror cinema, or television dramas such as Il Segno del Comando, the Marble Faun, Malombra, Portrait of a Veiled Woman, etc. The dark Italian culture is certainly born from a cultural and popular feeling, it is born from the religious syncretism of the Catholic religion which crosses and collides, in a properly anthropological light, with the low ceremonial magic, which sees the light in the our provinces' countryside, from north to south, a culture linked to paganism, with no doubt, to the mystery cults of ancient Rome, etc., a culture born in the shadow of the Vatican, which subsequently found space, during the sixties, around the esoteric Roman circle Navona 2000, promoted by the spiritualist and scholar of magical arts Fulvio Rendhell, or by the most extravagant ideas of the Turin-born Gustavo Roll etc. This cultural climate dedicated to mystery and the occult has undoubtedly influenced music, from the Classical of the '600 /' 700 to modern and contemporary Rock. In a strictly Rock context, the term "Dark Sound" certainly originates from the groups of the most commonly called Dark / Prog of the seventies current: Circus 2000, the Bronze Ballet, Goblin, Saint Just etc., up to Paul's Dark Experimentalism Chain, Jacula, Antonius Rex and a more Haevy approach like that of Death SS, The Black, Zess, Black Hole etc.

Would you say that the current Italian doom scene has its own authentic features?

The sound is rarefied and gloomy, most of the time it is dotted with keyboard sounds, rich in organs and synthesizers, the singing is plaintive and graceless and the lyrics are of occult and esoteric inspiration. Each band obviously has its own characteristics and personality.

Doomraiser - 'Chimera' (Official, 2019):

Now back to 'The Dark Side Of Old Europa'… It is a strong and unusual title for a Doom album, actually - considering the clichés I have in my mind - it fits better with some dark Folk band like Sol Invictus with stuff like 'Death Of The West' or 'Europa Calling'. What meaning do you put in this title? What made you turn to this topic?

I love Neo Folk and Industrial music, projects like Sol Invictus, Death In June, Current 93 are among my listenings of all time and have undoubtedly been a source of inspiration for some concepts that formed the plan lyric carried on by Doomraiser over the years.

The album describes and tries to capture some obscure aspects related to our continent. The events we talk about have many faces and affect both the socio-political sphere and the one relating to the occult and esoteric world. Europe, through the colonialist and imperialist politics adopted just for pure thirst for power and conquest, has destroyed populations, has preyed on lands, engulfing and incorporating secular religious beliefs and entire community systems. On the other hand, an esoteric and occult Europe has beens described; a land with a pagan and ancient past, florid under the character of tradition and superstition, where aspects related to the unknown are merged with bizarre visions of the world. Just think about medieval witchcraft and beliefs and how they've been the vehicle for an entire social behavior, through customs and traditions, legends and narratives; close to this, the idea of the devil as a constant threat of reason and reality, which becomes fixed thought, infiltrating itself into all corners of human life; a sorrowful vision of mourning linked to human death; some pagan cults such as the secret cult of Mithras, a religion that had its greatest increase in Rome during the first century after Christ.

In the title song you sing "Give us our freedom back / Give us back our vanished dignity / Give us back our respect". Do you feel that sharply a lack of these merits nowadays? And to which period of history do you appeal in this song?

I refer with no doubt to the period of the birth of Christianity and its propagation, starting from here and going through the various courses of modern history, referring to colonial politics and imperialist profit, passing through the birth of capitalism and its many phases, through the two great world wars, to finally reach the decline of our tormented present that, orphan son of the gray culture of the twentieth century seems to no longer wake up from the deep sleep of globalization and from the most unrestrained liberalism, increasingly losing respect for Nature and for the world itself. Harmony of the cycles of time and space has been completely lost, we live in the most complete chaos, close to an obscure "iron age", where profit counts more than the value of life.

Coronavirus today is undoubtedly the mirror of this decline related to the relationship between humanity and the world, it is a response to the cowardly profit attitude of a phantom progress that is indeed only regression and illusion. I believe that today more than ever we must reflect on the true meaning of life, trying to restore that natural and harmonious order between us and the world, which has been increasingly trampled over time.

So what do you think about the role heavy music plays nowadays? It seems the majority of bands create an illusion of escapism, an entertainment creating a kind of "harbour" (of any grotesque or extreme kind) for those who can't live in (inner) peace with modern society. There isn't much food for thought in that, there's not much space for reflection, is there?

Perhaps what you say is partly true, the bands today try to cling to sounds which have already been heard and explored, there is a comeback of old school as it has never happened before, both in the heavy and in the extreme field. Nonetheless you need to know how to do your researches, as the underground is spotted with loads of interesting realities that try to explore new musical landscapes and new compositional frontiers; there are many valid bands that have learned how to go beyond the clichés of Metal and Heavy Rock in general.

Nicola, you tell about loss of dignity and respect, but - in continuation of the previous question - one of the next songs is 'Häxan'. You said this song is based on the 1922 movie, and it tells a story of medieval witchcraft. That reminds about inquisition trials, there wasn't much place for things like freedom or merit back then. What do you think?

I love Häxan and all that type of European expressionist cinema of the early twentieth century, but the film in question only inspired the theme of the piece, it more closely refers to the relationship between witchcraft, demonic possession and hysteria. As I said before, it is with the advent of Christianity that this crisis and this decline begins. It has preyed and trampled entire religious and cultural systems, burning any creed that distanced itself from official religion and dogma at the stake. The church is responsible for the death of a personality like Giordano Bruno, this may be enough to make the intent being understood.

Can you say how other songs are tied with the idea of Old Europe's dark sides?

'Chimera' speaks of the illusion, of the precariousness of human life as a dimension and condition of fragility in the face of the majesty of Nature. Illusion as a Chimera, shapeless monster of Greek, Roman and Etruscan culture which represents something vain and unattainable, a dark concept, founded on precarious and bizarre bases that, because of its amorphous and grotesque character and for its "against nature" appearance represents the "non-form", something that does not reflect the laws of our knowledge. 'Tauroctony (The Secret Cult of Mithras)' speaks of the pagan religion of ancient Rome and the Mithraic cult. 'Terminal Dusk' describes the plague of pollution that starts exactly from the capitalism of European culture and its socio-political systems. 'Loathsome Explorer Interpolation' is instead a song dedicated to the death of our first guitarist Valerio and reflects on the meaning of death and the idea of mourning in European culture etc. All songs are more or less connected to each other.

Thank you for the interview Nicola! That was a good in-depth look into 'The Dark Side Of Old Europa'! That's all for today, well, let's try to finish it on optimistic note. Do you see a hope for Old World to be reborn?

As they say: hope is the last one to die.

Thanks for the time you gave us and good work.


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Visit the Doomraiser bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-06-30 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Thermal Mass
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