Fortune favours the bold or so the saying goes. Unlike anything that has really come out of the Metal scene Fleshgod Apocalypse are masters of innovation. Taking an ambitious idea of moulding two polarising genres into a symbiosis of aweinspiring inventiveness. Arguably their most ambitious work conceptually as well as musically, King sees a milestone under the band’s already intimidating back catalogue. Their latest paradoxical combination of Death Metal and Classical makes for a beautiful, cinematic and absolutely enrapturing listen. We were lucky enough to be able to sit down with just one of the many maestros at the Fleshgod Apocalypse helm Tomasso Riccardi. Outlining the albums immediate concept as well as its tertiary metaphorical commentary on society, we uncover what King truly stands for and why it is one of the most daring musical compositions to come out of Death Metal yet.
Listen to the full unedited interview below on our Soundcloud widget or read the fault transcript underneath that!
Today we have with us Tomasso Riccardi, one of the kings of Fleshgod Apocalypse. How are you?
Good good very good!
How has the tour been?
Haha! Very, very nice! As I was saying we had a very good tour. Good crowds, very good results in general, were looking to be possibly sold out tonight and in here in Camden at The Underworld is always a pleasure for me. I know I am going to have fun, I always have fun here, its always a good vibe you can tell its a historic place so its really nice.
King has been out for a month now, what have fans reactions been like so far?
Unbelievable! Of course we are confident but since really we had a really amazing response, both from press and fans in general. I really didn’t expect that much because one side of this that I am always seeing, after a few days that the album was out we had the crowd singing the first song from the album right away, like singing the chorus. Besides reaching new people, there was so many fans also expecting for it and were ready to actually listen to the whole thing so every new song we have put out is having a very good impact on the live show. Thats a very very good thing, we worked really well also with Nuclear Blast, they have been really important with the promotion and everything, our relationship is growing. I think its really a very long work we have been putting on and the results are coming!
As King is a concept album, could you walk us through the general concept?
Of course! You can tell that we are a concept band, we always put out concepts and we have always been really interested in telling stories about humans. In different ways we have also been using a lot of metaphors, in the case of King this time we had been particularly inspired by the world itself that is surrouding us in this particular moment of history. I guess it is something really cyclical in history, but it really seems now that we are living in a difficult moment in which there are so many different situations and different cultures that are trying to really get along together. This always creates a lot of confusion and a lot of fear sometimes and a lot of different reactions from people. This King is the only positive character in this story, so there is the king in contrast with all the other characters in the court.
Its actually the story of characters of court but they all represent the different characters and different behaviours of ourselves. So the king is someone that really represents that part of ourselves that is still able today, to recognize the very few and concrete and important things in life. In contrast with so many things we don’t need which we are continously becoming addicts of at this point.
When we are afraid we tend to close our eyes a little bit and I really feel like this is a moment where, at least us, the people born in the early eighties, we have been living in a moment of passage and we can totally feel this. When we were kids, there was still more reality in the world and now everything is getting so confusing for us. I don’t know if you get what I mean, its enough for me to turn on the TV. When I turn on the TV and I see news and I see reality shows, it scares me. Reality shows are called reality shows…
But they are not real at all.
The farthest thing from reality that I have ever seen in my life. It seems that our perception of this reality is changing so much and I continuously ask myself, those kids who were born today going to recognise what is reality and not real. Even feelings are getting confusing because of this continuous information but I’m not talking about politics…
No, no, no like social media and things like that…
Its just more of a social thing, more of a philosophical concept maybe… Its just that humanity I think cyclically goes through these moments where there is a lot of confusion and really the values get lost and we really need to react to that and ask ourselves which are the real values? The things that really matters for ourselves, what is important for life. So this King is that part of ourself that is still able to recognise things and its up to us to be able to feed that part of ourselves instead of all of the other characters in the story that really represent the many different ways that we completely get lost from what is important.
An example, we put out the video for “Cold As Perfection” and that is the perfect example, “Cold As Perfection” is about the queen in the story who is a character that is so afraird of getting older, so afraid of getting uglier that she can’t accept the passing of time. What happens in the mean time is that she can’t leave the present so she can’t be happy. This is so actual now, its something that is happening to so much people. Think about plastic surgery, it scares me! If you can always point out something on yourself, how are you going to be happy? Its impossible! There will always be something. Its not that you got involved in a car accident and have serious problems, of course, you just want to change it. There are girls out there, even guys, who look at themselves in the mirror and really think that they have the right to be unhappy for the way they look and sometimes they are beautiful! Then they don’t realise it or maybe they have imperfections that is exactly what life is about! When you love someone you usually love imperfection of that person, not the perfect things, if they exist.
We are living into this era where everbody seeks perfection not realising that first of all perfection doesn’t exist and second of all looking for perfection can potentially drive you mad. We really care about that because it is really about what is happening today, we should just take a step back and say wait a moment. I was born in Italy for example, a beautiful place and there are people who are dying all over the world so I should consider myself in every single present tense the luckiest person in the world, so thats what King is about.
Its very important for us to send a message. Also the show that we put out, its all about energy and its all about the fact that music can really move people. Can pass a message into the people, so even if in the crowd there is one person that can really get what we are talking about then I consider myself satisfied.
Working on the album, you decided to work with Jens Bogren, what was that process like?
That was something new, first of all. For years we have been working with just one person with Stefano Morabito at 16th Cellar Studio who we worked with for the pre production for King but we just decided to move on in the meaning that we never had the chance to try anything to try anything different. I think it is really important for a band to do this process also to understand what you can do in terms of production and discover how you can put things differently. We decided to work with different people in this process this time.
First of all with Marco Mastrobuono at Kick Studios in Rome, who has been taking care of the recordings themselves and that has been a very good start. He also worked on the mixing for the orchestral version of the album and it has been really interesting, I think that was the basis for a very good sounding album. Obviousy recordings are really really important and then we had the chance to choose between some options and also for a matter of our taste we decided to work with Jens Bogrren. We really like what he has been doing in the last year but also in the past. He has produced some of my favourite albums so that was a blast!
Of course with him you can really see what the difference between just a sound engineer and someone who is a producer. Someone who has the role of being able to interpret the music that you are giving to him and understanding what the music wants to say and put it in a way in which the music is able to say that. Its been really interesting, I think he is an extremely clever person and really talented producer, since the first second it was very, very clear.
He has been pointing out little things that meant that he was completely into the music as soon as we gave him the music. Its been a constant discussion on every single thing because we are also super picky! We gave him a hard time of course but the result to me was amazing, I am really, really happy about the sound of this album. Something that we were maybe missing was some air in the music. Having more dynamics, its powerful but your ears still have the chance to refresh.
That is also the most difficult thing to achieve because really also for such a great producer I guess that mixing Fleshgod Apocalypse is not easy because there is so many things going on in our music so it can be hard. Its been hard for us for years, we have been improving of course but its still a challenge every time. I’m really happy with that , this breathing in the music of King that really gives you the chance to get much better and esaier in every detail.
For example, “Paramour (Die Liedenschaft Bringt Leiden)” the way that that goes into “And The Vulture Beholds” is awesome! Its great the way that it fluctuates and you have that operactic sense. Was that something that you definitely wanted to do?
There were different reasons that we cared about for that particular song, of course we always work on putting something out that is like an opera with different acts. Rather than just songs, so the distribution of the music into the album is really important to us. In this case we started from the idea of doing something like that. First of all I think it was really interesting to write a song with those two elements, that are so important in our music that could really express themselves at the maximum level. You always here it in the rest of the music…
But you never hear it on its own.
Exactly! Thats also the chance to show a different side of our music into one song. Of course the position is also meant to create that contrast between all of the tension and the release in the music, that is something that is so important in music in general. Music is made by tension and release and in that case I really think that the position is perfect because it comes right afte a very aggressive song and right before another.
I guess it really creates even more dynamics for the album and also it was interesting that once we decided to do that we came to the conclusion of using German. We are telling a story during the romantic period and that kind of composition is really similar to what was called The Light during the Romantic period. It was kind of short compositions for piano and operatic vocals, which was very typical from German composeres. In that period it was typical and a lot of German composers did that kind of thing.
We were also looking at Romantic lyrics we chose Guerta because he is one of the most important characters of the Sturm Und Drang so it seems perfect to be put like that. We didn’t want to translate the poetry from the original language that was German and I think in the end it really matches perfectly. German has been one of the most important languages used in Opera in general, besides italian! We really liked the fact that we had that kind of sound in the vocals and thats why we kept it.
You kept it to its roots.
You mentioned that you like the albums to have an operatic feel as though they are acts, do you follow loosely what an opera would follow?
It is hard to make an actual comparison because in our music there are so many other elements but in a way you could think of it like that. It is typical in Classical composition that there is a very strong opening that we always have and then a moments of more…
Ebbing and flowing..
In some ways there are elements that you could really take and see that there are similar moments in the music and also when we do that kind of work of course we also do it taking care of what is normally the dynamic of Metal music. How your favourite albums, the albums that inspired you the most. There some formulas in every kind of music that you can try and understand and reproduce in some way and make it yours.
We really take care of the story itself, especially in this case. We are talking about characters so really the music is strongly influenced by the characters. This is something that we always do, the visual in our music, when we write music we write songs that are ready for the idea of a video that we are thinking of. One song like “Cold As Perfection” has been conceived thinking about how the story would be. Its like a soundtrack for us and I think our music is very visual. Even if you are not watching a video you can still hear that it is very cinematic. There is always images behind our music anyway even if there isn’t a specific clip for one song.
What inspired you to blend Death Metal and Classical?
Hahaha! I guess the very first intuitions I think they almost came almost casually and then from then on you start developing an imagination behind what to do. I remember that one of the very first riffs that came out, it was even a bit before Fleshgod was formed. I remember I was with Francesco, it was a random afternoon during the fall and I remember he came out with a very early version of the main riff of “Infection Of The White Throne” that was one of our very first songs.
He was telling me, its interesting this progression is like Death Metal but there is a lot of Classical music in this progession so from then on it was building up this sound and of course then the full orchestration but its something that really came through time. Getting lost into the music itself, of course like everything that comes into your mind I think its really down to your imprinting.
We have all been Metal fans for a number of years but in the mean time we have all been influenced in different ways by classical music. Francesco has been studying double bass, my father was a super big fan of Classical music and I was playing classical piano when I was a kid. Francesco Ferrine has been playing classical piano since he was a kid. Also maybe being Italian we have a long history in classical music and maybe that is something that has of course influenced us.
Once we discovered that these two things could really work together and we came out with the idea for the costumes and all of the imagery behind it, its something that we really like because in general we really like theatrical representations and it is something perfect because we have the chance to do this music but also express ourselves at a more cinematic level through these characters so now its just continuously putting on ideas.
Perfect in an imperfect world! So what inspired you to have a separate orchestral side of King?
Same as we said for “Paramour”, we had been thinking about it for a while and we had the chance to do it on this album and I really think it was the right album to do it to be honest. I really like how the arrangements sound. Obviously in the whole thing there are so many details that get lost and we wanted to give the fans the chance to also listen to that whole part of music that is always there but you cannot completely catch. Having the chance to listen to just the orchestral part is really interesting because then you can also understand the rest of the music much better and get into it more deeply. Thats really why we did it. We wanted to give the fans to really listen to that part of our music.
Perfect! Well grazie mille!
Fleshgod Apocalypse’s astonishing new album King is out now.