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Feanor's Gustavo Acosta: "David had things in his system that needed to get out, Feanor was the natural way to speak them out"

Interview with Gustavo Acosta from Feanor
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 28 February 2021, 10:34 PM

There is something that has be out there, important to say out loud, it is hard to keep people stating that an integral factor of Metal music is a cliché. Metal is to be sung about, as more than just a genre of music but as an entity, a spirituality, a form of religion, a place to escape to, to find comfort. Nonetheless, other than being a form of escapism, it shows facts, it tells you what to beware of, to open your eyes and just notice, listen to the sounds. Manowar has, and will always have, an impact on Metal music, the quality of the older albums persists. And there is Feanor, easily could be stated as a straying version of the Americans, and now with David Shankle, they appear somewhat unstoppable. Channeling the spirit of the old in their new “Power Of The Chosen One”, a Metalhead cannot deny the heritage of the music and inner force burning inside the flame. Steinmetal had a great conversation with founder Gustavo Acosta, talking about the past, Metal music in his life, Feanor and of course the new album the collaboration with David Shankle.  

Hello Gustavo, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing kind sir?

Hello my friend, thanks for asking, well, as you know we`re all dealing with all sorts of unfortunate issues due to this pandemic, the main goal is to keep it together as much as possible, in the family circle, in the community and still being productive as a band. We`re all affected, so I am really trying my best to sail through this storm. My family and myself got the virus, thanks god we sorted it out. To answer your question…at the moment I keep myself busy composing, training martial arts, and working in several music projects.

I guess special times need something special in return in order to enlighten the darkness so to speak. Your band Feanor made quite a step with an adventurous production in the image of your new album, “Power Of The Chosen One”. But first things first, in your view, what makes you motivated to consume yourself with the continued worshipping of Heavy Metal as a way of living?

When I was a kid, back in the day, it wasn’t easy at all being a metalhead, here in Argentina Heavy Metal had a really poor image, I was the only metalhead in primary and almost the whole secondary school, so for me it was not only the music, but the message behind that helped me to identify myself as a different individual, and during the most difficult times metal was always there for me, no matter what. I had no money, no work, no nothing, but metal was something I could trust.

I remember Friday nights all my friends going out and getting fucked up, while I was at home reading Esquilo, listening Manowar or Virgin Steel, Attack, Running Wild and so on. I was always trying to cultivate myself in body mind and spirit, and that metal path gave me discipline to never give up and always push myself more and more and more, now nothing really changed. I am always trying to improve myself and metal is still by my side as a reliable source of inspiration and strength, not to mention that this magical music gave me the chance to get to know so many friends around the world…that’s really a blessing.

So, having a mindset like mine, it isn’t really weird that I always try to produce something unique, I don’t find satisfaction on the normal and regular day by day basis, I need to dream and I live to make those dreams a reality.

The album’s peak background story is a continuation of a story that began in the early 90s, back in Manowar’s era of “Triumph Of Steel”, starring David Shankle as lead guitarist. Certainly one of the band’s major works in comparison to the more mainstream albums of the late 80s. Personally, what is your opinion of that album? How do you find it?

I was hooked on Manowar back in 1989, I`ve got Kings Of Metal and I was blown away, I just couldn’t believe that such a singer and such a band have passed being totally under the radar, all magazines at the time here in Argentina had NOTHING, zero about them, so having such a jewel was quiet a surprise to me, and the fact that the band was totally occult for mainstream did nothing but increase the interest I’ve had for them.

The moto of fight for what you think is right, never give up, their overall look and message fitted like a glove to my taste, so I immediately did what I can (again you have to think that here in Argentina it wasn’t easy to find things as it is today) to find their existing catalog until that date… having their first 6 in my possession, it felt horrible to wait from 1989 until 1992… Remember there was no internet, no radio, no nothing, you just wait for the album with cross fingers that they haven`t split or something like that.

Then It came, I remember like if it was yesterday, I’ve got a tape and I started to listen to it when I was coming back home in the subway, I just couldn’t believe my ears, it was something just too big to comprehend on a first listen. So yes, as you can imagine during months I did nothing but listen to that magnificent album, for me it was a double special because I am an avid reader and Greel mythology is among my most sacred preferences, thus the story of the Iliad was simply fantastic to me, because I was totally aware about it and what is going on in that tale. Until today I think that album was their last really GREAT album. I do love all of them, but I think the first 6 with Ross and the one with David had a special aura, something really difficult to express with words, a sort of magical feeling that somehow I feel missed after TOS.

Recently, David Shankle joined Feanor as its lead guitarist, which I am quite certain that it was more than a happy occasion, especially when joining forces with the amazing Sven D’Anna on vocals. As you see it, is Shankle’s position with Feanor for the long run or rather for this single record?

After what I’ve told you above you can imagine that for me having David on board is surrealistic, one day I’ve found myself composing true metal as he did with Joey back in the day, he dumped a lot of Manowar ideas that he simply didn’t had the chance to use in the band on FEANOR, like what he had in mind after RIDE THE DRAGON (Now Rise of The Dragon) and so on. We already did 2 tours together and we have composed this new album which for me is beyond my wildest dreams, now it will be released with a strong label as Massacre and we put so much energy, time, dedication and passion to it that for real I’ve drained myself, I gave it all. We all know about the perfectionism that Manowar has, David is the same and so are we, therefore you can bet that every second of this album has hours of work behind.

After such an effort you can imagine that is difficult for us to plan ahead, since COVID makes really difficult for us to tour the album, and we don`t really know what will happen in 2 months. So for the time being we are focusing in the release of this record and weight the feedback of the audience, that will be the primary thing to do for the next months. Of course, we would love to repeat this fantastic experience on the next album, but this is not the time to think about that, but to promote what we did on this record.

From what I could conjure, Feanor came to Shankle’s aid in order to close a circle, which started after his departure from Manowar, passing the release of “Triumph Of Steel”. Evidently, Shankle’s unfinished journey became Feanor’s vision for the new record. How did this venture shape out? Who put the wheels in motion?

We did a tour back in 2017 playing live the entire TRIUMPH OF STEEL album, that was the first step, he played again those anthems after years and it felt so great, and most important, so natural, because Feanor has a proven history of epic metal that shows that we`re not wannabies, we`re true fans of this music and this style, so for him coming to play with us, also felt kind of natural. After the first tour I`ve spoke in a hotel room in Brazil with David and told him that we should keep working together, people loved our shows and I knew we can provide much more if we do get together, he agreed and yes. David had things in his system that needed to get out, Feanor was the natural way to speak them out. So we started to compose sending tracks on a triangle between USA – ARGENTINA and GERMANY, because Sven was an integral part of the composition process, nothing could have been done without him.

Were there different plans for Feanor if Shankle wouldn’t have joined the band for this fight? Perhaps you had different ideas in mind for the band’s next record?

Well, yes, for sure. I`ve had composed a couple of tracks to continue some of the histories we told in “We are heavy metal” for example the Sumerian GILGAMESH pt 2, and some other tracks related to the Tolkien imaginary, having David on board changed a bit that direction and we did “The Return Of The Metal King” which is nothing but THE ODYSSEY, for that particular piece I`ve had many things in mind since I was dreaming about how Manowar would have continued the saga, having David was the perfect opportunity to indulge myself and make it happen with one of “the originals” from that record.

“Power Of The Chosen One” sounds rather straightforward, not leaving too much space for questions or inner deliberations. It is as it appears, a different version of the Manowarian universe, of warriors, endless fighting and plenty of Metal as the embrace of it all. Who is that chosen one that steps into the ring of fire? What can you tell about this protagonist?

We were composing a lot with David and I`ve felt that somehow we need more collaboration between David and Sven, so I’ve decided to move aside and asked Sven to come forth with and idea to develop, so he did with the opening chorus and some other parts, then asked David to continue it and it was really pleasant to me to see how this song was born between these 2 fantastic musicians. Sven normally tries to present lyrics that came to full shape according to each individual listener, the chosen one represents different figures for different people, I do know for a fact what he had in mind when he composed that song, but also part of the magic and mystery is not fixing the meaning, not chisel it on a stone, let that every listener grab this and transmute it to the shape he wants and feel.

Other than being a totem for Metal, as more than merely music, what other connections do you find between the songs that could be witnessed as a wholesome story?

There are a lot of histories being told, the opening track “Rise of the dragon” talks about the feeling of David coming back to true metal after years without playing this style, those feelings also mirror what anyone can feel on a comeback in any ambit. Then you have power of the chosen one which we already addressed, then you have THIS YOU CAN TRUST that one speaks about traitors and deception, so as you can see, each song portraits different feelings and ideas, beyond the mere cheesy “true metal” meaning.

I bet that the main challenge of this album was the recording process other than the songwriting sessions themselves, which I guess were transatlantic as well. What can you tell of the peak moments of these recording sessions in three countries? How did you manage to get everyone in line? Were there elements that delayed milestones on your schedule?

For me one of the key elements for a proper composition is to let all members of the band to contribute with their ideas, for example, nowadays it makes me sick to see how musicians make all the drums at home, writing it on a computer, losing all elements of dynamics and groove. In our case for example, many of the demos DAVID or SVEN did, when we played them in practice were changed by our drummer, adding different rhythms, grooves, changes and cuts, those sort of things would have been totally impossible if we don’t get together on a practice room, so any song or idea was always executed and tried on our practice room by the “band core” meaning myself, Emiliano (Drummer) and the Scorpion (Guitar player).

Working with such magnificent professionals as David and Sven really facilitated things, it was really easy to show David a guitar riff or arrangement, he figured it out in 1 min, and of course Sven has a beautiful voice with a huge range, so pretty much everything we tried worked out with his vocals.

At the end of the day it was a process of demo creation, studio practicing, more demo creation and then actual studio recording, by the time we went to studio we already had everything lined up, the tempos, the songs, the solos, it wasn’t actually difficult at all.

Musically, I never expected anything else, especially with Shankle and D’Anna in the band going strong, and of course your devotion to the Manowar style of Metal, filled with power, bombastic and bloody as it can be. How do you find your progression as a songwriter, musician and engineer through the work on “Power Of The Chosen One”?

Is the most mature album in terms of composition, here you have a proven gold record writer as David, then Sven with almost 15 albums and 30 years of career, for example his last WIZARD album is an atomic bomb, I consider myself very fortunate to have written and collaborated with those German metal kings in 2 tracks, so you can easily say that they are not novice when it comes to create songs, they know what they want and how they want it, it was a real pleasure to make this happened and yet make all of the songs to sound fresh.

When you look at “Power Of The Chosen One”, as an end result, in your mind, what makes it so special in light of the many Traditional Metal albums that have been out there? What does Feanor brings to the table on this record that you consider uncanny?

I never think in that direction, it is not my goal to make things unique or create something totally different or unexpected, my goal is and always was to be true to myself, and of course, to make the album to the best of my possibilities.

As a true metal fan I`ve tried here to record the album in the best studio, with the best production possible, with the best instruments, the best artwork and to summarize, be honest with the way I feel things should always be done: To The Best Of Your Capabilities.

So at the end of the day I can say that I gave it all, I saved nothing, tried my very best to make this album as perfect, honest and pure as possible. If people loves it, then GREAT!, my goal is to be able play this live, to meet people after a concert, have a beer, talk about metal and shake hands like real men does, fuck that super star attitude, fuck that egocentric shitty world where so many musicians live, what I expect is that you play this record with your friends, have a beer and enjoy it as much as we did making it.

Let’s talk about the full blown adventure that is “The Return Of The Metal King”, a saga that should have been told and presented decades ago. How did you approach the mega project, which on its own is a production? What can you share in regards to major moments of the songwriting and recording of this venture?

That was totally crazy, for real. Some of the parts I already have figured out in my mind, some other came to light during the recording process, for example the bass intro, I`ve had that melody in me for a decade, waiting and waiting for the right moment to come to light… then the seductive sirens song…it was in my head for quiet a while and used 7 ladies to record it…the fast “part” of the song was recorded in studio and was kind sudden, I`ve felt that I needed something really fast in the album and throw the idea to David and we did that part in a day or 2, there is a part called “Mirror” that was really challenging, Sven did a fantastic opera-like work in there and we worked with a special dynamic, that “secret” was told to me by no other than Ross The Boss, I played with him a couple of shows as his bass player, in the matter of fact we did played the 6 Manowar albums together top to bottom, so we`re really good friends, and he gave me some tips when it comes to songwriting that I`ve used in that particular piece.

Then I’ve learned to play OUD and Bouzouki, really difficult instruments, but I need them to give context to a specific part I´ve had in my head. Also it was very rewarding to play my acoustic bass together with David`s classical guitar, really fantastic feeling, many of my band members didn`t had an idea of how the song will actually sound with all parts together, I had a vision in my mind and I can say that it was super cool to let it unfold.

Are the segments within this sort of opera, I dare call it like that, even though it is toughened up, but we can settle on an epos too, considered fresh material or rather old ideas that came to life?

Sven has Italian blood, so opera flows natural for him and I love classical music, my daughter Mirielle studies piano in music conservatory and my son Aris flute, so as you can imagine there is classical music floating around the house the whole day!

Listening to the title track, “Power Of The Chosen One” and “Metal Land”, this is how you make a true Metal kind of anthems, letting the listener sink the lyrics and music deep in his mind, how do you appreciate this sing-along kind of pattern within Metal music nowadays? I thought it was left in the past to be honest

If I can`t sing the chorus in my head while making a line in the bank, or if when I am on my desk working my knee doesn’t move alone with the groove of the song, there is something that doesn’t work. Same applies to some guitar melodies or solos, it has to have melody that you can remember, I really think you must be able to have some sort of communion with the music to really make THE MAGIC of music to happen. I am glad you felt it my friend.

There no better opening to such a record than with a punishing Speed Metal blaster in the image of “Rise Of The Dragon”, clearly a golden track of the record. What is your appreciation of this catchy noter that is bound to a serious phase of headbanging?

David had this idea as continuation of Ride The Dragon, wasn’t able to record it on Manowar, Sven had a fantastic melody on his head and I knew what David felt so I did the lyrics, this was nothing but an initial statement…we`re here again to prove that true metal is alive and kicking! The song has it all, chorus, solos, ornaments, changes of grooves, we`re super proud of this track, that’s the reason why we chose it for our videoclip.

Looking forward, do you see yourself making a record with Ross The Boss for instance, similar to the work that you just made with David Shankle?

Ross is a great friend of mine, we have a bound beyond the musical landscape, and in the matter of fact we already did a song together, which we will probably release later on as either bonus track or single. I know Ross is doing fantastic with his band, but of course, friends are friends and you never know what can happen!

With the pandemic still relevant, do you have any plans to promote the record, maybe produce a lockdown kind of video?

We will release 3 videos to promote the album, RISE OF THE DRAGON, POWER OF THE CHOSEN ONE and HELL IS WAITING, we would love to tour the record as a normal band should, but this actual scenario makes planning entirely impossible.

Gustavo, simply amazing venture you came up with this time around, a lot of energy and drama, it is hard not to be captivated. Well done sir. Thank you for the interview and keep the true Metal pumping. Cheers. Lior

Thanks to you my friend for your kind words, it was made by heart, with the feet on the ground but with the head in the sky, thanks for your amazing interview and I hope we can meet one day in a gig beer in between. Take care! Gus


 



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