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Leo Stivala (Forsaken)

Interview with Leo Stivala from Forsaken
by Michael Dalakos at 22 March 2006, 10:38 PM

Forsaken is simply one of the best Doom Metal bands in the world! No kidding, guys, these doomsters from Malta keep delivering the goods for more than fifteen years now! With their brand new album in hand, I discussed lots of interesting things with their singer Leo Stivala...

First of all let me welcome you to our magazine. Congratulations on your new album!

Thanks for your welcome, Michael, and for your positive reactions towards our new album, Dominaeon. So, just for a short introduction, I am Leo Stivala, vocalist of the Maltese Epic Doom Metal band Forsaken. The other band members are Albert Bell on bass, Sean Vukovic on guitars and Simeon Gatt on drums. Yes, we are definitely very happy with the positive critique that Dominaeon is receiving from various online and printed zines worldwide and this gives us the ideal boost to continue on this Epic Doom brand which we have been following for nearly 15 years.

Dominaeon is another excellent release in your history. The title is also an interesting wordplay. Can you explain it to us?

Dominaeon is a mix of two words which are Domine (meaning The Lord) and Aeon (meaning a space of time). The basic message behind the album’s concept is that there is only one true pathway to Salvation and Revelation and that it all begins and ends from one true source - the absconding or hidden God. When Albert Bell (our bassist) wrote the whole Dominaeon lyrical concept, he was trying to push to the forefront the importance of the essence and relevance of God in every individual that will eventually lead to salvation. Albert chose this title exactly because it’s the definition of this entire concept.

What can you tell us about the recording process of Dominaeon?

 Dominaeon and all of our latest releases have been recorded in Malta at Temple Studios, (www.templestudios.com) at Mistra Bay. This is a very professional studio which comprises of two main recording studios which are Studio A and Studio B. Evermore, Iconoclast and Anima Mundi were recorded in Studio B but for Dominaeon we opted to use Studio A which has a larger and more advanced mixer and recording facilities. Obviously it is more expensive but we wanted an improvement and from the final Dominaeon result I can honestly say that it was worth the financial sacrifice. David Vella is the main man behind Temple Studios and he has become like another band member for us because although not being a Metal fan, he has put all his dedication and abilities in all of our releases.

Dominaeon took 24 days to finish as regards to recording. We prepared all the metronome settings in our garage and we started the recording in the first days of June 2005. We started by taking a guide track according to all the metronome readings we planned in our rehearsals. Then we recorded the drums and bass parts. Sean and I shifted sessions so that my voice would not bear all the pressure at one go. The choir was recorded also midway throughout the recording process. Moreover David wanted that the mastering of this album would be done at a different studio in order to get a different mastering hand than our previous releases. The mastering was commissioned to Kai Blankenberg at Skyline Tonfabrik Studios in D?sseldorf, Germany. Kai is David’s very good friend and benefits also from a reputation of recording bands like Doro and Paradise Lost. Obviously it was a very wise decision and we are very happy with the mastering result.

I strongly believe this is by far your best release to date. What is your opinion? Do you believe that with Dominaeon the band takes a big step ahead?

Yes, I agree with you here. I also believe it’s our best release on all fronts. It’s a fresh re-start for us due to the absence of keyboards and at the same time it still retains our true Epic Doom identity. Furthermore Dominaeon also has a better lyrical approach. In my opinion these are Albert’s best lyrics. He has done a solid amount of research to write this concept. Musically this album is much more direct and more Doom Metal oriented thus consolidating our position in the global Doom scene. The production is also better than on our previous releases. We also opted for oil on canvas painting for the cover artwork which was commissioned to the Polish artist Jowita Kaminska who has also painted for Manilla Road, Exodus and Attacker. Definitely Dominaeon is a step ahead for Forsaken and we look forward for more in the future.

Doom was never as popular as other Metal genres. Can you explain this?

I believe Doom Metal was very popular in the 80’s. I remember Candlemass voted best album on Metal Hammer, and even bands like Trouble, St. Vitus and Count Raven being quite popular those days. But yes, there was like a sort of a downfall of popularity in the 90’s although to be quite honest, Doom Metal was never dead. Doom Metal has always been a tightly knit scene for a core of dedicated followers. But these last few years, especially with the reunions of stalwarts like Candlemass, Count Raven and Trouble, the Doom scene is again benefiting from a rise on popularity.

There are also some good Doom festivals being organized like the Doom Shall Rise and the Dutch Doom Day. Moreover one can also notice a considerable amount of new, young and very good Doom bands pushing their music to the front namely bands like Doomshine and Heathendom. In my opinion the most important thing is that Doom Metal will still retain its underground identity and not become popular for the sake of money.

You come from a small country. Does that make your life difficult when you’re doing business? What can you tell us about your country’s Metal scene?

In our early days of existence, it was definitely much more difficult. I remember receiving and sending considerable amounts of letters by snail mail and this incurred much more expenses and time wasting for us. Today with e-mail it’s much faster and economic to communicate but we still suffer from high postage rates to send promo packs. Moreover Malta is a bit isolated from the European mainland and this also makes it more expensive for us to travel and play abroad. But at least these last three years we have managed to play a festival every year. We try to achieve these goals which we can afford so that there would be no pressure on any of us in the band.

Can you give us an inside look on how the band composes music? Is it a team effort?

There are two main ways by which we compose our material. Sometimes Sean comes out with a set of riffs or ideas on which we compose a track and then fit in the lyrics. Musically everyone pulls in is ideas, sometimes songs are based around Albert’s riffs and there are times when I also contribute with a riff or two for a song. Another way of composing music is the way we composed the majority of the Dominaeon songs. Albert will get the lyrics of a song and we build the song around the lyrics. Using this method it will be much easier to write music which will clearly match the lyrical concept of the song. Definitely Forsaken’s music is a team effort on all fronts, clearly showing our dedication to the band.

The lyrics are once again really interesting. Can you tell us what things inspire you to write lyrics?

We generally write very introspective lyrics. We write about true human emotional feelings like anger, hope, pain and belief and portray these feelings as regards to how the human subconscious reacts to such emotions. The majority of our lyrics are written by our bassist Albert but I also contribute lyrically every now and then. Dominaeon is entirely written by Albert who likes to delve deeply into religion and has also performed a considerable amount of research when writing the lyrics for this album. Writing about our religious beliefs is very natural for us because it reflects our Maltese culture which is based on Christian Catholic beliefs.

If you had the ability to change one thing in the music industry, what would that be?

I would definitely try to find a way that it would become impossible for original CDs to be copied. This MP3 downloading is becoming detrimental for bands and labels to progress further. Recording fees today are very expensive and bands spend a lot of money to record a decent album for the fans. It is also important to note that the labels are also suffering from fewer sales because of all this Internet downloading and this can hinder labels from signing bands and be helpful with the bands, financially.

Another thing, which I would do, is to fight out and sue these bootleggers who are actually stealing from the bands, labels and fans worldwide by releasing material without the artist’s consent. This is theft and is a criminal act. It has to be stopped because it’s killing the true Metal identity.

A set of less serious questions. If aliens abducted the band, what song would you play for them?

(Laughs) This is really a funny and uncommon question. Well, after all the panic because of the abduction. I guess that we would try to have some beers and a chat with them and then we would play our song Where Angels Have Fallen from the Iconoclast MCD and change the word Angels to Aliens. Where Aliens Have fallen. I am sure they will end up headbanging and freaking out, hopefully sending us back to Earth. But I guess if they enjoy the gig that much, they will leave us in their company.

Tell us a band that everyone loves but you hate?

There are some of those. Let me think this up… Definitely Slipknot (actually I don’t know how many people really love them)! I really hate all that negativity on stage and those comic masks. And I really don’t like them musically either. Their music is too chaotic for my likes.

While on stage you realize that the crowd has almost fallen asleep. How would you react?

I would ask the guy on the mixer to put up the volume to maximum on the PA, start playing again and kick everyone’s ass to wake up. It would be like a savage wake up call. Then if everyone sleeps again, I would just turn off everything and get out of the place and go for lunch.

Thanks for the serious answers. What are the immediate plans of the band?

You’re welcome, mate. We are waiting for the release of the Evermore double vinyl release by the German label Immortal Vinyl Records. This will be released in March as a limited edition release and apart from the Evermore songs it will contain the Neon Knights, Black Sabbath MkII cover version plus two live tracks from our show at the Headbangers Open Air Festival in Germany back, in July 2004. It will also include some liner notes from the band. Immortal Vinyl is also planning to release Dominaeon as a double vinyl release, hopefully later this year. But we are still discussing this release.

We are also planning to play on stage locally as much as possible and sell our merchandise so that we can pay our leftover credit to Temple Studios. We still owe David Vella a considerable amount of money.

There is another album left to be released as on contract with Golden Lake. Presently we are discussing some new contract conditions with the label and hopefully we will start composing the new album next May/June, although I can say that we already have some very good ideas written down that will build some soulful Doom tracks. We are also trying our best to play abroad again but we are still looking around and getting some contacts. So it is still very premature to give definitive news about that.

Is there a chance to see you live here in Greece?

We are talking to some people from Greece who are trying to make this happen. We have played in Germany three times already and we would really like to play in a different country for a change. I am sure Greece will be an ideal place for us to play. I know that you have a very strong scene up there. We have received positive reviews from all over Greece from various webzines and I believe that there is an interest in Forsaken. We still have to wait for more developments in this regard. We sincerely hope these developments will be fruitful.

Can you tell us your wildest dream regarding the band?

My wildest dream for Forsaken would be this live concert:

Black SabbathCandlemassTroublePentagramSt. VitusSolitude AeturnusForsaken

After this concert, I don’t know if I would be still alive. This is a very vivid dream, obviously far from becoming reality.

Thanks for your time. Close this interview with a message to all our readers…

First of all I want to thank you Michael for this very interesting interview and positive review you have given to Forsaken on Metal Temple. I want to congratulate you for the good work you are doing on Metal Temple. This online zine is very informative and up to date with all that is happening in the Metal scene today. THUMBS UP go to you and all the staff.

Moreover I want to urge all your readers to believe in themselves and in Metal. Keep the Flame Burning. Forsaken have been doing this for nearly 15 years. If you ever want to contact us, you are free to do so by writing to me at leostivala@yahoo.com or Albert at albertbell@rocketmail.com and also get hold of our albums and play them loud. You can also check out our website at http://www.forsakenmalta.com.

DOOM ON!!!



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