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ShadowThrone's Stefano Benfante: "We are not one of those progressive bands that denaturalize everything through the excessive use of techniques, depriving the songs of a soul. I prefer a Darkthrone album to a Dream Theater album"

Interview with Stefano Benfante from ShadowThrone
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 16 October 2019, 10:40 PM

Far beyond just being extreme, it appears that it is not enough to plainly create an atmosphere, but an essence that is undergoing evolution, yet without losing sight or feel of songwriting and soul of the creation. ShadowThrone came a way in their style under the Black Metal flag, and with "Elements’ Blackest Legacy", they struck a new level. Steinmetal had talk with Stefano Benfante of the band, about the philosophy of the new album, the development of their style and more…  

Hello Stefano, I am pleased to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

I would like to thank Metal Temple for the space given to ShadowThrone and to me. We are currently working on a new single that should be published online via Non Serviam Records. It is not a song contained in "Elements’ Blackest Legacy" but a cover whose name we cannot reveal.

I guess that being drawn to the blackened echoes of ShadowThrone wasn’t that hard, and I cannot blame you of course, unleashing the sounds of your “Elements' Blackest Legacy”, displayed the complex universe of Black Metal music. Nonetheless, before we sink into the darkened realm of this cosmic musicality, it would be great to know how was the album received by your fans and new listeners? Since the album has been out for nearly a week?

Black Metal always fascinated me, as many other people around the world. This new album is on a higher level comparing it with "Demiurge Of Shadow" and the old fans recognized it, defining it more mature and professional. The new listeners were struck by the power of the sound and the atmospheres that the album produces, finding old sensations and discovering new glacial dimensions. Lots of them expressed their willingness to go and rediscover the old works, as they became curious.

Are you, yourself, pleased with the end result? Is it how you had hoped it would turn out? Looking back to the recording sessions, would you have changed anything?

We did not expect anything, we made this album more for ourselves than for anything else, therefore having found a label like Non Serviam Records willing to publish the album and having received such positive feedback surprised and made us fully satisfied.

In my personal opinion and for my personal tastes I would had make the album more ‘old school’ but seen that the result is so appreciated I think that we had taken the best decisions during the recording session.

Part of the early question, regarding the album’s rating within your audience, was due to the new frontman, which you recently recruited, Zilath Mekhlum, replacing, Serj Lündgren. Why did that relationship with the latter ended? How do you find Mekhlum’s skills as a frontman? Did you know right from the start that he would fit the ShadowThrone vision?

When you play with someone and have to share the stage, backstage and travels with him you need to have a strong connection of ideas and passions. With Serj this connection was not so strong and when the work to create the new album entered a heavier phase we decided by mutual agreement that the harmony created would not lead to a peaceful work.

Searching a new singer in the middle of a creation process is difficult, you have restricted choices, but we found Zilath’s request to join us, along with others. He results to be the best choice for the band and for the album thanks to his experience in live performances and recording sessions, united with is skills as extreme singer and lyrics writer. We played with him, when he was with Voltumna, in different occasions so we already knew what to expect from him. He's high scream and clean growl would have given to ShadowThrone a perfect singer for the sidereal atmospheres that we would have evoked.

Into the veil of the music of “Elements' Blackest Legacy” we slowly stride. As if you wanted to have it all in the same record, not willing to extend the suspension of what you guys are able to do for a period of several years. This album’s extreme Metal direction is crossing borders, shattering glasses and banging on doors. What is your opinion of ShadowThrone’s blackened direction of music? Is it a giant step forward in comparison to your previous album?

The common opinion is that of a giant step forward in comparison with "Demiurge Of Shadow", and we agree with it. Maybe with this new level of creation and production a reworked "Demiurge Of Shadow" could give the album the beauty we had imagined but that we were not able to express. We do not know if this direction will remain the same for the next album, we play and write songs for our self and then for the others, so we don’t want to follow the fashion of the moment or create a copy of something made from famous bands. We will maintain the synth surely and other elements that helped us in the creation of this atmospheres.

With such a tantalizing flow of extreme Metal albums, also of those who wish to disdain themselves from the early works of others, or even themselves, what do you think makes “Elements' Blackest Legacy” utterly special and uncanny?

I don’t think that this album is so special, facing the truth "Elements’ Blackest Legacy" is an ordinary black metal album as the ones you can listen every day. The only thing that make every album different, but I'm talking about the good ones, is that the people who created it are not the same as the others. In this album I injected my sensations, my tastes and my idea of black metal, things that are different from that of another artist.

Part of your doctrine towards writing music, is to come up with composite arrangements, and quite wicked songwriting. How was this process done for this release? Would you say that it was a work of a single songwriter, or rather a group effort to come up with the best possible release thanks to several minds brainstorming their heads off?

I am the one who wrote all the instruments and the basic orchestrations. Zilath wrote the lyrics, reinventing in his own style the ones already created by Serj for some of them. For the orchestrations we asked to Riccardo Studer from Stormlord, and man behind Timecollapse Recording Studios, to create some cold and sidereal synths. We can say that this album was created by me but enriched by other artists, last but not least Davide and Francesco that putted their personal touch during recording session.

With a relevancy also for “Elements' Blackest Legacy”, what is more important to you when you write riffs, is it the creation of melodic intervals or rather laying down technical rhythm guitar assortments? What is your viewpoint regarding the importance of melodies in even the ferocious subgenres of Metal music?

When I think about guitar riffs I never start from the idea of having to demonstrate technique or skill to someone. The most important thing is to succeed in creating the right atmosphere and this can also happen through two simple chords. We are not one of those progressive bands that denaturalize everything through the excessive use of techniques, depriving the songs of a soul. I prefer a Darkthrone album to a Dream Theater album. I believe that in some parts of "Elements’ Blackest Legacy" we have been able to combine violence with a melodic plot. A bit like Swedish bands if we think of Dissection or Sacramentum”.

What is the blackest legacy of the elements that you deal with on this album? Sounds kind of cryptic to be honest. What is the source of this enigmatic title?

Those "Elements’ Blackest Legacy" are earth, fire, ice, air and all those factors that give life and continuity to nature. Elements that have always fascinated and accompanied mankind in the course of progress, linked in the imaginary past to alchemy and witchcraft, stored in obscure points of history. I love nature and the places that are part of it, those far from civilization, and I spend part of my free time in contact with it. The homecoming translates into contempt for the other people and the advanced civilization. The artwork of the new album portrays this aspect, if we look at it from the bottom upwards, where the shades are closer to the fire and as they rise they turn into glacial tones.

Continuing regarding the lyrical concept of this album. Is there a leading theme that is regarded as the pillar from which the other tunes’ lyrics were inspired from? If there is, what is that main theme and its importance to you?

Zilath is the one who wrote the lyrics. I gave him carte blanche about it but with the leitmotiv of a cold and dark universe, a sidereal and far dark sky over a pure white slice of ice.

Which of the album’s songs is your top of the bill? That one song that in its final version had you just sit in your place and think forward?

“L’Autunno Di Bacco" is the song I prefer and it is strange, because it is a semi-instrumental. In reality it reflects a lot my soul with its simplicity and cold and evocative atmosphere.

Now that you mentioned “L'Autunno di Bacco”, that one truly inspired me. Not exactly a song, yet not your average instrumental, which indulges of technical performance or lead guitar display. It is a sort of pre-closer, angelic and demonic at the same time. On what it is all about? What does it stand for you?

We had the same feeling! This pleases me. The song was inspired by some places I frequent visit on free days. I spend those days walking along the paths of the surrounding mountains which in Autumn light up with strong and ancient colors and in winter everything seems to crystallize with snow and ice. I wanted a silent song from a lyrical point of view but repetitive and closer to avant-garde atmospheres. At the end we decided to insert a verse in Italian from a translation of Callimaco's Inno Di Bacco to leave an italic signature and an ancient and mysterious mark. Certain sensations or atmospheres are not found only in Northern Europe; Italy is full of them.

For a closer, you ended it all with an outro, “Faded and Cold Humanity”. I would say quite a disturbing track, showing a dark future, which I could only guess for it to be the last steps of humanity before its final chaotic cry. What is behind this segment of celestial echoes? What is its true meaning?

“Faded And Cold Humanity is a revival of "Faded Humanity", a song contained in the previous album "Demiurge Of Shadow". It's a song that I love so I made an ambient version of it using synths. In studio we decided to add a drumming track to give dynamism to it, making it more suited to the context of the entire album.

In terms of marketing and promotion, other than making a lyric video for “Path Of Decay”, is there a plan for another video? Perhaps a filmed video?

Non Serviam Records asked us to choose a second song for a new lyric video and we chose "Black Dove Upon My Shoulder". At the moment we don’t have any other planned video.

What do you think that works best, a well-crafted lyric video or a filmed video? Do you think that the public wishes to see the band other than lyrics running before their eyes? Does it help to maintain credibility?

I haven't been watching videoclips for a long time. By now all the possible themes in videoclips have been used and many of them are similar. The last one I saw was Kampfar - Tornekratt and I must say I loved it. At the moment I have no idea how to make a videoclip. I think that when we have to pull out a sterile, simple and already lived video just for the sake of calling it 'official videoclip', showing off our shitty faces, I much prefer a nice lyric video with lots of cold atmospheres and graphics. We are not required to follow the cliché of the market. The album is already a proof of our musical credibility because we played it in full, every single instrument.

The rest is just a side dish that you can add, but is not necessary, also looking at the fierce competition. If you are referring to the numbers of likes and views I would say that today a wrong evaluation metric is used. On YouTube also the shit smells of flowering meadows.

What is coming next for ShadowThrone when it comes to supporting “Elements' Blackest Legacy”? Any shows already closed until the end of 2019? Perhaps festivals for 2020?

We are working on it, we have been confirmed for the 2019 edition of the Black Winter Fest with Hellhammer, 1349, Kampfar, etc… Here in Italy is not so easy to find good gigs, thanks to a restricted number of decent places and the fact that there are lots of underground metal bands that want to play but no one goes to see each other's shows. We are new on the international scene so at the moment we are looking for gigs in other countries.

In your perception, what is a ShadowThrone live show? What makes it to become over the top?

Well, I have never aimed at an extreme live from a ‘scenographic’ point of view. I believe that the live dimension reflects us as people. We have a fairly sober but dark atmosphere on the stage through cold lights. This is because those who see us must not be stopped or get distracted only by the scenic aspect but should pay attention to the music. I must say that this thing works very well because in our live reviews people talk more about the musical aspect.

Stefano, I did you thanks for this interview, you made it happen for Black Metal music, indulging on its past, present and possibly its future as well. Great end result mate, all the best.

I thank Metal Temple for the interview and for supporting ShadowThrone. I would like to invite readers to follow the band on our Facebook page and other channels for upcoming news”.



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