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Sommo Inquisitore: "Whenever the Inquisition arrived in a village it was as if Death had arrived. It was absolute power over the poor and the helpless"

Interview with Sommo Inquisitore from Sommo Inquisitore
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 June 2021, 8:47 PM

Perhaps one of the darkest periods of mankind, the middle ages, where the only basis that moved people around, gave them hope, answered to their dreams, if they had any, was the instituion of religion. By gaining a lot of power and influence, things went sideways with this institution, making it a dominant ruler of people's lives, calling a traitor to whoever doesn't fit and worse. Trying to find a proper atmospheric feel to the period, Sommo Inquisitore was born, and solely in Italian. Debuting with “Anno Mille”, Steinmetal had to find out more about what went through Sommo Inquisitore's mind while working, and composing. 

Hello sir, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing in these rather troubled and challenging times?

Hello Lior, nice to meet you and thank you so much for your kind words and for your interest, it's greatly appreciated. I've been ok, hope the same for you! I've been working mostly, luckly my job was not affected as much as others by the restrictions.

It has been a while since I came to embrace myself with Italian sung Metal music, there is a kind of passion in the Italian language that seems to fit any musical genre, and I believe that Sommo Inquisitore is right on the spot. Out of curiosity, what did motivate you to create music in Italian rather than in English or bi-lingual?

Well, the main reason is quite simple… to be honest I can't really speak English, and being Italian, when I conceive and write a song I do it in my own language. That's why I never even thought of writing an album in English. The Italian language is full of nuances and I'm able to use them properly in my lyrics, but I'd never be able to do the same with a language I don't know much, such a s English.

I noticed that you are quite the Dark Ages kind of fan, also it is gracefully featured on the album’s artwork and also the moniker that you chose for yourself. What do you find so compelling in these rather dark times in humanity, in particular in Europe, which already then was the center of everything?

Well, specifically, in order to create this album (and band!), what I found most inspiring about those times is precisely the dark atmosphere the Middle Ages suggest and evoke. During those times the Church played a very important role, it was sovereign. To me Sommo Inquisitore is the portrait of Evil.

The Middle Ages are somehow the symbol of the Church's power. People needed to cling to the Church and the Church took advantage of this. So it's a period during which the Church caused a lot of damage. Whenever the Inquisition arrived in a village it was as if Death had arrived. It was absolute power over the poor and the helpless.So I felt all this perfectly fit the kind of armosphere I was aiming to build with Sommo Inquisitore's music.

The newly released album was called “Anno Mille”, which is roughly translated as “Thousand Year” or rather “Thousand Years”. I guess that you meant a millennia since the birth of Christ, which also includes quite a bit of the dark ages?

Yes, that's exactly what it means, as the correct translation of "Anno Mille" would be "Year 1000" or "1000 AD", if you wish.

Which events in Medieval Times did you find as compelling? Which of those events inspired you to write the material for “Anno Mille”?

I'm intrigued with the obscurantism, therefore the events and characters that inspired me for the album are the Inquisition, Torquemada and the witch-burning, the crusades and the Grail Quest. And also the plague. Each song deals with one of these topics and it's sung by different points of view, the Inquisitor's, the witch's, the crusader's and so on.

Through this journey of the album, within the midst of those dark times, what did you wish to explore and learn?

Well, this is a good and complex question that will requires some time. First of all, since Anno Mille is not a historical essay, but simply a metal album, I must say it's not about historical accuracy, but it's mainly "entertainment".

For this reason, when creating it, I basically focused on building the right mood, rather than researching historycal events. So I wouldn't say that I was aiming to explore or learn anything, or at least I mean not specifically. However there is something that must be kept in mind. I believe that at the end of any creative process, to some extent, you always experience some kind of personal development.

That's because on one side, in order to express yourself, you have to somehow "connect" with yourself. Therefore it's unavoidable to learn and discover things about yourself. And on the other end you are forced to face some practical problems, so in the end you also grow as an artist - songwriter, musician etc.

In my case, Anno Mille was my very first attempt at composing an album (music and lyrics) entirely on my own, so I feel I definitely learned a lot and developed as a songwriter.

Certainly the Dark Ages are considered to be a period of time where mankind displayed its utter brutality, even though it also later on through history, the exploration of savagery was at one of its peaks. Whether through wars, religion, schemes and tides of ignorance, it appeared as if mankind showed its true face as evil. Do you believe that humanity has always been evil at heart and simply had to be triggered?

I think men behave according to the opportunities they are offered. I don't believe they are entirely good or entirely evil. But I think that, to some extent, evil is inside everyone of us. It's clear that in certain periods and circumstances we're not given the chance (or we don't feel the need) to bring out this evil. But there's a chance it might come out, if the specific circumstances encourage or allow it.

While you survey the atrocities of that age of man, would you say people have yet to learn past mistakes or take responsibility to be more civil towards their society and themselves?

I think we should always look back at the past. You can't think of the future if you are not able to see the past. You're obliged to look at the past in order to see the positive and negative sides. The past gives us the experience we need to do things properly and not to repeat the same mistakes.

This also applies to everyday life. How do I know how to do something today if I have no memory of the way I did that same thing yesterday and the consequences it had? How can you plan the future if you can't remember your past?

Generating a darkened, yet melodic, kind of music to accompany the forms of torture and violence of old, your music took a fine course that has that King Diamond essence, but you also explored other areas of your own country’s tradition. What is your take of this fusion between Heavy Metal and traditional music?

Kind Diamond's probably my favourite singer, I love everything about his music. So I guess some influences might show in Anno Mille. And Piero, our drummer, is a lot into Mikkey Dee's drumming.

Nevertheless I don't feel Sommo Inquisitore's music is similar to Kind Diamond's. The songwriting and my voice in particular are very different from his. But it's still possible that you can find some sort of atmosphere in our songs that at moments could bring King Diamond to mind. And if so, I'm very pleased!

Regarding the fusion you mentioned, for sure the verses in Latin give it a Medieval touch. And the lyric's metre, distinctive or slightly unusual due to the Italian language, also adds a peculiar feel to the music. So I'd say this fusion happened in a pretty natural way, simply because I wanted to achieve a specific atmosphere.

For example if one had to write a song about the Scottish war of independence he might want to use bagpipes in his music. While, as I was talking about the Church and the plague it felt natural to add that prayer in Latin to the lyrics of the song Pestilentia. I'd say this fusion is a simple consequence of the medieval atmosphere I was trying to accomplish.

Would you say that this form of traditional music is a means to enrich Metal in general or rather put to attention your own country’s heritage?

Personally I never thought of putting attention on my country's heritage. It's rather something I did according to my taste and sensibilities and probably, since I'm Italian, the Italian influences simply came out. And yes, hopefully this will enrich the music I play, making it more personal.

How would you say that the work on “Anno Mille” developed you as a songwriter and as a vocalist?

I think this album developed me as a songwriter because this was the very first time that I wrote a full album entirely on my own and 100% my own way. So I learned a lot about the whole process.

With my other bands I'm of course able to express myself, but we're always 5 people and each of us has his own ideas. So even if mine are always incorporated, they are somehow modified, even if just slightly, to appeal to everyone in the band. And the same goes for the lyrics. In this case I had a chance to do exactly what I had in mind and I said exactly what I wanted to say. So I think Anno Mille is a very personal album, music-wise, but even in the vocals/lyrics. It's my baby!

I believe that one of the toughest nuts to crack is how to find that special cohesion between the lyrics and the music. How were you able to integrate the two on “Anno Mille”?

In the beginning when I first decided to make this album I already had in mind all the subjects I wanted to write about. So as a first thing, when I composed each song, I started by creating the atmosfre that seemed appropriate for each subject matter. Once I came up with a music that evoked that specific mood I felt was right for the topic, I started working on the lyrics. And at this point the lyrics came very naturally and without too much effort. A bit as if the music itself was leading me to the right lyrics. Sometimes some verses came to me as I was writing the music, so at moments I wrote both lyrics and music at the same time and in one go. I made very few changes and corrections, and I didn't make many researches, in fact the album was written in quite a short time.

I wrote each song from start to finish (lyrics included) during the same day. That's because when I finally sit down to write a song it's already in my mind. During the previous days I have gathered ideas and I only get to write when I feel ready. I don't like to drag things for too long because I think that if you do, after a while you'd start making too many changes.

On which of the tracks can you elaborate about, perhaps telling its story a bit and how was it created and your personal appreciation?

Pestilentia was an important song as it was the very first that I wrote. I had stumbled across this prayer in Latin (the one you can find in the lyrics) and when I heard it I was fascinated… I chatted about it - and about the plague - with a dear friend (who also happens to be an archeologist). And 2 days after our conversation I thought to write a song about it. And the whole album! So you could say Pestilentia is the song that started it all.

A fun story is the one concerning "Tortura" the last song on the album. I had planned to write a song about torture, but I was not really inspired, so I kept postponing and it ended up to be the last song I wrote. Now, I practice martial arts and what happened is that I was in the middle of a particularly hard training session. It basically consisted in remaining perfectly still in a very uncomfortable position. And at some point this tune came to my mind, in a moment when I was somehow experiencing some sort of "torture" as the workout was quite painful! So I focused on this tune and kept repeating it in my mind over and over. I was afraid to forget it and as soon as the training was over I ran to my cell phone and immediately recorded it. And then, the next day, I had the song done and recorded as a demo version.

What can you tell about the sound production of the album? Who engineered it? What was your initial vision of how the album should sound like?

The album was entirely arranged and engineerd by my dear, longtime friend Andrea Mattei. He's an outstanding guitarist and musician and also a sound engineer. Even if the music he usually plays is very far from Heavy Metal, he really got into the album. He played guitars, bass and keyboards on Anno Mille and he owns his own studio where we recorded all songs. Andrea and I have known each-other since school days so, we are basically on the same page.

The album is as I first envisioned it and I'm happy with it, but of course for the second album we will try to do better and improve many things.

What would you say were the band’s biggest challenges while working on “Anno Mille”? How were you able to face those challenges and take them head on?

The hardest thing was to find the right balance and avoid "exceeding". Because both Andrea and I had so many ideas and the album was so laden at first. We initially got carried away and had so many choruses, organs, violins that it was just too much. So instead of adding we had to remove several things! Andrea in particular had some really impressive ideas for the arrangements, but I didn't want to stray away from traditional Heavy Metal, so we had to set some boundaries.

Looking forward to the future, any thoughts on maybe writing material in English in order to approach additional audiences?

Absolutely not, believe me when I say that I'm not able to write lyrics in English. I don't have to make a living from music, I make music for fun and passion, because I simply feel the need to make music. And the only way I can do this is in Italian language.

Is Sommo Inquisitore considered a band or rather a studio project to come back to every now and then? Do you intend to take it to the stage? I bet it could serve as an interesting spectacle.

Sommo inquisitore can be considered as my solo band, but it's definitely not a studio project. I hope to release albums with continuity and I'm currently working on the new one. I already wrote all songs for it. And of course I can't wait to play live, I'm working to put on a great show.

Are there thoughts about the next album perhaps? Maybe continuing your journey in the bowels of yet another Medieval experience?
Yes sir, the second album will be once again set during the Middle Ages, with lyrics focusing on various topics, and not as much on the Church as on the first album.

What do you miss most about the culture life in Italy, considering the fact that the pandemic is still relevant?

I miss everything! I miss going to museums, to shows, to the cinema. even the smallest things, I really miss everything…

Sir, I wish to thank you deeply for your time for this interview. I must say that I was intrigued from the get go to listen to “Anno Mille” and it would be awesome to see what comes next. Cheers.

Thanks to you Lior for your kind words and for this in-depth interview! This was great.  Hope to see you around, hopefully when we get to play live. Take care, cheers!


 



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