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Stranger Vision's Riccardo Toni: "…you can certainly say that what you see is coldness and uncertainty in relationships, in the approach to life. These years of uncertainty, Covid and war led to that"

Interview with Riccardo Toni & Ivan Adami from Stranger Vision
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 17 December 2022, 10:11 PM

When the dust settles, there is a light that shines through, with the capability to banish the leftover damage and inflict hope on those in need. That can be rendered as a utopian state of mind, or thought, but it is rather logical. Hope was never for sale, nor will it ever be, it has to be longed for and believed in. The Italian Power Metallers of Stranger Vision find comfort in the notion that hope exists and it can be reached. Inspired to create their new album "Wasteland", another journey is underway, with a lot to discover about mankind and more. Steinmetal had another talk with Riccardo Toni and Ivan Adami about the nature of the new album and how Stranger Vision changed.

Hello gents, it is good to have you again for a talk with Metal Temple online Magazine, how are things going on your end?

Thank you for the invitation and the fantastic review on your site, we are honored. On our side everything is going well, we are very happy with how our album 'Wasteland' is being received by the public and the press and we are organizing several concerts to play it live as well.

Even though Italy is not part of the World Cup in Qatar, and I will be honest, it is still a mystery to me how your country didn’t get promoted to this competition, it was a surprise back then, and it is still strange right now. Have you been watching the games or without Italy, there is no use?

Ivan: Honestly I don't like football. I would have watched the World Cup in Qatar only if Italy had reached the final, a good reason to drink beer with friends.

Last time that we talked shop about Stranger Vision it was at the heart of the pandemic, and you guys were able to release a great debut album, “Poetica”. In a way, and it is only logical, that to support the debut was nearly an impossible task. Were there attempts to go through a release show after the album’s release? In general, do you find the timing as a kind of miss?

Riccardo: Yes, we had the chance to perform live for a release party in our area. It was little, but at least we managed to do that. After that Italy went completely back into lockdown and we were completely stuck. So, in order not to stand still and immobile, we decided to start writing the second album.

We definitely came out at a strange time in history, but we can't say it was a lost release. We made ourselves known to the world. Fortunately, today with social media you can do a lot and at least our name has started to become known. Now we hope to do a lot more with Wasteland.

Continuing the Stranger Vision journey, recently you released your sophomore album, “Wasteland”. It was hard for me to disconnect the notion that things have gone dark, and optimism was somewhat shadowed. In your view, what does this title express? Is this a form of an aftermath?

Ivan: "Wasteland" is a concept album inspired by the poem by T.S.Eliot, it's a short book, but full of many references. It's set in London of the last century and deals with the loss of values in modern society. We believe that many themes are very current and with this album we wanted to deepen human nature in a more introspective way compared to Poetica.

The coldness and uncertainty that engulf the album are dominant, with signs that there isn’t too much to expect future wise. There is the water element throughout the songs, yet I perceived it as a metaphor to the raging seas of life and a person trying to withstand, and survive, the different currents. What is the leading theme that is being expressed on the album, as you see it?

Riccardo: The theme of the album (as of the book from which it is inspired) is a journey into the modern age and yes, you can certainly say that what you see is coldness and uncertainty in relationships, in the approach to life. These years of uncertainty, Covid and war led to that. But after this journey, in the end the message is positive: we can start again from these fragments of humanity, try to transcend this situation by looking higher. The peace at the end of the album comes precisely from this inner choice.

How much of “Wasteland” is a close and personal case, experiences that either of you gents brought to the table in order to breed life to? How much of yourself, other than the music, is within the lyrics of the songs?

Ivan: The topics of Wasteland are topics that touch us all daily. We studied all the single words used by T.S. Eliot and we tried to understand all the historical, religious and philosophical references mentioned. We also analysed our being as a man in modern society trying to interpret these insights into our private lives. I think there's a lot of us in Wasteland's lyrics, an intimate interpretation of us.

I liked the artwork, and what it channels, as mentioned, there is the watery effect, yet that gate with the person standing at the threshold, that was a little different to me, as if disconnected from the picture in relation to its place in time. Gustavo Sazes is the one behind this piece of art. What can you tell of the motifs that led to this artwork? What does it try to express in your opinion?

Riccardo: With Gustavo we worked very well. We explained to him the concept of the album and the fact that all the songs were interconnected. We wanted artwork in which all the songs were represented. At first he was a bit puzzled by the request because it was a bit difficult to represent, but then he worked very well. I think the cover represents very well everything that can be found in the music and lyrics of the album: the wasteland, the fragments of humanity and the desolation left by the absence of communication and values. That is all that can be found within the journey. Only to be resolved in the final song… Peace.

As the record tended its own form of darkness, a little bleaker than the earlier “Poetica”, things went a little rougher, heavier, nonetheless, no less melodic. In a way, I found it intense at times. I believe that “Wasteland” is a great example of how European Power Metal evolved, both songwriting and musicianship. How do you find the progress the band made through “Wasteland”?

Ivan: We are happy with the stylistic evolution and the result of the album, but above all we are really happy about the public response. We looked for a more compact, direct and more modern sound. We always wanted to stay within the power metal genre, but with different influences: prog metal, orchestral and thrash metal. The guitars are more powerful, the orchestrations less theatrical, the keyboards more modern and even the work that I've done on the vocals goes in this direction. On a melodic level we are always within a genre that can be defined as power metal, but perhaps we are moving towards something different that at the moment we can't label.

In your opinion, in relation to the songwriting process, and your approach to creating the dramatic effect of “Wasteland”, what do you think that changed in contrast to the earlier sessions of “Poetica”?

Riccardo: with Poetica we had made the choice to base each song on different themes and works, it was certainly a choice that gave us more freedom from a certain point of view. But on the other hand, drawing on a text like Wasteland was a compositional experience on a higher level. T.S. Eliot's Wasteland is a short but very powerful poem, rich in images, evocative… we could have written ten records based on that text. It was a great challenge for us, but also a great experience. This dramatic and melancholic effect belongs to us and allowed us to express ourselves fully.

Recently, you had two changes of the guard, meaning the lineup of Stranger Vision changed a bit. First, there is a new skinman for the band, Alessio Monacelli, which has also been part of progressive related bands. How do you find his addition to the Stranger Vision lineup, and of course his contribution to the songs?

Ivan: Alessio is a great drummer. He entered our band only a few weeks before the recording session. He added something new and powerful to the Stranger Vision sound, unfortunately limited seen that most of the compositional work was already done. I believe that his contribution will be more significant on the new album on which we are working on.

Secondly, Gabriele "SSSSarti" Sarti, the band’s keyboard player, left the band, probably after “Poetica”. Certainly, one of the greater elements of the band is the keyboards. However, I noticed that you took it upon yourself on “Wasteland”, and the end result is quite impressive. What can you tell about fulfilling two positions, which both are quite demanding? Is there a plan to recruit a new keyboard player, especially if this band is to return to perform live?

Riccardo: I thank you for the compliment. Yes, composing and playing the keyboards, orchestrations and synths on Wasteland was quite a challenge, but also very nice: I experimented a lot with sounds, not setting myself any limits. We went from symphonic to prog to power within the same record. There is also an instrumental song with two voices: guitar and synth… We had a great time working as four people on Wasteland, so I think we will continue like that for the next albums. To play our music live, we will use backing tracks, as many bands do.

For this record you invited two guest vocalists, Hansi Kurch (Blind Guardian) and Tom Englund (Evergrey), to perform on a song each on the record - “Wasteland” and “The Deep”. What I liked about each of the efforts was that it sounded as if these were written especially for them, as their voice fitted the spirit of the songs, whether it was intentional, or not. What can you tell about the experience of working with both musicians? Did they have an input on the songwriting of these two numbers?

Ivan: "Wasteland" is the opening song where Hansi Kürsch represents Tiresias the blind clairvoyant that accompanies the listener in the chapters of the concept album and in the various emotions of man, a bit like Virgil in Dante's hell. Tom S. Englund performs in the song of Chapter 4 "The Deep", which is about death caused by water. Tom in this song plays Phlebas the Phoenician, symbol of the ancient sailor, Ulysses and all the navigators who died in the deep. We adapted the songs based on vocal and interpretative characteristics of Hansi and Tom. Both helped us in the recording session putting their own taste and enriching the respective songs. It was an honour and a really pleasure to work with these sacred monsters of the metal scene.

Once again, your local magician, Simone Mularoni, of the DGM fame, engineered the record, delivering an even stronger outcome than of “Poetica”. With the general atmosphere of the album, the sound is in kind, as expected.

Riccardo: Simone Mularoni and Simone Bertozzi of Domination Studio are two great professionals to whom we owe a lot. They helped us a lot in our artistic growth and in the process of writing and producing Wasteland. Working with professionals of this calibre has allowed us to clearly understand our mistakes and, above all, the potential and characteristics we need to focus on to best express our music. The more direct and compact sound of the record is certainly thanks in large part to them.

“Fire” is certainly one of the best songs that I have heard in a while in Melodic Metal. Other than being hooking, and delivering crushing heavy riffs, the melodies and vocal performance are outstanding. As if you knew which buttons to push. What can you tell about the creation of this track and how do you find its impact on the record?

Ivan: Fire was born by an idea of Gabriele Sarti. We worked a lot on that song seen we were not completely satisfied of the result of the chorus. We changed it many times and at the end we arrived at one conclusion. We wrote 2 different vocal lines, we liked both and at the end we used both in the last chorus.

I assumed that it was due to the inability to perform live, yet the promotional campaign for “Wasteland” showed double the number of singles in contrast to “Poetica”. And you also delivered four videos, quite a complex situation as I see it. Was it due to the mentioned reason? What can you tell of the experience of putting the pedal to the Metal promotional wise for this record?

Riccardo: We are also very surprised by the numbers. It's probably due to the fact that we are no longer a new band and also the way the promotional campaign was designed. We chose to make five videos, all filmed, no lyric video, and it worked. It was our label's idea that we supported. These numbers are important, but you also have to be able to play the record live otherwise they count for nothing. Our commitment in 2023 will be just that.

We talked about inabilities live wise, but now that option is open and ready to be used. What are your plans going forward to support “Wasteland”? Will there be compensation for the “Poetica” album as well in your plans?

Ivan: We are working hard to schedule several shows in our country and in several countries in Europe. We believe it's not possible to look for compensation to support "Poetica". In our shows we try to put more songs that we can from both albums.

Gents, again it was a pleasure to have you, you continue to amaze with the Stranger Vision effort, it was a great listener. I wish you all the best, and thank you. Cheers

Riccardo: Thank you Lior for the time and space dedicated to our band. We hope to hear from you again soon for the third album!



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