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Vexillum's Dario Vallesi: "During a meeting, someone of the band said “we would need a hood like the one in Assassin’s Creed” and seeing your statement, we hit that"

Interview with Dario Vallesi from Vexillum
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 23 May 2021, 9:20 PM

To look into an essence that once cannot understand, as if the next thing in line is around the corner, coming as unexpected, mystique and undefined. However, surging into it with an open mind, it can be an amazing journey that may result a newsflash, new discoveries and horizons that are bound to be explored. The Italian Vexillum have their paths lined up for them, bestowing a strong sense towards melodies along with folklore that is a piece of enrichment. The band's new album, "When Good Men Go to War", is an evidence of a small empire that is growing. Steinmetal wanted to find out more from vocalist Dario Vaellsi, and it developed quite an interesting conversation. 

Greetings Dario, it is amazing to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how has life been treating you, especially with the current state of affairs looming?

Hi Lior, it’s my pleasure to have a talk with you! Well, I’m fine thanks, busy…very busy….but fine thanks!

After forging a strong stance as not only the fusion of Power and Folk Metal, which it has been evident to be a strong Italian forte, with “Unum”, there has been silence from the Vexillum camp, when it comes to new material. Did you shower yourselves with countless dates or simply took a good breather before lunging into the next adventure?

Yeah you’re right, we took a big breath before the new dive, it was not a decision made on purpose but what life brought to us.You know, after years spent writing music, hundred shows around Europe your mental energy can get lost, so we reduced the speed of our convoy  taking some time do relax and admire the landscape….but we didn’t stop really, we played concerts and put all our efforts writing music.

With the Covid-19 going on, I guess that it was a bit tough to be motivated to write anything especially when lifting your head up and see that culture is simply out of the picture?

Changes are opportunities, I always see them as chances to make something new, something different, situations from which to draw strength and new vigor to go on. I can’t say why but this kind of obstacles awaken in me a big strength, but indeed bring also a great demotivation and it’s tough hold the control….well….they are a big swing to play with!:) By the way we started writing the new album almost two years ago and the Covid-19 came just before the beginning of recording session, we just changed a bit the plan.

Eventually you thrived and raised to the challenge and made things happen for you, with hard work of course. The end result of the process set the sails for the maritime adventure of "When Good Men Go to War" alongside signing with your local label stronghold, Scarlet Records. It was supposed to be a story meant to be between yourselves and Scarlet Records, and right in the nick of time is it not? How do you feel about this signing?

We are very happy to have signed with Scarlet Records, a great label made of great people. It’s always a pleasure to work with people that believe in you and your music that do the best to create a perfect synergy and a great teamwork, it is the best situation to grow and do always better.

With "When Good Men Go to War" dealing with adventures at sea, what can you tell about the newly created imagery for the band? To be honest, from the band photo you appeared to me more of an Assassin Creed orientation.

Ahahah, I like this one! Well, as evidenced from the album’s title, the good men now go to war; so we felt the need to make our image more aggressive to fit the ideal of this album, that’s why this evolution of image. We still have kilts, but they are black, we still have our shirts but they are worn out and repaired, to say in a word “lived -in”. During a meeting, someone of the band said “we would need a hood like the one in Assassin’s Creed” and seeing your statement, we hit that.

What can you tell about the overall story depicted within the gushing waves of "When Good Men Go to War"? What makes it a darkened nature tale?

Among the waves of this stormy sea you will not find a single story but a real collection of tales. Every song narrates a particular story, with its own characters, its own atmosphere and of course its own message; every song could be listened in a “standalone” mode, but it's with a sequential listening that you can feel every song to become a piece of something bigger.

Ten little pieces that give more strength to the main theme, which is sung in the title-track. The journey in “enlight the bivouac”, the growth in “Sons of a Wolf”, the death in “Last bearer’s song” are some examples of how the main theme can be expanded if you consider all the layers on which is based the album. The “darkened” atmosphere is given from the nature of the subject, because an uncontrollable, unpredictable force, something very wild, never faced before is the promise that we make. The result of a broken balance in this case cannot be predicted, and in our vision it’s nothing to be happy for. Also the setting, the sea with a forthcoming furious storm is an analogy with the message.

For some reason, after thinking quite a bit about the matter, the title "When Good Men Go to War" holds quite a lot on its own, even when not related to the epos that is told throughout the album. It is a kind of struggle that never-ending for people, a day by day war to keep one’s hope’s up and not letting go. Is there a connection to the actual story? If not, what is the relation to the narrative at hand?

The beginning of the songwriting for this album began more than two years ago, so the subject was already fixed in mind but we were still so far from the actual situation. The initial choice about the theme was linked to a Michele proposal and revolved around a mix of personal experiences, feelings and emotions ready to be narrated in this new tales. The advent of the pandemic and this world crisis has caught us in the very last part of the pre-production, forcing us to slow down, and at the same time revealed, unfortunately, every single flaw and weakness of our society, at least here in Italy. All these troubles and new situations in everyday life have made the record, with its themes and reflections, more current than ever. Another reason that made us choose to release this record despite the period.

Would you say that "When Good Men Go to War" shares the band’s wish to escape the clutter of the pandemic and present that holds only sorrow than hope? What is your view on this matter?

I can say that your vision it’s not wrong. As I said before “When good men go to war” can be listened through several layers: the very first it’s the opportunity to escape with your mind in another place and enjoy the music and settings, so an instant, joyful but limited (in time) escape ; Going on deeply, we run into a sea of thoughts, meanings, and one of them it’s for sure the wish to give our vision and give hope to those people who, by respecting the rules, constantly see themselves being bullied by those who believe itself smarter, and that they are not alone in this struggle. It can be interpreted as a scream, a strong warning to those who are exploiting the difficulties and suffering of this period.

With portrayed darkness that surges throughout the record, you guys intensified the heaviness of the tunes, which you also described as a “Crucial evolution and aesthetic…”. Was it mainly due to the story being enshrouded with darkness or you simply felt that it was the right time to tough things up?

Well, it was a natural evolution of ourselves and of our lives.The meaning of this album, the meaning of what we had in mind to tell was darker and heavier so everything took that direction without any forcing.

I think that one of the album’s strongest suites is the vocal element. There are two aspects. First, your performance, which was stellar, appeared that you really pushed yourself to limits that were above and beyond. Second, the backing vocals production made the journey partially operatic and also added that great Folk driven sing-along style. How do you view the vocal aspect of the record? How much rest did you need after putting such effort on the songs?

First of all thank you so much for your words. Vocals are the last thing you record on a album but the first people listen and judge so it’s always a bit stressful have this responsibility. Since the first album we recorded I always take part with Michele (and from this album also with Francesco C) on the writings and all recordings, so when it’s my turn to record I know every single note of all instruments inside the songs and this help me a lot with my job.

For this album I just putt all my life’s feelings inside: rage, hope, anger, frustration and so on trying to convey them in every song I sang. I have to say that the recording session was also a bit like a therapy where you throw out what you have inside.

In my opinion the job of a singer is to transmit feelings, there is something more to be just “on tune” and have a good vocal technique.With this vision in mind I did my best and I hope I had reached this goal . About the rest……No rest at all ^^ day after day inside studio!

Another strong point of the record is the songwriting and the ability to capture attention with magnificent catchy melodies as the herder of the songs. What can you tell about the importance of the melodies on this record?

Melodies are always a central point of a song, it’s the first “thing” a listener catch and it is that thing that remains in your mind for days if you do a good job and I think we did a good job with this record

I believe that the peak dramatic standout of the record is the slow tempo is no other than “Last Bearer’s Song”. For a moment there, I thought that I was listening to a Game Of Thrones designed tune, especially since someone’s watch was over. The musical performance and the captivating vocals dishing is out of this world. What is your take on this track?

Thank you for your words. Actually I can understand your comparison, because in “Game of Thrones” there are so many dramatic moments, and the soundtrack underlines them so much. Also the theme of the “watch” might make you think of the Night Watch, but there are no links with the HBO series.

The dramatic and solemn atmosphere was needed in this song because the theme addressed is death, the loss of a loved one and our last goodbye. Here our life is described as a long watch and the death is the moment when the guard changes, when the new watchman will must accept the new role and position from the old one, and it’s all narrated from the point of view of who remains in this world. It’s a song born from deeply emotions, and it’s strictly bounded with an episode of loss that left a mark in our life during the last years.

Surely one of the album’s intensive tunes, more on the vocal end, is “The Tale of The Three Hawks”. Yes, it is a Folk Metal spirited song, however, it ended up being bipolar, changing its identity as it progressed and became a source of passion for melodic scorcher. What is the source of these twists and turns? What is the overall story that is being told?

This song in our opinion it’s the perfect mix of our sound, as you said, from the Folkish parts to the speedy and melodic ones. We like so much the dynamics in our music, and we like to use the dynamic to surprise our listeners, and this song is the perfect example of what I mean. The song is based on a tale written by Michele, which speaks about three special hawks that appear in three different moments of a good man's life, bringing with them not only a message but also a real help, useful to the protagonist to overcome the trouble on his path. The hawks are also linked to the three most important moments of a life: youth, maturity and of course, old age. The fact that all three hawks appear means that that man has lived a worthy life. So in the end, the music of the song wants to follow, in a way, the flight of these mighty birds of prey, from the highness in the sky as a guardian, through a furious dive, to the action beside their chosen one.

What are the upcoming goals of Vexillum for this year, other than the promotion of the record? Do you see the band performing this year?

Well we really hope that the live shows situation will be back soon because we looking forward to hit the stage again! The plan is that…. Be back on stage to play the new album!

What do you miss most out of the cultural life in Italy? What are you craving for?

In Italy we have pub / restaurants closed and a curfew at 22 ….. I miss the liberty to drink a beer in a pub with friends, talk and laugh till night, talk about new songs, plan tours….well I miss the normality…. the liberty to do what you want and what you need to feel alive!

Dario, many thanks for this interview and for your time. You guys inspired me and reminded me why I have so much passion for Metal music, and no it is not a cliché. All the best sir. Cheers.


 



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