INTERVIEW: Tommaso Riccardi – Fleshgod Apocalypse

WORDS: James Weaver

Italy’s FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE have been crafting an usual brand of death metal since bursting onto the scene with 2009’s Oracles. Six years later the combination of death metal and classical orchestral has become a staple for one of modern extreme metal’s leading names. On the brink of the band’s fourth studio record, King, we spoke to vocalist Tomasso Riccardi to talk about King, the difficulty of the band’s sound in a live environment and their upcoming tour of the UK!

So your fourth studio record King is out in just over two weeks, are you looking forward to the release of that record?

Tommaso: Yeah of course yeah, it’s been super, super long and stressing work. You know it’s always like that, it’s one era of craziness but now we’re finally there and for what I’ve got until now, in the interviews from the press and everything and also, like, some close friends who’ve been listening to the album. I really got that the reaction has been great so we really can’t wait to see what’s going to happen when all the rest of the world is going to listen to it.

It’s been three years since Labyrinth, how has the band developed in that time?

Tommaso: Well, you know Labyrinth has been, I believe, extremely important for our experience I would say, because of course Agony has been the first album with Nuclear Blast and that was obviously the first big step, but after Labyrinth we got the chance really to tour so many places we’ve never been before and keep touring Europe and the UK and US and Canada, but also going to Japan and many other places. So from the live point of view we had so many chances to get skilled on many aspects and details of the show and everything. And of course, Labyrinth has been a very complex work for the composition, so we’ve been learning a lot from that, and I guess when we finally got to start the composition of King we had many, many elements to learn from the past. So I really believe that all this work during these last years have been extremely important to give us the chance to work properly on this album.

The bands style is very orchestral; there are a lot of different elements going on. For King, what would you say are your primary influences for this record?

Tommaso: Well you know on one hand, we’ve been, let’s say, influencing ourselves in the meaning that we really wanted to try to find the best possible bands between all the elements that we’ve been working on during the last years. I mean we are born as a band who of course, mixes different worlds together and for which regards the classical inspiration we have always been influenced by the big names of classical music starting back from the baroque period to all the composers from the romantic and the classic period. And on the other hand of course let’s say, the narrow part of music is especially based on the American death metal. Many of the songs sound extremely European but in the mean time there are many other bands especially in the riffing and in the rhythmic section, so drums and bass, that have a lot of influence taken from the American school of death metal. I’m talking about also the old school of death metal from MORBID ANGEL or DEICIDE or CANNIBAL CORPSE or whatever. But in this album I think that besides some episodes like The Fool for example in which I really hear a lot of influence from the Baroque period but all the main themes in the album are really, really based on the romantic music in my opinion. And also there’s a lot of influence from other composers, especially Hans Zimmer who is working a lot in Christopher Nolan’s movies. I think it’s a big part of our heritage as an entire generation of cinema fans and music fans, I really feel like there’s a lot of synthesis of everything we did in the past and also new elements mixed in to the synthesis. And of course one thing that I really notice listening back to the album after a few weeks, I try to stay away from it for a while and listen to the album again with fresh ears and I believe that there is always a lot of complexity there and a lot of little layers you can continuously discover when listening again and again to the album. But in the meantime it is much more in the face on many other aspects and I really like that. We’ve really been looking for a really massive sound, it’s something that could be extremely of impact since the first listen and then of course have all the other sub layers that you can keep discovering while listening.

Lyrically every FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE album has dealt in the realm of concept albums. In the lyrics and the story you want to tell in the King, what’s the setting? What kind of messages are you trying to portray in the music?

Tommaso: Well as you’ve said, we are always about concept and we believe that FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE is a concept band regarding the image and the video and the shows and of course the albums. We’ve always been telling stories and sometimes narrative stories, sometimes not, but anyway, there’s always been a metaphoric theme in some way, what we’ve been writing in the past. In regards to King, this is a story that could be seen on maybe two different levels. On the narrative level, the story is actually set into a court during the romantic period, also the King that you see on the cover, you can contextualise that king is not a particular King, he is an imaginary King but for the way he is dressed and the setting, he’s actually a King who is living in the romantic period. So basically between the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. And the narrative side of the story is this King who lives in a court in which every other character, so the minister of war or the Queen or whoever in the court, is in some way jealous or maybe trying to control him and manipulate him or is frustrated for the fact that actually that character is not the most important person because the King is, so they all represent many different frustrations that we all have in some way. But the main inspiration for the story that brings us to the second level, to the metaphoric level, is that we were actually inspired by today’s society if you want to say that. Not in a political way, we don’t like to talk about politics, it’s more on a philosophical level. It’s very hard to deny that we are living in a pretty dark time and you know I don’t want to be negative about anything but of course history has always been a cycle in a way. There has always been periods of growth into culture and art and society itself and periods of crisis. We believe that this is for sure, a period of crisis because there are many changes going on and when that happens it’s really easy for people in general and of course for ourselves to get a little bit lost about what is actually important, what are the real important things, the more concrete things? So this King represents someone who is still connected to the past in a positive way, he is someone who knows what is justice, who believes in integrity and wants to do his best and take his responsibility to make things go in the right way but in the meantime he is like in some ways almost fighting against windmills because he has all these other characters surrounding him in the court that are indeed representing the loss of value that I guess we’re living in these days. Because, you know it’s very important to remember that evolution even in technology and society is obviously important and is normal but in the meantime it’s so important not to forget that the most important things are the most simple things, so there is this contrast between what is new and what is old, representing this continuous fight between old and new. I believe that everyone of us has this King inside, every one of us has a part of himself or herself who is able to recognise which are the important things and which are the superficial things and its very important for us to say ok, we can choose, you know? We can be the drop in the ocean so everybody here should be hailing the King that is inside and try to do the right thing.

So in a way it’s quite a philosophical album really, there’s a lot of messages contained behind and within the music…

Tommaso: Yeah!

I can imagine aswell with such a huge sound with the orchestra and with the death metal side, portraying it well in a live environment can be somewhat difficult?

Tommaso: Yeah, of course it’s difficult to manage to bring this into a live show of course, because there’s so many different things going on but you know that’s like every other thing in my opinion, in general, in life whatever you do, it’s just a matter of being constant, always trying to be connected with your own vision. If you are able to imagine things then you can do things. If you can dream it you can do it and that’s our philosophy you know, it’s just a matter of getting the responsibility and the courage sometimes to do things that are sometimes are over your possibilities but then sometimes you discover that your possibilities were bigger than you think. So you know you just have to do it and then worry about how to do it and we always think like that, you know I think it’s the only way to get better because if you start considering too many things then it is impossible so once you do that then you find yourself in the position in which you have the responsibility to do it and when you have the responsibility things in a way are heavier but on the other hand they’re also easier because then you just have to do it. And it works, it really works, we’ve been improving a lot thanks to this way of thinking. At this point, I don’t want to say absolutely that it’s easy because it’s always something difficult to do but of course, we have more confidence and we also have more confidence in ourselves and between each other and the band so we’re just improving and always trying to never settle, always, always try to get better and better because it’s something I believe the fans deserve and for us it’s extremely important to fulfil our duties as a band towards our fans.

To round this off you’re going to be hitting the road fairly soon

Tommaso: I guess that you can always expect surprises from Fleshgod, it’s always like that. So we’re actually working a lot on the new shows and trying to imagine every next step and as you know, we’re always been increasing the show on the other aspects of our music. So you can just expect, I believe, Fleshgod at their maximum level if possible because we will always do our best to deliver the best show as much as possible so we just can’t wait to come back that’s what I can say and also I think a lot of energy. Energy is everything for us, it’s always been like that but in this case it’s great because we’re headlining a lot of shows, it’s obviously harder to do that and also some are legendary places that we’ve always been loving through the years like Camden town or whatever but in the meantime we’re also starting to miss the tours because we’ve been playing mainly festivals last year but we’ve been concentrating a lot on the composition and the recordings so now we’re totally ready to go back on the road and that means we’re going to be super energetic!

Awesome! Well I look forward to seeing that hit the UK! I really appreciate you took the time to talk to me and I hope you have a lovely evening!

Tommaso: Thank you, thank you very much!

King is set for release on February 5th 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records.