Interview with Climaxia of Italy’s Melencolia Estatica

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Interview by Jason Guest

Jason: Hi. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Congratulations on Hel; it’s an incredible album (Ed: Jason’s review is here). What it was that you wanted to achieve with HeI? For you, how has the band developed since 2008’s Letum?

Climaxia: The main concept about Hel was to detach from the past, trying to follow through M.E. in a different direction compared to the black depressive shades of the previous albums. From 2008 there was plenty of time to come up with ideas and concepts that were then only abstract ideas, time helped me for sure to understand what was my goal and what would be the future of this project; starting from changing the label and new collaborations who immediately represented a turning point in M.E.; a new logo; and for the first time collaborations with graphic artists for the album cover and artwork. Use of a certain level of cooperation is certainly something that now characterizes M.E., I feel especially to mention Mories of Gnaw Their Tongues among the many who worked on the drafting of orchestrations of Hel in which, among other things, I hope to work again.

Jason: According to the press release, Hel is inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a film released in the early part of the 20th century (and recently re-released with missing footage and a bunch of extras). What is it about this film that you decided to take it as inspiration for a whole album? Do you think it has as much relevance now as it did upon its initial release?

Climaxia: I think Metropolis perfectly represents the kind of feelings Melencolia Estatica always wanted to show through its music. The main theme of the film that definitely caught my attention and inspired me was the vision that Metropolis gives about human being. More specifically, I think it is still one of the most effective portraits that art gave throughout the years about the relationship between man and modernity. So I’m not only firmly convinced that the whole film has the same relevance it has when it was released, I would say it is more relevant. This is because of the fact that when it came out in 1927 it was a vision, a solitary try to foresee what it could be in the future. By now it is the picture of today’s reality. If you look at the film you will see there is at least one experience, or more, everyone of us could have personally lived. It is barely prophetical in a certain sense. Definitely a masterpiece.

Jason: How did the film, such an epic in terms of its vision and its execution, influence the writing of Hel?

Climaxia: It didn’t simply influence the writing of Hel. The lyrics and the music of this album are Metropolis and viceversa. My specific intention while I was writing the words was not to tell a story, and especially not to make a short summary of the film. My idea was to take its images, its places, its smells, its sounds and its people, and turn them into a living background where the listener could walk and live. So Metropolis is not simply the inspiration; it is the setting of the entire album, the place where it stands and takes its life.

Jason: The three chimes that open the album are very intriguing. As well as religious overtones, they convey a dark sense of foreboding. What do they signify?

Climaxia: It was a choice made by me and Afthenktos to simulate the chimes of the clock present in one of the most famous scenes of Metropolis, a sort of brief introduction to the world, gray and decaying modernity, almost surreal that you breathe from the first minute of the film.

Jason: The album has a dream-like feel to it yet at the same time it can feel mechanical in the sense that the listening experience is very disconcerting and disorientating. Do you think that music – something intangible and abstract – is itself imbued with a power to enact some form of transformation within both the creator and the listener? Is this what you want Melencolia Estatica’s music to achieve?

Climaxia: Surely it is what I want to achieve with each album of M.E. I think it is fundamental not to remain indifferent facing the artist’s own work, as well as a spectator with a certain sensitivity should be struck by a sound, an image or an idea. I believe that music is one of the highest forms of art can change (even indelibly) the personality and character of a person, change their views or evolve onto a higher plane.

Jason: How do/did you choose which musicians to work with for the band and for Hel?

Climaxia: I played with Thorns and Afthenktos in many occasions during the years, I always try to play with people I know as musicians… But it’s not possible sometimes; it is getting very hard to find professional and good musicians for collaborations… possibly in Italy or in the area I currently live.

Jason: The concept for Hel was yours and the lyrics were written by Afthenktos. How do you work to bring the lyrics and music together?

Climaxia: When I spoke to Afthenktos about the concept, he was very pleased to roll out the lyrics and metrics for Hel. He and I have already worked together and it binds our friendship for many years so when all the groundwork had been prepared for him it was very easy to evolve my lyrics and my concepts according to their needs in terms of the metric. Certainly the relationship of mutual trust has further helped in the drafting of texts that transmitted the feeling given by the music and orchestrations.

Jason: When working with Afthenktos and Thorns (drums), how much direction did you give them when writing and recording Hel?

Climaxia: I worked with Thorns several times as well as with Afthenktos, people I have great respect for, knowing for many years we have had the opportunity to work in a natural and spontaneous way. To them I always leave space for improvisation and trying to merge their taste with my expectations, but usually I want every musician who is working with me to leave his stamp on the album. It’s very important to me that every musician translates in his way the feeling of the music.

Jason: Can you tell us about the album cover? Who’s the artist? How did you choose to work with him/her? And what was it about their work that drew you to him/her?

Climaxia: I worked with Valentina Monochrome art, a person I know for some time that I have always admired the work, the idea of our collaboration was born from a mutual respect and a shared passion for the decadent art of the ’1900’s. His way to use white and his artistic tastes have helped me to visualise the idea of  the post-modern world decadence narrated by Fritz Lang. In the future there will definitely be other collaborations together.

Jason: How has Melencolia Estatica developed since its inception? Does Hel mark a significant step in the band’s vision and development?

Climaxia: With Hel my wish was to give new light to this project. After many years since Letum the idea was to take a step forward and detach from the past and try to create something new and original that would convey my influences and a new type of music more “experimental” that melted its roots in previous albums but in the most defining style. For me, Hel is certainly a new starting point for the future of M.E., also at the level of aesthetic imaginary.

Jason: Is there a philosophy or an ideology that inspires or drives your material?

Climaxia: Talking about M.E. I can just say there is no a particular ideology or philosophy behind it. I try to describe in a natural way my emotions and feelings, putting inside the project things I really like such as art, cinema, books, or personal experiences. I always said it’s a very introspective project and I will keep writing music in this way.

Jason: What’s your opinion of the intellectualisation of black metal? Is black metal something that can – and perhaps should – be rationalized and understood?

Climaxia: In every area of art there is always someone who has tried to rationalize its works, for example, abstract or points on a canvas they have no logical meaning at the the first look. I do not call myself a person that’s totally rational and music as the very first expression of creativity should not be parsed or decrypted viscerally. I think the feeling is transmitted by music. Black metal must be something that is interpreted in a personal way without generalizations.

Jason: Apart from Melencolia Estatica, you work with a number of other bands. Of all of them, is it Melencolia Estatica that gives you the most freedom for self-expression?

Climaxia: Surely in M.E. I have full control over the creative process and composition and concept, but I must say that with Absentia Lunae and Lintver, I’ve always written with various types of music I really like. Having only one project is a great liability, and I also believe that playing in a band composed of several elements is a useful tool for comparison of ideas and exchange of views that often helps to improve the quality of work.

Jason: What do you get from working with such an array of musicians? Do they inspire music for Melencolia Estatica?

Climaxia: Collaborations with guest musicians usually occur when all the instrumental base is done, then each person inspired by the finished material gives a personal contribution, of course, finding a compromise between my ideas and style. I always try to work with people who know their artistic ability or generally strike me in an artistic and creative way. I do not think so far my collaborations have amended or changed my way of composing.

Jason: How does your approach to writing for Melencolia Estatica differ to that of those other bands?

Climaxia: I have always considered M.E. a project very introspective and personal. As a solo project, the compositional approach is much more intimate and relaxed. I have the opportunity to develop concepts and themes dear to me and blend them with some of my passions .. such as the art of the 1900’s or, like Hel, old black and white movies.

Jason: How do you balance your creativity across all of these bands?

Climaxia: Fortunately, every band’s sound is very different from one another, and this allows me to be able to play different kinds of extreme music that have always influenced my musical journey. Each situation has its own precise identity and I never found it difficult to balance all these different realities together.

Jason: What does the future hold for Melencolia Estatica? How do you see Melencolia Estatica progressing?

Climaxia: At this time my activity with M.E., I aim to play live and a time to pause. Surely in the future I will begin to write new material for the next album, but at the moment I am also involved with the recording of the new Absentia Lunae where I’m spending a lot of time and attention. In my thoughts I would like to evolve the concept transmitted with Hel and working with new artists.

Jason: Do you have any plans for Melencolia Estatica to play live? If so, will you be coming to the UK? What could we expect from a Melencolia Estatica show?

Climaxia: At the moment we have recently done a concert in Italy with whom I got to this new line up, certainly in the future, we are planning a couple of dates still to be determined and are open to explore any type of proposals. And why not in the UK? In the concert we just did, we tried to reproduce the atmosphere of the new album through the use of projections in the background. The atmosphere is always recreated as a carpet of candles and pieces of the new album retain all the orchestrations on Hel. It ‘s very important for me to convey the same feeling of the disc during live shows.

Jason: What would be your ideal venue or setting for a show?

Climaxia: Having the opportunity I would like so much play in an old abandoned building that invokes scenarios of Metropolis, and the atmosphere that we tried to recreate the last live we did recently. Surely gray and gloomy atmosphere and decandent atmosphere is something very important for the good performance of the new songs of M.E.

Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any final words for our readers?

Climaxia: Thank you for the interview, I hope Hel will be appreciated and perceived as the greater maturity of the project and I thank those who in these years has supported Melencolia Estatica.