|I loved mediterranean music, Greek and North African in particular.|
After the release of 'in absentia Christi', the 1995 masterpiece from the Italian band MonumentuM, the dark scene prepared itself for a new name in the underground which was going to mix its own bitter flavour with the world of mysterious, hypnotic music. However, the following years, only the silence that surrounds this strange band hailed us, a band which seems to dwell in the same lethargy that envelops its mesmerizing music. However, our hope resurrected with the joyous news that MonumentuM is back among us, having signed a deal with the Moonfog productions label and currently recording a new album, which is -hopefully- going to see the light of this world early next year. Roberto Mammarella, the main man behind this band and founder of quality label Avantgarde Music, offered himself to shed some light on his mysterious creation and gave along the way his thoughts on the current dark/doom metal scene, his own label and the unfortunate fate of unconventional, talented bands in the hard world of music business...|
Greetings Roberto and thanx for doing this interview!
Your band MonumentuM is an underground legend for the fanatic dark music adorers, but the name remains mostly unknown to a wider dark metal audience. So perhaps you could start this interview by introducing your band for those who haven't heard any MonumentuM material yet?
"You are right. Due to some un-understandable connections of our band with the extreme & black-metal scene during the period 1993/1995, it looks as if we were highly considered by many black metal musicians and their whole audience, while we were quite ignored among -for example- the old-style doom-metal scene. In other words, there are more Monumentum fans among Darkthrone fans than among those of St.Vitus or Cathedral. Of course an explanation of this is also the basic fact that our music since 1995's 'In Absentia Christi' was not *so much* metal as one would expect. So the darkwave fans or even the black metal fans appreciated the band for its weirdness, unconventional music structure and hypnotic atmospheres. But the doom METAL fans, I think, most of them at least, found this album too unconventional. No guitar riffs as you would expect them, no Black Sabbath influences (at last !!), no 70's influences. I don't like 70's music ! I believe music started in the 80's. I completely missed the Jimi Hendrix and psychedelic druggy music lessons of the 70's, and you can hear that in our songs. This might be seen as a lack though by more straight doom-metal fans."
So if I understood correctly, the inspiration behind MonumentuM departs from the 80's. Were there any particular bands/styles that led to the formation of MonumentuM?
"yes, the 80's. I think that any kind of music was at its height in the 80's. the 70's were years driven by youth revolution, the drugs phenomenon and stuff of that kind. The bands that gave us the initial instinct to found Monumentum, were Celtic Frost, Paul Chain Violet Theatre/ Death SS, Candlemass (first two records only), Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death, and many more, sure, the whole darkwave movement, and the darkest metal bands."
I read on the Moonfog productions site that MonumentuM is currently recording the new album 'Ad nauseam'. How are the recordings of this album going?
"We have started now recording the vocals. Again, it took longer than expected to put together this recording, again due to the fact that we have not rehearsed or anything. I just invited people to record their instruments, so you can imagine. We will mix during January and February 2002."
Is there anyone left from the 'In absentia christi' line-up? Or is the line-up for 'Ad nauseam' completely different (with the exception of yourself, of course)?
"Yes, nobody is left but me. It even started as a solo project this time even though it ended up with a complete line-up. But the whole concept behind this was to form a sort of "equipe" which applied to different roles in every song. So for example, our vocalist also recorded some synths and keys, our guitarist also recorded some piano's, I did record some guitars and the main loops/samples structure in each song, the keyboard player also took care of some drum programming. I would say, a sort of open-creativity sound factory... I call it the 'greylife audio research'."
The Moonfog site quotes you saying that the new album is going to be "darker than In absentia Christi" and that there will be more 'happening' on this new album. This sounds somewhat vague to me, could you specify what do you mean with these words?
"It's very vague. For sure it will be more dynamic, less tedious. We still have the exhausted spiritual atmosphere, if I can have that expression, but using different sonorities as well. There's not much left from my past, I would say. Other influences have entered the picture for sure. Now, it's pretentious and useless to write here that we are 'more whatever'. I find it hilarious when bands write that they are influenced by Pink Floyd, only because they happen to own 4 P.F. cd's. I let these conclusions to be taken by the listener. There's no Pink Floyd though."
Why did you choose the Moonfog productions label? After all it's a label that seems to be concentrating on harsher, Norwegian-style black metal bands. Do you have any affinity with this scene? Or perhaps is Satyr widening the scope of his label by signing some 'different' bands?
"Both of your theories I suppose. Ok, I don't have to speak on Satyr's behalf, but for sure I know he still expects an album to be very dark and more based on different sonorities than he can have by signing a whatever doom/gothic metal band. Myself then: I must say that MUCH of MonumentuM's popularity, even when we are talking about a small / elite popularity (we are not a media phenomenon) is given by the unbelievable faith we always got from Norwegian fans. Don't Ask me why, because I am not able to answer. The fact that Euronymous' DSP was supposed to release a MonumentuM album far back in 1993 might be a reason, though."
6 years have passed since the release of 'In absentia Christi' and the recordings for the new MonumentuM album. Any particular reasons why MonumentuM was quiet for such a long period of time? Was the band 'active' in some sense during those years, or is it rather the philosophy of MonumentuM to fall in lethargy and resurrect where no one expects it?
"No activity really. I had these big illusions, or call it mind-plan, to make another album around 1998, but I didn't manage to do it. At first it was a bad feeling I had about the people involved in the project, and then also a sort of self-misunderstanding about which musical direction to take with the band.
All we did in these years are only: one instrumental song appearing on Misanthopy¹s sampler cd 'Presumed Guilty', a DEATH SS cover ('Black and violet') on their Tribute album, and an electro-remix of the 'Fade to Grey' cover tune previously released on the I.A.C. album. This one appeared on the 'Palace of worms' compilation cd."
Back to your previous work 'In absentia christi'. Listening to this album, I have the feeling that the atmosphere of the tracks came to life in the studio, during the recording of this work. Some parts seem to be rather improvisational, with a trance-like feel. You can almost see the Derwish dancing in your mind's eye, while listening to a track like 'Selinis aggelos'
"Yes. Thanks for drawing such a nice picture, because it means you got it for 100%. It's nice to get so precise and dedicated reviews. It came to pieces in the studio because I only rehearsed that album with my guitar together with the drummer: so everything else you can hear on the cd was actually improvised or recorded in second takes: we discovered the genesis of these songs week after week, after each recording session. The 'magic' thing though, if I can waste the word 'magic' (don't wanna sound pretentious) is that everything on that album sounds so perfectly conceived and in the right place like it was decided to be much before the recording."
MonumentuM is probably the only dark metal band I've heard using ethnic intruments such like a bouzouki and accordeon! Was this a deliberate move for MonumentuM, to make somehow the connection with your mediterranean background? Are such 'suprises' planned for the new album as well?
"I loved mediterranean music, Greek and North African in particular (from Magreb etc). In 1995 I was in the heights of my enthousiasm for those kind of sounds. I actually felt 'one of them'... even though I live in Milan, that is 20 minutes away from the border to Switzerland. thus a not so mediterranean town, rather a 'teutonic' one. But I almost discharged all these influences from the current compositions. There will be only a few ethnic sounds on the new album. But again, many surprises!"
Speaking of that mediterranean background.I have the impression that except the Northern dark metal scene with its harsh, icecold sound, the southern European scene -in particular the Greek (Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh, Necromantia, Varathron...) and Italian (MonumentuM, Cultus Sanguine, Ras Algethi, Canaan) scenes- also show a big coherence, displaying a 'warmer', melancholic dark metal sound. Would you agree upon this view?
"COMPLETELY. I used to laugh when I read from Norwegian bands that they are influenced by the forests and the snow. Still I laugh a lot about this, actually. But then again, this is something natural, spontaneous, you don't even have to say it. It's just there, in your blood. We are truly warmer. It is probably a different form of melancholy and depression."
Now let's go a bit more back in time, the 1989 MonumentuM demo 'Musaeum Hermeticum' has been quite recently released by Necropolis Records. Were you happy with this release? Personally, I think it's fascinating to hear how much MonumentuM has evolved in these six years between the demo and 'In absentia christi'.
"It's fascinating, yes. I am sick about the past, although I am not regretting anything, and the fact itself that I gave permission for this demo re-release means that it is somehow important for my life. Well, honestly, I have convulsions listening to it now. But ok, there's a season for everything in life. That demo had genious ideas for its time, although we were total Celtic Frost rip-offs (!), but the musicians' performances are ridiculous (including mine) and the recording pathetic."
I have respect for this view! Although you are not satisfied anymore about the recordings and you even hate them, you are still 100% behind them because they are somehow a part of the MonumentuM musical history. This is so different from some other 'evolved' bands like Paradise Lost, who now claim that all their old, metal albums were a big mistake, disappointing all their old fans.
"No, no, wouldn't call them a "mistake". All I could do, -and which I happily did- back then, it's *there*, in that demo, or in the following MonumentuM album, or for example also in the first two albums (minicd +debut album) of Cultus Sanguine (a band in which I used to play back then). I can not call them mistakes, because I couldn't do anything else as an alternative: so, if this is what you can do, it's not a mistake. Paradise Lost and other bands have been pathetic in regetting their metal-roots because they know very well that they can only exist, even today, only thanks to the metal fans.
It's not a mere coincidence in fact that some bands that wanted to move drastically away from metal, got IGNORED, so they had to go back to their good old guitar distortion. Paradise Lost, Moonspell, My Dying Bride it's a long list.
Paradise Lost wished that their pre-last record (Ed: 'Host') would be bought by pop-fans, which instead don't even know about Paradise Lost's existence. So, magically, samples and loops and electronics were closed in a box now for their last one, "Believe in nothing", and Gregor had to warm-up again his dear metal axe."
Thus far, I tried to concentrate this interview on MonumentuM, but I would also like to ask you a few questions about your label Avantgarde music, since it has played a very important role in the development of our favourite genre, doom-metal. Your opinion about this genre weighs a lot, especially since Avantgarde has released some of the most original, classic doom-metal albums of all times, f.i. albums from Thergothon, Unholy, Katatonia and now also Evoken. Do you follow the recent developments in the doom-metal scene? Are there in your view any doom-metal (or doom-metal related) bands which are going to be responsible for the dark-metal sound of the future?
"No. I feel like we are at a dead end. There are a few bands that still have the balls to do this: Shape of Despair, Skepticism, Evoken, Morgion. But it's very depressing to see how these bands get ignored by the media and by the (sad to say in public, but this is reality) 'big' people. there are very few doom fans, and very much dedicated. They also tend to think that every single doom metal record released nowdays is great because there are so few on the market, compared to other genres.
My problem as a record company is that obviously doom metal bands need as much studio budget as any other band, if not more when they are a sophisticated doom metal band, or when they need massive sound productions to emphasize their heaviness, but their sales figures are so little that we can't just afford to give, just an example, 6.000 $ as studio budget to a band that's gonna sell 2500 copies then. This way I see it as a quite 'castrated', dead-end situation. I think a doom-metal fan has more convenience in joining a gothic metal band instead of keeping it really HEAVY, SLOW and HYPNOTIC and trying to get somewhere with their music."
The Avantgarde website and the Wounded Love Records (in which label one can find another original, bleak doom-metal band, Dolorian) site are integrated in one whole. I guess this means that there is some kind of connection between the two labels?
"Yeah, two banners under the very same company. Same office, same associate partners, and you probably gonna ask me then why certain bands are signed to Wounded Love and the main number to Avantgarde Music. But I don't have the answer! The bands prefer to have the Avantgarde Music logo, it¹s probably a matter of better profile."
Any idea what happened with Unholy? I haven't heard much from this band, after they left Avantgarde Music.
"Well, they didn't leave, but got dropped if this is the point. Which is a bitter point when you consider that Unholy was probably my favorite band for 3 years, around the era when they gifted humanity with the absolute MASTERPIECE, COLOSSAL 'The second ring of power'. The reasons for this separation are all explained in my answer to the question number 13. Unholy was a very expensive band to produce, not in vain because their records have a very good sound, but their sales decreased record after record, while they wanted almost double recording budget. They told me that they were sure to sign to a MAJOR label. Musicians are often NAIVE and out-of-reality: as a matter of fact. Over two years have gone and nobody had the balls to sign them."
I have the impression that more and more people (and certainly not only doom-metal fans) start to appreciate Evoken. How far do you think these guys can go with their ultraslow, heavy doom? Are they able to become a legend outside the strict boundaries of a doom-metal audience?
"No. An answer as honest as I could give. But I am a realistic person you know, I leave dreams for the fable's books. Of course I like them. But how far from New York they can go. Needs no answer. I don't think they even dream to become music stars: they indeed would like to get more attention in terms of sales and media, and have the opportunity to play a tour in Europe, which is very expensive for an USA band."
We are peacefully approaching the end of this interview. What are your future plans with MonumentuM? Is your band perhaps going to be more active after the new release 'Ad nauseam'?
"It depends on the people's and media's responses. If I will get shitty reviews, if I will read on magazines that MonumentuM are similar to Anathema or Theatre of Tragedy that will mean that my attempt with this record has not be correctly understood. In terms of people, for sure if Moonfog would tell me 'look nobody is buying your record even though it's great'. Then I would give up.
When i tell this, I usualy get misinterpretated: I am not seeking to become a millionaire with MonumentuM, nor am I such an idiot to believe that we could sell 30,000 copies because we will never do, but there's a limit to indecency: it's called dignity."
What should the fans who patiently awaited for 6 years expect from the new MonumentuM release?
"The most interesting album in 2002!!! It's just the matter to read it with the right key. Nobody would read a philosophy book in a stadium while watching a football game, right?"
We finally reached the end of this interview. I would like to thank you for your patience in answering my questions! Is there anything you would like to add to close this interview?
"I am truly sorry for having let you waiting for weeks to get this done: it seems as if I was untrained in doing interviews. So I must do some exercises, as I hope to get more whenever the album will be available. You are doing a great job for Doom Metal, your site is wonderful."
Your last comment shall please our webmaster, considering the time he puts in the site... Thanx a lot for your honest and thorough answers and good luck with all your activities in the future!