It looks like the new album is your most ambitious work thus far, especially lyric wise, because it's your first actual concept album. So, for starters, could you tell me a bit about the storyline and how some of the songs talk about specific characters from the story?
Yes, it is the first concept album based on a story written by ourselves, even if in the past we did some theme-based albums, like for example "The Scythe". This time we felt the time was mature enough to tell a story through our music and songs. When we wrote the story for it, it was immediately clear that it would have been impossible to fit the whole story in a single album; so "Divination" is going to be the first part of a longer story. In this part of the story the eight main characters are introduced and they meet this mysterious figure who suddenly appears in the hamlet, being able to divine past, present and future. What this is going to bring to the characters of the stories will be revealed in the next chapters of the story.
So, the album is the first part of a multi-release project?
Yes, it is correct. When we decided to do a concept album based on the story we came up with, as I said we immediately realised it would be impossible to fit all we needed to tell in just one album. So we came up with the idea of dividing it in more chapters and to continue the stories in the next albums. It will be for at the least the next two albums, this is the plan at the moment. Maybe we will change our mind in the next years and something will be added but at the moment this is the plan and there will be three chapters of the "Reader of the Runes" story.
You kicked-off the promotion of the new album by releasing a video-clip for "Silverseal". The landscapes in the clip look a bit like from the LOTR movies, but I don't think you travelled to New Zealand to shoot it, ha-ha?
Ha-ha, not at all. Unfortunately, I would say. But we are lucky enough to live a wonderful country like Italy, full of splendid landscapes and natural beauties. The video was shot in the Tuscany region and in a special environment on a magmatic land where smoke and steam come out of the soil naturally because of volcanic activity. It was a perfect place to shoot "Silverseal".
Talking about "Silverseal", tunes like that would actually be perfect for some epic movies or TV shows, you know, stuff like "Game of Thrones". Would you like to write music for a movie or a TV show?
We would love to. I'd personally really love to have the possibility to work on something like that. We have been approached a couple of times to do something and we are still in discussions. So let's see what happens.
The second single to promote the album is "Divination", which you also released a video-clip for. Why did you pick this particular song?
It is always very difficult for us to choose a single. We prefer to see the album as a whole work to be listened from the first song to the last one, especially for "Divination" which is a concept album. Probably we are too old-school especially for these times. By the way we wrote "Divination" with the clear idea to have a straight song to be as direct as possible, getting rid of a lot of useless things. So it was a good choice to be used as single for those who are not really into our kind of music.
You've got extreme metal elements in some of the tunes, like in "Malefica Doctrine"...
Extreme metal has always been a part of our influences, since we founded the band. We have grown up with the '90s death metal scene and we always loved black metal and they are big part of our musical journey. So, it is pretty natural for us. "Malefica Doctrine" is one of the songs we love the most on the new album.
"Diamonds in the Night" is just a short ballad-ish piece, but re-arranged bits of that tune are also included in "Reader of the Runes - Book I". Who came up with this idea?
Yes, it is more an intermezzo to cut the album in two. Damna proposed me to add a short acoustic piece in the album and I had written a verse for the "Secrets of the Magick Grimoire" album that was not used. So I played and sang it to him and we agreed it was interesting. Still we needed a chorus and we came up with the idea to use it in the closing song in order to create a continuity in the whole album.
Right, the closing number "Reader of the Runes - Book I" is an epic tune, 10+ minutes long. You've had epic pieces on your previous albums, like "King of the Elves" on "Pagan Manifesto" or "A Poem for the Firmament" on "Wyrd". Do you enjoy writing such complex compositions?
Yes, we love this. For me for example "Keeper of the Seven Keys" and "Halloween" from the "Keeper" albums have been a big fount of inspiration since the first time I heard something like that back when I was just a kid in the very end of the '80s. I have always been fascinated by long epic tracks that can give you a whirlwind of emotions.
Being a folk metal band you obviously use some more instruments in your music than the standard guitars-bass-drums combo. Did you use any "weird" instruments on the new album, something "regular metal fans" may have never heard of?
Well, as you know we do have a violin player in the band since basically day one. And this is one of our most important characteristics. We used to have a lot of different traditional instruments in our albums, like tin whistles, recorders, bodhran, bouzouki, piano etc. This time we used for example a Celtic harp to bring some special magic feelings where we felt there was need to.
So, you've now got 10 albums out, and they've all been released on AFM Records, which is quite unusual. Looks like a perfect marriage, I mean very few bands stay with one label for their entire career, right?
It is something that I like to call romantic. I do not know how many bands are with the same label for more than 20 years at our level. To be sincere we had different offers from other labels before the release of the new album, but then AFM came out with the kind of offer you cannot refuse, and we were more than happy to work once again with people we know so well.
I've got a question about the band's beginnings. When you were starting out there weren't many folk metal bands around, and even fewer folk power metal bands. So, who came up with the idea for starting such a band? Were you inspired by some known folk rock or metal bands such as Jethro Tull or Skyclad?
When we started the band back in 1997 there was no folk metal scene at all and we did not know anything about this. The only band that was a huge influence for us in these terms was Skyclad from the UK, and I also used to play in Jethro Tull tribute band. So we had a lot of influences on this side, but we really did not have a vision there was something around mixing metal with folkloristic tunes. Nowadays it has become really popular but at the time probably we were between the first bands doing something like that in the scene.
Like you're saying, the folk metal scene is huge these days. Do you listen to any other folk metal bands?
Yes, I like to listen to some them! The only problem is that in my opinion it's very difficult to find something fresh in the scene. Especially because the so-called folk metal bands often lack personality and you cannot just bring in some traditional tune and do it with heavy guitars and fast drums to make something really appealing.
The Italian metal scene in the mid-'90s, when you were starting, wasn't very big. I think Labyrinth had been around for a couple of years, Rhapsody had just released their debut album, but there were no real big names on the scene at that time. Any idea why?
Once again there was no metal scene at all. So, when "Legendary Tales" came out and little later "Return to Heaven Denied" by Labyrinth we were kind of shocked. There were possibilities to have something important also coming out of our country which was totally unthinkable just few months before. This pushed us to make even more efforts to do something to be noticed and come out of the water.
You'll be visiting the UK soon, performing at the HRH Vikings festival in November in Sheffield. Are you looking forward to playing for the British fans?
We have already played in the UK in the past but not as much as we would have loved to. We are really looking forward to playing there again, hoping this will bring us chances to come to the UK to play more.
OK, what are your plans for the remainder of 2019?
We will be on South American tour in October, and we have just announced part 1 of our European tour in January 2020. This leg will be a co-headlining tour with our fellows Brothers of Metal. It is going a package to not be missed at all!