Italian power metal classic star DragonhammeR came to life again with their new album Second Life. After five years of relative silence, they came with new album, new line-up and therefore we broke the silence as well and asked Giulio Cattivera and Alessandro Mancini a few things about new album and new DragonhammeR.
You are releasing new album called Second Life. I´ve heard it but I am really interested on what´s your point of view on the album. How can you describe the album to somebody who haven´t heard the album yet?
Giulio: I would say that the album is turning point for the band because we have a new line up after one of the founding members of the band left about five years ago. We decided to regroup, reorganize the band and so now we have new members. We decided to create a new life for the band as well. We got two choices – a) to stop the band or b) to try to reorganize to try to continue and basically for creating the new album with our second life. When you listen to the album, you´d hear a lot of new things just because we have new influences from new members but at the same time we decided to keep the most important aspects of the band in terms of musical genre and main influences. You will definitely recognise that we are still DragonhammeR by listening to Second Life but at the same time, you´ll hear the new things, fresh sound and I think that for all Power metal lovers, it´s the album that is definitely worth listening.
Alessandro: I would like to say that it´s not anything ground breaking, we are not trying to invent a new power metal sub-genre or something you´ve never heard of. We just want to make the music we love and do it using some class and quality and putting hours and words to make it as best as possible using our own know-hows. Each one got their own, you know. Marco is giving his drumming parts, Giulio and I – we compose most of the album and orchestration – everyone puts their best to it because we want to make it really good and I think we really did the best we could without losing ourselves in the process of making this.
You already kind of said it but – it´s a traditional power metal album with a lot of epic stuff in it and I think I would not be wrong if I say that it does carry some Italian power metal heritage. You also have quite a lot of new members who got their own influences. What are the new elements of DragonhammeR and to the album Second Life?
Giulio: You can definitely feel the Italian taste in power metal music of the album. Alessandro is one of those new members – he´s not that new for us as he joined the band in 2018 but in terms of releases, Second Life is first release with Alessandro Mancini and also with Marco Berrettoni on drums and singer Mattia Fagiolo. I would say that Alessandro was definitely one of the most important members for this album because he brings new life to band with his skills in terms of composition and music in general. Marco is definitely awesome drummer when it comes to power metal double kick technique – he definitely did his job on this album. And last but not least, Mattia is new Italian talent because he is very young – he´s 22 years old. We discovered this guy in the suburbs of Rome in the underground metal scene of Rome. He is really talented guy, professional singer and you could listen to it on the album. I think that all the new members bring the new energy to this album.
Alessandro: I agree with Giulio. In the past, there was a bit different way of composing and a different idea behind it. In this case, Giulio really bring forth the concept and the basic elements of each song and then we all contributed to it and modified it. So from single moment that was Giulio´s concept of this album – we just nurture it and added of our own taste, things and skills to it. And all of the sudden it turned out to album you listen to.
As you mentioned – you introduced new singer to the band and you already played festival with Mattia. How does he fit the band – not only in terms of recording the new album but also in terms on stage chemistry?
Giulio: We did a great job in order to make this band as united as possible. With respect to the past line-ups of course. Apart from playing music and going in the rehearsal room, we are also trying to unite the band in different situations like we are hanging out in pubs, going to pizza together time to time and stuff like that. That makes the band closer than ever. Instead of considering the band only as a job, we are also trying to make the band as a family because in this way we think that the band will last longer. While playing on stage it was the first shot for Mattia so it was a great chance to let out some rust from the band as we weren´t playing for a long time, but in the end, everything went well, I would say. The show was great and we are already planning more live gigs for the next year. You can expect a lot of those in the upcoming month.
Alessandro: Yes! It felt very natural. There was nothing too clanky and we just felt very comfortable with each other during the trip, during and after the show. I think that there will be no problem on stage in the future.
I suppose you written the new songs before even knowing who the new singer would be, right? (A: Yes.) How was it to write the songs without knowing who will be the voice behind the lyrics? It does sound a bit difficult to hit directly to singing style and pronunciation of singer who you don´t really know yet…
Giulio: This was the problem that we had to face while making the album and the first idea was – “OK, while composing the song, I was imaging the melody and Alessandro and sometimes the other members were participating the composition and the first draft of the voice was done by me. But that was really a rough idea that was intended to be sing by a real singer so way better, you know. (Laugh) When we hired Mattia, we just gave him all the draft ideas that we did and he was just amazing in putting his contribution in it, modifying the melodies or lyrics where it was required and at the end of the day, he did an amazing job.
Alessandro: And if you think about it from other point of view, if you had a singer, you have to work with it. You know that this is what is going to be on your album. But if you have no singer but you know what you want, you can look for a singer that would fit right into your ideas, your project based on what you think. So we chose Mattia because we wanted something like Mattia for the album. We thought about how we want it and once we found him, he fit exactly to the place we prepared for him because we already knew what we wanted in the album when we were composing.
When it comes to the music and the album, you did something that isn´t really common – when it comes to the title song, you´ve placed it to the end of the album. Why?
Giulio: The last song is like the legacy that comes from the protagonist that is the main character of the concept. It´s part of the story. Of course – if you listen to the last song of the album without having the look to the lyrics or listening to the other songs, maybe it can seem a little bit weird but actually if you read the lyrics and the content of the booklet where is the message written by the main character, you will understand the meaning of the song, even if it is a song without the singer. It´s like only an instrumental song.
When it comes to the inspiration, since it´s conceptual album, what was the main inspiration? Maybe story behind the album?
Alessandro: Giulio nearly died. That´s the inspiration for the album. (Laugh) It´s like – everything starts by looking on some key aspects of the life of everyone. Looking on the aspects that are common among the men. So the story talks about those key aspects that everyone of us can face during the life and so there are some parts that are common with the band and with some of us.
Giulio: (Laugh) About what Alessandro said … it´s an aspect that is written in the song “Fallen Brother” in the ballad where I took an inspiration from an event that happened in my life when basically I was sick and I nearly died but, in the end, I was able to recover and I took an inspiration from this tragic event for writing this song. But in general, all the story of this album has been written by taking in account some key aspects in life that are in common among the men. This was the key idea.
We´ve spoken about you being sick and your near-death experience - how does that effected personally and what have you changed in your personal life?
Giulio: This thing is part of the concept – I decided to add those feelings that I had from what I experienced in order to communicate something to the crowd, to our listeners. What I experienced is something that can hit anyone of us – you can just think about pandemic when a lot of people were close to the death but also due to all the other diseases that are not COVID. This changed a lot in my life and I decided to add this concept into the album. There is a point in your life when you understand what is important and how you want to conduct your life till the end. This can happen in a certain point of your life and this can happen to everyone. I wanted to add this thing in the story and there is also a song – the last one – that is a about the life where this concept is announced and this song is the sum up of all the messages that we wanted to communicate with this album.
You are releasing new album these days – vynils, special editions and stuff like that are the thing these days – to release new albums with special editions, some coloured vynils and stuff. As far as I know, you are only releasing this album as digipack. Why is that?
Alessandro: I mean, it´s nothing of principal here. It´s just that we start like this and we will see how the album would go in the first months after the release. If it does well, people would enjoy it and we would have positive response, maybe in near future, we can think of it – because we already talked about it before the release. So we are not saying no to the special editions or vynils but we will see how it goes in the near future. We are pro for releasing limited edition of vynil – maybe 50 copies, something niche, something for really core fans of ours, but it really depends on sales of the album.
Any specific plans/timelines when could we expect something coming out?
Giulio: For the second half of 2023, there will be new gigs coming out. We will be part of some festivals in the Eastern Europe – specifically in Poland and in Czech republic but of course, we are currently working on scheduling new live gigs and about the releases, you´ve talked about, after the winter we are planning to check if there is possibility to release a vynil but in terms of CD, we chose to publish digipack only as we think that digipacks are a bit better because we like the quality you can put in there and there are also digital channels that basically are currently mostly used by people. We know that some fans are going to buy some physical release and for those, we chose to produce releases of good quality. The same reason applies for t-shirts and other merchandise.
You already mentioned it – you are already working on some tour – what kind of tour can we expect? Headline tour or are you planning to do some special guest shows with some other bands?
Giulio: I sadly can not tell you a lot as our bass player Gaetano is responsible for planning live gigs. But what I can tell you is that we usually like to be part of gigs with other bands, mainly the ones that are bigger than DragonhammeR so you can expect to see us playing with other bigger acts like we did in the past with Rhapsody of Fire, Jorn Lande, Primal Fear and so on. In terms of live gigs as a main act – we are planning live shows that would be both in Italy and abroad. But these things are currently work in progress so if you will follow our social media, you will get all the news you need for that.
Recently we survived the pandemics of the century that hit the music industry hard way – how does it affected DragonhammeR as the band?
Alessandro: We had time to produce the album. So from one point of view, it affected us pretty well because we just stopped and said to ourselves – “This is the right time to do it.” We just basically got on “work train” and while working from home, it was easier to catch some free time to work on the album. Giulio himself spent at least 250 days out of the year working on it every night, basically …(Laugh) and we worked on long distance as for example I spent 6 months in Vienna and we just did a little back and forth with some wav files and small projects even if it was long distance, we just kept going. We needed to focus on producing the new album we didn´t have to rehearse or to book shows and spent 3 days somewhere playing shows. We could focus on getting one thing done and we spent maybe a bit more than a year planning, composing and arranging before going to studio and recording and that was the time we needed and fortunately, we had it thanks to COVID-19. Would it be better if we would be playing every night? Maybe yes, we don´t know (Laugh) But we just did something really shitty a bit less shitty by producing our album.
We didn´t only experienced the bad things thanks to necessity of doing something, there were some special online shows, there was big boom of lyrics videos and collabs and a lot more. What was the most inspirational thing you experienced during the past 2, maybe 2 and a half years?
Giulio: In general, we kept a great relationship with all the musicians that we have played with in the past. In general, every time we organize concert or collaboration with other artists, we always kept good relationships with them. One thing I can tell you is Rhapsody of Fire and Fabio Lione, the singer – we had collaboration at live shows with him before the pandemic so this is how we do it. In general, when we do some live gigs or we have collab with other musicians, we want to keep relationships good for future collaborations.
Alessandro: When it comes to inspiration, we didn´t worked towards getting some lyrics videos out or some collaborations out simply because our material was 5 years old so there was nothing new to brag about. We wanted it to be released after the pandemic and that´s why we launched Second Life now because as it is a Second Life for the band, we wanted to publish it after the pandemic so we can really spread it around and play it live. I did another release with another band in 2021 – so during the pandemic – and now the album is already old but we have really few opportunities because it was released during the pandemic so from our point of view, it´s something that you can do just to keep you in minds of fans and to keep doing something new even if you are not playing any gigs. But at the same time, you can not promote it as you would if it was normal times. That´s why we haven´t publish it before the end of this shitty times.
That happens to be my last question of this interview. Thank you, guys, for your time! Right now, we get to the point where if there is something you want to tell people we didn´t mentioned yet, you can do it right now …
Giulio: First of all, thank you very much for the interview, since we always love to talk about our music. Every time we have this opportunity, it is a pleasure for us.
Alessandro: All that Giulio said, I would just like to add something for the audience. If you listen to something that you like and if you want something from the band, underground bands in particular, just get in touch with them, just let them know whatever you are thinking because the line between you and that underground band is a lot shorter than the one between you and Metallica, for example. We read every comment, we read every message, we reply to them and we really listen to our audience – of what they are thinking and of what they want. So when it comes to the underground metal scene – just get in touch with the band, don´t be afraid to express yourselves for both positive and negative way.