Interview: Nero di Marte

Photo by Pascal Cousineau

Hailing from Bologna, Italy, Nero di Marte is a four piece experimental metal band that takes the extremity of metal sound across its boundaries, and blends it with their unique atmospheric arrangement and time structure to come up with something exotic and unique. After changing their name from Murder Therapy, they released their debut self-titled album in 2013. Almost a year later, they took their sound and creativity to the next step and came back with their latest record Derivae. We got to talk with Sean Worrell (vocals, guitar) about the band’s new musical direction, inspirations and the Italian music scene.

Before we get to talk about the music, can you tell us a little about how you all got together and where the idea for the project originated from?

Initially the band started out with Francesco (guitar) looking for musicians to start a new death metal project in Bologna, where he had recently moved to. The band was called Murder Therapy and Francesco is the only person still in the band from those first couple of years. I and Marco (drums) had been playing together in another band for a while and Francesco casually popped into our rehearsal space to listen to what we were doing. We immediately became friends because we had many musical and non-musical common interests.

After playing a show together with our two bands, he asked us to join Murder Therapy and finish writing and recording the album “Symmetry of Delirium”. With time and experience of playing with each other came more awareness of what we could play together. We started writing what would then become the first Nero di Marte album in September 2009. A year later we were searching for a new bassist and I was very impressed by seeing Andrea play in his other band Miotic. When he joined us we were finally able to bring all the ideas and common interests we had to fruition.

I’d like to congratulate you on your latest album “Derivae”. A long way seems to have been crossed since the former record. The sound seems a lot deeper and confident to my ears, as if you were ready to experience your heavy side one more time through your new style. Can you share with our readers how the composing process leading to this release was? What was unique about it?

Thank you! Although there’s only a one year gap between the two releases, the songs for “Derivae” had been worked on for about three years. In fact most of them were finished before we even released “Nero di Marte”. Once the four of us got together there was a very intense period of writing music, experimenting on new sounds and moods. We wanted to expand the atmospheric side of our music while still remaining heavy – it turned out to be even heavier than before because of the broader range of dynamics in the songs.

I can see an escalating tendency towards using the Italian language in your lyrics, as in Finis Terrae and the two tracks in the new album. What is the motivation behind that, and can we see one day a full Nero Di Marte album in Italian?      

When Francesco wrote the lyrics for L’Eclisse in Italian it resonated very much with all of us and translating them into English really destroyed the meaning and the evocative feel those words had. The same thing goes for the other songs you mentioned. I think it really has something to do with sharing the meaning of the lyrics between us at a deeper level since it’s everyone’s native tongue. I don’t know if there will be a full album in Italian, but it’s possible – I’m pretty sure we’ll have even more Italian lyrics in the future.

Photo by Eleonora Guidi
Photo by Eleonora Guidi

You took a big step in your career three years ago by changing your name and style. Before that move, did you fear that this would cost you your established fan base, especially with the big difference in styles? 

We had our fears for sure, but we knew that our old name would be a deterrent for people approaching our new music. Our personal opinion is that a band’s name has very little to do with the music they offer. There are countless examples, but in the end it was a good idea to make the change.

Looking through your past albums and the new ones, not only the musical structure but also the concepts and ideas behind it seem to be different. Can you tell us about the different influences that inspired you back then and now, and did your view towards certain aspects differ when your musical style changed?

I think the same change happened both in the music and concepts that surround it: more awareness of what we wanted to say together as a group. The music itself has always been the main influence for what we want to say lyrically. Both I and Francesco always try to interpret or describe the atmosphere of the song/album into words. It may start with a single word or phrase that becomes associated with the song and from there the rest comes more or less naturally. I can’t speak for much of the lyrical ideas of the past since our old singer wrote most of the words, though in our earlier years the music was more death metal oriented so the lyrics reflected the aggression and sickness of the music.

Being one of the few Italian bands that play in your style, how do you evaluate your local scene, and what influence did it play in your music?

Apart from a few exceptions, the “scene” is sadly stagnant and the number of bands/shows/venues has been steadily decreasing for the past five years. This may drive us and others to create something that’s missing in our country, as a sort of reaction. On the other hand, not having much stimulating music and situations can lead people and bands to quit what they’re doing, especially when everyone strives for popularity and approval. That’s why we try to focus solely on our music and the creative side is the only motivation we need.

It seems that you have been trusting Alex Eckman-Lawn on doing your artwork for quite some time. How do you normally come up with the idea for the album covers and can you tell us a little about the latest one in particular?

The initial idea starts with a color palette or a suggestion of what sort of abstract form can represent the music. With Derivae we were already thinking of the color blue, but we were mainly inspired by a video installation by Isaac Julien called “Ten Thousand Waves” which we saw at MoMa in New York in December 2013. There were masses of formless dark blue waves which really resonated with the atmosphere we were looking for. We gave Alex all our ideas and talked back and forth for about a month, commenting on his sketches until we reached the final version you see on the CD and vinyl. We’re extremely impressed with how much the artwork complements the music!

You have been touring Italy for quite some time in support of your latest album.  How has the fans’ reaction to it been so far? Should we expect some international tours soon?

The shows in Italy have all been great and it turn outs have almost always surpassed our expectations. We’ve been playing only headlining shows and had no idea of what the reaction and number of people attending would be.

As far as international touring, we’re pretty confident we will get to tour both Europe and North America by the end of this year!

So what does the future hold for you guys? Will we be seeing any new projects or records soon?

Filming is finally about to start for a video of the song “Those Who Leave”, which will be directed by Rosamaria Montalbano. She is a very talented and visionary artist and her work is something that I have not seen elsewhere in Italy. This short film will be out in a few months probably. We’ve also been working on new music though we’re not yet sure if our next release will be a full album or something else. We would love to record something by the end of the year; we’ll just have to wait and see!

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