Mediterranean winds are as old as time itself. The Anemoi, four Greek wind gods, undulated the ancient seas from all four directions. Boreas from north, Notus from south, Zephyrus from west, and Eurus from east all whispered the breath of the gods to the land which apparently still hangs in the air and soil of the region to this day, given the epic and triumphant nature of many modern Mediterranean creations. Today, in this modern world, yet another Mediterranean wind traveled north and hit Sweden, carrying his own belongings from home to that which waited for him up north.
Flamekeeper is the natural result of the journey from Italy to Sweden for Marco S., the main person behind occult black/death metal band Demonomancy and also The Devil’s Mark Studio. Carrying Mediterranean influences like Necromantia with him, he arrived at the epic metal masterpiece, Hammerheart by Bathory. The debut effort of Flamekeeper is an approach to that Hammerheart sound that is rooted more in black metal in spirit, yet with plenty of clean heavy metal sounding sections.
The spoken word intro sets the tone of the EP from the first moment and pulls you into the story of those who light the fire. Vocals change between crisp clean vocals and easy to understand harsh vocals in a similar way to the vocal approach of Agatus in The Eternalist. Although musically We Who Light the Fire is less dreamy and more directly folky than The Eternalist. Four songs – each of which is just as good as the others – make up the main body of the EP and they are bookended by the mood-setter intro and the closer Necromantia cover (which unfortunately has become a timely tribute to Baron Blood of Necromantia who passed away recently). With chant-like choruses, acoustic guitar breaks, and overall “Mediterranean” sounding riffs, We Who Light the Fire is intersect of Hammerheart-era epic Bathory, Atlantean Kodex, Demonomancy, European black metal of 90s, and Hellenic black metal, especially more folky ones like Kawir.
Going back in time to trace the inspiration of this new project, we have the latest Demonomancy full-length Poisoned Atonement from last year which had already showed that they approached a more mature, clear, and riff-driven sound within the sphere of aggressive black/death metal compared to previous demos with the addition of prominent bass guitar and occult sounding parts which felt like Mortuary Drape meet Archgoat.. The clean call and response part in “The Day of the Lord” which sounded like Cultes des Ghoules was the highlight of the album and it had the occult yet epic atmosphere Flamekeeper now also has for about thirty seconds, looks like this time Marco S. aimed to have a full project revolving around that epic and triumphant feel. First output of this epic black/heavy metal act is one of my favourite debuting of this year and very promising for the future of the band, too. We Who Light the Fire is coming out on November 29th from Invictus Productions.
You can hear the full EP below – as a Ride Into Glory exclusive premiere – and read an intimate interview with Marco, the man behind the band.
Full EP Stream
We Who Light the Fire feels like a very triumphant yet personal record. Is FLAMEKEEPER an inward journey for you?
FLAMEKEEPER is not about me, it’s about all of us. Its purpose is to inspire people to express their own inner potential, to light their inner fire, to think freely, to put choice over chance.
Even if some of the songs refer explicitly to a collective and tribal dimension, FLAMEKEEPER inevitably began as an inward journey. All the songs are deeply inspired by real life events and my feelings surrounding them, but my personal experience is put at the service of a more universal meaning.
For example, “Dead Sea Waters” sounded so biographic that I almost excluded it from the record. Lyrics are about a man who leaves everything he knows and owns to wander in an unknown world searching for better water to drink.
Who knows me personally can easily find analogies with my present but, after all, this story is a metaphor of a man who obeys his instinct and, when in doubt, chooses to dare and take a risk. This concept is relatable with my life as well as the one of everyone else.
Compared to DEMONOMANCY, you are playing a much more clean sound this time. Also there is the difference of a full band and a solo project. How different was the creative process, from songwriting to recording?
I listen to many different genres and it would be very limiting for me to write music only within the boundaries of DEMONOMANCY. In the latest 5 years I wrote any kind of acoustic and electronic music without any interest in releasing it until some of it ended up being FLAMEKEEPER. With no concept to back up sounds, music is a mere exercise in aesthetics that the world doesn’t need to hear. I wish more musicians agreed with me on this instead of polluting the world with useless frequencies.
DEMONOMANCY is more abstract and artistic, I usually channel there my most negative feelings. Everything I do for DEMONOMANCY, it’s ultimately for my own pleasure – everything I do for FLAMEKEEPER is to create a connection with people and among people.
Even if I’m the creator behind FLAMEKEEPER, I’m also a voracious consumer of it: in moments of self-doubt, crisis and weakness, listening to these songs gives me new strength and determination. The intrinsically negative nature of DEMONOMANCY’s music makes it impossible for me to listen to it for healing purposes.
Some influences on FLAMEKEEPER’s sound are obvious, e.g. Bathory or Hellenic black metal bands. What about clean traditional metal that left a mark on FLAMEKEEPER the most? Are you a fan of Italian epic heavy metal acts like DARK QUARTERER, DOOMSWORD, or VULTURES VENGEANCE?
For some years now, I have been spending a considerable amount of time discovering any kind of music that sounds epic, heroic, triumphant and motivating to my ears.
It might sound unpredictable but Classical, Medieval, Folk genres constitute a huge part of FLAMEKEEPER’s musical landscapes. Within the Metal realm, late ’70s/early ’80s epic acts like WISHBONE ASH, BROCAS HELM, MANILLA ROAD, MANOWAR and OVERLORDE are an enormous influence for me.
I saw DARK QUARTERER a few times, they play pretty often in central Italy. I played drums in VULTURES VENGEANCE until 2015, they’re my favourite newcomer heavy metal band.
From the band name of Flamekeeper to the several references of “embers” and “flames”, it seems to me that the Dark Souls series is a big source of thematic inspiration. Is this the case? If so, what draws you to the Souls series? If not, what does this say about the intentions of the artist and perceptions of the listener?
Fire represents primordial energy, life and our inner potential. Fire is the cycle of creation, destruction and sacrifice in our life as we burn our old self for what we want to become.
The sharp, smokeless Flame is our willpower, an idea to die for, our determination, our ultimate life’s purpose. We must march onward, no matter what.
This universal truth, yet unique and different for every person, is all I want to sing about.
The journey which inspired FLAMEKEEPER in a sense – is that a permanent move to Sweden? How is life different up north from Italy?
The concept of journey, meant both as short adventure and as long-term relocation, is an important cornerstone in my life. Travelling is one of the most powerful tools for our soul’s growth.
My personal experience inevitably influences my music but, as I said before, FLAMEKEEPER is not about me, it’s about all of us.
When travel and conquest of new lands appear in the lyrics, their meaning is not merely literal as they stand also as metaphors of inner discovery, a quest to find our own unique truth.
Life in Stockholm is extremely different to the one I was used to in Rome. When I left, I was exhausted by the Roman routine – it’s an unmerciful, chaotic city, but I reconsidered Rome (and the rest of Italy) quite positively since I left.
Despite my stateless nature and my desire to discover and conquer, the hills, mountains, woods and sea in Central Italy will probably always be the landscapes resounding the most with my soul.
What does this relocation mean for the future of DEMONOMANCY and The Devil’s Mark Studio?
Not much, honestly. Only a 3 hours long flight separates me from Rome, which I still visit pretty often and I never miss one chance to rehearse with DEMONOMANCY when I’m there.
If I cannot work in person with a band willing to record at The Devil’s Mark Studio, there is a trusted engineer who replaces me while I take care only of mixing and mastering.
Any further closing words you’d like to add about the past, present, or future of FLAMEKEEPER and you for Ride Into Glory readers?
There is no past, there is no future, there is only forever. Time to strike!
I’d like to take the chance to remember the visionary artist Baron Blood, who passed away a few days ago. Without NECROMANTIA and its ability to blur the boundaries between Heavy Metal and Black Metal, FLAMEKEEPER would be profoundly different. I wasn’t lucky enough to make him listen to my rendition of “Ancient Pride”, may him Rest in Peace.
Light the fire – Defend the Flame,