The old Italian spirit of heavy metal mastery has been proved undaunted by the years, changing trends, and the often non-existent financial support for the strange and epic. Vultures Vengeance, hailing from Rome, have in their ten years of existence completely eschewed all convention to bring us their unique take on epic heavy metal. Our man Crucervix already reviewed the album here, and I reviewed it here; obviously, we like it quite a bit, and so Ride Into Glory was excited to have the opportunity to interview Vultures Vengeance frontman, songwriter, and guitarist extraordinaire Tony Steele.
What do you think it is about Italy that brings out such a different bent to heavy metal? There’s a certain Italian feeling- why is it special?
Hi Brandon! Definitely! I think the place of belonging has an important influence on music. In the particular case of Italy, we are a people that unfortunately is gripped by moralism and hypocrisy, like many others in the world. I think metal has a duty to make people think and distract them from the sleep of minds. I think that unfortunately nowadays there is an extra infrastructure that does not allow Italian metal to stand out. This infrastructure is a misconception that the new generations have of heavy metal. Many people think that being “metal” means writing songs trying to be similar to the big ones, whereas the greats just wanted to communicate something to the world. I think there’s a big difference between playing in a Heavy Metal Band and having something to say.
Do you think that the unique Italian mindset and approach is responsible for Italy’s deep love for heavy metal, and particularly the kinds of bands you just talked about? It often feels like Italy embraced many of those less-commercial older American bands more than the United States did.
Unfortunately, this infrastructure is gripping the world, not only Italy, but this unfortunately depends a lot on wanting to be at all costs someone in the metal scene and on social networks, a real battle between the poors, which concerns exclusively the appearance and the being someone to feed their own ego, where is the content and the desire to change your life? Metal should be a manifesto of revendication, but today everyone are “good boys accepted by society” by day and “Metal Heads by night”, this double life does not belong to me.
I think that Italy in the past had great bands that have carried on their identity 100% because unlike foreign bands, in the 80’s they knew from the beginning that they wouldn’t have had any chance to become rockstars and for this they didn’t have no compromise, this has preserved their uniqueness over the years. Zero ego and only content, like Dark Quarterer. I would like to send a message to all the people who follow this band: This band does not represent a heavy metal band that plays in their free time, but it represents an idea, an idea of reaction to life that this world proposes us, you are not slaves who feed the powerful, you are much more. This is heavy metal, fighting against this hypocrisy, fighting against the lack of content and the smallness of this world, write good songs is not enough.
You’ve talked in interviews about bands such as Cirith Ungol and Omen, but are any classic bands from your country influences on Vultures Vengeance? I think I’ve only seen any band member mention Dark Lord.
Yes! Dark Quarterer and Dark Lord of the first Ep in particular. I love many Italian bands but probably they are not entirely comparable to the Vultures Vengeance, I personally always tend to the maximum personality in the music and in the contents, in fact all that concerns the band speaks directly of us and of our experience of life in the form of metaphors.
I love bands like Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, Omen and Brocas Helm and they are undoubtedly part of my life. The list of bands to name would be endless, but I think the concept of comparing new bands to bands of the past is a very widespread concept over the years 2000, the 4 bands I mentioned are totally different from each other and equally grand. I think the influences that make a band unique go beyond heavy metal. What makes a band “Heavy Metal” is not the riffs and the influences but the personality. I think music is like a language to communicate concepts and feelings, with the same language, you can write thousands of books without ever repeating a concept, you just need to have something to say.
Vultures Vengeance is a band that worships riffs and feeling over studio polish; how do you feel about roughness and imperfection in studio recordings?
I think that studio imperfection does not exist, there are only choices. Today we tend to see music as if it were pre-packaged. I hate all this. All that should matter is the expression of what you are doing. I think that the perfect and the imperfect does not exist in music, there is only the suitable and the not suitable. If this were not the case we would have to think that records like Crystal Logic are imperfect, I just can’t imagine a record like that with a production like the last record by Judas Priest. In the same way I cannot imagine the first records of Darkthrone or Mayhem with a production like that of Manilla Road.
The only truth is that today it is full of fake sound engineers who talk so much, simply because they care a lot more to have their words on social media in order to seem “cultured” musically than to listen to music with the heart and try to understand what wants to communicate a band, this is what I call ego trap. I feel sorry for all these people, because they lose a lot of things only because they concentrate on theirselves to seem a “expert” of sound. This is really sad, Because all the good bands need more people to stand out.
As a followup to the previous question, why do you think that non-standard vocals have fallen off so much in heavy metal when so many of the greats didn’t fall into the standard operatic tenor?
Good question, the problem is competition. Competition is the problem of this world. I think everyone is more keen on singing to the best of their ability to be the best technically. But I think this is another ego trap. When I founded this band I wanted a unique and recognizable voice and I couldn’t find it in 6 years of research. I think that recognizability and expressiveness are absolutely essential and even before, there is the adaptability of your voice to the music. It is for this reason that Tim Baker could not sing in Maiden, but neither Bruce Dickinson could sing in Cirith Ungol or Lemmy in Black Sabbath and Ozzy in Motorhead. Every band should have its own voice and this is absolutely beyond the technique. Even the best singers in history like Ronnie James Dio weren’t famous for their technique and skill but for their character.
Lena Richter’s artwork has been a hallmark of Vultures Vengeance- an unusual move, as most bands bounce around a bit between artists. You’ve talked about loving her artwork and how it matches the music before, but does anything else go into it? Do you put any special import on maintaining a consistent aesthetic?
Lena is a great artist and the first time I saw her work I was struck by it. I think that even in this case I could talk to you about the ego trap. Many bands choose an artist already famous in the field to bring prestige and visibility to their work. We preferred to believe in an artist like Lena, because in my opinion it was the most suitable, much more than other more famous artists. With Lena I think the subject goes beyond aesthetics, every VV cover is full of meanings and when we commissioned the covers I explained the concept behind that cover and what it should have expressed.
How important do you think aesthetic in heavy metal is today?
I think it should be no less important than music, as I think it represents the identity of a band as well as a message. Attention to details does not mean having the best artwork or photos ever, it means considering the whole product of the band as a unique work, music, lyrics, image, cover and even layout. Behind every single choice there should be a clear message that changes from band to band. If this message is not there, it is not art.
What made the heavy use of single guitar melodic lines over the rhythms (as opposed to, say, Maiden-esque dual leads) a stylistic mainstay? I can’t think of many bands that have taken a similar approach.
The music of Vultures Vengeance comes from the non-acceptance of the world around us. I think that a tense music full of melody is the best way to express anger in a very clear way, but also suffering and passion. There is no agreement, or phrasing or a solo that is there by chance. Every single note is part of a single great musical discourse.
The striking example of this is “Dead Men and Blind Fates”, not only does it contain a profound sense of emptiness in front of an era without content, but it also contains a tetral sense of living suffering. Every single musical choice recalls a concept or an image that the people who give more attention will fully understand. Despite being a Heavy Metal piece, most of the influences and phrases proposed are influenced by classical music.
Does anything from the album feel difficult to bring to justice live, or was the music always written to be performed that way? Should recorded music ever compromise to the realities of actually having to play it?
Excellent question, so far we have never had any problems bringing any live songs, many of our songs are not easy to perform especially for me, I have to sing and play the same time and many parts are quite articulate. Just practice very individually before taking any piece to the rehearsal room. However I think that some nuances can be rearranged for a live, the live experience is always different from that of the studio, for this the bass plays a very important role for the harmonies, if behind you you have a wall of sound well compact, the guitars they can do anything and will never sound empty or weak. The bass and the drum are undoubtedly the mainstay in a live context.
Another very important role is the instrumentation and the effect. Every sound or effect you listen on the album, we try to reproduce it to the best of our ability in our concerts, we are all very picky about our sound, Tony L.A. maybe even too much, he is even very fussy about every little cable that connects one effect to another.
Is Vultures Vengeance ever going to embark on long tours to bring your music to the world?
The Knightlore’s European tour will be the second European tour we will do and the longest, we will play 15 concerts, if in the future we will have the possibility to do even longer tours, it would be a pleasure for us of course, next year we will play at Metal Conquest in Rome, at the pre-party of Keep it True and at Up the Hammers, there will be more live performances besides these and we will announce them in the coming months.
How do you feel that the modern Italian heavy metal scene is doing? Any particular favorites that are still active?
My favorite Italian bands that are still active are Dark Quarterer, Doomsword and Battle Ram, as far as newer bands are concerned I can name you the 7 inch, recently released, of Temptress.
A little gem that I can recommend you, is the Jotenheim EP. I think that today’s scene in Italy is much more focused on extreme metal than on traditional metal and there are many very valid bands, 2 of which are Boia and Thulsa Doom.
Epic metal is the way that a lot of people (including myself) describe your music. What are your feelings on epic heavy metal? Why do bands such as Cirith Ungol, Manowar, and Manilla Road appeal to you, your bandmates, and the world?
To be honest, I never composed a song thinking about which genre it belonged to, but I understand that many frame the band in epic metal. I think that what makes us close to epic metal is the search for solemnity and melody in some parts, I think the Manowar, Manilla Road, and Cirith Ungol have had a great weight in my life but also Savatage. Many of our songs have very epic parts but others much less. We can say that our genre can be seen as an evolution of a certain type of heavy metal like the Heathens Rage, Black Knight, Witchkiller, Breaker, Pandemonium and Whetstone.
You mentioned in a previous interview, before The Knightlore, that more than two albums worth of material was already written. How soon should we expect to hear back from Vultures Vengeance with (forgive me) a vengeance?
The pre-productions of the second album have already started and 2 pieces are already ready, we aim to release the second album within the next year, but we are not in a hurry, nothing will be released until we consider it the best we could do. If the process takes longer, we’ll take it.
Many songs, which already exist, will surely be arranged and revisited to get the best result. Although many pieces for a second album are already ready, during the arrangements, it usually happens that a completely new track could born, so sometimes we postpone the release of many track to the next album.
Have the goals of the band changed since its inception?
The goals of the band have never changed, it is the main goal is to have maximum empathy with all the people who listen to our music, we have so many things to say and we will not stop until we will be able to do it. I think that the goal of a band is first of all to create something beyond music. You realize that your message reaches people when someone on the other side of the world understands your way of seeing life and shares it. Ideas unite people, create something and sometimes change people’s lives. What we represent is an idea and our ambition is to carry on that idea beyond any ego celebration.
Similarly, have you noticed any changes to how this kind of metal is received since you started the band?
Definitely yes. Our music don’t catch you immediately in many cases, because it’s full of details, that’s why many people understand us more than before. I also think that unfortunately there is a mass influence to which every band is subjected, I am talking about the fact that within each social system there are people who stand out more than others and unfortunately even within the metal there are sheep that they follow the flock and the flock follows these prominent people. If someone highly respected in this “scene” says that a group is of quality, many people will follow that opinion a priority because it is trendy, this is the real mechanism of the trend, it starts from a sick social system that is not very different from a hierarchical and political social mechanism that metalheads should hate.
Unfortunately all this is incredibly amplified by Facebook and YouTube, people’s opinions can sometimes govern masses and this is a cancer for music. Listening to Heavy Metal and putting some cult patches on your jacket doesn’t make people better, it’s thinking with your own head that makes you better. This is true metal for me.
Many people are also in constant competition, if you are competing go and register for some beauty contests, don’t play heavy metal. I think that the truth is that there is no better record than another’s, there is only one who has something to say and one who does not. If a person loves a record more than another it is simply because he feels more represented by that vision of the world. Competition leads to being influenced by wanting to please people at all costs, but a band’s priority should not be to please people, it should be wanting to represent what you have within in the best way , with your music. I think that little by little our music is coming to people and this thing is happening naturally and this means a lot to me.
Was it anything in particular that switched things from going six years without releasing anything during the band’s initial existence to consistent releases within the last few years?
The reason why we have been 6 years without a release was the lack of a singer that meets my expectations, not only from a timbric point of view, but also from a personal point of view, all the people who play in the Vengeance Vultures they have a strong personality and even those who played with us in the past had it, this sometimes led to clashing more than once, all these things have definitely slowed the release of the first work. Finally I think that my perfectionism has not helped to reduce the times. One year before the release of the first “demo” I made the decision to sing.
I’ve seen a lot of talk from you about old bands in interviews, but not much about newer ones. I’ve already asked about Italy, but Italian bands aside, what are some modern bands you love?
I really like Chevalier, Sabire, Iron Griffin, Eternal Champion, Smoulder and Sumerlands. There are many good bands but these are without doubts my favourite.
Will we ever hear you in an extreme metal band? You briefly played with Necromancer, though you weren’t on any recordings, and as I recall you don’t limit your listening to heavy metal.
I still listen to a lot of extreme metal, I played guitar in the Necromancers only in some live shows before Nail (founder of Necromancer and Thulsa Doom) became part of Vultures Vengeance for Rising and “Where the Time Dwelt In. I love bands like Venom, Celtic Frost, Sarcofago, Bathory but the list is obviously endless, before founding Vultures Vengeance I composed many death metal songs inspired by bands like Obscurity, Grotesque, Mefisto, Morbid and Nirvana 2002 but I don’t spend even a little time on other projects, I always prefer to focus on just one band to give the best, and Vultures Vengeance are the mirror of my emotions,
I love extreme metal but he will never represent me like Vultures Vengeance because I think that today he is expressly relegated to a vision of the world where society is scandalized by the worship of Satan and death. Nowadays nobody is shocked by Satanism and all the themes of old extreme metal.
The records of the past had a cultural and social weight that today could never be repeated, this does not mean that I don’t like today’s extreme bands, there are many extreme metal bands that I like, but I think that in repeating the themes used by great bands like Bathory, Venom and Celtic Frost there is nothing personal, I see only the pleasure to do it because you like the music… and there is nothing wrong with this, but I need to put my true emotions in music and in this moment, I can’t with extreme metal, so I prefer to concentrate my attention on Vultures Vengeance.
Thank you for all of your stellar answers, Tony. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or promote?
Think that’s all!