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Davide Straccione: “There will be a video for the whole track of forty minutes, it is like a short movie. It will be a whole experience, not just listening, but also watching.”

Met ‘Beyond The Shores (On Death And Dying)’ heeft Shores Of Null ons recentelijk enorm verrast. De Italiaanse doom/death metal band nodigde eminente gasten als Thomas A.G. Jensen (Saturnus) en Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun) uit om een mammoetcompositie van bijna veertig minuten op de wereld los te laten. Het is een meesterwerk! Voor deze gelegenheid hadden we een afspraak met zanger Davide Straccione, woonachtig in Pescara, Italië en de bassist van de band Matteo Capozucca die momenteel studeert in Eindhoven. Deze virtuele internationale babbel verliep als volgt…
Vera Matthijssens Ι 16 december 2020

It is an international chat tonight, because you, Davide are in Pescara in Italy and Matteo, you are in Eindhoven…
Davide: ‘Yes and the band is from Rome.’

How and when did you come to the idea of writing such a long piece?
Davide: ‘Actually we had already many songs. We already entered the studio for recording a different album. We tracked the drums and bass, but then we had to wait a few months to record the rest, like guitars and vocals. So we had this time – and the two guitarists Gabriele and Raffaele – they kept on writing new riffs and music and they composed this other song, which was going to be longer. We did not know if we were going to use it for another release or include it on the album, but anyway, it turned out to be a very long one. So when we entered the studio again, we recorded this song as well.’

Matteo: ‘Because of the year we are leaving, we decided to give priority to the song, instead of the album. So basically we recorded two albums. This song came out because we wanted to do something different, we wanted to experiment more. That’s basically the intention.’

Yes, I think it is a smart move to release first this one, now that every band cannot tour, because it is a long piece and of course, if you are going to tour with it, it should be played at least a part in the set, but you can make the album with the shorter songs later…
Davide: ‘I don’t know when this next album will be released. Now we will focus on this one and actually, if we were able to perform live now, we would love to play the album in full, it would be nice to perform the song in special occasions on festivals with bands of the same kind. Only play this forty minutes and that’s it. If next Summer festivals will happen, we are confirmed for Metaldays in Slovenia for example. If everything goes as planned, we will surely do just this album.’

Matteo: ‘It would surely be something that would work in the current situation where you have some gigs with seated audience. It is something a little bit more intimate, diverse from the usual metal concert. It could work, because this is a very different album. It is not like the average metal album, so maybe it can also work this way, obviously if we would be able to play live.’

Lyrically it must have been a challenge too, because we are dealing with five stages of grief. Can you tell something more about that?
Davide: ‘Of course, if you have such a long song, it is difficult to find a theme. The first thing that came out was the musical aspect, so the song was composed and we realized that it was going to be a very long one. Then I was talking to Gabriele, one of the guitarists and at the beginning we did not know what should be the theme. Finally he suggested a book he read: ‘Of Death And Dying’ from the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It is about people who are going to die soon and how they deal with their death. She was a doctor and she sat down with dying patients to talk with them and find out what they were experiencing. That’s how she came up with this theory, with this scheme of the five stages of grief, because she really talked with the patients and she wrote everything down. So this book happened to be made with contributions of her patients and how they dealt with death. All the stages of grief are presented. It was a cool idea to give this doom track, this long track, this theme. While I was writing the lyrics, the song was not finished yet. It was almost finished, so the lyrics and the theme kind of ’influenced the writing of the song and vice versa. If there was a riffing, okay, this riffing could be about acceptance, which is the final stage. As you can hear, the last part of the song is more brighter, it is a lot brighter, so it means that the protagonist, the character of the lyrics, accepts his destiny to go towards death. He accepts it, because he has to deal with it.’

This is an original approach of something I know. There is also five stages in acceptance when you are left behind, not only from the point of view from the one who’s dying…
Davide: ‘Sure, these stages are also tenable for the families, for the people who remain alive, of course. And this can be referred to every loss, to a personal loss but also if you lose your job, if you lose the love of your life and so on. You can experience these stages in a divorce, every loss is bad anyways.’

You managed to invite some special guests, which I applaud because I am also a huge fan of Saturnus and Swallow The Sun. How did it work out to get Thomas A.G. Jensen involved?
Davide: ‘Well, I am personally a big fan of Saturnus since ‘Veronika Decides To Die’. I was at the university that time and I discovered the band and I fell in love with the band. Years after that, when we formed Shores Of Null, the first mini tour we did was with Saturnus. We invited Saturnus – I think it was 2014 – we invited the band for three shows in Italy. It was a mini tour with Saturnus, us, The Foreshadowing and Doomraiser. So we played a few shows with them and we became close friends. Really nice people to be with. So it came natural to ask Thomas to join the album, because when the song and lyrics were done. I realized it was too long just to do it on my own. I wanted more guests to have a different approach and also to add more personalities to the song. So we invited Thomas and Mikko Kotamäki from Swallow The Sun. We never played with Swallow The Sun before, but I got to meet Mikko in Rome when they played there last year. I talked to him and told him to invite him, and he accepted. The cool thing was, we invited both of them to Rome. I did not send them the track and they did not do it in their own town. They came to Rome, we spent time together, we drank and eat together, so it was nice to have them personally in the studio. So they are really part of the album, not just some external elements. They have their vocals throughout the song, so they appear in multiple parts. And we have another guest. She is called Elisabetta Marchetti from Inno, she is from Rome, so it was easier to have her and she also contributed very well to the final result. We never had female vocals on our albums before, but this was the big occasion to have her.’

Matteo: ‘Also I think it was totally natural for Thomas to sing on this album, since the style of the album is much slower, there are longer sections with slow riffs. We really went into this slower, kind of Saturnus riffs. So we thought about Thomas right away and I think the result is great.’

Davide: ‘When we were writing the riffs, we thought: ‘wow, here Thomas would sound great.’ That’s how the idea was born of hiring him.’

Recording such a piece seems a lot of work to me. Did you work longer than usual on it?
Matteo: ‘I think it took a bit longer than usual. We did not have any problems, but obviously there were some things to arrange with the guests, so we had to decide when every guest could come to Rome and record and obviously Thomas and Mikko are also busy, not only with their respective bands, so I think we took a little bit more time than usual just to arrange these things. For the rest, as far as I remember, the process was pretty much straight forward and the same as always. Maybe we spent a little bit more time on tuning the instruments, because obviously it is a different style from what we did before. But it was pretty much straight forward.’

Yes, because there is also piano and violin on the album, very nice…
Davide: ‘Yes, we invited different friends to contribute to these classical parts. Of course everything takes a bit longer, if there are more people involved in the process. That’s why it took a bit longer to round off the mixing and mastering. We were very lucky, because we invited Mikko late January and Thomas mid February, so we finished everything right before we went on lockdown. If we would have done it two months later, it would have been impossible to invite them, because of flights cancellations and everything. It was cool to do it this way, we managed to do it and we are able to release it right now.’

Do you have any affinity with other albums with one long song on it, like ‘Crimson’ from Edge Of Sanity or ‘Winter’s Gate’ from Insomnium or ‘Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness’ from Green Carnation?
Matteo: ‘You name two of my favourite ones. ‘Crimson’ by Edge Of Sanity and ‘Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness’ by Green Carnation. They are probably my favourite one track albums. These are two albums that I listen to constantly. They are amazing and I think one of the reasons they are so good is because you don’t feel the fact that you are listening to just one track and you have no break. You are still be able to enjoy half an hour – in case of Green Carnation even one hour – and the reason why I enjoy our album is because I have the same feeling. It takes some time to listen to, but I think we did a good job in that sense.’

Davide: ‘I am not so much into Green Carnation or Edge Of Sanity as Matteo, but of course I love the bands. You also mentioned the Insomnium track and Insomnium was one of the first bands that Gabriele and Rafaela were into when forming Shores Of Null. They are one of the main influences to form the band. I am personally the gothic/doom guy in the band. I really love doom metal and I particularly love this album, because we finally had the chance to go slower and I could really express myself on melodies. I am not saying that on the previous albums I wasn’t expressing myself enough, but on this album I did not need to add layers on vocals, harmonizing. Sometimes the simple melody was the best way to go on this album. Talking about long tracks, I really like ‘Plague Of Butterflies’ from Swallow The Sun. In general the length of a song does not scare me at all. If I see a long tack, I go right deep into it with my headphones and I don’t want anyone to disturb me (chuckles).’

That is very nice to find solace in these times when quarantine and lockdowns are prominent…
Davide: ‘I think this was the right year to come out with this album, because I think people give more attention to what has been released, because the releases are less than in normal years. Everything that has been released in 2020 so far – for me especially in the doom genre – has been amazing. This year I have listened to great albums from bigger bands, like Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride, My Dying Bride actually released one album and one EP in one year, which is amazing! So it is great to see that these groundbreaking bands in the genre have released such great albums in this particular year. Then I really like the new Draconian, there’s tons of bands that’s coming out this year. I don’t know, I have more top albums than usual this year. I don’t know why, maybe I had more time to listen to every album or maybe it is just because last albums have been released, so the quality is higher in my opinion. Albums that come out now have been recorded before the corona crisis, it is just a coincidence they are coming out right now, but they are kind of prophetic sometimes…’

Next year I think there will be a lot of releases, because bands have more time to write now…
Davide: ‘Also because many labels have postponed the plans, I think next year we will be overwhelmed with releases, but this year was already a very good year. If I had to make a top ten of albums, it would be difficult for me this year.’

What would you like to mention as kicking or very important gigs for Shores Of Null?
Matteo: ‘We played some very good festivals, like Inferno festival in Oslo and Eindhoven Metal Meeting. That was a great experience. It was actually my first meeting with Eindhoven and three years later I moved to here, by coincidence. There is no connection, but I like to remember that experience because of this. I had a really good time here until now. I am making my master at the University of Technology in Eindhoven. I am graduating right now, basically. It is a busy year.’

What can you tell about the artwork?
Davide: ‘This time, knowing what we were going to release, we wanted the artwork to be more simple. We chose this photographer from near my hometown. She is called Sabrina Caramanico and she is really great. You can check it out on Instagram or Facebook. Her works are amazing. She describes the feeling of loss and decay, mainly nature. I like her portraits of nature and so I asked her to work on this album. I gave her the track and what she proposed where the images you can find on the album. The cover and also the inner artwork, everything is completely white. First of all because we wanted to express that this album was different from everything else we have done. Even with the colours we wanted to make a statement. This is not the common metal album. And also the simplicity of the subject reflects the simplicity of the song. There is a lot of structure into the song, but in the end it is a lot lighter than a normal Shores Of Null song. There are less elements, less layers of guitars and vocals, everything is more straight to the point. I think that is the connection between the cover and the song. Also, one last thing. Normally we think about death as a dark colour, but that is only in the western world, because in the eastern world – Japan and the Far East – white colour symbolize death. We wanted to make a bridge between cultures maybe and also because of the acceptance of death. I see it more as a white colour. Like a light that absorbs you in the end. These are my feelings why we chose that simple picture.’

Matteo: ‘That is also the reason why we chose to do different versions of vinyls. We have five different vinyls. Each of them represents one of the stages. They start from being all black from the first stages and they gradually go towards white. The last one is completely white, representing what Davide just said.’

Is there still something you want to do with visuals?
Matteo: ‘Basically we have this other record. It is ready. It is completely finished. So we have nothing to record anymore for a little while, but we are not sure when it will be released. Obviously we were thinking about half a year later, but then with the current situation of the world, the time in between can become more. So we are not really sure. We definitely look forward to play live again, because we miss that part of music much more than anything else.’

Davide: ‘We want to promote this album the best way we can, so as soon as we are able to go back to live shows, we would like to play the song in full, at least a few times, before we are releasing another album. At least people seem to be interested. It comes out on the 27th of November, so we are getting closer. The attention we are getting is very positive about this album. Things are working well. I hope everything will run smooth.’

Matteo, Actually it was kind of a challenge, the promotion of this album, because obviously you don’t have singles to present earlier, in advance before the release. We had to take sections from the album, maybe between three and five minutes, and release them, but sometimes it generated some confusion, because they do not sound like actual songs. So we had to think how we could use these to promote us and not generate confusion. In the end we released three excerpts and they are working well. They are doing well on streaming sites like Spotify, so we are really happy.’

The classic video clip won’t happen this time…?
Davide: ‘Actually yes, this is something we want to add. There will be a video clip, with the same guys that normally do videos for us SANDA movies. We are working on a full track video. It should be released on the release date, but due to the current situation it has been hard to shoot videos. But we are in the final stages, so we hope that we can release it soon and you will be able to watch it. It will be a whole experience, not just listening, but also watching.’

I am looking forward to that!
Davide: ‘It is basically a short movie. We never advertised it on social media, because we were not sure until the last minute, because we did not know if we were able to shoot. A few months ago the situation seemed very difficult, but in the past few weeks we managed to shoot something. You will see.’

We have been waiting for this opus to be eternalized in a video and you can watch it below this interview! A masterpiece! Pure art! This really HAD to be included on this interview!