HOLY MARTYR: The whole story


After a long period of silence, it’s almost six years since “Invincible” was released, Holy Martyr cement their place as one of the most reliable Italian bands nowadays with the release of the concept album “Darkness Shall Prevail”. This particular feature, based on no less than four different interviews done with the band throughout the years, the first one back in 2002 and the last one in March this year, should be one of the very best sources of information on Holy Martyr out there. Grab a cup of coffee, and put everything aside while you let guitarist Ivano Spiga guide you through the history of Holy Martyr.  

– Holy Martyr was formed by myself back in 1994, and I am the only original member left. At first, we called ourseves Hell Forge, but we changed the name to Holy Martyr in 1997. I waited eight long years to finally hear my music on CD. When I was 16 years old, bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica were the big thing. Most of my favourite bands can be traced back to the eighties, and you’ll find most of them within genres like old, epic metal, Bay Area-thrash and traditional metal. I like Heathen, Forbidden, Heavy Load, Warlord, Omen, Manilla Road and a lot of unknown underground acts.

The first time I heard of Holy Martyr, was when you put ot the EP “Hatred And Warlust” back in 2002, an EP I remember ordering directly from the band.

– This was the first real studio experience for all members of the band. We spent three months from September to the end of November of 2002 on it. It cost us a lot of money. We spent like 1000 Euro on the recording, and an additional 700 Euro for printing of the cover art. The tracks on “Hatred And Warlust” were all we had when we entered the studio. We decided to record everything, even though many of the songs were really old. It’s extremely important that the product both sounds and looks professional. We printed 500 copies of the EP.

The concept on the second EP, “Hail To Hellas”, released in 2003, has a lot in common with the movie “300”…

– We hope people recognize the fact that we made the demo a long time before the movie was ready. The whole band went and saw the movie, and quite liked it. It isn’t what I would call historically correct on all points, but at least it was rather entertaining.

A third demo, “Vis Et Honor” was released two years later, in 2005, but according to Ivano, the three demos known to most of us, don’t represent the full story. The band did some demos already during the nineties, but at the time, they struggled to find a good singer, resulting in some of the demos being instrumental.

– I view “Hatred And Warlust” as our first real demo. We were like a new band at the time. A few people have asked me if it’s not a full length release since the playing time is quite long, but in my eyes, it’s nothing more than an EP.

After some silence after ther release of “Vis Et Honor”, the news finally broke, that the band had secured a record deal with Dragonheart for the debut album, “Still At War”. A nice surprise really, as you wrote in the booklet to “Vis Et Honor” that it was going to be the “third and last effort from Holy Martyr”.

– Yeah, I remember. We had some problems at the time. Our second guitarist left the band, to get an education at the University, and our bass player wanted to travel to Afghanistan. Personally, I also struggled a bit with my motivation to continue, mainly because we struggled to capture the interest of the record labels. We were not completely sure that we wanted to split up, but at least we wanted to make sure that People understood that “Vis Et Honor” was going to be the last self financed product from us. When we finally found a label willing to give us a chance, it was like a brand new start for us. You simply can’t continue in this business forever, without the backing of a label. It’s a lot of hard work trying to do things independently. Yeah, we got a bit of money from the sale of the three demos, but it really wasn’t something we focused on. There is a lot of people that have helped us along the way, and they either got our recordings for free, or paid me what they thought the CDs were worth.

Besides indicating that it would be you swan song, you also had the phrase “Death To Commercial Heavy Metal” in the booklet of “Vis Et Honor”. Please explain!

– Holy Martyr is a band that loves and performs heavy metal. A lot of the bands that are on big labels, have a producer and a manager involved that tries to put pressure on the band. Things like: Do it like this, it’s trendy! Or do that, it’s cool! If you do like I say, this album will sell thousands of copies! This is what commercial heavy metal is about. In my opinion, it’s completely wrong to label commercial music as heavy metal. Personally, I am a “no compromise guy” when it comes to music, but I will not stop anyone listening to what they want. I don’t like to speak about certain bands in a negative way, but I have to admit I don’t care much for trends like “fantasy metal”. However, I do love to think that we have something in common with most of the music from the seventies. The music from that particular era is very honest. There were a lot of experimentation going on, but always something honest about it all.

For those of us who bought all the three demos released prior to the debut, there is not a lot of new material to be found on “Still At War”.

– Yeah, I guess you know all the songs, except for “Ave Atque Vale” which came to life during the month of June in 2006. We have consciously left out the tracks from “Hail To Hellas”, as this recording is some kind of concept and the songs didn’t really fit in. However, we plan to record these songs in the future, maybe already on our next album. We haven’t really agreed on anything yet, but we hope to do another album for Dragonheart.

Still At WarEven though “Still At War” more or less is filled with songs from two of the three demos the band has released so far, they come with an improved sound quality.

– The production is done by Alex Festa in Conquest studios, and he has worked with bands like Doomsword and Battleroar before. The songs sound more powerful than on the demos, but I wouldn’t label the production as modern. Everything is analog, just like the great heavy metal albums from the eighties, and the result is what I would call a very natural sound.

One of my favourite tracks from “Still At War” is “From The North Comes The War” which was created way back in 1994.

– That’s the first song I wrote, together with our bassist at the time, Roberto (Frau), and on the limited version of “Hail To Hellas” (200 copies) you could find this song as a bonus track recorded with the original lineup of Hell Forge. The song itself was created during the summer of 1993, but I have to add that the version on “Still At War” is radically different from the original. Our singer Alex, should have a lot of credit for it. The original is faster and the vocals more aggressive, but Alex has contributed heavily to transforming this song into something that is as close to a potential single that Holy Martyr probably ever will get.

In addition to the already mentioned three demos and “Still At War”, Holy Martyr also contributed to tribute albums to Cirith Ungol (2005) and Manilla Road (2007). The tracks covered are “Frost And Fire” and “Dragon Star” respectively. I guess both bands are important sources of inspiration for Holy Martyr?

– Lets start with Cirith Ungol. They’re a completely unique band, I guess I would describe them as some kind of dark, epic doom metal. We got a bit of the same darkness to our sound, but at the same time we’re doing something completely different. Cirith Ungol is definitely one of our biggest sources of inspiration, but there are a few that has meant just as much to us. “King Of The Dead” is probably my favourite album from the band, but it’s possible that I listen to “Paradise Lost” just as much. The latter is a bit different, but it has a lot of great tracks. I guess “King Of The Dead” is my favourite mostly due to its dark and gloomy atmosphere. The Manilla Road-cover turned out great, and Alex has a voice that is quite similar Mark Shelton’s. Manilla Road creates awesome music, and Mark is a great guy as well. The band’s brand of epic metal is completely unique. My favourite album from Manilla Road is “The Deluge” followed closely by “Crystal Logic” and “Mystification”. I first got hold of “The Deluge” on tape, but later bought the vinyl version as well. It’s an incredible album with mystical songs and twisted melodies.

“Still At War” was followed by a new album titled “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” in September 2008. I started the conversation with Ivano back then by asking about how he viewed “Still At War”, more than two years after it was recorded.

– I have huge problems listening to that album nowadays. It’s really simple: I don’t like it, and I don’t think it will ever change. The production is nowhere good enough for the type of music we’re playing, and the arrangements are really weak. Every time I listen to the album, I find things that simply don’t work. Apart from tracks like “Vis Et Honor”, “From The North Comes The War” and “Ave Atque Vale”, which I all view as Holy Martyr-classics, there really isn’t that many songs I enjoy on the album.

“Hellenic Warrior Spirit” must have been a relatively fast album to create, as it is released less than one and a  half years after you put out “Still At War”.

– Our goal was to release a new album, about a year after the release of our debut album. We simply felt we had a lot more to tell with our music, and some really fresh ideas we would like to present. Also, we wanted to keep our name warm so to say. It’s so easy to be forgotten if you don’t release albums on a regular basis. In the end, it turned out to be a hard battle against time. We have worked on a concept about the Spartans for many years, and at last we finally feel it has come to an conclusion.

This concept was something we were first introduced for on the demo “Hail To Hellas” containing four songs that are also featured on “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”…

– The way we see it, all the songs on “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” are new. You have to remember, that musicians writing songs that they shelve for a while before they finally use them, is nothing new at all. That being said, “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” is mainly an album for those who discovered Holy Martyr with “Still At War”. What we need most of all, is support for the stuff we do nowadays, not a lot of questions about the old demos. Many of those who enjoyed “Still At War”, will like the new album, and those who haven’t heard those old demos will view the album as a collection of new material. When I write songs, I always combine old ideas with new.

Hellenic Warrior SpiritIn my opinion, the newly written songs sound a bit different compared to those that featured on the “Hail To Hellas” demo. They’re catchier and better arranged, and remind me a little of some of the stuff on the last Battleroar-album, “To Death And Beyond…”

– We’ve always had catchy songs, from the beginning really. I’ll admit that this album is more in the vein of classical metal, but Battleroar, to me at least, leans more towards epic doom metal, and it has to be said that they do it really well. Maybe it’s the opposite of what you claim? Maybe Battleroar sounds more like classic heavy metal now? Maybe they’re the band that has changed, not us? I definitely agree with you that the arrangements are much better, but the only similarity I see with Battleroar, is the fact the production is now much stronger. We’re the same band as we have always been.

My fave song from the album is “Lakedaimon”. Are you most concerned with the album as a whole, or are there single tracks that you prefer over the others?

– Well, let me say that you and me got the same favourite track from the album. “Lakedaimon” is a classic Holy Martyr-track created in the same way we always do when we write stuff. Other favorites are “Hellenic Valour”, “The Call To Arms” and last, but not least, “The Lion Of Sparta”, which is the most progressive sounding track of the album.

One thing about “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” that I like, is the fact that the coverart is held in the same style and done by the same artist that did the cover for “Still At War”…

– Our music has always been distinct and easy to recognize, and we want the artwork to be just like that. The cover is the first thing you see in the store, and I guess it doesn’t hurt if it contains an element of recognition. I have to admit I struggle a bit with the typical cover art within heavy and power metal nowadays. There are way too many similar motives being used. We want to present an alternative. Our covers should be simple, yet effective and created without the help of a program on a computer. Simona Ercole is the name of the artist, and I think we will continue to work with her for future albums as well.

The singer from one of the Italian cult bands, Adramelch, Vittorio Ballerio, guests on “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”. Is Adramelch a band that has helped shaping the music of Holy Martyr in any way?

– Adramelch is the only Italian band that I would mention as a source of inspiration for Holy Martyr. I really don’t talk about the music, because if you compare our styles, we don’t have that much in common. However, those guys have really taught us something when it comes to creating music that is packed with creativity and personality. Even when I look outside of Italy’s borders, there aren’t really many bands you can say the same thing about. Adramelch’s music is obscure, but at the same time melodic. With this in mind, it can be compared to the progressive scene here in Italy during the seventies. I didn’t find out about the band until 1999, but when I first discovered them, I really got drawn to the band. I enjoy “Broken History”, their comeback album, but it’s definitely “Irae Melanox” I visit for inspiration. It was a big honor for us when Vittorio said he wanted to sing on one of our songs. I’ve always thought that “The Lion Of Sparta”, being slightly progressive, and with a melancholic feel, can be viewed almost as a natural continuation of what Adramelch is doing.

While we’re at it, speaking about inpirational acts, please name three timeless heavy metal highlights, along with three Italian metal releases of great quality…

– “The Number Of The Beast”, “Painkiller” and “Heaven And Hell” are fantastic albums, and I guess I don’t have to explain which bands have released them. When it comes to Italian releases, we’ve have already spoken about Adramelch and their “Irae Melanox”. Other than that, I would like to mention Dark Quarterer’s self titled one along with a more recent release, Labyrinth’s “Return To Heaven Denied”.

Around the release of “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”, or a little earlier, Holy Martyr relocated from Sardinia to Milano. Ivano explains…

– It wasn’t about anything else than the fact that we wanted to be closer to the rest of Europe. It gave us better opportunities to do concerts and travel everywhere without too much stress. There are positive aspects about living on an island, but as a heavy metal band, you can feel pretty isolated from the rest of the scene.

Huge money and a lot of time were already invested in the band by this point.

–We have covered parts of the recordings of all our albums and also paid the expenses for doing concerts outside of Italy. We haven’t earned anything from the band, and to be honest, I think we can just forget about getting some of our money back. When that is said, I have to point out that we love performing live. It might sound as a cliché, but the enjoyment people get from our music, and the fact that we get to know a lot of people through our music is payment good enough. We don’t care about money, as long as we can have a few beers with our fans.

Fast forward to May 2011 and the release of “Invincible”, an album that was clearly different to what the band had done in the past, consisting mainly of faster and catchier stuff. Two and a half years have passed since the release of “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”. Is it due to the usual stuff like commitment to work and family?

– You are aware of the fact that you don’t speak to Lars Ulrich, right? I don’t live off my music, I have an ordinary job that I go to each and every day. Sometimes I simply don’t have enough time to play or think music. My daily work is my number one priority as I don’t earn any money from Holy Martyr. The band is just a hobby. After the release of “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”, we did a few concerts here and there, and didn’t really have the time to write new material. I prefer to feel 100 percent comfortable with the ideas I build upon, not only to use the first and best that fall into my head. You also have to remember that the two previous albums were partly made up of old material.

This time everything is brand new?

– Yeah, the whole album is pretty much written in its entirety during 2010. In a certain way, I guess you can say that “Invincible” is our first real album. It has something really special, that I didn’t feel when we put out the other two. Releasing albums containing mostly old material isn’t the same has having only brand new tracks to offer.

InvincibleIs this maybe the reason why the material feels more coherent this time? The other albums have had its ups and downs…

– Yeah, I guess so. The lineup is the same as last time, our recent bass player joined after the release of “Still At War”, and you can easily hear that there have been a development in each and everyone of the musicians involved. If you compare the new album to the first demos, you will notice that the difference is huge. Everything is very well executed nowadays, and the arrangements are all very good. If you listen very carefully, you can still recognize Holy Martyr as we were ten years ago though. We sound different today, compared to when we were releasing EPs on our own, but if you pay attention to “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”, you can find the roots to “Invincible” in songs like “Spartan Phalanx”, “Lakedaimon” and “Hellenic Valour”. At the same time, the music on “Invicible” has more energy and also some faster parts similar to “Still At War” or our first EP “Hatred And Warlust”.

This is your third album for Dragonheart Records. Seen from the outside, it is a strange record company. For instance, they don’t answer mails, at least not mine, or update their website.

– You are right, but they do what they can with the resources they have at their disposal. They have a few really good bands, but as with most independent label, they’re not very good at promoting or pushing their bands. There is not a lot of support for tours for instance.

A person in the Italian metal community once told me that the main reason why some good bands are still with Dragonheart, is the fact that the label is quite generous when it comes to the recording budget.

– Then he must know a lot more than I do. Based on my experiences, this isn’t true at all. Since our debut album, our budget has gradually been reduced, and when we recorded “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”, we even had to add a bit of our own money. I don’t want to say anything bad about Dragonheart though. This time they have given us enough money to make a high quality recording. Another positive thing about the label, is that you have full artistic freedom.

You have written lyrics about Romans and Spartans earlier, but on “Invincible” the lyrics seem to be centered around Japan, with historical events and movies as central parts. Are the Japanese song titles an attempt at appealing to Japanese fans?

– Our goal is getting acknowledged for delivering high quality heavy metal, but to achieve this, we have to write about things that inspire us. It’s perfectly normal, isn’t it? The fact that we can change the theme from one album to another and still not compromise one tiny bit musically, can’t be anything than positive, can it? I love samurai and Japan since I was a little boy, and decided to make an album around it since before “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” was recorded.

Lets talk a bit more about the lyrics. After the intro called “Ivo Jima” there are four songs with English titles before the album ends with five tracks with Japanese song titles, which are all named after movies, some of the directed by the great Akira Kurosawa. Please explain!

– First, I need to point out that “Invincible” is not a concept album. Some of the songs are, as you say, based on movies, but not necessarily about samurai. The track “Lord Of War” is inspired by the movie with the same name, featuring Nicholas Cage. The theme of the song is a bit unusual for us, as the movie is about a weapon dealer who works in the third world. While dealing in weapons, he is also selling his soul and his pride. It’s a totally different take on the theme war. “Ghost Dog” is another song with lyrics that might surprise some people. The movie is about a young assassin who is recruited by a gangster. The special thing about it, is the fact that the assassin, played by Forest Whitaker, acts like a samurai, in the sense that he follows the strict moral rules and the life style of the Japanese samurai. He stays committed and loyal until he gets killed by his own boss.

What about the Kurosawa-movies?

– We have lyrics about two of them, each one has given name to a track. The first one, “Shichinin No Samurai” is a bit older and a real classic. It has inspired a lot of directors, names like George Lucas, Federico Fellini and Francis Ford Coppola. The movie is about a village in the old Japan, that is attacked by criminals. Seven samurai decides to help out the farmers, with their own lives at risk. It’s one of the most epic movies I have ever seen, I simply worship it. It’s got lots of action and some really fantastic scenes. “Kagemusha” on the other hand, is a completely different type of move. Its about a warlord in the old Japan, called Takeda Shingen. After a siege, he ends up deadly wounded and his clan decides to find a lookalike, Kagemusha, who can replace him. The purpose, of course, is to protect themselves from the enemy. After a while Kagemush tries to take control of things himself, as he wants to become a powerful leader. The song is the most melancholic one on the album, and it might remind you a little of some of the material on “Hellenic Warrior Spirit”.

What is it about Kurosawa and his work that fascinates you?

– I like good movies. Fellini and Quentin Tarantino are other favourites. Kurosawa is very original and at times a bit strange. I also like animation movie maker Miyazaki and old Japanese cartoons. One of the things I really enjoy about Kurosawa, is his use of samurai. Quite a few of his movies are also really epic, just like the music of Holy Martyr.

The song “Zatoichi” borrows the title from a Japanese serie of movies about a blind samurai which is simply unbeatable, while “Sekigahara” is about a famous battle in Japan. “Takeda Shingen”, of course, is about the guy Ivano mentioned when we spoke about “Kagemusha”. The only track without a definitive theme, is the title track.

– “Invincible” could be about a lot of things. It could be about yourself, about a samurai or about a guy who never gives up, regardless of how much of an uphill struggle he faces.

As we write March 2017, the fourth album “Darkness Shall Prevail” is ready to be unleashed upon mankind, about six years since the release of  “Invincible”. How would Ivano describe this period, for him personally and as a creative musician?

– Lots of ideas, lot of uncertainty. The two things together are not so good, you can switch from great creativity to total apathy, but fortunately the first one has taken control over the bad feelings. It’s just an inner battle that happens sometimes, especially when life decides to serve you a bad plate.

HolyMartyr-CoverYou wrote on your Facebook page during the summer of 2016, that this time it was very difficult to stay alive and continue as a band. Why was that?

– Because I was alone, separated from the rest of the members. I moved to the centre of Italy due to job problems, while the rest of the guys stayed in Milan. This was like the end of a relationship, I saw these guys for years and years, every week, for rehearsals or some beers together. Eros (guitar) decided to leave, he wasn’t interested in participating anymore when the  distance between us was so large, and with no rehearsals, Daniele (drums) lost his interest in playing music. As you can imagine, it was the worst situation for me, trying to move on with a new album almost alone while searching for new members. A lot of times I thought about giving up and stop playing music. Fortunately, my will was stronger than any obstacle in my life.

This time you used Slam studio, after having recorded in New Sin for the last two albums. Judging from your posts on Facebook, it seems  you were well prepared and that the recording sessions were intense, but went rather smooth?  

– New Sin unfortunately was too far away from everything, I decided to stay near home to make the things quickly. We had very little time to complete everything, due to job permissions, so it was a fight against time, a countdown to total stress. We were surely prepared, but next time I hope to have an entire month to record everything, without going mad.

Would it have made the end product, the new album, better if you had more time in the studio?

– Well…maybe with more time everything could’ve been better. The best option for this album was for sure New Sin, but we have made the best album we possibly could with little time and in a small studio. I think you can hear the soul of the songs even with this production.

The lineup that has recorded this new album features two new members in the form of Stefano and Paolo. Has the member changes and their style of playing affected “Darkness Shall Prevail”? 

– Yes, Stefano is a very skilled drummer, he added a lot of grooves and precision to the new tracks, I think he tried to sound a bit like Mark Zonder from Warlord . Paolo is another young musician, he can play every kind of genre and he is very precise too. He has done almost all the guitar solos, and you can easily hear that these are the best ever made by the band.

A big change this time, is the lyrics, which are all  inspired by  the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Many bands have written songs inspired by his works before, what is different about the way you approach his work?

 – All the themes are from secondary events and characters, mainly depicted on the appendices. So there is nothing about “Lord Of The Rings” or other books from Tolkien. There are particular events, situations or places that we tried to describe with music. The thing that really makes the difference, is the dark approach and vibe in the compositions and the lyrics. We have left the heroism a bit, embracing some kind of arcane and obscure attitude, not so far from Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol. We never had that particular style, in a few words, we are more doom metal.

Quite early in the process you stated that the fourth Holy Martyr-album would be a concept album. Is it a concept because all songs are inspired by Tolkien, or are they also connected in other ways? 

– Every song is connected. Everything starts with the rise and the fall of Númenor, going through the battle of Dagorlad and the defeat of Sauron. Then we have the great darkness in mirkwood and the return of the dark lord in the stronghold of Dol Guldur. Later, Sauron enters again in Mordor, with the help of the nine ringwraiths, so we have “Minas Morgul” and “Witch-King Of Angmar”. “The Dwarrowdelf” is connected in the same era, describing  the greatness long gone in the realm of Khazad-Dûm, due to the dark presence of Sauron in mirkwood and Dol Guldur, a decline ended with the rise of the Balrog. “Born of Hope” is based again on the men of Númenor, the last remnants of the northern Dunedain, scattered and divided. Arathorn was the last heir of Isildur, and the hope is the newborn Aragorn. So the album it’s like a circle, starts solemn and heroic, with a heart full of darkness in the middle, to finish again heroic and with hope, a very important factor in the books of Tolkien.

While most of the titles give a pretty good indication of what the songs are  about, especially for those into Tolkien,  please tell us a  little more about the lyrics to tracks like “Heroic Deeds” and “Born For Hope”. 

– As I mentioned, “Heroic Deeds” is based on the war of the last alliance between men and elves. The song tries to give you the climax of the battle, with a view from the elves in the first bridge and from the men in the second, during the siege of Barad-Dur. The ending is unusual, with verses about Elendil and Gil-Galad, the fallen leaders of the alliance. “Born Of Hope” is about Arathorn and the rangers from the North. It’s the only song based on a movie, an independent film with the same title, you can find it on YouTube

What is the function of the shorter instrumental tracks you have included on the album?

– We have two instrumental songs. The first one was a long intro for Taur-nu-fuin, connected to “Dol Guldur”. Then i decided to split it in two separated songs. “Minas Morgul” is the second, connected with the previous tracks and a good introduction for the next song. So, from “Dol Guldur” to “Witch-King Of Angmar” everything is connected, and it’s real cold and dark.

I read somewhere that you sometimes write lyrics in breaks at work or late at night. This can’t be ideal conditions to work under? Do you work the same way when you write music, or is it different?

– I know…I don’t have much time to dedicate to this, but Ì really try to do my best. With the music it is different, it’s much easier and I am very quick, if some idea comes out at work, I can sing it and record it on my mobile phone.

How do you think devoting more time to the lyrics would have improved them?

 – The past is past. I’ve done the best I could with the lyrics. A  guy from the states read them before the release, and he liked them a lot. So I don’t know, it’s not my native tongue and I can’t imagine something better, maybe with the help of someone who are excellent at speaking English.

HolyMartyr_1The album is slower and darker, especially when compared to “Invincible” which had a lot of up-tempo stuff. Was it the concept of the  album, which I guess you had in the back of your mind all the time, that made the music come out differently this time?

– “Invincible” was about samurai and ancient Japan warfare. A song is about the Movie “Shichinin No Samurai”, which is fast, connected with the scenes on the screen. Holy Martyr have different approaches to the songwriting: sometimes fast and speedy, with prog and doom elements, everything surrounded by an epic metal aura. “Invincible” is the least epic album we have made, with a lot of straight tracks, and the speed metal approach as a predominant part.  “Darkness Shall Prevail” is more epic again,  also with the doom metal part stronger than ever. We are always Holy Martyr, but fortunately a little different  every time…and we always do it based on the themes. Tolkien is sometimes heroic…sometimes very dark.

Your earlier material, and especially some of the tracks on “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” and “Invincible” were extremely catchy. Personally, I think most people will need to hear this new album a  few times before they get into the songs. Comment?

 – I agree about listening it a few times to get into the concept. But I disagree about “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” being a catchy album. Apart from “Spartan Phalanx” and “Lakedaimon”, the rest of the album is progressive, doomy, and with very long songs. The final track is even acoustic. I’ve already told you why “Invincible” was more catchy, but nope, I think “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” is the most difficult album from Holy Martyr. “Darkness Shall Prevail” is straight and has its moments of catchiness, but I have no doubt people who liked “Hellenic Warrior Spirit” will enjoy it. It seemed like a lot of people didn’t like “Invincible”, as it wasn’t epic enough.

“Born Of Hope”, is one of the uptempo tracks on the album. I guess there must be a reason for why it is placed at the end, as it would have added a bit more diversity to the album if it were placed somewhere around the middle? 

 – As I said before, this album is like a circle, and this song closes it perfectly. It’s like a book or a movie…after a lot of darkness, there’s a little hope left. Would you put the end of the “Lord Of The Rings” in the middle of the book? I don’t think so.

“No fillers, just killers”, I saw you wrote somewhere about the new album. What kind of quality control do you do to make sure all songs are up to the standard you want?

– I always try to be really inspired. I try to do something original and different from previous tracks or other bands. Everything is accepted from the rest of the band, I never had problems with the stuff I propose to the guys, never. They like all the tracks. I like what I do, the band like it and I am sure that our fans will like it too. One thing is sure…everything is natural, nothing is planned or done in a fake way.

You have had a lot members coming and going over the years. Are you a difficult person to work with? It must be a lot of work and frustration to find and rehearse new members all the time. Is it the love for the band that drives you to seek new members instead of calling it quits? 

 – I am a special guy to work with, maybe I need to be understood by new members but then everything goes very smooth. I am in a very good relationship with the ex members of Holy Martyr, they are all my friends and part of the band’s history. Some guys decided to leave due to work or personal problems, but we have made three albums with almost the same lineup. Nowadays we live far from each other and it is really hard. I’m the most resilient guy in the band, I love doing this and I try to do my best to keep Holy Martyr alive and kickin.

You must have a pretty strong relationship with the singer, Alessandro Mereu, who has been in  the  band for a long time now?

– At the moment, Alessandro and me are the oldest members of the band. With his voice, he is a reall trademark of the band. I am the same when creating the music. Nicola, our bass player, is important too, and I am very happy he is with us. We are like brothers and we treat the new guys in the same manner. But back to your question, I can’t  \imagine Holy Martyr without the voice of Alex

What do you see as his main strengths, both in the studio and on stage?

 – He is a stage animal and my favourite epic metal vocalist ever. He puts in a great performance on this album.

You are performing at this years edition  of Up The Hammers, alongside Cirith Ungol amgonst others. It’s been a while also since you featured at the underground festivals. Do you feel as confident as in the past?  With each album you release, I guess it gets more and more difficult to balance the old material against the desire to perform songs from the new album?

– We like the new stuff a lot, and we’ll play many songs from “Darkness Shall Prevail”. It was really difficult, even with vocals, to balance the songs from “Invincible” with the rest of the old stuff. Actually, the mid tempo songs like “Spartan Phalanx” and “Ares Guide My Spear” are perfect along with tracks like “Numenor” and “Born Of Hope”.

What is your favourite Holy Martyr-“track to perform live, and why?

– We just can’t wait to play the new stuff, especially “Numenor”, “Dol Guldur” and “Witch King Of Angmar”. “Even Taur Nu Fuin” could be really interesting live. There are a bunch of songs which we play, because people like to hear…our classics. We don’t enjoy playing very long songs that much.

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