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 Interview
 
17/06/2015 - Review by "Matt Spall" - From "http://manofmuchmetal.wordpress.com/" - EIDOS Track by Track by Manofmuchmetal


LINK PART1

LINK PART2


I spoke with Kingcrow mainman Diego Cafolla a few months back at the time when writing had just been completed for album number six, ‘Eidos’. Fast forward several weeks and we’re now on the eve of its release on June 23rd. It stood out as one of my most anticipated album releases of 2015 and having been lucky enough to hear the whole album a little in advance, suffice to say that, to these ears, my high hopes have been met. Possibly exceeded. ‘Eidos’ is quality melodic progressive metal at its finest.

Having kept in touch with Diego since that last interview, I tapped up the friendly and affable Italian guitarist and songwriter for another chat. He agreed and what ensues represents the fruits of an hour-long conversation about all things Kingcrow, one of the most underrated progressive metal bands on the planet in my opinion.


I begin proceedings by asking Diego if he and the band are pleased with the outcome and what, in particular, is most pleasing overall.


“Well yes, I’m proud, but when I listen to every album, I tend to focus on the faults” Diego begins in typically self-deprecating and honest fashion. “I’m also the producer, so I’m constantly thinking that this should have been louder or this sound could have been better. I’m never happy about the production. For the songs though, I am really proud of them.”


“In the band”, Diego continues, “we usually talk about which is the best song on the album and it is not so easy this time. I think my favourite is ‘If Only’, the last track but not because it is a better song than the others, because I like every song on the record, but it feels very close to me.”


The new album is simply named ‘Eidos’, a title that means little to me. I feel it necessary therefore to discover more about its meaning.


“It’s a Greek word”, Diego responds correcting my horrendous anglicised pronunciation in the process. “It’s a philosophical concept that means, in a few words, the real essence of things. So, since the concept that started with ‘Phlegethon’ is about life, it seemed to fit very well. It’s a bit pretentious probably, but I liked it”, he chuckles warmly.


“There is this main theme, yes”, answers Diego when I enquire as to whether ‘Eidos’ is a concept album of sorts. “The concept began with ‘Phlegethon’ which is about childhood and the way that how you live during your childhood shapes your personality. Then we have ‘In Crescendo’ which is about the end of youth. ‘Eidos’ is a step further so it’s about a grown man looking back at his life, the choices he made and how these choices he made affected his life. It looks also at how many of these choices are made because of external factors like the society he lives in and the pressure from other people for example. The songs do not make a story as such, but they are all related to this main idea.”


It’s a deep, fascinating and striking theme I’m sure you’ll agree. Every bit as striking however, is the cover artwork that accompanies ‘Eidos’. Diego is keen to offer an insight into this.



“We started working on a cover that was totally different. If we had continued with that idea, ‘Eidos’ would have a cover very similar to the new Steven Wilson record”, Diego laughs heartily and with a sense of relief. “The cover is made by Devilnax who we’re worked with for a long time. It is inspired by the painting ‘The Lovers’ by Magritte. We were searching for inspiration and we saw this painting. We thought that it was interesting, so we just made it fit the concept. The image is very symbolic; the man standing has a teddy bear which represents his past life and childhood which connects with ‘Phlegethon’. He stands in water which represents life and he can’t see his future…”


Ah, hence the cover over his head, I rudely interject with a self-aggrandising puffing out of the chest.


“Exactly”, agrees Diego, generously. “We worked a lot on the concept of the cover and we shot it very near the studio because there is a lake there.”


Listening to Kingcrow can be a challenge but it is also, ultimately, a very rewarding experience. I ask Diego whether the band deliberately set out to make the listener work hard for their enjoyment.


“It just happens that way I guess”, Diego counters after a little consideration. “We only try to make the best music possible. But I understand because our records are very rich with a lot of variety in them. They are very layered and so it probably takes a few spins before you can fully appreciate everything on the record. On this record though, there are a few more direct songs like ‘The Moth’, ‘Adrift’ perhaps in the chorus and ‘Fading Out Pt IV’. I mean, some songs are quite short; there are three or four songs that are about four minutes long which is really very short for us. But there are other songs that are much longer and that’s just the way I write I guess.”


At this point, I’m keen to delve into the main feature of this interview, the track-by-track breakdown from the main songwriter’s point of view. Being horrendously clichéd, I kick things off by inviting Diego to talk a little about the opening track and lead single, ‘The Moth’.


The Moth


“That song was the first that I wrote for the record. Since ‘In Crescendo’ featured songs that were all long, my initial idea was to make the songs more concise. But this was a total failure”, he chuckles, “because the album is 60 minutes and contains ten songs. So the songs have an average length of six minutes. But anyway, this was very easy to write actually. It was good for the first track because it is punchy, concise and I think it has a catchy chorus. It will work well live and when we were talking about which song to choose as the first single, everyone pointed to this song, so it was the obvious choice.”


“The song is an introduction to the concept on the album”, Diego continues. “There is a metaphor in there, of the moth that’s blinded by the light and the flame. It represents someone who is so focussed on following a career or whatever that he misses everything else.”


This track has also been chosen as the first on ‘Eidos’ to get the video treatment. Diego recounts the story behind getting Gastón Viñas to create the visuals to accompany the song.


“It’s a great video to me”, he replies with typical understatement. “I found this artist because he made some videos for Radiohead. I was listening to Radiohead on YouTube and I saw the song ‘2+2=5’. I contacted him and told him that I appreciated his art. We exchanged emails and I told him I have a band, Kingcrow. He said that he knew Kingcrow, and that he was a fan. It started like that; I sent him a song, the album cover and the lyrics and he created everything himself from just that. He is a very talented guy and I love the video.”



Adrift


“It is one of my favourite songs on the record”, agrees Diego when I suggest that this has arguably the most immediate melodies within it and is a fantastically anthemic track in places. “The chorus is catchy but it is probably the most technical song on the album. I don’t think anyone will recognise this because all the technicalities are quite hidden. It’s very hard to play live, especially the guitars. It was one of the hardest songs to write because there are polyrhythms going on and it changes tonality, so we have to work on modulations quite a lot. We always try to make difficult things sound easy because for me it is all about the song. Even if a part is difficult to play, we don’t want to make it obvious because we want it to be easy to listen to. But if you dig deeper, you can hear that there are lots of things going on.”


“The final solo”, Diego closes on ‘Adrift’ is probably my favourite solo I have ever written. I worked hard on it and I like it; it’s quite bluesy and melodic because when I write solos, I write them like vocal lines.”


Slow Down


“This”, offers Diego when beginning to explain the third song, ‘Slow Down’, “is kind of the oddball on the record because it is just a strange song. I love it because it is strange, probably, and because it’s different. It has a saxophone in the middle section which sounds a bit like Zappa’s stuff, and I’m a big Zappa fan. It starts with vocals from the beginning and originally, I wrote that for a string arrangement. At the time, I was listening to the Beach Boys a lot and they have massive amounts of work on the vocals. I thought that maybe I should try to replace the strings with vocals to see what would happen. And I liked what happened. I think it will be quite fun to play because there’s a lot going on. The only part that is repeated in the song is the chorus because every other part is different.”


“The lyrics are by Diego Marchesi, the singer”, continues Diego. “The lyrics are about modern life, about someone involved with technology, that lives on his computer, misses things and being sucked in by a virtual life.”


Open Sky


To these ears, ‘Open Sky’ has a big, epic feel to it but is deceivingly only about five and a half minutes long. Before I can ask a question about it, Diego is off.


“I love this song”, he opens with barely contained enthusiasm. “When the drums kick in, I immediately had the riff in my head as it was a left-over from ‘In Crescendo’. I basically built the song around that riff. I dunno, it’s a very emotional song that I like a lot. I am the producer, so when Diego came to the studio to record the vocals, he came in and I asked to listen to how he would try to sing the song. He started singing but I stopped him. I thought it was quite good but asked him to sing the song whilst imagining being alone on a plain with snow and a grey sky. Diego said ‘you mean like this?’ It took one take. It was perfect. We have a good collaboration when we try to get the emotion just right. You can sing the same melody thousands of ways but the most difficult part is to find the right mood and emotion. Diego is great at that.


The lyrics are by Diego and there is melancholy involved but the message is not negative and there is still hope. It’s one of my favourite sets of lyrics on the album I think.


Fading Out Pt IV


Moving on to the half-way point of the record, listeners are greeted with another relatively concise track by Kingcrow standards and one whose title will ring bells with long-terms fans of the band.


“This was the second song that I wrote, that’s why it is short because I was still trying to write more concise songs at that point”, Diego chuckles again. “The opening riff was a left-over from ‘In Crescendo’ and the song was so easy to rite. Everything you hear, I wrote in two days. Everything. It is a very busy track, there are a lot of riffs for example. It is more of a classic Kingcrow track because it is connected to ‘Fading Out Pt III’ on ‘Phlegethon’ and there is a kind of flamenco, folk vibe within it.”


Having used the phrase ‘left over’, I quickly ask Diego to clarify why it was ‘left over’, hoping that it didn’t mean ‘substandard’. Mind you, given the quality of the track, I suspected from the outset that this wasn’t the case at all. Diego confirms this vehemently.


“It was only a left over because it didn’t fit on the ‘In Crescendo’ record in terms of the atmosphere. It wasn’t a bad riff, but ‘In Crescendo’ was more melancholic in feeling and if it had been included there, it would have sounded odd. I write constantly, so if I put everything I write on a record, it would be an eight-day long album and I don’t think the record label would like that.” Cue more laughter. “But you have to use ideas that feel connected. To give an extreme example, you could have a great reggae riff but you couldn’t put it on a black metal record.”

Welcome to Part 2 of my rather mammoth chat with Diego Cafolla, the guitarist and principal song writer with Kingcrow. I’ve said it before and I make no apology for saying it again: Kingcrow are one of the most criminally underrated bands in the progressive metal world. As such, I felt it absolutely necessary to delve as deeply into the Italian’s music as possible and hopefully gather a few new converts along the way. After all, writing about and supporting great bands is what the Blog Of Much Metal is fundamentally about.


If you’ve yet to read Part 1, you can access it here. In Part 1, Diego and I talk about the album title, the artwork and a host of other things before delving headlong into a track-by-track breakdown of ‘Eidos’, Kingcrow’s sixth full-length release.


However, onto Part 2 and it’s here that we pick up on the track-by-track synopsis, beginning with the sixth track on the album, ‘Deeper Divide’. It’s a longer track that features a hefty dose of technicality but also has some gorgeous melodies and plenty of memorable moments. I’m not the only one who likes the song, as Diego admits candidly.


Deeper Divide


“I tell you”, he begins, “this is probably my second favourite track on the record. It is a very deep song which I wrote the lyrics for. It is about someone cutting every connection with his past and going for a completely different life. I wrote it at four in the morning and the atmosphere is there. When I hear it, I can picture myself in the studio writing it at four in the morning. I feel that it is quite a lonely song, but it is quite complex. There is a part after the chorus, if you can call it a chorus, where there is an opening after a dark beginning. A friend told me that it is like a ray of light from a dark sky. I like that change in mood in the song a lot.”


On The Barren Ground


“This is probably the happiest song on the record, I guess”, Diego responds as we move onto ‘On The Barren Ground’, the seventh track on the album. “It was totally re-written because the chorus that you hear on the album was actually the verse on the initial version. It is quite heavy too.”


I agree that it is pretty heavy, but I get an 80s prog rock vibe to the song too. I reluctantly put this to Diego and, surprisingly, he doesn’t necessarily disagree.


“Someone also suggested that it has an 80s pop feel. I don’t know, I wasn’t inspired by 80s pop for the song but I can understand what you mean totally. I think it is the keyboard sounds that remind people of 80s pop. But I like the song because it’s a punchy track, quite technical and the opening riff is probably one of the heaviest parts by our band. It wasn’t deliberate, it just happened that way; it wasn’t like I thought ‘right, now I have to write something with balls’”, Diego laughs riotously before reverting back to his self-deprecating norm. “But I like the track and it is what it is.”


At The Same Pace


When I first heard ‘Eidos’, I immediately took a couple of the songs to my heart. ‘At The Same Pace’ was not one of those tracks. However, over time, it has crept into my psyche almost under the radar and it is now a firm favourite with me. I let Diego enlighten me about this rather wonderful piece of music.


“I agree that it is one of the best songs on the record”, Diego begins matter-of-factly. “The lyrics are written by Diego Marchesi and they are very personal, so I prefer not to talk about them for this song. But musically, it was easy to write and what I like about the song is that it is quite long but it feels short. It’s not like ‘ah, I’ve been listening to this song for ages’ which is nice. The only part that I changed totally that wasn’t on the original script was the atmospheric breakdown in the middle.”


Ah, the breakdown. After a few minutes of steady building, the track metaphorically jumps off a cliff face and plunges into an atmospheric and emotional abyss of rich beauty. The combination of acoustic guitars, powerful piano and soulful guitar solos gives me goose bumps every time.


“Thank you, it is a solo which I really love. But for me, there is a fantastic bass line by Francesco (D’Errico) and yeah, I dunno, it’s one of those songs that worked from the beginning. It’s a favourite song for me on the record.”


“The bass line”, Diego obliges when I ask him to elaborate on the bass work he mentions, “has this kind of funky rhythm, and Francesco is a great bass player. A lot of the beauty of the song comes from the bass work. It’s something that a lot of people don’t focus on but I can tell you that without the bass, the song loses a lot of its beauty for sure. Francesco shines more than ever on this record I believe.”



Eidos


The penultimate track is both the longest song and the title track. It’s a genuine monster that offers a great deal of variety throughout its extended life span. As I discover, ‘Eidos’ was not a composition that easily rolled off the production line.


“That one was the hardest song to write”, Diego offers bluntly. “I spent like a month writing it because it is quite complex. It has a lot of switches between heavy and melodic and because I always want to make the songs sound smooth, I had to put a lot of extra work into it. Also the vocal melodies I like too. It is probably the hardest song to dig at first because it changes a lot. It starts quite heavy but it has this acoustic verse and builds towards the end. The end section is quite heavy too. We haven’t rehearsed it yet but I think it will be a hard song to put down live.”


Without seeking to derail the track-by-track rundown, I note to Diego that a theme has begun to develop with Kingcrow, namely the combination of heavy metal and acoustic guitars which creates a nice balance and something akin to a ‘unique selling point’ the band. Diego agrees and explains why this is.


“I have been thinking about this and I think it has become a little bit of a trademark with Kingcrow. It happens a lot and simply, I like the sound of the acoustic guitar. I like it even when they are combined with very crunchy guitars; I like that sound. It all gives you this lush feel and I think it will be there forever with Kingcrow I guess.”


If Only


Earlier in the conversation, Diego confessed his love for ‘If Only’, the closing track on ‘Eidos’. I finally offer him the floor and invite him to put his love of this composition into words.


“It is a very complex song”, he begins, “that contains polyrhythms for example. But it’s not because it is complex that I like it; it’s the emotion of the song. I have this image in my head of two people lying in the bedroom; an old couple. One of them is thinking about passing their life with this person and questioning themselves about that. I just imagined the light of the moon through the window and this was the initial image I had. When I write, I write in a very visual way. I try to make soundtracks to images and this was the image for ‘If Only’. It wasn’t very difficult to write but I just love the feeling to it. There’s what I call the chorus even if it doesn’t repeat; there’s this opening and every time I listen to it, I love it and feel that it is very good.”


One strength of ‘If Only’ that hasn’t yet been mentioned yet, is the vocals. Diego Marchesi’s voice is fantastic throughout ‘Eidos’ but is, in my opinion, outstanding within ‘If Only’. Diego is quick to agree.


Again, it was almost a first take I think. Diego started to sing and I thought ‘ok, this is perfect. No work needed here’. He just nailed it first time, it was amazing. He has a great way of channelling emotions through his voice. People tend to focus more on technical aspects or the screaming, high pitched notes. He has the ability to do this, I can assure you. But he just focuses a lot on delivering a performance that links with what the song is all about. We all just let the music go where it wants to go. It’s not our forte to show off. We can play but we’re not shredders or anything. So it is better for us to focus on other aspects of the music, like the arrangements, expressing emotion and a subtle sophistication in the playing.”


And there you have it. All ten songs explored and explained from the band’s perspective.


In my previous interview with Diego some months ago, he offered me a great soundbite, describing ‘Eidos’ as a ‘sonic adventure’. Naturally, I ask him whether he still stands by this description.


“Yeah, I stand by that”, he retorts vehemently. “There are a lot of different sounds, styles and arrangements on this record. I feel that it is a very rich record and that’s why it will probably take some time to dig some of the songs. There are a lot of things going on and it’s not like a record where once you hear the first track, it sets the tone for the whole record. There is a lot more to discover during the life of the record.”


From a personal perspective, I like the fact that the technicality never threatens to overshadow the music and at its heart, ‘Eidos’ is a beautiful record with a great smooth flow to it. The result is an album that I want to go back to again and again.


“We work in that sense and try to make everything smooth”, Diego replies appreciatively. “We constantly play in odd time signatures but if we feel that something sounds too angular, we try to prevent this. I have this joke that we make ‘prog for dummies’ because we have the sophistication to use polyrhythms and odd time signatures but we try to make everything as smooth as possible.”


I laughingly refer to my love of cricket at this point. I love the fact that I’m in a small minority who really understands the rules of the game. The same could be said for Kingcrow; it’s that thrill of being in on a secret. In my case, I understand the rules of the game, for Kingcrow, it’s knowing how technical the music is. I think the cricket analogy is lost on Diego, but he apparently concurs with what I’m trying to say.


“We are rehearsing some songs now and this material is the most technical we’ve ever written, hands down. Nothing on ‘In Crescendo’ or ‘Phlegethon’, is as complicated to play as on ‘Eidos’.


‘Yeah, a bit, yeah”, Diego laughs with real warmth when I ask if he regrets the material being so complex. “I was talking with Ivan (Nastasi) the other guitar player and he said to me ‘man, why did you do that? Nobody will recognise this, so why did you do it?’ It is extra work for everyone but it is very satisfying when you can play a song very well on stage and you, and only you, know how complex it actually is.”



With any band, the big question is whether they honestly think that the new album will be the one to propel them to the next level or beyond, garnering new fans in the process.


“I hope so”, comes the standard reply, although crucially, I get the feeling Diego really believes that this could be their moment. “I think it is a strong record and I hope that it will bring some more recognition for us. I don’t want to sound pretentious but I think that we are a good band. We work hard a lot and the hope is always there. We hope that people will stick with it and think that we are a good band.”


Realising that the interview began over an hour ago, I feel compelled to wrap things up. It’s not like I have two young children to look after or other adult responsibilities to attend to…oh, wait, yes I do. In that case, I close the interview which has felt more like two friends having a natter, by asking about future touring plans. And, seeing as I’m based in the UK, I’m specifically interested to find out whether we’ll see Kingcrow on these shores again soon.


“Yeah absolutely, we will take ‘Eidos’ onto the stage. But since it is now the summer, I think that we will do something in the fall. We don’t have anything booked yet but our management is working on it right now. I’m sure something will come up for around October or something like that. For sure we’ll do a show in Rome which will be the first one, because we always do that. I’m not sure about the States or North America, but probably Europe will be our main focus. The reaction we had in the UK was quite good, particularly because it was our first international show. It was really new for us, but we have great memories and the reaction was really good. I hope we will come back to England soon, but it depends because it is quite expensive to get there.”


‘Eidos’ is out on Sensory Records on June 23rd 2015.






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