By: Metalist NY Magazine
Many bands pride themselves with not giving a fuck, but very few actually don't. How many Black Metal bands do you know who constantly state how much they don't care, yet stick to the guide lines so strictly that there's not a blast beat out of place? How many Death Metal groups do you know who feel adventurous for having a part with clean vocals after 20+ years? Well, oddly enough, one band who really has their own spirit, and their own way of doing things, comes from the far poppier side of the Metal spectrum. The Venetian band Elvenking are really a classic example of a band that believes in making the way rather than following it, and in creating something on their terms rather than others'. While today they have a strong fanbase, for which they are grateful, such was not always the case. The amount of leaps of faith, lines they had to cross, and fans that they've at some time pissed off or confused to stay true to themselves, is far greater than most bands who claim “to not give a fuck.” Much like their music, vocalist Davide “Damna” Moras was a candid, hearty individual who I spent the better part of an hour conversing with. Tread with caution.
B- Benek Metalist
B- Hello this is Damna of Elvenking?
D- Yes, you caught me!
B- How are you?
D- I'm good thank you. We're excited about the latest occurances with our new album. We just started shooting the video around Friday, which went on to Saturday and it was very cool. We're very excited for that, and it's a good time for us.
B- So, the new album, The Pagan Manifesto, is just around the corner, how do you feel about it?
D- As I said, we're really excited about it. We put all our efforts, strength and musical excitement into this album, and it's coming into place this time. We had such a beautiful time in the air of last year and on tour, it's just very cool. Also the relationship with our fans got so strong that it made us want to write songs as soon as we got off tour. We really wanted to write and get into the studio as soon as we finished putting things together. So we were really excited, still are, and I think we've made a hell of an album. I usually don't say things like that about my music or our music but this time i'm really really confident about it. It's going to be a great album, and I mean, I hope people will like it too, but I love it.
B- How do you feel it is different from Era and the previous albums?
D- Well you know, it's different because Era was kind of a new page, a new beginning of a journey we are taking with Elvenking. After the changes, the drum and bass player left, so we started a new journey without them. It was tough as well, but it opened a door to a whole new era for us. A whole new time for Elvenking. With Era we just opened the door, and now it's continuing down that path. It's making a large contact with our past, and a lot of concepts from our roots. It felt so natural and the songs flew very easily. Aydan and I wrote a lot of stuff this time, and it was a lot like back in the days when we just started the band. We're very very happy about it, as we didn't expect an album like this came out, but we just made it and we're happy about it. As a band when you feel something like that, that you've made something good, it's a wonderful feeling. Like most things, being in a band sure has it's ups and downs, but when you feel good about your product, you get a lot of strength of it. One of the great things in the studio, when making this album, was the support we felt from our fans. Out on tour and by staying in contact, we've always kept an open channel of communications with our fans. As cliché as it is to say, we feel like a big family. Their support was so strong that it gave us all the strength to write these new songs. We really can't wait for them to listen to them, it's like sharing by now. We've always had fan support, but this time it was like magic, i'm not kidding. I think the message in our songs and music also helps us connect with our fans, as we sit on the same wavelength.
B- What are some of the lyrical themes? What is the meaning of the title The Pagan Manifesto?
D- It's like saying this is our ultimate album. We put everything into this album which stands for Elvenking, everything we ever wanted to say both musically and lyrically, into this album. Hence Manifesto, and Pagan as that is our message. Elvenking has always supported the Pagan way. But I want to clear up that for us, the word pagan means being different and proud of being different. You can call it whatever you like, though we call it Pagan.
B- That answers half of the question, about the title, but what about the lyrical content itself?
D- As I said, it's all about our message and the themes we've used in our music. This album is all kind of a theme album. Not so much a “concept album” in that it doesn't tell a story, but it rather all connects on a thematic basis. Basically, it relates to the Pagan muses, and Pagan characters in history and today which inspire us. It's all about being Pagan, being distant, being proud to be special. All the songs are linked by this whole idea/concept. Some songs I talk about a historical figure, in particular a priest in the 17th century, and he was Pagan. Or our feelings and how do we feel, being outsiders as well. It's all about this. I mean and as always, we also used our lyrics as an outlet. As all good lyrics, they always needed to come from the heart and especially now a days.
B- I know that Elvenking makes it a point to change the artist for the artwork every time, who made it this time? And how did you choose him?
D- We usually change, though we did two albums with Samuel Araya, who is great, very cool. But I thought we should change, as we always do. But this time we were in contact with this guy who did cover art for My Dying Bride and other Metal bands, called Rhett Podersoo (pronounced Ret Poder-ozo) from England. Who's works are great, and it seemed natural to choose him.
B- Also you had many guests on both Era and Turn of the Red Tide, are there any planned for The Pagan Manifesto?
D- On the Pagan Manifesto we have Amanda Sommerville, from Avantasia and her many projects. We have always liked her work, and a member of the band got in contact with her. We used her vocals as we wanted female vocals on the longest song of the album, which is the longest song we ever made. There's a great melodic part, and we wanted a melodic part with female vocals, so we called her and she was happy to do it.
B- There are also plans for a combined tour with Gamma Ray, are there any plans for a headlining tour in support of the new album?
D- We're excited, as it's a great thing. We were in touch with them around October or November, and we saw a possibility , though the chances weren't too high. We all had the mentality of “don't get your hopes up” but now we just confirmed it and it feels great. I think for a band like us, it's the perfect tour to be on. Unfortunately the gigs are going to be around a month before the release of the album, but I believe the record company is at least going to release a single before the tour. So we'll have something. As far as a headlining tour, we'll probably do something around September or October, there's nothing planned and we're currently thinking about it. But something should happen this autumn for sure.
B- I also know you just finished a new video, What's the idea behind It?
D- This time we made it in a very grand way. We never had such a big video production this band. We've done two days of shooting with a big crew of directors and camera guys, accompanied by a lot of costumes, and we can't wait ourselves to see it. We finished it just yesterday, it'll probably be released in the end of the month, so yeah,from the new album, we really made it the biggest and best we could with our means. It's gonna be a story into the concept of the album, but sadly that's all I can say about the actual concept of the video (laughs.)
B-I have to ask, di dove cazzo hai I' soldi (from where the fuck do you have the money) ?
D- It comes from ourselves. There's no gain in this fucking Metal business. We just tried our hardest to make it as big as possible.
B- I guess it's kind of a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it's not the most lucrative of businessess. Hell it's pretty much not lucrative at all, but on the other hand, you have people involved who truly love it...
D- That's true, we've never had a lot of money as there's no gain from this. We just do it and have done it all these years because we love it, and love it as much as we have in the beginnings of the band. Trying you know, to get what we do make from local gigs and tee shirts.. But then we end up spending it on the band all over again! It's hard but it's still very cool.
B- So, going back, how did Elvenking start?
D- It started you know, from the passion of some friends. When we started the band, well if you can really call it that. When we started playing together, they were just searching for a singer and a drum player. There was an ad in the newspaper for a singer, and I just liked the idea, and it went from there. And well, here we are ! This was around 1997,1998, which were great times for the Power Metal scene. I guess after that it went a bit down, and the situation grounds got a bit worse. But actually recently I feel it working its way back up.
B- What are some of your main influences? How have they changed from the early days?
D-Well, some of the biggest influences in the beginning were bands like Skyclad and all that old stuff. But you can pretty much tell by the scene at the time, I mean bands like Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray and stuff, Iron Maiden, Metallica. Actually we still listen to those bands, but over time we just expand our taste to also include new bands. But you know, we keep the old ones and in the end, we're the same as we ever were.
B- What the fuck....you mean there were never any Deicide influences on early Elvenking?!
D- Actually I love that stuff! But of course i'd never put it into our bands music (laughs)
B- Bullshit! I could hear a few of the riffs you “borrowed” from Once Upon The Cross on The Loser! I really think that the perfect ending to the Israel show would be a cover of Sacrificial Suicide.
D- Oh definitely! It fits so naturally.
B- How has the working process changed since the early days?
D- It's pretty much the same, clearly now we can record ideas on iPhones and computers, wherein it passes like that (snaps fingers.) But in the end it's the same stuff, the music and way we make it. We're all people, we don't change our ways.
B- Also, around the album Wyrd, the band went through a period without you, how did that come about?
D- I don't know what album you're talking about man! I've never even heard about it, you're sure it's an Elvenking album? (laughs)
B-It's a lie! A government lie! Not but what happened?
D- There was misunderstanding between me and the band members. It was not a good time, and we were young and stupid, we managed our business end of things very badly. They made this album, decided it wasn't the right way to go on, and we came back together. As it should be!
B- How has the scene in Italy changed since you guys were up and coming?
D- Well, it actually improved a bit. At the time the fans weren't into the Italian bands, probably because there weren't many proper Metal bands around. There were some big, historical bands, but not much going on. Now the bands are getting better and bigger, and the Italian fans are starting to accept the fact that Italian bands can make good music and Metal. I guess at the time we were all kind of closed mentally. I guess usually it's the opposite, that local bands are supported by local fans, but this was not the case in Italy. In countries like Germany, Sweden and Finland they support their local scene, but it was a cultural thing of the time. We're now having great crowds in Italy,and this was probably also due to the fact that we might have been a shit band at the time (laughs.) The only things I can say I want to change are about the underground. Of course the bigger bands like Lacuna Coil and Rhapsody of Fire I can't really comment about, as they're obviously doing something right. But in the underground, it's like a mud in our country, we have a very bad mentality in how we treat bands , and how bands treat each other. Our bands should work together rather than against each other. There's a strong mentality of pushing people under your boot to try and get out of the mud.
B- Going a bit away from the Power side of things and more into the Folk Metal part of the band, how do you feel about the Folk Renaissance of the last few years?
D- I think the same as for any other Metal movement, that comes up from scratch, and a lot of fans are getting into it, it'll be big for a couple of years or so. It's like fashion, and I can count the good bands on the fingers of one hand. The others pretty much just suck off their ideas. It's still cool as the it gives the bands a rise, though it was the same for Black Metal, Power Metal, Death Metal, Nu Metal and what not. The problem is that many of the new listeners aren't loyal,and you can feel that in them.
B- Do you feel the increase in the number of bands is a cash in or it simply allows for the genre to develop to grander sizes?
D-There are some very good bands that were born before the whole Folk movement started, but many bands kind of jumped in it for the money. That's the bad part of Folk Metal being “cool now.”
B- So, Tel Aviv, how do you feel about the show?
D- We are fucking excited! We've never been to the country, or ever even been in the area. We can't wait for the show and hope to have a great time. It's actually cool to come now, when the Metal scene is growing!