ELOA VADAATH – Pushing Metal Parameters
At certain junctures in life, music sparks a deep connection. Often starting in your adolescent and teenage years, as people mature into adulthood other priorities take shape- separating those who view music as a lifelong pursuit versus those who only use the art form as a passing form of entertainment. For Italian avant-garde progressive metal band Eloa Vadaath, there’s nothing passive about their performances and songwriting in their brief tenure- and you can tell they are into their left of center style for the long haul.
After taking in copious amounts of their latest album "Dead End Proclama" that came out earlier this year on Noisehead Records, I knew I wanted to learn much more about the history and thoughts of the musicians behind this outfit. Firing off a series of questions to vocalist/ guitarist Marco Paltanin (who also adds classical guitar, tabla, and sitar to his duties) digs deep into this interview, placing attention to detail much like the songwriting throughout their career.
Can you give the readers some personal background on your life growing up- what first got you interested in music, some of the first bands and albums you remember listening to and buying, as well as what got you interested in performing in a band for the first time?
Well music has been a need for me since I was a little child. It has never been "becoming interested" in it: since music is always around you, as soon as I experienced it as a listener I felt I had to play it and that guitar was the only possible choice. It didn’t take that much either to understand that more than just playing it, I wanted to write something of my own. I played and composed classical music for many years and it was only in 1998 I discovered metal with "Tales from the Twilight World" and "Nightfall in Middle Earth" by Blind Guardian, plus "The Sound of Perseverance" by Death . Pure epiphany: a genre condensing the richness and textures I had experienced in classical music but capable to bring all that to another level of power and aggressiveness. Needless to say, I HAD to play that so I bought my first electric guitar (an Ibanez Rg550) and started to build up a new technique from ground zero (cause what I had learned for classical guitar wouldn’t help me). Wanting to carry on my classical studies as well, I had to take compromises (ex. long right-hand nails do not make your life easy when playing your axe, if you know what I mean) but all in all that offered me the possibility to experiment and taylor a hybrid technique that is now a base for most of my compositions. Since it took time before I could play properly, as any good metalhead I spent the following years filling my house with CD’s, covering a variety of metal sub-genres and a lot of different music too, becoming more and more progressive oriented, mostly interested in those bands trying to pave new ways of making music in opposition to those that live in the past (despite the fact that it was a glorious past, I have to admit).
Since we shared the same passion for metal, my brother Riccardo and I formed a band of (lame) power metal stuff where he played keyboards and I used to sing and play guitar. It didn’t last long (again… it was lame) but it was the first of many other experiences leading, years later, to Amyss, the most similar "pre-production" of the style of Eloa Vadaath.
What were some of the first rock and metal concerts you attended in your youth? Did you ever get the chance to meet some of your early idols and talk to them?
Starting from the second question, no, we never had this opportunity but life is hopefully long :).
Local occasions aside, my brother and I attended our first real metal concert only in 2003 with "Summer day in Hell". A roster ranging from Dark Lunacy to Virgin Steele, Rage, Type O Negative, Annihilator and obviously Blind Guardian headlining it. After that experience, my concert attendance became way more intense and I dare to say I have not missed any of my idols in a live situation (at least those who had not disbanded such as Death!)
Eloa Vadaath formed as a studio project in 2006 with your brother Riccardo and yourself from the start. What were the initial thoughts about the type of songwriting and style you wanted to develop? How often were you practicing your instrumental skills, because I would imagine with the type of intricacy you display this would take countless hours of consistent work and development?
Starting Eloa Vadaath was nothing more than a game at the beginning. Although we appreciated extreme metal, we had never seriously thought of playing it till that moment. We approached this project with a lot of fun but it took not that long to recognize that it may have some potential: the switch to an extreme "dress" had the effect of refreshing our composition style, freeing us from some mental habits and letting us easily experiment where we had never allowed ourselves to go. The first thing we thought was: "wow, we can move anywhere from here". In retrospect, I think it was mostly the "flattening" effect of growling and screaming vocals that forced us to find more interesting arrangements and quirky musical solutions or sounds.
Concering the practicing part, as every player knows well, it really takes countless hours if you want to tame your instrument and I’m not referring to speed (or not only): it’s a matter of "sound-colors" you can obtain and this is an endless road.
How long did it take to find the right players to complement the two of you to finalize the Eloa Vadaath lineup? Can you tell us if any of the members have had specific training on their instruments- or previous bands they played with prior to joining Eloa Vadaath?
Well, we decided to turn Eloa Vadaath into a real band in March 2007 and in June we were more or less done with our first line-up but still missing a bass player. We met and recruited Nicolò thanks to common friends. He was really young at the time (15 years old!) and although he had almost no previous experience in a band, what became clear from the beginning was that he had ideas and that he could really play.
Mirko (ex- Moonlit) came in summer 2008 when Nicolò, Riccardo and I split with the other members. At the time we were ready to record our first CD "A Bare Reminiscence of Infected Wonderlands", so he swiftly rearranged drum parts with a good dose of technique and fantasy and luckily he entered the band right after.
Lorenzo joined us one year later, when we were starting live activity again after the endless production of our CD. When he prepared 5 of our toughest songs in less than two weeks and played them solidly live, we knew he was the man.
Are there any specific challenges working with your brother in a musical context? Have you always been very close and do you learn how to balance the music workload with times where you just enjoy his company as a family member?
I am 2 and a half years older than him; that said, we have grown together and played together since I can remember. Playing with him for me is simply as natural as it is enjoying his company (although he now lives in Germany and we see each other much less). For that reason challenges are rare to say the least because our musical path has been shared for so many years we commonly agree on everything.
What are your thoughts about your first demo release "Coalesce" back in 2007? What type of studio(s) did you use, how much time did you spend on the writing and recording of the material, and what are your overall thoughts on the product now after years of reflection?
Although it is everywhere credited as a 2007 release, we actually completed it in 2006 but it was shared among friends only till the following year. We recorded it entirely at home and most of it is a product of improvisation. I would be a liar to pretend we spent time and care on compositions because, as I said, it all started as a game. Yet beside criticisms, if I listen to the demo today, I understand why we enjoyed composing and recording it so much: that heavily loaded black metal, sometimes cheesy and naif in its schemes, retains a certain sense of connection, some brilliant moments, inspired melodies and atmosphere. It explores wide fascinations and sounds of different genres of music but it is always easily listenable and direct: a mix it would be great to achieve again in the future even in our intricate compositions.
There are really only a few digital copies of it around and near to zero physical copies of which I am aware… so who knows: we may re-print the original, remaster or even re-record it someday 🙂
You put Eloa Vadaath on hold to work on the final arrangements for another band Amyss which you formed in 2005. What style of music was Amyss and what exactly caused the break up in March 2007? How did it feel to finally pursue Eloa Vadaath on a more prominent level instead of relegating things to a project status?
As I said before, Amyss was probably the nearest thing to what Eloa Vadaath would have been. Actually, it was even broader considering styles and contaminations but much more melodic and female fronted (Elena Rosolin, that years later would record clean female vocals on our first Eloa Vadaath CD). The spirit though was really similar, no particular boundaries, a lot of contaminations and the first serious use of electric and acoustic violins as a pivotal element of our music.
In 2007 we had enough defined material for a full length and we were looking for a drummer to start the recording sessions. Since it seemed we couldn’t find anybody, we decided to build up Eloa Vadaath as a normal band to make some rehearsing for the joy of playing. It was an experience so different and energetic to finally play live what we had recorded as a mere experiment, that it became natural to simply focus on it further on.
While working on compositions for the first album "A Bare Reminiscence of Infected Wonderlands", you had a series of lineup changes. What prompted these changes and how did you know you found the right drummer finally with Mirko Cirelli? Is this part of the reason why the writing and recording process took additional time to get the new members up to speed?
When all the songs of the CD were arranged and defined and we were planning a time span for the recording process and an environment where it should take place, it became obvious that we wouldn’t make it because the overall preparation of some of us was totally inadequate. It all ended up with arguing and we simply split from our drummer, guitar player and singers (male and female… yes, we were 7!).
Since there was no need for a clairvoyant to foresee this outcome, we had checked the availability of Mirko a couple of weeks before; a demo of two of our tracks with his drumming simply blew away the former drummer’s performance, elevating the songs to their well deserved progressive feeling. So after letting him become familiar with the whole CD and rearrange his parts, we could start to record with almost no latency on our work-plan.
Another problem was that we had to re-write 3 sets of lyrics and parts of some songs that the former guitar player had composed; a situation that could turn into a serious problem. It wasn’t funny but it turned out to be somehow easier than expected.
The recording of this debut album took place over an 8 month period in the fall of 2008 until the spring of 2009 in an 18th century ancient monastery. How did you choose this type of recording environment, and were there any special challenges in trying to capture your sound here as opposed to a professional recording studio?
We weren’t specifically looking for it but some relatives of our former guitar player owned that ancient monastery and they offered us to use it free of charge for all the time we needed. It was a great opportunity and we accepted. The challenges, as well as the satisfactions, were endless: the halls were enormous and they could not be acoustically treated as necessary, miking was a nightmare and sounds were huge and wild, not to talk about the ghosts we had the chance to "trap" on tape 😉
At the same time… fuck, we weren’t looking for a dead studio hall at the time! We wanted something alive, true, with a specific and unique blend. We wanted our music to mirror the place in which it was captured. I think that happened: all the reverbs and delays you can hear on CD are absolutely natural with the sole exception of vocals that were recorded elsewhere.
Your album finally came out in March of 2010 on West Witch Records- what can you tell us about this particular record label and your thoughts now on this record? What are some of your favorite songs, and are there any particular areas that you wish you had more time/ money to spend to possible make things even stronger in retrospect?
West Witch Records was a small Italian label in which, after our signing, we became involved too. It had the chance to publish only two releases: our LP and a double-CD containing Bach’s Cello Suites played by Luca Simoncini. They did pretty good promotional work for us, then they shut their doors a year ago, so at the moment we own all the remaining copies of our debut album.
Concerning ABROIW, I started the recording sessions being aware that I wanted to be proud of it even after 30 years from its release. I still am. What about an unknown band at their first serious self-made production recording a whole orchestra in "The Temptation Chronicles" while the vast majority of big acts uses personal computer plug-ins? To make it fuller than it was (and it sounded huge in any case) Riccardo recorded with two different violins from many different positions over 60 dubs per section or part. Totally insane, I don’t think we’d do something similar again but when I listen to that now it makes my heart proudly swollen. We followed the same procedure to record in the monastery’s chapel the Gregorian choirs of "A Murmuring Plight of Nephilims", with my brother and I singing overdubs from different positions.
I won’t probably re-write anything of that CD but there are a lot of tracks I enjoy as a listener. "Coalesce part II" is still one of my favorites with its soundtrack feeling, "64 A.D. – Le Flambeau" which I could describe as a sort of black progressive, the decadent and fuzzy "Elysian Fields" and, despite its dishomogeneus structure, "Towers of Silence".
It still makes me sad to stumble upon some old reviews (fortunately a tiny part of the whole) complaining about the sound being too muddy, home-made or the performance not being all that perfect: not everybody realized that what they heard on the cd is 99% what we actually played from the beginning to the end, without tricks or heavy editing; that sound they’re pointing their finger against, that performance, is the seal of warranty that there are no (or really few) artifacts! However, it is now absolutely clear to me that if we went for an edgy, cleaner and more "car-and-pc-friendly" production, we would have made our lives much easier. Had we accepted that idea before, we would probably be less proud now but we would have made more justice to our first CD.
Not that I am pretending there are no faults in the production; I know it could have been far better yet preserving at the same time that "live" feeling I was talking about. So in retrospect I would say we have not been smart enough. And yes, of course it would have been great not to re-write and re-arrange parts of the songs in a relative hurry (ex. "Towers of Silence", "The Navidson Record"). But at least that vintage sound we obtained may be perfect for a vinyl re-print someday!