Interview with vocalist and guitarist Stefano Viola
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 4, 2017
Italian progressive thrashers Obliterated, formed in 2013, may not be well known on the global Heavy Metal map yet, but the band is definitely working hard to get the word out. The guys have thus far released two EPs that have shown them evolving musically. Their latest 4-track EP, Fragments of Infinity, released in May 2016, speaks to Obliterated's determined drive to achieve ambitious results and it stirred up The Metal Crypt's interest to find out a little bit more about them.
The Metal Crypt asked and Obliterated's main songwriter, spirit and soul Stefano Viola politely answered our questions...
Luxi: First off, thanks for accepting my interview request.
Stefano: Thanks to you and The Metal Crypt for the opportunity!
Luxi: As for the (short) history of Obliterated, could you tell our readers how you guys met? Was it hard to find like-minded people who were into playing Thrash Metal?
Stefano: First of all we don't call ourselves "thrashers", even if we play a sort of Thrash Metal. We all have different musical backgrounds but our interests converge in our band's music.
Obliterated was born as a solo project of mine in 2012, under the name of Doubtful Existence. Shortly after, I started looking for other members to turn my project into a real band but because of many line-up changes I am the only member left from the original yet brief line-up.
Luxi: All of you are 20-something so naturally you all missed the Thrash Metal boom that happened during mid-late eighties. How did you find the roots of Thrash when forming this band and did it have a big impact on what made you eventually put Obliterated together?
Stefano: I started listening to Thrash Metal when I was a teenager. I remember I used to play lots of Metallica covers with my first band. During that period I tried for the first time to write "Thrash Metal" songs but they were really, really bad. My interest in more complex stuff came when I got into Megadeth; I loved the technical style they developed from Peace Sells... onwards. Time passed, then I discovered Annihilator and for the first time I thought about playing progressive/technical Thrash but it was just an idea. My Thrash culture was focused on old-school bands and a few new-wave ones but I decided to create a progressive Thrash band in 2011 after I listened to Black Future by Vektor the first time. That album completely blew my mind and changed my life forever.
Luxi: How do you think Obliterated would have sounded if the band had been born during the Thrash Metal boom back in the day when there was a huge tape-trading scene going on, no Internet, etc.?
Stefano: I think Obliterated would probably have had a totally different sound. We couldn't have played progressive Thrash Metal because the main influences of our music didn't exist yet. Maybe our music would have been similar to "classic" Thrash than what we actually play. I think that nowadays it's more difficult to spread our music than during the '80s/'90s. Even if today we have better media for music distribution, back then there was way more interest in music exchange.
Luxi: Do you have any contact, possibly through social media, with Italian Thrash legends like Necrodeath, Schizo, Sadist, Bulldozer and so on?
Stefano: We Italians owe so much respect to these great bands but, sad to say, my bandmates and I have no interest in a correspondence with these historical Italian bands. At the moment they are not a source of inspiration for us or our music. I focus more on recent bands that are being successful in the Italian underground! I feel closer to them than the legendary bands you mentioned.
Luxi: As was mentioned, the musical roots of Obliterated are deep in Thrash Metal with each member having an interest, more or less, toward that genre, resulting in a pretty fast paced, progressive-tinged Thrash sound. What's your main musical goal with Obliterated and what's the message deep down in Obliterated's music that you would like to deliver to your audience?
Stefano: We put a lot of passion in our work with Obliterated and we hope to reach some serious goals. It's so rewarding seeing people coming to one of our shows because they actually know and enjoy our music! Unfortunately only few bands really manage to make it and get out of the Italian underground scene. It's not about money, success or shit like that, we're trying to extend the circle of our fans to make it easier to spread our music and its meaning. I think that music always has a message and in Obliterated's music that message comes out in many ways; through the lyrics, different atmospheres, rhythmic changes and so on.
The link between the meaning and the music itself is gonna be even tighter in our full-length album, which has a lot to do with spiritualism and astronomy. Our progressive influence lets us express ourselves and the idea behind the band's philosophy in its entirety. No boundaries needed.
Luxi: You have already recorded a couple of EPs, The Dreadful Meaning of Being in 2013 and Fragments of Infinity at the end of May 2016. How much attention have those EPs gathered around the globe? Has the impact been stronger than you originally hoped?
Stefano: Yeah, talking about The Dreadful Meaning of Being, it didn't really get too far. At that time the band was experiencing several difficulties such as multiple line-up changes, economic issues and we started being almost bored with our first work, so we left it behind. Unexpectedly, just over a year ago, we got in touch with Chen of Hunter's Moon Records from Taiwan (he found us - thanks to our T.D.M.o.B. demo) and he helped us so much by spreading the EP among his contacts. That was the major impact that T.D.M.o.B. has made to date. Then Chen became our Asian dealer after the release of Fragments of Infinity, and I personally owe him a big thanks for his support. He was one of the first guys who saw some kind of potential in this band and it's really appreciated.
On the other hand, Fragments of Infinity had and is still having a stronger impact than T.D.M.o.B. I had some doubts when it first came out because the sound is quite different from our first EP but it seems that people really appreciated this last one and I'm glad. Actually our high expectations from Fragments of Infinity were met. We keep selling different copies, we got nearly excellent reviews and we even got some label offers, but maybe the most satisfying thing came not long ago, when Erik Nelson (ex-Vektor) told me that he really liked the EP. I gave a copy to each member of Vektor last time we met in Italy and receiving approval from your favorite band ever is something unexplainable. Well, Fragments came out about 8 months ago, so there's still time for other surprises.
Luxi: I gotta assume one of your most desirable goals is to get Obliterated's debut full-length studio album recorded at some point. How do things stand with respect to those dreams at the moment?
Stefano: That's definitely one of our greatest ambitions. We have almost finished writing the album, we are only missing a couple of songs, then we have to revise and learn and play them together. We're planning to enter the studio in one or two years to record it, fortunately we have no hurry and we agree on taking the time we need to work on it. Our main interest at the moment is to soften the ground as much as we can and create some kind of web of people interested in our music. We obviously don't want to let this album fall into oblivion for decades like lots of forgotten gems (such as Extravasation by the almighty Aspid). As I said before, it's hard to emerge from the Italian underground, but we're going to try our best for sure.
Luxi: How would you describe your new material?
Stefano: It's gonna have a really original style, something even more characteristic than our previous work. I personally don't like giving spoilers, but if you liked Fragments of Infinity, this next one will hopefully blow your mind. It deals with some seriously deep matters!
Furthermore we are experiencing new influences from Black Metal and Ambient stuff and, so far, we're pretty satisfied by what is going on. We're gonna keep playing fast-paced stuff as always, don't worry!
Luxi: Speaking about Obliterated's Thrash, whenever you write a song for the band, what are some of the key elements that you always try to capture in order to make it sound right?
Stefano: It has to be a face-melting and aggressive sounding, definitely. After all we're doing a type of Thrash Metal with death influences, but I'm paying attention so as not to fall into the genre's cliches and trying to keep the listener's interest in our music alive. The proggy elements are really important and give a song a refined touch. It doesn't mean that every song must have lots of odd time signatures or impossible riffs to play, it's just a matter of sounding original and maybe unexpected. I never liked clean vocals combined with complex structures and progressive riffs. I'm a huge fan of Thrash bands such as Demolition Hammer, Morbid Saint and Dark Angel who stand out for a very aggressive and powerful singing style, too. Maybe one of the most important things I care about in the songs I write is finding a link between riffs. Sometimes months pass before I find connections between its parts which really satisfy me. Most of the time the riffs I insert in a song are not there just because they sound cool, there's a sort of study behind them, taking into account all the other parts of the song and how they interact. I used this kind of approach in the writing sessions for our new material more than in our previous works. In fact, the songs in T.D.M.o.B., with the exception of "Memories of Human Dust", are just a bunch of riffs put together at the moment. They sound good but the songs lack consistency and this is a lesson I learned not so long ago. At last, we obviously have to get fun playing our stuff, that's really important!
Luxi: Have you reached out to any record labels (Punishment 18 Records, etc.) with your current or previous works? How has the response been so far?
Stefano: I got in touch with a few labels since the release of Fragments of Infinity but it's way too early to think about choosing one for our next work. I've sent lots of e-mails and physical copies to different labels, including Punishment 18 records, but I got no answer from them. Curious fact is that I recently met the chief of Punishment 18 during a musical exhibition in my city. He told me that they obviously receive lots of material and didn't remember my band so we gave him some copies of Fragments of Infinity, hoping that he would give it a shot.
Luxi: Do you have roles in the band for who is responsible for what or is everyone in this band in an equal position and entitled to contribute to the band's songwriting process, in one way or another?
Stefano: Well, I'm the main songwriter for every instrument but now I'm working with a trusted line-up and I have no problem if my band mates want to include some arrangement to the song. It often happens that I ask Luca or Dylan for their opinion about riffs, connections or structures on a song. This never happened with our EP's songwriting. My riffing style and musical influences determine Obliterated's style but I would not mind if my bandmates come out with original ideas for the band.
Luxi: How much have you played around with Obliterated and do you enjoy going out to play live for your audience? How important is fan support in the live arena in general?
Stefano: Sad to say, we haven't played much at all, in my opinion. The scene here has no familiarity with our genre and it is difficult for us to find good places to play. We love everything about a gig; the trip, meeting our distant friends, seeing how our audience reacts to our performance and, of course, playing our songs is always fun for us. We care a lot about the visual impact on the people and we try to transmit the adrenaline we feel to them. I personally would have no fun seeing a very good band playing with no energy. People having fun attending one of our shows is one of the best things ever, they give us the strength to show the best of ourselves while we're on stage.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the (underground) club/youth scene in your area?
Stefano: I think that playing in a non-Metal context completely sucks, I don't feel comfortable in such environments. Playing a show is always nice, but the target of people we would play for wouldn't match with our interests and we wouldn't have mcu fun. Unfortunately more and more Rock/Metal oriented locals are going out of business, so we don't have the luxury of choosing where to play every time.
Luxi: As you have surely noticed, the world is a very ugly and fucked-up place nowadays with all the wars in both Syria and Afghanistan, terrorist groups (Isis, Al-Qaeda, you name them) trying to cause havoc and destruction the best they can and so on - the list is endless. How much do these negative happenings in the world feed your fire in Obliterated, despite your interest for all alien things in general?
Stefano: Well, Obliterated's main lyrical subjects, from Fragments onwards, are worlds out of reach of our comprehension and we usually refer to them as "the Beyond". It's a sort of escape from our dull and frustrating reality and it lets us look for something or somewhere that makes us feel complete. It's a concept that we will surely deepen on our next album. We don't deal with reality in our songs, as you may have noticed, they are about something quite abstract.
Luxi: It's us, the humans, that cause serious problems for each other. We kill each other for no reason and destroy this planet ruthlessly with our stupid actions. Do you believe that humans will cease to exist on this planet if we continue our stupid and senseless actions?
Stefano: Our solar system and Earth are pretty "young" (only 4-5 billion years); the first and most primitive form of life is dated to 3-4 billions years ago, then we got 5 major mass extinctions (including the dinosaurs' famous one) and the last one occurred about 66 million years ago. Guess when Homo sapiens made its entrance? Only 200.000 years ago. Pretty weird that in less that 300 years we changed our planet so drastically! By the way, extinction is a natural process, who knows what lies ahead? In the future, another form of life could dominate over Earth as we did not so long ago.
Well, the human race is a planetary cancer, but without it we wouldn't have beer, Heavy Metal and Neo Genesis Evangelion! Taking the topic to a more serious level, self-destruction of an intelligent form of life is not so weird as we think. Have you ever heard of Fermi's paradox? Mathematically, there has to be many and many alien civilizations even within our Milky Way (scientist Frank Drake wrote an equation, known as Drake equation, to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilization we could potentially reach and communicate with within our galaxy, and they get to billions!). The point is, "where is everybody?" A very sad but plausible solution to the problem is that maybe an advanced race wouldn't be able to get in touch with other civilizations in space because they fall into self-destruction one step before reaching the technology needed for an interstellar journey. Humanity is crumbling and following this path. There are also other more sci-fi-like solution to the paradox, but this is the one that amazed me most of all.
Luxi: Back to some lighter topics, at least for now. I assume you have some personal goals that you would like to reach with Obliterated. What might they be?
Stefano: Obliterated is maybe the most important part of my life and most of my greatest dreams are linked to it. There are so many ambitions I wish to fulfill; play a lot of live shows, maybe with some of my favorite bands; get some important recognition for our music; touring and meeting new people; sign to an awesome label. Most of all I like seeing people simply begin to think that it's worth giving a listen to Obliterated and support our music. I have a lot of faith in our material, the future of the band is a mystery though.
Luxi: What can we realistically expect from Obliterated during 2017?
Stefano: We're gonna focus on finding dates to play. We probably won't release new material in 2017, but who knows! Everything else is pretty unknown, we used to have a lot of misfortune with this band.
Luxi: Thanks for taking your time with my questions. All the best to you in your life and with Obliterated, too. You are entitled for those "famous last words", so just go ahead...
Stefano: We're really happy for this interview, it was the most interesting until now. Keep supporting underground Metal!
Now just enter the Beyond with us...
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