Blaze of Sorrow, which formed in 2007, damn well knows what it takes to make a black metal album stick. Since their debut, L’Ultimo Respiro, in 2008, the band has put out seven albums of killer, atmospheric black metal. The Blaze of Sorrow sound takes traditional elements from classic black metal bands and blends them with folk metal stylings. It’s a mix that other bands would struggle to pull off but Blaze of Sorrow has made it their calling card.
Now, on their seventh LP, Blaze of Sorrow is back to demonstrate that their mastery of their music is as strong as ever. Vultus Fati, released at the end of March, is another slice of black metal excellence from the Italian outfit. Fans of the bands outer full-length outings will find plenty to love here but new fans should also find it a welcoming jumping-on point. I recently caught up with guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Peter and bassist V. to chat about the new record.
First off, how did Blaze of Sorrow get started? What made you want to start a black metal band and how did you get it going?
Peter: I’ve always been involved in musical activities since I was young, but at some point I had the need to put a clear face to my thoughts and emotions and that’s how it all started. I believe that black metal (and its subgenres) is the most suitable way to give vent to our personalities, being able to approach the most primordial instincts and without having to filter our ideas with rules that characterize certain musical genres.
How did you get into black metal in the first place and who are some of the bigger influences within the genre on the band?
Peter: I listen to different genres of music but at some point I started looking for something that was raw but at the same time extremely personal and rooted in the intrinsic nature of human personality. Something that transcends body and mind and springs from the core. Anything can be inspirational: a sound, a picture or a memory. When something catches my attention I write it down and start thinking about if and how it can be translated into music and words.
What makes this particular group work so well and how do you keep a healthy band dynamic?
V: Blaze of Sorrow works because there is maximum freedom. Every riff, every lyric, every drum hit and every sound is presented to the others. Each of us is free to add, remove and modify every detail so that the final result is always shared and appreciated. The contribution that each of us can make, depending on the inspiration of the moment or the period, can be exploited. This is the greatest incentive to continue playing together after so long. As for our personal relationships, well, going to play has always been a party or a massacre.
What’s your process like for writing the music side of things? Has that changed at all over the years?
Peter: The process has not changed over time. We start from an idea and together we develop it trying to create something that satisfies everyone.
How do you write the lyrics for the band? What do you turn to for inspiration for the songs?
V: The style and approach to the lyrics has certainly evolved during these long years, but a common background remains. From the oldest to the most recent, a link with the natural and wild world can be seen in all the songs. A nature that can sometimes be a refuge or sometimes a metaphor for intense inner states. Then over the years more or less introspective themes have been explored, sometimes as an outlet, sometimes as a story. Inspiration is not chosen. Let’s say it happens, it happens and it’s unpredictable. We try to bring together the material we’ve produced with the lyrics in an organic way so that a certain uniformity can be seen in the albums. But there is always room for the impromptu and the unsaid unfortunately always surpasses the said.
The new record, Vultus Fati, is a totally killer follow-up to Absentia. What was the writing/recording process like for this newest record? Did you want to expand on what you did with Absentia or go into new directions?
Peter: Nothing is established beforehand. When we write new music we don’t know where it’s going to end up. For us, everything must flow naturally without a pattern necessarily following or recalling what we have done in the past. On Vultus Fati we collaborated with Daniele Mandelli regarding the mix, we have known him for years and he is a great professional. The master instead was entrusted to Jacob Hansen, one of the best producers in business. We are proud of the result.
I thought the album had a lot of really great variation and a ton of interesting compositions. I was really impressed with how much viola was used on the record and how well it fit into the songs. How did the use of the viola for this record come about and how did you find the musician who did the playing? To you, what does that instrument add to the Blaze of Sorrow sound on this record?
Peter: I was looking for something that was able to convey emotions in a simple and effective way and this led me to strings. The viola is an excellent compromise between the violin and the cello. It is also an instrument that is often not taken into consideration and valued. I contacted a very valid musician who immediately agreed to collaborate and I think it was worth it. She has added a touch of melancholy that at the same time flows into epicness.
Being that this is your seventh full-length, how do you feel the band has grown over the years and, to what, do you attribute that growth? How is the Blaze of Sorrow that recorded the newest one different from the one that recorded the debut back in 2008?
Peter: I think the fire that burns inside has remained almost the same. Sure, in sixteen years you live, you change and you gather experiences. It changes. But I don’t think there are any significant differences. Now we try to add more complex nuances to our songs but those who have followed us for a long time will notice that the underlying tension has remained the same. We are fond of every album we have composed, but what characterizes us is the eternal dissatisfaction. Every time you listen to a song after some time, you realize how much we could have done it better or changed it in some points. Maybe the time we’re fully satisfied will be the time we finish our story.
The cover to that new record is one of my favorites so far this year! Who did it and how much direction did you give them beforehand? How stoked were you to see the final product?
V: The album cover is a commissioned work from Adam Burke. He didn’t surprise us. We were sure he would have done a great job and he did. We think it’s amazing. We expressed what sensations we wanted to arouse in the observers. We indicated some elements that we would have liked to be represented and we have been largely satisfied.
I wanted to ask about a few songs on the record specifically to get the story behind the musical/lyrical inspiration for them. What’s the origin of the opener, “Furor?” Was that one always intended to start the album?
V: Let’s say that we considered the result of the lyrics and music of “Furor” adequate to open the album. We told a story that sees a castaway in the middle of a storm as the protagonist. We tried to imagine his emotions, memories, and what his thoughts might be. Whether the sea in which the protagonist is sinking is water or spiritual is up to personal interpretation.
What about the story behind “Eretica?”
V: “Eretica” is a dialogue or perhaps an invocation to an old statue which, worn but eternal, resists the ravages of time.
“Aion” was another favorite of mine. How did that one come about?
V: “Aion” has complex lyrics. Aion, Chrono, and Kairos are three forms of time according to ancient Greek. We have drawn on this tradition to delve deeper into the pain of feeling part of a constant flow so powerful that it seems immutable and indifferent. Embracing one’s destiny seems to be the only possible choice. So is it still a choice?
What about the origin of “Ombre?”
V: It is a drowsy vision, halfway between sleep and wakefulness, of fiery shadows, emptiness, and stars. Masked figures dance just before dawn and only awakening leads back to reality. That reality that often strangles and dissolves us.
Lastly, what’s next for Blaze of Sorrow? What are your goals for the future of the band and plans for the rest of 2023?
Peter: We have some concerts planned where we will bring the new songs live. Future? Only time will tell.
Photo at top: Vultus Fati album cover.