The Italian death metal band The Modern Age Slavery just released Stygian, their third album. Bassist Mirco Bennati, drummer Federico Leone and guitarist Luca “Cocco” Cocconi get us up to speed on some recent lineup changes, the new album, touring and other topics.
Chad Bowar: You’ve had a couple of lineup changes since your last album. How did guitarist Ludovico Cioffi and drummer Federico Leone come to join the band?
We knew Ludovico and Federico for many years, because in the past we shared the stage with their bands several times. When we asked them to join the band they immediately seemed very interested and showed to be not only excellent musicians but also very good people and professional workers. After a few minutes of playing together we immediately found a great feeling with them and realized that they were the right choice to complete our lineup!
How did the songwriting process for Stygian compare to your first two albums?
Despite the fact that the lineup has changed, the songwriting process is still the same. Everything starts from guitar riffs, then we record some ideas with drums and bass lines as well to have a more complete vision of the final result. Then we discuss all the material we have and we start practicing and arranging the songs. After the music is done, our singer Gio writes the lyrics and vocal lines.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
The recording process was excellent, without any kind of problems that could have delayed our schedule. We made a huge pre-production work before the recording sessions, so when we started working in the studio everything was clear on what we were going to play or how it should have sounded like. When we finished the album we went out for a couple of beers, but then the restaurant kicked us out because of our alcoholic level. (laughs)
How has the band’s sound evolved/progressed on this one?
For this album we worked to find a new and original sound, trying to make it as direct as possibile. It’s based on a pop conception that finds the perfect match between our musical influences, mixing them together in easy to listen to songs with simple melodies and chord progressions. These parts go together with blast beats and grooves to make them more understandable and catchy. At last, comparing Stygian to our previous albums, deathcore elements have been replaced with black metal riffs and atmosphere.
How did you decide on covering Pantera’s “Sandblasted Skin” and how did you approach the arrangement?
Like in our previous releases, we decided on covering a song from a famous band. In Damned to Blindness there is “Wolverine Blues” (Entombed), in Requiem For Us All we played “Arise” from Sepultura and this time we decided to pay tribute to Pantera with “Sandblasted Skin.” Pantera is one of our all time favorite bands, and we chose a song not from their classics, but still with very heavy riffing and groove. We wanted it to be more TMAS style, with blast beats, fast double pedal parts, making it even faster and stronger.
What inspired the album title?
The album title represents perfectly the concept behind the album, and this time we wanted to find a single-word title that was easy to remember. Stygian refers to the Styx River, and symbolizes the darkest sides of humanity (hate, selfishness, etc.), which will lead people to madness and to fight against each other, until they forget about their brothers and sons.
How was the video shoot for “Miles Apart”?
We wanted to make something different from the standard video, with strong and dynamic scenes with the dark atmosphere of the album’s background concept. The song is about the result of the sick and dirty relations between the people led only by rude instincts without feelings. “Miles Apart” describes the distance between those people who are close with their bodies, but far away with their souls, in a world full of darkness. We’re really happy about how the guys from Art Distillery Studio worked to represent this concept.
How important are videos these days?
In the era of social media bands need good videos to increase their fan base. New generations’ listeners have changed their habits and prefer watching a video on YouTube instead of listening to CDs. Sometimes songs aren’t even that awesome, but with a good video people get interested in that music. So bands have started to make not only an official video to promote the album but also lyric, play through, live videos, etc. Nowadays “watching” is more attractive than “listening.”
How did you come to sign with Innerstrength Records?
We chose four pre-production songs as a demo to get attentions from the labels, and when we received some offers we found that Innerstrength Records was absolutely the best choice to satisfy our needs. It’s working really good to promote the album and we’re very happy to be part of its roster. We spent about a month to define and finalize all the contract’s details and then decided to sign with Innerstrength.
What are your upcoming tour plans?
We want to do all the best to promote the album, especially playing as much as we can anywhere. Live shows and tours are not just something fun and essential for a band’s growth, but also the best way to talk about yourself and to let people get interested in you and become fans. We’ve already planned several concerts in Italy and we’re working with booking agencies for some tours abroad for the next year.
What has been your most memorable TMAS live show?
Luca “Cocco” Cocconi: We had the chance to share the stage with huge bands like Sepultura, Suicide Silence, Decapitated, Suffocation, etc. Personally I loved our European tour in 2010 with Malevolent Creation and Vomitory, promoting our first album Damned to Blindness. Everything was awesome, every concert was a party starting from when we entered the venue until we came back to the tour bus for the next date. Moreover, the last two concerts were important festivals in Germany, in which we played also with Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus. It was absolutely amazing to share the stage with such inspiring bands!
What first drew you to heavy metal?
Luca: When I was younger I started listening to metal music because it inspired in me a sense of rebellion against the oppressive society and I loved how this music had the power to represent and involve passionately all the unsatisfied people of the sub-cultures. This “heavy” music was a good way to express all the teenage troubles and negativity. Now that I’m older I still believe in its strength but for a positive purpose and helping me to face daily troubles.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
My first metal concert was Monsters of Rock (1992) in my hometown Reggio Emilia, with Iron Maiden, Testament, Megadeth, Pantera, etc. It was a blast! Such an amazing feeling to watch many bands of whose I had posters in my room and CDs playing all day long in my stereo! When Megadeth went on stage I was so excited that I started crying! They were the first band (with Metallica) I started listening when I got into metal music.
What’s the heavy music scene like in Reggio Emilia and northern Italy?
There are many great bands and musicians in Italy. We’ve met many awesome ones which deserve to be much more famous, but in our country this is very difficult. Metal has no space in the Italian music industry and that’s why most of the artists usually try to make a career in other countries. As we said before, live shows are the best way to promote a band but even on this side Italy doesn’t pay back to artists as they’d deserve. Even bands like Lacuna Coil, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Rhapsody, for example, are well-known in the rest of the world but sadly don’t get the same support in Italy.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
At the moment I’m listening to Lorna Shore. I like them because they’re a good mix of deathcore and a kind of black metal atmosphere. Really interesting! I’m also listening to Gojira and some black metal bands, in particular Dark Funeral and Emperor (I love them!). Of course Slayer are also always in my playlist.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thank you and thanks to Heavy Music Headquarters for this interview! Get our album Stygian at Bandcamp, merchandise at BigCartel, and for information and news our Facebook page. See you on stage! Horns up!
(interview published November 28, 2017)