Circle of Witches – A Sinners RiotFriday, 12th July 2019
Delivering a brand of heavy metal with stoner influences, Italian act Circle of Witches embrace a multitude of influences in their discography. Their latest album Natural Born Sinners for instance serves up a central series of stories relating to fire and riot based on key rebels in history, philosophy, religion, and anthropology – and musically conjuring up everything from Grand Magus and Black Sabbath to Candlemass as well as vocals in the Brian Ross/Pete Steele range. They’ve been together for 15 years – and made a solid impression on international fronts, including multiple tours of Russia with Doro and U.D.O. among others.
Wishing to discover more behind the band, we reached out to guitarist/vocalist Mario ‘Hell’ Bove, who was happy to bring us up to speed. Prepare to learn more about the man’s varied music tastes in metal, the multi-layered stories that make up the lyrical side of the new record, his concerns for the future of the world as an environmental advocate, and what metal means to him personally.
Dead Rhetoric: What was your personal development like when it comes to music growing up? What were some of your earliest memories discovering heavy metal – and how long did it take from there to pick up an instrument and want to express yourself in a band situation?
Mario Bove: I started to listen to rock in the mid ‘90s drowning totally into the grunge flood and in some experiences with The Doors. I felt to be an anonymous teenager, a loser in a small bigot city. That kind of music gave me a way to express unpredictable feelings and saved me from really bad situations. I picked up a guitar mainly to get some chicks but… I failed at this… Music was glued to my back and later on I started a personal research digging into the lonely music store in my town, as no one in my family knew anything about rock or metal. I ‘discovered’ Metallica, Megadeth, and the Bay Area thrash scene. After Slayer the abyss of extreme music was opened behind me. I explored several metal subgenres like black metal, death, heavy metal and doom. On a side path, I fell in love with ‘80s darkwave, with bands like the Cure, Joy Division or Siouxsie and the Banshees. Later on, my goth era came with the Peaceville trilogy Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride. I put all these sounds and influences into a demo tape I recorded with my first band called Banshee in 1997, a dark black metal act, putting together Darkthrone and Pink Floyd, Swedish death and Tiamat. I went deeper into rock, I definitely lost myself into ‘60s and ‘70s rock, prog rock, acid and stoner music.
Dead Rhetoric: Circle of Witches started in 2004 – what can you tell us about the early formative years? Did you know straight away that you wanted to incorporate elements of doom and straight heavy metal together, or did it take a bit of a feeling out process through rehearsals and writing to get to the style you developed?
Bove: I wanted to play something Black Sabbath-oriented and put some ideas into riffs easily. A few times in the rehearsal room, drunk nights and those raw ideas came to life with a stoner rock sound. I founded Circle of Witches with that direction in my mind. During the years, growing up as a musician, I gave more thickness to our sound and slowly blended metal into stoner rock. Nowadays, heavy metal and doom run side by side, but I think it’s not our final shape. I’m looking forward to something more doom and post metal. It’s a kind of journey through my soul, I have no receipt, nor a predefined structure to fill.
Dead Rhetoric: Natural Born Sinners is the group’s third studio album – where do you see the major differences between this release and your previous two full-lengths? Were there any specific challenges, obstacles, or surprises that came up during the recording and songwriting process that you’d like to share?
Bove: The biggest difference was in the production process. I wrote all the material in a few weeks, and arranged the songs with the band in just a month before the recording sessions. Everything was too fast because our manager wanted a record. The previous one, Rock the Evil, was the result of a longer process. We never focused our activity upon the composition and recording phases, as we are mainly a live band. This time we totally changed our minds and did everything in a short time… unfortunately, our producer took too much time to mix and release the album, and this slowed our job down. The second difference was the recording session, because I worked harder on the voices and choirs than ever before. We also edited riffs and this work was really new to us, as we were used to playing and re-recording many times one track. But we overcame all the difficulties.
Dead Rhetoric: You signed with Sliptrick Records – where do you see the major differences between this label and your previous work in 2014 with Metal Tank Records?
Bove: Our old label just disappeared after three months, did no promotion so we did not have many reviews or distribution. Sliptrick Records is doing something better on this side even if it is not a major label. A small label, with small resources, but they are going in the right direction and we trust in their strategy.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss the multi-layered concept surrounding the lyrical content of the new record? How important was it to be able to have individual stories/songs play out over the course of the record, do you believe this allowed you more freedom than being locked into a specific front to back ‘conceptual’ story?
Bove: You know, when you got stories, images, tones in your mind, music flows easier. This was our case too. I thought about the concept of a ‘riot’ taking suggestions from history, philosophy, anthropology, local tales and legends, occultism, paganism and television series… I just let ideas flow while playing and then I refined the verses. I always preferred to tell stories than write in ‘stream of consciousness’. An old-style concept album, with musical themes and one story throughout the album, could be around the corner. But sometimes, I think about how music is listened to nowadays, I mean fractured through dozens of mp3’s, maybe it could be even non-useful.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Circle of Witches in a live performance situation? What do you hope to get across to the audience, and what have been some of your more memorable performances to date – either locally or abroad?
Bove: As I’ve said, we are mostly a live band, we take care of every aspect of our performances from the intro theme to the time we step off the stage. We have a particular esoteric outfit with black hoods, bracers, chained belts, candles, smoke, daggers and pots. We do an invocation ritual to raise the audience attention and keep it throughout the show. I often speak to the public, briefly introducing the songs and themes, I look to all those down from the stage because I need them to be with me during the concert. We play loud and evil, we put volume and sweat into this and we always reach the goal. We did a great concert in Russia in 2015, opening for Udo. We played in front of more than 7.000 people and this gave us a great energy we used to be convincing and powerful. We got a lot of applause, shouts and the Russians dealt with us as real rock stars. We toured there twice and we were well acclaimed even though we were totally unknown.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges that the band faces currently – either from a musical or business standpoint?
Bove: I might be brutal… but the biggest problem is about money. Here in Italy (but sadly I think in some other countries) metal music can’t be a real job. You need to earn money with other activities, but this steals a lot of time for the music. It’s a mess… you work to be able to play, tour and record, but you have no time to play, tour and even record new shit. No one gives you money as a present, less and less people buy your stuff, labels don’t put resources into your band and so… it’s all about money.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the Italian metal scene at this point? Do you believe there is a lot of support at the local level from promoters, venues, fans, and the bands themselves to build upon – or do you believe there is more work to be done to improve things?
Bove: There are some good and big bands with an international fortune like Lacuna Coil, Fleshgod Apocalypse or Rhapsody. But digging into the underground metal scene is a kind of jungle. Bands don’t support one another, there is a lack of cooperation in organizing concerts, there are too many so called ‘agencies’ but most of them just try to steal your money. It’s not a secret, we find it easier to play abroad than in our country.
Dead Rhetoric: What does heavy metal mean to you personally? What would you say are three of the most important bands and albums within the genre that you use to fuel your energy and desire to make Circle of Witches the best it can possibly be?
Bove: Metal means more than the ‘blah blah speech’ of common people, it is a state of total self-independence of mind, it’s something against the bourgeois way of life that plants a cage you can’t fit. Metal breaks the cage and doesn’t care about what the other people say. That’s why I really don’t care what other people think of what I listen to, if they like what I like, even when they judge looking at my life. I got the necessary volume to lower every voice and say ‘go fuck yourself’ to everyone I don’t like. Metal is not a trend, it’s the strength of your mind, your passion, your tribe if you find other metalheads sharing these ideals and you can call them brothers since the first time you meet. I need no sacred books but the lyrics of these artists written with the ink of their inner feelings. When I listen to Black Sabbath or Judas Priest’s songs, as well the early Metallica or Candlemass songs, I can recall all the energy I need to clench my teeth and keep on.
Dead Rhetoric: You notice a correlation between visibility and money when it comes to pushing bands like yourselves to the next level. Does this influence your social media platform activities – or do you believe that face to face interaction can be just as important in developing a long term fanbase for Circle of Witches?
Bove: You just can’t develop your project with no social network support. Social networks are useful instruments and also the main channels to making your music available. Yeah, money talks because the more bucks you put into shitty sponsorships, the more people get in touch with you. It’s terribly simple but not the only thing you need to do. You can reach people in the other parts of the world but you need to keep all fans tight (you are not Iron Maiden), you need to create a closer relationship, make your band familiar to them, create a reason why people want to know stuff about you. And, of course, music might have to be good… even if crappy rap and pop demonstrate that sometimes music is just a side dish.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance the band activities with career, family, and friendships? What types of goals or bucket list items would you like to be able to achieve over the next two or three years?
Bove: I put my self-realization into music, sacrificing a stable job and a family. But I never wanted a normal life. I’m not so steady to do the same stuff every day of my life so I found several small jobs and try to be kind with my girl. Sometimes I think I’d be better to quit with music because of many troubles to find other focused musicians, money, venues, trustworthy managers etc. But one minute later I realize my life would be crippled, and my depression would eat my mental sanity. I know I’ll never be famous and appreciated, but who cares. I’ll play until the day I can’t sweat on stage, and that’s it.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in today? What areas of concern trouble you the most and that you believe people need to put more focus and attention on?
Bove: I’m an environmental activist and I think people must care about our planet, starting from their gardens. I have no children but I’m worried about my friends’ babies. I’m looking with a great favor to Greta’s “Strike for Future”, but I know my generation is going to die because of the effects of climate change. When I’ll be 60 (if I don’t die by cancer coming from pollution), I’ll perish because of the unsustainable warmth of the weather. You know, I live in southern Italy and the summer is going to be fucking hotter year by year! Our seas are polluted and so are the fishes or vegetables we are used to eating. The older generation fucked everything without understanding consequences. Maybe they did things to make our lives beautiful and comfortable, but they poisoned our future. In the past albums, I talked about these problems, about the struggle between man and his mother nature, about the power of nature to come to a new life without human beings. Natural Born Sinners talks about revolutions maybe with the ambitious plan to inspire people. As Black Sabbath said, ‘you must be brave, or you children of today are children of the grave’.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Circle of Witches over the next year to support the new album? Are you hopeful to be able to get the fourth album out sooner so as to not have a five-year break or longer between albums?
Bove: I think we will promote the album until the end of 2020 but we will record new music earlier if we get the right conditions. I have some new songs, more doomish material and I look forward to writing down the next chapter of Circle of Witches’ career.