Graveworm – Ascending in Black

Monday, 20th July 2015

Being introduced to Graveworm by their cover of “Fear of the Dark” when Scourge of Malice was released, there’s a part of Graveworm that has always been about their cover songs, personally speaking. Unlike most bands, they tend to cover ‘non-metal’ (Iron Maiden being an early exception) songs and give them a decidedly metal spin. A favorite metal cover of theirs has to be their interpretation of “Losing My Religion,” completely revamped and with some new lyrics. That is how you do a cover.

Not that their original material was any less engaging. Graveworm made their sound on contrasting speedy black metal and integrating more gothic/symphonic/doom elements in their early years. Graveworm was dealt a massive blow when songwriter Stefan Unterpertinger left the band after Engraved in Black, with the band carrying on consistently but never really reaching any further heights.

Now, with the release of Ascending Hate (the band’s ninth album), Stefan has rejoined the band, and it feels their strongest release in years. Not to use the term throwback, but there are elements present that do feel much like the band’s earlier days. In between the European and North American releases of the album, we had a conversation with vocalist Stefano Fiori, who discussed the return of Stefan Unterpertinger, the band’s accomplishments, their cover songs, and even how they landed at their new label, AFM Records.

Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to have Stefan Unterpertinger back in the band?

Stefano Fiori: It is just awesome. He’s an important member for us – he was our main songwriter, and when he left after Engraved in Black, it was like a shock to us. When Thomas [Orgler] left the band, and we heard that Stefan was back in Italy, we went to him to see if he wanted to come back to the band. He said yes of course, and it was really awesome for us. I think with the new songs, you can hear that he is back in the band, because there are a lot of parts on the album that sound like they could have come from an older album of ours.

Dead Rhetoric: Why did he originally leave after Engraved in Black?

Fiori: He moved to Germany to live with his girlfriend. It was hard for us to work together because it was a large distance – about 1000 km between us. So we both decided that we couldn’t work like that. So he quit, but now he’s back and we are ready for more.

Dead Rhetoric: You briefly mentioned this already, but do you think Stefan Unterpertinger’s return impacted the sound of the material of Ascending Hate?

Fiori: Yes. He’s the main songwriter, and he has his own style and you can really hear it on every song. When we started Graveworm, he was the one that combined the aggressive parts with the melodic and atmospheric parts. It’s really his way of writing songs. When you hear “Nocturnal Hymns II,” it’s a song that could have been on Scourge of Malice. When I listen to the album, you can really hear that Stefan is back.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s funny that you mention “Nocturnal Hymns II,” when I was listening to it last night I thought the same thing. It really has that quintessential Graveworm sound to it.

Fiori: He actually wrote the song a few years ago and I listened to it and asked him to use it. He didn’t want to, and said “it’s just an old song.” But I said it would be like a gift for the old fans and show that he was back in the band. We all really love that song because it’s really a “Graveworm sound.” It perfectly sounds like what we do.

Dead Rhetoric: So how does Ascending Hate compare to the rest of the band’s catalog?

Fiori: I think it’s a step back towards our roots. There are a lot of melodic parts, a lot of guitar solos and double guitar harmonies and stuff like that. I like the sound that we have done in the studio, because our producer did some good work. The sound is really heavy and massive and we are looking forward to what the fans will say about it. But at the moment, we’ve gotten a really good response and we are really happy with it.

Dead Rhetoric: The album is out in Europe right now right?

Fiori: Yes, the album has been out in Europe for two weeks. In the states it will be out on July 10th and we’ve gotten a really good response from a lot of people all over the world. We played some new songs in our shows last week in South America and the people really liked it. We will see what happens next.

Dead Rhetoric: Graveworm was pretty consistent with the ‘an album every two years’ for quite some time, yet Ascending Hate took four years. Any reasons in particular for the delay?

Fiori: We are not the fastest songwriters. When we started writing songs, Thomas left the band, because he wanted to concentrate all his work in his new job. Then Sabine [Mair] left the band too because they were together. So we had to figure out what we wanted to do. We lost some time, and fortunately Stefan came back and we started writing songs. Then we were supposed to go into the studio, but our drummer got really sick and that also made us lose a few months. Fortunately, he’s well now and we really took the time to work on every song and make the best out of it. So it was perfect that we lost the time, so that we could really work hard on every track.

Dead Rhetoric: Graveworm has a tradition of choosing non-metal covers. Why Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” this time?

Fiori: It just happens. We wanted to do a cover again because we really like doing them. We always have so much fun playing these songs. The idea came from our bass player and he really loved the song. He suggested it and we tried it. It sounded good so we decided to record it and see what people think about it, because not everyone likes Bon Jovi. I really like the song – it’s always fun playing it onstage and people seem to enjoy it. That’s the most important thing.

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