Alterium – The Power of Fantasy

Tuesday, 26th March 2024

Rising from the ashes of power metal upstarts Kalidia, Alterium are a new act featuring several of that band’s faces, most notably that of vocalist Nicoletta Rosellini. Taking the spirit of that band’s power metal fantasies, Alterium brings forth a more nuanced and larger than life sound that easily brings the act into their own sonic space. Their debut album, Of War and Flames, features potent vocals and lyrics from Rosellini, bombastic and fantasy-driven atmosphere, and plenty of fist-to-the-sky riffing that is sure to rally fans of the genre. We took a few minutes to talk to Rosellini to see what defines this fresh act, as well as a broad discussion of nerd culture items such as video games, cosplay, and fantasy itself.

Dead Rhetoric: You are in Alterium with some members of Kalidia, do you feel like you are continuing the essence of that band, in some ways?

Nicoletta Rosellini: Absolutely. What I was trying to do is to take the best from Kalidia, I had been working with Dario [Gozzi] for many years and also with Paolo Campitelli, who was the live guitarist for Kalidia and my best friend. He’s a great composer, keyboard player, as well as a guitar player. It was taking that band to a higher step. Then we actually were joined by two fantastic musicians. Alessandro [Mammola] on guitar, who is very fantastic. He’s a very nice guitar hero. Then we have Luca [Scalabrin] playing bass, and we have been friends for over ten years. So it was an easy choice for me to pick him up. I think this is the line-up I always wanted for a band. Everyone is so talented, and we are having a lot of fun together and working in a good way. I’m really happy about this decision.

At the beginning it was scary and stressful to change things, but when something like this happens, and you don’t see the future of a band in the same way as the other members, there’s not much you can do to repair things. I’ve tried for many months to make things work. We were actually working on the third [Kalidia] album and it was almost done. It was impossible to make it work. Everything was not going in a good direction, so now I’m happy [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been involved with a number of bands, what makes Alterium special to you?

Rosellini: Actually this is the only band where I am actually writing music and lyrics, so it’s properly my band. While I have been working with several other bands and projects, like Walk in Darkness or The Erinyes, but I’m just a singer there. I’m told what to do and I do it [laughs]. So I just sing in those, where Alterium is like my baby. I take care of writing all the lyrics, the vocal lines, and part of the music too. I’m also working as a manager and doing all of the social and bookings – I’m doing almost everything [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: So it’s very much going through the trenches with Alterium. I knew that Walk in Darkness was just a singing gig. But it seems with Alterium, it’s embodying everything you are looking for with a musical outlet. 

Rosellini: Absolutely. It was the same for Kalidia, but now I’m doing it in a better way. The other guys in the band are really supportive. It’s easy for me to work with them. I’m happy about what I’m doing!

Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel are the strong points of Of War and Flames?

Rosellini: I think the strong points are the melodies. It’s been one of the things I love most in music that I’ve song in the past. I’m a huge fan of power metal and strong melodies. I love great lyrics too. Actually, I’m still writing music and lyrics about the same topics that I did in Kalidia. There will be songs about video games, fantasy stories, and stuff like that. Also, some stories from ancient Greece and ancient cultures/mythology, so there will be a lot of that too. But this time, we are going in a more structured kind of music, so there’s a lot of layers and orchestrations in the music. It’s more sophisticated than what I have done in the past.

Dead Rhetoric: You did a song and video for “Crossroads Inn,” which is based off of a video game. It’s not the first time you’ve done this – but what makes video games such fertile territory for you to write about?

Rosellini: I’ve been playing video games since I was like 8 years old. I would watch my big brother play video games and then I started playing by myself. The thing I always loved was that you could be whatever you want in video games. When in your life, you are just a kid and going to school in your normal life, when you play video games you live the life of a hero. That’s something I really love. This is something that I have enjoyed, and some video games have such a strong story and lore – I’ve been quite impressed by some of the stories. It was so easy for me when I was writing the vocal lines. Usually I start writing a song from the vocal line, then I add the lyrics at a later time. When I was trying out some words on a song, its sometimes natural that I write a concept about video games. It’s not like I must write a song about a certain theme. I’m just hearing the music and the words just come out from me.

Dead Rhetoric: “Crossroads Inn” was something you partnered with game itself, correct?

Rosellini: Yes. Actually we got in touch when everything was already done. We started collaborating at the end of the past year with Klabater, which is a smaller software house producing some indie video games. One of them is this game, Crossroads Inn, where you can manage your own medieval tavern, which is really fun by the way! There’s a great story behind your own tavern and I was inspired to write this song. When I got in touch, I just wrote an email to them saying I’ve done video game music in the past and I wrote a song about one of your games. They were so enthusiastic about it. Everything was so smooth and easy. We just decided to release it as sort of an official song for the video games. We were also allowed to use the original logo of the game at the beginning of the game, which was really nice.

Dead Rhetoric: What draws you to management video games in general? There’s so many people that have written about like Dark Souls and Skyrim. 

Rosellini: Actually, I’ve always been a fan of management games, from Sim City to other games like Theme Hospital back in the ‘90s. But Crossroads Inn has a very nice story that goes along with the management game. It’s not like you are just managing your own tavern, but there’s a storyline that goes through all the stages. When you grow your tavern in a certain way, you start to go in one of the story directions. So there’s a story that goes on, and at a certain point you find out that you are not just a tavern owner but you are actually the secret son of the king, so it’s pretty fun. When you find this out, you have to start managing in a different way because people will try to kill you. It’s kind of a nice story, and I felt inspired. I feel like it’s different than other management video games because they don’t have a real story, just some inputs.

Dead Rhetoric: Given your experience in power metal, what do you enjoy the most about the genre?

Rosellini: I’ve always been a fan of classical music, and I feel like power metal is the perfect transcription of classical music with electric guitars. I see a lot of similarities between the two: great melodies, great vocal lines, great choirs, those are the main features I love about this music. Also, the lyrics are really important for me. I know some people don’t care, but for me they are special and I think power metal has some of the best. The lyrics might be a bit too cheesy on the fantasy side, but I like it anyway [laughs]. I’m a fantasy girl! When you listen to pop music, there’s a lot of talk about love and stuff like that, but I’m not interested in those stories. I think that fantasy and great stories are way better for lyrics and I can find those in power metal.

Dead Rhetoric: So when you sit down to write lyrics, knowing that they hold that personal weight for you, is there a process that you go through?

Rosellini: I always do the vocal line first, like I had said, but sometimes when I am just recording some demos and singing some nonsense words, some words capture themselves in my mind and it’s just something that opens my eyes. Like, a really cool sentence – so I see if it has some meaning in something I love and then I can construct a song around it. So that inspiration can help make a full song. But for “Crossroads Inn,” it was a medieval song, so I wrote lyrics about this tavern. It depends for me – I don’t have the same process for a song. Sometimes it’s already clear when I write the vocal line and sometimes I have to sit down and think about what I am talking about in the song.

Dead Rhetoric: We mentioned them before, so what’s going on with Walk in Darkness?

Rosellini: Last week I recorded a new song for them. As you probably know if you are following us, we are releasing several songs before we release an album. We are going very strong on YouTube so we try to release a lot of videos before we actually get to the album. There’s a new song coming in a few months, then I think we have enough material to work on the rest of the album. We are moving, we are moving. Walk in Darkness never rests. We are either writing songs or recording singles.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that that sort of procedure, releasing singles leading up to an album, works better nowadays rather than dropping an album all at once?

Rosellini: Yeah. I think that nowadays its really important to release a lot of music. The music business has changed a lot in the past 15 years since the release of digital platforms like Spotify. To get a real nice audience on Spotify, you have to release a lot of singles and songs. When you release a new song, you have a chance to be picked up for an editorial playlist, which helps you get a wider audience. That’s what we did with Alterium too. We already released five singles and there will be another one before the album is released. So most of it will be released before the official release of the album.

This is something that I personally don’t like much. I’m a huge fan of having the real product in my hand. It’s not the type of world I would love to be in, but it’s the business. If you want to be in the business, you have to follow along. Sometimes it’s better to have more singles before the album. The moment that you release the album, the songs you didn’t release before actually get a small bit of attention on the digital platforms, which is sad, but it’s reality. Things have changed a lot.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s pretty disappointing for me too. I like to just sit and listen to an entire album. It bothers me a bit to listen to the music out of order.

Rosellini: I agree. I like to listen to the whole album and experience it. Nowadays, I think there are a lot of people who prefer to have playlists of different music rather than just listen to one artist. It’s not what I like, but I can understand it.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your favorite things to discuss in geek culture?

Rosellini: Besides management video games, which we talked about already, let’s talk about role playing games. I play them a lot. Baldur’s Gate 3 is awesome. I’m also a huge fan of Warcraft and World of Warcraft. I have written an album on those stories. I have been playing World of Warcraft for a long time. I think its coming up on its 20th anniversary this year. I’ve been playing for probably 18 years. Games like Skyrim and those I really like. But I’m also a fan of trading card games like Magic: The Gathering. It’s one of my favorites. I played for over 10 years, but not anymore on a professional level because it requires a lot of money to play it competitively. But I’m really enjoying playing with my friends. I’m also a huge fan of Star Wars. I think you can see the poster [laughs]. Nowadays, I’m watching the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings and I’m really enjoying it a lot.

Dead Rhetoric: So how far deep do you dive into the Star Wars stuff? Do you go into like fan fiction and things like that?

Rosellini: Well, my love story with Star Wars is pretty strange, because I wasn’t really interested in it until about 8 years ago. Then I started to rewatch the film and it got to me on another level. I don’t know why it didn’t catch me before. But now I’m watching most of the TV series and I have most of the books in the expanded universe. There’s a lot of stuff being released! I think I still have a long road, but I’ve started and I’m doing my best. I’m enjoying the universe, even if I didn’t like the last three films. I think they changed the nature of the series a little too much, but there’s still a lot of things that Star Wars has to stay, and I think that they proved that with The Mandalorian and Ahsoka series. There’s some great things going on right now in Star Wars. It seems like they are working on new films, so fingers crossed.

Dead Rhetoric: I saw some pictures of you cosplaying, and I couldn’t figure out what it was, but is that something you’ve picked up along the way as well?

Rosellini: I’m not a cosmaker, so I don’t do the costumes by myself, but I sometimes like to do some small cosplays. Lately I have been wearing the Lich King costume, it was done by one of my friends and it was really nice to be dressed like the one who sat on the frozen throne once in a lifetime. Other times, I’ve done stuff from The Witcher or Final Fantasy. I really enjoy doing the cosplays but I’m not doing it on a professional level. It’s just for fun. It’s really expensive to be a cosplayer!

Dead Rhetoric: What do you have planned for this year?

Rosellini: We have already recorded three more songs. We were talking about how we have to release a lot of music now and we are doing that! There will be more music later this year I think. We’ll probably start to release something at the end of summer. We are also working on live shows. Something will be announced and we are working to get some nice bookings for the rest of the year. It’s not easy at the moment because we don’t have a proper booking agency, but we are working on that too. I hope to play as much as we can. We have also started to write the second album, so there will be a lot of things to do this year.

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