Atlas Pain – Striking Pagan ScoresMonday, 12th June 2017
Encouraging sub-genre melding in a wide open metal landscape, Italian quartet Atlas Pain wish to promote their love for not only symphonic/pagan metal but also a love for cinematic film scores. Forming in 2013, they’ve carved a niche that can gain as much appeal to fans of Ensiferum and Wintersun as say John Williams – transporting to you to another dimension. What the Oak Left is their debut album, throwing everything from symphonic melodic death to gallop-oriented pagan folk metal parts, while the vocals also see-saw between sing-a-long choruses and screams/bellows that speak to extreme affinities.
Wanting to learn more about this newcomer, we fired off some questions to vocalist/guitarist/ keyboardist Samuele Faulisi – and you’ll learn about the early, natural growing pains of the band, their unique stage clothes imagery, as well as the challenges in blending diverse influences of music together. Hoists your swords and prepare for battle…
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about your early memories surrounding music – what started you on the path to heavy metal, and eventually picking up an instrument to start forming bands?
Samuele Faulisi: I grew up in a ‘music family’. Every family member follows a musical path, my father as a radio DJ, my mother as a classical dancer, my brother as a drummer and I started play classical piano since I was 10. But you know, it comes with the adolescence and the sense of rebellion. I started to get closer to hard sounds, first with AC/DC or Iron Maiden (the classical ones) but then I felt in love with all the extreme metal, in particular with pagan metal. Finntroll, Equilibrium, Wintersun, Turisas and all those kind of bands forced me to pick up a guitar and start to build up my own band!
Dead Rhetoric: Can you take us back to the origins of Atlas Pain in 2013- what were those early days like, did you know right away the type of epic/folk metal you wanted to play and did it take a little while to assemble the best members for the group?
Faulisi: The band was formed by me in the early months of 2013. I’ve always had in my mind the idea of playing pagan metal but with a strong symphonic influence. And I’m not speaking about static string lines or whatever, I just wanted to meld all the influences coming from the movie soundtrack tradition, such as Hans Zimmer or John Williams, and make them sound perfectly with the metal part. It is something that required time to grow and of course if you want to follow the right path you just have to work with the right guys. So, with different line up changes, we are here, with a brand new debut album What The Oak Left, ready to hit the stage!
Dead Rhetoric: What memories do you have surrounding your demo from 2014 and the follow up Behind the Front Page EP a year later? What do you think about the recordings, songwriting, and performances now that you’ve had some time away to reflect – any special highlights or struggles to work through?
Faulisi: Basically I could say that time runs so fast. And if I think all the things that have changed day by day and year by year we are so satisfied by how the things are currently going on. We started in 2014 with the idea to release something just because we need it. And it came out with a demo, a small digital release recorded in my home studio with the most amateur gear that I had at that time. We know, anyway, that we had to release something physical and more professional. We got in touch with Dave from Twilight Studio here in Milan (our sound guy nowadays) and we recorded our very first EP Behind The Front Page. All the attitude we put in our business changed a lot during these years and I’m talking about songwriting, seriousness put in our rehearsal place or in the studio. Everything changed and everything will change.
Dead Rhetoric: How did Scarlet Records come into the picture to sign Atlas Pain? Do you feel they are a great fit considering they are based in your home country, and how do you feel about their roster over the years?
Faulisi: Scarlet Records is one of the most important labels in Europe. They worked with great bands in the past and during these current days and we’re so proud about this collaboration. After the release of Behind The Front Page we started to look for a label interested in our music. We sent hundreds of e-mails and letters but when the guys from Scarlet Records came back to us telling us that they would be interested in a collaboration we were pretty amazed, we couldn’t believe it!
Dead Rhetoric: What the Oak Left is the first full-length for the group – what goals or expectations did you have going into these recording and songwriting sessions, and how do you feel about the outcome?
Faulisi: When we first released the album we didn’t know what to expect. But day after day we are receiving lots of surprises, starting from the acceptance of the fans to the great reviews that the press wrote about the album. Also the pre-sales went so well, we were picked for the official Spotify Folk Metal playlist and we entered the iTunes Italian metal chart. We’re incredibly happy of all these achievements reached, but this is something that doesn’t make us take a rest. We’ll continue to work harder and harder!
Dead Rhetoric: How did the 11:50 instrumental closer “White Overcast Line” develop – as it certainly is an awe-inspiring track, and a little risky to send the listener on such a prolonged, epic journey?
Faulisi: Every song is formed by a musical part and a lyrical one. The band usually gives its own interpretation to the song itself. We just want to give more space to the music, without any kind of meaning behind it. It’s more like a painter that develops and draws its own painting on a white canvas and when a person looks at the image he grows his personal idea, without boundaries. We tried to bring the same concept to our music, giving to the listeners something that they could interpret without rules. (We) came up with a 12 minute song, with fast rhythms but also relaxed parts. We like to look at it more like a journey!
Dead Rhetoric: You also have a strong visual image that probably relates to the overall Atlas Pain outlook- including steampunk clothing attire. Where do you see the importance of having strong imagery to get your points across in the band?
Faulisi: We live in a period where the visual image is as important as the music itself. Just look at the big shows, where all the scenography is made by lights, stage clothes, strobes and so on. And symphonic metal, as well as pagan metal, is enriched by all this kind of stuff. Another thing that we noticed is that folk metal or pagan metal is full of great bands but with the same attitude or visual image, kilts, warriors or vikings, blood and so on. Our steampunk clothes are more like fresh air to the scene, challenging and trying something new. We talk about tales and myths and a steampunk time-traveller idea was the best!
Dead Rhetoric: You describe your sound as a combination of cinematic music with the speed and power of sacred pagan metal, including some of your favorite composers John Williams and Hans Zimmer as influences. How did you strike upon this combination, and does this make songwriting an easy or difficult process for the band?
Faulisi: I’ve always been a great fan of cinematic score music just because I’ve always thought that that kind of composition is so underrated by the people. Fortunately lots of great bands are starting to be influenced by this style of music while playing symphonic metal or similar styles but we’re aiming to do that in a bigger way, using the orchestra not only just as filler but as a cornerstone of our music itself. And the difficulty is not based on the ideas or the songwriting process but on the arrangements that you can build on those tracks. It’s always so hard to find the perfect melding point between two great and different genres, that’s why we always take our time to compose our songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you describe Atlas Pain when it comes to your live shows- what do you hope the audiences get out of your performances, and what would you consider some of the best shows you’ve done so far?
Faulisi: When we play on the stage the most important thing of all is to have fun. If we succeed in that, the people will have fun too! It’s something that we noticed after years of playing live. People want to see a show, no matter if you don’t play exactly as you are in the studio, you can afford it if you make them enjoy your show. And one of the best ones we had was here in Italy at Fosch Fest, more than a thousand people dancing in front of us with our music. It was so exciting!
Dead Rhetoric: What challenges or obstacles do you feel like you have to overcome to establish Atlas Pain for a long-term career? Are you seeking to develop this into a full-time endeavor, or does the current music industry model dictate this to be more of a part-time venture?
Faulisi: Well, this is a hard question. We’re enjoying what we are doing and we’re aiming to reach always a better target after gaining the previous one, we want to grow up day by day. But concerning the music industry everything turned more difficult compared to the past twenty years. Obviously we would like to be a part of something bigger and make a mark for a long term career, but unfortunately this is something that we cannot forecast right now. We’ll wait and we’ll do everything possible to make it!
Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss the personalities within the band, and what each person contributes to make Atlas Pain the unique band that you are?
Faulisi: We are four musicians with four completely different minds, ah ah ah! And that’s good if we talk about balance with every opinion we have on what we are doing. I write all the music and lyrics but we work in tandem to arrange them on our chords, make the songs feel better in our way of playing music.
We just complete each other!
Dead Rhetoric: If you were stranded on a desert island with only five albums to listen to on repeat, what would you make for your choices and why?
Faulisi: Equilibrium – Sagas
Blind Guardian – Nightfall In Middle Earth
Zac Brown Band – Uncaged
Finntroll – Nattfodd
AC/DC – Back In Black
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the rest of 2017 shaping up for Atlas Pain in terms of album promotion? Will there be more videos, live performances, and are you already hard at work on the songwriting for the follow up?
Faulisi: We are stronger than ever! We’re working so hard to prepare the perfect setlist for our upcoming shows and, without spoiling anything, we’re preparing something amazing for the next autumn, just wait for it! And of course we’re planning to release an official video, maybe for the song “To The Moon”, that will be released in the next few months. We have so many things to do right now and we’re determined as never before!