Rome In Monochrome – Pushing Ego Out of the Equation

Tuesday, 9th January 2024

Italian sextet Rome In Monochrome embraces a wide array of influences when it comes to their style. Dubbing themselves ‘ghost metal’, listeners can expect everything from post rock, alternative to doom and dark progressive metal aspects that all vary from track to track. The latest effort AbyssUs intoxicates to a deep, emotional connection not unlike the work of acts like Katatonia, Opeth, or My Dying Bride – while certain outside influences conjure up the best of Radiohead or Tool. We spoke with vocalist Valerio Granieri who filled us in on his early musical influences from childhood, the development of Rome in Monochrome, the work behind AbyssUs including guest appearances and cover art, thoughts on the Italian music/metal scene, concerns regarding technology and humanity, plus future insights.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me about some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you start discovering heavier and more progressive forms of music – and eventually want to pick up an instrument to start performing in bands of your own?

Valerio Granieri: Hi everyone. I remember a small version of me at the elementary school singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” in a choir, because we had a very innovative English teacher. I also remember me a little more grown up, in the middle 80s, watching a famous Italian TV show called DJ Television, starting to love synthpop and 80s pop (that obviously I still love, maybe more now than in the 80s). I had a duplicated cassette of Depeche Mode’s Violator in my early teenage and this was the very first time I dug for “my” music: I have always been curious, and I always wanted to discover and find my music game changers. I remember discovering Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind and obviously Metallica’s Black Album and Nirvana’s Nevermind: this one made me think I could play guitar and so it was, at 14 I started (not properly, I must say). I immediately started to write songs because I was sure I was able to play them and, in the meantime, I discovered death and black metal, and I was blown away. I was not able to play and sing that stuff and maybe I was looking for something easier with the same negativity, so I fell into classic English doom stuff (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema). When I was around my twenties I discovered 60s stuff, post rock, new wave, The Smiths, The Cure and I added tons of CDs to my collection. The process of changing and discovering is still on its way and I hope it’s evident in my musical projects.

Dead Rhetoric: How did Rome of Monochrome come together as a group? What do you remember about those early times and the types of songs you were developing in the first rehearsals – did you know straight away the style you were going for, or was it a longer process to evolve into the type of ‘ghost metal’ you’ve arrived at?

Granieri: It’s already ten years, this goddamn time flies. The band started when I met our original guitarist Gianluca Lucarini by a mutual friend. He stole this beautiful name from another mutual friend who agreed and gave it to us. Gianluca also had the chords of “Until My Eyes Go Blind” (whose final version was included in Away From Light), I was in many local bands at the time. These two inputs made me create our concept: the first EP Karma Anubis was basically written and played by me (plus some guests), and Gianluca appears in one track. Then we recruited all the remaining members, merging RIM with another one of my bands called Post Ghosts and, after some adjustments, completed the Away from Light lineup (me, Gianluca, Alessio Reggi/guitar, Marco Paparella/guitar and violin, Riccardo Ponzi/bass, Flavio Castagnoli/drums). I wrote most of the tracks for the album Away from Light that found its final form with the contribution of all the band members. The same happened for AbyssUs and probably will happen for the next ones. About the process…I don’t know, when we rehearse, we enter in a sort of bubble, trip, or spiritual connection and the band becomes more of the sum of the single members. After a couple of lineup changes, I can say that it still happens and that maybe this six headed monster exists even before us and will survive our deaths. Evolution…it’s all natural, it goes with the flow. We change and music reflects what we are in the moment it’s written. It’s like looking into a transparent version of us. So, as usual, I started to write for the next album, I heard some great stuff from the guys, and when we put it all together, we’ll see what’s happening. It’s gonna be soon.

Dead Rhetoric: AbyssUs is the band’s latest album. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this set of material? What sort of obstacles, challenges, or surprises took place during the process – and did the COVID-19 pandemic have an impact as far as digging deeper into specific details that worked out better in the long run?

Granieri: It was hard. It’s an album about failures, and I needed time to face mine. When I brought the stuff to the guys it became more difficult to tame and I understood that everyone was sharing my uncomfortable situation and adding his part. We parted ways with Gianluca and added Gaetano (piano, keys and loops) and this meant to start again or almost, to find a way to let these eight songs flow and become what they needed to become. There’s a nervous progressive approach that maybe was, most of all, Alessio’s vibe: he put a lot of his troubles in this record and left the band just before inking the deal with Art Gates, replaced by Gabriel. In between there was COVID-19 and it made everything complicated. We kept in touch anyway since we are neighbors trying to keep the fire alive, but I wrote “The Dissonant” home alone during the lockdown so I think it was worth it.

Dead Rhetoric: How did the special guest appearances come up with Alexander Högbom of October Tide for “A Tomb Beyond the Furthest Star” and Yasmin Kalach of In the Mood for “Stains”? Do you enjoy the type of colors/shapes their voices add for additional dynamic elements to the already strong foundation the band puts forth?

Granieri: Alexander is a good friend of Flavio, our drummer: they met in the backstage of a festival and became friends, so when we decided that “A Tomb Beyond the Furthest Star” needed some death metal vibes I instantly thought of his monster voice. I saw him live with October Tide and he completely blew me away: I also do extreme vocals, but this guy is one of a kind, maybe one of the best out there. So, we got in touch, he liked the song and laid down his thing on it: our voices crossing each other are one of the highest moments of the album, in my opinion. Yasmin has been my vocal coach for years and contributed forging my style: she was a former contestant of The Voice of Italy and has a lot of musical projects, including teaching. When I wrote “Stains” I felt that her fantastic soulful bite, so different from my style, could add the warmth that the song needed. She did her job in the blink of an eye, adding some background vocals on “Antiheart” and some of the vocal layers on “The Dissonant” finale. It’s amazing to work with talented people.

Dead Rhetoric: As a sextet, what are the key elements that are essential in an ideal Rome of Monochrome composition to make sure that everyone is satisfied and heard? Were there specific songs on AbyssUs that took on a bigger transformation than others from their initial idea/demo stages to what we hear on the final recording?

Granieri: We don’t work this way; we never think about personal satisfaction. It’s all for music’s sake and we have to feel that the song has been pushed to its peak. If this means that it has to be instrumental well, I will not sing and so it is for every one of us: we can decide to use or not use every instrument. We always think of the big picture, pushing ego out of the equation. About the biggest transformations: I brought the main structures of every song except for “Post You” which came from Alessio and “Anatomical Machine” which is from Marco. “To Mourn the Shade of Your Love”, “Antiheart”, “Stains” and “The Dissonant” we maintained the original structures and the guys added some layers and flavors, especially for “Antiheart” which became a lot more progressive. I brought “A Tomb Beyond the Furthest Star” as an easy Radiohead/My Dying Bride crossover and it became that monster you can hear. “Post You” started as a melancholic guitar ballad, but Gaetano turned it into a torch piano song. “Anatomical Machine” was a 13-chord progression that became a delicate camera piece with strings and a strange finale. I don’t know about “Sedatives”: I came with this ordinary crossover structure with chords, bridges and so on and they turned into a sort of Tool-esque doomy melancholic piece you can hear. It’s difficult to recall how this band surprises me at first.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the cover art design for AbyssUs? Do you believe that the visual elements and artwork are important in conveying the right atmosphere and initial impressions the band wishes to give off?

Granieri: I love the cover art. The pic comes from our friend Romina Leardi and the model is Rea Silvia Pistori, the layout is from Adhiira Art. It’s quite different from Away from Light but it maintains the central symmetry concept to connect the albums. I think it fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the songs, which brings the right mood. I believe (and all as well) that visual elements are essential to the message, the mood, the behavior of a record: you know, we are all old school freaks. We come from an era when all the information you could have about a band was from a few magazines and a record’s inlay. So, it must be cool and must give the right mood and the most complete info. Nowadays you can check everything on our super updated profiles but, hey, let us be romantic a little bit.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Rome in Monochrome when it comes to your live performances on stage? What do you hope to get across to the audiences, and do you have any preferences as far as clubs versus festival stages?

Granieri: Intense. Our music, it’s us: there’s no acting, playing games or wearing some mask. You can see us in our real and whole essence: we share feelings and connect with people. Our music can be a lot of things: intimate, quiet or powerful so it can be played in lots of contexts: I personally love to look the audience in the eyes, but we’ve played on big spaces or festivals, too.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the state of the heavy music scene in Italy? What do you see as some of the biggest challenges or barriers to conquer in moving the band to the next level of followers / appreciation – not just on a local scale, but on an international/global level?

Granieri: Well, we have a lot of great bands and some of them, like Lacuna Coil, Rhapsody / Rhapsody of Fire, Necrodeath, Novembre, Klimt 1918 are very well known and famous (the last two ones are leading names in our genre). The scene is full of great doom bands like Shores of Null, The Foreshadowing, Invernoir, Ghostheart Nebula, For My Demons, Ars Onirica and outside metal, there are great acts like Giardini di Mirò, Winter Severity Index, Spiritual Front. We just need some more stages to play on (because Covid-19 devastated the local club scene) and a lot more support from the audience: people here often choose to see Iron Maiden and Metallica for the one hundredth time and do not enjoy a small performance of an underground band. Sometimes they are right because the underground is full of bad music but, looking at the big picture, this is the wrong approach. What about international appreciation, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just some kind of prejudice so you all outside our borders, take a look inside!

Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three to five of the most important album releases that shaped your outlook and views on the metal genre as a whole?

Granieri: If you limit my answer to metal genre, maybe I can do this. I must say Metallica – Metallica, Paradise Lost – Icon, My Dying Bride – The Angel and the Dark River, Entombed – Left Hand Path, Dismember – Like an Everflowing Stream. But I have to leave out a lot of stuff, and I hate you (laughs). Please don’t ask anything about my top ten records of all-time, I would be in a total breakdown.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the biggest worries and concerns you have about the world that we are living in today? If you had the opportunity to make changes for the greater good of all, what aspect(s) do you think need to be looked at so that the world can be in a better, more comfortable place?

Granieri: Well, I am afraid of all this technology ruling our lives these days. You know, I’ve seen it coming, I knew it, but I am starting to see the Matrix alive, and I definitely don’t like it. I don’t want to be in a world where reality is hard to define and where discerning truth from lie is our fucking day job. Life is about sharing feelings and connections and, if we lose it, what does our lives amount to? The best change for the greater good of all would be in the direction of feelings but I don’t know if we are losing them these days or if man has ever been able to see the greater good, honestly. Maybe we have never been not the good bet of our creator.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are some of the short term and long-term goals that you want to achieve with Rome in Monochrome? Also, how does the band handle the musical activities while also having to hold down careers, families, relationships – are you hopeful to be able to make a living through your musical endeavors, or understand that it’s going to be a balancing act for most of your lives?

Granieri: Goals are all about personal expression: I want music and particularly this band to be by my side until I’ll be unable to sing, and to be the witness of my changes as a human being, that’s it. Short term goals? AbyssUs to be listened to by anyone possible, create a thin red line with every one of them. Long term goals? Well, continue to travel, bringing this stuff everywhere there is someone who wants to listen to us and write interesting, deep and captivating music. The balance between this “all eating monster” and ordinary life is hard, in terms of everyday duties and of attention and mental resources I put in it. Flavio has recently become a father, every one of us has hard day jobs. But music is something not one of us can avoid so we are here because there’s no other place for us.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the schedule for activities related to Rome In Monochrome over the next twelve months to support this release? Do the member(s) have any other side projects/bands that we should also know about?

Granieri: We are going to start supporting Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin in January and the next step is going to be AbyssUs release party that will be announced soon. There’s other stuff cooking in the works, stay tuned…something coming, so experimental that it is gonna be a total shock. There is something else concerning us, yes. I sing in Still Wave, a sort of post/doom/shoegaze band: our debut album A Broken Heart Makes An Inner Constellation will be out in 2024. Flavio plays drums with my brothers Invernoir, a fantastic doom band that is going to be out with their new album very soon. Gabriel plays flamenco stuff and sings so I think he will show his talent outside Rome In Monochrome soon.

Thank you for your time and your beautiful and interesting questions, see you on the road!

Rome in Monochrome on Facebook

[fbcomments width="580"]