Following the release of When a Good Man Goes to War by Vexillum, we reached out to the band for an interview about their album, its relation to their previous releases, and live touring.
Let’s begin with your new release, entitled “When a Good Man Goes to War” (no relation to the poem in Doctor Who, of course), for readers unfamiliar with the work could you please run us through the premise and themes.
“Hi to all and thank you so much for this interview. This new release is for sure a collection of stories, each song is a story with its characters and it’s own message or meaning. All together like pieces of a puzzle, they reinforce and complete the main theme, the one sung in the title-track: what could happen if a good man decides that it is no longer time for diplomacy, when the balance formed by the right rules is broken? what we describe is a powerful and unknown force, totally uncontrollable. As the sea during a storm. The premise for us is to provide a “multi-level” work, you can just listen to the songs to enjoy the powerful sound, shake your hair on the riffs and dance in the folkish part or be carried away by the setting and enter a more introspective place, built from stories, emotions and reflections. You mentioned Doctor Who, there is no a direct connection with the two-hearthed time traveller, even if I like so much how the same subject is narrated during some episodes, but for the more “nerd” readers there is an Easter egg in the first verse of the refrain of the title track.”
Your previous albums deal with folkloric themes on a surface level, and one of your previous albums (probably coincidentally) has a common name with your opening track “Enlighten the Bivouac”, what connects previous works to the latest album?
“If we talk about Vexillum’s sound, and our mix of power and folkish elements, our new album is the direct and natural evolution of the previous one “UNUM”, where the sound already made a step forward towards the actual shape. In our opinion we are reaching the idea, for our sound, that we have in mind from the very beginning, we really like to play with the great dynamics that we can create with the mix of bombastic power metal parts with the naturalness of folk music. Instead, if we talk about the kind and the structure of the album we have to come back to “The Bivouac”, as you noticed. “When Good Men Go To War” resume the journey of our errant musicians that started with our first full length and with a similar structure but a new setting, on a ship in the sea, and go on with a new collection of tales, and is a tradition for us that this kind of album are linked by the very first song, dedicated deeply to our main characters, to us. “Unum” doesn’t belong to this kind because it’s a “stand alone” concept album, with a story that begin and end in the same opera.”
You released your previous album, “Unum”, over five years ago. Since there’s huge variation in the times it takes to produce albums, tell us, how long was “When a Good Man Goes to War” in the making? Also, how did the pandemic affect it?
“Well, this new album for us was different; different because we took few years to compose it. Things in life always change and happen, and this album is the son of this “life’s changings”.
This meant that it took more time for the songs to see the light. We started to write the first song something like 3 years ago, our convoy slowed down a bit but it never really stopped.
When we were close to the end of the pre-production the word fell in this new strange era of pandemic so everything simply was frozen. Another slowdown for “When a Good Man Goes to War”, but in our minds was the awareness that it was the “perfect” album for this era we are living in, and it was not made on purpose…things just happen!
So at the beginning of 2021 when things came back a bit to normality and it was possible to enter the studio we just started the recordings.”
Now I want to turn to the obligatory pandemic questions. One of your number Francesco Ferraro is currently involved with German Power Metallers, Freedom Call. At the onset of the pandemic they had a relief concert streamed live to help support musicians impacted by COVID. Some bands went the streaming route, some didn’t. What factors influenced your choice?
“We were just busy with recording sessions, mixing and so on, then recording videoclips and with the online promotion so the idea to play online or not was just put on a side; it was not a decision like “ok we don’t want to play online” we were just busy with other things.
Anyway we had thought about it, making a stream concert is more complicated than a live one and it takes a lot of pre-production, so it is a thing that you can not improvise, moreover there is our aim to do something cool, something very nice to see as well as listen. While thinking about it it seems that something in the “real world” is moving and live shows are coming back so we look forward to hit the stage soon.”
While on the topic of touring, many restrictions are being lifted. Even here in the states local venues are seeing some UK based bands playing their rescheduled dates from last year. Do you have any expectations tour-wise?
“Here in Italy the covid-situation is slowly getting better right now. We had many restrictions until few days ago, so it was really hard to arrange any kind of events in the next future. Things change day by day and we are trying to see the maze’s exit. We really hope to be able to bring our new album on tour, because it is our true dimension. I can say that we already received several proposals, but we talk of the last part of 2021 or the first part of 2022. Of course our intentions are to play as much as possible and we are already arranging a lot of things for Vexillum live concerts.”
While many Folk Metal bands have traditional instruments being played live, few Power Metal bands this side of Grave Digger have ever gone the whole nine yards and gotten bag-pipers for live shows. Obviously, some bands that play more Folk Metal than pure Power Metal may be more likely to lean one way or the other, but what is your stance on live folk instruments?
“For sure would be really cool to have some other musicians on stage to give more reality to the folkish parts and create more dynamic atmospheres, it’s a fixed thought from the beginning, but unfortunately we never had the conditions, for different reasons, to achieve it. Until now we made all by ourselves, changing instruments on stage, bagpipe with guitar, or acoustic guitars, and playing together with some backing track, where we put the real recording of acoustic instruments. I take the chance to thanks Nick MacVicar that, with his bagpipe and his flutes, brings us always on the highlands. The idea is to improve this possibility for particular events in the future, maybe for summer festival or “one shot” gigs, because for a whole tour would be more difficult.
On a semi-related note, if you resume touring this year, will 2021 be the year “Flaming Bagpipes” is played with live bagpipes and a pyrotechnics show?
“It would be great!!! thanks for the idea!!! as I said before we are working to improve this matter for our shows, on the musical side and also on the technical production side. We’d like some fire on stage, but we will see where we will play and above all the conditions. Anyway we are planning to develop a dedicated lighting and effects system to give a greater visual impact to our shows.”
The last few years you were signed with limb music, but changed to Scarlet Records some time before the genesis of “When a Good Man Goes to War”. For readers who haven’t been following you closely on social media, when did you switch and was there a story to the decision?
“We signed with Scarlet Record in January 2021 even though bureaucracy and the pandemic obviously delayed and complicated the matter, but we were not in a hurry because we had many things to follow anyway, like the planning of recording studio, the scripting of videos and so on. Actually we rarely talked about this change until the final news, just with some friends or very close followers. There are no particular stories to tell about it, no quarrel or friction with the old label, in fact we will collaborate with limb in the future for some projects. In a moment of “dead calm” we just had the opportunity to work with an Italian label we knew well and we tried to catch it, we needed a change. In the end they are two different ways to work in the music business, we will see what the future will bring.”
Do you have anything in store for fans in the foreseeable future?
“We are working hard to promote our album on stage as soon as possible, we have a gig already planned in June and if pandemic gives us the chance we will announce more gigs soon. Moreover we are working on a new video, and we are creating some cool contents for the web, to publish very soon. So we can say “Stay tuned!””
Do you have any closing comments for our readers?
“Thank you so much for this opportunity, and thanks to all your readers!!! We hope you will enjoy our album in this hard times! Thank you so much for every kind of support! From now on our advice is to look for the nearest metal concert and go, even if you don’t know the band, even if it’s not our favorite “metal”, this way we will all come back stronger than before. And, of course, if you see that Vexillum is coming to town you MUST join the party!!!”