The Band: Holy Martyr
Answers by: Ivano Spiga (guitar)
To talk about HOLY MARTYR is to talk about epic, true feeling, heavy metal, faith & fight. With their new album “Darkness Shall Prevail” coming in March they are confirmed as of the bands carrying higher the flag of Epic Heavy Metal in the international arena. We have been enough lucky, once again, as we have talked directly to the boss and mastermind, Ivano Spiga. And you know what? Talking to him, you just have the sensation that everything is smooth and real, as when you listen to his guitar tabs. Enjoy this epic interview!
Hello Ivano and congratulations for your new album, out in March 3rd, and your back to full activity
Hola hermano, muchas gracias. We are like a volcano…sooner or later it will erupt again, in our case a new album and new tracks are ready to be unleashed.
It has been 5 years of silence since your last work, Invincible, what happened, or didn’t happen, during those last years?
After the release of Invincible we have made only gigs and live promotion, especially during 2011 and 2012. During 2013 the band ceased any kind of activity, due to logistic problems. Actually half of the band is splitted between Milan and the rest in the center of Italy/Rome. It was really hard during the first years of distance, unfortunately some members of the previous albums decided to left, so, a lot of time passed to find other replacements. The only thing that never ceased was the composition of new stuff…and the interest that the band still receives after this silence. So, here we are again to battle.
Absolutely, your legacy is still very alive. Holy Martyr is an Italian band that takes feeling and emotions into their songs from beginning to the end. We are happy to confirm that this has not changed an inch with your new album “Darkness Shall Prevail”
Well…i think the same. Nice that you have noticed this. In every song i try to put all the feelings and emotions, especially when i’m really involved on the themes of the lyrics. I really wanted to stay with the same spirit of the previous albums, so there is definitely a great part of my soul on this album. Darkness Shall Prevail is a work to thanks our fans, to say to them that we are still alive and kickin’ and we love ‘em. I always write something that i like very much, i dot it for myself because i love to create songs. The best thing for an artist is to discover that people like what he do with a lot of passion and love. This is priceless i think.
There are two new faces in your line-up, a new guitarist and a new drummer. How did they enter Holy Martyr’s world and how have they contributed to your new album?
The new drummer is Stefano Lepidi from the city of l’Aquila. I work in this city and started to seek a new replacement. The right guy behind the drums is very important for a band, because he creates the rhythm section. Stefano was the first choice and the best drummer for Holy Martyr, not only he is a very technical musician, but he listens old school Heavy Metal and he was a fan of the band! His style is really different from our previous drummer, powerful but centered also on technical grooves and intricated passages. He added something new to the band, he is very inspired from Mrark Zonder from Warlord. Paolo Roberto Simoni was the final choice for the second guitar, he is a very talented and precise musician, with a great touch for melodies on solos. It is exactly what i was searching as a replacement for Eros Melis, we always had that kind 70’s, 80’s feel, i didn’t want something too modern. Both those guys have refined in the best possible way a fresh songwriting, we still sound the same band but we are a better version of Holy Martyr.
How long have you worked in the new songs and how as the process?
I think that all the songs as you can listen now on the album, were more or less complete since 2013/14. The first ideas of Dol Guldur and Taur Nu Fuin were made during 2012. There were other songs on which i was working, but with a different approach. After the writing of Dol Guldur, really darker compared to our previous stuff, i decided to create more songs on Tolkien themes. When i feel inspired, the songs flow one after one…apart from solos e some better arrangements, the first ideas were more or less the same after the recordings. So, by my point of view it was really quick, but there were a lot of troubles and some stops due the distance and the search of a new line up. Another factor that slowed a lot the ending of the compositions was the creation of the lyrics.
This time was very very hard! Everything centered on Tolkien themes, with vocal lines and words fitted perfectly with the atmosphere of the music. I think i have made the impossible and reached one of my top works as a composer…but it was tremendously heavy and difficult. English is not my native tongue and there is always the risk to appear too childish.
Another change in “Darkness Shall Prevail” are the lyrics, as you pointed out. You leave aside classic cultures from the past, like Greeks or Romans, and you walk into the universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien, right? What is it all about?
I am a Tolkien fanatic and i really wanted to write something about his works. But you know…especially at the end of the 90’s, every band was writing music based on fantasy themes. This is the reason because i choose a different way for Holy Martyr, with ancient History and warfare. I always thought about something different from the other bands and from our past albums, Invincible is another example of our way to be more original and not a copy cat.
So, to write about Tolkien was the best choice in the best moment. We as an Epic Metal band, have showed that we can play really Epic and inspired music…so there’s no dubt, the world of Tolkien is very Epic and huge…Holy Martyr can sing also about Tolkien perfectly, without resulting uninspired and similar to other bands that did the same.
“Darkness Shall Prevail” delivers nine songs charged of heavy epic tunes, as we said before, but I can appreciate also a doomy taste on the songs, like they have grown darker and more enigmatic
I think the same, so this is the reason on choosing the title of the album. Tolkien themes are really dark and obscure, you can find on his books light and a lot of darkness. This dark feeling was a natural way to describe his atmosphere throughout the album. Old school Epic Metal was really dark and doomy, Holy Martyr instead, more on the heroic, melancholic, solemn approach. It was a new kind of feeling in the band, very spontaneous, which didn’t changed our style. I’m happy you liked it, it was necessary to switch a bit on the dark side, due to the lyrics and the general atmosphere.
Yes, the Holy Martyr’s spirit is there, all the way. As it is also the tremendous voice from Alex Mereu. Well, I think if you have listened to that kind of deep voice before you cannot think about another vocalist for Holy Martyr’s sound
I think the same as you again haha! As I said before…the new stuff is different from the past, different even from our last album, but everyone that know the band can clearly admit that we are the same band, with the same style. It was my goal, to sound fresh and similar to ourselves…believe me it’s not so easy!!! As you said, Alex voice is amazing, he has done a great job on this album. He always sings different on every song, adding a trademark in the band’s style.
After three albums i know very well his vocal range, so we fit with each other perfectly, me with the songwriting and Alex with his powerful voice. We are like the salt on a steak. I don’t want to say that the part of Nicola Pirroni on bass and the rest of the guys was less important, but Alex is someone that really forge this spirit, I stay behind the rest like a movie director haha!
A great couple you are, indeed. I would also like to underline your great work on guitars, Ivano, another trade mark in your sound, you build riffs and solos at slow fire with a great feeling
Thank you very much!!!I think I’ve said a lot of me in the previous questions…i’m not the greatest guitarist or composer in the world…my only luck is to be always inspired and creative. I know my limits and i know what i wanna do, in a very simple and clear way that surprise everyone. Lots of guitar players more technical than me always ask “how do you do this? how can you write that?”. The answer is…i don’t know, i’m only a creative luck!
And that is very important, the feeling, you have it and it is a gift. My favorite song is the last in the record, Born Of Hope, it’s the perfect end for the album with its faster pace and the great epic solo
I like it a lot. Every album from the band has the typical headbanging song. I like that we can find this track at the end of the album, not in the middle or as an opener. It’s unusual…it’s like to say…the album is ended, calm down…but no, ok let’s bang the fuckin head again! I decided to put it as a closer, to give the finishing blow to the listener. After this song you want to listen again the whole album, in a never ending circle, we can find a lot of different songs, Born Of Hope was necessary to complete this circle. It was taken from an independent movie with the same title, you can find it on you tube for free.
Awesome. The cover art fits perfectly with your music and the tradition of your previous three albums
Again i think the same as you.This is a paint based on my idea of defeat and darkness contained in the music, i wanted something rooted in the past, very simple, very effective. I don’t like many actual artworks, with a lot of computer graphics and no soul. You can find similarities with the artworks from early Omen and Manowar i think. Also our previous albums are in the same style, we try to be original without incredible paintings, sometimes simple things are the best way to express a concept.
The epic heavy metal is a subgenre where you have more space to innovate or develop new ideas, compared to other styles, something we can appreciate in the evolution of your albums
Yes i agree, i love this kind of Heavy Metal…you can switch from different themes and different approaches in the music, from aggression to melancholy to great heroic hymns. The evolution of our albums, are the prove that you can still sound fresh and original, without sounding boring and recycling your own ideas. It’s not for everyone i think, we are again lucky to do this.
We can consider Holy Martyr as on the most influential bands in the epic heavy metal in Italy right now, so the fans will be happy to hear again from you, right?
I don’t know…i think that we are also influential (maybe) also outside Italy. We have gained a lot of fans here…but the majority are from other countries, especially in Greece, Germany…and also Spain. There are still people from different places, that still follow us after our first demo in 2003 and can’t wait to listen the new album. This kind of faith for me is astonishing…i used to have such expectations only for big bands!
I suppose you are planning tour dates around Europe and maybe other continents as well, right? Will we be lucky to see you in Spain?
I don’t know…at the moment the first gig will be in Athens with Cirith Ungol, during Up The Hammers Festival…can’t wait. We would like to play everywhere, we’ll see what will happen.
We have played two times in Spain, but we miss here since 2009. We love Spain, we are like brothers. In the case of Holy Martyr twin brothers, because the band was born in Sardinia, which was part of Aragona in the past centuries, we still have some words and traditions taken from Spain.
Cirith Ungol & Holy Martyr wow! That is a must come for every fan, hopefully you will record a dvd or something. Thank you very much for your attention and we hope to see you soon, if you wish to add something…
Thanks for the great review and the nice interview. We really hope to play in Spain for a Heavy Metal night de puta madre!
Hahahaha, big Ivano, eres un tío cojonudo!