Italian epic metal project Hesperia from Macerata has recently released the fourth and final chapter of its very ambitious tetralogy “Aeneidos Metalli Apotheosis”. Hesperia is a very interesting band, the solo project of Hesperus, who has managed to build a really distinctive and personal sound through the years. The completion of his tetralogy was the perfect opportunity to ask him about his band and his future plans.
- Hello Hesperus, thank you very much for your willingness to have this interview with me. Hesperia is a band I’ve watched since its beginning and I am really glad to see you are still active. What has kept this project alive all these years?
AVE Dimitris! Hesperia is still alive thanks to my passion for music and for my culture, and the perseverance in creating music that carries a strong cultural traditional Italic meaning, so that it can awake the modern minds through a glorious timeless past.
- You recently released your new album “Metallvm Italicvm – Aeneidos Metalli Apotheosis pars IV”. What is the feedback you got so far both from fans and press?
“Metallvm Italicvm” has been out only since the end of January, but I’ve already received good feedback. The copies in the Italian shops went sold-out in few weeks, the reviews are good, especially in Italy, while “Spiritvs Italicvs” (the previous album) was more appreciated outside of Italy. What made a great difference in the feedback this time were the 2 radio edits, that have been aired multiple times on some Italian, American and UK radios, often with famous metal acts such as Blind Guardian, Ufo, Uriah Heep, Moonspell, Nightwish.
- I find this album quite different from your previous works. You have introduced many new elements in your music, while the extreme black metal elements are clearly reduced. What should your older fans expect from your new work? Which would you describe as the most important changes in your music?
The new album has a lot of identitary rock-metal influences; it’s an album which carries strong values about the cultural Italic identity, stronger than the previous album, and black metal is only one of the colors, one of the ingredients that I use to achieve this goal. I use genres to create my own sound, I’m not used by the genres. Hesperia is not one of the many bands without an identity: Hesperia is something unique, it’s THE REAL ITALIC METAL PULSING HEART. It is not a coincidence that Hesperia is the ancient name of Italy. However there are still some fast black metal parts. I think that a real Hesperia fan will appreciate this album more than the previous one, because it is the natural evolution, or maybe involution; it’s some sort of retro-garde metal, the union of the most conservative genres to reach my goal: old epic metal, ‘70s-‘80s hard ‘n’ heavy, AOR, identitary Italic rock, pagan BM, opera, patriotic classical music, peplum soundtracks, ancient Italic-Roman folk, etc. The big difference is the prevalence of the clean epic Italic voice, the old school / hard’n'heavy-oriented guitars and drums, and the composite structure containing more direct hymns.
- There are many and important guest musicians in this work. Tell us a few words about these co-operations. How did you manage to work with all these musicians (from many different genres) and make them “fit” in the very special atmosphere of your music?
Yes, on the last two albums there were many guests: Abibial (Imago Mortis), Fervs (Morkal), Lord Inferos, Flagellum and Adranor (Legion of Darkness), M (The True Endless, Skoll), Mancan (Ecnephias), L. Mandolesi (Centvrion), Mario Di Donato (The Black, Requiem), Namter (Namter), Porz (Malnàtt), M. Vitali (Ibridoma), M. Ravich (Antagonism), C. Malvestiti for the soprano choirs and C. Bartolacci as the Tenor voice. The only non-Italian guest is Knjaz Varggoth (Nokturnal Mortum) from Ukraine. First I think about what part is right for each guest, then I assign it to him. If a guest cannot come in during the studio session, he records the part by himself and sends it via the web. Then the parts are laid on the music during the studio sessions.
- Could you tell us a few words about the recording process? Where there any new or unusual places where the album was recorded?
Since the beginning Hesperia has recorded in particular places, open spaces. “Aeneidos pars I” was recorded using a portable analogic 4-track in some particular caves of the Mt. Conero shores (eastern Italy, Marche region). At the time it was a very difficult process, a lot of batteries were required! The voices and the ambient effects on “Il Ritorno di una Civiltà Arcaica” were recorded on the magical Sibillini Mountains, magical mountains full of legends (I could say a sort of Italic Carpathian Mountains), well-known in the entire Europe since the Middle Ages. On the Sibillini Mountains there is the cave of the classical priestess Sibilla, Apollo’s oracle. It was an initiatic place, it is thought that Virgilio (the author of Eneide) went there too. “Spiritvs Italicvs” was recorded at the castle-village of Pievefavera (MC, Italy), built over the ruins of the ancient Roman town Faveria. For “Metallvm Italicvm” I chose to record half of the album at the Roman Theater ruins of the ancient Roman town of Helvia Recina (Mc, Italy – the same place where the photo session took place): DPF studio has used a mobile studio for this. The other half was recorded at DPF Studio over an ambient track (apparent silence) taken by me near the lake of Sibilla on the Sibillini Mountains. With the new digital technology and portable audio boards, this process has become way simpler.
- I’d like to comment that even if I find your new album very different (as music genre) from your previous efforts, it still sounds 100% Hesperia. How do you achieve this? What is this special “ingredient” that makes your music so distinctive and characteristic?
The first ingredient might be the places where I live, the Marche region, especially the magical Sibillini Mountains: my Genius Loci. The second ingredient is the passion for Hesperia, ancient Italy and its history. The other ingredients are the feelings and the particular ways through which I have interpreted my musical and cultural influences since the beginning of Hesperia. These influences, put together and filtered by my particular cultural vision, have created the foundations of the sound of Hesperia, which probably remains the same despite all the evolution and maturation of the sound, being the trademark of the project.
- Now, let’s take you a little back in time. What are your memories from the beginning of Hesperia back in 1997?
Before Hesperia, since 1992, I was playing with the italic BM cult band Sulphuria, the first bm band to record a demo sung entirely in Italian/Latin (“Caelum Sanguineum”, the 3rd demo from 1996); but in 1997 I decided to leave Sulphuria and create Hesperia (in 1998 Sulphuria split up). I needed to create something that was more Italic in its sound, its lyrics, and so on. At the beginning my goal was to create some sort of band which would unite the sound of the epic Bathory and the blackened historical sound of Satyricon’s “Dark Medieval Times”, and transpose them to the Italic culture (the demo rehearsal had that feeling). At the time I wanted to create a music with no guitars, just basses, and “Aeneidos pars I” was born with basses only. I didn’t have a computer, so I was working very slowly, everything was very difficult, I was out of the music business, and I didn’t care about this, about reviews, or about people’s opinions: I seriously was in another dimension, my dimension, the dimension I was going to create, the dimension of Hesperia, and its world, its feelings, its ancient Italic spirit, its ages to open.
- What do you think now about your first full-length album ever “Aeneidos Metalli Apotheosis Pt.I”? Would you like to make a brief description of the band’s evolution from one album to the other up to now?
During the creation of “Aeneidos pt. I” (it took 4 years) I began to understand that the theme of Eneide needed many different feelings and many influences: so I introduced influences from theatre, literature, ambient, progressive; as you can hear the general sound of the album is very very raw and noisy, but also very ambient. With basses I wanted to create a very aggressive and nasty sound, that could be nasty even to the black metal extremists out there, haha. Listening to this album now I can just say ”Oh, I really was in another dimension, it’s very difficult to listen to it”. But it was very inspired and also technically difficult to compose, with its structured sounds based on many different schemes and scale, and many strange harmonizations. Nothing was casual, everything was studied to the minimum detail. The next album, “Il Ritorno di una Civiltà Arcaica”, was a reconstruction and re-recording of the rehearsal. It’s the 1st album of Hesperia with guitars, but again with the intent to keep a nasty, very noisy extreme sound. I think that it is a very good album of Italic pagan black metal, full of ambient Sibillian feelings. Yes it is very raw, but I’m satisfied with its unique feeling. I would like to reprint it in the near future, with new graphics. The second part of Eneide, “In Honorem Herois”, has a duration time of only 35 mins. It’s got very fast moments, with very intricated guitar lines, odd drums schemes, and so on. It maintains a raw sound, but with more mid-tones than the previous one. The third part of Eneide, “Spiritvs Italicvs”, in my opinion is a great album, the best of my BM-oriented albums. More than 1-hour long, very traditional esoteric contents. The previous album has an ambient-oriented drums sound, while on Spiritvs Italicvs the drums are very present, creating more groove. It received great reviews around the world. “Metallvm Italicvm”, the last one, is the best one, where I reached my goal to create something more Hesperian, without being chained to the BM genre, without being a slave of genres. Like I you told before it’s 100% Hesperia just like the previous albums, but the sound is very mature, epic, with a very good and dynamic production, which avoids today’s plastic sounds.
- Since your first steps you showed a great respect and interest in ancient Italian, Latin and Greek civilizations. Would you like to give us some info about the symbolisms behind yours and your band’s name?
Italian and Latin is what Hesperia deals with, but the Greeks created the name. Hesperia is the ancient name of Italy, once dominated by the atavic sovereign Hesperus (that’s where I got my name). The Greeks, looking westwards and seeing the Sun dying there, created this name thinking about these lands as the evening lands, obscure lands populated by obscure beings. The name Hesperus is also the Latin for Έσπερος (Hesperos), the star of the western sky, the star of the evening. This is where the name Hesperia came from. With this name I gave life to my concept band, with the intention to create the Italic ages.
- Would you like to speak about the band’s concept? Apart from the first demo “The Return of an Archaic Civilization” which was later released as full-length album, your four other albums are based on Virgilio’s “Eneide”. Are your 4 albums written in chronological order, or is it a general concept? Would you like to give us some information about this epos?
Eneide is the holy Roman poem, written by Virgilio to celebrate the origin of Roma and Emperor Augustus: his gens, Gens Iulia (the same Caesar was part of), was born by the union of the Trojan blood of Aeneas to the Latin blood of Lavinia (King Latino’s daughter). The 4 albums about Eneide are in chronological order: Eneide is divided in 12 books (chapters). “Aeneidos pars I” talks about books 1-2, “In Honorem Herois” about books 3-4-5, “Spiritvs Italicvs” about books 6-7-8-9, “Metallvm Italicvm” about books 10-11-12.
- The first 3 parts of the tetralogy were released with a distance of 5 years each, while the last one (which is the most complex and different in my opinion) took you only 2 years. What has changed this time?
“Metallvm Italicvm”, the last album. was released about 1 year after “Spiritvs Italicvs” (December 2013 – January 2015), even if it has such sophisticated arrangements. The time between “Aeneidos I” and “Il Ritorno…” was 1 year as well (2003-2004); but for the other albums the time was longer, about 4 years, because each time there were problems with the recording in general, or with recording of the drum parts. After “Spiritvs Italicvs” I tried to have everything under my own control, which is probably why it took such a short time to put everything together.
- It is also the first time that you release 2 albums (Part III and IV) with the same label, Sleaszy Rider. How did this cooperation start?
Exactly. “In Honorem“ was released by the the Dutch Blazing Productions (Spear of Longinus, Dark Thule, Dub Buk, Bannerwar, Legion of Doom, etc.). I didn’t hear from this label anymore, so after the mastering of “Spiritvs Italicvs” in 2013 I started the promotion looking for a bigger label, and I refused two labels before dealing with Sleaszy Rider. After discussing it thoroughly we went for a multi-album contract of a few years duration. It’s a Greek label licensed by big names such as Motorhead, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Blackmore’s Night and it also releases well-known BM bands such as Rotting Christ, Ancient, etc.
- Since the beginning, Hesperia payed a lot of attention to the aesthetic / stylistic side of their music. Through the years the raw black metal make-up aesthetic gave its place to a more theatrical mask style, until the new album, where you took everything to another level. Tell us a few words about this golden and colorful result. What is the concept behind this aesthetic and who is responsible for this?
From the beginning I took care about everything Hesperia, even the armour I wear, the costumes, the scepter, and so on. The first Hesperus armour was a stylistic interpretation that crossed metal and black metal elements with pagan Italic and ancestral-atavic elements. The armour has evolved album after album, while I was approaching the end of Eneide and the beginning of the Roman age (which will be the theme of the next two albums). So what I’m wearing on the last album, which ends the Eneide, has got Roman elements: golden laurel crown, red Roman robe, the color gold on the face painting, golden Roman bracers, and of course the elements of the metal culture: leather, steel, etc. The armour will evolve again…
- Is there any chance to see Hesperia on stage? I bet it would be very interesting, both musically and visually. What would be the ideal place for a Hesperia show in your opinion (even in a theoretical level)?
I’m thinking about it, but I’ll only play live in the right place: certainly not in a regular club and such. I’d like to play in a scenic place, like the ancient ruins that you can see on the videos and on the photos, and create a very theatrical show, with ritual connotations.
- What will you do now that the “Eneide” concept is over? First of all, I hope you continue with the band. Is there any specific concept that you have already chosen? Should we expect any musical redirection from you?
Hesperia is a concept band that will release albums in chronological order, talking about the Italic ages (as seen through history, mythology, literature, … ) and starting with the pre-Roman age (Italic civilizations) up to World War II. So the Eneide ends only the first age, the pre-Roman one. The next album will open the Roman age and will be a concept about Julius Caesar. After the albums about Roma there will be the Medieval albums (one will be about the Sibillini Mountains), the album about Italian Renaissance and so on.
- Is there any bigger ambition you’d like to accomplish as a musician? Any hidden desire or dream?
I would like to awaken people through my music. A traditional awakening so that we can join our fathers’ traditional path (especially in Italy). To achieve this goal Hesperia must become greater and greater.
- Thank you very much for your time. Wish you all the best. Last words are yours.
Thank you Dimitris and Metal Soundscapes for the space and time given to Hesperia. To every metal, music, culture fan I can say: Hesperia is not a regular and common band, Hesperia is a cultural-spiritual-musical-visual project carrying the REAL ARCHAIC ITALIC ESSENCE, that will take you in its dimension: a traditional dimension of lost ages from the past. Hesperia creates the keys to open the dimensional doors… get in if you understand the meaning of it… and “Stay Hesperian”!