» Maurizio Iacono - Kataklysm
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Interview conducted April 13 2009
Interview published April 22 2009

Taking the world by storm, Kataklysm have made strides with their "Northern Hyperblast" sound. Lately, there has been a lasting effort towards becoming increasingly more melodic, and less brutal, as witnessed on the last few albums with Nuclear Blast. I spoke with vocalist - Maurizio Iacono. His unconquered might and mettle, is why he has been able to prevail, and attain success. We discussed all the continuing developments with Kataklysm, as well as his involvement in the Pagan Fest Tours, and his forthcoming - Ex Deo. Long may the chains of power be broken, and the unbridled spirit set free.

MettleAngel: Well, finally, my brother, I get a chance to sit down and speak with you. There has always been something, or other which has been delaying the inevitable.

  • Maurizio: Yeah, I've noticed that...

MettleAngel: A few years back, we missed your live performance with Destruction and Vader, because, we were interviewing Schmier. Then we missed you on the first leg of The Invaluable Darkness Tour, because we were interviewing Simen (ICS Vortex) of Dimmu Borgir. Thankfully, we met you in Chicago in the fall while you were touring with the "Death By Decibels" bill. We did not have time to schedule an interview, as the following day was Helloween and Gamma Ray.

  • Maurizio: You seem to be as busy as we are.

Definitely, but we love to do this, as I'm sure you do. Here we are at last, I'm sorry to hear that you are not feeling too well. Believe me, I know the feeling.

  • Maurizio: Being on the road for so long, can really take its toll. I've been suffering from a sore throat, so I have to avoid trying to talk too much, so I can preserve my voice for the live performance later.

MettleAngel: I understand how that is. I have to save my voice for interviews, as well. Having been so ill earlier this year, I lose my voice very quickly. Did you know I went five straight weeks, while ill, not uttering a single word?

  • Maurizio: Wow, like a monk!

MettleAngel: There is definitely a humbling feeling to not speaking. I've learned to communicate non verbally; especially, with my son. Honestly, I prefer the ascetic, hermetic lifestyle. Am I to understand you have been with Kataklysm since 1998, originally playing bass when Sylvain sang.

  • Maurizio: I've been singing for about ten years now.

MettleAngel: I was never a fan early on, as I did not like the "Northern Hyperblast" sound. Ever since you have been signed with Nuclear Blast, the music has become increasingly more melodic, and memorable.

  • Maurizio: Yes, this is so, and it has taken quite a few years for us to achieve the sound we now have. It has been a real learning process for us to play in this fashion.

MettleAngel: I reviewed Prevail last year for BWBK. Actually Schmier E-mailed me and really enjoyed the review, as did some other famous members of the metal circle. In the last year, I have really come to appreciate the band. I sincerely enjoyed the video for - Taking The World By Storm.

  • Maurizio: Thank You! We started out as this really extreme band, playing chaotic riffs, which were all over the place. Many of our early fans have become encrusted in this style, and are less receptive to the new melodic approach. It has been a challenge to break away from the extreme music world, and show that we have more to offer. We have chosen to become a band based on our influences. Our drummer - Max Duhamel - is a big fan of Maiden and '80's metal. He plays in an AC/DC - less is more - fashion. I grew up with thrash like Sacred Reich & Nuclear Assault. We have truly discovered our niche. This is why the last few records have been successful.

MettleAngel: Congratulations for sticking to your guns, all the hard work is now paying off. When we witnessed your live performance in Chicago, we were quite impressed how tight and intense was your sound and performance. I could really understand your vocals.

  • Maurizio: Honestly, I was never a fan of the guttural vocal approach, because they seemed to become too monotonous. I strive to be brutal, yet understandable.

You possess a strong vocal verisimilitude. I just reviewed the new Pestilence CD. I've always been a supporter of the band. Even though Patrick has a brutal tone, the songs stick with you, and leave their mark. I actually have a few new numbers spinning in my sick skull right now. This is the same with Kataklysm; especially, the songs on Prevail like - Blood In Heaven or The Chains Of Power. There is so much involved with the song structure. This translates well in a live milieu. I suppose this is why you are able to tour with a diversified assortment of metal acts.

  • Maurizio: Kataklysm is versatile enough to tour with many unique bands, from the extreme like -Dying Fetus, to the melodic like - Shadows Fall. We will return to the US with DevilDriver, this autumn. This summer we will tour Europe with our friends in Keep Of Kalessin, and Death Angel for the "Thrash 'N' Burn" dates.

MettleAngel: Those are two other awesome Nuclear Blast acts. Keep Of Kalessin also transcend so many bands of their ilk. We have become good friends with them ever since Wendy interviewed Obsidian, and we saw them on the second leg of Invaluable Darkness, and with you in Chicago. I'm stoked for that new Death Angel DVD. I've even heard that Enigma has re-issued - The Ultra-Violence with the - Heavy Metal Insanity Demos!

  • Maurizio: It is cool to tour with a thrash act, who redefined the genre, and with Keep of Kalessin, who are beyond description.

MettleAngel: I'm also excited to hear Obsidian, Vyl, and Wizziac's side thrash project called - Headspin. Given their influences, which surpass the Black Metal milieu, this sounds quite promising. Obsidian mentioned it would have a strong Coroner element. Let's discuss your involvement with Pagan Fest. You were the main instigator of this for America. How did all this come to be?

  • Maurizio: I pay attention to everything. I'm very circumspect when it comes to music trends, and how the underground operates. When I was in Europe, and abroad, I would see bands like Ensiferum or Korpiklaani making a difference in the metal scene. I saw a need for the American market to be exposed to such great talent. The US was ready for something different, as opposed to the shit they are force-fed through the media, radio, and television. I watched how the metal underground reacted to the music business, how metal heads did not care for rap, country, and pop; and how they followed the European bands with such a fervent loyalty.

MettleAngel: So you had an eye out for the true metal hearts?

  • Maurizio: Definitely, I took a huge gamble on my presuppositions, but in my heart I knew I was right. I could have easily lost everything, but I sensed the time was right for these bands to tour America. I knew if they came over, they would be amazed how many American fans they had. I was right in my thinking, and now we are about to embark on Pagan Fest II, which I know will even be more successful.

MettleAngel: You had some great bands on the tour last year. I'm sure this is what led to the splintered - Pagan Knights Tour with Napalm & SPV acts like SuidAkrA, Týr, and Alestorm (both of whom have new albums due out soon). We are very excited about Korpiklaani on Pagan Fest II. It is a shame Eluveitie dropped out, at the last moment.

  • Maurizio: The economic situation has affected many bands. Eluveitie were just here with us in the fall, and they will be returning soon. I wanted to allow for some new blood on this tour, to give bands like Blackguard from Canada, and Swashbuckle a chance to be recognized.

MettleAngel: Both those bands have been signed to Nuclear Blast, right?

  • Maurizio: Yes, I think so. With My Space, and You Tube, the whole internet is changing. By putting some less familiar acts on the tour, this allows for them to become more recognized.
    The internet is taking over everything. If I am approached by a band about checking out their album, I won't even listen to the CD, I'll just check out their My Space page.

I'm the same way. When a band asks for me to review their demo, I just have them give me a My Space link. Most promos are now digital, too. Let us now discuss your forthcoming project - Ex Deo. They will be on the European Pagan Fest II. Fill me in, on this endeavour.

  • Maurizio: Actually Ex Deo, is a band, and not just a project. It will be very prestigious, but we will only do a few shows, and no major tours, due to my other commitments. The music will be very theatrical, and yet incredible.

MettleAngel: I've seen that Nuclear Blast are really supporting the band. I receive E-mail updates on Ex Deo, almost weekly.

  • Maurizio: I have been publishing weekly blogs about Roman historical facts on the Ex Deo My Space page. You may be reading these.

MettleAngel: That sounds about right. Is the music more death metal, or melodic?

  • Maurizio: The music is difficult for me to describe. It is very epic, and there is a mixture of styles like Amon Amarth, Dimmu, Behemoth, etc. I would describe it as being dark, epic, melodic metal, with no blast beats. I've been wanting to do something like this for quite a long time. Nuclear Blast is 100% behind it. They just made it the cover for their distro magazine, which has like 150,000 copies printed in Germany.

MettleAngel: Wow! That does sound like some strong support!

  • Maurizio: I'll let you in on some more dirt. I have Karl Sanders from Nile contributing a ripping, crazy shredding solo. I also have Nergal from Behemoth, and Obsidian C. from Keep Of Kalessin contributing their talents. I've invested a lot of time in Ex Deo, and I want to give the fans what they've come to expect.

MettleAngel: I'm sure we all will be pleased with the overall outcome. Why did you chose the name Ex Deo. That is Latin for - Coming From God, or Out of the essence of God.

  • Maurizio: Yes, you know your Latin. Actually, it is a legal term associated with the Roman senate. When they passed laws, or when the Emperor issues an edict, he did it - 'Ex Deo' - i.e. as if it came from God (Mars) himself.

MettleAngel: Ah, yes, like the "Deus Vult" or "Fiat" concepts explicated by Cicero, namely, that God's will be done, for the glory of The Republic. Once The Republic became an empire, the emperors viewed themselves as being divine. Whatever they said, you did!

  • Maurizio: In military terms, Mars - The God Of War - mandates the command. Deus means God, but I wanted to use the more Graeco-Roman term Deo, to associate this concept with Ancient Rome, and not the Rome of early Christianity.

I understand, I was just delineating the point between Ancient Rome when they called themselves The Republic, as opposed to as an empire, after the reign of Julius Caesar. How does Ex Deo differ musically from Kataklysm?

  • Maurizio: The fire and passion of Kataklysm is very much present, but the music is more diverse, epic, and at times thrashing. I use some clean vocals, and the guitars have more power and crunch.

MettleAngel: I am very excited to hear this.

  • Maurizio: I want to focus on the pagan thread which made Rome last for almost 700 years. Surprisingly, in metal, this is not a commonly discussed theme. The subject matter is so fascinating to me, as an Italian, personally. This is my culture, and my upbringing. I have always been enthralled by my ancestors. I have been wanting to pursue this for about four years, but now I know this is the right time.

MettleAngel: After the success of the movie - Gladiator, as well as the short lived HBO series - Rome, I do feel there is an avenue for learning more about the Romans. I studied them thoroughly while in college. I have read Michael Grant's voluminous - History Of Rome. Since you are right here in Cincinnati, now would be a good time to mention Cincinnatus, the Roman for whom our city is named.

  • Maurizio: I actually included this in one of my recent blogs.

MettleAngel: I'm amazed how many local Cincinnatians do not know about this famous Roman war hero. They just assume that our city earned her name from the Native Americans, like most other Ohio locals. The cool thing about the general - Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus - is that he retired from battle to become a true pagan, that is farmer; for which the term - paganus renders. In antiquity, a real Roman fought wars, then returned to farm his lands. This was the mark of nobility. After defeating the Aequians, he relinquished his title of dictator to become a humble farmer. He is championed as the model of Roman virtue and simplicity.

  • Maurizio: Wow, you do know your history, I'm impressed. This is why I am doing the blogs, to instruct metal heads on their history, and how we came to be. As an American, just look at Washington D.C., they borrowed heavily from Roman architecture. The Capitol Building strongly resembles the Pantheon, and look how the roads are designed.

MettleAngel: Well, once again in Antiquity, Rome was defined by her roads. Her true success as an empire can be attributed to the saying, "All roads lead to Rome." The roads, bridges, and aqueducts, are why she persevered.

  • Maurizio: Yes, and this enabled the military to conquer new lands. You mentioned the movie - Gladiator - let me show you my tattoos (he shows me the S.P.Q.R. {Senatus Populusque Romanus = "The Senate and Roman People"}), brand on his shoulder. This is a sign of one being a soldier in the military. He also displays his forearm inscribed with the term "invictus" = unconquered, as in spirit, will, and might.

MettleAngel: You truly take all this seriously. I respect that, because through Ex Deo, you will enlighten several minds, the way Karl Sanders has done for Egyptology, through Nile.

  • Maurizio: My latest blog is on the Julian calendar. Julius Caesar invented the calendar which we use to this day.

I know, and Johan Hegg, of Amon Amarth, points out that the days of the week, are all pagan and attributed to Viking Gods, the Sun, and Moon. In Shakespeare's - Julius Caesar play, we read about the saying, "beware the ides of March", this would not make sense, unless we understand there was an older calendar, before Julius Caesar. Interestingly, given his arrogant, pompous, and haughty, self-assuming nature, Julius caesar chose to name the first month after the twin god of good fortune and the divine gates - Janus, but he waited until the lucky seventh month to name it after himself.

  • Maurizio: Man, is there anything you don't know? If I could speak more, we could really elaborate.

MettleAngel: Silly me, I have been inconsiderate of your voice, my bad!

  • Maurizio: You are doing most of the talking, I'm just soaking it in.

MettleAngel: Well, we should bring this to a close. I'm glad you were able to provide me with insight to Ex Deo. I'll review that when it comes out, early this summer. Maurizio, thank you so much for taking the time out, even as sick as you are, to answer my questions, and to get to know me.

  • Maurizio: It has been a lot of fun. Most journalists have little regard for my passions, and ask the same boring questions. You have inspired me, and I have really enjoyed this conversation.

MettleAngel: I have enjoyed our time together, too. Now, I get to look forward to seeing you live again. This club - The Mad Hatter - is not quite as big as The Pearl Room in Chicago. Last night you played Jaxx in Virginia. With it being a Monday, raining, and this being Covington/Cincinnati, I trust you will have a moderate fan base, and decent turn out. I know many old school metal die hards will show to see Napalm Death. Which reminds me, I should curb my voice, as I now have the joy of going to interview Barney Greenway.

  • Maurizio: Have fun with that, and we'll definitely talk more after the show. Hopefully, my voice will hold out.

MettleAngel: That sounds good, take care, and get plenty of rest, until then...

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