Italian progressive symphonic metal band DEGREES OF TRUTH are going to drop their new, third album “Alchemists” via Scarlet Records on June 23rd. The album was not named after the boardgame, neither has it anything to do with a person who was versed in the art of alchemy a long, long time ago. The real reason why it’s called “Alchemists“ will be revealed in this interview that we had with Claudia Beltrame, who’s voice can now be heard for the first time on a DEGREES OF TRUTH full-length album. So keep on reading…
INTERVIEW BY: HENK VAN NIEUWENHOVEN
SINCE YOU JOINED DEGREES OF TRUTH IN 2020, “ALCHEMISTS” WILL BE THE FIRST ALBUM WITH YOU ON LEAD VOCALS. BUT WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THEIR FIRST TWO ALBUMS, “THE REINS OF LIFE” (2016) AND “TIME TRAVEL ARTIFACT” (2019)?
I know them pretty well, since I’ve been performing songs taken from both albums from the very beginning. I love the airy, complex songs in “The Reins Of Life” and the more melodical and intense tracks of “Time Travel Artifact”. I also admire the beautiful, articulated and emotional lyrics.
ALL THREE DEGREES OF TRUTH ALBUM COVERS HAVE THE SAME DESIGN, THE LOGO HASN’T CHANGED AND THE COLOUR BLUE PREDOMINATES. IS THIS DELIBERATELY DONE SO?
We actually decided to change the logo color from white to gold since it is more suitable to the concept of “Alchemy” explored in our third album. The two previous artworks are by the famous Gustavo Sazes (Epica, Kamelot, Arch Enemy), while the current one is an elaboration of an original picture by Martin Perzul. The teal color of the background is the common thread between the three, which we think is representative of the band, but in this case we opted for a more minimalistic cover art.
HOW DID THE BAND APPROACH YOU? WAS IT BECAUSE THEY KNEW YOU PERSONALLY ALREADY OR FROM YOUR WORK WITH FORMER BAND HOLY SHIRE AND YOUR OTHER BAND, SILENT ANGEL?
We met in 2018 on stage, they were opening at my previous band Holy Shire’s release party. The following year I left Holy Shire and in December 2019 they asked me to join them, since they had decided that the band had to undergo radical changes in order to be more competitive. Daniele (Brianza – guitar) and Lorenzo (Corsalini – bass) had joined DEGREES OF TRUTH just a few months before me.
TOGETHER WITH YOU ALSO CAME A MULTI-ALBUM DEAL WITH ITALIAN LABEL SCARLET RECORDS. DID YOU HAVE ANY HAND IN THAT?
I’ve known Scarlet for many years through friends and acquaintances in the music industry. They had been watching me for some years doing live shows in the area with my Nightwish tribute band Wishmasters, so they knew I had some experience and skills. My presence was important for us to be considered by the label, but we know that without very good material and production we would have not been able to close the deal with them. So, yes, they trusted me, but it was a combination of factors that convinced them.
YOUR FIRST TWO RELEASES WITH DEGREES OF TRUTH WERE THE SINGLES “FLIGHTMARE” AND “OVER THE TIDE”, BOTH FROM THE NEW ALBUM. DID YOU FEEL AT HOME RIGHT AWAY WHEN YOU WERE IN THE STUDIO WITH THE REST OF THE BAND?
We weren’t all together in the studio for the official recordings: we did it separately, supervised by Gianluca (Parnisari – keyboards/piano), who also acted as producer. First, they recorded the drums and then, when I was in Malaysia playing with my other band Silent Angel, they recorded the keyboards, the bass and the guitar. I was the last one to enter the studio: four intense and exhausting days. We had found our chemistry during the songwriting process and during the preproduction, so yes, I can say I felt at home immediately.
I think life is defined by many colors, and limiting ourselves to the dichotomy of black versus white not only doesn’t help us describe reality, but also causes us to miss the beauty of it.”
– CLAUDIA BELTRAME –
“FLIGHTMARE” HAS AN OFFICIAL VIDEO TO GO WITH THE SINGLE. WAS THIS THE FIRST TIME EVER THAT YOU RECORDED A VIDEO?
Technically it wasn’t my first, since we shot three with Silent Angel that have not been released yet, but it’s my first real music video to come out officially. It was very straightforward and it didn’t take too long compared to the others, but since we needed to stay focused for hours we were super tired in the end. The most tiring process is always the loading and unloading of equipment, as it is for live shows, even if this time we had a little crew to help us. I can say it went smoothly, without any bumps, aside from the floor fan not working, so we had to use a hair dryer for the last scenes.
WHY IS THE ALBUM CALLED “ALCHEMISTS”? IS THERE A CENTRAL THEME?
The alchemy we refer to is metaphorical: we as a band found a perfect chemistry during the songwriting for the first time, since only Gianluca and Luca (Ravezzani – drums) were in the original line-up that produced the two previous albums. The title track is a hymn to the joy of creating together something unique and meaningful, while also deepening our personal friendship. The other songs are not related to this concept, but we have two mini suites: one including “Flightmare”, “Wreckage Of A Lifetime” and “Misconnection”, that describe a plane accident with two different endings, another consisting of “Thread Of Life” and “Bound To Rise”, a coming-of-age story from birth to middle age. The subtle line that connects all the songs is the need to free ourselves from any psychological constraint, be in the moment and live our life to the fullest.
WHO ARE THE GUEST PLAYERS ON “ALCHEMISTS”?
We have two guest guitarists: Khaled Abbas on the second solo of “Over The Tide”, and Richard Henshall on the solo of “Bound To Rise”. They are both role models to our axeman, Daniele. The former is his guitar teacher at the Modern Music Institute and guitarist of Michele Luppi (Vision Divine, Mr Pig, Whitesnake), while the latter is the super talented guitar player of Haken, a progressive metal band we all appreciate.
“ALCHEMISTS” OPENS WITH THE BEAUTIFUL, ALMOST ENNIO MORRICONE-LIKE CINEMATIC INSTRUMENTAL “IMPERFECT CONCOCTION”. WHO WROTE THIS MASTERPIECE?
The main composer is Gianluca, our keyboardist and founder. He is the one who wrote “Imperfect Concoction” all by himself. Unlike all the other songs from the album, he is the one who laid out an initial draft of the songs, while I added all the vocal lines and lyrics. The other band members contributed a lot in varying proportions depending on the song, but Daniele is also a big contributor for the central melodies and songs’ concepts. Gianluca is an estimator of Morricone and other famous composers, like Hans Zimmer, so there are little tributes to them scattered throughout the record.
THE SECOND SINGLE “OVER THE TIDE” HAS A VISUALIZER VIDEO WITH TWO CLAUDIA’S (!) AND GUITARIST DANIELE BRIANZA. WHAT ELSE CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THIS SONG?
Yes, there are two Claudia‘s and I didn’t use a body double, hahah. This is one song I personally wrote from scratch and later proposed to the band, so it’s particularly dear to me. It’s the story of a hypothetical gender transition, with all the doubts and internal conflict it entails. I used lyrics with a looser meaning, only suggesting the topic, since I think it could be seen as the struggle of each of us trying to fit society’s expectations, and in every case being true to ourselves it’s the only way to be finally happy and fulfilled. We consider it the catchiest and ’poppy’ track, very different from the other works by DEGREES OF TRUTH.
“MISCONNECTION” IS A DIFFERENT TRACK AS THE OTHERS WITH A HIGH WITHIN TEMPTATION LEVEL, ESPECIALLY IN YOUR VOICE. ON “FLIGHTMARE” YOU SOUND LIKE BEYOND THE BLACK’S JENNIFER HABEN IN THE LOWER REGIONS. WHO ELSE HAVE YOU BEEN COMPARED TO?
I love Jennifer Haben so it’s a huge compliment, thank you! Most people in Italy know me from my Nightwish tribute band, so I’ve been mostly compared to Tarja Turunen for my operatic register and to Floor Jansen for my mixed voice. The highest parts of “Misconnection” are my personal tribute to After Forever, who are a great inspiration to me, especially Jansen and her singing style when she was with them.
MY FAVOURITES ON “ALCHEMISTS” ARE “THREAD OF LIFE”, BECAUSE OF THE MANY DIFFERENT ELEMENTS IT CONTAINS, AND “BOUND TO RISE”, WHICH IS SURPRISINGLY PROGRESSIVE. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SONG?
I’m glad you like our progressive side. It’s very hard for me to choose because I love all of them, but I’d probably say “Alchemists”, because of the mood changes within the different parts and the cinematic vibes.
IN THE MEANTIME, YOU HAVE RELEASED A THIRD SINGLE AND VIDEO FOR THE TITLE TRACK?
The video for “Alchemists” was released on June 8th. That’s the one that took more time to shoot and the most elaborate between the three. We wanted to experiment with the colors of the background to refer to the lyrics – “New colors stain the canvas in the mind” – and we think it does represent them well.
DEGREES OF TRUTH PLAYED WITH REASONS BEHIND AT THE ALCHEMICA MUSIC CLUB IN BOLOGNA ON MAY 26TH TO CELEBRATE THE RELEASE OF THEIR ALBUM “ARCHITECTURE OF AN EGO” AND ON JUNE 24 BOTH BANDS WILL MEET AGAIN AT THE LEGEND CLUB IN MILANO FOR THE RELEASE OF “ALCHEMISTS”. YOU RETURN THE FAVOUR? WHAT ARE THE CHANCES BOTH BANDS WILL GO ON TOUR THROUGH EUROPE?
We decided with our label that, with our albums’ releases just a few weeks apart, it would be a good choice to schedule some shows together, that’s why we planned to share the stage in Bologna and Milan. We are currently organizing some future shows, but we can’t disclose details yet.
BY THE WAY, HOW MANY ‘DEGREES OF TRUTH’ ARE THERE IN LIFE?
I think life is defined by many colors, and limiting ourselves to the dichotomy of black versus white not only doesn’t help us describe reality, but also causes us to miss the beauty of it. The world is complicated and the earlier we recognize this, the better our view and growth as human beings.