About Me

Interview with Forgotten Tomb

Forgotten Tomb have just unleashed their tenth studio album “Nihilistic Estrangement” and it opens a new chapter of the band and possibly a new trilogy. Musically speaking there are references to all of the band's eras but it sounds very refreshing and extremely personal… it's 100% Forgotten Tomb. The lyrics and concepts on this album are extremely misanthropic. The album's cover artwork is a painting, specifically drawn for this release by artist Paolo Girardi.  Metal Imperium talked to vocalist and guitarist Ferdinando “Herr Morbid” Marchisio regarding the release of the new album in this time of pandemic and their expectations about the near future. Read on…

M.I. - First off, congratulations on the new album “Nihilistic estrangement”!

The album title was chosen before the world was affected by the corona virus but it seems to fit in perfectly with the current situation, wouldn’t you agree?
Thanx. Yeah, the album kinda dropped at the right moment, even if the original meaning of the title (and title-track) has more to do with a personal mental estrangement from the outside world and from modern times, than a physical estrangement. Still, often the two things go hand in hand, so speaking for myself I’d say the whole lockdown thing only exacerbated my usual estrangement. Strangely enough, the album also features a track titled “RBMK” where the lyrics invoke some sort of global disaster that terminates mankind, which sounds a lot like a sinister coincidence considering what happened with the whole Covid-19 pandemia shortly afterwards.

M.I. - According to the press release, “Nihilistic estrangement” captures the essence of Forgotten Tomb. What is your essence anyway?

If you mean as a person, it’s a very difficult question which I’m afraid I’m unable to reply to. In regards to the band, we didn’t write that, the label did, so it’s also a difficult question but I’d probably say the essence of FT is something related to melancholy, negativity, misanthropy and nihilism. It’s related to a dark and pessimistic vision of life and social relations. Musically speaking, it’s the embodiment of all these things and the constant research for new ways of expressing those feelings in music. 

M.I. - This is the band’s tenth studio album. Does producing an album get easier as times goes by?

Not really, cause we always try to make something different with every album so, over the years, we worked with different producers, even from abroad, tried different studios and techniques, etc. This time in particular I decided to produce the album myself and our bass-player Alex mixed it, so we couldn’t fuck up! It was hard work, with grueling 15 hours sessions and stuff like that, but it was worth it. 

M.I. - These days, albums are super produced and that’s one of the reasons you used some vintage analog techniques for “Nihilistic Estrangement”. In terms of sound, what are the main differences between this album and the previous one? The album was mastered by Jack Control at Enormous Door Studios (Darkthrone, Aura Noir, Martyrdod), produced by vocalist and guitarist Ferdinando “Herr Morbid” Marchisio, and mixed by bassist Alessandro “Algol” Comerio. How long was the process? How easy/complicated was it?

We worked with some renowned producers over the last years but we wanted something different this time, since as you said all productions these days seem to sound the same, especially drum-wise; everything is over-produced, all guitars sound like if they used digital plugins and such, and it’s incredibly boring. Those albums won’t stand the test of time, and I wanted something that had its own personality instead. So, you gotta look at what the greats of hard rock and heavy metal did in the past, when every band had its own peculiar sound and you can still listen to those classics ‘cause they sound timeless. I decided to produce the album myself and I personally chose microphones for all instruments, using the same 60s/70s vintage equipment used by AC/DC (and other bands of that era) on the three albums between ’78-’80, as well as playing on some vintage instruments and amps from the early 80s. We also tracked everything on analog tapes. I wanted the performances of the musicians to stand out and the overall sound to be more faithful to our live-shows, every band should have its own sound on a record as opposed to the trend of today where pretty much all albums and bands seem to sound the same. We then mixed with our bass-player Alex and did the mastering at Enormous Door in Texas cause they also got analog equipment and Jack Control worked with bands who were striving for a similar approach such as Darkthrone or Poison Idea. The overall result sounds warmer and slightly unpolished than today’s records, but it’s got balls and character, it stands out compared to the generic productions which are popular lately. We’ll go this route in the future too, with some slight adjustments. “Nihilistic Estrangement” recording, mixing and mastering process took around 10-15 days in total, divided in one main session and some other days here and there since we used two studios + the one for the mastering. 

M.I. - Your discography has always been divided by trilogies and it’s kind of your trademark. So, supposedly, the 10th album also marks the start of a new trilogy. What’s it about this time around? How will it enfold?

Yes, all our albums are divided by trilogies, it started out as a casualty but now it became some sort of tradition. Every trilogy features some sort of similar sound between the albums, even if we like to always make each album different; but if you compare “Songs To Leave”, “Springtime Depression” and “Love’s Burial Ground” they all have things in common and they’re all considered depressive black metal classics, “Negative Megalomania”, “Vol 5” and “Under Saturn Retrograde” marked a different era of the band, with the introduction of some clean vocals and more progressive structures and unusual elements, while “…And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil”, “Hurt Yourself and The Ones You Love” and “We Owe You Nothing” shared the increased heaviness of the sound and and sludgier elements. “Nihilistic Estrangement” opens the 4th trilogy so I guess the next two will follow in its footsteps, at least in the general approach, but with FT you can always expect some surprises especially since I’m the first who never knows where the next album will lead me. I let the inspiration guide me through songwriting and it depends a lot on what is going on in my life at that particular moment. I also like to find a niche that is relatively unexplored musically, so I usually try to shake things up a little and try to sound somewhat fresh and different from the other bands, I like to retain our trademark sound but at the same time to be hard to be pigeonholed. I am happy when somebody says that we don’t sound like any other band cause we sound like FT. It’s really difficult these days to come up with something entirely innovative but there’s still space for mixing things up and making a sound of your own. 

M.I. - The primary lyrical themes of Forgotten Tomb have been centered on depression, isolation, estrangement and nihilism. Quite fitting for these awkward times the world is living in, right? What keeps inspiring you in these themes?

I always took inspiration from my own life and experiences and from things I see happening around me, to people I know or from the world in general. I never really went into fantasy-related territories with FT, it’s a very reality-based band, usually with a very urban approach to the themes developed throughout the albums. For a reason or the other my life has never been particularly happy, I went through a lot of personal shit, crossed paths with death quite a few times (mostly due to car accidents, but also general self-destruction) and suffered physically from a number of issues with my health, so let’s say I never really had much positive things to look forward to during my existence and when I did, they didn’t last long. I always faced all my struggles as a man, but even if I kept soldiering on all these things left scars, physical and mental, and parts of myself died over the years. So my lyrics at times try to convey some of this suffering and at the same time they’re very hateful cause I don’t like humanity at all. There’s always something inspiring to write about cause life sucks 90% of the time and people suck the whole time. So it’s not that as a band we feel forced to follow a script to fit our image or such, simply usually there’s nothing positive to write about and when I live a relatively uneventful or peaceful moment in life I just don’t write lyrics for FT.

M.I. - The record ends on a high note, as “RBMK” brings it all to a big, brutal, Black Metal finish. What does RBMK stand for? 

It means “Reaktor Bolšoj Moščnosti Kanalnyj” and it was the reactor who exploded and caused the Chernobyl disaster. The lyrics were written during a moment of extreme frustration and they basically invoke a global disaster which wipes away the human race. I chose the name of the reactor to imply a nuclear disaster but it  could have been anything really, even Covid-19 or something else. It’s more about the concept itself rather than the type of disaster or plague. Musically speaking, it’s one of the most Black Metal sounding songs we ever did, I wanted to do something apocalyptic and relentless a-la “Transilvanian Hunger” and I put weird arpeggios and dissonances over the whole song to create a feeling of disorientation. If you listen to it at high volume, towards the end you’ll feel like your head is spinning, like if you’re drunk or stoned, cause the relentless speed and the circular arpeggios really drive you sick. So it’s basically a traditional Black Metal song, a throwback to the atmosphere the genre had in the mid-90s (which I lived throughout) but with some sort of hypnotic, haze-inducing quality due to the arrangements I put over it. We decided to put it in the end of the album cause it sounds quite different from the rest of the material and it works well as a closing song, since it comes unexpected while retaining an eerie feeling.  

M.I. - The tracklist includes nods to the band’s whole back-catalogue. Why have you decided to do it? To do something special with the 10th album? As a kind of celebration?

It wasn’t really intentional and we don’t care much about anniversaries. I went through some sort of writer’s block between “We Owe You Nothing” and “Nihilistic Estrangement” but now that I got over it I feel very inspired, like if we started out fresh as a band with this latest album. I basically realized I was over-complicating my songwriting in latest years so I stripped things down a bit and just focused on writing good songs like the old rock bands used to do. This mindset benefited me greatly and I basically made peace with my own creative process. It’s important for me to always be original while staying true to our trademark sound but I feel sometimes in the recent past I was even too concerned with being labeled in a certain way; this time I decided to shut the world outside, be it fans expectations or band members expectations, and I just let the songs flow out of my hands onto the guitar, without thinking too much about it. I wrote and demoed the bulk of the songs in two weeks or so and the guys of my band then listened to it and said it was the best stuff I wrote in years, then I knew I had been doing the right thing. We did three rehearsals and went straight into the recording studio. I wrote lyrics along the way. I think the album includes elements from all of our previous records and maybe it has a bit more of a black metal feeling than the last album we did, but at the same time it’s got some really weird stuff like southern, hard rock and blues influences, which have been part of our sound at least since “Negative Megalomania” but they’re more evident here, especially because of the stripped down production. You’ve got slide guitars and blues licks, but you also got twin guitars solos or delay effects which hark back to the 80s dark-wave, like on the title track. There’s also a fast, hypnotic black metal song which sounds very old-school. It’s a varied album, considering it’s got just six songs, but at the same time I think it sounds very cohesive. I like to call it “black rock” cause it ain’t 100% black metal but it ain’t black’n’roll either. It’s “black rock”, or “blues black”, I don’t know if it makes any sense but it’s certainly different from what’s going on these days in metal. 

M.I. - The artwork comes from a recurring dream you had. Care to tell us more about it? 

The idea for the cover comes from a recurring dream that I had; the painting has to be seen from a point of view perspective, since in my dream I was walking on a trail surrounded by these gigantic waterfalls, with water slowly rising beneath my feet while at the horizon I could see this wild, hostile land devoid of any human civilization. So I provided a draft to the artist Paolo Girardi and I explained him my dream and he came up with the painting, which is amazing. We wanted an artwork in the vein of the records of the early 90s, those albums that you would buy just based on the incredible covers; the artworks of Dan Seagrave, Kristian Wahlin or Andreas Marschall. We have a great artist in Italy such as Paolo, which is also getting well-deserved international recognition these days, so there was no need to ask others. He gets the job done very fast and he’s a easy going, no-nonsense guy, so we got along well. 

M.I. - How strange will it be releasing an album and not being able to do its promotion properly? In your opinion, will it affect sales? How has it affected Forgotten Tomb so far?

For the moment it didn’t affect sales, it’s actually selling better than the previous album. Having a lockdown was somehow beneficial cause most people weren’t distracted by hanging out, working and such, so they listened to music the whole time and they had time to focus on the record. Also, I suppose when you’re home bored and you can’t go out you don’t spend much money, so if you listen to something you like maybe you feel like ordering the physical copy right away as a gratification. I also bought a lot of records during these times. Of course not being able to promote the album with live-shows and tours, which were already in the works, will probably affect the staying power of the record in the long run, especially considering nowadays you get new releases coming out the whole time. Hopefully when we’re allowed to play live again people will still be curious to hear the material live, since it’s never been played so potentially will still be fresh. We’ll see what happens.

M.I. - Being a nihilist yourself, have these days made you change your mind somehow? Do you trust or do you hate humanity even more now? Have you ever wished for something like this to happen to humanity? Do you believe mankind is the one to blame for what is happening? Is Nature finally taking its vengeance?

I always preached my dislike for human kind both in lyrics and interviews so I’d be lying now if I said that I care. Of course I care about my family, bandmates, close friends and pets, but that’s always been my way of thinking even before this plague, so it’s nothing new. The way the world was going in the last 20 years was downhill and self-destructive anyway, so one way or the other I suppose humanity had to pay the price sooner or later. As they say, Karma is a bitch, isn’t it? Also, the whole development of the virus worldwide prompted some unexpectedly retarded reactions from some groups of people that once more made me wish for immediate human extinction. Human stupidity is really beyond any limit. I try to avoid watching TV and reading stuff on the social networks cause they just piss me off. 

M.I. - What can fans expect of Forgotten Tomb in the near future? A tour? Have you rescheduled the tours you had planned?

We were rescheduling our european tour for October but it’s unlikely that it will happen at this point. We were also due to finally tour the fuckin' USA but it also got postponed so hopefully sometime in 2021. I suppose we’ll play somewhere in the end of 2020 if it’s possible, but I expect 2021 to be the time when we’ll finally tour again properly. It really sucks being unable to play live since we are basically a live-band and that’s our main source of income as a band. Also, the new album is doing really good and touring to support it would have been really cool and successful too I think. I really miss the stage.

M.I. - Have you been working on new material in these days of quarantine? Is the second album of this trilogy already in the making? What can you tell us about it?

I already started writing some stuff, but I’m in a really early stage. This new album was written in a very short amount of time and recorded straight away; I like to work under pressure cause I often come up with some urgency in the sound and some good ideas, but at the same time it’s really stressful and with this new album it was a little too much. So next time I want to be ready for the studio with quite some advance so I don’t have to go crazy to finish everything when the studio-time gets booked. 

M.I. - The band is considered to be one of the true originators of the "Depressive Black Metal" sub-genre. How does it feel to be considered such an influence for a genre? How does it feel being a kind of “idol” to some people?

I think it’s good that many people recognize us among the first ones to define a whole subgenre, it’s an important accomplishment that I think we deserve fully. Nobody was really playing this stuff when I recorded the first album “Songs To Leave”, and even compared to some of our peers who were mainly black metal-oriented we had a huge dose of doom and dark-wave that was uncommon; also the whole urban imagery and the themes we explored in the lyrics were really uncommon back then. For younger people approaching “DSBM” today we are probably one of many, but it’s important to remember that back then things were different; I took a lot of shit from black metal purists. The acronym “DSBM” didn’t even exist in the early 2000s, so it’s funny to think that now is somehow a fashionable style to play. This said, the stuff I created on the first three albums became soon a trend around 2005 so I started searching for different ways to evolve the style and the rest is history. I don’t like what people call “DSBM” today and I think it can’t be compared to the early FT albums in any way for a number of reasons. It wasn’t supposed to be a subgenre in the first place, it was just a handful of bands with some things in common and I wish it stayed like that. I have no interest in being an “idol” or whatever, I appreciate being respected for what I’ve created though; since we didn’t became a mainstream band and there was a generational turnover, I think a lot of younger people still don’t know that some of the bands they now listen to were heavily influenced by FT. Like it or not, without FT things would have been very different by now and maybe we wouldn’t talk about a “DSBM” scene.

M.I. - The band’s been in the scene for over 20 years now… What have you learnt so far? Did you ever imagine it would turn out this way?

I actually hoped things would turn out way better than they did after 20 years but hey, I’ve got to live with that I guess haha. What I learned is to trust no one and to follow my own way, even if unfortunately being uncompromising won’t make you famous most of the time. I also learned the hard work never really stops. There’s still people who don’t know who we are. Also, the so-called “scene” changed a lot in 20 years and I don’t like how things are today. Too many useless bands, too many keyboard warriors, too many SJW (social justice warriors), too many hipsters who have nothing to do with metal, too much hype for copycat bands who invented nothing, too much hype for image and lack of culture in music. I think metal today is pretty much crap, talent and originality unfortunately are not the most important things as they should be, but you’ve got to live with it. I certainly did some mistakes too, “live and learn” as they say. For younger bands it’s easier these days in a way, cause with the internet you’ve got a lot more information and you can learn things that back in the days you had to figure out by yourself. 

M.I. - Is there anything else you’d like to add? All the best for Forgotten Tomb and the upcoming album! Stay safe!

Thanx for the interview. You can buy our latest album pretty much everywhere. We also have a Bandcamp page where you can support the band directly: 
We hope to see all the fans at our live-shows as soon as possible. Cheers!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca