Drakkar, who has been around since 1995 and released five full-lenght albums, are still going strong despite numerous lineup changes. Now the band are working on their sixth studio album – with a new lineup. PowerMetal.no had a talk with the only original member, Dario Beretta.
When I saw that you were working on a new album I just had to check in and hear how things are going. So, how is the work with the new album going?
Dario: Very good! The album is written in full, music-wise; we’re working on getting the lyrics finished and we’re arranging the songs. At this stage, many things can still change in the individual songs, but the backbone of the album is there and it sounds good, at least to us, haha!
When do you plan to release it?
Dario: Sometimes next year. Can’t really get into specifics as I don’t really know, too early to tell.
What can you tell me about the new album?
Dario: I can’t really come forward with many details as we’re still looking into different things. However, I can tell you that we’ll have the second part of the “Death From The Depth” saga that began on the latest EP Cold Winter’s Night . And I can also tell you that we’ll have the usual mix of sci-fi and fantasy lyrics which has always been present in all our records.
And musically: what does Drakkar 2018 sound like, what can we expect musically?
Dario: If you heard the EP, well, the new record it’s not going to be too removed from that. It’s going to be a mixture of traditional metal and power metal, much like the two albums and the EP before it. Possibly, we’re going to get even more of the traditional metal vibe in it this time, as we now have a lineup with two guitars, full time, so that makes some things possible which weren’t possible before, like having more guitar harmonies and a slightly more aggressive sound.
Lyric vise, what are the songs about? Is it a concept album of any kind, like some of your previous albums?
Dario: As I mentioned; the usual mix of sci-fi and fantasy stuff. Possibly a bit more on the sci-fi side this time. Marco [Rusconi, guitars] is writing some lyrics, but his contributions fit perfectly into our style, they feel fresh but still 100% Drakkar. No concept, it’s just a collection of different songs. As I’ve always said, I don’t want to do concepts unless I have a really cool idea for a story, or unless it comes natural from working on the individual songs.
How long have you been working on the album, and have everything gone as planned?
Dario: I started writing immediately after the release of Run With The Wolf, 3 years ago. Then we had the lineup changes which slowed the whole process down. At a certain point, right after finding the new members, we decided to go ahead with the 3 songs that were already complete, and record them immediately, in order to get something out with the new lineup, and that’s how the EP Cold Winter’s Night was born.
So basically, most of the songs have been created between 2015 and 2017. And this year, after the EP came out, I wrote some others to replace the ones that had gone on the EP. Now we’re arranging the whole stuff together with the new lineup and hopefully this new album will express all of our current potential. I can’t wait to get into the studio, frankly.
Drakkar is one of the veterans in the genre, being around since 1995. The first album, Quest For Glory, was released in 1998 when the scene was blossoming of new and great power metal bands. How would you describe the development of the power metal scene, and how has Drakkar changed musically during those years?
Dario: Well, we were in the thick of it, right when power metal was at the height of its popularity, and this certainly helped us back then. Unfortunately, the market was quickly saturated, also because we saw a lot of bands from other subgenres, like a lot of prog metal bands, suddenly starting to release power metal albums to piggyback on the success of acts like Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian and so on. And therefore in a few years power metal went back to being more of an underground thing. Which is not necessarily bad, mind you.
For us as a band, we have grown up a lot. Sometimes I think at the enthusiasm and energy we had back then and I miss that, but still, I wouldn’t trade it with the maturity I have now as a composer for anything. Musically, I think we evolved from a pure power metal band to a much more traditional-metal influenced kind of power.
There has been a number of lineup changes during the years, how has that affected the band? And how is the situation now?
Dario: It’s obviously been a problem. And when I compare our situation with my other band, Crimson Dawn, which has been the very same guys for almost 8 years now, it’s pretty easy to see that a band which doesn’t have lineup changes has an easier time and a faster turnaround in terms of coming up with new material and recording it. I guess that’s the reason why I took 2 of the Crimson Dawn guys with me in Drakkar as well in recent years; to be with people that I know aren’t going anywhere any time soon, haha. Jokes aside, I think the current lineup is great, there’s a lot of enthusiasm and hopefully this will last a long time.
After the 2002 album Razorblade God, the band had a break, and didn’t release anything until 2007 and the EP Classified. How was those years, and what happened?
Dario: Many things. Mainly, we lost our original drummer who relocated to another country and we were unable to fill that role for a longt time. Fact is, Chris [Christian Fiorani] was very important for the band, in more than one way, and it was very difficult for us to really accept someone else in his place. Also, we were all transitioning from being students to having to work for a living, so for a while, we couldn’t make the band our priority anymore, especially after the poor reception – not from critics, but in terms of sales, for Razorblade God. Of course, we didn’t realize at the time that the loss of sales was probably also due to illegal download starting to become a real threat for the industry. Anyway, we didn’t give up, and here we are.
In 2012 you made a “comeback” with the album When Lightning Strikes, considered as one of the bands best album. That must have felt good?
Dario: Of course. It was like coming out from the longest tunnel and finally see the light again. Also, the album came out very good. It was an ambitious project that came to fruition in a really nice way, so it was definitely something that gave us very good feelings. It also allowed us to start playing live again after a period in which we only did a handful of shows. Also, When Lightning Strikes started our collaboration with Mat and Elnor Studio, which has been an essential part of my musical life for years now, with both Drakkar and Crimson Dawn.
And since then you have been back for good, releasing another album, Run With The Wolf in 2015, and the EP Cold Winter’s Night. I am impressed how you never gave up on the band, but kept on going. Where you ever in doubt? Did you at some point think that it isn’t worth it?
Dario: There have been a few times when I kind of felt like that, yes. Especially around 2008/2009. I kind of felt like there was no interest at all in the band, we were still without a drummer, it was tough times. We made a vow with the lineup that was active back then, to at least finish the album, When Lightning Strikes, and publish it. We were like “we cannot have wasted all the efforts we made so far on this. We have to get it done. And then we’ll see”. If that record hadn’t been well received, I might have given up, but that wasn’t the case. So, here we are, 6 years later, still fighting with shit in our day to day life, but still pursuing another record and a future for the band. At this point, I don’t see myself stopping anymore until the day I just run out of ideas for new songs. We’re nowhere near that point, though, so… we keep on going!
What are the plans after the forthcoming release? Concert, festivals? And how do you look at the future of Drakkar; are you back for good?
Dario: Like I said, we aren’t going anywhere as long as there is life in these old bones; ideas for new songs, passion for music. We are planning some shows next year as well as the recordings of the new album and then we’ll see what happens. We cannot work very fast I’m afraid, but I’d rather come out with a record that I’m proud of than rushing something out of the gate. There’s no need for that. This is not work for us – it’s a labor of love.