Reviews from "The Final Stage"

Review & Interview Heavy Metal Pages (Poland) 04.10.21 - Posted in The Final Stage reviews Interview (pages 58/59)
Review (page 164)
by Sam O'Black
Heavy Metal Pages (issue october 2021)

How can a heavy metal album 2021 attract the interest of a wider audience? A cool cover? Outstanding compositional level? Broad inspirations from different genres? Old-school atmosphere? Executive freedom? A thought-provoking message in the lyrics? Whatever it is, distant past probably has it. After all, "The Final Stage" is a complete album, fit for the most exposed place in any music store in the world. The reason why this is not so is the promotion of antiquity. Looking at Empik's website, in the "Heavy Sounds" category, the overpriced Metallica, Testament and even Turbo and Acid Drinkers lure you to the forefront with their "low price". Okay, maybe I'll try (over a million releases): sorted by release date, from the latest - I see Paradise Lost, Motörhead, Black Sabbath ... Starocie. Is this also the case in local convenience stores? Seriously? The world of heavy metal must probably look very different to people who buy new music in stores than it does to people who follow the action on stage. I remember how many times I went to the Polish music store during my school days, found nothing interesting, and returned frustrated to my hectic everyday life. I wondered if I had to listen to what the stores put under my nose, I stopped feeling the metal for a while, or is the scene sterile? Just reading the Heavy Metal Pages was overwhelming with the enormity of fascinating releases that were worth my miters. It just had to be ordered one at a time. It probably happens that it's not the listeners who lose the bug, but their source of their favorite music dries up. You can still search Spotify, YouTube, etc., but a cursory approach can overlook any music that requires a deeper focus. If you've been reaching for "Heavy Metal Pages" as a source of successful heavy metal albums, I recommend checking out Distant Past "The Final Stage." They are not debutants, having been around since 2001 and just released their fourth LP, but as a regular band, Distant Past is something new (previously just a studio project). Their latest music sounds unremarkable, maybe even average, but this is the first listening session. I give you my word that he can only eventually pick himself up and reveal his individual qualities. I'll say more - its main message is the call to slay the dragon, i.e. to leave the comfort zone. Musicians will feel that their mission has been successfully accomplished, looking at the world from a slightly different perspective (the bandleader talks about this in more detail in the interview). Also, not everything is invented in heavy metal yet, because it can still evoke other thoughts and fresh feelings. It's worth taking advantage of the priceless and sharing it with friends. When I look at the scores I give to other albums, these four fit the bill the best, because the heavy metal scene is packed with great news. (4)

Breaks, yawns, boils, hums, spits and pulses, but "the most important thing is how it was made, if it sounds plausible and if the creator's idea has a chance to reach the right audience". - says bassist, composer and singer Adriano Troiano after the release of his latest album Distant Past, entitled. "The Final Stage. Apparently solid, but nothing special, traditional heavy metal. Only on closer inspection of this music does it become clear that it gives us a kick to get out of our comfort zone. The fact that not everything that is classically heavy has already been invented becomes clear when we look at the purpose of making and listening to music from a different perspective.

Do you consider Distant Past to be a regular heavy metal band or rather a studio project with occasional live shows?

Distant Past started our as my studio project, where I was joined by friends and guest to create some albums, as I had many songs I wanted to bring to life. Only after “Rise of the Fallen”(the concept album featuring Agnus McFive from “Gloryhammer”), we wanted to play live. With the help of some bandmates from my former group “Emerald” we did a one-off Live Show. After that everyone encouraged me to continue, so I formed a real band. The first line up didn’t work out, so I searched for new guys, to do a new record and record new songs, as a unit.

-How do you learn playing your own songs, considering the new Distant Past line-up and the hope for playing live in the future?

Well, we started from the beginning and rehearsed the new songs until we we’re happy, everyone could voice his opinion and we arranged the songs together. So, the live feeling was there, as opposed to the Studio Project Albums. Of course, we learned some old songs in the process. Everybody prepares at home and in rehearsals we play them until we are satisfied. It’s cool to hear the old songs interpreted by the new guys. Of course, now we want to play live, so we wait until we can hit the stage. 

-Was it a challenge for you to make new songs more accessible than songs on your previous albums? Does “simpler” means “more listener-oriented” in your case? Is it difficult for you to look at your music from fans’ perspective?

I just decided to pick other songs and write some new songs, which weren’t overtly long and had choruses that you could sing along. In the Past, I wanted to tell stories through music, so many songs were progressive in structure. “The Hell of Verdun” from Utopian Void is about World War 1, so I wanted to create a song, that is a journey musically, so it’s not straight and narrow, but has lots of mood changes and different dynamics. With the new line up, it was a new beginning, so I chose to write more accessible music. I really appreciated it, if the fans and the listeners like the music, but we do our music to please ourselves. But the decision was right, as the new album seems to please a lot of people.


-You are the main composer in Distant Past therefore songs are usually based on bass. How big impact does it have on final harmonies of your song?


Yes, I play bass in the band and on the recordings, which gives me more time to concentrate on the recording, writing, and arranging side of things. I write all my songs on guitar, seldom on bass. I just have the luck to work with great guitar players, that are so much better than me. I can rely on them to play awesome solos and create additional melodies. 


-How do you handle “noise reduction” during editing your songs in studio? Does sound-wall (that is everywhere on “The Final Stage”) helps you to meet expectations of audiophiles or makes it even more complicated?


To be honest: the magic happens in the mixing phase. We work together with VO Pulver (Poltergeist, Gurd), he is the best Metal Producer around, he makes the songs sound like a million bucks! 
When we record, we usually record every instrument on its own. Whoever is recording chooses what he wants to hear on the headphones, so he is comfortable. The Wall of Sound is created in the mixing stage, while we recorded several takes of the same rhythm guitar with 4 different microphones and 2 different amp set ups. The other guitar was recorded with the help of a digital modeler called Kemper. And it worked! 


-What symbolize “dragon” in song called “Kill The Dragon”? What makes this song perfect as an album opener?


“Kill the Dragon” of “Kill the Demon”, as it first was called, was the last song I ever wrote for my old band “Emerald”, I rediscovered it and wanted it to be put on the album. It’s really about letting go and leaving one’s comfort zone. It was supposed to have a little misleading title. So the dragon is you inner fear to try something new and not to follow the old patterns. When we had all the songs for the album, it made perfect sense to put it at the beginning, it incorporates everything Distant Past 2021 is about. 


-Was the guitar solo in “Staring At The Stars” incorporated from Middle East style or not at all?


I had to asked Lorenz about it and he confirms that it was his intention to write it in middle eastern style. There is an old swiss folk song “Guggisberg”, which is the only swiss folk song in minor scale. So, he was inspired by this song. And the mentioned mountain in the song, is near from where he lives, so he remembered a clear night, when he went up there with a girl and watched the stars.


-I got an impression from my visit in Lucerne two years ago that Switzerland seems to be engaged in international military missions. The Lion Monument dedicated to Swiss Guards participating in the French Revolution is one thing. I remember a loud crowd walking in the middle of the street in Lucerne and screaming. Well, I asked somebody and got an emotional answer that it is about Erdogan!

It could have been the Turkish people criticizing their leader from abroad. But I don’t know. We have lots of demonstrations also for problems that are not directly about our country. We have a democratic system that let’s people vote on everything. The government can’t do anything without the consent of the people. And if they do, you can collect signatures to take referendum, so it must be voted for by the people. And we don’t have one president, we have 7. 


-Would you agree that although Switzerland is perceived as military neutral country, international peacekeeping missions are extremely important for Swiss society?


I am not really an expert about the swiss military and peacekeeping missions. But in my opinion the swiss army has a rich history of being mercenaries. In the middle ages they were very sought after, as they had no king to follow and were subservient to whoever gave them money. Also, the swiss papal guard proves this. 


-Do lyrics from “I Am Omega” reflects this existential fear derived from news about international military conflicts? Is it a common fear often shared by Swiss mass media or is it just a science fiction story?


“I am Omega” is based on the 1973 Film “The Omega Man”, I really enjoy Science Fiction, so many of my songs have apocalyptical and utopian topics. The film is based o nan short Story called “I am Legend”, there’s also a more modern film with this title. But it was made into film before as “the last man on Earth”, so I incorporated a little bit of all these versions in the song. 


-Not all songs from “The Final Stage” are short. “Dawn City” takes over seven minutes however time runs different to me when I listen to your album. Would you agree that “being concise” is a key advantage of the best epic metal songs?


It depends, there are epic songs, that are based on one riff and there are magical songs that have multiple changes. It’s the delivery I think, it’s believable and created by the musicians with a certain idea in mind that transgresses to the listener. “Dawn City” is a bout an experimental township in india called “Aeroville”, where they have no money, no government, no religion – as mentioned in the song. They say, in order for the human race to evolve, we need to live together differently, like the fish once came out of the water. I really think it is interesting to have a real utopia on earth, but does it work? The song is really divided in three parts: first we describe it, then we sing about the intention of this city and in part three there come some reasons why it might be bound to fail. But in the end, it supposed to be a cool song with a cool topic. And if somebody googles it, learns about it and thinks a little differently about true human evolution, my mission is accomplished. 


-Under your facebook post with link to the video “Queen of Sin” (it rocks out!) guitarist both Distant Past and Age of Disclosure, Ben Sollberger, wrote: “DISTANT PAST, we should plan a project together!”. Your answer: “We should (…) We’re not in Kansas anymore”. What’s up with Age of Disclosure and with Kansas?


Ha, ha. We just like to make jokes and be silly sometimes!! 

“Age of Disclosure” is Ben’s Metal Project, where we fist collaborated. I played bass on it and recorded vocals in my studio. Our singer “Jay Jay” sings on some songs. Of course, we now play together in “Distant Past”, so we obviously already have lots of projects together. We used to play in a band called Skrylls together as well. And Ben just released an album called “I hate to say” by his own Ben Sollberger Project, where he does everything on his own, you should check that out!

Anyways, when he writes “I’m from Jersey” – I came up with “we’re not in Kansas anymore”, which hasn’t anything to do with the band Kansas (although, I really like them). The mentioned sentence is from “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy goes into the other World. I translated that into, we’re not there where we once were, meaning we’re further now. So, it’s just a silly little conversation. 

By the way, Rainbow in the seventies, started their show with an audio clip of said movie. “We’re not in Kansas anymore, we must be somewhere over the Rainbow” and Blackmore starts with the melody of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” that segues in “Kill the King”. 


-What does the cover of “The Final Stage” has in common with Arthur Brown (“Fire”)? I  Could you explain it please?


Yes, I will shine a light. After the success of “Fire” Arthur Brown escaped to France, as he didn’t want all the fame. But shortly after he formed a band called Kingdom Come (now called Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, to not to be confused with the 80’s band). Bruce Dickinson covered “Spirit of Joy”, which is on the third Kingdom Come Album. 
After three albums they separated, but their Keyboard Player Victor Peraino continued to make music with “Victor Peraino’s Kingdom Come. He did an album in the 80’s and rerecorded some songs in 2014 with Arthur Brown as guest. Being a collector I had to have this CD. I like the cover and the illustrations so much, I contacted the artist James Beveridge and fell in love with the painting I found on his Facebook, that’s the one we used as a cover for “The Final Stage”. 


-Would you call Helstar “the best friend of Emerald” and consequently also “the best friend of Distant Past”? Why yes? Why not? What specifically do you appreciate regarding Helstar members? 


When I was in Emerald, we toured Europe with Helstar. On a tour you forge friendships, so I consider them my friends. But I’m the only one in Distant Past, who was in that line up of Emerald in 2012.Helstar have a different line up now. And the opening act “The Order of Chaos” have eventually sadly disbanded.I’d love to do another tour in the future! 


-What would be your final call-to-action for polish metalheads?

Poland was always good to us and we had a lot of positive Feedback from polish Metalheads. So, come join us on the new journey with the new Album “The Final Stage” – check out our video to “Queen of Sin” and play it loud! 
Heavy Metal never dies !