Sunday, March 3, 2013

Steel Raiser - Gianluca Rossi Interview

Italy's Steel Raiser have just released "Regeneration," the follow up to their 2007 debut, Race of Steel. The album is an in your face, heavy hitting combination of European Power Metal, Traditional Metal and hints of US Power Metal grit and aggression. After seeking out Gianluca Rossi after the awesome discovery of Valkija's "Avengers of Steel" a few years ago and eagerly awaiting his next output, my patience has reaped rewards. "Regeneration" is available from Pure Steel Records and I recommend picking up the new Attacker album as well while you're there. But this is about Steel Raiser, their awesome new album and I have Gianluca to thank for the interview.

Contaminated Tones: Gianluca, tell me about the beginnings of Steel Raiser. How was the band formed? 

Gianluca Rossi: It all began in 2007 when Alfonso and I decided to start this adventure together. Both had come from important experiences, with Valkija I published the first and only album in 2004, while Alfono out with the Noble Savage two years later. We need something new, different, perhaps more challenging and sprang the Steel Raiser.

CT: Officially the band is called Steel Raiser III. Why the roman numeral suffix? Why not just call the band Steel Raiser? Where did the name originate from?

GR: Indeed the official name of the band is STEEL RAISER. Alfonso had initially added to the name the Roman numeral suffix but almost immediately the boss of Pure Steel advised us to remove it. Already at the time of "Race Of Steel", STEEL RAISER, was our monicher.

CT: How did Steel Raiser come to the lineup which you are at now? I see that the band no longer has a full time keyboardist, opting for a more traditional arrangement of twin guitars, bass, drums and vocalist. Gianfranco Strano still appears to lend keyboards on the album in spots.

GR: The current lineup is starting to take shape in 2009, on our return from Swordbrother Festival in Germany. Initially the band was composed of Alfonso and me, but after the good results of "Race Of Steel" culminated with the participation to the German festival, we decided to complete the lineup. Gianfranco can be considered the sixth element in the studio, orchestral parts and keyboard are his work, as well as the first album.

CT: You released a demo in 2007. What kind of response did you get from this demo? You were able to put out a full length album shortly after the release of the demo. When you recorded the demo, did you already have songs planned for Race of Steel, your debut album?

GR: Yes, in 2007 we recorded the demo. The response was really good, also after a few days of the publication of the songs on our myspace we were contacted by Pure Steel Records. We immediately proposed a contract and the publication of the first album. At the time of signing we did not have all the pieces to complete the album, so we went into the studio and recorded the rest. Everything came out very quickly even natural. Maybe that's why "Race Of Steel" is an album direct and fiery, like a punch in the face!!

CT: Regeneration is your second album since the formation of the band. How would you compare this album to your previous release, Race of Steel? 

GR: As I said above "Race Of Steel" came quickly and left rough, fierce and fiery. "Regeneration", retains the features of the previous release but is more mature. The themes are deeper, sounds more powerful. We had more time to work and take care of every detail.

CT: Regeneration is an excellent album, inspired by both Traditional Metal and the European vein of Power Metal. Tell me about the writing process for this album. It took you five years to finally complete. The majority of songs are written by Alfonso and yourself.

GR: Thank you for your compliment. It's been five years since the release of "Race Of Steel", but not all were used for the conception of the same. "Regeneration" began to emerge around 2011 when I started to record the first riffs and write some text. The compositional process is quite simple, I write the music and Alfonso melodies and lyrics. Then we meet in the studio and complete the whole. Like you said we are inspired by Europen power metal but also the U.S. Metal.

CT: Is there any specific meaning behind Regeneration's title?

GR: Behind the album title, you can read a lot. In this dark period, where all human relationships are more complicated, the man needs to get away from certain conventions, free from the chains of hatred and just regenerate. This is a bit 'the meaning of the title of the album.

CT: Lyrically, what are the themes present on the album? Are there any particular tracks which you would like to expand on the lyrics?

GR: The texts, although we can not speak of a concept album, have a theme, such as the difficulties of living in harmony and full relations with the people we love most. Songs like "Love Is Unfair" and "Wings of the Abyss" speak precisely of this. Happiness is at hand but can be felt, you miss for trivial reasons. The album also contains songs more focused on the fantastic, like "CyberLazer" and "The Executioner", the work of Alfonso, big fan of the genre.

CT: Currently, my favorite track is Magic Circle. Tell me about that track. It's the only song with some lyrics in Italian.

GR: Yes, the brainchild of Alfonso. The Italian is not a very easy language to music, but we found it very interesting and different place these short lines in Italian. Give that little bit extra to the piece that does not mind at all. An experiment that who knows, we might repeat in the future.

CT: What two tracks on this album would you say really best represent what Steel Raiser is and what aspects of those tracks are standout to you?

GR: Surely tracks faster and more powerful as "The Executioner", "Cyberlazer" and "Magic Circle" are those who represent us more, because they bind much with the work on the first album. But the years have made us a little 'more mature and I can say that in spite of all the albums in general it is the best.

CT: Both albums have been released by Pure Steel Records. How did you arrive at a deal with Pure Steel Records and what is your impression of the label so far into your tenure with them?

GR: As said above we got to deal with Pure Steel unexpectedly and fast, a few days after the publication of some pieces that were composed of "Race Of Steel". We are very satisfied with the relationship started with them, it is a label that is growing very quickly, which supports up to their own groups spite of the many difficulties that now pours the music market. We can only be happy to work with them.

CT: The band members, I'm sure, all have different individual influences but when you pool everyone together, what bands and artists have been universally inspirational to those behind Steel Raiser?

GR: The influences of each band member are not very different, although everyone likes listening to music maybe different tastes of others, we still share a passion for classic metal. We love the fathers of metal, bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon and classic sounds are easily tuned by the will to carry on our group.

CT: The Italian scene has been one of the standout areas for Heavy, Speed and Power Metal the past few years. What other bands from this ecclectic country could you recommend listeners to check out? Baphomet's Blood is one of my favorites.

GR: The Italian metal is in good shape, despite the great difficulties facing our country. Of all I would quote Alltheniko and Trinakrius, two great bands.

CT: Is Steel Raiser planning on any performances in the upcoming future? Any festival appearances planned to promote the new album? 

GR: Yes, we are evaluating the possibility of playing outside Italy and to better promote our work. Unfortunately it is not easy to organize everything, but we are using all the energy we have. I think that very soon there will be some good news about it.

CT: What is your opinion on the music industry at large compared to the underground Heavy Metal circuits? I believe that generally underground labels tend to have more invested in their product and care more about their artists than major labels. Your thoughts?

GR: I think the market is the same for labels large and small, I have not noticed a huge support from the small labels, in my experience, to the community. It offers the possibility to distribute the disk, print it, but it is we who produce it with great sacrifices. This is not to say that the independent labels do not have much trouble surviving in these times of economic crisis and do what they can to promote us.

CT: Do you think that with all the new digital file sharing possibilities and ease-of-access to free music via the internet, that there will come a time when there will be no such thing as physical releases for bands?

GR: I hope not. On the one hand the digital market facilitates the distribution and promotion of the work of a band, but do not turn off the physical release. I consider the CD or vinyl a link between the band and their fans unlike the digital release that is cold.

CT: Gianluca, thanks for taking the time to respond to my interview questions! Regeneration is an awesome album and I recommend it to anyone into Heavy Metal and Power Metal. The last words are yours.

GR: Of course, thanks for your support and the opportunity granted. We are satisfied with the work done and the feedback has been very good. This makes us want to keep going with more force our way, to promote our music, have fun and entertain our fans. Thank you again my friend.

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