Interview with Leo Stivala
Hello and Welcome to Acier Doux Forsaken , so a little introduction could be a nice idea… What kind of Metal do you play, and what should the readers know about you ?
Hello I am Leo Stivala vocalist of the over 25 year old, long standing Epic Doom Metal band from Malta named FORSAKEN. We started out in mid – 1990 as Blind Alley and after some line up changes we changed the band name to Forsaken. Our first live gig happened September 1991 . We released our first demo tape “Requiem” in 1991 , which helped us get recognition abroad and a French label Arkham Production took interest in us. With Arkham Prods we released a 7” EP called “Virtues of Sanctity” and they also organised a three week tour in France and Spain for us alongside French thrashers Odd- Mongers. Locally we were gigging a lot and plans were underway for our first full length album. Our debut album “Evermore” was released in 1996 by the Maltese , now defunct, label Storm Recs. After the release of this album we suffered from a dull period comprising also a six month split. We reunited with a more clear direction were we wanted to head the band but again suffered the passing away of our long standing guitarist Daniel Magri after a year and a half battling cancer. It was a very dark time for us but we decided to go on and recorded and demo only for labels which resulted in a record deal with the Scottish Label Golden Lake Prods. With Golden lake we released the “Iconoclast” mini cd, and two albums “Anima Mundi” and “Dominaeon”. In the meantime we continued to play locally and also played some really good festivals abroad too namely the Doom Shall Rise Festival (Germany), Keep it True (Germany) , Headbangers Open Air (Germany), Dutch Doom Days (Holland) and many others which consolidated Forsaken as a strong pillar in the European Doom Metal scene. In 2008 we signed a record deal with I Hate Records and released the “After the Fall” album a year after followed by a split 12” Ep with Fall of the Idols called “Tales of Doom and Woe”. Forsaken play Epic Doom Metal strongly influenced by bands like Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and many other Doom Metal giants. But our music gathers inspiration also from other metal genres like Traditional Heavy Metal, Thrash and Hard Rock. Our present line up is myself Leo Stivala on Vocals, Albert Bell on bass guitar, Sean Vukovic on guitars and Simeon Gatt on drums.
”After the Fall” is your last release was excellent in your history. The title is also an interesting wordplay. Can you explain it to us ?
After the Fall has a very apocalyptic theme. Despite all the warnings given by God himself through all the mishaps that happen to the world , mankind continues to fail and sin . But God still reveals himself in many ways to help us return to him for eternal salvation.
After this realease you guys recorded ” Tales of Doom ” and was in July 12th, 2010 and sine that date the band seems stop taking a good step ahead , can you tell us about it ?
Yes you are right as regards to recordings things were kept a bit on hold. Many personal stuff going on. Sean became a father and all of us were doing something different musically apart from Forsaken. But on the live front we never stopped. We still played many gigs and fests abroad and also locally.
I see very clear that Mr Albert is one of the Forsaken’s member too , so Did the members of the Forskaen play in other bands before, or is this your first serious band with a recording ?
Before Forsaken , Albert had a thrash metal band called Exorcist which later changed their name to Kremation . They had also released an album on tape called Guardians of the Realm. Then Albert joined locals Thrash veterans Vandals for some years and then he joined Blind Alley , later Forsaken. He now also has Nomad Son and his own project called Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus.. a very busy guy indeed.J . Personally Forsaken was my first full force band but I also had a very good experience for six years singing with the Greek Epic Metal band Reflection. We had many gigs together, even one in Malta . I also sing in their third album “When Shadows Fall” released by Cruz Del Sur in 2008… Now I have formed a new band called Wolven Hour , we play traditional old school Heavy Metal.. we are still composing songs and hope for a good future. Sean played guitar in a band called “In Memoriam” before joining Forsaken in 1993. They later changed their name to Norm Rejection and have released four albums to date. They play like a cross between doom, thrash and hardcore. Sean also has a band with his wife Nikki called NV. They have released one album and play pop/soft rock music. Simeon also had many bands before Forsaken but always for a short period of time.. Presently he has his own Doom Metal band called Dawn of Anguish. If I am not mistaken they are planning to release their debut album too.
The band’s lyrics focus pure Christianity, Doom, Suffering themes . Is that something that you have an interest in ? Is it difficult to find subjects not already taken ?
The main lyricist for the band is Albert Bell , although before I also contributed lyrically for the band. Yes we write about these themes in our lyrics but we also have a message of hope in the end . We are all Catholics but not fanatical ones . We have our beliefs but we are not trying to shove them in the listeners’ throats. We think these subjects fit very well with our musical direction. I don’t think its difficult to find subject already taken , maybe what is most difficult and thoughtful is how to convey them lyrically… Albert is a champion for this !!
With music based at the root of Doom genre, who are your biggest influences musically?
Like all other Doom bands worldwide our primary influence are Black Sabbath in all their periodic eras.. but obviously we are also very much influenced by the purveyors of the global doom scene mainly Candlemass, St. Vitus , Trouble, Pentagram, Count Raven , Solitude Aeturnus and many more. Traditional Heavy/Epic metal is also very influential on us, mentioning bands like Manilla Road, Accept, Iron Maiden, (early) Manowar , Saxon and Judas Priest. Thrashy parts can be also felt in our music as were are also fans of bands like Slayer, Coroner, Testament, Onslaught and many others. We are also very fond of old hard rock with bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Uriah Heep .. so as you can see our influences are very varied in the Metal world.
Who composes the most in the band ? Have you got a quite particular way of composing , or does everything occur during rehearsals and then exchanges through emails ?
Before it was much more of a team effort, I also used to compose riffs for the band but now we don’t have much time for rehearsals like before and lately Sean and Albert come up with complete songs and we do the arrangements together in our rehearsals.. we work faster that way.
How is the Metal scene in Malta ? Are there some cool bands to discover, and are you in touch with other cool Doom bands ?
We have a very good metal scene over here, considering the minute size of the island. We have gigs and festivals organised all year round and we are also taking the risk of getting foreign bands to the island too. We have many bands of quality over here but I would highly suggest Nomad Son (featuring Albert Bell on bass), Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus, Norm Rejection (featuring Sean on guitars), Beheaded (long standing death grind band) , Weeping Silence, Vicitms of Creation (excellent doom death), 12th Ode, Anima Mortua and many others. Yes we are in touch with many other bands worldwide namely Arkham Witch (UK), Iron Void (UK), Mirror of Deception (Ger), Dawn of Winter(Ger), Void Moon (Swe)… they all played in Malta and many of them have also in many occasions got Forsaken to their homeland too.
Did you play gigs ? How does Forsaken sound in real conditions, I mean during live, or rehearsals, compared to the recordings ? Is it Heavy , very doomy ?
I consider Forsaken to be first and foremost a live band. We get really intense on stage and like to have a good time and give our all when we play a gig. I think we sound really heavy and epic at the same time and like to involve ourselves with the crowd too. When we choose a setlist for gigs we like to mix between uptempo and chugging songs , and try always to play songs from all our releases and sometimes also a cover version every now and then. We like to play songs which the crowd can sing to like Via Crucis, Aidenn Falls, Daylight Dies. I strongly believe that we sound heavier on stage then on the recordings . We don’t rehearse much compared to the past. If we have a gig planned we meet once a week for a month or so, and play the setlist. We have been playing the songs for so many years that they come out well automatically after two rehearsals. But when we start to compose new stuff we meet much more often.
What has lead you to sign with ” I Hate label ” ? What did please you in their offer ?
Before I Hate Records we were signed to a Scottish label called Golden Lake Productions, but unfortunately they closed shop after the release of Dominaeon. So we have to search for another label. We knew a guy from Sweden called Ola Blomquist who was a very staunch Forsaken fan too , and he was one of the guys who ran I Hate Records at that time and he immediately took interest in signing us up along with his label partner Peter. They discussed the record deal with us , which was a step ahead for us from Golden Lake as regards to contract conditions. And also taking into account the great bands they have on their roster, we decided to sign a record deal with them.
You told me once you are strating a new Heavy Metal project , can you tell me more about it ?
WOLVEN HOUR. This is something I had been wanting to do for many many years because traditional heavy metal was what started it all for me. This band started two years ago when me and a guy called Jim Tobin were talking of forming a traditional heavy metal band together and starting searching out for suitable musicians. We got Kenneth Pace on drums, Daniel Pace Warrington on guitar and Justin Borg on bass , and we started rehearsals. Things were moving smoothly in the first months but Jim was starting to feel unhappy with the band and left. After a few months of discussions and searching around for other guitarists ,and also doing a couple of auditions , we got Darryl Portelli (ex 12th Ode) on guitars and from there on we never looked back. We rehearse as much as we can and plan to play our debut later gig this year and record two songs as a demo to start sharing the band worldwide too. Wolven Hour is a traditional heavy metal band influenced by the greats of the eighties like Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, Accept, Satan, Saxon, Wasp…. We already have five songs ready to unleash but we need more to get a good setlist for gigs… We are not in a hurry really.. we want to have good songs but we have a lot of enthusiasm going on and look forward for more in the near future.
What are the next steps for Forsaken ?
Forsaken’s next step is definitely the release of the new album PENTATEUCH. We have already signed a very good deal with a label which the label itself will issue as official news very very soon. So staqy tuned for this. We plan to release the album in October with a launching gig here in Malta. We have already played a couple of really great gigs this year namely Metal Over Malta, Reggio Calabria (Italy), Athens, and lately a devastating gig at The Garage Grand Opening in Malta too. So now we are taking it a bit easy for Summer and return to the live circuit after the launch of Pentateuch in October.
Thanks for your time answering my questions. I wish you the best of luck ! Please close the interview in any way you like …..
Thanks Med Manef Slama and all in Acier Doux for this interesting interview and for your true support and dedication to Forsaken and the Metal scene in general. Good luck with this webzine and keep up the great work. I really had a great time doing this interview (its been a while since I did one actually ) I urge all the readers of this webzine to check out Forsaken and the new album coming out this year. If its heavy Epic Doom Metal you are looking for , than you can’t go wrong . Thanks for everything and blessings to all !!!!!
Interviewer : Med Manef Slama