Dismal by name but not always by nature

Italian symphonic gothic trio Dismal’s new album has just been released to mark their 25-year anniversary. Paul Castles speaks with Stefano Bradac (piano, synths, orchestrations & percussion) to learn more about Quinta Essentia and some of the band’s musical and cultural influences.

ZT: Hi guys congratulations on new album Quinta Essentia – How are you all feeling about it?
Thanks! We are fine and we are proud of Quinta Essentia. It was a complex and particular work, but the first reviews are very positive, we are excited.

ZT: Has the record more or less come out sounding the way you had anticipated?
Stefano: Yes, unfortunately some European countries are in lockdown and we have had some delays with distributors, but everything is going very well. The reviews exceed my expectations, the album makes people talk and for us it is very positive.

ZT: So the album is a celebration of your 25th anniversary?
Stefano: With Quinta Essentia we celebrate our career, it sums up our particular style. For this occasion we have also made a limited edition of 50 copies of a boxset with CD, vinyl of Quinta Essentia and a compilation for 25th anniversary; here have been included all of the most popular songs over the years, they have also been remastered.

ZT: Just explain something of the concept behind this record?
Stefano: Quinta Essentia has two meanings; it is our fifth studio album and it is a synthesis of our artistic career and contains all concepts we have developed over the years. But it also has a deeper and alchemical meaning: Paracelsus defined the Quinta Essentia as “the vital force of human and of all substances”. Over the four Elements there is an invisible and non-palpable matter, it is present in us and in whole universe, this substance is called Aether. The spiritual quintessence is the contact point between us and the ‘Whole’ through the Aether. In alchemy the ‘Whole’ vibrates and communicates, beyond the Air, Water, Earth and Fire, beyond the matter.

ZT: Did you ever anticipate Dismal being around for such a long time?
Stefano: In all this time there have been ups and down, we have also suffered the difficulties and crises of recorder market. The support of our fans was crucial. Passion was never lacking.

ZT: How long had you been working on this new material?
Stefano: I started composing the new album Quinta Essentia in 2018 until November 2019. In December Dismal entered the Gulp Studio in Turin with Marco Calliari as sound engineering, in June 2020 we finished the album.

Our habits have changed, many activities have changed and other stops. Even if the art world is in crisis, we all always need to feed on art.

ZT: Was the approach in any way different this time?
Stefano: It was certainly a more meticulous and intense approach. I spent a lot of time composing on this album and I committed to developing the songs out of the box, especially for the musical structures, without ever neglecting the cohesion between the songs.

ZT: What was the impact of Covid on the recording?
Stefano: When the pandemic brock out we were in the recording studio, in the mixing phase. Here in Italy there have been many restrictions and we had to temporarily suspended the collective work in the studio, but it was possible to continue from home with everyone’s personal work. It was very challenging, but we managed to complete everything and do a good job and remain very satisfied with the final work. Unfortunately, the entertainment world has been severely tested by the pandemic. Our habits have changed, many activities have changed and other stops. Even if the art world is in crisis, we all always need to feed on art. The art, through hermeneutics, has always expressed and underlined the human-nature distortion in the world, thus anticipating events. In this delicate moment there is a need for support and collaboration from everyone.

ZT: How has the Italian underground music scene developed over the past 25 years?
Stefano: At our debut in 1995, the Gothic Metal genre didn’t have a clear statement yet, so we were fascinated by it. We were very young, but we immediately started with a successful debut. Over the years we have evolved finding our musical dimension. The record market was thriving in the 1990s, and in the 2000s there was a real peak of success in the Italian underground scene.

ZT: Who were the symphonic acts you were drawn to when you were starting out with Dismal?
Stefano: I love movie soundtracks, but also the great masters of classical music like Fryderyk Chopin, Sergej Rachmaninov, Astor Piazzolla, and many others. I like many artists of a very different genres: Laibach, 100th Window and Mezzanine by Massive Attack, Katatonia, Ludovico Einaudi, Dead Can Dance, Rammstein, Nirvana, Rome, Pink Floyd, Candelmass, Depeche Mode, Peter Murphy, The Cure…

ZT: Does Rossana’s operatic qualities stem from formal vocal training?
Stefano: Yes, Rossana Landi is a very good singer, and in addition to this she is also a singing and double bass teacher. Her voice is very versatile, extraordinary and theatrical to tell the tales of Dismal.

ZT: You draw a lot of inspiration from Italian history and architecture. Were there any particular people or places that helped shape your thoughts for this album?
Stefano: Yes, a great source of inspiration are the places where I live: the Susa Valley with its woods and its bewitching legends. The song ‘Turin Black Light’ was dedicated to Turin, its mysteries and its symbols. From a symbolic-architectural point of view, the city is divided into three places: a first part attributed to forces of black magic, a second part situated in the city center attributed to a mix of black and whit magic, and a third part attributed to white magic (Temple of the Great Mother). We have dedicated a profound reflection to our culture.

ZT: How important is the live arena to the band?
Stefano: It’s important: nowadays the survival of the band is based on grueling live shows, not always adequately paid. In the past live shows have given us strong emotions and great satisfactions, we hope to be back on the stage soon, even if it has never been our priority.

ZT: Have you explored any tour options for 2021 or are you sitting back and waiting to see what happens with Covid?
Stefano: We will focus on promoting the album and making video clips. For now we cannot plan future tours due to sudden changes in restrictions, but in the meantime we are optimistic and we would like to keep you company with our music, telling you the our new gothic fairy tale. Thanks for the interesting interview! Greetings to all readers of Zero Tolerance magazine.

Quinta Essentia is out now via Aural Music


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