Aside from perhaps Nero di Marte, I can’t name very many innovative metal bands from Italy. Hell…for that matter, I can’t name very many Italian metal bands at all. Apparently, I just haven’t been paying enough attention, or looking in the wrong places, because I really should have picked up on Noise Trail Immersion before now. Over the course of the last five years and soon-to-be three releases–their sophomore full-length Symbology of Shelter drops on November 2 on Moment of Collapse Records (preorder it physically here, and digitally here)–the quintet have been making some absolutely exhilarating, genre-fucking music. Call it 8-string dissonant blackened mathcore, or if that’s too much of a mouthful you could simply call it bracingly abrasive – a very welcome shock to the system right from the moment you hit play.
I had the chance to talk recently with Daniele Vergine, one of Noise Trail Immersion’s 8-string guitarists, about the new album. Check it out below.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey, so for starters – thank you for the interview. In some ways, Noise Trail Immersion may be the most appropriately named band I’ve ever encountered. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Symbology of Shelter, and it’s one of those rare albums that both provoked an immediate, visceral reaction from me the first time I heard it, and that’s revealed more of its layers with each successive listen. However, I’ll be honest here – when I think of Italian metal, it takes me a minute before I come up with anything aside from Lacuna Coil (who you thankfully sound nothing like), and then the only other name I can think of is the vastly underappreciated DSBM band Forgotten Tomb. Since I’ve not found many interviews—or much of anything, really—about the band online, can you talk a bit about your origins? How did the five of you come together as Noise Trail Immersion? Had any of you played together in bands previous to that?
Daniele Vergine: Hi, and thank you for the chance to do this interview! Basically three members of the original lineup already played together in another project that was stylistically very different from NTI, and then they decided to radically change genre and their approach to composition. We’ve always taken this project as something very serious, since it’s an attempt to sum up everything we love musically and translate it into something that really reflects what we are.
IMV: There are so many things I want to ask about Symbology of Shelter that I barely know where to start. So…according to the PR materials, you approached the songwriting process for the album by composing a single 43-minute long track and then dividing it into seven parts. I’ve heard of record labels making bands break album-length songs into individual tracks, but I don’t know that I’ve heard of any bands who’ve deliberately done so themselves. It’s an incredibly effective approach to the album, though – there’s a continuity to it that’s kind of rare for such mathy, challenging music. What made you decide to approach the writing process that way?
DV: I think that what drove us the most towards trying this new compositional approach is the fact that, in our opinion, the anxiety and the desperation embedded in our music fit well with the idea of a “journey,” kind of like what happens with an existential crisis, a panic attack or something like that; therefore, the whole “single track album” thing is somehow a way to ensure that when you click the play button you start an experience, you get sucked into it, and you’re not getting out of it until you’ve felt everything that was meant to be felt.
IMV: As a follow-up to that, the chaos on Symbology of Shelter seems far more controlled than on either your self-titled EP, which reminded me more of a spazzy mathcore band like The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, or Womb. Is that more controlled sound something you were going for on the new album, or was that more something that evolved out of the way you approached the songwriting on this album?
DV: Actually no, we weren’t going for a more controlled sound. I think that it’s more of a natural evolution in terms of maturity. The way I see it is that the new stuff doesn’t sound more controlled or less chaotic; in fact, the instrumental parts in particular are probably even more chaotic and intricate than in the first EP from a certain point of view. It’s just that now the chaos is somehow more contextualized and part of a precise and defined concept, so in the end it all sounds less “random” and less spazzy.
IMV: Speaking of Womb, I do want to ask one question about it – specifically about the title track. There’s something about the ambiance of “Womb” that’s both unsettling and comforting at the same time. How did that song end up coming together, in terms of the songwriting? Is Womb a concept album?
DV: The songwriting approach for that track was very abstract. It’s one of the few songs where every member of the band actually contributed from the start, proposing ideas and sounds to incorporate. The whole track is not actually meant to be seen as a proper song, but more like a musical deconstruction that is functional to the album as a whole, working as a hypnotic intermission before chaos takes over again. I like your idea of “Womb” as a track that’s “both unsettling and comforting.” It’s probably what we were aiming for. That kind of dark ambient that can be relaxing and disturbing at the same time, like when you’re half-asleep and you’re conscious but still immersed in drowsiness. Yes, Womb can be considered as a concept album that deals with themes that are very similar to the ones in Symbology of Shelter, but from different perspectives.
IMV: The other thing I find so striking about the band is your use of eight-string guitars. That’s definitely not the norm for anything I’m aware of that falls under the banner of black metal, and I feel like it’s comparatively rare in mathcore as well – eight-strings make me think of deathcore more than anything else (and mostly because of breakdowns, so not in a good way). How did that end up being one of the main elements of your sound? I can hear more of the eight-string’s presence in the earlier material than on Symbology– did you still use them on the new album?
DV: Yes, it’s definitely not the norm for black metal or any of its subgenres. We really like the eight-string guitar’s sound range, as it really expands the possibilities you have composition-wise, and we still used it on Symbology of Shelter. We don’t like to emphasize the lower strings too much, though; we don’t use them to create grooves, but rather weird or cavernous atmospheres/sounds in some specific sections of the songs, when we feel that their use is appropriate and can add some richness or gloominess to the riff.
IMV: I’m very curious about the lyrical themes on Symbology of Shelter. The title alone is so intriguing, and immediately makes me think about semiotics and how the word ‘shelter’ will mean different things to different people. I’ve only had a chance to see the lyrics to the songs you’ve released thus far from album, but there does seem to be a kind of existential thread running through them dealing with losing one’s sense of safety and/or shelter. Am I even close with that interpretation?
DV: Yes, you’re more than close. There’s not a unique interpretation anyway, but you’re right with the whole “existential thread” thing, as well with the reference to semiotics: the whole album is an ensemble of scatological thoughts about life, faith, and humanity’s contradictions, all seen within the context of metaphorical “shelters” that we often want to use during our experiences to give existence a more profound and comforting sense. So the whole “being afraid of losing our safety” thing is always recurring in the album. You totally got it.
IMV: You recorded Symbology of Shelter at Fusix Studios with Andrea Fusini handling the recording, mixing, and mastering. I’ve not been able to find any recording credits for your other records – was this your first time working with him? He really seems to understand Noise Trail Immersion’s style, because the album sounds amazing. Since the subject of gear fascinates me, what did your studio rigs look like? How close were they to what you use when playing live?
DV: Actually he’s recorded, mixed and mastered all our works so far; Andrea is really a great guy to work with. We’re probably the only mathcore/dissonant black metal band he’s worked with, since he usually mixes a lot of pop/rock music and more traditional kinds of metal, but he’s an incredibly talented producer. His ability to understand and translate in sound the musical and artistic universe of whatever artist he works with is just mind-blowing: we don’t even have to explain him too much, we just have to chat a little bit about the directions we want to take, let him listen to a couple of records we like, and then he immediately starts getting all these ideas about recording techniques/gear to use/post-production stuff. So we simply trust him without putting up any barriers, and we always end up being proud of the final product. We couldn’t be more satisfied with how Symbology of Shelter sounds. About the studio rig: nothing too complex, but we did use more analog stuff this time. We tend to separate studio/live situations. We use different equipment for gigs and we try to replicate as much as we can the sound you hear in the album.
IMV: I don’t usually pay much attention to music videos, but I love the one Carlo Andrea Ferraro of Exiled Media did for “Repulsion and Escapism II.” I don’t recognize any of the films in it aside from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, but that film really seems to complement the lyrics. Whose idea was it to take that approach to the video? Did the band work very closely with Ferraro, or did you give him free rein with it?
DV: Our singer Fabio had the original idea for this video, then we explained the rough concept to Carlo Andrea. We asked him to watch the movies we had in mind and we let him work freely with the material we gave him. Yes, the movies are somehow linked to the lyrics, each one in its specific way. The final product was fantastic. Carlo Andrea did a great job indeed.
IMV: If I’m not mistaken, the cover image for Symbology of Shelter looks like it was taken from one of the films used in the “Repulsion and Escapism II” video. That image makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the album’s music – I look at it and expect something along the lines of depressive gothic/post-punk, not dissonant blackened mathcore. How did the cover come together – who did the design?
DV: Correct! The cover design work actually started from a frame of the movie Rapsodia Satanica, which is one of the films that can be seen in the “Repulsion and Escapism II” video, as you noticed! Carlo Andrea did the artwork too, and it’s indeed not your typical mathcore cover art, but we tend to approach our musical world as an “existential mathcore” trying to represent the chaos of life, so the human element is something very important to us and that’s why we always used human figures in our artworks so far.
IMV: What are your plans after Symbology of Shelter comes out? Do you hope to tour much behind it?
DV: Yes, touring as much as possible is our main plan at the moment. We really believe in this record and we’ll do our best to promote it in the best possible way. We’re actually organizing a tour right now with our booking agency Antigony Agency, and we’ll hopefully be touring Europe around May 2019.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists – anything else you want to add?
DV: You’re more than welcome; we’re really grateful for this opportunity. We hope the audience will appreciate the record as much as we loved crafting it. Thank you for this interview and thanks to everyone who has supported us so far and will support us in the future!