Why do you pray in front of this mask’s friendly smile,
held up by a thousand worms?
Many of you have now spent a great deal of time with Selvans’ superb second full-length album Faunalia. You’ve immersed yourselves in it, absorbed its bewitching powers, it even made a solid and well-deserved showing on many end of year lists. It was one of the most inventive and dazzlingly unique atmospheric/folk black albums to be given life in 2018 and if you haven’t heard it yet I’ll politely demand that you rectify that grave error right fucking now.
Strangely enough however, I hadn’t seen too many recent interviews with the Italian duo regarding this album cycle and the beast they had created, so I reached out – the result is a very pleasant chat with main man Haruspex (and one that I would also like to continue another time as it appears we share a love of old Italian horror, but I digress) about his influences, intentions and generally everything Faunalia. So settle in and read on below, and grab yourself a copy of this fantastic album from Avantgarde Music and Fólkvangr Records while you still can.
Greetings Haruspex! Sincerest thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Your new album (and second full-length overall) Faunalia was released a few months ago, and I’ve seen people calling it a “work of genius”. How does it feel that it’s now been unleashed to the public for some time?
– Hi! It’s great! You know… I don’t expect anything when we release something new, the only real goal for me is to have things working in the way I figure out. For this album I wanted to create an ‘Italian way’ in black metal. I was sure that it would have worked in a proper way for the Italian audience, but risking not to be totally understood abroad… For this reason, being able to read some foreigners’ enthusiastic reviews is nicely unexpected!
I bet it is! Although also very well deserved. Now, there’s something in particular that I’d like to ask about. Right from the atmospheric introduction of first track ‘Ad Malum Finem’ I could hear a strong influence from the Italian masters Goblin. I personally love Goblin, have seen them live and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Were they a notable compositional inspiration this time around? If so – why, and what events led to them influencing the Selvans sound?
– That is what I’m talking about! When we started to work on this album I explained to Fulguriator all the influences I put while writing every single song. Most of them came from Italian musical tradition. Claudio Simonetti and Goblin as well as Riz Ortolani, for example, have been fundamental for moments as ‘Ad Malum Finem’ or ‘Phersu’… I’m a longtime fan of horror soundtracks and I knew that sooner or later this would emerge in Selvans.
Aside from Goblin, I can identify some other possible inspirations blending in and out – Ennio Morricone and his film scores, for example. Was he another whose work you also had in mind?
– Definitely yes! Every single Ennio Morricone soundtrack sounds like something ‘divine’ for my ears, so I’ve told myself: “Let’s try to mix it with something harsh and profane”.
Probably I was hoping for something to rescue my soul… Or maybe to lead her to eternal damnation with no way back, who knows!?
Perhaps the latter! It works beautifully, in any case. I believe throughout the album’s lyrics and titles you utilise three languages: English, Italian and Latin. If you don’t mind me asking: Why is this so? How can you tell when the song calls for one or the other, and do you have a preferred tongue in which to express the themes of Selvans in particular?
– I usually start writing the lyrics in the language that sounds better with the music… with this album I’ve started thinking of a specific language before writing the music (an example is the latin for ‘Anna Perenna’) and I can say that in the future we will probably continue using just Italian and Latin. But I might change this decision even tomorrow, or maybe during the next year.
Speaking of themes, you write once again about Italian folklore. For those unfamiliar with the lore, could you give us an idea of some of the concepts and tales to be found on the album?
– For what concerns ‘Ad Malum Finem’ and ‘Notturno Peregrinar’ they tell about witchcraft in the Italian tradition, ‘Anna Perenna’ is an ode to ancient deities against those who wish something bad for us, ‘Magna Mater Maior Mons’ and ‘Requiem Aprutii’ are about legends and historical facts about our land, where earthly and divine daily collide… ‘Phersu’ is about a strange character of the Etruscan mythology, a masked demon who tortured men with a whip and two ferocious dogs.
Intriguing… I may research this Phersu character further. Faunalia also marks a notable occasion: it’s the first time you’ve utilised two members of your live band’s talents in the studio. How did you find that to be, as opposed to your previous way of working? Did they have any input into the compositional process at all?
– Acheron and HK have been with us since our first live show and for the second album I firmly wanted real played drums instead of a programmed drum machine, and I wanted to record the acoustic parts with Acheron and Fulguriator in the same room playing together. In addition to this I can assure you that in the next album the bass parts will be surely played by our actual live bass player Agares. All the production and composition in Selvans is and will always be a priority of mine but I’m open to suggestions on the arrangement of every single part ’cause I’m not inclined to think as a real guitarist, bassist or drummer.
I can hear a lot of interesting and possibly traditional instrumentation on the tracks, which gives them an incredibly organic feel. Did you have a favourite or unusual instrument that you used during the recording?
– For this album I focused the composition on keyboard instruments: synths, hammond and organs of various kinds! I was born as a keyboard player and for this reason this has been the most genuine choice for Faunalia.
Well, that explains why the synthwork is so incredible. Faunalia is a very theatrical, cinematic album in general, and that really enhances it! There’s a heavy ‘horror’ sound in places – in fact, some of the audio samples used in the album I’d swear are even taken from horror films. Is this correct? Were they taken from any films that had any special meaning to either the respective themes of the songs, or to you?
– Yes, you’re talking about ‘Phersu’… for that song I felt that the best mood for the entire track would be the one of the italo-horrors from the 80’s, both for music and lyrics… All these masterpieces from directors such as Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento have really influenced me, and the audio samples you can hear in ‘Phersu’ come from Lucio Fulci’s ‘The Beyond’.
Ah! Both are amazing directors. It’s at this point that I feel like hijacking the interview to speak with you about ‘80s Italian horror / giallo, but I’ll leave it for another time and keep on track. So, moving on – the album art is extremely intriguing. Who is the artist, and what is the significance of the creature depicted on the cover?
– You like it!? Many people found it scary and maybe this was my first idea…. in Italy – but especially in my region – everyone has this memory of their own grandfather playing typical folk songs with the accordion on special occasions. You know: all the family reunited, a lot of food, wine, laughs… the typical warm Italian situation you surely have seen in many Hollywood movies! So, I can understand that seeing this ‘fatherly behaviour’ on an anthropo-goat-dude staring at you can be pretty disturbing, and I like it.
I love it. Another thing I’m quite partial to: considering Haruspex that you were originally not supposed to be the vocalist for the band, I think your vocal assault is remarkable. Dare I say, you seem more comfortable and theatrical than ever. How do you feel about your performance now, and are there any other vocalists you’ve taken a cue from for this record?
– Thank you. Actually, you’ve said everything: I wasn’t supposed to be Selvans vocalist, after Jonny’s death I chose to sing on my songs without involving anyone in this role and yes, I have to admit that in the last four years I’ve specifically worked on this aspect. You know, I recorded the first album without really thinking about how the vocals should sound. For Faunalia I had the chance to stop and think about the vocal attitude of the album in order to create a peculiar style of singing recognizable as ‘the Selvans one’. I’m not sure I have totally succeeded in this yet but, if you soon thought about something ‘theatrical’ or – as many have commented – ‘dramatic’ this is surely the right way for the future.
The cue for this style comes from the Italian musical and operatic tradition.
Dramatic is exactly the right word, you’re doing a great job. Now, for this release you’ve once again worked with Avantgarde Music, and the cassette release has been expertly taken care of by Fólkvangr Records. How have you found working with both labels? Are you happy with the partnerships?
– Yes, they’re run by honest and collaborative guys, that’s the way I like.
The album is a dazzling display of progressive structures and folk-tinged atmospherics, but; what sort of music do you listen to in your spare time? At the time of writing this we’ve more or less made it through the ‘end of year list’ compiling period, so I’ll ask: are there any releases you have found particularly enjoyable over the last twelve months?
– This is always the hardest question to answer. You know, I’m not really into new releases! This is probably cause of the lack of time or will… In my spare time, I listen to a lot of different kinds of music but without really following the new releases! Usually, I discover a record one or even two years since its release! For example, I was going to answer that the last Grave Pleasures album was amazing but I checked and it is from 2017!! Thinking about last year… I was really impressed by the big return of Immortal with Northern Chaos Gods and by the last Necro album The Notorious Goriest for example… My mind is a big ‘cauldron’ full of musical inputs!
Necro! Now there’s a name that has not graced these pages before, great selections. And finally… Where to next for Selvans? Has any new material started to materialise?
– Sure! I continuously write new stuff. I have a couple of demo songs and covers recorded but I don’t know how and when it will be released. We’ll see…
We will be waiting! Sincerest thanks for your time Haruspex, and many thanks as well for the stunning Faunalia. Any final words you’d like to add?
– I’ve really appreciated your questions and thanks for the good words in support of our Faunalia. I hope I can keep alive this interest for the Italian music through our works in the future! See ya!