Crimson Dawn are an epic doom metal band from Italy who have been around since 2005. Their fourth studio album It Came from the Stars will be released on 28 April and is sure to be one of the genre highlights of 2023. To celebrate this event, I had the opportunity to talk to guitarist Dario Beretta, who once again turned out to be a very likeable interview partner who has a lot to tell.
André: Thank you very much for taking the time for us, Dario. How are you?
Dario: Reasonably fine! I have always too much stuff on my plate for my own good between my family (I got a 3-year old daughter), my job, my musical projects … but as I always say, I’ll rest when I’m dead!
André: Have you already bought an album that was released this year?
Dario: Yes I did. I got the new Uriah Heep, the new Black Star Riders, and the superdeluxe edition of Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous. Also the new Crowne album, Operation Phoenix, pretty good stuff. And I got the latest Twilight Force at their show. I’m not a huge fan of that particular style of power metal, but they got Ale Conti on vocals and he’s insanely good, so I had to get it. Right now, I’m really looking forward to Gatekeeper and Smoulder dropping their new records.
André: Which bands have influenced you the most? And can you still remember the first rock or metal concert you attended?
Dario: Well, as far as influences go, I have a ton, because I was always a curious listener and I really like a bit of everything in the hard and heavy world – from AOR to melodic death and everything in between. As long as there are good guitar riffs and good melodies, I will listen to it. My holy trinity, however, is basically made of three musicians: Ronnie James Dio, Phil Lynott and Tony Iommi. They are my biggest inspiration and the ones I feel the strongest connection to. Even on those days where I really don’t feel like listening to music, I will always be ok to put on something from these three gentlemen, if you know what I mean. My first concert ever was Dire Straits. My first hard rock concert, Extreme. My first metal concert, Annihilator. We’re talking 1993. I am getting old …
André: Do you actually agree that the Tony Martin era in the Black Sabbath band history is still incredibly underrated?
Dario: I do! Although, to be honest, I think it’s more of a critics thing. Because as far as fans are concerned, most of the people I know consider the Martin years to be as essential as the Dio and Ozzy years, and I agree with that statement. However, yes, when it comes to musical critics/journalists, those records are still not given enough credit. Which makes no sense to me, because you won’t find many records out there with songs like “When Death Calls”, “I Witness”, “Anno Mundi” on them. The production might not be as strong as on other albums they did, but those songs are still incredibly relevant to me.
André: Which guitarists have influenced you in particular? And do you have a favourite who comes from Italy like you?
Dario: As I was always more of a riff-guy than a solo-guy, I will have to mention Tony Iommi once again. I’m sure I’m far from the only one who thinks he’s the greatest riff-machine who ever lived. So, my first thought always goes to Tony. As far as lead playing is concerned, I think my main reference points are guys like Vivian Campbell (Holy Diveris probably my favorite record ever in terms of lead guitar playing), Criss Oliva, Jeff Waters, Paul Gilbert, Gary Moore. I tend to gravitate more towards the more blues-based guitarists, as opposed to neoclassical shredders, although of course I admire people who can play that stuff for the ability and commitment. As far as Italian guitarists are concerned, I have to mention my friends Eugene Simone (Eldritch), Aldo Lonobile (Secret Sphere, Edge of Forever), Simone Mularoni (DGM). They are all super-good guitarists who also have a keen sense of melody in their playing.
André: On 28 April your fourth studio album will be released: It Came from the Stars. First, please tell us something about the artwork. Who is responsible for it?
Dario: The cover was created by Mattia Stancioiu (who you might know also as the drummer for Crown Of Autumn, and formerly Labyrinth). Mat is basically our 7h band member: he’s our sound engineer, producer, cover artist, sometimes photographer and occasionally videomaker … all rolled into one! Honestly, Mat is a great guy and I couldn’t do anything of what I do if I didn’t have him to help me out. The concept of the cover is based on the song “The Colour out of Space”, which is obviously inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s short story with the same name.
André: Why did you decide on “The Masque of Red Death“ as the first single? I’m asking because I think all the songs are amazing – and I probably wouldn’t have been able to decide.
Dario: Well, we wanted to pick a song that would showcase the abilities of our new singer, Claudio, in full, and “Masque” seemed like a good candidate. Also, it’s a very “epic doom” kind of song, which is perfect as the first single. It’s good to start with something that will sound familiar to the fans, especially when you have a new singer. The curveball will be thrown with the second single … [laughs]
André: You were also able to engage a really fantastic guest singer…
Dario: Yep! Melissa Pinion from Stygian Crown. I got their album as a gift in a multi-purchase I did from my friend Enrico Leccese, the owner of Cruz del Sur, which is the label that published it. He knew I would like that, and I did! So much that I got in touch with Melissa through Facebook to ask her if she wanted to contribute to my charity project, Darian and Friends, that came out last year with an album. All proceedings from that record are going to AIL, the Italian association for research against leukemia and related diseases. Long story short, she accepted, liked the song I gave her to sing, and we became friends. So, when I was writing “Hunter’s Dream”, which is based on the lore of the Bloodborne videogame, I immediately thought to ask her if she wanted to sing the parts related to the character of “The Doll”. And she did, so we had our second chance to collaborate. Hopefully we’ll have more in the future!
André: I have to mention your vocalist Claudio Cesari at this point. I think he’s a contender for the title of vocal performance of the year on It Came from the Stars! I don’t know how to top that…
Dario: Claudio is a beast. Great singer, great frontman. I met him when we played in the same festival, I was with Drakkar and he was with his traditional metal band Crawler. I was impressed by his stage presence AND his vocals, and he was also very funny and down-to-earth. When we found ourselves in the position to have to look for a new singer, I realized I hadn’t seen him do anything with Crawler in quite a while, so I contacted him. It was a “right people, right time” kind of thing as he was actually looking to get back into doing some original music after singing in tribute bands for a while (I’ll let you guess of which band!) after Crawler “faded”, so to speak, into inaction. It was important for us to find a new singer who could sing all of the old material, but also had a very distinct and different kind of voice and personality. And he’s also contributing to lyrics and melodies, which is great.
André: How does the songwriting work in your band?
Dario: On most occasions, I come up with a full song, with no lyrics, record a demo for it, and then we work on it all together. Everyone is arranging their own parts and in the end the song acquires its own personality, which is not always the same as when I first started writing it. With the old singer, Antonio, I would write all melodies and he would put his own spin to those but didn’t deviate much from the original idea. With Claudio, I only provide him with those melodies that are essential to my vision of the song (usually the chorus and maybe some other theme here and there) and he will come up with the rest of it. When everything is done on the musical side, we start writing lyrics. Previously it was me and Marco (the other guitarist) writing all of those, but now that we have Claudio, he’s also contributing. Then usually I’m the one honing them to make them sound more natural in English, as I’m a translator. However, there are also times when I will get a few riffs from Marco (the other guitarist) or Luca (our drummer) and then we start building a song from there. For example, most of the riffs of “The Colour Out Of Space” are Marco’s. In the past, the main riff for “At The Cemetery Gates” came from Luca. And so on. So, while I’m the main writer, by no means I’m the only one. We work together.
André: What is the significance of the lyrics for you? Is it especially important to you to tell the listeners an interesting story?
Dario: We care very, very much about lyrics. I always thought of myself as a “musical storyteller”, as someone who will tell you a story through their music. We want to bring the listener into another world. Sometimes it’s something of our own creation, sometimes it’s inspired by authors or artists in general that we admire. We have quite a lot of songs based on H. P. Lovecraft, for instance. In general, we want to write lyrics that fit the music.
André: On our blog, we focus on metal with epic elements. How would you define the term “epic” regarding music?
Dario: I would say that “epic” is something that feels grandiose, powerful, uplifting. Something that elevates your spirit and makes you feel like you can take on the world. But it needs to have a certain “raw“ element to it, a grounded approach, otherwise it goes into “pompous” territory, which can also be good – personally I’m a huge fan of Magnum, after all – but it’s not epic anymore. My friend Luca Signorelli, who is one of the great metal journalists in Italy, would tell you that metal is “having your feet in the dirt, while looking to the stars”. And I think that’s a wonderful definition.
André: Indeed! Are you planning to perform live in 2023? Are there already fixed dates that we should note in our calendars?
Dario: There is nothing fixed yet, but yeah, we would obviously love to be able to perform live. We are very much a live band, we have a very theatrical show that we love to bring to the fans out there. So, we hope that we’ll have a few chances. If you know any promoters, just let me know! [laughs]
André: Which five albums would you take with you to the famous desert island?
Dario: This is a difficult question. If I can’t choose compilation albums, I would say: Dio – Holy Diver, Rainbow – Rising, Black Sabbath – Mob Rules, Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak, Judas Priest – Painkiller. But then I would really regret not having access to another thousands of records I love …
André: Last question: Let’s assume time travel would be possible. In which era would you most like to live, at least temporarily?
Dario: I might sound very boring, but honestly, I would love to be in the 1970s and finally get to see Rainbow with Dio, Lizzy with Lynott, AC/DC with Bon Scott, and all of those other great bands that made the ‘70s such a wild and special time for music!
André: Yes, the 70s were magnificent and in terms of rock or hard rock I would call it my favourite decade without a doubt. Dario, thank you for the interesting conversation. I wish you and your band all the best with the new album – there should be many excellent reviews.