It’s remarkable that in almost three years we haven’t yet published an interview with the magnificent Italian heavy metal band Vultures Vengeance. Thanks to Anna and Igor, who talked to the guys on the sidelines of the Courts of Chaos Festival, this is finally changing. Have fun reading! (Pic: Igor)
Tony Steele: We started to play in 2015, many years ago. But the band was formed in 2009 by me. The first members were Nail at the guitar and Matt Savage, and Kosathral Khel on drums. and the drummer was one of my best friends, from the south of Italy. And we took inspiration from bands like Omen, Manilla Road, Witchfynde, so a bit of NWOBHM and obviously a bit of US metal, epic metal and we always try to have a personal way to do it. Also in the lyrics, we talk about personal experiences, but in an epic way, like a metaphor. So it is really a philosophic way to do heavy metal. I think that really Vultures Vengeance are not an epic metal band. It’s heavy metal with a bit of an epic atmosphere.
Tony Steele: Open the Gates, probably that one, it’s my fave one. But you know, I took inspiration from the kind of atmospheres that are really dreamy, the solos and the reverb of the solos and also the production. Many people now want a perfect production and I always try to do everything with the heart. The first album that we recorded, we were not able to do the best [production], because we were always out of money. So I’ve never cared about the production and all the professional part of it, I was always doing it only for me because I love the music that I make, like Mark Shelton. I think Mark Shelton for me was not only a musician but really an inspiration as a person [too]. He was a really, really good person and I met him many times at gigs in Belgium, in Germany, and he was like an uncle, you know? He always recognized you. And he was really grateful, from the bottom of his heart because of all the people who love his music. Also, obviously Omen, I really love Omen. So that kind of power metal, the true power metal that is not like Rhapsody or that kind of stuff, it’s more power in a old way, like speed metal but heavy metal. Power metal for me is powerful riffing, but not that kind of power, I always took inspiration from 70s stuff. It’s strange to tell this because Vultures Vengeance is a heavy metal band, but I always took inspiration from bands like Atomic Rooster, [but] only for the atmospheres. So we have many influences. And also Tony [L.A.] is a rock musician more than heavy metal probably. At the moment I can say that you live of music because you are a master of guitar.
Tony L.A.: As a teacher.
Tony Steele: He also played with the band of Ennio Morricone.
Tony L.A.: and [in an] orchestra. If influences work in a coherent way in order to expand heavy metal music, I think that this could work in a good way. It’s always good because if metal has to be just the repetition of itself and what has been done for 40 years and 30 years and 20 years, that’s simply not good. It’s like you always hear the same stuff but from different bands. You have new people, new band names, new albums, but it’s like you always reiterate yourself, you always hear the same stuff. So it’s important to expand what you do in heavy metal with other influences but let them work in a good way because the history of music, nothing was invented. It just another way to think about other musical genres and to re-elaborate them into something that just sounds new but that’s not new. That works for everything. If you talk about power metal or neoclassically inspired stuff has tons of classical music in it. If you talk about 70s stuff, you could put that into heavy metal. They’re inspired by blues rock themselves. It’s just a re-imagination of blues and country, Western, it’s just something evolving. So it’s important to think about what hasn’t been done before, from other musical contexts, something that is not metal but can work in a coherent way in metal.
Damian: So I’m the new drummer in the band, since 2019. My inspiration comes from thrash metal. I’m a thrasher, and they found me because of a video of my past band. And they thought maybe this is the touch that they need.
Tony Steele: Because I also love bands like Heathen’s Rage for example, that is really powerful, but at the same time heavy metal, almost speed or thrash metal if you want. Also Crimson Glory is really amazing.
Tony Steele: He played on the second album, it’s almost ready, but I still don’t know when we will release it because I didn’t like the mixing and the sound. We had a little fight with the sound engineer and now another sound engineer is working with the second album.
Tony Steele: Exactly.
Tony Steele: Thank you so much!
Tony Steele: Yeah, it’s a really difficult situation because we were always separated. We don’t live in the same city, so at the start, during the pandemic, we had the bass player in London and it’s like three hours from Rome and now Tony [L.A.] lives in Milan. So it’s always difficult to do rehearsals or to rehearse for a show. And I have this really old way of organising the band. So for me, rehearsal is really important and I really love this lineup. So it’s important for me to keep this lineup, but this obviously took a long time, unfortunately. Also, there is work because I work probably too much. I have a really good job, I work with dogs, in a training center, but it’s really heavy work, so unfortunately, there isn’t always that much time for the music. This is a bit sad for me, but we still continue.
Damian: No, no, no. I was just going to add some bullshit stuff like more information is with payment only, the free period is over now [laughter].
Tony Steele: Uh, economics…the worst, probably. The problem was that most of the money we make is with merch that we sell at gigs. Yeah. So the best period obviously was 2019 because we had many gigs. We had a tour of 15 dates in Europe, we played Muskelrock, we played in Germany. But obviously after that the financial situation became worse and worse, unfortunately, because after that [Tony L.A.] moved to Milan. So the situation is not easy, unfortunately. So we just have to wait for the second album and when it’s ready obviously, [we’ll take it from there].
Tony Steele: The most important topic? I think a topic that is all our lyrics have in common is like Heavy Load said ‘take me away’, meaning take me away from this reality, from this age. You know, when you live in a reality that doesn’t represent you, when you grow up in a really small place in the south of Italy. It’s really difficult. So you have to find a way to escape. Escape from reality. Escape from a reality that is not not good for you. And obviously there are many topics. But this is probably the word that is in common for every lyric. Also the idea of a prisoner is only a metaphor. I talk about cages, but it’s cages which make you a slave in society. But there, you come to a tricky paradox because you want to escape with these lyrics, but in the end of all the facts really, you talk about this reality. So first you escape, but then, when you become conscious of the lyrics and the images and everything that is there, you understand that all that stuff that helped you escape in the end always talks about this reality and describes negative or simply real stuff, real situations of this world. Also, for example, “A Great Spark From The Dark“ talks about the relationship between son and father. Now that you know this, you will read those lyrics in another way. Or “Lord of the Key“ talks about drugs, being addicted to drugs. So when you read those lyrics, it seems very epic, but when you know that it’s about drugs, you will read it in another way, you will understand. But it’s all personal stuff in a metaphorical way.
Tony Steele: That’s a really good question. In my opinion, unfortunately a bit of that protest is not like, uh, in the 80s or in the 70s, because probably the social networks create a sort of massification also in metal because all is about ego and appearance and I don’t like that kind of approach. I really want to keep that part that is about protest and not only about appearances and likes and views on YouTube. It’s a massification because you know, for example, we had no Facebook page at the start because I always wanted to keep the pure music only, not caring about likes. Because you know, there is this kind of psychological stuff that when a band has many likes or views this means that it’s a good band, but I really don’t like that because I think that a band could be [great] with only two people knowing that band. I grew up with bands, really underground bands that no one knew. When I started to listen to New Wave of British Heavy Metal, it was not like today, [today] many bands have become only a way to appear and this is a part that I don’t like about this age.
Tony Steele: In my opinion, I’m really not into politics. I think that music has to be out of politics, because politics is only a reflection of the imperfection of man, I really believe that probably the perfect society would be without any politics. I know that it’s an utopia, obviously. Politics is only another way to fight man to man. It’s only that. And so I really prefer to keep all the lyrics and all of Vultures Vengeance in a personal way about emotions, human emotions and all that we have on our minds. There is also the problem that when you are a child and you ask yourself ‘what is all this?’, why do we leave behind all these kinds of questions that are bigger than politics, questions about the universe, about existence. But no, politics I think is not my cup of tea.
Tony Steele: My biggest hope is to continue with as much passion as we can. And the most important thing of all that I want to do in the future is that I don’t want to play for success or too much or for money, but only for love. [I want it to be] about music, about talking to people with your music only. That is my biggest wish.
Tony Steele: Eurovision [laughter] Yeah, like Måneskin…
Tony Steele: We have many stories, you know, a tour at our level, it’s heavy because, obviously we’re not Iron Maiden, so we have no roadies, so every night is intense. But obviously many funny things happened. Like this time in Sweden. We were in the house of the organizer and totally out of nothing, a man came in through the window. He really came into the house through the window while we were having some beers and we were listening to Headless Cross, I remember. And this man came from nowhere through the window, and started to yell ‘Pescatore! Pescatore!’, so the Italian word for fisherman. It made absolutely no sense. And none of us knew that man, and he just came through the window. It was really funny. And basically after that he stayed with us until late at night.
Tony Steele: Yeah, exactly. Strange things happen, but maybe they’re amusing if you have the right spirit to experience them.