Dragonhammer Interview

More powerful, more epic and more symphonic than ever, Italian power metal band Dragonhammer has returned. A troubled history behind their back, these guys are ready to begin their Second Life while keeping the original flame alive. Below, the chat I had with the band.

Hi, this is Rick! Who am I talking to, and what is your role in the band?

Hi Rick! I am Giulio Cattivera, keyboardist of Dragonhammer.

This is Dragonhammer’s first album with a refreshened line-up: three new members including the singer; Second Life is a very appropriate title in this sense.
How has this “new beginning” been, so far? Did you find it much harder to work in the studio with half the earlier members and half newcomers?

The title of the album is both connected to the concept and to the changes that have happened to the band, which has found a way to reorganise and move forward towards its Second Life. I chose it for this very reason!

Compared to the past, we have changed the way of making music in all its phases, from composition to the moment of recording in the studio. Half of the members have changed, and so has the way of working. So far, things are going very well; there’s a lot of harmony between us! Me and the other “older” members have tried to create a stimulating environment for everyone.

As for the album, we have supervised the whole work but all members had their own space to express themselves at their best to improve the songs. We are very satisfied with the work done! I must say that we spent significantly more time and energy than on the other albums, but we did everything with great pleasure.

Following the previous question, this isn’t the first time the band goes through a… radical change of lineup. How do you think a band manages to keep the original spirit intact, while changing members, and avoid becoming a completely different band?

Yes, you are right; Dragonhammer has often changed the lineup.

This is a fact that we have lived with for several years. Nonetheless, I can tell you that in each “incarnation,” there were stable members that tried to carry on the spirit, the vision, and the organisation of the band.

However, members may leave for career and personal reasons, or due to ambitions no longer in line with the band’s vision. I think one way to avoid looking completely different is to involve the new members in the vision and spirit of the band. This task is up to the older ones.

Worst case scenario, when someone who is fundamental to the current vision leaves, they leave a legacy for the others. The most important part of this legacy is the music. Thus the spirit of the band is handed down.

Sometimes it may not make sense to keep the band alive; other times it exists a way to reorganise and still remain identifiable. This is exactly what happened last time with Dragonhammer; it happened, and will continue to happen, to lots of bands.

Dragonhammer went through “thematic” changes too: at the very beginning you dealt in the typical early-2000 fantasy themes, only to shift towards darker and more introspective themes with your later albums such as The X Experiment; now you’re back to fantasy.
Why this “return”, just now? Do you think power metal is coming back to its fantasy themes, thanks to the NWOTHM too?

On this aspect of the “return to fantasy”, I’ll tell you what really happened. Second Life talks about some key moments that happen in our lives, such as personal fulfilment and the understanding of what really matters, but also about some dramatic moments, such as the loss of someone or the risk of dying.

Everything is narrated from the point of view of a protagonist who lives in the past, very far from today, because I think the thoughts of yesterday’s men are the same as ours, that is, the thoughts and feelings have no time. Fantasy is present in small doses in this story, fused with introspective themes.

To answer your question, in our path towards this Second Life we wanted to start from where we were originally, without undoing what we had done up to now. Personally, I have always believed that to stimulate the creation of new things, studying and understanding existing knowledge is necessary.

Regarding power metal, I think it is one of the genres – not the only one, of course – that has strongly influenced the metal scene. Many bands continue to feel a strong vocation for fantasy themes and simply want to propose them again, of course changed or evolved in slightly different forms. If you think about it, this also happens in other artistic areas, such as movies. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this.

Now, about Second Life: what were the first and last songs written? Which ones are you most excited to play live?

The first song written was Fallen Brother – yes we started from a ballad! – I will never forget it because this song is inspired by a dramatic experience I personally had in my life during the first period of the composition of the album.
There are so many songs from Second Life that are exciting to play live. But if I have to choose one I would say Kingdom Of The Ghosts that was made on purpose to convey the right energy.

What albums and musicians inspired the writing of this album? Any noteworthy releases you’d say were/are fundamental to you as a musician?

There are no specific albums that have been taken as a reference for the composition of Second Life. More generally, we extracted the characteristics from our musical knowledge that we wanted to be present in the album.

I personally grew up with classical music when I was a child, while for rock and metal I grew up first with 70s and 80s rock music like Deep Purple, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Yes and then with metal bands like Stratovarius, Hammerfall, Rhapsody, Metallica and Nightwish, just to name a few. But I have always listened to and continue to listen to everything, even pop music from whom sometimes I took inspiration for some solutions to our songs.

You will play a show in Poland in 2023, right? But before that, do you have any plans for a proper tour?

Yes, exactly, Dragonhammer will play in Poland at the Steel Fest in August 2023, as well as in the Czech Republic at Rock Castle 2023. These are the confirmed dates for now, but in these days we are working for planning new live shows in Europe. Stay tuned with our social networks! [links below]

You’ve toured with Rhapsody of Fire, and their early albums clearly are an inspiration for you… so I have to ask: what’s your favorite incarnation of the band? Rhapsody, Rhapsody of Fire, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Turilli / Lione Rhapsody…?

Yes, Rhapsody is part of our influences, at least for my personal ones. Their various incarnations have, among other things, contributed to diversifying their music thanks to the contributions of different formidable musicians. We had the pleasure of sharing the stage together!

If I really had to choose one of their “versions”, I would say the first one, “Rhapsody”. I think they really defined a genre!

Many thanks to all the guys from Dragonhammer! Second Life, released on November 4th is on Bandcamp. Do as Guilio said, and follow the band online! They are on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, plus there’s the official website.