Kataklysm Vocalist Maurizio Iacono Talks ‘Unconquered’ + the Metal Community

2020-09-08

Kataklysm frontman Maurizio Iacono joins Anne Erickson to discuss the band's new album, "Unconquered," and more.

Kataklysm – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Kataklysm frontman Maurizio Iacono joins Anne Erickson to discuss the band’s new album, “Unconquered,” the strength of the metal community and more in this in-depth interview

Canadian death metal band Kataklysm is known for relentless riffs, doomy sonic textures and the heaviest of sounds, but they’ve really outdone themselves on their new record.

“Unconquered,” out Sept. 25 via Nuclear Blast Records, features raging riffs from the deepest, darkest places of the sonic world, and the result is a triumphant, blistering set of metal music that’s truly unique.

Maurizio Iacono of Kataklysm spoke with Anne Erickson about “Unconquered,” why the band decided to release it during the coronavirus pandemic instead of waiting it out and why the metal community proves different kind of people can come together. Read the interview below, and listen to the full chat via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Congratulations on the new album on the way, “Unconquered.” I’ve heard the full record, and it’s super heavy. Would you say this is one of the band’s heaviest records to date?

It is, for sure. One thing that’s obvious is the sound. We’ve upgraded the sound a lot on this album compared to other records, and I think that’s helped a lot the record and with the direction. It’s a very, very heavy record, even compared to the latest one we did, “Meditations,” and has a different approach to it.

I think it’s great that Kataklysm decided to release this new album now instead of waiting to see when coronavirus might settle down for the sake of touring. Fans are at home now, and they’re ready for new music.

Right, and to me, it’s almost un-metal when you think about it, because music has not been always about just the business side of it. Metal is a different beast all in itself. It’s more of a musician to fan interaction that’s tight. If things are hard right now, this is where metal needs to step in. It’a rebellious form of music. It’s not meant to be all programmed around, “Oh, we have to maximize sales and this and that.” I get that part, because I am in the bus side of things also in this industry, but at the same time, as an artist, this is where people need the music, because it’s therapeutic. I think even the title of the record was done last year, and here it comes at a time like this, “Unconquered.” It’s a good statement, and it’s the right time.

You recently released the lead single from the album, “The Killshot.” Tell me about the idea behind that track and music video.

We wanted a hard-hitting song to come out first. It was the idea in the beginning, and even when the record was all finished, we knew that was the song we wanted to come out the gate with. It was the general idea with the record label and everybody, but for us, it was the hard-hitting song that we wanted to come out with first, because it represents the record well and represents everything that’s going to happen on the album, in general. The idea is about something bad happening to somebody and then meticulously planing your revenge. Kataklysm always has this dark intonation in everything, but in the end, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel where you come on top of it. So, that was the message behind that song and the album in general.

When you’re recording an album, when do you know the track is done? What’s that gut feeling you get?

That’s a good question. The one thing we do that I know for a fact when we’re writing is that it has to feel natural. Some bands try too hard to be in competition with other bands and start getting too complicated inside their music. For Kataklysm, it’s always been about the feeling. If the song is going to be three minutes, it’s going to be three minutes. If it needs to be five or six minutes, it’s going to be. It depends on how it gets the message across as far as the feeling is concerned. I remember the last record, we did a song called “Narcissist,” and people were freaking out, because it was two minutes and 40 seconds or something, and they were like, “You guys going to do a two-minute song?” And, I was like, “Heck, yeah, we’re going to do a two minutes song!” And it become ome of our strongest live tracks. It’s to the point and done. It depends. For example, “Under the Scars,” when it was done, we asked, “Would you add anything to this or transform anything?” And we felt like, it feels right. That’s pretty much how it is. i’s a gut feeling.

Coronavirus has turned the world upside-down this year, especially for musicians. Based on what you’re hearing in the industry, do you have any idea when concerts might be back?

I also own an agency that books a lot of tours, probably 30 to 40 % of all metal tours in the U.S. in the mid-level range, so we do have a lot of input from what’s going on, but it keeps getting pushed. Now they’re talking spring next year. It could be before. It all depends on this vaccine and how they can start understanding…the problem with us is that the metal scene– it’s such a tight-knit community that you can’t put barricades inside a club. You can’t tell people to stay 10 feet apart. It’s just not going to work. As soon as the beats start coming in, people just want to throw themselves everywhere. You can’t have seats on the floor, and it’s kind of a weird enviornment for metal heads. That’s gong to be a factor later that we’re looking at– working on as much as we can to make it something acceptable. Even if you cut the capacity, you’re still going to have those 400 people come together, because it’s a brotherhood and sisterhood thing. It’s not the same as seeing Justin Bieber in a big arena and everyone sitting in sets. It’s not the same thing. I think it will come back. I think open airs will come back faster and before, because it’s open and outside, so they’re going to give that as shot first, I believe. There’s going to be a couple guinea pig out there the beginning of next year, so we’ll see! But it will come back next year, I’m pretty certain about it. They’re making a lot of progress on that front, but it’s going to be a rough and brutal thing this year.

What are your thoughts on drive-in concerts?

No, thank you. I mean, I can’t see myself playing in front of tin cans. I like the ambition behind it, the idea of let’s try something new, but I just can’t see it. And metal-heads, drinking like a two-four in their backseat and driving home– I don’t see it. It’s kind of a recipe for disaster on that level, and for us, it’s kind of seeing guys sticking out of their windows. I don’t know about that. I like the idea that it’s ambitious, but then also the music coming out of your stereo. I don’t know. It’s not the same.

I would rather wait for the real thing to return, personally.

I think it’s you and 99 % of everybody that feels the same way. The streaming stuff, even that I’m not ready to do with Kataklysm. The concert stream stuff. I also have a management company, and I have a lot of my bands that are doing it, and that’s cool, and I encourage, it because it’s a way of making a bit of money and connecting with fans. but, I don’t feel comfortable with it. Recording something and nobody is there and pretending there’s people there looking at you. It seems like bringing the world more and more into a cold place. No more warmth.

What are your thoughts on the state of heavy metal music today? Do you think it’s in a good place?

I think it is. It’s cool to see all the different sub-genres of it, and everybody is still coming together. We’re the only industry that does that. We should be an example to the world right now. We have so many different styles and divisions inside metal, but we all connect together and all respect what everybody is doing. Thrash guys respect the black metal guys, black metal guys, death metal, folk metal and whatever. We’re all in the same bubble but all coexist in the right way. That’s a good message, actually, for what’s going on everywhere right now. I think the state of the metal industry is good. Is it where some people want it to be? A lot of people always have this thing where they want to make it very commercial. They want it to be mainstream. It’s never going to be mainstream. I think it’s the most mainstream it’s ever been, but that’s going to be as far as it’s going to get. People think you can have death metal bands in arenas, and you can have that if you’re doing an OzzFest type of thing, but it’s not meant to be there. It’s what’s called underground. At least, that’s my philosophy on it, but everybody has their own opinions.

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