I’m at the World’s End. Pub, that is. Directly over the Underworld, I’m summoned to it’s grisly bowels and lead through corridors of graffiti and grime, the support band’s dressing room until we find a nice quiet corner to have a good old gossip about everyone’s favourite Austrian power metal band, Serenity.
Let’s get started on a quick performance review, hot off the heels for the Cardiff show the previous night. “It was awesome!” says Mario. “Better than expected to be honest”.
“They’re really nice, the venue was quite cool, the bar was very cool” chimes in bass player Fabio. “The only problem was the moisture…”
“It was a sweaty show” Mario explains. I get the feeling I’ve got something of a double act on my hands. “The audience was great, we played a long set list”. Well, we would expect that from the first headline show ever in the UK. “Today is the third show. We promised to back after the last tour!”.
“The main reason is that we are…good, in the UK. We cannot hide this, it was one of our first markets, in terms of sales and fans. It seemed logical and we planned a couple of shows to see if it works or not, and we will definitely be back with the new album”. We’ll get to the new album later, but for now Mario takes over. “One of the other countries we do really well is The Netherlands. And Germany as well where there are good markets for our kind of music. But on this, our headliner tour, it would’ve been too busy to do a gig over there…the distance is just incredible. We concentrated on Switzerland, and then a couple of shows in the UK”.
Serenity have certainly come on leaps and bounds in terms of popularity over the last couple of years, no doubt due to their last release on Napalm Records, Death & Legacy. “Forget about Austria! Concerning melodic heavy metal, there’s practically nothing” Mario explains.
“It’s not my home country, as I’m Italian…I have to admit there’s a massive difference” adds Fabio, who joined the band shortly before Death & Legacy was released. “We have to go abroad to do the good shows that we feel the fans deserve”. On the back of that, Fabio joined the band back in 2010. “My first show with the band was ProgPower Europe, in the Netherlands…October 1st. Then we spoke and said…maybe…”.
“And it worked out very well!” laughs Mario.
“It’s a nice story”, continues Mario. “Back in 2007, the band was touring with Kamelot, the first tour with them. I was busy with Fairyland, the project. Me and Phil [Giordina], from Fairyland, were working on pre-production on the album which would have been out two years later, A Score To A New Beginning. Phil planned to have Georg as a guest vocalist. I was involved in the project, so Georg invited us to their [Serenity’s] show in Lyons, France. We decided to meet. We spoke, and planned the recordings in my studio for the following year, 2008. We’ve always been in contact. So, Georg comes over to my studio in Italy and records the guest vocals for the album and everything turns out great!”
“We stayed in contact, and when Serenity needed a bass player he just wrote me an email…and I said yes!”
“Our old bass player left…and Georg said ‘oh, I know a guy'” says Mario, his Unearth shirt confusing me somewhat until I heard his growls later that night. “So, we gave him a call and two days later we have a new bass player”.
“Of course, the guys didn’t know me!” Fabio exclaims.
“It’s more than just a bass player, we have another singer as well,” Mario explains. While play keyboards, he also provides many of the much needed backing vocals, but is now joined by Fabio. “He has a great voice, it’s a really big step forward for us. We always like to put our choirs in the front, you know? People like that a lot, I think it’s very special in heavy metal. We have a lot of these backings of course, but in heavy metal choirs singing on stage is very seldom these days and we try to force this”.
“We’ve found the perfect combination for backing vocals” continues Mario. “Me, Mario and Andi [Andreas Schipflinger, the drummer] do the backing vocals. Georg’s voice is there, but we,” he points to himself, Mario, and a random direction where drummers may be hiding, “we have different ranges. Mario has mid range, mid-high, I have high, and Andi has mid-low. It’s perfect. It’s a coincidence, but a good one”.
Serenity have indeed embraced technology, and a good job from looking at the Underworld’s stage; fitting an entire choir on such a small space looks like a challenge. “It all comes from the iPod,” revels Mario. “It’s low, but we do all the voices live”. I’d had the opportunity of seeing Serenity before and I need no convincing of their vocal prowess having seen them in Manchester last year.
“The first show of that tour! It was…a busy day” says Fabio. “The production has to run the first day, everything for us was new and for Delain as well…it was too short, though. It was only 4 dates though, London, Manchester, Leamington Spa…and The Cathouse”.
There is an awkard silence as we all think about the Cathouse before a slip out a giggle. “What makes you laugh?” smiles Mario. I have sadly been there. Fabio explodes laughing. “Ah, so you know about the situation then!? But I want to be back there it was a great crowd…even if they don’t have an elevator!”
“As soon as you’re on stage and you hear the cheers, you forget about the club” admits Mario. “And all the technical problems”.
“The guys had the experience before me, touring with Kamelot in 2009, where they had to cancel the tour because of Georg’s illness” says a slightly sombre Fabio. “He had an ear infection and bronchal problems…it really was not good” adds Mario. “That time with Delain was different, because we were special guests, not only a support band. Of course the treatment is a bit different…”
“Of course, Kamelot treated us well” Mario quickly adds. “But the lineup is different and we want to come back there”.
While we’re on Kamelot, now is as good a time as any to discuss crazy-eyed ex-singer, Roy Khan. Seeing as I’ve bought Serenity albums that have stickers on that say ‘A must for Kamelot fans!’, it’s got to be relevant? “For me personally, I’ve never been a big Kamelot fan but I really like the guys because we’ve been on tour twice with them” says Mario. “I like their sound and have a couple of albums, but I was really sad that Roy left and had all his problems. His voice is unique, even back in Conceptions, he’s a unique singer. You hear his voice, you absolutely recognise. That’s the worst thing that could have happened to Kamelot, in my opinion”.
So there we go. Back to tonight’s shenanigans, I want to know what song it is they’ve never played before, as my erstwhile hobbit-botherer partner in crime informs me is taking place. To call her a rabid fangirl would be something of an understatement. Both Mario and Fabio almost seem too happy about a girl on the front row. Looking back, I think they may have tried to pinch her during a photo after the show…”We are. But we won’t tell you! But maybe you’ve heard on the internet?” Sadly not. “Well, it’ll be a suprise then!”
Hobbit-botherer with Fabio & Mario
Fuelling the flames of fandom aside, what exactly have Serenity been up to in the last six months? “We’ve been into the studio. Songwriting , pre-production. Talking a lot about the direction new songs…vocal lines, riffs. Ideas, putting them all together” lists Mario. No doubt an apprehensive prospect.
“We cannot fully concentrate on the album at the moment,” adds Fabio. “It’s a bit too early, we’ve been touring since December. But after this headlining tour we really need to focus as we want this album to come out soon…”
“The end of the year” says a hopeful Mario. “The latest, the beginning of next year”.
“There’ll be a lot of work…we found this out a couple of weeks ago, over at my studio in Italy. Mario and Georg came over to start some pre-production stuff. Also, Thomas is doing split production in his studio. We’ll try for the moment to do it like this and then we’ll decide when we’ll officially start”.
“There’s a whole bunch of ideas” explains Hirzinger, who wrote all the material for the debut and is still the core of the song writing unit. “There’s a new formula, as Fabio’s never been much into songwriting before”.
“For Death & Legacy I arrived to late”, says the bass player.
“It was already recorded when he joined, he only did the band press stuff”.
Death & Legacy was a trip back through history to some of the most famous and some of the most obscure historical figures of the last thousand years. Serenity are no strangers to big concepts and this seems due to continue on the as-yet unnamed fourth album. “It’s gonna be different, but there should be some concepts. It’s not the same thing, it’s not a Death & Legacy Part 2, absolutely not. But, we stay in the past and we concentrate on others. But so far, we’re concentrating on other things”.
“[Death & Legacy] was totally embraced by the fans. We’ve gained more fans with this album. We did a lot more promotion for this album, with all this new stuff like Facebook and Twitter…we have a lot of fan clubs now. It works like a pyramid system…one tells the other, they reach other people…”.
In my last chat with Mario, we talked about how the progressive elements of the debut album, Words Untold & Dreams Unlived, gradually diminished towards the more straight-up stylings of Fallen Sanctuary and Death & Legacy. Is now the time to reintroduce some of those elements? “I don’t think so…maybe slightly. There’s not going to be many rhythm changes, only slightly. Because…”
“You and Andi are really into it” jibes Fabio.
“Yeah, that’s a fact. We noticed that when we are playing live, the straight stuff reaches more people”.
“…Maybe some slight stuff going with the vocals lines” hints Fabio.
“To be honest, we’ve never been a progressive metal band. There’s always been huge choruses. We’re playing a headliner show, so of course we have to play material from the first album. All three albums, we’re playing for an hour and a half tonight”.
No Serenity show would be complete without a lady in a corset. Is Lisa Middlehauve returning with you this year? “Tonight we have Clementine, a French singer, who was on the Out Of The Dark Tour with us, last fall. She was the vocalist of Wisdom, a French symphonic metal band. It was really fine for us. It was her first tour, because she’s pretty young but we decided to carry on working with her”.
We’ve come full circle back to tonight. With that, I leave Mario and Fabio to prepare for the show as Pythia warm up in the background.
It’s about 11.30 and Serenity have just come off stage. A sweaty Mario grabs my hand, “Thanks so much for the support, Alex!”. I leave them to wind down and celebrate what seems to have been a fantastic weekend for the band.