ASTRAL PATH: Delivering Powerful Messages

Astral Path

Italian progressive death metal quintet Astral Path debuted this year with a full-length Ashes Dancer, a fine collection of songs with variety of influences. Prog Sphere talked with the band, and here is what they told us about their work, Ashes Dancer, influences, technology and future plans.

Define the mission of Astral Path.

It’s hard to define from the personal view of each single member, since it changed a lot during our personal and musical growth through the time we’ve been together, although the music has always been kind of pivoting point in our lives. Now, for the kind of people we are, we want our music not only to be an outburst of our feelings, personal experiences, but also to reveal the real shades of the reality we see, with all the hidden schemes that are imposed to us by the society, without us even realizing it. This can be a key to decipher the lyrics on Ashes Dancer.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recently released album Ashes Dancer and the themes it captures.

The creative process of Ashes Dancer involved a lot of strong personal experiences, from lucid dreaming, life-changing TV news to more ordinary situations and events of every day life. The process of expressing all the above-mentioned experiences through the music resulted in album themes like emotions, passions, social relationship, beauty of human history but also social disease, personal oblivion, and sacrifices.

What is the message you are trying to give with Ashes Dancer?

It is very important to know why we are here and where we stand. And it’s not necessarily referring to anything supernatural or esoteric. We have a role as a person and as human being in our society, it’s unreasonable to ignore it, as you grow up. Ashes Dancer wants the listeners to understand this. All your actions, even your very existence, make you an essential part of the world, even more so than you think, with all the consequences to it. It’s not the wrong and right, it’s just the cause and effect.

Astral Path - Ashes Dancer

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Everything starts with us playing around on the guitar, then we elaborate the ideas both melodically and rhythmically, then we transcribe everything on a very popular program (or app, as they call it nowadays LOL) for musicians, to have an idea of how it could roughly sound like and to further arrange with other instruments. Then we play the songs together in the rehearsal room, and from there everyone can introduce his personal interpretation and approach to his part. A little nuances and adjustments here and there, given the live environment.

Our advice is always to track down what you come up with, in one way or another, because sometimes inspiration is like a one-way train to catch. It never comes back, or it does but then goes to another direction. Luckily, Astral Path is like the Grand Central Station of Milan: we have so many trains to catch we can’t even take a break. You’ll definitely know what I mean on our next album.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Ashes Dancer turned out quite conceptual in the flow of the songs, but it wasn’t really architected, at least not at the very beginning. What happened is that one thing lead to another and it’s been a very satisfying process under a mere creative point of view (the technical aspects, that’s another story), because it seemed that everything just came out automatically. You know when you understand what you’ve done once done? We didn’t force anything, if that’s what you asked.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

For Ashes Dancer, we used an approach that is pretty straightforward. Now skip this part if you are not a studio geek… [laughs]

We recorded everything, except vocals and drums, at the Penguin Studio (one of our home studios) with drum machine, produced the pre-production tracks for the studio-drumming, recorded the drums at the RecLab Studio (in just 2 days, kudos to our monster drummer), went back to the Penguin Studio, recorded all the guitar and bass tracks in clean sound (obviously with the similar-to-definitive sound coming out from the monitors), brought everything back to RecLab Studio for a proper reamping, then we recorded the vocal parts (in just 2 days, kudos to our monster singer), then mix and mastering and voilà!

We realized that most times the recording process has nothing to do with the creative process: as we mentioned before, the mere creative aspect was a blast, totally satisfying and rewarding. We had a lot of fun with it. The recording process, on the other hand, tend to be strict and sometimes demanding. You know, you have to follow the rules, you can be creative only to a certain point.

The total number of the guitar tracks Gabriele recorded on this album is truly impressive (kudos to our monster guitar player), and they are much more than the members of a symphony orchestra. [laughs]

On top of all that, this album is completely self-funded so we had to squeeze the maximum final result out of the budget we had, and honestly, we think we did succeed in delivering a strong album.

How long Ashes Dancer was in the making?

The composition process started from way back, we’re talking about late 2012 and early 2013. The real recording process started in January 2014 and ended in May 2015. At the beginning we had a rather raw approach to the recordings due to the many circumstances and it took us a long time with long breaks between recording sessions, but eventually we finally found our own Path (no pun intended) and the album turned out to be really solid and coherent with both the sound and the musical content, so the final result is pretty fulfilling.

Astral Path

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Every band member came from a slightly different musical background, institutionally and inspirationally speaking. The musical influences of each one of us cover such a wide spectrum of bands, artists, from various eras, culture and geographic areas that is impossible for us to even start counting. We have classically trained, jazz-lovers, progressive rock or opera aficionados, we all had the so-called metalhead period at some point in our lives, who more who less… but fortunately, there’s a common feature that belongs to all 6 of us: we don’t set ourselves any boundary. We want to embrace the beauty (sometimes brutality) of the music at 360 degrees. I think that’s also one of the aspects that could make Astral Path stand out as a band.

Speaking of the album, the band that mostly influenced us is obviously Opeth, as you can witness yourself on a couple of tracks. This particular band was like a huge earthquake that literally shook up the lives of Gabriele, Francesco and Eugene as they grew up, so very naturally it became one of the main inputs for us to even start playing together. We used to have always one track from Opeth in our setlist as cover song, at the very beginning of our live activities. Other than that, we can hear a bit of Katatonia, Alcest, The Ocean and a bit of Between The Buried And Me‘s early work etc., if that’s what you mean. It’s a very personal development for us and none of us actually specifically gleaned inspiration from any of these bands. We just let our natural imprint do the talking.

Being our first full-length album, we got most material from the founding member and guitarist Gabriele’s personal vault that he’s built up through the years.

What is your view on technology in music?

If by “technology” you mean recording and editing technology, then more than ever we are living in a blessed age. Let’s simply put it this way: just 10 years ago, we probably would have spent double the money for the recording of Ashes Dancer, just 15 years ago triple, 30 years ago 20 times the money we have spent. Everything is so easy nowadays, and that keeps you focused on the creative process and from being distracted by technical issues. We know that somebody in the past, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, used to have fun with technical limitations and create interesting stuff with them, but we definitely don’t belong to that realm! hahahah We want to keep everything easy to remain focused on our music. The only technical limitation we want to keep and we die for is DISTORTION. Uhh yeah!

If by “technology” you mean the change of the medium and the way of distributing the music these days, there are so many upsides and downsides that it goes beyond our evaluation capability. First of all it became really easy, especially for smaller artists, like ourselves, to come in to view on an international scene through multi-channel advertising, and that certainly is a huge improvement upon the era when everything was monopolized by TV and radio. But on the other hand, it became so easy to discover new music these days yet it’s so easy to get lost. It literally takes one blink of an eye to get the whole discography of one certain band, yet you can’t easily focus on one particular song to fully appreciate it. So there are 2 sides of the same coin: you can have an endless picture to possess, but to really deeply enjoy it, you got to have the frames to circumscribe it little by little, because that’s how our life is: not endless.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

As said before, music goes far beyond music itself. It is an extraordinary endless tool. For us, it’s the best way to express ourselves and to give powerful messages and we are sure it will wake up something, in some listeners.

What are your plans for the future?

Yes, we have plans and we are already working our asses off.

We are already working on a concept album, and it’s turning out very satisfying and deep. It’s completely different from Ashes Dancer under all aspects. It’s a whole new story. We have two new guys in the band and they are pouring new blood into even the smallest capillary of the band life.

They are not only amazing human beings, but became also incredible composing forces, something totally unexpected. We really can’t wait to show you the new material. Can’t fucking wait. There’s a lot of fervor in the air.

Now that Astral Path is a well-oiled machine with new sound (double 7-string lead guitars and keyboard) and new directions, we are also working hard on the live performances because we are going to spread our music all over the world. Just wait for it.

Get a copy of Ashes Dancer here. Astral Path is on Facebook.

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