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Death SS

Death SS bestaat in 2007 alweer 30 jaar, en met het recentelijk uitgebrachte 'The Seventh Seal' is het feestje voor deze Italianen compleet. Een album dat mij zeer wist te overtuigen, en iedere keer als ik de plaat draai ontdek ik weer wat nieuws. Nu heeft een band die bij dertig jaar meedraait natuurlijk het nodige te melden, en daarom lieten we zanger en oprichter Steve Sylvester maar eens aan het woord over het nieuwe album, de achtergrond van Death SS en het hebben van een cult status.

Door: Jean | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

Hi there Steve, congratulations with your new album 'The Seventh Seal'. I was totally surprised by the impact it had on me while reviewing the disc. Death SS has been around for almost 30 years now, can you give us a short history about how you managed to stay that long in this business?
DEATH SS was born in 1977. At that time I was only a child and I've simply tried to tie into an unique project all my passions about horror movies and comics, occultism and rock music. We play an original kind of music we've called "Horror music" that includes many diferent elements, from dark, metal, gothic, glam and industrial. We were the first band all over the world to play in full horror costumes and make-up, that we've changed and evolved many times during all these years. Our shows are very famous for their spectacular elements that makes them similar to a kind of "metal Grand-Guignol". During the years the line-up changed many times but the project "DEATH SS" is still young and alive. Our secret is simply to carry on our way, trying to play the kind of music we love, without taking care of all the rest. There's a kind of magical pact around this band that preserve us from time! Anyway I advise the reader to visit our official web-site (www.deathss.com) to know more details about our history.

I think you're probably getting tired about the question, but can you please tell our readers what the name Death SS stands for? You can imagine that a name such as yours can be interpretive as a right winged organisation.
The name was choose by me and it means "in DEATH of Steve Sylvester", that was the death of my old being and my rebirth as initiate in this "magical-musical" project. As you can see, there's not any relation with political groups and least of all with Nazism!!!! DEATH SS are absolutely non-political!!!!

Death SS is well known for their survival the last 30 years now. However, there were large intermittencies in those years. What was the main reason for those “breaks”?
I want to premise that, personally, I haven't never given much importance to the fact that the band exists from so much time. I feel myself the same as when I've begun, and the enthusiasm and the determination we have today is still the same of the beginnings. Apart from this, our medium age is about 30 and as you could also see from our pictures we're still "young and beautiful"..! Obviously is not so simple to survive in the music-business for so much time (especially if you come from Italy and you decide to play Heavy Metal), and during his career DEATH SS had some periods of stop, mainly due at problems with record companies or with the line-up. I'm not a kind of tyrant, but to let the band survive I was obliged to make changes every time that a member was not more in a position to dedicating himself to this project at 100%.

Ever thought of quitting the band after such a long period? I guess people are never going to get rid of you guys. Your cult status is huge!
I quit the band for about two years, from the end of 1982 to all 1984, for a strong physical and mental disease, and I've reformed it in 1988. From then I've never left. I've made a satanic pact when I've formed this band, and I had to respect it.!!!

I mentioned in the review that the style on 'The Seventh Seal' is more excessive and open for a bigger audience. With all the gothic/electro influences used by bands these days, the album will fit perfectly in that scene. Did you wrote the songs on purpose this way or did they accidentally just go that way?
When I write a song I don't think to any kind of public or scene, but I concentrate myself only into create a good song that could well represent the idea I had in mind. So it can happen that to better suggest some feelings expressed by the lyrics, our music could take inspirations from gothic or electronic, instead of metal or progressive or some other style. Anyway this is absolutely accidental! The sound of 'Seventh Seal' is different from the last work ('Humanomalies') and is simpler and direct, darker and less electronic, perfectly right for the "apocalyptic" concept expressed by the songs.

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'The Seventh Seal' became an album with much alternation. The vocals create more often a melancholic, sometimes even sinister environment that I really liked. Are you satisfied with the album how it appears to be now? Is there anything you want to change on the album when you listen to it nowadays?
I'm very satisfied with the album! It sounds exactly as I had in mind when I started the write it. I worked so much on the arrangements to reach this final result that mixed all the musical moods and influences DEATH SS had on his career, with something again new, potent and melodic, glamorous and disturbing at the same time.

Your song 'Give 'em Hell' became the hymn of the Italian official wrestling federation. It must be an honour that they picked that particular track. Was there some kind of contest that bands could send their songs or did they contact you for permission?
You have to know that I'm a long time fan of Wrestling! I love this kind of sport-show because it has a lot of similarities with the Heavy Metal world. Both are very strong and direct and take great care of the "entertainment". When in Italy a very professional federation (the ICW) was founded, I personally contacted them to propose the song. After they have listened to it, they were very enthusiastic to use it like "official entrance" for their shows. We also have shot a funny video-clip together.

Here's a few of my favourite tracks. Can you please write your comment behind them considering your thoughts when you wrote the songs?

Venus' Gliph - The Venus' Gliph is the symbol composed by the circle of the intellect over the cross of the matter. It represents love free from any conditioning and egoistic sentiments, and synthesize the harmony of the "sexual-magickal" act. It's a song on the spiritual vision of a sexual intercourse, with all the conflicts that this involved. Musically and lyrically 'Venus's Gliph' can be compared to the atmospheres of the "Do what thou wilt" album, with something new.

Another Life - It is a kind of dark reflection on all that could have been in life and has not been.

Der Golem - It's the story of the mythical monster built with clay by an ancient rabbi, to save his people from persecutions. It takes inspiration from Jewish Kabbalah, superstition and from the pre-expressionist gothic novel. I've also tried inspiration from the famous Paul Wegener's movie of the '20s. A new character in Death SS's Horror House!

Give 'em Hell - It's a kind of exhortation to fight against all life's adversities, an invitation to fight against all our enemies, whether they are "physical" or "mental". For his style so combative and his anthemia refrain, the song was chose by the Italian Championship Wrestling as official entrance.

Time To Kill - The world is coming to his end and there's no more time to kill! We had to produce a change in our "inner world" if we want to turn away the Apocalypse!

What does Death SS use for lyrical influences and ideas? Any messages in them on political, spiritual, historical or religion basis or are they just mind spinning thoughts whom has nothing to mean at all?
I write all the band's lyrics, mainly basing myself on my personal philosophy into the "occult way", that is near the Aleister Crowley's teachings of "Do What Thou wilt", a message of complete freedom against all kind of moral, social and religious constrictions. 'The Seventh Seal' is not a real "concept-album", but all the lyrics can be read under a double key, to let the people free to decide if they want to or not dig under their first appearance, to discover new hidden meanings. All the CD is about an "Apocalyptic mood", and you could find references at the book of the Apocalypse of St. John, at the kabbalah, at the numerology (tied at the number seven), at the sexual magick practices of Tantrism, at the book of revelations and many other things. Each song works by itself but everyone could be a part of a veiled concept. I've also took inspiration from the homonymous movie-masterpiece of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.

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Again, you choose for Fabrizio V.Zee as producer. How is it to work with such a talented producer with a very wide taste in music? Did Fabrizio give you guys any tips, like re-arranging particular songs at the time they were recorded?
We've chose to record 'The 7th Seal' again with Fabrizio because we know him from many years and we've created a good feeling with him and his staff in L.A. We know both very well and so we know which are our merits and our defects. This makes the work easier. Anyway we did a long period of pre-production here in Italy before to reach him in the States, so the recording sessions went easy and quite fast, without any particular problem.

What is for you the main red line on 'The Seventh Seal'? Do you want to spread a certain message to your listeners during the album?
You have to know that when we started we've made a kind of "magical pact", a ritual that obliged us to create seven magic operations or "seals". Every seal would have not necessarily to comprise only a single album, but also more than one; the important was that every part of a single seal contained to its inside the same spiritual message. Now we're arrived at the last seal and that's the why I've called the album in this way.

Are there any plans for playing at festivals this year - outside Italy - in support of your album?
Yes! But at the moment I cannot give you any confirmation. I have an agency that is working for this. As soon they find an agreement, it will be showed on our web-site. Anyway, if there's going to be a '7th Seal Tour', it will start only in October.

I've noticed also that you guys changed image a bit. What is the main reason to do so? Did the music on 'The Seventh Seal' inspire you to go goth/industrial dressed?
I think that the band's image must reflect exactly the kind of sound we're playing, and for this reason we always took many attention in our look and choreographies, evolving them as every music evolution. The main characters of each one of us are still the same (the vampire, the death, the werewolf, the mummy and the phantom of the opera), but reinterpreted as a more modern and up-dates point of view.

What means Death SS to you? Is it a life-style, or just an institution to make some music with?
DEATH SS is absolutely a life-style! This project perfectly represents me and the things I love: heavy -dark music, horror, magick, sex and freedom!

Where must Death SS stand in about three years from now? What is your major goal with the band now?
I don't like to make long plains for the future. I prefer to take my life day by day! Actually my goal is to start the new tour. in July we'll be headlining the Evolution Fest here in Italy. What will happen after this is still a mystery.

Are there any members on board with second bands/projects running? And do you support that?
Every DEATH SS member is free to have all the projects he want when he has some free-time from the band! The important is to dedicate his main efforts to DEATH SS.

Next to Death SS, what do you do for living?
Anything else! DEATH SS takes all my time.

What are your thoughts about all those reunion bands these days while you managed to get along for almost 30 years?
I haven't any thoughts with regard to this. As I have already said, I've never took care of what the other bands do, and personally I still feel myself as soon as I have begun.

Penultimate question; I always ask the person interviewed about his thoughts and opinion on bands/persons. Now it is your turn! Share your comment please with us on the following bands:

1 – Rhapsody
2 – In Extremo
3 – Lordi
4 – Alice Cooper
5 – Apoptygma Berzerk

You must believe me, but I've never heard the bands 1 - 2 - 5I know them only by name (especially Rhapsody) but I've never had the opportunity to hear something about them. I know Lordi because some time ago I've seen one of their pictures on a magazine and I've noticed that two of them were exactly dressed and made-up as two of DEATH SS did in the "do what thou wilt" period. Anyway musically there're very different from us. Alice Cooper is instead one of my favourite artist ever! He's still the master of horror rock!

Final one; suppose your house was on fire. Besides your loved ones, you are only able to save THREE music CD's/DVD's/LP's from the devastating flames. Which ones will be rescued?
Very difficult question! For the LP's I think 'Sacrifice' from Black Widow, the first of The Sweet and Black Sabbath. For the DVD's 'The Holy Mountain' from Alejandro Jodorowsky, 'Lucifer Rising' from Kenneth Anger and 'The Magician' by Rex Ingram. I would not cure so much the CDs, because they have not got a great value, but I would try instead of saving my collection of old 7" inches, to which I'm very attached.

I want to thank you for your answers and wish Death SS with their new album all the best. Also I'll give you the opportunity to quote any (classic) one liner or say some words that comes to your mind for our readers.
Thanks to you! I hope to come very soon in your country for a hellish horror-metal show! All The Be(a)st!

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