The War Inside My Head: An Interview with Nero di Marte
Italian force of nature Nero di Marte are, to be blunt, one of the most life-affirming, creative, and spellbinding music around. Their latest album, 2020's masterful Immoto was a mesmerizing symphony of crooked and desperate sounds, and some of the best god-damned uses of clean vocals in metal in a very long time. It even made our 2020 list, though undoubtedly not high enough on it. If there's such a thing as an extreme, adventurous, and forward-thinking "spirit" in music they encapsulate it with elegance and menace.
It thus gives my great pride, joy, and more joy to be able to present this interview with the band's vocalist and guitarist extraordinaire Sean Worrell, our latest of our music-appreciation series, The War Inside My Head, which focuses on some of the best, more creative voices in extreme music today.
Before we get the interview this is just to say that you can check out our other interview series (Albums of the Decade, Pillars of the 90s) and, you haven't already, please follow follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify and now also on TikTok (basically me fondling my tape collection) or support whatever it is that we do on Patreon, and check out our kinda-sorta podcast, MATEKHET (YouTube, Spotify and all that). On to Nero di Marte.
What was the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it?
I remember very clearly going to a record store inside a shopping mall to buy …And Justice For All by Metallica when I was nine or ten years old. I was exposed to heavy music at a very young age. My best friend from elementary school listened to metal because his father was into it. I remember hearing songs from Sepultura, Cannibal Corpse, Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden and others when I was only six or seven! It was almost kind of a secret silly thing we did during our breaks playing Super Nintendo, I don't think we really couldn’t understand what was going on or what we were feeling. My friend used to burn collections of these songs on cassette and CD for me to listen to. When I then started playing guitar at 8 I really came to appreciate the song “Blackened” by Metallica, which was on one of the discs. I thought that speed and aggression was incredible at the time, but what I really think happened there is I realized how the darkness of metal really resonated with me. I think that’s what made me most curious in buying that album when I finally was able to save up some money for my own.
What 2-3 albums did you hear the most growing up?
Without a doubt Painkiller by Judas Priest, through that same friend from school, and In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson. My father plays jazz but listened to prog rock growing up and introduced me to King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and the like. I guess the music I try to make today is still a mix between the rebellious, independent nature of metal and the strange abstract prog jazz sounds that pervaded my home.
What two albums taught you the most about making music (mixing, production, performance)?
We were very enamored with Ulcerate’s approach to recording extreme metal, starting from Everything is Fire. It was a return to an older way of doing things which wasn’t very present in the late 2000s. It wasn’t overproduced, quantized and perfect – but raw, savage and performed like a symphonic interplay between drums and guitars. Not that there weren’t other extreme metal bands doing similar things production wise, but it was the combination of that with the music that resonated with us at the time. We don’t play to a click track live and want to avoid using one in our next projects by recording everyone together at the same time and try to capture more interplay between musicians, which we always had to try to emulate if we were recording track by track – in that sense a lot of albums come to mind as an influence or teacher in ways of doing things… not necessarily in the metal genre though. We tried this approach in the video performance for Roadburn Redux 2021 and I think that performance sounds even better than the album!
What is the last album that absolutely shocked you?
I don’t know if shock is the right word, but I was absolutely swept away by Promises by Pharaoh Sanders, Floating Points & the London Symphony Orchestra which came out earlier this year.
What album relaxes you or centers you the most?
Hard question but it’s probably Karma by Pharaoh Sanders. This may or may not have to do with being in an extremely blissful state when I once listened to “The Creator has a Master Plan”…
What are the 2-3 albums you’ve listened to the most recently?
My bass player recently got me into Black Midi with their new album Cavalcade. I haven’t really been obsessed by anything new that’s come out, though it’s definitely been a few interesting years in music releases. The last album by Liturgy was really creatively open and amazing. I’m also really happy that Ad Nauseam is getting praise for their new music.
What album is grossly underrated?
I can’t really say… but I think the hate towards Illud Divinum Insanus by Morbid Angel was grossly exaggerated. I think the death metal songs on there are a super refined version of what they were doing, David's vocals are insane and regarding those other tracks… find it funny to think a lot of people couldn’t stand them trying something different or try to take what they were doing a little less seriously. Especially when you consider weird electronic orchestrations always had a presence on previous albums.
What album would you recommend from your local scene?
I can't just say one. The last two EPs from Gorrch, Neuroteque by Juggernaut, Fantasma by Arto are all killer Italian albums that came out in the past few years.