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¬ Forsaken (MALTA) - Kess keys, more heavyness!!

Since the release of your next-to-last album “Anima Mundi“ there have been alot of news in the Forsaken camp… for example have you parted ways with keyboarder Mario Ellul and decided to go on without keys from now on. How has it come to the split with Mario and why don’t you wanna use keys as a regular instrument anymore in Forsaken?

Leo: Mario’s main problem was that he could not cope with our rehearsal schedules. Apart from playing keyboards with Forsaken, he was and still is the founder member and guitarist of another band called Weeping Silence. He was either very late or absent for the only one rehearsal we do every week. Due to the fact that we started and had to finish the song writing for the new album that same year, he either had to choose between the two bands or straighten up his situation. After months of waiting for a change in Mario’s attitude, the situation remained the same so we took the decision ourselves on very friendly terms and eventually decided and told Mario that he had to leave the band. We still meet Mario in gigs locally and are planning to play with Weeping Silence in the future. Mario has fully understood our decision and accepted it. After the split with Mario we re-started to write the Dominaeon album because we already had some rough ideas and riffs for tracks like Obsidian Dreams and Daylight Dies. We talked energetically about getting another keyboardist and sometimes also of getting another guitarist alongside Sean. But the thing is that it was already very hard for us to rehearse once a week and getting another member would increase the pressure on the band plus that he has to take time to learn our backlog of material from previous releases. Furthermore the ideas which we were coming up with for Dominaeon were showing a more riff based sound which would come out better and heavier without the use of keyboards. Basically without keyboards we sound heavier, that’s how we wanted it and that’s how you got it on the album.

I personally like the (slightly) new direction of Forsaken alot!! The band sounds much heavier now... you can easily hear this on your new, fantastic CD “Dominaeon”, which got released just recently by the Scottish label Golden Lake Productions!! In retrospective, how hard work was it to make this album reality and – if you listen to it now – what’s your overall impression of it?

Leo: Writing Dominaeon can be described by a variety of adjectives like frenetic, dangerous, sublime, and crazy. There were a couple of fights in our garage while writing the album especially between me and Sean which could have ended up really scary at times. But after a few minutes all is settled down as we are really good friends in the end. At the same time there were a lot of brilliant ideas from all the band members and this adds to the musical versatility of the album. There are tracks like Kenosis which were turned up side down days before entering the studio giving the song a more mystical touch. The choirs were rehearsed in only a few days and took longer than expected to be recorded. Celestial Alchemist was planned to be a one minute song with clean guitar and vocals and ended up to be a four minute epic track which is influenced from the Black Sabbath track Supertzar. (At least that’s were we got the idea from). I think the track which we composed in the shortest time was Wretched of the Earth. Dominaeon definitely means a lot of hard work and we are very self criticizing people and want to be 200% sure of what we are doing. The whole album was composed in about a year and a half and we concentrated on more doom laden riffing and a heavier direct band sound.
In the studio we had to plan a time table on how long the recording must take due to our financial budget. Well, we still exceeded the budget days but I feel that the results show that it was worth the sacrifice.We used to spend until 3 in the morning in the studio. I look very positively at the album although there might be some things which every band member might criticize and change in the next release. Dominaeon is a milestone in our history and I believe it’s our best and heaviest album to date on all fronts and a more than worthy successor to Anima Mundi.

Apart from the heavier sound, “Dominaeon” also contains the best and most diverse songwriting of Forsaken so far!! For me this album offers some almost godlike Epic Doom, that can really hold pace with the very best of the genre, like for example Candlemass, While Heaven Wept or Solitude Aeturnus!! Where do you see the biggest differences between “Dominaeon” and it’s antecessors and how the hell do you manage to get better and better from album to album!?

Leo: Thanks for the compliment Tobi although I think we still have to row a bit more to reach the level of bands like Candlemass but I really believe we are on the right track and the most important thing is that we keep our feet on the ground and believe in what we do.
Dominaeon was composed as a whole concept. What I mean is that it was lyrically and musically written as a whole thing. There is no old stuff on it. Maybe this could have helped for better composition and wholeness of the songs. I believe Dominaeon is better structured than our previous releases and is more centred on the lyrical concept and the direct heavy riffs composed for the album. In my opinion Albert’s lyrics are the best he’s done so far, he has also done an amount of research to write the album without leaving out a much improved bass sound on the album. I also think that Sean has produced the most interesting solos. Simon had also improved on the drum sound and has also introduced some new ideas. I also see the vocals as being different from our other releases. On Anima Mundi the vocals have a lot of layering and effects whilst I wanted a more direct “in your face” vocal attitude on Dominaeon. For example, the introduction of Priest-like screams (Wretched of the Earth) was something new for me and was really great doing in studio. Basically Dominaeon is a mix between our experience in song writing, the experimentation of new ideas and a more musical “in your face” attitude. I think this is what makes it better and different from our previous releases.

On two of the new songs (“Obsidian Dreams” and “The Celestial Alchemist” – if I’m not mistaken) Forsaken have introduced a brandnew stylistic device to their sound, namely the participation of a choir, that adds some mighty depth and power to it... how was it like to record an album with a real choir and will you resort to this in the future as well?

Leo: This was an idea which was originally given to us by David Vella (Temple Studio’s main man and producer) after recording Anima Mundi. The first song we wrote for Dominaeon was Obsidian Dreams with Albert coming out with some really heavy interesting riffs. He also had the lyrics ready with the DEUS ASCONDITUS, DEUS REVELATUS chants. We rehearsed it and thought it would be ideal for a male choir to do it and me doing the phrases on the choir.
Sean always wanted to write a track ala Sabbath’s Supertzar (from the Sabotage album). At first Celestial Alchemist was going to be a short clean guitar/vocals track to join Obsidian Dreams to Daylight Dies. I was a bit critical to a certain transposition in the song but finally the band decides as a majority. Sean included these new ideas with me and himself giving out epic chants which Sean wrote down and later on gave them to the choir guys to sing.
We contacted David Vella to give the St.Monica choir guys a call. We met the guys in the St. Monica Sisters Convent and explained to them the lyrical theme of the album and how we intend to use the choir. They were interested in doing the things we wanted and eventually we agreed on having 4 tenors and 4 basses, payment and schedule date for the recording. Sean wrote all the compositions on paper and days before their recording session they rehearsed it for the first time. It was really hard work and it took longer than planned to record and finally to edit and mix all the ideas. We thought they would do it in four hours or so but it took a whole morning and afternoon excluding mixing and editing. I wasn’t present for their recording session as I was working that day but Albert told me it was really tiring doing this choir thing because there was so much layering and ideas to do. There are also some hints of Sean and myself doing some extra voices with the choir which were recorded on a later stage. David said that it was also very tiring to mix and edit all the choir parts.
To sum it all up, we are happy with the final choir result because as you said it adds depth and power to the songs and that was our aim when coming up with the choir idea. I don’t know what we will come up with for the future tracks. We have nothing in mind yet. But it could be that we use something similar.

As always in Forsaken, not only the music but also the lyrics have got alot to offer... while on “Anima Mundi” you’ve also taken part in the writing of some of them, on “Dominaeon” they’ve all been written by Albert Bell (Forsaken’s bass player). Could you probably introduce some of your favourite lyrics of the new album to our readers? And is there any difference for you as a singer between singing someone else’s lyrics or your own?

Leo: To answer this question the first thing I had to do was consult Albert our bassist and the main brain behind the lyrical concept of Dominaeon and this is how he describes the concept.
Dominaeon is our most spiritual/religious album to part it  is inspired by tradtional Christian doctrine but there are also influences from other world religions (monotheistic) and existential  psychology/psychocosmology particuarly in the album's first four tracks.
The lyrics focus on a central concept running throughout the whole album based on a philosphical/theological theme that centres on the "hidden" [or abscondant] nature of God who brings together both the elements of darkness and light and for God to be revealed to man, we must "travel" (in a metaphorical and not literal sense) through these different dimensions. The album starts off with a voyage of the lyrical persona through darkness where it is here that he encounters the grandeur of God (the Paradigm of Chaos) and is gradually pulled to the light. In order for this to be achieved God the Creator, or the Celestial Alchemist incarnates himself in the form of man ("Kenosis") even though He (in his human form) is betrayed by humankind. In the lyrics this betrayal is depicted in "Wretched of the Earth". However, the path to the light (meaning foregiveness and salvation) remains open and as revealed in "Resurgam" God's gift to humanity (His Son - the true path to the light or the "Dominaeon" ) is timeless and unbound."
As regards for me singing Albert’s lyrics, it has never been a problem except in the first attempts of pronounciating certain words which I would have never heard of. Sometimes people ask me how the hell do I remember those kind of lyrics and my answer is that I don’t know. It just happens. When I sing my own lyrics the main difference is that I am singing exactly what I feel and a clear example of this is Carpe Diem. But all in all I have to admit that I don’t stand near Albert’s lyrical capabilities and I think his songs are really deep, poetic and filled with belief.

Not only the music, sound and lyrics are great, but also the cover artwork by Jowita Kaminska of Attacker, Deceased, Manilla Road, etc fame!! How has the cooperation between her and Forsaken started, how do you like the picture she’s drawn and what’s the idea behind the cover motive... is there any connection between the artwork and the lyrical concept or title?

Leo: We met Jowita for the first time at the HOA7. She liked our show a lot and showed interest in giving some sort of artistic contribution to the band. We went back to Malta and took a close look at her website. She also sent to us some cool pictures from our HOA show. After a couple of emails to decide how much she will get paid for her work we agreed that Jowita would be commissioned to do the cover artwork for Dominaeon. Albert gave her the lyrical conceptual meaning of the album and after a multitude of sketches and changes in ideas for the artwork we chose a sketch from the loads she had done for us. It was a bit hectic in the beginning stages because every time we where changing something in her sketches but in the end we were very impressed with her final result. What I believe is really great about this cover artwork is that we built it together with Jowita. The artwork is dark and doomy and clearly depicts the whole meaning of the album’s concept. Basically, the cover depicts the "abscondant" or "hidden" God as a dark mystical circle (signifying infinity) enveloping the hebrew tetragrammaton Jehovah...which is the name given to God in the Greek Christian scriptures. Rays of light emanate from the circle and fall upon and blind the angel of light (lucifer) pictured in the centre of the artwork implying that there is only one true pathway to revelation and that all begins and ends from one true source - the Abscondant God."
Jowita is truly a very talented artist and I believe this is clearly shown when one takes a look at her other renditions for the Exodus, Manilla road, Attacker and other bands’ cover artworks. When I met her at KIT5 I told her that she is now one of the Forsaken family and we also dedicated Carpe Diem to her because it is her favourite Forsaken song. At KIT, Jowita also showed us the original painting of the Dominaeon cover and we got really emotional watching the real thing painted with oil on canvas. We also took some photos with the painting. Apart from being a great artist and photographer, Jowita is a great person too and it’s really interesting talking to her not only about Metal and art but also on other life issues.

German underground label Immortal Vinyl Records has already announced the release of an LP version of “Dominaeon”!! Great!! Can you already tell us, when we can expect this release to be out and if there’ll be any gimmicks that will make the vinyl a little more special than the CD?

Leo: At KIT we talked with Holger about the vinyl issues of Evermore and Dominaeon. Dominaeon shall be released at a later stage at the end of next year most probably. So it is very early to talk about the proceedings and any extra material (which there will surely be) on this release. Holger will surely release Dominaeon as a vinyl because as you have already said it is already announced. So I shall keep you posted with details later on next year.

Not only an LP version of “Dominaeon” can be found on Immortal Vinyls “coming soon” list, but also a vinyl release of your debut “Evermore”... can you give us some info about that release as well and what does it feel like to know, that this album will finally come to vinyl honours as well?

Leo: Evermore shall be the next Forsaken release on vinyl by Immortal Vinyl Recs. The double LP will include the same liner notes present on the c.d. plus photos and also the Neon Knights cover version. As regards to bonus material on the Evermore vinyl version we are planning to include some live tracks from the HOA7 show. We are supposed to enter Temple Studios to open the hard disk we got from HOA , choose the best tracks from it and transfer them on a master so that they can be included with the Evermore tracks.
We already felt very overwhelmed that Golden Lake re released Evermore and you can imagine how we feel about its release on double vinyl. Anima Mundi and Iconoclast on vinyl are considered as a jewel for us. In my opinion the presentation is much better. For me vinyl is cult and rules over the c.d. and I feel really honoured that all Forsaken releases shall be all released on vinyl thanks to Holger. I want to take this opportunity to thank Holger and Bine for all the support they are giving to Forsaken. We call Holger “DOOMICUS EPICUS MATERNUS” and at KIT he brought a beer called Maternus so that he could drink it with us. A great person indeed.

Only a few days after the release of “Dominaeon”, Forsaken entered the German stages again and played a fantastic gig at the fifth Keep it true festival!! What was it alike to play this great festival and what are the best memories you connect with it?

Leo: People had already told us after playing at HOA7 that our next festival should be KIT and as a matter of fact Oliver from KIT saw us at HOA and was really pleased with our performance and he contacted Albert with the invitation to play KIT5. Playing at the KIT is a great experience for me personally and also as part of a band. Apart from meeting really great people I already knew (like you, Reiner Broggi, Till etc etc) I also got to know new people with whom I have started a good friendship like Nuno and Doomboss. I also met Rich Walker from Solstice and Isen Torr, Angelo from Cold Mourning (playing with Slough Feg) and Joe Hasselvander (ex Pentagram playing drums with Raven) I was also fascinated by the enormous metal market at KIT. I just didn’t know from where to start and where to finish because there’s so much material you can buy there.
Playing on stage had its good and bad episodes. I think the sound on stage and from the PA was very good but it’s a pity Albert had those problems while playing All Is Accomplished. The problem was only a shitty DI box. But all in all we look very positively at our performance and I think the KIT is a very well organised festival and the stage personnel were very helpful also and I also want to thank Oliver and Tarek for putting us on the bill. Playing in front of such a great crowd who supported us from the beginning till the end made our whole trip from Malta very worthwhile. Without the crowd’s support the band is nothing on stage. MEGA THANKS TO EVERYONE. I also want to thank Mac for helping us as a soundman. He did a wonderful job for us at the mixer. To tell you the truth there is no special moment which I can recall at KIT and the warm-up gig because I can assure you that I enjoyed every second I spent there. The bands playing there were of top class especially Anvil and Raven. We also had a crazy great time with the Skullview guys. Apart from being a very good band, they are really honest and crazy at times but it was great meeting and hanging up with them. I think the only band which disappointed me where Virgin Steele. I think their show was tampered by a very bad sound. Pity because they are a band with a long history in metal.

Apart from a great set of songs from your earlier releases “Iconoclast” and “Anima Mundi” as well as some awesome songs from “Dominaeon”, you’ve also delivered a stunning cover version of Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe”! Why did you chose especially that song for the crazy Metal fans at KIT?

Leo: Locally we do various cover versions in our gigs and we tried it at HOA with Dark Reflections which went down really well with the crowd. So we thought of doing another cover but this time we wanted to be sure that it will be a bone crusher. We had to choose between Symptom of the Universe and Black Sabbath. We decided for the first one as we preferred a track with fast killer riffs for KIT. We played it really good because now I have seen it on the DVD and people seemed to enjoy it.

In Lauda-Königshofen I’ve not only seen you freak out on stage, but you were also always present in the hall, chatting with friends and banging your head to the other bands... so please let me know, which of them were you looking forward to the most, which did you like best and which were the biggest surprises?

Leo: When I come up to festivals my aim is to give my best for the band’s performance, have fun and enjoy the music for which I have so much passion inside. Forsaken’s music is deeply entrenched in my heart and it’s a natural thing that I head bang a lot on stage. And the more the crowd supports and headbangs with the band’s music the more I freak out. I also like to support other bands and apart from enjoying their music, I like the atmosphere in the middle of the crowd especially in the front row. It’s just a feeling which is so natural to my metal attitude. Another thing which I feel is obligatory for a band’s frontman is the direct communication with people and I feel this on stage and also among the people I meet at a festival. Yes I really like to chat with people and take photos. I also like to hear different opinions on our music because from every individual you can learn new things which can improve what you do. And also remember that we come to Germany only once a year and I want to get the most of it every time.
As regards to bands I was really looking forward to see, they were Virgin Steele, Raven and Anvil being some of the oldest bands to whom I am a fan myself. As I told you before I was disappointed by Virgin Steele but for me Raven were awesome, they just killed me. For me they were the true headliners of KIT5.They transmit so much energy to the people and I really felt that inside. I also met them personally and they are really cool guys. I was also very much surprised with Ignitor because I had not heard them before and they also kick ass. All the other bands were phenomenal and make this festival really a cult event for true metal heads.
At the warm up gig I did not see Strikelight because I arrived late at the Sporthalle but I was blown away by Emerald (I had never heard them before also). Powergod are a great cover band but my ultimate self destruction was for the Anvil show. My God I could not move after their show. They simply fucking RULED. Lips is King.

You’ve just brought us a new album and a fantastic concert, but since I’m almost addicted to Forsaken, I’d already like to know, what’s coming next from you and your mates!? What can we expect from you in the next months...

Leo: Our next release will definitely be the Evermore double vinyl release. We shall also be playing live locally to promote Dominaeon and sell some merchandise. We still owe Temple Studio a considerable amount of money for the Dominaeon recording so we have to play as much as we can to pay David. We are also in contact with some people to play in festivals abroad next year but nothing is confirmed so better keep silent for now. And obviously there is still an album left to be done on contract with Golden Lake so we will surely be doing new songs. There’s so much Doom left in us that we have to unleash to the public.

Since your website is currently under construction (when will it be availible again?), I wonder what’s currently the best way for your fans to get into contact with you and find news and infos about Forsaken?

Leo: Yes finally we have found a decent web master for our website, who is really willing to keep it updated on our every move. There will be a total change in the layout and there will be much more information as we will be able to update some things on the site ourselves. So stay tuned for our new website which will be on line in no time. The best way to contact us will be by visiting our old website which is still online at or you can write an email to me on or to Albert at

Is there anything that I forgot to ask, but that’s still on the tip of your tongue? If so, here’s your chance to say it!!

Leo: This was an extremely interesting interview and I don’t think you have left anything out. Your interest and dedication are outstanding, Tobi. Keep in touch whenever you can, even through the Miskatonic Forum.

And through we are!! Leo, thanks alot for your answers!! I say goodbye now and leave the famous last words to you...

Leo: Thanks again for this interview and for your interest in Forsaken . I urge all the Metal Coven readers to keep the metal flame burning and believe in their dreams. Forsaken have been doing this for a long time now. I also hope that all the readers of this web zine get hold of Dominaeon and play it loud. It is available on a host of distributors worldwide. DOOM ON.

Email: ;

Questions: December 2005 by Tobi
Answers: December 2005 by Leo Stivala