“It’s very easy to label a band with a preformed cliché.” – Interview with Angela Di Vincenzo of Secret Rule

The times when Lacuna Coil was the only cool Italian heavy band with female vocalist are long gone. The metal scene in Italy is growing, and bands like Sleeping Romance, Kalidia, Temperance, Ancient Bards or Secret Rule are becoming more prominent among fans all around the globe. Thankfully, it’s not only the quantity but also the quality, diversity and originality of the Italian artists that keep moving upwards constantly. Take for example Secret Rule and their vocalist Angela di Vincenzo who had an amazing idea to write a concept album inspired by one of the comic books by the renowned English author Neil Gaiman. What comic book did they choose? What was the process of songwriting/recording like? How did they cope with such responsibility? What’s her view on labelling music? Find all the answers in the following interview with Angela.

MG: Hi, Angela! Let’s start with your new album “The 7 Endless”. It’s inspired by Neil Gaiman’s comic book series “The Sandman” and its characters. Could you tell us more about the concept and your unique take on it?

z2puw7yaz4wsyxpqgz4wAngela: Hi everyone 🙂 I love comics and graphic novels and I’m deeply tight to The Sandman because my life has always been ruled by my “weird” dreams I have since I was a child. The 7 Endless embody powerful forces or aspects of the Universe (Death rules our birth and death, Dream rules our subconscious, Destiny our lives) but also, of humans states of mind (Destruction, Delirium, Desperation and Desire).

All our actions are moved by Desire. We want to be loved, we want to have something… Desperation is when we lose something/someone or we can’t have something/someone… and so on. In this concept album, we’re going to tell the story of a woman, from her birth to her death (or rebirth) through all the 7 Endless / life phases.

MG: Now, when the final product is finished and ready to be enjoyed by the world, let’s go back to how it came together. For the first time, you took a big step forward and took care of production by yourselves. What was the process like?

Angela: It was a great challenge, but we had a very clear idea of what we wanted… so, it wasn’t very hard. Every time we start from some ideas made by me or Andy and then we work on them with Michele (bass) and Nicola (drums). This time we put more attention on what kind of sound we wanted, on the right atmosphere for each song, so there was a great job on arrangement phase, including the backing vocal recordings. Taking care of every aspect needs more effort, but there is more satisfaction when you listen to the final result.

MG: As a fan of Gaiman and comic books in general, it was you who came up with the idea of The 7 Endless concept for your fourth album. Do you still remember the guys’ reaction when you told them?

Angela: Yes, of course 😀 We spent a long night in a pub drinking beer. I brought some papers and a pen with me to draw a scheme of the 7 Endless to explain who they were and how I wanted to create the story. We had fun and they immediately liked my idea!

MG: Compared to your previous albums, was it more challenging or maybe even stressful to follow the story and characters created and brought to life by someone else?

Angela: Absolutely yes. First of all, I’ve read again all the Sandman comic series. Then, I spoke with a psychoanalyst (Nicola’s father) to analyse together the 7 Endless from a “psychological” point of view. When I collected all this information, I started to write the story trying to respect the original essence of all characters and giving my personal contribution to the story. It was hard but at the same time, interesting and exciting.

MG: This time, the overall sound of your new album is more aggressive and heavy. Was this change intentional or just a natural side-effect that came along with the darker concept and characters in it?

Angela: I think it’s the result of what we wanted to play this time. But sure we also followed what the concept needed. I think that the sound of an album is not the result of only one aspect, there are a lot of things that influence a sound. Surely the main theme is an important aspect, but there are the musical influences you absorb in the meantime or unexpected ideas that come up at the moment. Anyway, I agree with you, it’s a heavier album.

MG: I’m curious, out of The 7 Endless, what character is closest to your heart and why?

Angela: It’s a very difficult question! I think I touched each of them in my life so far (I’ll meet Death again when my time will end on this Earth) but maybe, Dream is the closest to me because of my dreams. It’s like I have two lives… one in this reality and one in my subconscious where everything is possible… like flying and meeting aliens!

MG: You have previously collaborated with other vocalists like Ailyn and Henning Basse. Could you introduce the guests on “The 7 Endless”?

Angela: Oh yes, it’s a pleasure. This time we had Andrea Ciccomartino on vocals for the song “Dream”. Andrea is the singer of the Italian Hard Rock band called Graal. He has a fantastic timbre and his voice was perfect for that song. In add we worked with Christian Ice, he’s a producer (Nanowar of Steel and Theatres des Vampires), but first of all, he’s a friend. He helped us with the keyboards parts, electronic sounds and arrangements. Then, there is the voice of narration, she’s Gabrielle Chiararo and Marco Capelli who wrote the introduction on the booklet. At this point, I would like to mention Christian Moos (Specalab Mixing) for the fantastic job on mixer and Dan Swano (Unisound AB) for the mastering.

MG: You decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to release the album. If I’m not wrong, you have reached 91% of your goal. Did you expect to reach the full goal or were you actually overwhelmed by your fanbase’s support?

Angela: It was the first time we tried to do a crowdfunding campaign. We really didn’t know what we would have got…it was a big surprise. In addition, we launched our campaign as pre-sale of the new album, so without a concrete target…we have awesome fans and supporters.

MG: Many fans are curious; do you have any tours scheduled for the rest of the year in order to promote your new record?

Angela: Yes, of course. Our management is working on the next gigs to promote the new album. We hope to have the opportunity to play around Europe this time too. We’ll announce new gigs soon.

MG: Doing research for this interview, I stumbled upon many sources that label Secret Rule as a symphonic or melodic metal band. For you, what is the true essence of Secret Rule? What are the main elements that make your music special?

Angela: Today, we live in a world full of superficiality. Everything is considered with a great approximation, and the music market is not an exception. It’s very easy to label a band with a preformed cliché. Yes, people say we play “symphonic metal music” but it seems they call “symphonic metal” all the bands who have female singer 🙂 It’s really weird. So, I ask myself if it’s so necessary to label every band. For example, I would not describe Epica’s music as “symphonic metal”, it would be limited… Probably they have prog inserts too, and modern arrangements. So, I would tell you we play a metal sound with many influences and atmospheres…then everyone can do personal considerations. Defining the music is like putting a bird into a cage. But to be honest, we’re in this market, so I have to admit that we are also forced to use this label if we have to promote our music…

MG: You recently teamed up with Federica Lanna of Sleeping Romance for a beautiful cover of Within Temptation’s ballad “Somewhere”. Was it only a one-time thing or can we expect more stuff from you two charming Italians in the future?

Angela: I met Federica during the Symphonic Metal Nights tour supporting Serenity and Visions of Atlantis and we’ve bonded immediately, maybe because we are both Italian girls and because we speak the same language. Anyway, when I thought about singing “Somewhere”, I’ve thought of her for the duet and I discovered she loves this song as well. I’m very happy with the result, so I can’t exclude to do something else together in the future.

MG: Besides Secret Rule and comic books, obviously, what else are you passionate about? What makes you happy and occupied when you want to take a break from music?

Angela: When I have free time (it’s rare now) I like to watch movies. When I had more time, I liked to play videogames, at Warhammer (I’ve a wonderful dark elves army) and role games.

MG: I’m asking this every artist I interview. Would you like to give a shout out to any of your female metal colleagues – bands, singers, musicians – that are in your eyes unfairly underrated and deserve more recognition?

Angela: Crazy question 🙂 I wouldn’t know… There are a lot of bands/musicians who would deserve more attention, but I’ve not a name. Sorry 🙂

MG: Well, that’s all from me. Angela, thank you very much for your time and hope to see you somewhere on the road soon. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Angela: Yes, I would like to thank you for the space on your page and I want to send a big hug to all the people who support us on everything. Follow us on our social pages, we’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more.. and listen to us on Spotify and Youtube! This is another way to support us. Thank you so much, see you on the road!