A talk with
FLAVIO SENRA (Vocals) & RUBENS LESSA (Guitars)
(Questionnaire by Officer Nice)
Q: Hello guys, The Black Rook is a new and unknown band, so let’s give it an introduction. Who’s The Black Rook and its members?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – Officially, The Black Rook is duo: Flavio Senra (vocals) and Rubens Lessa (guitars). Although the project itself is new, we´ve been working together for a long time – since 2000, to be more precise. We played together in almost all bands we had during these almost fifteen years. The Black Rook came as a corollary of all this work, for that all of our experience (all of our brotherhood, indeed) is noticeable in it.
When we speak about The Black Rook musical proposal, we simply define it as Heavy Metal – for that we collect inspiration from the roots of the genre. When we had our first conversations about this project´s musical direction, we decided to follow the “classical formula” that the milestones of Heavy Metal left to us all: simple compositions with strong riffs, catchy choruses and great melodies. Attitude, heaviness and feeling expressed through music – nothing more than that.
Q: Where is the love for music, Metal in particular coming from? How did you become a (Metal) musician?
A: (Flavio) – Well, in order to become a metal musician, first you have to become a metal fan – and when I say “fan”, I refer to the word in its strongest connotation possible. You must love the genre to the point that you want to perform it, to be on stage, play your music, bang your head with other Heavy Metal admirers, compose songs, record them, feel the fulfillment of spreading your music around the globe and so on. From the very first time I got in touch with rock and metal, it really moved me – and still does, as a Metal listener and as a Metal performer.
(Rubens) – I think this love came from the Brazilian MTV. In those times, there were good television programs (of course the rock/metal ones were my favorites). That music really knocked my out, its power, its intensity, its grandiosity, that thunderous sound from the guitars, the beating of the drums, the headbanging, everything pushed me to it. However, as a musician, Heavy Metal came later. Firstly, I wanted to be drummer but I hadn’t the right skills in a manner of speech. So, guitar was my second choice and I really thank for it, otherwise I wouldn’t be here with my Rook Partner Flavio being interviewed.
Q: What are the main influences of the band and its members?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – a few years ago, when we were deciding which way to follow in our compositions, we took a bunch of specific references amongst our all-time favorite heavy metal albums. On the top of this list we put Black Sabbath, specially the Ronnie James Dio era - including Heaven & Hell´s lesson in Heavy Metal called The Devil you Know, released in 2009, because it doesn´t matter the band name they adopted in this album: it IS Black Sabbath. Period. We also elected the album Tony Iommi recorded with legendary singer Glenn Hughes, Fused, for its very well balanced mix of heaviness and groove. Still speaking about musicians that once joined Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, with his solo albums (mainly the first four ones), is also a reference to us. In addition, considering we´re fans of heavy-doom metal and that we played in bands of this genre before, there´s an undeniable heritage of it in our music – which we´re proud of, definitely. Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, for instance, are references that inevitably come to our mind when we´re composing. If we think and dig a bit more, we may find some other bands that, purposely or not, echo on our music.
(Flavio) - When it comes to personal influences, there are, definitely, lots of metal singers that always called my attention. However, the one who has always been and it still is for me the greatest singer of all times is not specifically related to the heavy metal universe, and I am talking about Freddie Mercury, the legendary Queen singer. When I was fourteen years old I started to listen to Queen and quickly became e fan of the band. Freddie was the first lead singer that I admired, and he was the one who made me want to do take this path as a singer. Among all vocalists that I admire, it´s a shame that the one I consider the best of all times is exactly the voice I´ll never be able to see performing live – by the time I became a fan of him, he had already passed away, years and years before.
There´s another important name I must mention here: RonnieJames Dio. His work (not only as singer, but also as a composer and as a frontman) always had a strong impact over me. My first contact with Dio´s voice happened when I was fifteen, through Black Sabbath. As time went by and I got to know more and more of his recordings, my admiration reached the level of devotion. Absolutely everything he recorded moves me somehow – not only in Sabbath, Rainbow and his solo career, but also in Elf and in some “pre-historical” rare material. I saw him performing live in four magical occasions, three with his solo band and one with Black Sabbath (in the “Heaven & Hell” incarnation, 2009). I still evoke to my mind these moments when I´m about to sing.
(Rubens) – Oh mine, I’ve been a metal fan for the last twenty-four years, but everything began with Sepultura song “Inner Self”. Immediately, Sepultura became my main reference, which was a good thing once all their musicians were Brazilian too in that time. So I joined the Metal front being requested by countrymen. As consequence, the Thrash Metal of bands such as Slayer, Kreator, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax and the crossover albums of Ratos de Porão were the basis of my first personal influence. The amplitude of my fondness came after that, including another band I would like to highlight: The Ramones. I use to say that is very easy to compose great riffs, solos, and intricate arrangements when you have skills, but using only three chords most of the time with that wealth of melodies and sounding dirty and fast at the same time? Man, that’s marvelous!
Another great influence of mine is Kai Hansen. His songs made me a fan of Power/Melodic Metal since then, and I had the opportunity to see him twice. His compositions are great and they have a tremendous meaning to me, no matter if we are speaking about his Helloween or Gamma Ray era or even his participation in bands such as Iron Savior (which I like very much) and his new band Unisonic (along with singer Michael Kiske). Top it all off with the Doom Metal music of bands such as Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Cathedral and the father of us all: BLACK SABBATH and my influences can be poorly summed here.
Q: Where is the band name heading from anyway?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – As you may have noticed, we use in our graphic project and in some lyrics material related to the universe of Chess. Apart from being a fabulous game, Chess also has a strong symbolism within itself – and each chess piece portrays an idea in the game.
Therefore, always having in mind that each piece represents an idea, there, on each corner of the game board, stands the rook. Inside the great metaphor of chess, the rook represents the castle's walls, which shall protect the king, the queen, the bishop, and the knights. It conveys the meaning of the solid strength of an entire kingdom. However, among all the pieces of chess, the rook plays an important and specific role, for it´s the only “non-human” piece of the game. The rook is a construction made of stones, a castle, a tower, while all the other pieces are miniatures of social roles played by human figures – a “king”, a “queen”, a “bishop”, a “knight”, a “pawn”, titles that differ in status, but have one thing in common: under them, there´s a human being. And, as everybody knows, humans die – due to age or to the war. And then we have the most representative symbolism of the tower as a huge construction that has witnessed many different men as kings, many women as queen, several men as pawns and knights, live and die, many wars being battled, and it´s still there, standing in its solitude and concreteness against time. These metaphors are present in the lyrics of our title-track (“The distant castle sees crowns fade away / Sad memories to remember and portray”).
But then again, one question shall rise: why to use the name of a chess piece to baptize a metal band? First of all, the symbolism of the rook in chess may be applied to Heavy Metal: it doesn´t matter how much time goes on, Metal, as a musical genre, as a cultural choice, as a way of life, does not fall, does not die. Even if it sounds a bit “cliché” or “slushy” to repeat that, it´s the truest sentence that a fan of metal can say. Everybody knows that during the mid-nineties the media was assaulted by the “Metal is Dead” slogan, we had metal artists neglecting the genre, considering it “obsolete”, “empty”, “meaningless”, etc. If we go back in time and analyze those days, we´ll easily find musicians that in the eighties played typical Heavy Metal, but that, in the nineties, changed their musical style somehow – some adopted a more “grunge-like” sound, other a more “industrial”, and other unclassified examples.
But now, in 2014, metal fans can say that Heavy Metal survived this “anti-metal ideology” (or “anti-metal fashion”, if you prefer…), and it´s still standing, just like the rook we were talking about. If we also remember that Heavy Metal has always been a victim of vicious stereotyping just because it goes against traditions and “socially-accepted” ways of living and thinking, we can, again, understand how the metaphor of the rook fits perfectly to describe the genre. It does not matter what is done or what is tried against metal, it will stand, just as a gigantic rook.
Finally, considering that every band name has to, speaking in simple terms, “sound good” in order to be commercially viable, we added the adjective “Black” to it. For a Heavy Metal band, it sounded to us the best (and most obvious) choice of color to feature in a band name. We thought that including the definite article “The” in the band name would make it sound even better, giving a certain importance to it: it´s not any ordinary rook, it is “The” rook, “The Black Rook”. This is what our music represents to us, a rock-solid Black Rook, and we believe this representation makes sense to Heavy Metal fans in general, for that, when it comes to their relation with music, we metalheads usually emphasize ideas like authenticity and faithfulness – more often than fans of other musical genres. We see this concern for authenticity and faithfulness to metal when, for instance, fans of a specific band shows strong disapproval towards a new musical direction of their favorite band, claiming that they “sold themselves”; or when this same band goes back to old-times metal style for compositions, they´re accused of “being artificial”, “not composing with feeling” or “being a parody of themselves”. When an old-times rock or metal band does a reunion with the original line-up, there will always be a fan to claim that “they´re doing it just for the money”. Even popular – and kind of cliché – expressions like “true metal” or “false metal” can be included in this list. Let´s face it: for us, fans of Heavy Metal, it´s not only a matter of listening to it, but living it and (definitely) defending it. That´s why it made so much sense to us to call our band “The Black Rook”.
Q: The Black Rook are heading from Brazil, the center of the world nowadays. Tell us something about the Metal scène over there, especially the underground scène. How popular is Metal overseas in the land of carnival, soccer and uncountable beautiful women?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – Although it is not a massive-popular mainstream genre – such as worldwide known samba -, Heavy Metal is very strong in Brazil. In fact, it is one of the best metal marketings for Heavy Metal for foreign bands. This is noticeable when we remember huge Rock/Metal festivals such as Monsters of Rock, Hollywood Rock & Rock in Rio, which casts were composed mainly by non-brazilian bands. Of course it varies depending on the festival, but, in general, there are more international bands and, usually, the headliners in these metal festivals are bands either from Europe or North America. Still speaking about examples of the strong appeal that Heavy Metal has in Brazil, we must remember that our country is one of the nations in the world that host the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle, not to mention great metal festivals with larger quantities of Brazilian Metal Bands, such as Brazil Metal Union, in São Paulo.
Speaking specifically about the independent metal scene, Brazil is a huge country (the one with the largest territorial proportions in South America), with 27 states and lots of cities of different sizes, from small towns to immense metropolis (like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the capitals of their respective states). There are, as a matter of fact, hundreds of local metal scenes around our country, we were able to notice that throughout this fifteen-year road in the independent heavy metal scene of Brazil. And we still notice that nowadays: during this promotion of the album in internet, we´re getting in touch with more metal fans, metal radios and metal musicians from lots of different parts of our nation. And it is worth-mentioning that there´s a great amount of bands that work on an authorial basis, focusing more on their own compositions than covering other bands, which is a very positive aspect in our opinion.
Brazil is worldwide known for its multiculturalism, and, to a certain extent, that is applicable to our Heavy Metal scene as well. We believe that because, meanwhile the Heavy Metal scenes of certain countries tend to have more bands of specific metal genres, it´s great to see that, when it comes to Brazilian Heavy Metal authorial bands, we can find a great diversity of metal genres. There are, without a shadow of doubt, excellent Heavy Metal independent bands in Brazil for all musical tastes: Black, Death, Thrash, Traditional, Doom, Stoner, Prog, Melodic, whatever. Unfortunately, for several reasons, there´s an amount of groups who, despite their very high-leveled work and professional attitude, sadly do not make it - especially outside Brazil. It is not difficult to come to the conclusion that being an independent artist has its downsides, that you´ll face financial and structural difficulties that will require a lot of persistence from musicians. This scenario can reach critical levels when it comes to Heavy Metal independent music and, believe us: the frustrations and obstacles independent bands have to face, apart from the point of the world they´re from, do not differ so much. Each day we discover an excellent Heavy Metal independent band from another country that´s been around for quite some time, and we ask ourselves, perplexed, “how could these guys did not make it?!”. And when we get in touch with these Heavy Metal comrades, we notice that, substantially, difficulties for Heavy Metal independent musicians exist here in Brazil and around the world.
Usually, in interviews of heavy metal mainstream bands, it is quite common to see them praising South-American fans for their intense demonstrations of love for Metal. Brazil fits in this description, and that´s one of the reasons for, in our contacts with metal fans that are not from South America, we always invite them to check on the internet Heavy Metal bands from our homeland and from our “neighbors nations” here in South American: you´re definitely going to listen to metal musicians who truly put their sweat, blood and tears into playing Heavy Metal.
Q: You guys have just released the debut album. What can you tell us about it?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) As we previously stated, we wanted to deliver an full-length “Heavy Metal-from-the-roots-like” album, with catchy melodic lines, remarkable choruses, heavy arrangements, memorable solos and consistent rhythmic harmony. We wanted, basically, to compose, play and record the kind of music that comes from our hearts.
Q: The front cover is eye-catching. Who was responsible for it and what’s the main idea behind it?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – Our graphic and web designer, Raphael Efez, was the mastermind who delivered it to us. This is an interesting story: we got to Raphael through our producer, Celo Oliveira, who recommended us his work. One day, he sends us a “first very basic version” of what could be our front cover. This image he defined as a “first basic version” is exactly the front cover you can see in our debut album. We liked so much that we wanted it the way it was – no more, no less. Our front cover is an example of the idea that, sometimes, “less” means “more”. Technically speaking, it´s not a “polluted” image, it does not have an exaggerated number of visual elements. It´s just this big black shiny rook in a white/gray background. Period. Clear and, at the same time, enigmatic.
As you just mentioned, it´s an “eye-catching” cover, and that´s the key-idea of it. Considering everything we said in this interview about the meaning of the band name, we needed a front cover that could be directly connected to this band´s name (which we thought would be crucial for a first album) and call people´s attention. It´s an image that´s simple, “raw” (in the best aspect of the term), but, at the same time, able to grasp people´s view and (hopefully) become a somehow remarkable front cover. Right after the production of this image, it was easy for Raphael to design an artistic direction towards our booklet and promo pictures. The pale-white background is the same for all pages of the booklet: we have, white, gray and black tonalities in its images and a part of a chessboard reproduced as well.
Q: The Black Rook releases this album only digital. There’s a very nice front cover, a booklet…but no CD? What’s the goal behind this and will there be a CD or even vinyl available in the future?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) - We have only done a virtual release so far specifically for financial reasons. It´s expensive to release physical albums in professional high level. There are costs with the artwork, labeling, replication, registering and many other demands in the process. We discussed it very realistically and we decided to take a kind of sharp, risky move: on a first step, release the album only digitally, giving us the possibility of directing our finances on other promotion material – like our official website, our first webclip, our lyric video, and future-coming merchandise.
We believe that´s crucial to always keep an eye on our times, pay attention to the contemporary forms of spreading and consuming music and – the most important of all – to keep our feet on the ground. Everybody knows that, nowadays, internet became a strong way of spreading music. Downloading (either legal or not ones) is a part of contemporary culture, no one can deny it. Therefore, we took the risk of selling and promoting only virtually in this first step, and – luckily, we guess – we´ve been gaining positive feedback so far. The album was officially released on 25th April, 2014. Right now, on the exact moment we´re here in front of the computer answering this interview, we´re on the third week of June – then, it´s the 8th week of “formal existence” of our album. In these eight weeks, we´ve already got great feedback from webradios, podcasts, webzines, magazines and blogs, all of them specialized in Rock and Heavy Metal, from our homeland (in several states) and from various points of the world – Belgium, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Canada, U.S.A, Colombia, Egypt and more. Please, don´t get us wrong: we would sound like a pair of ridiculous, megalomaniac and stupid arrogant liars if we posed here as “Heavy Metal Big Stars”, like Iron Maiden, Metallica or other major institution of Heavy Metal. All we want to say is that, considering the circumstances – the fact that we´re, at the moment, totally on ourselves, with no label or any kind of extra financial support than our own pockets -, we think that our decision of not investing our financial resources on the physical version of the album was a good one, for that all of this very stimulating feedback we´ve been receiving was due, so far, exclusively to the internet promotion.
On the other hand, we´d also like to make clear that we do want to release the album in its physical version as well. The best-case scenario would be to sign with a label (and even a “small” one would be a “major” to us in this moment!), so then it would be much more possible to release the album in its conventional CD format, or even in vinyl, as you mentioned in your question. We´re working on that – wish us luck. However, we´re not new in this game and, as very realistic men, we always consider all the possibilities, mainly the “not so good” ones. In the worst case scenario, if we don´t sign with any label, we will definitely release it physically somehow. We plan every step and we have agreed on a kind of “personal deadline”: “we must release it physically until [date]”. Considering we already have material and plans for future recordings (videos and our second album), we, obviously, simply had to include in our agenda the physical release of the album. It will happen – and you guys from Metal to Infinity will surely receive a copy!
Truth to be said: every independent artist is a risk-taker and, if we´re speaking about independent Heavy Metal musicians, then the risk-factor is doubled. Then, once again, we really have to plan each step, especially if factors as time and money are involved.
Q: Who’s the main song writer and how did you cooperate to make this album a fact?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) One of the first things we agreed when we decided to build up this Black Rook was that every song would have the same crediting: “All music and lyrics by The Black Rook”, which means that each one of the musicians that form The Black Rook, Flavio Senra and Rubens Lessa, participate both in musical and in lyrical conceptions. Of course, we´re talking about an album with ten tracks, and each one of them had a specific background origin. Some songs started with vocal melodies and some lyrics, some other songs were born from a single and powerful guitar riff.
But, in the end, The Black Rook is a castle built by four hands – entirely. And this is, for us, the best way to work. We´ve been “partners in crime” and close friends for many years, we have musical chemistry, share musical tastes and, on top of that, the two of us have the same visions on goals about what The Black Rook should sound like. In the end, our cooperation flows easily, and we manage to create stronger musical bonds. The Black Rook simply cannot be without the combination of these two elements, Flavio Senra and Rubens Lessa.
Q: Can you give us, shortly, an explanation song par song?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – For sure, our pleasure. Here we go:
“Checkmate” – we openly admit that it may sound predictable for a band that calls itself “The Black Rook” and that has this same chess piece in the album front cover to have a song called “Checkmate”. However, we also believe that there wasn´t a better name for this track. It is the typical “open-metal album-like” track: fast, explosive and straight-to-the-point. And the lyrics go aligned with the music, for that it´s a song about the human need of learning from the mistakes of the past and moving on, for that it is never too late to restart all over again. That´s why you´ll find in the lyrics metaphors constructed with specific chess game vocabulary, and the song title then makes all sense with the main idea we try to convey: “So it´s time to clear my name / Redefine rules of my game – Checkmate!”. Celo Oliveira, our producer, defines it “a slap in the face”, and we agree on that. It was our first single released, by the way. It is still available for free download in our Official Soundcloud Profile.
“The Black Rook” – Our title track, the song that, essentially, expresses the reasons that led us to choose this name for the band. As we stated before in this same interview, we wanted to write lyrics based on the symbolic representation of the rook, and how this same representation can be used by anyone to review his/her relation with society itself. This song came from its chorus (it was the first part of the song that was born). We already had the idea of making a choir in the chorus, but our producer, Celo Oliveira, made it more epic because he recruited a “mini choir” to sing it (Flavio, Celo himself, and our friends Gisele Brito, Hugo Faro and Raquel Schuler). The result sounds fabulous to us, because it makes the song sound stronger – and, again, we´re talking about the title track. “The Black Rook” guitar solo is one of the most interesting of the album, because its melody, harmonically speaking, resembles a bit Arab music, and provides a very singular and seductive stylistic effect on the song.
“Unfortunate” - Every Heavy Metal band has a song in which a male character tells his unfortunate story with a woman, isn´t it? Well, we have our own. It´s one of the most straight-to-the-point – but emotionally harsh - lyrics, indeed. Apart from it´s topic, it´s not a gloomy-doom depressive song, a cheesy/slushy ballad neither an explosive/anger-oriented fast heavy metal composition. It´s a song with rhythm, heaviness in its right measure, and melodies that are put on the spotlight in the song – the guitar solo, the chorus line.
“Forget my name” – If “Checkmate” deals with restarting your life after having paid for your mistakes, “Forget my name” is a sadder approach on the same topic. Why such title, “Forget my name”? “What´s in a name?”, one could ask. A name is the most evident reference to one´s identity, it´s your signature, it´s the one and simple word that carries within itself an entire book of the story of a Life time. Then, the title “Forget my name” expresses the despair and shame of the song´s persona, this character that sings the song. It´s an appeal to forget one entire life, to erase years and years of a personal story, to forget someone´s name – to obliterate a human from existence, throw this person in the complete oblivion of forgetfulness. In comparison with other tracks of the album, “Forget my name” has certain ambivalence: it´s a song that, musically, has its groove, a “rhythmically beating” atmosphere. However, lyrically speaking, it´s the song that shows the deepest levels of despair, shame and repent that a man can reach when he notices that everything he pursued for years and years in Life never existed at all – it was a vain belief on a mere illusion. If we did not have “Dark Disease” (the 10th track), “Forget my name” would have the most desperate and distressful lyrics of the entire album.
"Heart of Steel" – Speaking with any hypocrisy, we know that “Heart of Steel” is, by far, one of the most common expressions in Heavy Metal scenario. Beyond that, with honesty, both of us make jokes among ourselves, for that we even know other songs from other bands that have a similar (or even the same) name. And we´re definitely not “saying sorry” for having chosen this name for this track. As a matter of fact, speaking seriously, we´re proud of it. This is one of the songs of the album that from the very beginning had its title and lyrics defined. We started this comment on this song speaking about truth and honesty, and those are the first words that come to our minds when we think about this song. As the title properly suggests, we have here a strong track, with lyrics that deal with that typical moment when one must face and accept (hard) limits imposed by Life, deal with failure, pressure and expectations from society and, with dignity, courage and honesty, learn to live with them, and move on, in a pursuit for fulfillment (“…my principles shine like gold /I´m a man of my Word”). And that´s what “Heart of Steel” stands for: the faithfulness to your own principles and the strength to keep standing, no matter what happens. Lots of people can relate themselves to these song lyrics, because they grasp the most sincere human feelings. Musically, it´s of one the songs that shows the wider variety of moments: we have a “heavy part” (mainly in the opening riff and in the chorus), an “epic part” (the solo and the bridge that come right after it) and a “soft part” (the acoustic guitar in the middle).
“Rats” – In one of the greatest reviews of our album (the one done by Marcos Garcia, from Metal Samsara website), “Rats” was defined as a “bitter and brute” song. We couldn´t find more appropriate words to define it. It´s the heaviest song in the album, with the lowest tunes in its guitar, the most aggressive vocal melodies and the deepest tones of disgust and anger that can be found in this album. If we compare all the choruses of the ten tracks, we´ll notice that “Rats” has the shortest one, with practically no melody, just a scream vociferated from accumulated anger that burns inside someone´s chest and, in a burst, rips the throat out, with one word only: “Rats”. The lyrics are a very critical view on society, on its moral values, built on hypocritical and empty fallacies. Meanwhile the previous track´s lyrics, “Heart of Steel”, are based on ideas of honor and honesty, “Rats” just go on the opposite direction, for that its lines portray an absolute nihilistic, pessimistic and delusional view on everything that mankind labels as “sacred”, “official”, “true” or, simply, as “politically correct”.
“I am” – Perhaps this is the song that echoes the most our influences from classical Heavy Metal from the 80´s, because it has a rhythm that can immediately relate to songs like “Heaven and Hell” (Black Sabbath), “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (Iron Maiden), and many more. As the title may suggest, this song´s lyrics are “an exercise in self-awareness”. However, meanwhile it portrays a subject perspective (the focus on “I”), it also has a strong interlocution being developed (a focus on “You”). We can see this because, if the persona inside the lyrics claims his power, his ability to do notable things, this same character also says that he´s nothing more than a human being. Despite any admiration or veneration of his figure (“I´m not the messiah you believe”), he is just like anybody else and that every single thing that he is able to do, anybody else can do as well. Let´s take, for example, these verses: “The force that pushes me forward – pushing me, pushing you / Makes of me more than a man”. In this extract from the lyrics, we can observe that this main character inside the song context mentions this “force” that makes of him “more than a man”. However, the same “strange thing” that makes him somehow, somewhat “special”, “desired”, “loved” – and, as a consequence, “envied” and “feared” –, everybody has as well (“pushing me, pushing you”). “I am” then leads us to the simple conclusion that if someone want to be a “remarkable human being” in any aspect, then this person has to work his fingers (and his willpower) to the bone for it, this person has to strive for it, and not try to undermine those who have achieved the goal that he wants to achieve. It sounds like a ridiculous and obvious statement – however, unfortunately, we know very well that, for a large amount of people, it seems almost difficult to internalize this message.
“Temptation (will bring me down)” – “Paradox” is the most appropriate word to define this song. “Temptation (will bring me down)” lyrics, just like “Unfortunate”, brings us a man telling his tense relationship with a woman, which is a recurrent theme in music in general, as we all know. However, if on the third track of the album the story between this masculine figure and his loved woman is past, here in “Temptation…” the story is set in the present. This character that narrates these lyrics to us evoke very paradoxical images, in which he describes the heavy burden of suffering that this woman represents to him, and, at the same time, the strong, unbearable and desperate need of her that he feels. Having said that, this sick, dialectical relation between them is described as an “addiction”, which, as we all know, leads to a complete loss of reason (“love makes bodies forget/what´s pleasure and what´s pain”) and, eventually, to a sad and painful self-destruction – physically, emotionally and morally speaking. It is the song that portrays the absolute ruin of a man due to a sick love. Taking into consideration these lyrics, we obviously needed a song that could imply a sense of heaviness, dirtiness and roughness. We can see that, for instance, in the “solo” – a purposely-done mass of distorted guitar leads without a “clearly-constructed” harmony, that comes in the song walk side-by-side with lines that are practically shouted, with no melody, which creates a “messy” tone that fits with the contradiction, the dizziness and even with a certain masochism expressed by the main character in the story told in the lyrics. By the way, in the beginning of this interview, when we were speaking about influences, we mentioned our passion for Heavy-Doom metal. The choruses of “Temptation” were inspired in some songs from Solitude Aeturnus.
“Madman in Chains” – The last two songs of our album are very different from each other, but they´re, at the same time very, very connected. It wasn´t our intention to do so, it came as a “convenient accident”. They´re the most narrative-oriented songs we have, the ones that more clearly work not only as songs, but as chapters of a story. Both deal with the same premise: a man who has mental problems and has offended society in many ways due to his insane behaviour. In “Madman in Chains”, we can see the classical archetype of the fugitive, someone who once was condemned, labeled as a madman, exiled from mankind and wants to run from his past, in order to not be punished again (“He shall not be once again imprisoned – Never locked again!”). Obviously, this is a somber secret he has, and for that his must take this path alone. In terms of harmony structure and melody construction, this song is noticeably the closest we got to a typical “80´s heavy-hard rock song”, like some tracks from the first albums of Ronnie James Dio´s solo career.
“Dark Disease” - In the last lines of “Madman in chains”, it is stated that the mind of the insane main character “carries the curse”, which gives us a hint that, apart from all his attempts to escape from the judgment of men, eventually his time will come – for that his is doomed, sentenced, cursed. “Dark Disease” is the final (and tragic) final chapter of this narrative. As the title gives away, the focus of the lyrics is the “dark disease” that consumes this poor man´s brain. This persona describes the effects of this psychosis upon him – the complete loss of the perception of time, space and reality – and, in one of the moments of climax of the song, he gives us a desperate warning: “Medicate me, isolate me, before the maniac rises!”. Embracing this doom, this state of manic depressive disorder that may turn him into a monstrously dangerous man, he begs to be locked away from the world of men. The three of us (Rubens Lessa, Flavio Senra and Celo Oliveira, our “third man in the rook”) made sure that all elements, all details in “Dark Disease” could contribute to establish this atmosphere of depression, despair and – on top of that- destruction. Each detail of the arrangement was precisely calculated: the effects of a church pipe organ in the beginning, the whispers, the monolithic-heavy riffs, the emotional vocal interpretation, the tension in Rubens´ guitar solo (inspired by Dimebag Darrel, one of the best heavy metal guitars when it comes to express deep tension through guitar solos). We´ve already mentioned that we are great heavy doom metal fans. This song proves that trying to hide that taste of ours would be impossible: “Dark Disease” is, its essence, a true doom metal song.
Q: What are the lyrics about and where did you get the inspiration?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – Considering that, in our perspective, music and lyrics go inevitably together, we covered both of them in the previous question. Concerning inspiration for lyrics, our intention was to make songs related to reflections about the human being condition, his place in the contemporaneity, the relations between man and the world and related topics. As we commented on the previous questions, some lyrics are more subjective, others more narrative, but all of them can be, in some perspective, related to anyone – we purposely wrote lyrics that, in general, could be easily related to anyone´s life experience somehow, so that each individual could, adapting to his own personal experiences, identify him/herself with the message delivered by the song (through lyrics and music, combined, of course).
In addition, it is clearly noticeable that, depending on the interpretation done by the listener/reader, some songs are easily related – which we mention in the previous answer. We did not have the intention of doing a “conceptual album” - and we repeat that, in order to avoid any kind of misconception or misunderstanding: this is not a conceptual album! However, it is undeniable that this complex web of meanings can be identified, in which songs can relate to each other. This is one of the strategies we had in mind in other to give this album a whole identity, an “album-like identity”, so that, by listening to it, one would not have the sensation that this is just a compilation of ten isolated singles, unrelated to each other, but an album, in its purest conception, musically and lyrically.
Q: Give our readers some good reasons why they should buy this album….
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – Throughout this interview, we spoke about our passion, our devotion and our commitment to Heavy Metal. Our songs bring these feelings within themselves. Therefore, if readers like listening to Heavy Metal songs made by Heavy Metal die-hard fans for Heavy Metal die-hard fans, we think they´ll truly like our songs. We have one simply and pure goal with our music: make listeners enjoy it as much as we enjoy composing and performing them.
Q: Did you read our review? Any thoughts about it?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – Of course we did, and more than once!:) We adored each line of it. The main reason we enjoyed it is the fact that you wrote a real review – in other words, we can easily notice that you went deep into the album, listened to it carefully, tried to grasp all of our musical and lyrical purposes. This is one of the most rewarding signs of respect and recognition that a musician can have, and we do thank for that. And, having said that, the grade we received (89 out of 100) definitely put a smile on our faces!
Q: I noticed you guys covered a song from The Doors but I can’t find it back on the album. Why?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – When we recorded this song we already had in mind that it would be promoted exclusively in a webclip (available in our Official Youtube Channel). If we included it in the album tracklist, we would have to deal with some bureaucratic, legal issues, because of copyrights. In order to avoid any kind of delay in releasing the album (and any headache as well) we promptly decided to release it only in that webclip. Considering it´s not included in the album, our version for “Waiting for the Sun” is not being sold. As we don´t gain a single cent with this video, we don´t have to worry about paying copyrights. We recorded it just as a tribute to one of our favorite bands, but not as a merely cover, but as a version, with our identity on it. By the way, keep an eye on our Official Youtube Channel, because we have plans for the future of uploading more metal versions of classic hits from bands that are milestones of rock and roll.
Q: What’s the ultimate goal for The Black Rook and how do you manage it to reach it?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – We intend to promote the album worldwide, spreading it as much as we can, and keep on producing and releasing material (new songs and new videos).
Q: Where can interested readers purchase the album? A website? A Facebook Page?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) – Our debut self-titled album is on sale online, in iTUNES, AMAZON, CD BABY, in our Bandcamp profile and in other websites that purchase legal downloads. We´d also like to mention that all tracks of our album can be listened online, in streaming audio, in our SoundCloud, ReverbNation and BandCamp profiles. At last – but not at least – we invite everybody to give your “Like” on our Facebook page, check it for news, and that in a few weeks our official website will be officially launched. Needless to say, Metal To Infinity URL will be included in the LINKS section of The Black Rook official website!
Q: Any last words for our readers?
A: (Flavio & Rubens) First of all, we truly thank Metal to Infinity for this interview – the very first one The Black Rook has ever given, by the way! Having said that, we invite all readers to check out our music. As we stated in this same text, The Black Rook music comes straight from our hearts, and it is very, very rewarding for us when our songs reach people in some way. We do hope that those readers whogot interested in our work after reading this interview really enjoy our songs, as much as we enjoy composing and performing them. Cheers!