The Band: Centvrion
The Man: Roberto "Robo" Cenci (vocals)
Interview by Vpower
Centvrion is an Italian band with five albums already in their pockets. The last one, “V”, just released a few days ago and in my opinion de best of all of them. If you don’t know them probably it would be the best way to approach the band, as they sound more powerful and inspired than ever and they also have a new vocalist, altough the guys has been in the band for 5 (again the magic number) years already. Roberto Cenci is not only a great vocalist, he is also the perfect narrator and, above all, a gentleman. I guess you will enjoy this interview very much, crazy metalheads!
Hi Roberto, thank you for this chance to talk with you. Let’s review a little the history of the band. Centvrion was born in 1998 and you started at top speed, as you released four albums in six years, isn’t it?
Thanx to you, Alberto! I’m very pleased to answer your questions...this is the very first interview after V came out some days ago! Well, the band started its activity in the late ‘90s…Arise Of The Empire, the first album, took very good reviews since its first days, and this success came in the same period when very good italian bands were moving their first steps. I’m talking about Labyrinth, Domine, White Skull and some more. This “wave of italian metal” offered a great visibility to the band, and a quite good response from the audience, in Italy and abroad. In 2000 the band released Hyper Martyrivm, a more thrash-oriented album, which success took the band to the Gods Of Metal festival supporting several bands, Judas Priest included. The third record, Non Plvs Vltra, was the consecration for the band, who held several shows around Italy. In 2005 came Invulnerable, an album which moved the style of the band to more modern solutions.
But after the release of “Invulnerable” in 2005 something happened. It has been around ten years of silence until the new album “V”. Why?
My answer is quite complex…I joined the band in 2010, so I cannot say so much about what happened in the previous five years…in the history of the band, several line-up changes occured, and talking with the guys I had the feeling that, for some reasons, this was the main problem. Everytime a member left the band or was kicked out, new forces joined the band, and these changes need time to be “absorbed”, also because a new member put new ideas and his personal feeling and his own style in the group. One thing to point out, is that our band is not a “money machine”, it’s a group of people who have good and bad behaviours, and most of them came out only in a second moment. It has never been a question of less technical abilities or because someone wanted to rise to be a leader. You can remain good friend with someone and understand at the same time that he could be a brake for the band, often because he has lost the determination. The problem is recognize these problems and point them out, often with someone who played with you for much time and that you can call a friend. And all this needs time. Sad but true. There’s another reason, too and it’s a thing called “life”. We are not teenagers anymore, some of us have families to care about and jobs that sometimes can create delays in making music, even if the spirit is always on fire! In the recent years, some of us had some serious personal problems to deal with, so even if we used these facts as a catharsis to compose the new album, delays were inevitable. Often problems bring idleness, as a chain reaction, but to rise from the abyss is essential. Also, some unlucky stars shined on us! Problems with not professional labels, recording sessions done wrong…any kind of thing, ahahahaha! But the result of all this has been the strongest determination ever made and put in a Centvrion album, and even if I’m sorry for the delay that occured to see V out, I don’t regret any single problem, because made the record what it is. We made some concerts during these years of silence, but sincerely we didn’t want to play so much until V would be released. It seemed to repeat the same old concert with the same old songs, not the best for us. We firmly wanted this record, sure that it would be a new beginning for the band. We needed it and we deserved it.
Yes, I would keep in mind something you said: “it’s life”. And as Annihilator used to say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger... All those years you were doing something else apart of Centvrion?
The band never dismembered, but as I said, things were taking longer times than we expected. So while things were going slowly (slowly, but they were going!), we continued to play music with other projects. Fabio also became an endorser of a luthier, Giovanni started a band with the former Centvrion singer, Germano. I spent my time singing in many tribute bands (a couple of them I already had before joining Centvrion) and started a new band with some extraordinary young talents here in my region. The band is called Neurotics and we also released our first EP, “Reptilia”, this year.
So, the machine never stopped, good. How have all those troubles influenced the new record?
As I told you before, the band never quit. This album sounded as something unfinished inside the life of any of us, so the real thing is that we needed to resurrect as human beings and as a Band, with the capital B, with this record. Most of the people we know were convinced that a new album could not be possible, or that it could be a B-series full-lenght. It has been a challenge against life, against the back-stabbers, against our fears. And even if someone will not appreciate V, we know we won our personal war.
Well, if you like Metal I think it’s quite unlike you don’t appreciate V... Nevertheless, you have come back in a perfect shape and ready to take the world by storm
Well, thanx for your great words! We wanted to take the bull by its horns and compose songs as never before. I think that we approached to this record and to our music in general with a more mature feeling, that it doesn’t mean “old”. We know what we are capable to do and how to do it. As you underlined in your review, there is nothing new in what we play. It’s simply fuckin’ heavy metal, the music that we like and that we want to play. I’m a big listener of any kind of music, and I like so much to experiment new sounds, new structures...but it was not the right album to do it. This is the comeback album after a long silence, and had to be a mark, pure, sincere and direct. Many bands released album one following the other just to gain cash or visibility. We did it because we felt that it HAD to be done.
Yes, and that it’s easy to appreciate throughout the entire work. How long have you been working in “V”?
The main structures of the songs were established already a couple of years ago. Centvrion had some songs ready to be recorded when I joined the band, but we felt that it was better for us to start from point zero. It all came out in 5 or 6 months, surprisely. Then, when we had a raw mix of how the new songs sounded, we managed to make them better, adding harmonies and patterns that could make us proud of them. Lyrics were composed during that time…some songs didn’t have a title until lyrics were finished, other ones started from a basic idea of the title and written in that mood. I really felt comfortable working this way. Recording sessions, considering all the hours packed together, didn’t take so much time, but they lasts for months, due to our time problems. Mixing caused us some delays, this because we had the exact idea of how V had to sound like, but it’s always hard to define what you have in mind to another person who is recording you. Our sound engineer has been sooooo patient, ahahaha! Contacts with the label started only in July. We live almost in the same zone with the bosses of SG Records and it has been an advantage…we needed V to be published and they wanted to do it. So all things took an impressive speed up and in three months V has been released! Quite funny, after all the long wait!
I like your previous works but, let me tell you, “V” is at least one step above them. It displays a tremendous energy and every song has a very high quality, awesome guitars, great rythm base and your outstanding vocal perfomance
I sensed that everyone of us put himself to the test. Since the very first days of composing, Luca and Fabio (the only “old” members left) were assuring us that it was going to be the best album they had ever composed. They felt it. Everyone in the band is a great musician (me NOT included ahahahaha) so I know that if put in the right feeling, we could make great things. Giovanni is the perfect drummer, young, powerful and technical, and as he showed us many times, he never gets tired. Luca is a great bass player, most of the harmonies came from him and he has the big power to play hard and inspired parts with easiness. Fabio is the sage, the one that knows exactly when and where do things, squared and reflective, but with some technical abilities rarely showed from a guitar player. Leonardo is the one who gives a personal sound in anything he does. Having two identical guitar players would have no sense, one partecipate and complete the other. It seems like a family portrait, isn’t it? Ahahaha! Me? I’m the old lady from Simpsons who screams and throws cats! Ahahahahaha! Just kidding, I did my best and I’m very proud of how my vocal lines came out.
Hahahaha, a family that has become the perfect mix of energies and skills, you included, of course. The solos and riffs are really amazing and so much inspired, one of the best albums of the year in this subject in my opinion. Who is more responsible for that, Fabio or Leonardo?
Most of the songs were composed before Leonardo joined the band, so I must say that almost all riffs are Fabio’s. But as I said before, Leonardo puts everytime something inusual in his solos, out from the classic “heavy-metal-hyperspeed-full of notes” style. This make Centvrion’s sound personal, in my opinion.
Absolutely. I think there is no filler in this album, but I prefer those songs where you move in a Heavy/Speed vibe to those when you are more in a Power Metal mode, although this last is the less, I think. Have Centvrion turned into a more agressive sound?
We didn’t plan anything, but I had the same feeling as you, there are no fillers, and the risk was high. Most of the albums (not just metal ones) often have a couple of songs “less in line” with the other ones. History told us that it’s not always a bad thing: most bands, even the most important ones, sometimes want to experiment new lines, maybe to afford something more commercial or just by curiosity. We didn’t want to do it, all came out clearly. I think every song must have something to say, it’s only to find the right way to say it. So we didn’t think “this is more power oriented” or “this is more thrash-like”, we just played. I can confess that I prefer some catchy and thrashy oriented songs in general, not necessarily faster ones. Pure power metal is not what Centvrion’s sound is. When Hyper Martirvm was out in 2000, some journalists defined that sound as “hyper metal”, and I think that this mixture of speed, power, epic and, if you can call ‘em, thrash patterns is still present in the band’s sound. We didn’t want to revolutionize the Centvrion sound…great things were made in the previous albums, but if I put myself OUT the band, as a simple listener of the songs of the past, in some rare times I had the feeling of something powerful without control. Like a racing car with no driver in it. This time it’s as if we want to ride at top speed, but finishing the race at first place...I don’t know if I put it out clearly, ahahaha! So something has changed in the band’s style, and it was inevitable with new members joining, but the matrix is always the same. The future will tell us where we will move...
Something has changed, sure, and the most impostant is that it has changed for better. How important you think “V” will be in your career? It will put you definitely among the big bands?
We don’t claim to be among the big bands, only future will tell. We would want it, but music has really changed since 15 years ago and we know it perfectly. Many great bands come out nowadays, as many shitty ones. Making music is easier than in the past, and internet changed everything: people used to download music, putting labels in crisis, and they do not risk promoting every band as in the past. It can be a loooong discourse that I wish we could make with a drink in our hands. What I can say now is that we are proud of what we’ve released and that we will do anything we can to spread our name around. As I said before, this album is important for the band, first of all. We’ve not planned to make a record to sell one million copies or to touring the world. If it happens, good for us! We expect some consideration and some satisfaction from V, it’s obvious to wish for it! But for us the very first challenge was publishing a great album after that long silence, and I think we reached this goal. Any future challenge or chance we’ll be lucky to have, will be fronted with maximum strenght and determination.
Roberto, you are a very balanced vocalist and the most I like of your work is the feeling you put in it. How did you find your style? Or you sing every album depending on the mood of the moment?
I was a guitar player since 1993. I was 11yo at that time, and even if I know I can sing in a quite good way, I never thought I could be a vocalist. The passion really rose when I was 20yo, when I became the singer in my Judas Priest tribute band, Sons Of Judas. I gained the attention of Centvrion’s guys that were searching for a new singer five years ago. This brief introduction to explain that my style has clearly been influenced by Halford’s one, and even if I manage to sing in many different ways depending on the band I’m playing with, this style is what mostly “dress” me and Centvrion’s sound. But this doesn’t mean I have to scream all time. In V I tried to put many different voices, depending of the mood of the song. “Parasite” needed an “acid” way of singin’, “Burnin’ Pyres” needed epic, “Days Of Mourning” needed a melodic and low profile. I think all this styles reflect my personality...I learned to know myself through the years, and I have to admit that I’m a quite complex guy ahahahaha! I think that the very first thing for a singer to know, is to learn what “weapons” your voice has and to find the proper and better ways to use them. For example, I know I cannot sing in growls, even if I like that style. “Forcing” myself to sing that way, would not produce optimal things. So, simply, I don’t do that by routine, but only in very few and short moments, when I think songs need it. Second thing is endurance. Even if you can reach high or low pitches you have to learn how much you can afford it or if that way of singing is comfortable to you. The risk is to ruin your voice, so a bit of training is also necessary. Third thing is to listen ALL kinds of music, taking what you like in every genre. Only opening up your eyes and ears to an entire world make you to form your style, being master and pupil at the same time, anytime. Last but not least, you must believe in what you’re doing, not being pretentious, but putting the right feeling into it. Any singer can use his own methods to achieve these goals, mine is the following. As I told you before, any song has something to say, the quest is to find the right way to say it, and it belongs to the voice too, obviously. The lyrics of the album took their part in all this process. I know exactly what I wrote, when I wrote it and what I really want to express when I sing this or that song. The clue for me has been to write the lyrics in a double feature. There is a meaning that the listener can understand, and this is a sort of “level 1”. Then, there is MY meaning, the one that only I know, and this “second level” make me feel in the right mood for that particular song in that particular moment. Music has to move me. Music should always be the guide, the lover you embrace, or the demon you fight.
Well, everyone can have his own opinion, but I think you improve a lot Germano Quintabà’s (former vocalist) work, that was not bad at all already, I would say your work has too many more faces, richer and more complex. In your opinion, what makes a vocalist special and one of a kind?
Well...it’s a very difficult question! Any singer would answer in a different way…or better, any musician or music lover could. I’ve listened to many singers, of many different musical genres and I learned that there are no rules. What connects people like Gleen Hughes and Lemmy? Nothing really, but you like them both! There are no laws at all...nowadays TV reality shows are producing always the same kind of “artists”, trying to “define” how a “good” voice should be. Think of Ian Gillan, do you think someone told him “this is the right way to sing and this is not”? Being a master of technique is not always the best thing to produce good results, also because people’s taste is always different. In my opinion, Ronnie James Dio has been the perfect metal singer. His voice quite never changed in all his career, and if you listen carefully, he underlines every single word he sings. And he didn’t was literally a “giant”. He didn’t reach the highest pitch notes ever, he didn’t was an “extreme” performer on stage, but he always sung from the heart, and this is the approach I like. If you concentrate yourself too much, as a musician or as a simple listener, to what is supposed to be “perfect”, you lose all the sense of music. Again, if something moves you, it’s the right thing.
I totally agree with you. Chapter of influences and “night-table bands”. What bands have inspired you more?
Influences are different for any of us. Surely the sound of the band has been inspired by the big names like Maiden, Priest, Primal Fear, Queensryche and so on, but I think anyone puts his listenings in all the music we produce, and we are all open to new ideas, wherever they come from. I think Fabio and Luca are “old-style” guys, Leonardo is addicted to great guitar players. I think Giovanni is a thrash drummer, even if he maybe doesn’t listen to that genre. I listen to ANY kind of music, from flamenco to death metal, from opera to country or blues...but obviously not all our listenings can have their space in Centvrion’s sound. In the end, I can say that we all have a old-style heavy metal matrix as inspiration in composing.
One way or another I think all those musical genres show up in the end, and may be that’s why V is so big and powerful. How do you see the Metal in Italy?
As I told you before, many good bands are doing a great job nowadays because of the easiness of making music. But there are also many shitty bands playing shitty music. I will not give you names, telling you which is which. But I can make a general discourse about music: I have to be sincere, I feel that today most of the bands are trying to force themselves to be “innovative” or “special”, and sometimes this produces ugly things. It’s like a battle between bands to play faster, harder or to shock most. It’s what I call “the short-dick syndrome” ahahahaha! And this is something concerning all metal in all countries. As a matter of fact, at the end, the bands that really have success are the ones who play their music not looking to what the others are doing. It is so hard to be themselves?
Making an exercise of imagination, a big one hahaha. If you appeared in the ancient Rome playing that kick ass of a song that is War Red Skies, what would be the reaction of Caesar and his roman senators?
Ahahahahaha! Never thought about it! Maybe we could be arrested after a single note for playing “devil’s music”! Or maybe we could be assumed as the “soundtrack band” for every battle Roman armies could start! Just imagine, “Caesar conquers Gaul – Special Guest: Centvrion”. It sounds like the most destructive European tour ever made ahahahahaha
Hahahaha Or you might be considered as what you are, this is, some kind of divinity and they would erect statues with your portrayal around the Coliseum... Do you have any plan of touring around? Italy or abroad too?
We would like to play in every good location we could, but there are no definitive plans right now, the record is out by just a week! Some gigs are already set up in Italy to promote V and we are very excited about it! Playing abroad will be a new thing for us, but it would be a dream coming true! I can imagine that some nations are more “receptive” to the kind of music we play, and I refer to Germany or North Europe above all. But the most important thing right now is spreading our new music around, I’m sure that great things will move. Our label is doing a massive promotion work, and if things will move properly, we will play live more than ever! By the way, if you know someone who could set a concert in your country, just gave him/her my mail, ahahahaha!
Yes, I think 2016 should be your year, definitely, and German guys know it, I guess. Thank you very much for your time, Roberto, it was a very amusing chat
Thanx to you Alberto for the chance to talk about us! I wish that a lot of people will appreciate our comeback and will like our new album V! Follow us on our facebook page for any update and join the V legion! Be metal! \m/