Paolo Colavolpe: Vocals
Matteo Di Gioia: Guitar
Federico Paulovich: Drums
Ralph Guido Salati: Guitar
Gabriel Pignata: Bass
According to guitarist Matteo Di Gioia, going into the writing of The Chosen One, Destrage's fifth full-length, the plan was simple: "No bullshit. No half-baked or lukewarm stuff. No self-indulgence. No 'Okay, let's keep that because it's pretty good and we're friends' weak ass attitude." The results speak for themselves, building upon their already exemplary discography with humbling self-assurance. At the same time, it is very much an empowering record, encouraging both the members themselves and others to make peace with choices taken. "It doesn't matter what the outcome of a choice is, if it was taken with courage and good will, pursued with tenacity and driven by love, then that's the best choice you could ever take at that time, with the means you had," states Di Gioia. "We live in a very result-driven society that leads to a silent, intimate fear and sense of inadequacy, and we just want to infuse some confidence in people from the little point we can speak from."
Though persistently and consistently writing without break, the quintet - rounded out by guitarist Ralph Salati, bassist Gabriel Pignata and drummer Federico Paulovich - locked themselves away for nearly an entire year to specifically pen the songs that made it onto The Chosen One, choosing to work in a far from lavish studio that was essentially "a subterranean, work-in-progress three-room mess hall with no heating and no air system." Closing themselves into such an uncomfortable space forced them to focus on what they were doing with no distractions, leading it to become their most intense release. "There was nothing else to do!" says Di Gioia. "Drop the guitar, and you had to stare at a rotting ceiling, smell the acre sweat of the Earth while listening to Milan's traffic under the beat of a polluted rain. But, no good music on Earth was born of comfort." This process also led to them writing - and discarding - more material than ever before, exercising high quality control and determined to make the record the perfect culmination of their collective talents. "We spent a huge amount of time talking about guitar sound, drum sound, bass sound, electronic sound etc, doing tests, doing comparisons", says vocalist Paolo Colavolpe. "Hundreds of riffs and structures changed or were deleted. In the end we had eleven or twelve songs ready to be recorded. Only eight of those convinced the entire band, so I said, 'Fuck the other songs, let's put on the record what we really dig and trust', and the band agreed." As with all of their previous efforts, they make it impossible to pigeonhole their sound, with numerous labels applicable to the record but no single one able to tell the whole story. Moreover, from start to finish, The Chosen One seethes with an energy that is undeniable. "I strongly believe in the power of the people, and energy came from those who worked on this album, from the band, the producers, through to the mixing and mastering engineer. There was a lot of energy in the whole project, and that's the most important thing to me," Colavolpe enthuses. The record also sees the band once more experimenting, taking risks and exploring territory they have not previously entered into, demonstrating a fearlessness when it came to chasing ideas - and almost half the songs are in a completely different guitar tuning. A pair of unique tracks also bookend the record, the title track and "The Gifted One", their relationship obvious as they came together in the writing stage. Explains Di Gioia: "The song 'The Chosen One' is brief, has no repetitions and an unresolved structure. The unexplored, unrepeated sections of that unwrap with more patience on 'The Gifted One', which also has an uncommon structure, but in the opposite sense. Here we have a long, pacing, reflexive closing song that shares many elements with the opener but feels completely different." Further adding to the heady mix is the incorporation of extra instrumentation, among these a baritone saxophone and something the band nicknamed MEGATRON, which is essentially "a badass synthesizer playing guitar riffs together with the human guitarists. Like the saxophone, it's set to disappear and fuse with the guitars to achieve a slightly unreal sound, and we knew we didn't want these extra sounds to emerge and be obvious. Instead, we really looked for the listener to experience the 'What the fuck is that sound?' effect."
Lyrically, the band draws from that which they see and pour it through the filter of their own experiences. On The Chosen One, this sees them covering a lot of ground, refusing to limit themselves, and again making it hard to neatly place them in a box. The opening and closing tracks deal with the aforementioned theme of choices made, "About That" is about building a thick skin when it comes to mockery and alongside "Hey, Stranger" also forwards the idea of solving problems by talking about them with irony. For Di Gioia, lyric writing is about "all this rage boiling in me without any real reason, moving me around, and if I didn't have extreme music to burn this energy, I think I'd possibly be in danger. Thank you heavy metal for making use of something like anger." For Colavolpe, it's about expressing both the best and worst of himself. "The best part of me is the person who tries to change things, who's trying to make 'Mr. Bugman' understand that he will always find something wrong if he looks for it, therefore he should drop his skepticism and run for his lost cause. The worst part of me is the one that goes deeper, a sort of a dark side, where I face my deepest fears. My limits. Lyrics like those on 'At The Cost of Pleasure' and 'Headache And Crumbs' have very different moods, but both of them have suffering, frustrating and angry roots. Both these processes are essential and feed each other, because if you never face your limits, your fears, you'll never be able to give your best."
With drums tracked at FM Studio, in Lecco, Italy by Salvatore Addeo, and guitar, bass and vocals recorded at Raptor Studios in Vicenza by Matteo "Ciube" Tabacco, the band committed themselves 100% to every stage of the process. Guided and pushed by Ciube, who consistently ensured they went "beyond the limit with his calm, comprehensive, gentle lead", they took the lessons learned from their previous experiences in the studio, which made for an engaging and constantly productive process. "The most important thing is to seize everything. Take care of what is in your domain and put as much personality into every single detail before handing it to others. Always take a decision and commit to it. Don't leave space to bullshit. If a lead needs an effect, record that effect. If a percussion needs heavy treatment, treat it. Josh Wilbur was handling the mix and mastering and we knew not to send it overseas to mix in its rough version. It's confusing, lazy, and unnecessarily demanding towards other technicians and artists involved in the chain." A smattering of guest musicians also contributed to the album, with "master of evil" Luca Mai of ZU providing a wild saxophone solo on "Mr Bugman" and dubbing the main riff of "At The Cost Of Pleasure". Jazz musician Fabio Visocchi added keyboards to "At The Cost Of Pleasure" and "The Gifted One", while Fabrizio "Izio" Pagni produced the electronics and handled the programming. Working with Wilbur also proved to be both rewarding and thrilling for the band, who were unable to physically be in LA, but were involved every step of the way. Admitting to being a little intimidated at the thought of working with such a "hot producer" initially, the collaboration was nothing but fruitful: the first mix great, the second better, but they persisted, with the eighth run making it onto the record to everyone's satisfaction. "We were talking every day on the phone, sending messages back and forth and Josh said to us, 'Hey! I don't have a deadline. We mix this until it's fucking great. My goal is having everybody jumping up and down to this record!' And he kept his word."