Once upon a time (like, maybe four months ago), one-man black metal meant dreary lo-fi recordings that could dampen any spirits, turn the brightest floral-patterned dresses into dusty black burial shrouds and lacquer a scummy sheen of ice onto every unprotected surface. Sure, lots of recent material broke that mold (Leviathan being the most glaring example), but our expectations still wallow in that lightless gutter.
A few minutes’ listen to Milan, Italy’s the Clearing Path might just turn that frown… well, not upside down, maybe, but at least sideways. This is the project of Gabriele Gramaglia, who incorporates a love of Converge-heightened, spastic hardcore heaviness into his anguished odes to the great outdoors. The percussion and vocal rhythms here really set Gramaglia’s solo project apart from the pack. The music retains black metal’s otherworldly quality without losing the attention of mere mortals like us (and presumably you).
The Clearing Path will be digitally self-releasing its debut, Watershed Between Earth and Firmament, in a couple weeks, and Gramaglia has just announced that Avantgarde Music will pick up the CD release of the album at some date yet to be determined. While you wait, check out this song and read what Gramaglia had to say about this particular stop in his musical journey.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you've been doing musically before The Clearing Path happened?
I've played in two bands mainly: Oaken/Throne and Thy Solace. With the first one I played some sort of blackened death metal and even though the band has disbanded I wanted to keep on doing it on my own, but we'll see; the other one was the one I began writing this concept album for, but then we disbanded so I kept on developing it on my own in The Clearing Path, and I'm happy with this because I could make it in complete freedom. Currently I’m also running a spacey, post-metal group called Summit, of which I release music through the Italian label Drown Within Records.
What is it like to be solely responsible for this kind of music?
It has been crazy... As I told you, it was actually the first time that I've been able to do everything as I wanted to, from the arrangements to the sounds, and the way I tracked the whole songs with no compromises. Also, the process of writing has been weird: it happened, for example, that I used riffs I wrote many years ago that always remained unused but that fitted my current vision now.
Recording and mixing the whole thing on my own almost drove me crazy: you can imagine the difficulties you have if the only place you’ve got to achieve something like that is just your bedroom. However, the coolest side has been surely that I could do everything I wanted to, without any kind of limits. So I ended up with more than 60 tracks in my recording project, which is not necessarily a good thing, haha! Luckily, I got some precious hints from a longtime friend of mine and sound engineer Marco Gervasio, who also mastered the whole thing, because my ears were definitely fucked up.
Do the music and the lyrics come from the same place? What drives you to this particular sound?
Honestly I don't think the place where I live is very inspirational (I live near Milan, and I really hate living in a city), but luckily Milan is not so far from the Italian Alps, like 100 km, where you can find outstanding landscapes and mountains and where the nature flourishes luxuriantly. Actually there is a specific place, which I prefer to keep a secret, in which I had this intuition. It's a place in the Alps full of waterfalls, and the only "noise" you can hear comes from the water falling and the wind blowing through the trees. I mean you just sit there, close your eyes, and think about life. Also the process began when I had, on one hand, remorse and regrets, [but on] the other hand a true will to release myself from a period of frustrations and failures.
Musically speaking, I have to tell you that I've had countless influences from many genres that drove me to this sound , but if I have to choose some personalities I can say Ihsahn, Colin Marston, Andrew Hock, Vindsval, Bob Fripp, Steve Hackett, Argento (of Spite Extreme Wing), Aaron Turner, Luc Lemay, Kurt Ballou, Scott Conner... this list could go on, so I definitely can tell you that I have no boundaries.
Do you feel that, in the place where you live, you are supported by other artists with similar interests, or do you think of yourself as working separate from any group of musicians?
There are of course some good bands and musicians in the Italian underground scene, but right now I feel that it's better to keep distance from everything like that.
How closely does the final result of Watershed Between Earth and Firmament match your original vision of these songs?
I think that I'm a meticulous person, especially when it’s about music, so I'll never be completely satisfied (I recorded the bass 4 times, just saying), and because of this I think that I will not listen to my stuff again for at least 2 or 3 months. But, after all, I think that the album came out well, and I'm quite happy with it.
Will you continue to work as the Clearing Path, or will you move on to other work?
I 'm already writing new music for The Clearing Path, but this doesn't mean that I will not write different kinds of music in the future with other projects.
Are you currently looking for a label to work with, or are you happy to release music independently?
After many, many efforts, I gained the attention of the mighty Avantgarde Music, which is going to release my album physically (we still have to point out how and when, since it all happened very recently), while the digital release will come out on 7/11.
The visual art for the album is very cool. How did that come about?
The cover art has been made by Blessend (Luca Devinu): he is a great artist who I've been really happy to work with. He's definitely been really good at painting my visions. Lately he's been getting some success and I'm really glad for him, because he deserves it.