Downfall of Nur: Shrouded histories of Sardinia

If you were looking out for awesome releases in 2015, you might have seen the album ‘Umbras De Barbagia’. An album with an intriguing cover that beckoned you to enter a misty world of a forgotten past. Interesting enough, if you looked into it, you’d find out that Barbagia is the more wild and untamed part of the Italian island of Sardinia. So how is it that Downfall Of Nur from Argentina is addressing this?

For those more versed in linguistics or history might have already detected the rare topic this band uses in their music, namely that of a forgotten civilisation on the island of Sardinia in the mediterranean. Wildy atmospheric and daring in its lack of simple song structures, it’s winding build-up and storytelling progression, it was an album that should have been and probably was in many end-of-year lists.

I instantly got my hands on the vinyl and recently also managed to purchase EP ‘Umbras de Forestas’. Listening to that after the full lenght feels a lot like going back in time, tracing the origins of a sound that feels so thought through, so completely captivating. I felt it was necesary to learn a bit more about this band and its origins. It’s because of that I decided to get in touch with Antonio, the man behind Downfall of Nur. A young musician with an incredibly creative and maybe even ancient mind.

How are you doing and can you kindly introduce yourself?

Hello, very well! My name is Antonio; I’m an Italian musician and producer based in Argentina, founder, and mastermind of the atmospheric Black Metal project “Downfall of Nur”.

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There seems to be an overall confusion about your nationality. As I understood you are from Sardinia, but residing in Argentina. How did that all happen?

Yes, I was born in Sardinia in 1996 and moved here in Argentina on 2008, so, I’m Italian.

What does it mean to be Sardinian to you? To write about your homeland and the meaning it has, can you describe this?

It means a lot, and when something means a lot sometimes you are proud or just sad about it, Sardinia was always loved and hated for the wild and enchanting cultural heritage, this cultural heritage made of values, the language and history is what creates an identity, to which you belong. It’s in your blood. Nowadays, little is left of all this, considering that society since the seventies has become much more individualistic.

With globalization everyone wants to be the stereotype, each passing year more people cares less about their “origins”. I think it’s the media bombardment taking all of your attention in different directions and besides there’s this materialistic society, which encourages originality and diversity, but discriminates against those who think differently. Writing about Sardinia, my home, my history and culture is what make me be and feel Sardinian, defend my origins and carry them like a flag.

Your project Downfall of Nur is to me one of the most fascinating things I’ve heard in a while. I’m specifically intrigued by the story behind the concept. Can you elaborate on that?

The project concept is based on the Nuragic Civilization, the ancient civilization of Sardinia. Some years ago in 2013, I decided to end all the musical projects I had, than anyway, they were not approached very seriously.

I started to working on something new and much more personal that I wanted to approach with all seriousness (which I believe I did). With this idea I started writing about my homeland and my ancestors and after some months this project took the name of ‘Downfall of Nur’.

u’ve played in some other bands; can you say something about that?

Actually I haven’t played in any real bands this far. I just had a couple of projects when i was 15/16. Most of those are a bit embarrassing if I look at them now. In those times I wanted to have a band, though not a black metal band and where I lived at the time I just couldn’t find anyone to play with really, everyone at the time was wanted to play covers of other bands and I was bored of them.

Then I got in touch with the work of Burzum and the fact that Varg Vikernes used to do everything by himself and that just inspired me to start do everything by my own and after a couple of years here we are.

When I first saw the cover of ‘Umbras De Barbagia’ I glanced over it a couple of times, but it stood out so much and lured me in. Can you tell a bit about the cover and why you think it’s particularly interesting, drawing new listeners?

Oh yes, I believe than the cover of an album is important as or even more than the music. In this case much of the interest the album garnered is thanks to the album cover. As you said, it’s particularly interesting. I think this is an image that provokes suspense and mystery and is also quite unique in its form. It expresses the concept of the album itself. What you see represented on the cover is the old masked figure, which is an ancient, traditional mask of Barbagia, than represents a pre-Nuragic divinity or expression of divinity.

How did you go about writing and recording this album and did you find a specific state of mind in which to do it, since it is so wrought with feeling and emotion (to me as a listener)?

I started to write for “Umbras de Barbagia” at the end of 2013/2014. I felt pretty nostalgic and was not too well in those times so I started writing songs. Everything went quite naturally, I never planned anything, the album started to take the shape on his own while I was recording and composing. When the instrumental recordings were finalized I started to looking for a guest vocalist and I got in touch with Dany Tee, we had meet some time before I started out with Downfall of Nur, I was a fan of his bands specially Seelenmord and I thought it would be a good contribution. After this, we spent all of autumn and winter working on the album. I think beyond how I felt at the time, what was most important and influential is that the album was not forced in any way. I believe than that determined the final sound of Umbras de Barbagia.

Balancing the folk and metal elements is something that can make or break an album, but on your album I find that it only makes each other stronger. How did you find a way to integrate the two so completely without mixing them up?

The integration happened through the composition and recording process of the album. Long ago I was planning to add ethnic instruments and create some semi-folkloric atmospheres to give to the album some details. This took place on this record, as the overall composition and the concept allowed it. These instruments fited very well without feeling as if they are out of place. I think this album needed such instruments to create these kinds of atmospheres.

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The quality of your recordings is superb. Can you say something about the production and mixing?

Thanks, I think nowadays you can get great results even with a home studio. The mixing of ‘Umbras De Barbagia’ took quite a long time. We worked together with Dany Tee as co-producer. After the mixing process was end, we send the album to Hernan Conidi, Dany friend, who had a studio in Buenos Aires. He did the final mastering and for me the result was perfect. We are very pleased with the final sound of this record.

In your music you are using a couple of traditional instruments. Can you tell a bit about those and what effect you feel they have on your music? Why did you choose these particular ones?

What I use most frequently are the Quenacho flute, high whistle and the Launeddas, which is a traditional instrument of Sardinia. I also used some classic cellos. I think these instruments really contribute to enrich the atmosphere giving more archaic touch. This was one of the main points of focus during the production of the album, because there are many parts with ambient sounds. Everything was made to make it feel like the music was a bridge between the present reality and your imagination. Close your eyes and let the music take you away.

Do you feel connected to the black metal scene (in so far as there is one) in general and what bands have inspired you to make the music you make? What is it about those bands that you find inspiring?

Not really, I think I’m out of the ‘scene’ with the exception of a few friends.I don’t feel I’m really part of it. I just record and write music at home in my studio, because this is what I like to do, and that’s it. Back in the days, some years ago, when I discovered ‘Black Metal’ some bands did inspire me directly. Examples of those are Ulver, Burzum, Darkthrone and Satyricon. The sound, the mystics, by the time everything was mesmerizing. I was looking for something similar when I stumbled upon the first Opeth record. That was after reading about extreme metal and Scandinavian bands in the nineties and I found something better there.

Like many ‘new’ black metal bands, your music isn’t strictly in the ‘old’ format and explores its own artistic realm. Where else do you get your inspiration (outside of BM), both musically and in a sense of ambiance and feel?

Thanks! I think personally that it is boring to remain stuck in the old format. I don’t mean that this is boring for an audience, but for me as an artist it would not work out. It’s simply not what I like to do. I like listening to a lot of film soundtracks; these influence my ‘inspirational’ process a lot. Ennio Morricone, James Roy Horner and Jerry Goldsmith are my favorites. Nowadays I listen to very little metal actually, except some underground bands that seem to me to be spectacular and unique. I used to listen to a lot of folk, jazz, ambient, old prog and things like that.

Which black metal bands do you listen to and why should people check them out?

Recently I’ve been listening a lot of American/Icelandic Black Metal, a few bands from Europe too and the (no-metal) bands/artist I always listen to, would like recommend the following bands/projects; Vohann, Arizmenda, Selvans, Panopticon, Lluvia, Svartidauði, Misþyrming, Naðra, these are in my Black metal playlist.

 

I’m very intrigued by the folk project that you’re working on. Can you tell a bit about that? What can one expect?

I’m working on that and I guess I’m on 70% of the recording and mixing process of it. Most likely I will release it as an EP with five songs. It’s really a project inspired by all the music I like that is not metal. It will be my other facet. We’ll have to see what happens.

 

I have been to Sardinia, but for any reader who will still visit the Island, what are the parts to visit to get a true feel or sense of what it is you invoke on ‘Umbras De Barbagia’?

The entire island is truly beautiful, from its archeological and cultural treasures to its beautiful nature. It’s like an open air museum and if you go in summer you have some of the best beaches in Europe and If you go in winter, you’ll find in the centre of the island the forests, mountains and numeral archeological sites to visit. They’ll take your breath away. It’s in the heart of the island where you will feel the true vibe of ‘Umbras de Barbagia’.

 

What does nature mean to you? When I listen to your music I feel a deep connection to the land and natural force of Sardinia represented as much as its culture. How do you feel about that?

Nature means a lot for me, it’s another part of my being, just like another vital organ. Many people do not realize of this, for the simple fact that she is something that may seem far removed from everyday life, but truth is than nature elements are as important as our organs. We depend on her, so she must be treated with respect.

What future ambitions do you have with your music?

Keep doing what I’m doing now: compose, record and produce more music.

 

In November Downfall of Nur is releasing a split with Italian band Selvans. The split will be out on Avantgarde Music.

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