DUSHAN PETROSSI - IRON MASK 'HORDES OF THE BRAVE'
It is a little ironic that I'm doing this interview with Belgian guitarist Dushan Petrossi. I happen to work in a Belgian themed pub in Auckland, New Zealand. I try to keep up with the movers and shakers in the melodic metal scene, but the names Dushan Petrossi and Iron Mask had escaped my attention. The latest Iron Mask album 'Hordes Of The Brave' album dealt to that. What a jaw dropper!!! Intense, finely crafted melodic neoclassical metal of the highest order. Mr. Petrossi now had my complete attention.
Digging around about this guy you will find many comparisons to Yngwie Malmsteen. It has even been said that he is the natural heir to Malmsteen's throne. I wasn't aware that Yngwie had abdicated, but his past couple of albums did not create much excitement. Dushan has some ideas about how Mr. Malmsteen could proceed in the future. 'I think he is getting good songs but in my opinion he needs to get a really good producer' he says. 'Albums like 'Magnum Opus' or the 'Seventh Sign' sounded better to me because the production was better, but his playing is, of course, still very good, no worry about that. I would love to see him work with Dio on vocals or even the first line up with Jeff Scott Sotto and Jens Johanson on the keys. That would be something really great! I'm sure that would be the best album he would record. And I'm sure fans expect it and will buy it a lot.'
I probably couldn't go past 'Odyssey' as my personal Yngwie favourite, but Dushan is certainly on the money about the production. The Swede needs to keep his hands off the knobs, so to speak. Another criticism leveled at Malmsteen has been his 'over playing'. The tendency to shred just for the sake of it. Though Dushan can certainly shred with the best of them, for him it is not a consideration during the song-writing process. Dushan elaborates. 'My goal is to compose good melodic tunes with good instrumental parts, baroque style, neo classical, with very good vocal melodies. The most important factor is the voice. When fans can sing it I'm happy, it's great to hear it live. Good solos are also very important to me. I improvise a lot when I record solos, these are the best wild solos.' But Dushan also has other aspects to consider. 'What I don t like is unnecessary shredding. If a song only needs a good melodic solo, you dont need to blow people heads all the time. A good song is much more important, a good vocal line which people can remember, hum and sing. Then comes the soloing, but I always need a good theme and melody even in my solo, that's really important to me.'
Throughout 'Hordes Of The Brave' there are a number of stunning solo's, but as Dushan has said, they do not come at the expense of the songs. And while the song-writing stands out, you still need some high-class musicians to make the songs a reality. Wanting only the best, he approached the likes of Oliver Hartmann (vocals), Richard Andersson (keyboards), and the surprise packet of Goetz 'Valhalla Jr' Moehr (vocals). Oliver had worked with Dushan on the last Magic Kingdom album, Dushan's other band, so it was a no-brainer to get him onboard again, AS Dushan explains. 'Oliver already recorded all the backing voices and two songs as lead vocalist for my last Magic Kingdom album (Metallic Tragedy). I contacted him two years ago, so I asked him to work with me again, this time for the new Iron Mask album.' Obviously there were reasons for this. 'I really love his voice and I feel very happy and proud getting him on my records because he refuses a lot of bands 'proposals'. I just wanted the best of the best for my new songs. You need great singers if you play neo classical; that is very important for me. With their great voices you can hear the exact melody I wrote, because they sing very well in tune. I was not satisfied with the former IM singer. Oliver and Goetz also bring their feelings and performances which is always cool to hear, and I was so happy when I heard the voice recordings.'
As good as Oliver is, it is Goetz Moehr who steals the show with a performance that has you scrambling for comparisons. One moment it is Graham Bonnet, then Jorn Lande, even Oliver Hartmann. With such a strong voice it is no wonder the vocal tracks came out so well, and Dushan is just as thrilled with Goetz's contribution. 'I think he's one of the best rock singers I have heard with Oliver Hartmann and Jorn Lande. He was introduced to me by Oliver; he's a good friend of his, He is very famous in the German rock scene, but Iron Mask is his first full length hard rock release. He adores Dio, Dickinson, Coverdale, I think you can hear it when he sings.' That is an understatement if I've ever heard one.
Anyone familiar with neo-classical metal will be aware of Richard Andersson, or at least with his bands such as Time Requiem and Space Odyssey. If you haven't, them check them out as they rank up there with the best in the genre. Andersson was exactly who Dushan wanted to do the keyboard solo's. 'He is the best keyboard player for the neo classical metal we do' says Dushan. 'He plays exactly what I like - melody, fast, classical theme, great stuff. I just asked him to join us on Iron Mask. He heard the stuff and said yes because he loved the tunes very much.'
'I'm very happy getting him on my new record. He recorded all the album key solos but not the backing choirs keys. There are five solo's that he recorded. I just asked him to play his solo without any instruction. It is really his kind of music so you don't need to explain it to him, he knows that style so well. He really loves the album. He is listening to 'Hordes Of The Brave' very often, that's what he told me.' And it is also what Richard indicated to me, saying, 'Dushan simply asked me if I would like to add some cool solos for his upcoming record. He sent me the material and I liked what I heard. I think that it's a cool record with many fast parts.'
The majority of the metal press has given 'Hordes Of The Brave' the credit it is rightly due. But, does that mean it will sell? Can you make a living being a neoclassical metal musician? It is not exactly one of the money spinning metal genre's. Dushan gives an insiders perspective on how to do what you love and stay financially viable, and he makes it perfectly clear that selling out is NOT an option. 'Getting different bands is the first answer. Also teaching guitar, producing some bands. But you are totally right, it is very very hard to get big money with neo classical. I do this music because I love it. I don't care 'bout money, fashion and especially nu-metal crap or grunge or all that new 'female' metal fashion. That's an overdose to me. Here in Belgium promoters seem to only book bands with a girl on vocals. I dont have anything against these bands but I just feel that it is too much. A lot of good neo classical bands exist, but we never see them on a festival or on a tour because the guys organising the tours are only money guys. They think 'ok lets put female bands and we ll get lot of people coming to the shows.'
Dushan adds an extra opinion on the scene nowadays. 'If neo classical bands do not get the chance to play live, they'll finally stop recording albums. I sometimes feel that the future is not so bright for neo classical metal nowadays. But, we are still alive and kicking, and we get a lot of fans around the world asking where to see us live. For the moment we will record albums for our fans, that is the best we can do for them and for us.'
Speaking of playing live, it seems that Iron Mask will not only be a studio band, with live dates planned. 'Yes, we are trying to get some festivals or even a tour' says Dushan, 'the live band will be the same as the guys who are on the album. A great line up in my opinion.'
With all the talk about Iron Mask, where does that leave Magic Kingdom? Is the death nell sounding and is Iron Mask taking over as Dushan's main focus. Absolutely not, as Dushan confirms. 'I already wrote the new MK album which will be released in 2006 through LMP. We will record it with Tommy Hansen in Denmark and the new MK singer is Lance King, a great American singer. I'm also working on a full symphonic instrumental album, only me on the guitars with the orchestra and big choirs. Something like a movie score with heavy guitars. It is called Trinity /An Electric Guitar Symphony. I hope to release it at the end of 2005' he says.
Our Belgian friend is also at pains to point out that the two bands are distinctly separate entities. 'Most important; MK is and will be much more power speed metal with extreme vocals like death and black voices. That is the real difference between my two bands. You will never hear aggressive vocals in IM. IM is also more classic hard rock; less speed metal. But STILL neo classsical. The next MK will get even more extreme voices and soprano, baritone like in our opera song 'Metallic Tragedy'. Most of the new songs on the new album will get that new style.'
In the very short space of time I have been acquainted with the name Dushan Petrossi, the following has become abundantly clear. He is frighteningly talented, a heck of a nice guy, and so enormously dedicated to the genre of neo-classical metal that I feel like giving him a medal of honour. And being Belgian he loves his beers. 'My favourites are the Hoegarden white beer, almost iced (try it with the frozen glass) or Leffe blonde or Radieuse (something stronger). Do you know Bush beer? Very nice but after five beers you re dead.'
Since I don't drink alcohol I think even half of a Bush would have me on the floor. Dushan, you have as many as you bloody like. You deserve them!
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