Interview: Raffaella Rivarolo – Cadaveria

Raffaella Rivarolo has been performing as Cadaveria since the early 1990s with symphonic black metal band Opera lX, singing on their first four albums. In 2002, she used her alter ego as the name of her solo band Cadaveria, and has since released six full-length records, the latest of which is perhaps the band’s best effort to date. Emptiness, Cadaveria‘s first album on Time To Kill Records, was released on May 27th this year and is certainly worthy of multiple listens. The music sees Rivarolo through various degrees of contemplation, acceptance, and transformation in deeply determined ways, covered in layers of her trademark “horror metal.”

In the chat below, Cadaveria discusses many of the songs on Emptiness, how her life has changed over the course of twenty years as the leader of an underground metal band, how her recent battle with breast cancer helped make her a more confident person and artist, and how one of life’s greatest gifts is to be in the moment.

Ciao Raffaella. It’s a pleasure to chat with you. Thank you so much for taking the time.  How is Autumn 2022 treating you? 

Cadaveria: Hi Joel, nice to meet you this way. Autumn hasn’t come here yet. The temperatures are still high and I am enjoying these warm rays of sunshine.

How do you typically spend this part of the year? When the seasons begin to change, children prepare for tricks and treats, and the earth begins to mourn the end of summer. Is Halloween a big deal for you, or are you more inclined to think about the fall equinox? 

Cadaveria: Although I love the colors of nature in Autumn, this season always brings me a bit of melancholy (which is good for writing songs but not for living). In general, my mood is connected to the seasons and the weather. Having become fully aware of this I have decided that I let myself be lulled by this flow. I am always hyperactive, but this time I do not resist Autumn which asks me to be slower and more lazy. As for Halloween, I let others dress up: some of my fans love to dress up as Cadaveria.

Your career spans nearly three decades and through that time your music has been constantly evolving, yet remains the same in many ways. Distinctly yours, I would say. Your voice carries more weight with each release and, it seems to me, possesses an even deeper spirit of Emptiness. Darker at times, more serene in others. What parts of you have endured from your days with Opera lX, for example, and found their way to this record? 

Cadaveria: In the singer and woman I am now there is very little of past times. Certainly, my growl voice has gone through these 30+ years of career, becoming more confident and aware, just as I have become as a human being. After all, the voice is emitted from the body, and the body is connected with the soul, so the voice is the mirror of who we are.

I am happy that so many listeners have grasped, like you, this alternation of light and shadow, which runs through the entire Emptiness album. And in fact, it is no coincidence that the graphics play precisely on this contrast of black and white. I lived the last few years of my life, prior to the release of Emptiness, as if I were on a roller coaster. The experiences I have had (illness, death, rebirth, cure, meditation, shamanism) have converged in this album which is therefore very intense and true.

I have read some of the transformations you’ve described going through during your treatment for cancer, then through the pandemic. It seems impossible to think these life events would not inspire your work, but is there a point where the lines are blurred between yourself as Raffaella and your presence as Cadaveria? 

Cadaveria: I’ll tell you something very personal, a consideration I came to recently: the disease allowed Raffaella to re-emerge. Cadaveria had taken over, influencing my private life too much, crushing the little girl I was, who loves to laugh and have fun. I probably had to crash into this concrete wall at 100 per hour to wake up and save Raffaella.

Ironically, the illness I experienced required that I lose my hair in order to be overcome. My long black hair, which I had kept this way for over 20 years, had become a symbol of Cadaveria, like so many outfits and make-up I have had over the years. Thus the renewal was total, both internal and external. I don’t know if I can explain what I mean. In summary, what you see now is a Cadaveria that is not ashamed of its fragility. So even more true than before.

“Silver Rain” is one of the strongest singles on the record. The press material has a quote that the song is “dedicated to those who, finding themselves in adversity, have learned to dance in the rain, without waiting for the storm to end.” I love that so so much! Can you expand on this, and when was the last time you were able to dance in the rain?

Cadaveria: The disease made me experience the difficulty of waiting: waiting for the new chemo cycle, waiting to get better, waiting for the results of the tests, waiting to meet the doctor, waiting for my hair to grow again, etc. In that wait you are led to annihilate yourself, not to live. “Silver Rain” speaks of how it is important to live every moment intensely, even if you are waiting, even if you are afraid, even if you no longer recognize yourself in the mirror. The message is: go out dancing in the rain, don’t wait for the storm to pass, enjoy the present moment. They are important teachings that I do not abandon. I put them into action every day! I am an enthusiast of life and I am no longer afraid of dancing in the storm. Every moment is precious. 

You also reference David Lynch as an inspiration for the video. That’s definitely evident with the visual of you singing in front of the red curtain. Like Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet and the many scenes of the red room in Twin Peaks. There are so many layers to his films, which in some ways echo the many layers of your voice. How deep does this appreciation for Lynch go for you as an artist?

Cadaveria: In my life, I have done many jobs. I have a degree in history and criticism of cinema and for 10 years I was a freelance videomaker. Marcelo, Cadaveria(s) drummer who has been playing with me for over 30 years, is an established videomaker, responsible for all the music videos we have made since the dawn of time to today. We both love Lynch’s aesthetic.

With the video for “Silver Rain,” we aimed to pay him an explicit homage. We have always contaminated our music with other arts: poetry, visual art, and cinema above all. It is our way of making art, taking care of everything at 360 degrees, taking care of the music production, the image of the band, the record covers, the videos.

Can you help me better understand “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”? Lyrically, much like the album as a whole, it seems to be about both transformation and acceptance. But it also makes me think about sort of a personification of the moon.  

Cadaveria: This song is linked to my experiences with a Brazilian indigenous tribe, who rebaptized me in a sacred river, identifying me as a warrior of the stars. So I’m talking about myself in this new guise and also about the visions I’ve had in altered states of consciousness. I really like the video we made for this track!

“Shamanic Path,” simply put, is a badass tune! That opening riff has a Celtic Frost vibe. Doom-laden and stabbing. And the various vocal styles you use in the song give the feeling that the song is coming from more than one point of view. I understand this song is based on a true story as well. How did this song come together?

Cadaveria: This song too was born after my experience in Brazil. For about three years I have been approaching South American shamanism. This song is a thank you to the Great Spirit, and to the tribe who welcomed me, nurtured and educated me, and who healed me internally.

“Emptiness” is an extremely powerful song. These lyrics, in particular…

“Thought is what creates fear

Thought is danger

See pain for what it is

Do not escape it

Look at it and you will see

There is an end to the pain”

Given the challenges you’ve faced over the last few years, these words possess an authority and sincerity that may otherwise be considered fatalistic. I would love to know more about the writing of this song, what the lyrics mean to you, and your decision to use it as an album title.

Cadaveria: In recent years I have come across many writings (from Krishnamurti to Einstein) that speak of emptiness not as nothing, but as the whole, as a source of energy. We are used to not consider(ing) what we cannot see. Instead, I am educating myself to see what is not there. For instance, take a room in which there are objects: the room is not the four walls and it is not the objects. The room is the void between objects, as it allows the objects to exist and have a specific shape. Do you understand me?

And think about the mind, which is in constant motion. It never stops thinking and you can turn it off just with meditation. That moment of emptiness in your mind makes you free, because you are not thinking about your past or your present, you are just in the here and now. It is the moment in which you ARE, for the simple fact of being. We are used to DO (and we identify ourselves with what we do: singer, doctor, writer, employee) but the difficult thing is TO BE. Emptiness is something I yearn for, which is why I consider it important to the point of naming the album.

Cadaveria recently celebrated twenty years as a band and saw a re-release of your debut, The Shadows’ Madame. How does that feel, first of all, and what are some of the differences between your alter ego then and now?

Cadaveria: Yes, in late March we reissued our debut album The Shadows’ Madame, which is finally available on black or blue vinyl and also on cassette (via Time To Kill Records label and also available on our website for those who want to concretely support us). I am very proud of that album as well as of all those we made because they represent a precise moment in my path. In all these years what has remained unchanged is the passion with which I do things. It is a precious gift that I have and I know that the energy I put into the records goes straight to my fans, whom I thank!

And, finally, I’d like to ask a few simple questions. How would you describe your relationship with Cadaveria fans? 

Cadaveria: It is a sincere and lasting relationship. The dedication I have towards music has been rewarded in a difficult moment of my life in which my fans have been close to me, even economically with a crowd-funding to partially cover the surgeries’ costs. In that period all the nights spent over the years making music, trying, improving myself instead of sleeping, taking care of every millimeter of the cover graphics had a greater sense because it came back to me in the form of love from my fans.

What are some underground Italian bands or artists that you feel should receive more attention?

Cadaveria: Cadaveria. Eh eh… I really think Emptiness is a great album. We got great reviews, it’s a shame we can’t get the streams we deserve. But not because I’m interested in taking $500 from the streams, I don’t get rich anyway! I just wish this album reached many people. We are aware that we remain an underground band. We never paid to play or to join a playlist or have millions of views. Unfortunately, that’s how it works today.

Can you recommend one album that helps you get through the unequivocal madness of life? 

Cadaveria: Among ours, I would say Emptiness together with Far Away From Conformity. But if you mean an album not from our discography I would say Tool’s Fear Inoculum. The title alone gives you a clear demonstration of the madness of the times we are living in. I hope we all understand what these fear injections are… Don’t allow fear to enslave you.

Thank you so much for your time, Raffaella. It means a lot. It’s wonderful to see such a strong return to making music and conquering life. I hope to chat with you again soon. Ciao!

Cadaveria: Thank you very much to you for this interesting interview, for the space dedicated to us, and for understanding my path and my art. 

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