Postvorte, or Postvorta, was the goddess of the past in Roman mythology, and a part of the Camenae alongside her sister Proversa, also called Antevorta, the goddess of future. Quite ambiguously, both are also referred to as Porrima, depending on the context. The sisters were either the siblings or the companions of the goddess of childbirth and prophecy, Carmenta, said to be summoned to aid during childbirth. Invoked by pregnant mothers to protect them and their offspring, which goddess took part in the labour was then later determined by the position in which the child was born in; Postvorte was present if the baby born feet-first, Antevorta if head-first. A lot can be drawn from these conjoined, partly complicated, archaic myths, the Italian post-metal sextet Postvorta being a prime example of that.
Postvorta was born in Ravenna, Italy in 2009. The band performs an otherworldly, heavy style of cinematic post-metal mixed with sludge and doom, and has been thematically exploring the cycle of birth through multiple albums, all boiling down to one, immense entity. Postvorta was formed by their guitarist and bassist, Andrea Fioravanti and Raffaelle Marra respectively, who both were part of the post-hardcore act Black Sound Empire, and went on to pursue a style akin to post-metal and sludge by composing longer, more involved songs. According to their synthist/guitarist Mohammed, whom I had the pleasure to interview for this article, the pair’s urge to change their sound and Andrea’s love towards Aaron Turner and Isis were the main catalysts for Postvorta, and while the output varies, sometimes vastly, the initial influences and ideals remain to this day.
‘I can’t answer for the others but my main influences for the past ten or so years have mainly come from ambient, drone and electronic music. Artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Tim Hecker, Stars of the Lid, Ben Frost, Alessandro Cortini, Rafael Anton Irissari, etc. are my main reference points but the list could get very long, very quickly. For more rock/metal influences, I’d say I can narrow it down to Oceansize (the most underrated band of all time IMO), Porcupine Tree, and Sigur Ros. Funny thing is, I think if you ask each one of us this question separately you’ll get six very different answers ranging from grind to stoner to sludge to black metal, industrial music and soundtracks. The bands that I would say we all listen to and love would be Isis, Neurosis, Cult of Luna, Sumac, Russian Circles, and Old Man Gloom.’
The band’s first album Beckoning Light We Will Set Ourselves on Fire came out in May 2014, and the 72-minute opus established Postvorta‘s unique sound quite firmly right from the beginning. “We’re nothing” opens with slowly growing tom beat and delay-washed guitars, gaining flesh around its bones for a while before exploding into its full glory, dragging the listener down to the deepest murk known to man, keeping you in its clutches tightly throughout the rest of the album, without abating one bit during that time. Surely as all things post-something has, there’s highs and there’s lows, there’s heavy pummeling and soft floating, but all this comes together in an exquisite manner. Take “Set them on fire” and “Are going to end” as an example of these extremities.
The track titles read as sentences when put together, underlining the seamless flow of the whole album. The short, sample-induced middle pieces like “Like promises you never did” and “And we’re writing about” act as tiny bits of free air between the otherwise immersive experience, placed crucially exactly to where they need to be. The Massive Attack cover “Angel” also fits like a fist to one’s face, as I didn’t even notice this homage during the first listens. It’s actually funny and a bit concerning how perfectly this trip-hop track transforms into bleak sludge. Someone should probably look into that aspect more, just saying.
It’s obvious that the lyrical narratives entwine deeply with the music, as they should. There’s a bleak but hopeful touch to them, a sensation that was dominant already on the first album. Even though the following albums are tied together under one gigantic story arch, they still branch out to different fields, opening up in multiple levels depending on the reader’s state of mind and understanding.
‘Our vocalist Nicola writes all the lyrics and they are definitely deeply connected to the album’s concept and from a musical standpoint, the way they’re sung and mixed with all the instruments makes them act like another instrument and they enrich the soundscapes we’re creating. I think they would be equally gratifying to those who want to dive in and figure out exactly what he’s singing and those who would rather embrace the mystery of it all and enjoy them as an addition to the music.’
Postvorta‘s second album Ægeria officially started the exploration to the cycle of birth, life, and death, and did so in a fluent and pervasive fashion. The 2015 release spans four tracks and is considerably shorter than its predecessor, but manages somehow to cover even more ground. The triplet-driven “Amnios” introduces some black metal aesthetic to the band’s output, while “Corion” digs deep into the floaty and warm territory that can be heard on the debut as well. Said black metal aesthetic comes into full fruition during “Uterus”, going to show that apart from the theme, the compositions are also very much cyclic. Even more so, as the fourth and final track “Placenta” then reverts back to the gently gliding, but tragic and sorrowful atmosphere once again.
The following album and second installment to the trilogy, Carmentis, came out in May 2017. Right from the beginning you can hear that there’s something different going on, a feeling that’s mainly brought forth by the fresh use of synths/samples and eerie female vocals, comprising the intro track “15”. Transitioning seamlessly to “Colostro”, it’s very clear that the band has renewed themselves to some extent, sprouting the kind of rage that wasn’t so prevalent before. The third track “Cervice” underlines this, as the woeful ambiance seems to be replaced by unheld and uncontrollable fury. Throw in the last pair consisting of “Patau” and “13”, and you’ll have the most vile and vicious effort of Postvorta‘s whole career in your hands.
‘The concept behind the trilogy which started off with Ægeria and ends with Porrima covers the cycle of birth, life, and death both in a philosophical sense for lack of a better word and in personal sense to some of the guys in the band. Given this overarching concept behind the music, a concept that could be extremely open-ended, the music and lyrics had to be up to the task of dealing with them. Personally speaking, given that I joined the band right after Carmentis was released, the two years it took to write this really took its toll on me, it had to be perfect and it’s an extremely heavy subject matter, so by the end I think we were all just happy to get it out of our systems. You could imagine how the guys who lived through and wrote the entire trilogy must have felt when it was over, it must have been excruciating. It had to be grandiose, it had to be emotionally charged and cathartic, and I think we achieved that to a very large extent.’
Quite unexpectedly, the album was followed with a single, a cover of Radiohead‘s “Climbing Up the Walls”. Again, the band proves that anything can be executed in a proficient and smooth manner if you just have the right tools for it. It also came as a complete surprise to me personally, that this cover was the band’s first effort created so that the whole band was recording in the same room together. Well, modern times and modern solutions, right?
During the following few years, the band concentrated in crafting their newest and perhaps most cohesive and voluble effort to date, and only released simply an outtake of said effort in May last year, titled “Hollow”. This bridge brings us to the current day and Postvorta‘s newest album, the extremely topical Porrima, that was released a week and a half ago, on February 20.
Porrima is the final part of the trilogy, a massive endeavour that clocks in nearly one and a half hours in length, and is without a doubt their most ambitious creation to this day. They reach new heights in terms of cinematic expression, perhaps most articulated on the tracks “Vasa Praevia Dispassion” and “Aldehyde Framework”, both of which clock in over twenty minutes. The entirety feels more designed and thoughtful, albeit they really never had a problem with that to begin with. The road to finding this new state of cohesion laid in open internal dialogue and more collaborative composition process.
‘Composing this album was a very collaborative project. I think each one of us contributed something to the writing process, even Matteo who joined us at the very end of the writing phase made us change the way we approached certain riffs or sections because of his playing style, which is completely different from our previous drummer’s. I would say most songs started with riffs that Dario and Andrea wrote either together or separately, one of the songs starts off with a loop that I made in Ableton, certain grooves were built around Raffaele’s bass lines, so it really does have a bit of all of us in there. The continuity between the songs is due to the fact that Andrea had a very clear image of the sound he was looking for, so it gave us all a framework in which to compose and write. I think this is the biggest difference compared to previous albums, whereas Andrea previously was the main or sole songwriter, here he delegates some of it to the rest of us.’
If you examine all the albums Postvorta has released, you’ll notice that the direction they’re taking with their own material isn’t linear at all, but more elegantly intricate, branching, complex, and even a slight bit confusing. With the latter, I’m mostly referencing to brand new and fresh nuances thrown in the mix occasionally, which all give each release their signature colours and depths. On Porrima, the band is still very much the same as they were on the debut, they’ve just expanded to a multitude of orientations and gathered new perspective along the way.
‘A lot can change in six years, add to that the fact that the band went through around 16 lineup changes and the above-mentioned changes in the writing process and you get two very different albums. When you factor in the fact that this album is part of a trilogy so there’s already an established concept behind it, that also has a major influence on how the album was approached.’
Porrima starts with rain samples, swelling guitars, and high-pitched echoes, as “Epithelium Copia” seeps in very discreetly. Things take a more dismal turn after the first three minutes, and a scorching, abrasive riff leads us to the gateway from where the album opens up fully to a distorted yet emotional verse, dragging you instantly to the murk in a similar effect as what I mentioned regarding the debut album. We’re thrown around between the rough and dark corridors before arriving upon serene and quiet waters, only to be bashed to the lap of a violent hardcore-esque passage. Nuances, anyone?
The bashing, doomy sludge, yelling guitar sections, and clean chants of “Decidua Trauma Catharsis”, alongside the dynamic overture, rhythmic wavering, and the percussive sample section of “March Dysthymia”, are all individual moments that can be picked up to demonstrate how multifaceted this magnificent album is. Still, these are merely snippets of the general view, that’s worth experiencing even if it takes, well, ages, to sit through. Length is not an issue as long as everything is thought out as properly and thoroughly as they are on Porrima. And by everything, I do really mean absolutely everything. Every single detail and aspect work in unison here. Everything’s in its place.
‘As I mentioned earlier, the subject matter combined with the fact that this album ended the trilogy dictated that the album had to go over and beyond what the previous albums were. Andrea knew from the beginning that he wanted it to be an almost feature film long album, and I think we all were on board with that idea from the get-go. We all appreciate albums as art forms in and of themselves, so we set out to write an album that feels as one complete whole rather than a collection of songs. We weren’t writing music for playlists. The reason it has a cinematic feel to it also has a lot to do with the fact that Andrea writes music for film and theatre, and in my solo project I make music that is very much geared towards soundtracks, so that definitely contributed to it.’
It’s only proper that the final minutes of the last track, “Aldehyde Framework”, takes us back in time to a place where you can just press play on the first track of Beckoning Light We Will Set Ourselves on Fire, and you’re caught in an endless loop. That in mind, you should definitely reserve three or twenty hours to familiarize yourself with Postvorta if you haven’t yet. It’s worth it – take my word for it.