By Zach Collier
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I got a request to listen to some new music from a guy named Arcangelo il Demoni (Italian for Archangel of the Demons). I checked him out on Instagram only to be greeted by a black and purple profile picture and a bio brandishing Italian flag emojis and pentagrams. My initial inclination was that this was going to be some heavy rock – like horrorcore, grindcore, or thrash.
I’m not opposed to any of those genres. But as one accustomed to pop, indie rock, folk, and soul, I’ve gotta get into the proper mindset to engage with them. I knew LAZERos was a fan, since he name dropped Arcangelo il Demoni in his interview, so I put on my hardcore hat and dove in.
Imagine my surprise when instead of blast beats and dirty vocals, I was met with atmospheric, noisy electronica with fuzzed out bass, chorused guitars, and buried, warbly vocals. The project intrigued me – especially once I learned more about it.
Turns out, Arcangelo il Demoni is a sci-fi/fantasy music project that blends electronica with sprawling storytelling, pixel art, and RPG elements. I was soon inside the home of Nick Simone – the man behind it all. He bears a subtle resemblance to fellow musician and eccentric Jared Leto. Not since Conquer Monster have I encountered a local act with such ambitious enthusiasm for storytelling. It was fun trying to keep pace with a mind that’s as frantic as it is kind. Over the course of nearly two breathless hours and down many fun tangents, I was able to learn all about Nick’s influences and how the project came to be.
“When I was in high school, my good friends Devon Clark and Shah Ghasemi showed me 80’s and 90’s revivals in music and film,” he told me. “Like the new synthwave/shoegaze/grunge movements, films like Drive, Kung Fury, Manborg, and video games like Hotline Miami and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.”
He told me about how his friends taught him all the ins and outs of tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. He enjoyed D&D, but Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun were his favorites. “Shadowrun is literally D&D in a cyberpunk setting,” he said. “A fire ignited in my 17 year-old-head that still rages on to this day. I wanted to be a part of both of these worlds that still fascinate me the most.” So Nick went about building a world of his own – through music.
“The year is 2087. Trillion dollar mega corporations have purchased the majority of land on earth, and humanity has no choice but to serve them,” Nick explained. In the world of his first record, The Seventh Seal Has Been Broken, The U.S. has been taken over by a fascist dictatorship founded by a political party called CRUSADE. The capital sits at a grand city building in the middle of Las Vegas and Area 51 called the Cittá Delle. The New and Old Fairmont Las Vegas Strips are now the ground floor of a colossal skyscraper where subservient citizens live. Construction of this massive tower opened a fissure in the earth large enough for demons and other monsters to pour through, creating a world of both tech and magic.
“The protagonist, Arcangelo il Demoni, is a young Italian guy from the lower sectors, raised by a tribe of witches, wizards, and seekers of metaphysical knowledge,” Nick continued. “After his tribe is killed, he forms an alias known as the Acid Prophet and works in the Bazaâr.” One day, this guy is recruited by Pierrot – a musical group of bounty hunters that earns passive income as a band under the same name to divert attention. During their routine nightly residency show, the peace treaty between the Bazaâr’s lower sectors and Cittá Delle is broken when a psychic android assassin by the name of IRAXAS is sent to capture Arcangelo dead or alive.
What a concept for a record.
You can see the cyberpunk and fantasy influences in the aesthetic surrounding his music, too. In a case of life imitating art, Nick’s music was influenced by a retrofuture artist named Jason GVVL.
“I’ve been following Jason for about 8 or 9 years now,” Nick said. “It was right after high school. I was still living in Georgia. Around 2013 or 2014, Jason was posting a lot of art that really resonated with the dark, depressing anxiety and fear that was ruling my life – but in physical form that was very reminiscent of retro 80’s and 90’s horror books and art. I really don’t know how else to describe it. He really had me hooked on his visual styles.”
In a case of art imitating life, Nick met GVVL online, and he ended up designing art for the Arcangelo il Demoni singles “Pierrot” and “Iraxas,” as well as his debut album.
Nick described Arcangelo il Demoni as a healthy outlet for dealing with trauma. He endured some serious physical abuse during his childhood, and used partying and substance abuse as a way to self medicate in his young adulthood.
“Luckily, I was able to discipline myself to take therapy, and work to become the best version of myself possible. I quit nicotine nine months ago last July,” he said, beaming. “Right before my single ‘Pierrot’ dropped. That has been a major step forward in healing, growing. It removed a lot of anxiety, and I have absolutely no desire to drink at all anymore which has been even more wonderful.”
All of the money he’s saved by not smoking and drinking has been poured into this project. In 2020, he approached Jason GVVL and Mormcore artist LAZERos with the sprawling story that he’d been writing over the years. “I wrote this first story to act as an allegorical way to kind of establish new ground where I can really develop my true self,” he said. “A way that I could really own my own story and become triumphant.” The three formed a team that Nick unofficially calls The Arcangelo Committee.
After starting demos in August 2020, Nick finally had his first single ready to go. He had it mixed and mastered by Salt Lake local Wesley Johnson of Archive Recordings. The single dropped May 17th, 2021.
“The main thing for me that I feel really tied the entire single together was the iconic artwork by local Utah legend LAZERos,” Nick told me. “He was able to make a variation of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks one hundred years after its creation that creates a very vivid window peering into this mystifying and intense future world.”
In addition to hyper stylized artwork, Nick has also been developing a tabletop RPG to coincide with the music. “I created all of the game’s mob types, bosses, and a level system with stat point distributions,” he said. “I used a professional RPG map maker to create a realistic Cyberpunk-like overworld map.” All of the data is protected and stored away for now. He’s currently collaborating with musician Mario Zizumbo to create a top-down, 2D version of the RPG in the style of classic games like Earthbound, Shin Megami Tensei, Chrono Trigger, and Pokémon. “Both are still TBA,” he said. “I want to make sure that the mechanics and economics go smoothly, but most importantly that it’s made with passion and true love for the source material. So however long it takes. It may be the end of this year or maybe two years, but we will see.”
Now working on his second album, The Final Death of The Antichrist at The End of Time, Nick has been so pleased with artists GVVL and LAZERos that he’s working with them again. “I’ve been 100% trusting of the visual direction that they have taken on this project, setting the stage for amazing and wonderful things to come.”
The final single from the new record, “Carnival of Souls,” dropped on April Fool’s Day 2022. Nick is really excited for the future, but he’s also grateful for the past. The experience he’s had working with these artists is a testament to how important it is to collaborate. Working with GVVL in particular has left a mark.
“I’m very grateful for GVVL. He’s been one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had in my life. He’s patient, always humble, a wonderful human being, and I have nothing but love for him. He even cheered me on as I even used my own art for the first two singles – which was huge and life changing for me. I have a community here that I am very thankful for, and I’m excited to meet and support new up and coming artists from Utah to jam with.”
Make sure to follow Arcangelo il Demoni on Instagram and listen to “Carnival of Souls” below.