The Italian Almanac

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Bonizzi and his band

Brother Metal

An Italian Capuchin friar took the stage at the most important festival on the country's heavy metal calendar in Bologna. Brother Cesare Bonizzi and his band, Fratello Metallo, (Brother Metal) had 30 minutes to wow audiences playing as the opening act of the Gods of Metal festival.

''I've been playing the festival for ten years, and this time I opened it to present my new album,'' Bonizzi explained. The 62-year-old friar, an ex-missionary to the Ivory Coast, describes himself as a ''priest-singer'' and has already released 15 albums during his musical career. The friar performs in his traditional habit, sandals and rosary, and twirls the end of the rope around his waist as he belts out heavy metal numbers.

''Metal is the most energetic, vital, deep and true musical language that I know'', he said, adding that it allowed him to communicate ''not religious messages, but themes of faith that have a bearing on life and which are experience musically in a secular key''. Bonizzi was quick to distance the genre from satanic influences. ''There are maybe two or three satanic groups, but I think it's an act so that they sell more,'' he said, adding that there were ''very few drugs'' circulating among fans.

In his latest album, Mysteries, Bonizzi said he sings of ''sex, faith, man, God, life, (the Greek god of wine) Bacchus, tobacco, and Mary, the mother of God.'' The album will be in the shops from July. He added that his fellow Capuchin friars were supportive of his passion, ''except for a little reprimand'' six years ago following an appearance on a television show - the last time he agreed to do TV.