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Dol Ammad

Collega Richard besprak vorige maand de CD 'Think Like A Mountain' van Ritual (zie archief) en liet daarin geen spaan heel van die CD. Hij sprak onverbloemd zijn walging uit over een faliekante mislukte poging om new age en metal met elkaar te combineren. Nu kende hij sowieso geen geslaagde mix tussen deze 2 stijlen en eigenlijk zou ieder weldenkend mens hem daarin bij voorbaat gelijk moeten geven, want hoe kan je nu in hemelsnaam de 2 meest extreme tegenpolen in het muziekspectrum op een geloofwaardige manier met elkaar kunnen combineren? Nou, laat ik nu stomtoevallig net het antwoord klaar hebben liggen! Mag ik U even voorstellen aan de nieuwe innovatie van de metal: DOL AMMAD! Deze Griekse eenmansband met 14 leden (dit klinkt merkwaardig, is het niet?) heeft namelijk een demo uitgebracht dat mij compleet overdonderde. Het geheel kwam over als een kruising tussen Therion, Rhapsody, Bal Sagoth en Ayreon, maar wel met een verdomd unieke eigen inbreng (zie archief voor recensie). Bovengenoemde bands hebben natuurlijk geen flikker te maken met 'new age', maar de invalshoek die Dol Ammad hanteert, heeft vanuit compositiebehandeling en invloeden juist erg veel te zoeken in die hoek. Het rijkelijk gebruik van de synthesizers en keyboards blijken zijn roots te hebben in een fanatieke voorliefde voor artiesten als Jean Michel Jarre, Kitaro, Enigma en zelfs, ja zelfs de afschrikwekkende Yanni! Maar wees niet bevreesd, gij metalhead, de bombastische operapowermetal van Dol Ammad blaast je ongenadig van je stoel en je zult in geen velden of wegen ook maar durven denken aan new age. Dus wat dat betreft kan Richard nog – vergeefs? - verder gaan zoeken naar een geslaagde symbiose van metal en new age. Wat je wel kan verwachten van Dol Ammad is een indrukwekkend staaltje van bombastische, thrashy metal, dat met behulp van een heus koor, vele samples en lagen met synthesizers een weg inslaat die Therion niet durft te nemen. Ik communiceerde per e-mail met het brein achter dit staaltje vernieuwingsmetal – ene Thanasis Lightbridge – en verwonderde me over het feit dat de platenmaatschappijen nog niet in rijen van 10 stonden opgesteld.

Door: Evil Dr. Smith | Archiveer onder

Hello Mister Thanasis! Here is Evil Doccie again, that guy that flattered you with a raving review: well, you deserved it! Thanks again for that 28 minutes of stunning musical art!

Hello there Evil Dr. Smit ! Hehe, thank you once again for your outstanding support! I am really honored by your review and your response to the Dol Ammad music. I can't express how much your comments have boosted my inner-energy to carry on doing what I am doing…

Let me say that I'm into almost all kinds of music (rock, classical music, experimental/avant-garde, dance, punk, folk, blues, etc., but metal is my favorite “flavor”), and I like/have thousands and thousands of albums, so therefore: I'm not easily surprised anymore. I also work in a huge music-archive (for the Dutch Television companies), so I'm able to listen to almost every album that has an official release (I'm such a spoiled kid, hahahaha!). But so now and then – maybe one or two times a year - an album really, réally surprises me. Okay, “surprising” is just one of the qualities of music ('surprising' doesn't have to be interpreted as “good” as well, obviously), but hearing something 'really different' in music that sounded also very brilliant doesn't happen to me every day. But you manage to do that! Not only have a truly distinguished and unique sound, but damn catchy and well written as well!

Wow you really are a spoiled kid! So you will be the first person I'll ask before I buy an album! I wish I had the same opportunity to listen to every album possible. When it comes to music I am totally bulimic! I also listen to a huge range of different genres of music but metal and electronic music are my absolute favorites! The only genre that I am not really into is hip-hop and reggae but I am sure great works would exist there as well. That's really awesome that you felt that way about my music! It really makes a difference to hear this from such a “music-educated” person like you!

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I don't know much about you, so it's maybe a good thing to start from the beginning. I understand that your music interest all started at the tender age of nine with Jean Michel Jarre, which still remains as one of your biggest influence. Why him (and not for instance Vangelis/Aphrodite's Child or Mikis Theodorakis, who are more obvious) or was it just a matter of the right time at the right place, even at that young age?

Yes, Jean Michel Jarre is the reason I am involved into making music and although I haven't met him in my life, I feel him as my mentor …He is my biggest influence and one of the greatest music -pioneers of the century. It's too bad that his latest works are so more dance-oriented and have lost some of the magic of his past releases though. Concerning Vangelis, he is my absolute second biggest influence! He is amazing in playing with grandiose emotions and creating vast soundscapes. What I think differentiates Vangelis from Jarre is the lack of “edge” in his music. He doesn't experiment so much in sound as much as Jarre does and rarely does he stray from his standard music-paths. Jarre is a more multidimensional musician. Listen to “Revolutions” for example or “Chronologie” where I can spot rock and metal elements, not necessarily only in the sounds used but in the energy and the feelings produced. For Mikis Theodorakis I can't tell much because I am not such a big fan. I might be subconsciously influenced by him though, as everyone here in Greece loves him and listens to his music all the time! They are all extraordinary musicians but, yes Jarre was a matter of the right time at the right place. I still remember my first contact with his music on that TV show when I was a kid. Hehe I was in my room playing and my mum yelled at me to come see the spectacular show! From then on and up to know the word “synthesizer” makes me shudder!

In the early nineties the enslaving energy of heavy metal intoxicated you. What kind of bands did you like back then and can we automatically assume that they are responsible for your musical influences?

My first touch with metal music was through Manowar, Helloween and Rage. I believe that I am in a way influenced by these bands as it was the first time I experienced the energy of metal music. I love Manowar's epic sound, Helloween's amazing “Keeper” albums and as for the speed metal of Rage, I believe they are the reason I like double-bass drumming so much! Concerning Rage, they have made a great progress from that era with the phenomenal “Lingua Mortis” album. But “The Missing Link” is still one of my favorite metal albums ever!

When and also why did you start with Dol Ammad? What was your goal (mission) with this musical outlet?

Having acquired my first digital synthesizer I started experimenting with sound and simple compositions. From my early stages one could easily notice that my playing was not the typical keyboard playing of lead solos, ambient pads or classical stuff. I approached keyboards as a metal player! Once, a friend commending on my playing said that I play the synths as a drummer or as a rhythm guitarist! Maybe this is why I am now also a drummer and I still can't respond to requests asking me to play a well known hit or classical song! This “unique” playing led to compositions that well neither metal nor electronic music. From then on I decided that I would try to start a new style of music thus creating the “Electronica Art Metal” label and Dol Ammad! The energy of Dol Ammad and the challenges of aural innovations through unchained music adventures (wow!) are my main goal right now! That means my mission is firstly to create the music that I like to listen to and secondly to try to remove the prejudice most people still have towards metal music. Heavy metal holds in its realms, amazing musical-diamonds that deserve to be heard by more people who still think heavy metal is Satan-worshiping noise produced by sweaty, long-haired bums!

By the way, I see that you write it 'officially' as 'DOL AMMAd': it's all in capitals, except for the last letter. Any hidden thoughts for doing this and what does the name mean anyway?

Hehe, no there are no hidden thoughts, it's just a trick making the logo look more symmetrical! I am now producing a new logo and I am not sure if I'll keep this detail. Dol Ammad is taken from my favorite PC Game “Descent 3 “. It's a fuel refinery station in planet “Europa” (thus the “Europa” choir!) and from the moment I saw that name, I couldn't take it out of my mind! Making a little more research though, I understood that the developers of the game were influenced by Tolkien's “Dol Amroth” into coming up with this name.

You're from Thessaloniki, what kinda city is that, when it's up to the metalscene. Are you a lonesome outstander or are there countless other extreme bands in that area?

There is a flourishing metal scene in Thessaloniki the last years , but I believe they are more in the brutal side of metal .I don't know why but if you look both the underground and the well know metal bands you'll see that black and death metal is the metal of choice in Greece !

Dol Ammad is mainly the creation of you: you're writing and arranging all the music, does the artwork, plays drums and the synths and founded the band. Thanasis = Dol Ammad and Dol Ammad = Thanasis. On the other hand, no less than 13 people have a very prominent place on this album. Before I ask more about the other people, can I see Dol Ammad as a solo-project or is it truly a band?

Yes, Dol Ammad is the most populated one-man's band out there! No, I like to feel Dol Ammad as a band since I like to work with these certain people and I don't feel them as session musicians. It is true that most of the things concerning Dol Ammad are controlled by me , but as Walt Disney once said: ”You need people to make your dreams come true ” and that is why all these people are an integral part of the Dol Ammad dream!

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So you have Jimmy Wicked on guitars and Nick Terry on bass. They're both long time friends of you, even before the birth of Dol Ammad?

Yes, I used to play the drums in Jimmy's and Nick's old underground band called “Destination”. Apart from excellent players they are open-minded people I like to be with as a friend!

On the Internet's curriculum vitae from Nick Terry there was written that he participated with many great metal and rock bands from Greece. Can you tell me which bands, or was this just a vague show off to look interesting? ;-)

Nick Terry used to play in a well-known metal band from Thessaloniki and now he is the bassist of one of Greece's most well-known rock bands. The reason I didn't reveal these names is because his contract with that band is with the multinational label “Warner” that prohibits him from playing in any other band! That is why he appears with the fake last name “Terry”!

Before this demo, you have released another demo in 2001: a 4 track demo CD with the same songs on your present demo, only without vocals. Can you tell me about that recording and have those songs – except or the vocals – the same arrangements as the new versions? For instance: did Jimmy and Nick play on that album as well or was that completely done by yourself?

The 2001 demo was all done by myself. It had the same songs except “The Veil” and these songs had more or less the same arrangements. The newer versions have been more orchestrated though and have trigger drumming instead of drum-machine programming that the first demo had. I didn't distribute that demo to any metal media, it was only aimed at record labels in an attempt to monitor their response to something like this.

The other 11 people on this album are the so called 'Europa Choir'. Eleven young male (6) and female (5) singers who give the music a truly bombastic, voluminous sound. I understand that they are professionally trained and gave countless performances as members in a youth choir. How in the hell did you manage to get those people crazy enough to participate on 'your little demo' filled 'underground artmetal'?

Most of the people in the choir are professional musicians and they belong in maybe the biggest choir in Thessaloniki. I knew their work for many years through a friend who is also part of the choir. As the years past by, my urge to work with a choir grew bigger and it came very natural for me to ask them to participate in Dol Ammad.

Did they like your music and can you ask them for future recordings as well?

Although most of them weren't into metal that much, I believe that they all liked the music a lot! Of course I'll ask them for future recordings! They play a key-role in the Dol Ammad experience and I would love to work with them again.

Speaking about that choir: does Kortessa Tsifodimou have a boyfriend? ;-)

LOL! I will give you her e-mail address if you'd like , but only if you promise to find me a cute young girl from Holland looking for a creative electronica-art-metal musician who drinks more milk than water! ;-)

The music on your 'Electronica – Art – Metal' is like a best of not just 2, but even 3 different worlds! We have the electronic world, we have the metal world, but we have also that choir that brings classical music like Rossini and Verdi to mind. You are one of the very few musicians in the metal-scene that uses a choir with real efficiency. Most of the bands, even on the last Cradle Of Filth album, a choir is mostly used as only an extra layer for the music. They don't have their own melody-lines – they thicken the sound - haven't got a lot of lyrics (only a lot of 'oohz and aahz' and maybe some short Latin verbs) and are mostly used more as a background-choir. Maybe Therion is the obvious exception, but even with this band they use solo-voice(s). You, on the other hand, strictly use the choir as a choir and made them sing lyrics (besides the 'oohs and aahs') and gave it melody-lines that differ from the instruments. How did you evolve this concept and what are your influences to come up with this idea?

I agree. A choir is rarely used as the main vocal department in an album .It usually plays a background role which although I like most of the time, it wasn't something I wanted to do. I really like the way Therion used their choir in “Theli” and I always liked classical works with choirs that sing lyrics not just vowels. However it is surely more difficult to arrange something like this in contrast to a solo voice but it was a challenge we wanted to take!

I think it's a bit of a problem to play this in a live ambiance, isn't it?

It is true that it would be very difficult for Dol Ammad to play live. We'd need the choir on stage and to find a drummer and a couple more keyboard players to perform all those synthesizer tracks. We could, of course, use pre-recorded tracks and bring computers on stage but I don't think it would be something worth seeing. Apart from this and with the lack of a typical “front-man” I envision a Dol Ammad live show full of digitized visuals, laser effects and psychedelic projections just like a Jean Michel Jarre show, although something like this would be immensely expensive ! I am still searching, however, for video-computer artists to work with our music for some visuals.

And can you tell me something of the lyrical context? Is it strictly fictional, or do they have more emotional depth?

Although they look strictly fictional, they have a deep emotional meaning to me as they reflect my inner self at the time of their creation. They are sci-fi fantasy based but don't follow a certain story-concept. The lyrics have a secondary role in Dol Ammad, compared to the music .I rarely read the lyrics of the albums I listen to as well!

What struck me most – besides the striking music itself, of course – was the great sound. I mean, it's just a demo, but it incorporates synthesizers, metal instruments and an eleven-headed choir and they all sounded G-R-E-A-T. Maybe, just maybe I thought that the guitars were a but suppressed by the overwhelming choirs and synthesizers. But I hear a lot, A LOT (!) professionally produced and expensive albums that have in no way that rich bombastic and crystal-clear sound as your demo. How in the world did you do that? A rich father? Magic fingers? Ass-kissing by famous producers?

Hehe no my father is not as rich as I'd want him to be and thankfully no ass-kissing took place! The final sound quality is simply the result of our attention to every little detail throughout all the stages of this project. Some people think that sound quality is something that comes only from the mixing and mastering process which I think is wrong .Even the tiniest velocity of a single note in a composition takes part in the overall quality! I consider myself a sound-quality freak and this even makes me reluctant to listen to records prior to the 80s although they had some awesome music back then!

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When I listened to your album, the atmosphere made me think of bands like Ayreon, Therion and Rhapsody, but still: very, very different! It's only the bombastic, classical-sounded and keyboard-layered parts that have its slight similarities. I read now in lots of other reviews the same bands as well as reference points. And the last album from Rage as well. Were the critics by the right end? I mean: Are those the bands you like to listen to and what other artists have your present interest?

Yes, these are all bands I like to listen to. Ayreon is one of my favorites together with Rage and Rhapsody. I also like bands like Arcturus, Therion, Angra, Symphony X, Rammstein and a whole lot more. But one of my favorite metal bands of the last 5 years are especially the British Bal Sagoth. They play a unique blend of epic -fantasy -keyboard laden black metal with amazing deep spoken word-styled vocals by their leader Byron Roberts. I am communicating with him over the last 2 years and have sent him all the Dol Ammad demo works. It was and still is one of my biggest dreams to work with him in Dol Ammad . He has shared his great admiration concerning the music and always was very positive about a possible co-operation, meaning guest a vocal appearance etc… Some weeks ago I even traveled all the way to London to meet them and discuss about this dream. Although Byron still is very positive, nothing is clear however since I still haven't decided on a label and I feel that he'd also like Dol Ammad to have a nice contract in their hands to talk business more seriously. I am also communicating with Arjen Lucassen and he also has shared his great interest in Dol Ammad feeling there is potential here!

You talked about a wide spectrum of influences that also mentioned stuff like ethnic and jazz. To be honest: I haven't heard those influences in those songs. Or is that something for the near future to incorporate that in the Dol Ammad-sound?

You are right! Except for a jazzy pattern on the ride cymbal at the end of “The Hill Of Hope” there aren't any jazz or ethnic elements in this demo. It is something that may appear in the future of Dol Ammad. I think it would be a future full of surprises!

So, what's next? You have here 6 songs in less than 30 minutes. Have you already made some new material, because this Demo-CD is too short for a full-length debut album (and if you want to know my thoughts: don't start with an EP!).

Yes, as a matter of fact we have just finished the guitar recordings for the new tracks that together with the ones on the demo would appear on the debut Dol Ammad album. The album will feature 10 to 12 tracks with a length over 50 minutes. The new tracks are really wacky and I am sure you'll like them! Apart from these however, I have envisioned the general future progress of Dol Ammad. Up to now I know how we'll move musically up to our third album!

There was some quite disturbing information you gave me with your last e-mails. You were talking about the lack of support of your close environment and your dilemmas about those rather obscure record labels, which were - up to now - the only labels that showed interest. When it's up to me: I think that people who are really interested in music and its creators are also more interested in the person behind the music. In other words, I think you'll get more credit if you truly say what's on your heart, instead of just saying “oh, it goes great, I'm completely satisfied, nothing's wrong and bla-bla-bla”. But if you don't want to talk about it: I completely respect that of course! So, if you want to open your heart about some things, here's your space!

I agree with this opinion and I consider myself an openhearted and honest person with a bigger mouth than necessary! I would rarely be able to hide my emotions, feelings and mood! What annoyed me a lot lately were two things. First of all I can't understand the narrow-mindedness of some record labels that can't accept all the amazingly good feedback we have received from major metal media and people and to trust and risk into embracing something fresh and new in their catalogue. Instead they fear that “It won't sell”, “the electronica part won't be embraced by metalheads” and keep on signing bands that copy other bands that sell a lot. I thought that the whole essence of metal was the breaking of barriers, the open-mindedness, the adventure of hunting new sounds. Such attitudes make the metal scene more stagnant and regressive. Thankfully though 4 labels have approached us and we can be sure that, one way or the other, the Dol Ammad debut will be released soon. Secondly living in Greece and playing metal are two things that won't work together easily. Greece has its own produce of miserable pop-folkish-dance music and anything straying from this sound is unacceptable. Composing music in general is not supported at all here in Greece. Everyone seems to be interested only in which pretty new girl will be the next folkish singer or how to have the most fun possible listening to these songs, dancing and showing off in the local clubs and taverns. Music here has become a sick and rotten industry ruled by lousy profit-loving assholes. Thankfully there are some tiny exceptions.

And who is Thanasis when he's not busy with Dol Ammad? Does he have a job, is he a student, is he married etc?

I am finishing my studies as a survey engineer but it is not something I would be most interested in practicing as a job! Married? Haha, I can't even find a girlfriend that would accept my music way of life!

Here at Lords Of Metal we have a monthly special about 'the impact-album'. Every LoM-participant can write about the album that completely blew him/her away. The album that changed his/her life. Do you have such an album as well and if so: why particularly that album?

Hmmm, I think the album that changed my life in the metal world would be Amorphis' “Tales From The Thousand Lakes”. It was the first non-power metal I had ever bought and it drastically changed the way I think in metal. A whole new world opened in front of me after this album. Concerning electronica music my impact-album would be Orbital's “In Sides” in which I own a lot of my influences apart from Jean Michel Jarre.

Last cliche question: what are the last 3 albums you've bought?

Hmmm, 1) Luca Turilli – “Prophet Of The Last Eclipse” , 2) Nile – “In Their Darkened Shrines” and 3) Asian Dub Foundation – “Enemy Of The Enemy”

Well, that's about it. I hope that record labels will acknowledge the astonishing qualities in your music and that we have very soon in every record-store copies from the new Dol Ammad!

I really hope it too! Thank you once again for your time and your interest in Dol Ammad! I wish all the best to you and the other Lords Of Metal! Thanks to the people who support the “electronica-art-metal” dream! Keep up and stay tuned to!

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