First of all, congratulations on your new killer album 'Sanctify The Darkness'! The reactions on the album are absolutely great so far. Of course in the past eight years the band has gained a lot of experience as well. But before we get more into the new album, how do you look back at the band's career so far?
Looking back now, I could have never imagined that we would have got so far, and I do hope that there's still a long way ahead of us. I remember back in 2001 one when I was searching for anyone to form a band with and I stumbled upon Orfeas. I guess it was fate, haha! That was the day the hard core of Suicidal Angels was created. We've had a lot of line up changes, recorded a couple of demos and our debut album 'Eternal Domination' in 2007, signed with a small label from California, performed live countless times, shared the stage with bands such as Tankard, Massacre, Kreator, Napalm Death, Celtic Frost, Behemoth and Rotting Christ among others. We've been through a lot of hard times, during tours and such, but we don't regret anything and I wouldn't change a thing.
I think you agree when I say that things have gone pretty quickly for Suicidal Angels so far. I mean, just the fact that your second album is released on Nuclear Blast is an achievement that would make a lot of bands envious. Listening to the band's qualities I can only say that you have definitely deserved it. But how do you look at how fast everything has gone in the last few years.
The record deal with Nuclear Blast was totally unexpected. We were planning on recording our second album and once it was done we would search for a label to publish it. But we never aimed that high, we thought we had no chance. We were thinking that this would be another underground release and that would be it. After the deal with Nuclear Blast, the clocks started spinning like crazy. Out of a sudden we had photo sessions, video shootings, interviews, cover and layout for our cd, pure frenzy I tell you! Nevertheless, we keep our feet on the ground, we know who we are, where we come from and we work hard to keep a steady track to where we're going.
Another achievement that cannot be denied is winning the Rock The Nation Award, over 1,200 other contenders… Again, well-deserved, but I think you didn't expect such a thing when you started the band and for young guys like yourself, I think this had a huge impact on your ambitions and goals for the band. In what way did winning the awards “push” the band's motivations and song writing?
We have always been responsible to ourselves, working on new songs and rehearsing three or three times a week. We wanted to be as good as we could, not because we wanted to surpass everyone else, but because we wanted to be able to get up on stage and play our songs the way the should be played, with a proper live performance and no mistakes. We enjoy ourselves that way, we like it, when we go on stage, and play the songs the way we've rehearsed them, no mistakes, headbanging 'till our heads touch the floor. And we know that the audience enjoys that too. Today, having won the award and all, we rehearse five days a week, two hours a day. The standards have been raised and we must live up to the expectations.
Let's talk about the music a little bit. Suicidal Angels is one of the examples of how real thrash is supposed to sound: great riffs, good solos, pounding double bass drums, rough vocals and the general “kick in the face” feel! When did you discover thrash metal in its pure sense and decided to walk the “old-school” path instead of choosing for the more modern versions like The Haunted or Darkane?
When we started listening to music, the old-school thrash metal was what appealed to us. We never liked the modern versions, as you call. Of course we are open minded and we respect all the bands regardless of what their music style but the roughness of the old days, the pure feeling, the true punk and rock and roll attitude, those are thing that you can't come across easily these days, let alone in the modern music styles. I think the point has been lost. I listen to more and more bands, trying to play difficult music or very fast riffs. I don't see the reason. I don't have a problem, if you like that kind of music, go ahead and play whatever you want, but I cannot feel the soul that music, the musicians soul! That's why we play old-school thrash, because that's what comes from our hearts.
What can you tell us about the musical direction the band chose? I mean, there are a lot of bands that try to sound old school, but still use a modern sound, but you guys kept to the roots so to speak. That's something a lot of new thrashers don't achieve…
As I said, that's the music that pours from us. We are big fans of the 80's, for one reason or another, but we are not trying to sound old-school on purpose. We don't start writing a song and say “Hey, let's do this like that, 'cause it sounds old-school”, not even close. It's just the way we like to play, that's our music. The new wave of thrash metal is what its name says it is, a new wave. You can't expect to hear the same things you'd hear decades ago, because then we would just be talking about thrash metal. And I don't know if the thrashers actually try to sound old-school, I think they just play thrash metal with modern terms. Anyway, I'm glad that so many bands have turned to thrash because it's highly probable that one or more of them will play something good that we can all enjoy.
Nowadays there are more and more musicians that keep hold of the “classic” ways and fall back to what was done almost three decades ago. A lot of critics say that it's because of lack of inspiration, but I think it's because of the love for this type of music and the pure and simple way music was made back in the days. Why do you think more and more bands “ignore” the modern ways of metal, so to speak?
Whatever's your favourite style of music, new or old, one must admit that bands like Slayer, or Judas Priest, or Iron Maiden, have created history with their music, with classic albums that will remain even after they pass away. So today, we've reached a point where it's very hard to sound diverse or original while playing modern metal, because everything has almost been played. Of course music never stops evolving, at some point there will be a break through and something new will arise. But until then, people will turn to the classics for inspiration, because that is where everything started. All the hardcore riffs of today, are old thrash riffs but on different drumming. So if that's where today's music emerged from, this is where something else will be born as well.
Another striking point about the album is the musical skills of all musicians! The tightness with which you guys play is amazing and one might think that the band members have had musical education…
We haven't studied music in theory, if that's what you are asking, haha! Besides the musical notes, we have never bothered ourselves with scales and such. As long as it sounds right and we like it, it's good enough. On the other hand, we all work on our technique regularly, trying to be better players in order to be able to play whatever we might think of. We don't think of ourselves as great musicians. We play what we play and try to be as good as we can be. The tightness, in which you were referred to, is a result of constant rehearsals.
From what I can make up from the lyrics is that you handle with catchy, aggressive and angry, but also serious subjects ('Child Molester' for example). And of course the religions have been under fire again! So, I sometimes get the feeling that you're not just playing with word, but are also trying to tell something with them. Am I right on this point?
You are right indeed. I don't just spit out words while singing, I try to make a point. I don't claim to be a philosopher or some deep-thinking wise-guy. I sing about the things I find disturbing, to say the least, and maybe someone else will pay attention to what I say. Not because I say it, but because it's insulting to us as human beings. We deserve more than being treated like mindless cattle, thrown around, and guided blindly, deprived of the truth. I may not know what's true, (heck! Who knows?), but I want to discover the truth on my own, I don't want to believe whatever a priest would tell me, just because he's supposed to know what's real and true.
While we're on the subject; as I also mentioned in my review, I sometimes got the feeling that you guys are too focused on being as tight as possible and that therefore you didn't unleash your full fury! In how far can you agree?
You are right, but not completely. The album does sound tight, because every one of us played as tight as we could when we were recording. But that is not the way we sound on stage. We even slowed down the songs in order to record them properly. The live versions are way faster and more furious! What I mean to say is, that you cannot expect a full fury, as you call it, in a studio album. It lacks the passion of the stage, the energy of the crowd cheering for you and the pleasure of hearing you band-mates playing with you while banging their heads in the same rhythm as you do.
I also must ask why you didn't make a full song, with vocals and lyrics, out of 'Mourning Of The Cursed'??? Man that would have been so great…
Haha! It would now, wouldn't it? We've heard a lot of “complaints” about that song and we truly understand every single one of them. 'Mourning of the Cursed' started out as an intro-riff for the 'Dark Abyss'. As we kept working on it, it grew larger and became too long to be kept as an intro, so we decided to separate it and form it into a single track. We didn't want to make a full song out of it, because it was really great the way it was and we didn't want to mess it up. So there you have it now, a full-blown instrumental attack, 'Mourning of the Cursed'.
By the way, if I didn't know any better I could have sworn that you guys were either from the Bay Area or the Ruhr district in Germany. But Greece…? Not exactly a country that is known for thrash metal! How would you describe the metal scene in your country?
It's an honour hearing you say that we sound like we're from Bay Area or Ruhr. But yeah, Greece. That spit of land on the southern edge of Europe. Not exactly a country known for any kinds of metal, with the bright exception of Rotting Christ. The metal scene in Greece, is like any other local scene I guess. Lots of bands trying to play their music and rise above everyone else. But there are very few bands that truly and honestly work. Most of the bands are trying to record a cheap album, throw a gig in local clubs now and then, and then expect to be signed as if by wonder. Worst thing is, some of them even tend to think they're better than others, even though no such thing is true. We are still a part of that scene, so we know things, and we see things, and we are not proud of our scene…
Something else then; you guys have been on stage many times and have had the great chance to share the stage with bands like Tankard, Kreator, Anvil and your fellow countrymen Rotting Christ. You are hitting the road again in January for a European tour! How important are live performances for a band like suicidal angels?
Live performances are very important, not just to a band like us, but to every band. It's the best way to show the people what you are all about. A studio album can be made to sound like whatever you want it to. Even the worst musicians can sound like the best in the scene, thanks to modern technology. But once you get on stage, this is where it all comes down. This is where you have to prove yourself, stand tall and scream “This is who I am”, and the crowd will either applause or reject you. On the January tour, we will hit the road with Kataklysm, Belphegor, Darkest Hour and Resistance, all respectful bands, and it will be our chance to prove that we can share the stage with such bands and show the work we've done all winter long.
Ok, then let's make it fast with one more question; now that the new album is released, you're under contract with one of metal's greatest labels and the ball has started rolling fast, what can we expect from the Angels in 2010?
2010 will be a big year for us, one of many too follow we hope. As mentioned above, we'll be a part of the Kataklysm tour on January, we'll also record our third album during spring, probably another tour before summer, and some festivals after that. We'll be pretty busy as you see and we intend to get through with everything.
Well then, I guess we can wrap it up for this time. Unless of course there is anything left that you'd like to mention…
I don't think so, it's been a long conversation anyway, enjoyable still. Thank you Nima and the “Lords of Metal” magazine for this interview. We hope to see you and your readers during the Kataklysm tour in January. Until then, keep those horns up and thrash on dammit!