I caught Swedish trad metal band PORTRAIT last week just before they hit the stage with Malthusian, Winterfylleth and Primordial at their London gig. A slightly exhausted guitarist Christian Lindell answered a few of my questions:
Varathron (founded in 1988) needs no introductions to anyone familiar with the nineties Black Metal world, especially the Greek bands. Stefan Necroabyssious (who used to do vocals over 20 years ago in Kawir as well) is one of those personalities people identify the good old Greek sound with, a true pioneer of Greek Metal in general. Fortunately I had a chance to exchange some thoughts with the man as their latest full-length album “Untrodden Corridors Of Hades” came out.
Greetings! How are things in Greece? You were unfortunately in a motorcycle accident recently?
Hail my friend Antti! Yes, I had an accident but now I’m fine. You know, riding a motorcycle on the road, one must be prepared for any dangers around. Anyway, the past is past and now I look into the future!
I just returned from Creta myself, and I must say I really love the attitude to life down there! How’s life in Ioannina?
I visit Creta too. It’s such a perfect place. We have a similar way of life here. Ioannina is a city with an “aggressive” nature around it. Great mountains, a perfect lake with an island where you can live, great ancient monuments, immortal rivers and a winter as cold as the winters of Northern Europe! I like to live here, far away from big cement cities!
Greece had a tight and great BM-scene in the early- and mid-nineties (not to say it still has), with bands like Varathron, Necromantia, Zemial, Kawir, Rotting Christ etc. making great atmospheric music and developing the Greek sound. You guys also seemed to help each other out quite a lot, and participate in each other’s projects?
Believe me these days were amazing! We were a strong team, hungry for creation! We released magazines, made flyers, we wrote lyrics, designed covers, and in general we totally worshipped our music and gave it our best! Especially the unholy trinity of Varathron, Necromantia and Rotting Christ. We rehearsed a lot and I believe we gave birth to the Greek Black Metal sound! That was the result of our passions and our desires to do more evil and dark Metal, beyond our mortal thoughts and ideas! I feel so lucky to have lived that period of my life, now stronger than ever!
It was not unknown in those times for BM-musicians all over the world to send threats to each other and so on. Did the Greek musicians think of them separate music-wise (and maybe in other issues as well) from other scenes globally, or was there a comradery of bands all over the world in your case?
My friend, in our case the situation was great! We really had so much support and friendships with many bands – great bands now – around the world. Varathron has had a cult-status throughout the years, and that is the result of our great brotherhood with so many bands around the world. I never liked the threats and shitty words, I like honest speech and continuity. My band was and still is a servant of evil Metal music. We separate our music from any social or political ideologies. That was my fundamental idea and I still swear by it! We want to create Black Metal music, psalms for the dark lord, not manifesting for the society. If I would like that, perhaps I would play other kinds of music!
To the outsider it seems that a sort of a central figure in producing many of the albums was Magus Wampyr Daoloth. Is it safe to say that he is responsible for the Greek sound?
My brother George (Magus) was the sound-engineer at Storm Studios, where all the bands recorded their first works. Of course he had a great influence on Greek Black Metal sound. The ideas, the riffs, the songs, the sound-systems in the studio, and the sound-engineering were the result of that!
How do you see the Greek scene today? Is the country separated into different smaller scenes, or do Greek music makers all over have much contact with each other? Does Varathron even count itself to be part of some scene?
The Greek Metal scene is till strong. Of course the old glorious days shall never come again. There are a lot of bands, a lot of releases, but not the same feeling or the old strong spirit that dominated our past! Varathron still remains immortal and we are friends with the old brothers as well as some new great bands.
Has the recent political and societal happenings of Greece affected the affairs of the musicians much? Some bands seem to be associated with certain political currents, others distance themselves from all that.
I think the political and societal happenings of every country gives a big “boost” to local art. That situation, which is totally negative for the people, gives a “positive” inspiration to musicians creatively. For more good music, movies or poems or any kind of art. So, I never mix my music with societal issues, although the entire situation gives me wrath to continue stronger than ever.
You yourself have done a great career in the Metal-underground, and these days you also host a Metal show. Can you make a living out of Metal in Greece, or is it mostly just a hobby for everyone?
My friend, I heard Metal music in 1978 for the first time. The first bands I loved were Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motörhead and AC/DC. I heard Venom and later Bathory in the early 80’ies. That’s when I dedicated myself totally to darkness. I love the Metal sound, and I think it is inside my blood. To me, Metal music is not just a hobby, but a part of my life. 36 years full of Metal!
Varathron today is band that plays very well together, having maybe a bit younger band-members than the older Greeks (?), but all very skilful musicians. Is it common in Greece for a young person to become interested in Metal music, and become a good player?
When we begun Varathron we played more aggressively, not as technical as now. The new younger members are musicians from music-school, not empirical musicians like our past members. I think the new musicians in Greece, and in the entire world in general, are more skilful than past musicians, which is very good for the scene. Personally, I feel great to have those guys in my band.
Do you play live much with such a professional lineup?
After a long time, we’ve returned on stage! Currently, Varathron is playing some great live shows; After Berlin, the next stations are Prague, Poland, London, and later Brazil!
Varathron has lyrically and conceptually many Occult themes, and for example I myself being a student of Kabbalah, it was a delight for me to listen to the first song on the new album. How seriously do you take the Occult, is it just a hobby for writing lyrics or do you study and practice some form of Spirituality daily etc.?
Throughout the years, I’ve read so many books, ancient works of past religions and masses. I respect the Occult totally, and I worship it. I’ve studied and practiced the dark forces for many years. I am a servant of the dark side, not a fake marketing-puppet. I like to write lyrics with themes from my personal life and visions. Varathron has never had a “pseudo-image”, but it is a true evil spirit whom drives us beyond bizzarre dimensions and thoughts.
Varathron has released albums quite steadily over the years. Has the band been operational all the time, or have there been major breaks and pauses at some point? Has quitting music ever occurred to you seriously?
Varathron has had some bad luck in the past. We’ve had many troubles resulting in delays of our releases. After our last release “Stygian Forces Of Scorn” of 2009, we started working on new material, after which the bad luck stroke and our guitarist Sotiris and our drummer Haris had to go to obligatory army-service. Despite these difficulties we released a 3-way-LP and two Split-7” Ep’s. In the meantime, I was searching for a new label to release our new album. Economic problems were huge, and we recorded the instruments of the new tracks when we had money. So, the album proceeded slowly, and when I signed to Agonia Records, things begun to move faster, and the result was awesome! Our label does the best for us and we know it!
How is the future of Varathron, can we expect more awesome albums with this same line up?
Yes, we create more great albums and play more great live shows! The positive thing in our band is the total friendship between us. Besides, all the guys are fans of Varathron and they love to play in the band!
Thank you Stefan for this interview, and much respect and gratitude for your work over the years! Any last words?
Thanks so much my friend Antti! Thanks for the support and your great words about our works. I salute all our friends there. Embrace our evil sound and beware for our unholy invasion. Walking the paths of Hades! The kingdom come..
Interview conducted by Susanne Sinmara
ARCHAON, guitarist of Norway’s black metal troupe 1349, sat down with me before their gig at London’s Underworld on the 19th of November 2014, and we talked about craft beer, tour life, their new album Massive Cauldron Of Chaos, animal instruments and music in general.
ISOLE INTERVIEW by Katie Halinski
When extreme music styles such as Black and Death Metal, Sludge, Crust Punk etc. became unimaginably popular, a lot of musicians with no “real” background in these styles started incorporating elements of these darker and more violent style of music into their art. Some people also got fed up with the more orthodox presentation of their underground art and took in elements of other music styles, blurring the line of the phenomenon some might call fore example “Hipster Black Metal” or similar. However some bands just presented stuff that was so outworldly twisted, sinister, aggressive and dark you really didn’t have time to think about the musical backgrounds of the artist. You just marvelled the display of something really powerful and original. A new form of higher art.