This is part two of a feature based around the split-EP “Alive Aftershock”, released by Eat Metal towards the end of last year, containing one self composed tune and a cover song by Greek comrades in metal, Convixion and Wrathblade. To celebrate this release, I decided to hook up with both bands to discuss the split as well as future plans. This second part, focuses on Wrathblade, and all the questions are answered by drummer John Alexandrakis. First, John, it’s been close to two years since the release of “Into The Netherworld’s Realm”. In retrospect, how do you view the reception this album got? It seemed to be only good reviews everywhere, did you read any bad ones at all? Did the feedback make you more confident going into the process of creating the second album?
– Hi Leif and thank you for inviting us in Metal Squadron! The reviews we got for our first album, were indeed more than enthusiastic. Some of them were even beyond our expectations. Of course, this is a big push for any new band that believes in its music, but at the same it makes us a bit “nervous” for the next step. To be honest though, we did get one bad review from a Polish webzine, but all opinions are accepted. We are really confident with our music, because what you will ever hear from Wrathblade, is what really comes from our hearts and is exactly how we want to sound as a band. There is no song in any of our releases that is composed incidentally.
Two years should also be enough to reflect more critically on the album. Were there things about the recording process that you wish you had done differently?
– Each recording reflects any band’s status at the time it takes place. Surely, the feel that some things could be done in a different way will always exist and this is quite natural, if you want to develop. But, a recording is also one unique experience and we always focus on doing the best we can, in order to avoid the situation you refer to. Which is to regret things after a while. I would not change anything in any of our recordings. Instead, we take a good lesson from them and we always try to improve on every next release.
Did the success of “Into The Netherworld’s Realm” lead to interest from other labels, or do you already have a contract with Eat Metal for more than this album? With Nick, your singer, being Greg’s brother I guess it’s quite natural for you to release your stuff on Eat Metal also in the future?
– The relationship we have with Eat Metal Records, is above any contract or any connection with Nick being Greg’s brother. It is a strong friendship that comes from the past, where Wrathblade and Eat Metal did not even exist. Greg is a true fan of the band and a devoted metalhead, in the true sense of the word. His actions in the underground were so influential and inspiring and we feel honor to be in the roster of this label that has released some of the finest underground metal worldwide and organized a bunch of incredible gigs in Greece, that nobody ever dared to think of before. This is not a cooperation based on profit, but only on the music itself.
You have done quite a few concerts since the release of the album. How would you say the band has grown as a unit through all this extra live experience?
– For many years we used to be a band who often did live appearances, but only had one release. The fact that we did more shows after “Into the Netherworld’s Realm”, was obviously to promote the record since we started “exposing” ourselves to wider crowds. That resulted in becoming more tight in execution and moreover it gave us the pleasure of witnessing true fans of our music, who were there to share the same passion with us. At this point, I would like to say that a Wrathblade gig is concentrated only in the music sector. There is no act or pose in any way. We believe that epic metal is by far the kind of music that should be presented with dignity, gravity and honesty and the attendant must only get the pure power that comes out from the music.
Who came up with the idea to do a split release between yourself and Convixion? Was the idea the same from the start – to do an own song as well as a cover version?
– The idea came from the guys of Convixion. They were thinking of doing a split release and they thought we were the ideal band to do so. We all met at the studio of the guitarist and singer of Convixion, Nick, so when the proposal was made, we did not even think about it. A visit to the nearest liquor store was the first move so as to celebrate the fact. And yes, within a few minutes, we decided that a cover song plus one original of each band, should be recorded.
The cover art can be viewed as a tribute to Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road, the bands you are covering. I guess it is not a coincidence that these two bands, probably the most important epic metal bands, were covered?
– “Alive Aftershock” is a split release that came out from metal fans for metal fans. We thought we didn’t need to make two different cover artworks, but one that would be the most suitable. From the beginning, we decided that the artwork had to do with the bands we cover, so we reached the decision of the drawing you see, after several discussions. It had to do with the trademarks of Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road. Alice did a great job in redrawing them and we believe justice has been made concerning the deep respect we have for those two pioneers.
Did you spend a lot of time discussing which band that should cover Manilla Road, and which band that should cover Cirith Ungol?
– Well, that was the easiest task. Convixion had already performed “I’m Alive” on stage several times before. On the other hand, “Aftershock” had been one song that we jammed in our rehearsals. We had never performed a cover song in the past and Manilla Road seemed like the only choice. It had to be them.
As quite a few Manilla Road-songs have been covered already, was it important for you to do something else than the best known songs from “Crystal Logic”, “Open The Gates” or “Mystification”. Why did you choose to do “Aftershock”?
– As I said above, “Aftershock” was a great song to jam during rehearsals for our own pleasure, but until the thought of this split release, we never aimed to perform this one live or even record it. Now based on your question, I feel the need to express myself in full honesty. My opinion is that there are songs that cannot be touched by any means. That of course does not mean that other bands who did it, were wrong. But each individual has its own aspect. At this point, I am throwing in a fine example. Last year I had the honor to make a face to face discussion with Mark Shelton after their live show in Athens. I always felt like the Randy Foxe period, was not just about perfect metal creations, but art of the highest level. The songwriting was unique, the arrangements on the songs, the solos, the vocal lines, the guitar parts, lyrics etc. were all set in a very “peculiar” way, yet it seemed that nothing was done by accident, even when the band was jamming through the songs. Have you ever listened to those records on headphones? If not, I advise you to do so. You will discover a new Manilla Road dimension. That’s why, I asked Mark Shelton, how this material was composed. His reply was that all those years, the band was rehearsing every single day from three to five hours, from Monday to Friday and on Saturday they were going on stage in a club in Wichita. Now tell me, how could we possibly dare to cover one song of these albums, that until the day it was recorded, everything was arranged in every detail? And I’m not only referring to the difficulty in the performance of the instruments, which is quite obvious. I am talking about the depth of the music itself. Those albums and songs are so unique in atmosphere and music perception, that only its creator is capable of giving justice to them. And even though Randy Foxe came after “Crystal Logic”, this record’s atmosphere is not excluded from the list, for it has the same artistic ingredients.
The picture on the back of the CD, with both bands pictured together indicates that this is something more than the usual split release, and also a release by two bands that have a special relationship. Even though the styles of metal you perform are different, do you feel you share some of the same philosophy and passion for metal? What else do the bands have in common?
– You are absolutely right! The bonds between both bands come from the very beginning of our formation. We always shared the stage together, at least once per year. We were fans of each other’s music and as time was passing by, we were becoming true friends among us. The style of metal we perform is truly different, but when it comes to real metal, at least the way I see it, a question about having this split release together or not, is answered with a simple “yes”! I am proud for those guys, for the way they deal with their music and the expression that arises from their passion they have. We do share the same philosophy in many aspects, but of course each band has its own character. And you know how it works when we say that opposites attract. We feel very lucky that that we can combine true friendship with musical quests. We also exchange our musical preferences very often. You see Entasis Studio is a frequent meeting point, where beers, metal music and some good quality jokes, are leading the way.
As you know the guys in Convixion very well, which of the band’s qualities would you like to have in Wrathblade? Can you share any juicy stories about the band or its members?
– Well there are many differences and similarities between both bands. That makes it even more interesting, so I would not say that there are specific qualities I would like to have in Wrathblade. I could say that both bands do exactly what they feel like and the fact that we have full respect for each other, makes the bond even stronger. I will not refer to any juicy stories, as there are so many, you cannot even imagine. I will though refer to a very important incident that took place a couple of years ago. A gig for Wrathblade was confirmed in Thessaloniki and it was a very important show for us, since it would be the first time we would perform outside of Athens. Ten days before the gig, our guitarist Chris, had a serious accident by mangling the phalanx of his indicator finger in his left arm and when he informed us, we immediately cancelled our appearance. It was really hard, because apart from how serious the accident was, we did not know at first if Chris would be able to play guitar again and in that case, this could even result in splitting Wrathblade. After several discussions during the next 48 hours and after Chris’s persistence in doing the gig, Nick, the guitarist of Convixion, offered to play with us. We finally agreed and after two or three rehearsals we went on stage. That was an experience to be remembered for a lifetime, since it was not only about doing the gig. It was about Chris, who followed us on this trip and was right there in front of the stage while we were playing, headbanging like the most hardcore fan of Wrathblade. Chris is the guy who formed this band and we silently dedicated this appearance to him. There are no words to thank Nick for his contribution that night. It was a really touching moment.
Let’s talk a little about the song “Triton The Trumpeter”, the self composed tune on “Alive Aftershock”. When was this tune written? If before “Into The Netherworld’s Realm”, why wasn’t it included on that album?
– “Triton the Trumpeter” is one of the first songs the band composed in 2003. The first years have been really very productive and there are also other songs from that period that have not seen the light of day yet and some others that will never will. That song was left behind, because as we were progressing as a band in both performance and songwriting sections, we thought that some songs of the past were not equal to the newer stuff and since they were never released, they should remain on the shelf instead. When we talked about the split though, this song was ideal to be included. It is a simple-structured tune, close to the sounds of early Manilla Road and a slower track than most of Wrathblade’s stuff, which fitted also perfectly to “Eyes of the Beast” from Convixion, making this release having as much consistency as it could. Two different bands, but with probably their most matching songs. A good chance for the listener to see it as a normal release from start to finish.
You recently put “Vaunted Pride” on YouTube. If I am correct, this is a live in the studio recording of a song that will feature on the next full length. Have you also performed this song during your shows? “More epic, primitive and brutal” is some words you have said about the new album. This song feels like a rather good example of that?
– What you hear on “Vaunted Pride” is a one-take recording of bass, drums and one guitar, without metronome. The second guitar and vocals were added next. We did a slight mixing and mastering and that was it. The song was recorded in order to present the band in a TV show here in Greece and a three-way interview that was also given by Convixion, our newer brothers Sacral Rage and us. I am not sure if those words match the specific song, but I can tell you that 80% of it, was captured through a jam we did two years ago and when those riffs were coming out all of a sudden, each one of us was extremely thrilled. We have plenty of fresh ideas to complete our next album, but if only we had the free time to rehearse more….I cannot say for sure how all those riffs are going to sound as completed compositions, but we definitely lean towards a more epic direction with the Wrathblade approach which is primitive and brutal!
– So far we have completed three songs, and we are working at the same time on three new ones, as well. Decisions need to be taken for the two “leftovers” from “Reins of Doom”-demo, which are “Epinicion” and “Met in Hades”. We have not abandoned the idea of re-recording both or even one for the next CD, but this is not a case for now. Also one older, really great song, “Warlord’s Return” that was performed once or twice in 2006, should bother us again when the time comes. Lastly we have five or six other newer tracks, so as you can imagine, we have plenty of material to even release a double LP. Faster parts do exist and perhaps we will have some melodic parts as well, if we decide to unleash everything we have right now. Once we finish all songs, we will see which ones will be recorded and for now the only information I can give you, is that our goal is to surpass “Into the Netherworld’s Realm”.
Are any further details on the upcoming album ready yet – like title, song titles and number of songs? Will you use Nikos and his Entasis Studio again?
– We only have three titles of songs right now, which are “Vaunted Pride”, “Castration of Uranus” and “Chthonian Echoes Devour”. We do not simply intend to record on Nick’s studio again, but demolish it at the same time! I personally intend to make this next experience a living nightmare for him, since we always tend to do the same thing, but the procedure is a bit “painful”. Haha! Seriously now, Nick is a very different producer than most guys here in Athens, who keeps on progressing all the time and we share the same thoughts and ideas on how a band of our style needs to sound. Which is basically maintaining a natural sound and a humane approach in the performance of the instruments. So, what you will hear in the recording, you will also witness live. Music is played by humans, not machines and we consider ourselves to be the former, not the latter. Plus we do not pretend to be musicians, but metal fans above all. The listener who buys our stuff needs to listen to who we really are and not what he or she wants us to be. This is a moral issue.
Two of the songs on the debut was marked as Part I (“Dream Trap” as “Doomopolis Pt. I”, while “Reins Of Doom” is “God Of War Pt. I”). Will the upcoming album feature “Pt 2” these tracks?
– The most suitable person to answer this question, is our singer Nick, but his mind is so mixed on thoughts all the time, that even if he gave me an answer now, that would never mean anything. The last years, lyrics are on his shoulders 100% and nobody in the band wants to change that. The “God of War” theme though, has to do with Nick, so probably there will be a continuation. I’m not sure for “Doomopolis Pt II” though. At least for the second album.
You recently held a combined release party for the split and a ten year anniversary show. Fortunately, none of us knows where we are in ten year’s time, but if you can decide, what’s the status of Wrathblade in 2023?
– Be sure that this was a hell of a gig for the three bands that played that night. As for Wrathblade, nothing more than the five of us stay in good health, together and united and continue our journey through this band, even if we will “bleed” again in the future. Commitments have been already taken and I wish our lives will allow their fulfillment.
Live picture: Kostas Anagnostopoulos