It’s early days, but Sacral Rage might well be the underground heavy metal sensation of 2015. Even though the quartet showed great promise with their EP “Deadly Bits Of Iron Fragments” released back in 2013, the brand new full length, titled “Ilusions In Infinite Void”, due out at the end of this month through Cruz Del Sur is even more intricate and mature.
One of the band’s attributes is the originality, combining outstanding technical abilites with catchy riffs and vocals. Not the kind of stuff you normally expect from a Greek band, in a blind test most metal fans would probably have uttered words like “American”, “US metal” or “Texas”. When the opportunity to do a feature on what is one of the most exciting prospect in the world wide metal scene, arose, Metal Squadron didn’t dwell long. Here is what guitarist Marios had to say…
It seems Sacral Rage got together more or less as a coincidence. Is the scene in Athens so large that you didn’t know each other from before?
– All things in life come off as a coincidence. You can’t predict the future. It is true that many notable things happen just coincidentally. The heavy metal scene of Athens is really large but before the formation of the band we did know each other. I can’t say that we were close friends but at least, each and every one of us had a deep respect for each other’s musical abilities. So when the time came to create the band, we didn’t give it a second thought of what the lineup was going to be. Besides I would say that the day the band was created the planets might just be under a harmonic convergence, having an impact on its formation!
All the members seem to have diverse backgrounds playing in many different bands. Has this helped shape the sound or the idea behind the band?
– Yes, Dimitris has been the vocalist in Outcry, a speed/heavy metal band, while I played the guitars in Dizzy Design, a very interesting prog rock band, Spyros spent two years being the bass player in Accelerator, a speed metal band and Mentally Defiled, a thrash band. Last but not least, Vaggelis has already played the drums in a variety of metal bands such as Necrovorous, Resurgency, Burial Hordes and Embrace Of Thorns , you know extreme metal bands which was something different from the others’ former bands. Definitely, the result of these influences has formed the identity and the temper of Sacral Rage. Moreover, it gave birth to this oddity and ‘labyrinthinity’ which are the fundamental features of the band.
You seem to be getting very good reviews of your live shows, creating high expectations for your show at Keep It True, which I am looking very much forward to. What is your focus when you do concerts, to replicate what you do on record, or to add extra energy to the songs and to go crazy on stage? Is there a band whose appearance on stage has inspired you?
– Despite the fact that it might sound to you a little stereotyped or cliché, we don’t put strict limits on our shows. We don’t spend hours on our rehearsals coming up with special movements or discussing such issues. We just want to be very energetic, brisk and in general men of action, not just living monuments staring at the audience being lethargic and impotent. Besides, in all our live performances, we really want to put out the genuine Sacral Rage spirit which consists of pure aggressiveness, spontaneous spastic reactions and natural paranoia. Of course all these conspicuous reviews we have got make us more demanding with our work because we want to do our best meeting the expectations of the fans. As to our live influences, bands like Watchtower, Nasty Savage and Jag Panzer have played a significant role in every live venture of ours.
Your music is very strongly influenced by US metal, a term that is used about a very diverse group of bands, from the eighties and until today. Is it the diversity and the mix of melodies, technicality and power or something else appeals that to you?
– In fact, US metal, not so much as a subgenre, has played a very strong role as far as the way we compose, arrange, and write down music. I would say we are influenced more by how American/Canadian bands concept their songs in terms of technicality and more “weird” song structures. It makes sense though why everyone label us as a US metal act and this is because of the vocals. You are right though, all of the elements you mention do have a strong impact on the way we enjoy music. We are trying to amaze and trick the listener just how we want to be amazed by the many bands we listen to.
High pitched singers are a very important part of American metal. Did you have discussion of how you wanted Dimitris to approach the vocals, or does he just sing in a way that feels natural to him?
– It is a fact that Dimitris does sound like being a part of eighties metal. We didn’t ever have a serious discussion on how he had to sing like. It came really natural to him. He doesn’t push himself to sing like Harry ‘Tyrant’ Conklin, John Cyriis or whoever and we didn’t ever want such a thing from him. From the very first days of the band we tried to create something that was completely ours, we tried to give a special identity to the band being out of typical norms and notions. On the other hand, we all have our influences and icons, even Dimitris, but that doesn’t mean that he must be a replica of a specific remarkable vocalist of the past generations. When you listen to Sacral Rage, it all comes directly from Dimitris’ heart and windpipe!!
Some reviews of the EP pointed to the fact that the vocals were a bit too high. There are definitely high vocals on the new album as well, but it seems they are a bit better integrated in your overall sound?
– The vocals are evolving along with the rest of the music. But Dimitris has always in mind to bind vocals and music in the best possible way. On “Deadly Bits Of Iron Fragments”, the music was less complex and more primitive. So the vocals followed that path by being extremely high, paranoid and aggressive. On the New album all these elements were there but he tried to pass them in a less direct way. He also added some more techniques in the new material.
The pronunciation and accent of the singers often indicate that bands come from Greece, and in some cases, it might turn off some listeners that actually like the music. Is this something Dimitris has had in mind and worked on?
– Dimitris never cared to work on his accent. He sings freely and naturally without any thoughts. He might have had help from spacey ritualistic spirits. Those weird creatures communicate in some very strange languages and English seems to be much easier after that.
A band like Italy’s Hyborian Steel loves the US metal so much that they try to give people an impression that they are actually American. Is it important for you to try to sound as American as possible, or do you prefer to also make a point of the fact that you are actually a Greek band?
– As I said earlier, we all have our influences. That means that we didn’t wake up one typical morning and decided to create a US clone metal band. We do like American bands like Vicious Rumors, Toxik, Agent Steel or whatever, but these preferences remain extremely musical! None of us would ever come up with an idea of ‘americanise’ the band. In other words, we will always say that Sacral Rage is a Greek act, drawing strength and courage from local bands that have already reached the top like Rotting Christ for instance. Furthermore, we wouldn’t ever change our names or trumpet forth that we come from USA. The band has got its specific identity.
You once explained how the cover of the EP and the title “Deadly Bits Of Iron Fragments” were closely connected to the sound of the band. As there is no title track on the new album either, is there a similar meaning to the title of the new album, or is “Illusions In Infinite Void” a title that sums up the lyrics on the album?
– The title of the new album sums up not only the lyrical themes of the album but the general atmosphere surrounding it. Like our first release, it is connected to our sounds and more specific to our songs that they come like illusions one after another. Those hallucinations aren’t a part of the existent world. They unfold in an infinite void like the eternal space and illusions pop up like nightmares.
Do you see your lyrics as a way to do some storytelling, by creating small stories about horror, witches, black magic or whatever, or do you try to get people to reflect and think for themselves?
– I would say a combination of both. To get people to dive deep into the lyrics of the songs and read between the lines. That means to allow themselves to be part of the stories Dimitris acts out and even reflect and get several approaches on these different matters.
In an interview with Germany’s “That’s Metal” you claimed that your music was somewhere between craziness and aggression. Do you refer to the songwriting process or the songs themselves, or maybe both?
– Each song we compose reflects our current mental state. You just can’t compose punk music for example if you are not burning inside or you can’t compose heavy metal if you don’t feel it. Well, technically you can, but even a blind man could see that this will be a forced action. It’s a vice versa thing.
When you started working on the new album, did you want to continue what you started with the EP, musically and lyrically, or did you see the need to change or improve something?
– On one hand it is not good to deny your past and what you have, but on the other hand it is not also good to be afraid of making the next step. What we had in mind when we started working on new ideas was to try to raise the level of difficulty and complexity a little bit. Strictly speaking, what I want to say is that we wanted to make things more demanding both in lyrical parts with many phrases having a deep meaning and in musical parts with more laborious instrument lines. The reason was that we wanted both to evolve as musicians and to progress in a technical and intellectual way
You had a close relationship with Greg from Eat Metal, who apparently has been a fan since the start of the band. Was it difficult parting ways with what I guess was a “safe home” for you?
– Greg is a true defender of Greek Heavy Metal. He really loves every honest effort that takes place in our country. He has given the opportunity to many bands to make their dreams come true by releasing their albums or putting them in important lineup shows. One of these bands was Sacral Rage. We couldn’t ever imagine a greater beginning for our band. Greg was the first that really believed in our capabilities and he proved it by making us members of the Eat Metal family. As a matter of fact, we are so much in debt to him! In brief, it was hard and weird for us to follow a different way, but I think that we did the best for the band.
I guess you had other labels interested as well, but what made you go for Cruz Del Sur? I read somewhere that you weren’t completely satisfied with the promotion of the EP, was the possibility of reaching out to a wider audience part of the reason why you opted for Cruz Del Sur?
– Since we play heavy metal, making live shows and having our works released, our goal is to reach more people and widen our audience. As far as the promotion of the EP goes, we believe that there should be a bit better distribution rather than having to do many of the promo moves ourselves. Truth is that no one wants to invest his time and money in a newly formed band so I don’t blame Greg. As we said before, he helped us so much and we are extremely grateful. We had many offers from different labels but Cruz Del Sur seemed the right path for us and made the best deal in combination with the distribution they have. Signs indicate that we will have a fruitful partnership.
A lot to things are happening within your songs. I guess some bands would have made three or four songs out of the ideas you use in one track. What inspires your creativity? And what is the thought behind having so many different parts in your songs, and is there a band that has inspired you in doing this?
– I wouldn’t say there is a specific reason for which we make our songs sound complicated. It might sound like a lie but it does come up naturally to all of us. We haven’t ever brought a riff in our rehearsals sounding very simple and typical. Each and every idea of the album was arduous from the beginning. Put differently, we don’t think that typical Music have to be easy to listen to. For us, a typical metal song could be consist of many perplexing and different parts which lead to the final result. What you hear in our songs is genuine and unaffected. Bands like Rush and Watchtower have inspired us in considering some issues such as songwriting from another point of view, more sophisticated I would say.
Watchtower is often mentioned as one of your main inspirations. Is it important that your songs are a bit demanding? As musicians do you try to compose songs that challenge both the listener and yourself as musicians?
– It is important only for us in order to advance as music players and also to broaden our horizons. We find it amusing to deal with demanding and troublesome parts, to make our fingers and voices bleed! I think this is a part of the band’s paranoia. We like challenges and we like following the difficult way rather than the easy one. Furthermore, we would like to challenge our listeners ears if it was possible, to really make them be ushered in a series of thoughts having to do with our music. Those who manage to succeed in this challenge are welcomed to our dimension, those who aren’t pleased, can abandon the ship!
Even though there is a lot of stuff happening within the songs with different riffs, changes in tempo and atmosphere, there is also a clear red thread in the songs with some strong melodies making them memorable. How do you work to balance these elements against each other?
– Actually we didn’t ever have in mind to create a completely disorientated album. We were of the opinion that we should put some limits in this schizophrenia only in order to integrate some melodies. Besides, we were raised with heavy metal and we wanted to add some traditional features to our music. We haven’t ever taken part in a technical competition and that is why we didn’t want to create something extremely incomprehensible. We just wanted our music to have a flow with some ‘quizzicalnesses’ inserted!
You have done a cover of Mercyful Fate’s “Come To The Sabbat”. Why did you choose this particular track, I see many Mercyful Fate-songs that you could have covered?
– This song was our one piece to the Greek Heavy Metal Hammer’s 30 years anniversary puzzle! We were chosen along with other Greek bands to arrange a famous song from a famous band released back in 1984. We were chosen from the Metal Hammer guys to be in Mercyful Fates’ shoes and to give ‘Come to the Sabbath’ a second birth. Of course we didn’t give it a second thought, we did our best and the rest is history!