With the stellar first full length, “Illusions In Infinite Void”, Sacral Rage from Athens, Greece showed that they can provide competition for absolutely everyone out there. Their brand new album, “Beyond Celestial Echoes” is more or less of thee same sky high quality, and I needed to get in contact with singer Dimitris K. once again. I take for granted that you still have strong feeling for “Illusions In Infinite Void”, but do you sometimes go back and listen to your first EP, “Deadly Bits of Iron Fragments” as well?
– Yeah, off course! We don’t defy anything that we have done in the past. “Deadly Bits Of Iron Fragments” has some very nice heavy and speed riffs. We composed, rehearsed and recorded it when we were a band for only four months without using any ideas we had before that band. All the ideas were Sacral Rage from day one. So the outcome was the best that we could do regarding the time we had. That’s something that connects us with our music. We are still playing “Master Of A Darker Light” and until recently we used to play “Return Of TThe Dead”, confirms Dimitris.
Fast forward to “Illusions in Infinite Void”, your first full length release which we covered here when it was released. The album got some fantastic reviews, did this make it more difficult working on album number two?
– “Illusions in Infinite Void” had a blessing beginning in its first steps to find a place in record collections. Metalheads around the world embraced it as something nostalgic and fresh at the same time. So it was only natural to be a little anxious for our second strike. People have expectations from us, we’ve set a high bar and we were aiming to surpass ourselves. We concluded with an apocalyptic outcome that sometimes gives goosebumps even to ourselves.
What about the reception you got for “Illusions in Infinite Void” was most satisfying for you as a band?
– Despite the fact that the most important reason that we play metal is to satisfy ourselves, it is a great feeling to meet with people who can understand your vision, follow it or even make it their own. When “Illusions in Infite Void” was ready, we didn’t had high expectations. We play something that doesn’t follow any trend, needs your full attention and you can’t put it under a certain label so you can trigger specific target groups. It was a big surprise that our music established itself in the underground scene.
Many people view the first album as almost perfect. Did you see room for improvement in any specific areas when you started working on “Beyond Celestial Echoes”?
– From our perspective, it didn’t have to be an improvement. We wanted it to be somehow different compared to the first one, but without losing our main core. All we did was to blend more influences. From the chaotic prog of Rush to the brutality of Morbid Angel and everything in between. So to answer to your question, I could say that we saw some room for experimentation and we still do.
Before we move on to the new album, it would be interesting to hear a little bit more about how you became a singer. How did you discover that you could sing, and when did you start singing heavy metal?
– It wasn’t a discovery at all. I started singing when I was fifteen years old. Back in the school all of my friends were playing an instrument and they were planning to start a band. I didn’t want to be left out, so I volunteered for the vocals. I didn’t know how to play any instruments nor had any vocal lessons so as you can imagine, the outcome was at least funny. But I kept trying because I liked a lot the fact that I was doing it with my friends and I liked even more the feeling I had when I was trying to scream. It took me at least eight years before I finally understood how to use my voice.
Dimitris confirms that both King Diamond and Alan Tecchio are some of his influences as a singer, but adds a whole host of others to the list…
– You are totally right about them. They are two of the top names in my list along with Midnight, John Stewart, John Arch, Harry Conklin, Warrel Dane, Jason McMaster, David Byron, Geddy Lee, Freddie Mercury and more.
You have been doing a lot of live shows in the wake of the debut album. How have playing all these shows influenced what we hear on “Beyond Celestial Echoes”?
– I don’t really see any connection between gigs and composing. The only relative thing that came up in my mind, is that we meet a lot of people and we have great conversations with real metal fans. Conversations about their perspectives in our music that might lead us to some new ideas. Also the vibe you have after a gig or a tour is very uplifting and it gives you a lot of enthusiasm for new stuff.
Some people claim it’s a big disadvantage being a band from Greece, and there is no doubt your county produces some great acts that are never getting the same exposure as Swedish or German bands for instance. Have you encountered anything that make you think it would have been easier for you if Sacral Rage was from another country?
– There are two problems for a band located in Greece. First of all Greece is very far away from the rest of the European countries. So that’s makes it even harder getting booked for gigs outside of Greece since the flight tickets would be much more expensive compared to those who come from Sweden or Germany and they’ll probably be more known already. The second and most serious problem is the ten years of crisis. We have met a lot of bands from Sweden and Germany on the road, and we couldn’t believe that most of them had quit their jobs to og on tour. They weren’t anxious about it at all. In Greece, quitting your job might mean that you will not find another one for one or two years. So of course we have thought that it would be much easier for us if we were a band from Sweden or Germany. On the other hand, Greeks are known for their unique way of thinking and for not following rules, so if we were actually a band from another country we wouldn’t sound like we do now.
Do you have a certain formula you are using when you are writing songs, or does it differ from song to song how a riff or an idea is born and then developed into a track? How much do you do individually, and what do you do together as a band?
– We are against of following a formula. We believe that doing such a thing will make our originality disappear. So we let each song guide us to its destination. Spuros (bass) and Marios (guitars) are preparing the main structure of the songs and then Vaggelis (drums) and I are adding our parts considering the aura and atmosphere of each song.
Some of the songs on “Beyond Celestial Echoes” were written about a year and a half ago. Which are the oldest numbers, and did these early songs give you the direction for the album? Are you a band that can still write or work on songs while you are in the studio, or do you need to have everything ready and prepared before you enter the studio?
– Believe it or not, the first song that we finished was the 15minute music novel named “The Glass”. “The Glass” is a very unique song that contains structure, influences and length that we haven’t tried in the past, so I can’t really say that was the guidance of the album. Regarding the recordings, that actually happened with “Beyond Celestial Echoes”. We have tried so many new things that we didn’t know how they gonna sound. Some of them didn’t have the feeling we wanted, so we had to change them during the recordings. We don’t like to have to search for a last minute solution, but if have to, we are gonna do it.
The lyrics seem to be very close to what you did on your debut album. Do you see this as the type of lyrics you will continue writing also in the future? Do you view “Beyond Celestial Echohes” as a concept album?
– We always try to combine the lyrical themes with the atmosphere of the songs. The main core of our music is still the same, so it makes sense that the themes for the lyrics move along in the same paths. With “Beyond Celestial Echoes” each song has a unique story. So practically it’s not a concept album. There is general concept behind the band though. That connects all of our releases with our live performances. It’s about an android named UL, who have been made by an alien race. In his search for energy quantities, he ends up on earth. There he discovers that huge amounts of energy is transmitted from human bodies when they are in a state of fear, despair and ordeal. Every song is a testimony of UL.
There is not a song on the album carrying that particular title , but Dimitris explains why “Beyond Celestial Echoes” is a fitting name for the album nevertheless.
-The name of the album, as in our previous releases, describes the music and its aura and not the lyrical themes. This album is darker and frostier, feelings you might have if you get lost in space and the songs are the only echoes that can reach you in this world you are dragged into.
How did you cooperate with Dimitar Nikolov to get the type of cover art you wanted for the album? Did you let him read the lyrics and perhaps also listen to some of your music?
– When we had the first discussion about the artwork, we all agreed that we wanted a cover that would be a reference to 70s sci-fi novels. From what we have seen by the works of Nikolov, we knew that he was the man we were looking for. So we send him the lyrics from “The Glass”, which has the most suitable story for that feeling and we let him do whatever he wanted. He told us the most strong image that he had in mind when he was reading it, was the one at the final battle. If you read the lyrics you’ll understand why…
Many bands have performed technical metal, but few have mastered the art of writing memorable songs that sticks in the head of the listener. Is there a contradiction between the two, and what is the secret of combining high class musicianship, complex structures, time changes and catchy songs?
– I can’t really say if we know the secret combination, but I can tell you how we see it. Our first goal is to write killer music. We don’t care whether this comes from the simplest or the most complex riff. We just happen to be attracted to the paranoia that comes out from the complexity. So we use it to create a certain atmosphere, rather than ability demonstration.
Correct me if I am wrong, but most of your influences seem to be US metal from the mid to late eighties, and bands ranging from heavy, via progressive to technical metal. Please name three bands and albums which without Sacral Rage wouldn’t have existed. Please also tell the readers how each of these three bands/albums have influenced your sound.
It is true that we are big fans of US metal, as well as Canadian and European. We can understand why people refer more often to US influences. They are very strong in our music. So, three of them that could change our entire sound if they didn’t existed are: Crimson Glory and their album “”Transcendence”, “Control And Resistance” by WatchTower and “Spiritual Healing” from Death. I don’t really think there are much to say about these three beasts. We love to combine great melodies with technical parts, aggressiveness with complexity and extreme, high pitched and dark vocals. Well, these three are the reason why.
“Necropia” and “Samsara (L.C.E)” are already made available online. Do you feel comfortable releasing single tracks from what is an album that is clearly meant to be listened to from start to finish? Do you feel these two tracks represent the album in a good way?
– We believe that our music should be presented in its entirety too. But we understand that all this happen due to the need of promotion. We also gave “Vaguely Decoded” for a compilation CD in the Greek Metal Hammers October issue and by the time this interview will be published, you would see our new video for “Eternal Solstice”. We don’t stand out our songs. We would be as confident as we are now with any song published online.
This confidence, does it mean that you wrote the exact numbers of songs needed for this album and simply used them, or do you have left over songs from the writing process for “Beyond Celstial Echoes”?
– If the song doesn’t proceed as it should, we are leaving it out. We have left three or four half songs out. But sometimes we may go back after a long time and try some of them again. I have two very good examples in my mind that we are working on these days. You’ll listen them in our next release, which, as it seems, will be out much sooner than the second one.
I read an interview where you mentioned the fact you are incorporating new elements to the songs. What kind of elements are you speaking about, and is there one track where you feel you are showing a bit different side of Sacral Rage than before?
– Well, “Samsara (L.C.E) for instance, has a technical speed/thrash core, with US style of singing, a prog mid-tempo part in the middle and an extreme ending with death metal riffing and black metal atmosphere. A very unique mixture. “The Glass”, on the other hand is a whole festival of new ideas that makes it meaningless to try and analyze them. The 70s prog-rock aura, clean melodic vocal lines and the fact that this song is 15minutes, are some of the new tools we used.
“High-tech metal lunacy” is a term that you use to describe your sound. What does “lunacy” in creating and performing music mean to you?
– It is this weird atmosphere that I was speaking about earlier. The aura of dizziness that comes out from maziness parts. In our new chapter you can find the strange structures, the complex riffs, the unorthodox vocal lines and some groundbreaking subgenre mixtures. So I can easily say that the lunacy reign supreme in this one.
The album is closed by “The Glass”, a nearly 15 minutes long song. Was this track planned to be an epic, long one, or just one that grew much larger than you expected it to?
– For “The Glass” we tried, for the first time, to do the opposite while composing. Instead of writing the music first and then the lyrics, I had the story and some lyrics in my mind and I told Mario to bring them in life. If you read the story and the lyrics you’ll understand that we knew that we were going to need the space of three songs. But instead of writing three separate songs, the outcome was proceeding smoothly and we ended up with one. It is much better that way. An integrated result.