Après quelques échanges par e-mail avec le leader de Dead Congregation suite à la sortie du magistral nouvel album "Promulgation Of The Fall" et à ma chronique dithyrambique, je me suis vite rendu compte qu’il y avait matière à faire une nouvelle interview. Le Grec a volontiers accepté de remettre ça, 6 ans après notre dernier entretien. L’occasion de promouvoir une nouvelle fois sur Thrashocore ce qui est déjà le meilleur album de death metal de l’année. Et bien plus encore !
Hi Anastasis. Thanks for accepting this interview. Dead Congregation new album "Promulgation Of The Fall" came out last month 6 years after your 1st full-length "Graves Of The Archangels". Why such a long wait?
Basically we just didn’t feel the need to release the album sooner, simple as that. We’re not a band that is required by contract to release an album every 1-2 years to remain in the spotlight so we were focused on other things until it just felt that it was time to record the new material.
"Graves Of The Archangels" was released through Nuclear War Now! Productions. At that time, you said you couldn't be happier to work with such a professional label. How come you're not part of their roster anymore then?
At the time that ‘graves…’ was released there weren’t too many underground labels that prioritized vinyl editions for albums and since vinyl is quite important to us, we decided to work with NWN! who had a reputation for making good quality vinyl releases. We are pleased by what they did, however as any other underground label of the time, it’s not like they did much more than release the album. So we decided that if we’re not going to sign to a big label we might as well release the album ourselves and have total control over it.
Licensing the LP version to Norma Evangelium Diaboli was a very conscious choice, we have been admiring the agenda of that label since its beginning so we accepted their offer proudly.
You founded a new label called Martyrdoom Productions. What happened with Nuclear Winter?
There’s not enough time for Nuclear Winter anymore.
What's the plan for Martyrdoom Productions? Will it be only Dead Congregation related stuff as well as a distro or will you sign other bands?
At the moment it only deals with Dead Congregation, there might be 1-2 more releases but it’s too soon to say at this point.
Dead Congegation popularity among death metal enthusiasts has grown huge since your first album. Thus, "Promulgation Of The Fall" was probably the most anticipated release of the year as far as DM is concerned. Your band is now consider as one of the main forces in the genre nowadays. After all those years of hard work and dedication, that must make you proud I guess?
Our debut album has been extremelywell accepted indeed, together with the shows we did in the last 6 years our name became very recognizable. It is very flattering to see so many people following what we do.
On the other hand it also means more pressure. Did you feel that when writing and recording the successor of "Graves Of The Archangels", regarded as one of the best death metal albums of the 2000's?
No pressure at all, we create/compose for ourselves, not to meet other people’s expectations. Since WE were pleased by the new material, we are satisfied regardless of the acceptance it gets (or not). As said, it is very flattering to see other people admire your work, however that’s not something that affects the way we function as a band.
Pressure or not, I think you did it! "Promulgation Of The Fall" surpasses "Graves Of The Archangels" in almost every department (songwriting, riffing, singing, leads, etc.), which is quite an achievement. So congratulations!
Thank you very much, we also believe it surpasses our previous recordings in every aspect!
Many reviews are already up on the Internet, all of them being ecstatic. You must be proud your new baby is so well received by the fans and media I guess?
You were telling me you're getting sick of always being compared to Incantation though. You explained me the reason why but can you say it publicly? Personally I think McEntee's band is still your main influence but you've grown as a band and have your own sound and identity now. Moreover, you put to shame their last effort which is not bad but far from their greatest work of the 90's.
Being the main composer of the band I can tell you for sure that Incantation is not a big influence, not by a long shot. We have nothing against Incantation of course, we admire the band and on our debut EP ‘Purifying Consecrated Ground’ we had a lot of similarities with them for sure. However, we’re grown as composers and as a band since then and although our sound remains dark we want to believe that we have our own identity. Maybe the atmosphere of the recording and the deep vocals and the pinch harmonics on some of the riffs make some people think about Incantation but the riffs themselves don’t sound like Incantation at all if you actually pay notice. We sound a lot more like mid-era Morbid Angel, Angelcorpse, early Diabolic, Arkhon Infaustus if you ask me. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, we just think that being compared to Incantation is a very lazy reference that’s getting old by now. We could understand it 8 years ago but it seems very disrespectful towards the new album, it’s got a Dead Congregation signature written all over it and it deserves more credit than being described as a ‘tribute’ album.
The sound on "Promulgation Of The Fall" is a bit different from "Graves Of The Archangels". I love it! The guitars sound rawer, dirtier and that metallic, echoing snare drum adds even more savagery to the music.
We wanted the drums to sound more aggressive this time, as for the guitars we used our own gear/amplifiers as always. But this studio was better at capturing our sound and the sound engineer was a lot more cooperative towards my instructions so the final result is much closer to what we wanted, compared to ‘graves…’. The guitars are a bit dirtier because we recorded 4 rhythm guitars without correcting mistakes so they’re not super tight but it was a compromise we were willing to make in order to get a heavier sound and more natural feel on the recording, instead of making everything perfect and fool people that we’re flawless musicians (because we are not).
Stylistically, there's also a few differences on the new album compared to the 1st one. You still play true, dark, blasphemous death metal obviously but you have diversified your sound a bit. For example, even though the majority of the album is played fast with blast-beats, one can find more doomy parts on the new album.
The doomy parts have always been a big part of our songs. However, in the past we were careless when recording them not to pay attention to the speed of the drumming, so a lot of the riffs ended up a lot faster on record compared to how we wanted them. This had its toll on the doomy parts since clearly they weren’t as effective as they meant to be. Fortunately we didn’t repeat this mistake this time.
Speaking of slow stuff, the title track sounds quite fresh for a Dead Congregation song. It may even be my favorite track on the record! Such a haunting intro and then that majestic, powerful riff kicks in, Jesus fucking Christ! It's intense but in a totally different way.
It’s one of my favorite tracks as well.
One of the biggest improvements on the new album is the solos. It seems you put a lot of work and soul into them. They're more melodic (not in a happy way of course) and elaborate, like brief moments of light before going back to darkness.
All the solos are very spontaneous and not really worked. On the contrary we kept them without much thought even if they were more melodic than what someone would expect from Dead Congregation because we believed that they sounded good and had something to offer to the songs.
The 1st 3 songs form a whole, an infernal triptych. What's the idea behind it?
It’s the first four songs. It was an unconscious move, when I finished one song I started writing the next one directly from the ending of the previous one and we ended up with ‘side A’ being almost like one very long song. Not something that we had planned, it just happened this way.
Your singing sounds more powerful on the new album and really contributes to the brutality and the atmosphere. Did you practice your growl a lot?
Actually I hadn’t practiced my vocals in months before I went in the studio and I was very concerned by that. When we recorded the other instruments we still didn’t have lyrics for the songs so we took a long break from the studio, added lyrics to the songs and recorded the vocals at a later point. Quite an unorthodox way to record I guess but it seems like it worked in our favor. The lack of practice made my vocals more expressive and aggressive I think. Also, the fact that we didn’t write the lyrics while practicing the songs made me arrange them quite freely without having in mind that I’ll play the guitar while singing them. So they flow a bit better than having the usual vocal pattern that follows the riff.
Some people miss the orthodox chants. I guess you didn't add them this time not to repeat yourselves, did you?
Thank you for pointing it out. We also noticed some people complaining about the lack of orthodox chants and lack of intro and outro. I guess some people are happy to get the same dish served every day and don’t understand that change is a part of evolving. We will always sound like Dead Congregation and keep our identity/integrity as a band but we will definitely not repeat ourselves by using formulas that we used in the past. The orthodox chants and instrumental into for the album was a ‘been there, done that’ situation for us...
I don't know if you remember but last time I interviewed you, we had a little argument about the artwork of "Graves Of The Archangels" I didn't like. You'll be happy to know it won't happen again with "Promulgation Of The Fall" since I really enjoy the twisted cover this time! Whoever drew it did a pretty good job. It fills me fear and fascination, like your music. What does it represent exactly for you?
In the past we’ve always worked with T.Ketola who is a personal friend of ours. However, within the years his reputation has grown very much and he’s been working with too many bands lately so we didn’t want to use an artist who’s being overused – instead we decided to try someone fresh. Ayis Lertas is a personal friend of our drummer and he asked if he could give it a try, after the first sketches that he sent it was obvious to us that he was the right choice… We just sent him some of the lyrics, explained the concept of the album and told him that we want the artwork to look decadent and blasphemous in a similar manner as the early Slayer covers (‘Reign in Blood’, ‘South Of Heaven’, ‘Seasons in the Abyss’). We think that he totally captured the same vibe without copying any other artist’s style.
You performed at Wolf Throne festival last year. I assume you had a great time playing with all those great bands, didn't you?
As it always happens when you play at festivals, you don’t get to see many of the other bands playing, personally I saw DISMA (Pillard is an incredible vocalist), Antaeus (killer as always) and a couple more bands. The line-up of the festival was great for sure.
I saw Dead Congregation on stage twice. Wolf Throne last year and Black Mass Ritual Fest in Finland 4 years ago. Even if was happy to see your band live, you were plagued with bad sound each time. I've read and heard the same criticism from many people who attended other shows. Are you aware of that issue? What's your opinion?
When you’re not playing with your own amplifiers and you don’t use your own sound engineer it’s quite tricky to get the perfect sound, especially with fast music. It’s very easy to have a good sound when songs are slow and the riffs are all open chords but when there’s tons of things going on in the music you must work with a sound engineer that knows how to balance all that, and that’s not a luxury that we always have. However, many people told us that we had a great sound on Wolf Throne, so maybe it was different depending on where you were sitting in the hall? Also, we’ve been told to have a great sound on many occasions. As with everything else, same as with sound, sometimes you have good days, sometimes bad days. We’d like to think that the bulldozer energy of the band is still prevalent, even with a not-so-good sound.
Do you have shows planned for this year? It would be great to see you in France again (with a good sound haha)!
We’re playing Metal Mean Fest in Belgium (August), Kill Town Fest in Denmark (september), a show in Dublin/Ireland (November) and then we’re working on a tour in the USA and a tour in Europe (December/January).
Dead Congregation members also play in different bands. My favorite one is Inveracity, your drummer and bass player's act. Unfortunately, it's been 7 years since the release of the latest Inveracity album. Do you know if we can expect a new album some day?
You should ask them, I have no idea what’s going on with them! They’re taking a break at the moment.
From the outside, it seems the Greek death and black metal scenes has been expanding a lot over the past few years. As an insider, what's your point of view?
There has definitely been a new wave of Death/Black/Thrash metal bands in the last 5-10 years. A lot of them are worth checking out, from the top of my head I can mention Acrimonious, The Psalm (ex-Nocturnal Vomit), Resurgency, Burial Hordes, Necrovorous, Ravencult, Embrace Of Thorns, Acherontas, Exarsis, also Thou Art Lord returned with a great album after many years of being silent.
One of 2014's best death metal album also came from a Greek band, Mass Infection. I guess you know them, don't you? What do you think about your fellow countrymen?
We know them well and played with them a few times but to be honest I haven’t heard their new album yet…
Speaking of Greece, the economic crisis has hit Greece pretty bad and your country went or almost went bankrupt. How is Greece doing these days? Better or worse?
Same shit I’d say. Depends on how you see it, some people haven’t been affected too much, for some things have changed drastically to the worse.
The international DM scene is alive and kicking in my opinion, especially when it comes to dark death metal. Among others, I loved Drawn And Quartered and Gorephilia new albums. This year, Lvcifyre blew everyone away with "Svn Eater". Such a sinister and brutal masterpiece! Have you heard their album? What albums and bands did you enjoy over the past few years?
I totally agree about ‘Svn Eater’, many bands focus their sound on creating a dark atmosphere but I think Lvcifyre is one of the very few that totally nailed it. The music and vocals is completely abysmal. Other relatively new albums I listen to on a regular basis are Tribulation ‘formulas of death’, Ataraxy ‘revelation of the ethereal’, Nocturnal Vomit ‘cursed Relics’, Skeletal Remains ‘Beyond the Flesh’ and most recently I’ve been completely blown away by VANHELGD’s new album ‘relics of sulphuric salvation’.
What's your next plan for Dead Congregation? Do you have ideas for a new album already ? I hope we won't have to wait another 6 years! Quality over quantity though so I guess it's better to take your time...
We hope you don’t have to wait another 6 years either but at the same time it’s too soon to say anything about future releases. We just got ‘Promulgation of the Fall’ out and we’ll let the album sink into the subconscious of the listeners for a while.
I asked too many questions already so I think it's time to let you go. Anything to add Anastasis?
Not really, thanks for the interview.