Septicflesh | Interview with Chris Antoniou

Five years after their premature split Greek Dark Metal group Septicflesh has reunited to grace us with their most complete, cohesive, and bold work to date entitled “Communion”.
Guitarist Chris Antoniou, graduated at London College of Music with a Master's Degree in Concert Music and responsible for the terrifying orchestrations displayed throughout the comeback album, explains the reasons that lead to their dissolution in 2003 and the motives that prompted their return. Read on…

Eighteen years ago, Greece spewed forth a dark and sinister Death Metal act named Septic Flesh, who would later reveal to be one of the most innovative and interesting bands strolling through the underground scene. Considered an integral part of a revered Hellenic movement comprised of bands like Rotting Christ, Nightfall and Necromantia, the Greeks gained a cult status on the basis of their eerily dark and superb releases punctuated with orchestral arrangements and esoteric, mythological lyrical concepts.
Unfortunately, Septic Flesh incomprehensibly split up shortly after their most successful and acclaimed work “Sumerian Demons” was released in 2003. Although the reasons issued by the Greeks were a bit unclear at the time, some interviews with Septicflesh’s members somehow hinted that the band was disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm from their long time fans towards their latest and irreverent works “Revolution DNA” and “Sumerian Demons”.
Was this the primary reason for the band’s split up or there were other reasons?

“Although some people felt strange with our evolution and didn’t follow it, there were more new people embracing it. So the band was actually gaining more popularity and a wider fan base with each release. And taking under consideration the potential of the labels that released those albums, we managed to push it to its limit. It is indicative that “Sumerian Daemons” continued making good sales even after our split. So basically, it was a critical point that all the members wanted to focus more in their lives. There were different personal dreams, besides music, that were pushed back due to the degree of attention that Septicflesh demanded. And we all felt that we couldn’t do everything at the same time and right as deserved.”

The core of the band, namely Sotiris Vayenas, Spiros Antoniou and Christos Antoniou have been playing together for nearly twenty years now, so I believe there’s a strong friendship and chemistry between all of you. Would you say that you are three different individuals with different personalities, tastes and interests that have developed this chemistry over the years with diplomacy and understanding or would you say that all of you have that the same goals and interests musically?

“We are different and strong personalities. Yet there is a strong bond between us. Also those different musical perspectives that each member carries combined provide this chemistry as you say and form something unique. It is necessary all the mentioned members to be together so that the characteristic Septicflesh’s sound would be achieved. In addition each one pushes the other to go further, to extend his limits.”

The reason I’m asking this question is that you ended up forming The Devilworx after the demise of Septicflesh that had the same attitude towards music yet through slightly different channels. So it’s hard to imagine that musical disagreements were on the basis of Septic Flesh’s split up.

“Devilworx was basically something Seth wanted to try with Fotis. I was glad to help but my basic project is Chaostar as I can focus completely in experimentation with neoclassical and modern forms of music. Also Sotiris created a solo project called Aenaos, but he didn’t had a chance to promote it, as the reunion happened at the same time and he focused on Septicflesh leaving the project on the ice for a future time. We are restless minds as it seems. Concerning Septicflesh we all agree to the direction that we want to lead so it is something that makes us all happy.”

Do you see similarities between both bands, musically speaking?

“Devilworx is something very different from Septicflesh. I think that if someone is not aware about the fact that some Septicflesh members are involved he wouldn’t imagine it. It is more row energy and rhythm and not darkness, mystery and atmosphere.”

The new album “Communion” sees a change of direction to a heavier, darker sound close to the early works of the band. I wonder, what prompted this slight change of direction?

“It came naturally from the beginning that we tried played together again and we all liked it. It seems that with the passing of time we tend to become more extreme in all ways. So “Communion” is extreme in heaviness yet also in atmosphere.”

It also sees the band stripping off the electronic elements that characterized the latest two records, was it a conscious decision from the band to ditch the electronic sounds?

“Yes. We wanted natural sounds as the backbone of the album than synths and samplers. That is why we incorporated into our music a full orchestra with a full choir. We were very cautious to blend this element well with the traditional metal sound and form something solid.”

“Communion” has a somehow cinematic scope, with terrifying choirs and orchestrations that sound at various stances like a cryptic film score in the vein of Jerry Goldsmith’s “The Omen”, are you influenced by movie soundtracks when it comes to arrange the orchestrations?

“Yes. We all love to listen to soundtracks. Basically, we wanted to make “Communion” a kind of dark metal occult soundtrack. Our music was always “visual”, portraying various moods and having peaks and climaxes. The themes of “Communion” were also very cinematic as you say. For example if you read the lyrics of “Persepolis” and listen to the music you will probably start to visualise them and feel deeper the emotion of the song. We are very proud for the final result.”

Which artists/performers do you respect the most and could be called as inspirational?

“Stravinsky, Danny Elfman, Basil Poledouris, Death, Morbid Angel, Celtic Frost and many more.”

The album also boasts a powerful production once again courtesy of Fredrik Nordström and his Fredman studios. Are you happy with the end results, how would you describe the relationship between the band and the Swedish producer?

“We have a very good cooperation and understanding with Fredrik. So now was the third time we used his genius. The sound of “Communion” is heavy as Hell and yet balanced. The orchestra is not lost but very strong and you can clearly hear all the little details. As you can imagine there was a lot of work involved but the result speaks for it self.”

Septicflesh always had somehow intricate lyrical concepts running through most of their albums, does “Communion” have a similar approach?

“Sotiris is always the main man behind the lyrics. He hasn’t changed his views through the years and so “Communion” continues in the same direction. Someone that follows the band from its first album would sense this kind of continuity. The lyrics become gradually more straightforward and at the same time deeper.”

The cover artwork portrays a surreal animal figure with enormous horns, where did the inspiration for the cover come from?

“Most people think that it is a computer generated image, but actually it is a photo of a real statue created by a friendly artist. When we first show it, we were amazed from the evil spark behind its eyes. It has animal, human and alien elements creating a strong symbol for the cover of an album called “Communion”. As you can guess, Seth loved it so much that he decided to use this art and use his art only on the special limited edition of the album.”

All members of Septicflesh have successful careers outside the band in areas like graphic design and music production. Do you believe it is important to focus in other commitments, interests other than the ones revolving around the band?

“In order to succeed in these areas you mention, we left Septicflesh out from our lives for so long. Now, we feel less pressure as things have taken their way and it is easier to sacrifice some time for Septicflesh. It is something we do for our pure pleasure. And we feel good being back from the dead especially as we have a lot of new musical ideas to explore.”

And how is your musical production for video games going?

“Great! I am preparing the musical background for a next generation console game called “Wardevil”. It is a very interesting experience. You will have the chance to hear the result and play the game of course, probably at the beginning of 2010. It is a huge production and I am thrilled to be on board.”

Following the release of “Communion”, what are the immediate plans of the band?

“Touring around the world. There are two tours confirmed until now for this year. The first one with Vader, Devian and Inactive Messiah and the second with Cradle of Filth, Gorgoroth, Moonspell and Asrai. Also we will appear on this year’s Hellfest.”

"Communion" is already available via Season of Mist.
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