Interview with Wrathblade
For a few years now Wrathblade have been one of my favorite active heavy metal bands, and last year’s devastating God Of The Deep Unleashed just solidified that. Though they’ve been around for fifteen years now, they’ve only put out a handful of releases, and their relative lack of activity made me want to know more. For the uninitiated, Wrathblade play pounding epic metal the old way, bringing plenty of influence from classics like Brocas Helm, Manilla Road, Manowar, and more. There’s not really a bad place to start with their music because all of the band’s material rules.
At the band’s request, the interview was conducted in a cut and paste format- if any of the flow of the conversation comes across as awkward, it’s probably because of that. Responding members of the band are Giannis (drums) and Nick (vocals).
Hey guys, thanks for agreeing to do an interview with me! You guys have been a favorite for a few years, and I’m excited to do this with you. First, am I missing something, or have you guys not been interviewed since the Metal Squadron one a few years ago?
Giannis: The pleasure is ours Brandon and we truly appreciate your support! Yes, it’s our first interview after Metal Squadron when it comes to a non-Greek publication or website. I am not sure how much people read interviews nowadays though. Back in the days, an interview by an underground band we listened to was the only way to come in touch with what they were doing. Now, all this unstoppable storm of information every single day messes things a bit, but that’s how it goes.
Do you guys still read interviews and physical zines? How do you approach new music?
Nick: Personally, I do not like E-zines, I do not like e-books in general, I can only read what concerns Wrathblade (laugh)! But, I love to read ‘physical zines’ in every aspect, concerning bands that I like or not, actually it don’t matter; it’s a matter of taste, it’s something I used to, I don’t know!
New music is always fine when is strictly related to traditional heavy, power, speed, doom or hard rock (laugh). But, we, as musicians, have to “observe” what happens around us. In other words, new music always offers something valuable – we are not fond of the new trends but you can absorb things that can make you better, you can use some things (it may concern, musical texture types, attitude or mentality) to create something plus, something new to your style in order to differentiate your band from others and to keep the music alive in general – it’s up to you though, to filter all these influences and to match ‘em to your playing.
Wrathblade has been around for almost fifteen years now, but your first studio album took nearly ten years to materialize, and your second another five years after that. When Wrathblade formed in 2003, did you guys anticipate the amount of time it would take you to start getting full length albums out, or that you would manage to stay so true to the core of your sound despite some evolution?
Giannis: We have indeed been playing for 15 years now with the same line-up. Yes, we are very slow but to tell you the truth the first couple of years we produced nearly 1/3 of the band’s material. It took us long to record our first LP and that happened with our second album also. But, that’s fate. Our jobs, families and all our personal obligations are keeping the band where it should be all these years. I mean the band is our main interest out of any kind of obligation. It’s only pleasure, not business. And we like to keep it that way. We do not really care if we make albums quickly. What we care for is doing the best record we are capable of.
Greece has a reputation these days as being a hotbed of some of true heavy metal’s strongest and most diehard supporters, boasting some of the best epic metal bands in the world as well as a couple of the best labels for this type of music. Has this been your experience dating back to the dawn of the band, or is it a more recent phenomenon?
Giannis: Yes, this is quite true. And I can tell you that Wrathblade is basically a band that was formed by fans in order to continue the underground heavy, epic metal legacy of bands of the 80’s and 90’s we worshipped. In the mid-90’s we had a very small scene in Greece, but almost each member was contributing in it by writing in a fanzine, playing in a band or whatever. Reading “Singing Swords” fanzine was an underground encyclopedia on its own that would definitely introduce the reader to the best underground metal of these days such as Ironsword, Doomsword, Solstice and loads more. “Steel Conjuring” took it further with all those rare and great underground LPs of the 80’s been reviewed, making us searching to copy these albums in a tape and check how do they sound. Reading an interview with Cirith Ungol in a time when everyone had lost traces of the band was a huge success. There was also a pub near my place that was totally into underground metal. It was the place I first listened to the newcomer band which was called The Lord Weird Slough Feg and immediately grabbed a copy of the same-titled CD from the local distro. What a record!!! Later on, (I think it was 2000) Greg from Eat Metal Records organized the first gig in Europe for the mighty Brocas Helm and it was a gig anyone watched will never forget. 350 crazy guys going berserk during the whole set making Brocas Helm watching them without even believing what they were experiencing. We had some really high hopes for the European scene, bands like Battleroar, Raging Storm, Airged Lamh, Crush, Denial Price and many more that were keeping the scene tight as the crowd could still attend underground gigs quite often. So, this not a recent phenomenon. There was always a strong scene in Greece that nowadays has become popular mainly because of festivals like Up the Hammers and the Internet.
What are some of your favorite newer bands right now from Greece? Do you guys have any many strong friends in the scene that you play many shows with?
Nick: Mainly I stick to the old ones because I grew up with them, but newer bands have also the attitude and the guts to play nice, to evolve and to progress. Some of them have a great future and keep moving toward their dream with persistence, I can say that Sacral Rage is a class band and very talented, Sons of Iniquity, Doomocracy, The Temple, Tidal Dreams, Hands As Wings, are also bands that I like most.
Since I am fan of the Greek metal scene many years now and part of the scene due to being member of a band, I/we developed strong bonds with many Greek acts, and there is always a fun and pleasure gigging with most of them. Convixion, Sons of Iniquity, Sacral Rage, Valor and the list goes on and on…
Before Wrathblade, Nick sang in Macedon Harriers in the ‘80s; however, he appears to have vanished from metal in the years between the Rise Again demo in ‘87 and the birth of Wrathblade in 2003. What was the cause of the years of inactivity?
Nick: The very truth is that Chronis the bass player and founder of Macedon Harriers sang on that demo EP, I wasn’t even a metal freak back then – I found metallic happiness in later life (1988) (laugh) and I started singing ten years later (1998), where my first “real” band was/is Litany founded in 2000. By the way, the release of Macedon Harriers’ full length album is close at hand.
That’s great news! What’s Macedon Harriers’ lineup looking like these days? I’m very excited to hear that a debut album is finally coming after all these years!
Nick: For now, Macedon Harriers should remain on ice (various reasons, but mainly because we cannot manage our busy schedules). The last line-up and the one that recorded the album included founder members Chronis Kiriakidis on bass and Michalis Karatzas on drums, Tasos Despinidis (guitars) (ex Raging Storm), Panos Lampropoulos (guitars) (Mallediction, Ordeal) and myself, Nick Varsamis, on vocals.
Even as far back as that Macedon Harriers demo, you guys have sang about Greece on your music, and with Wrathblade, that focus is even stronger. What is it about Hellas that inspires this deep love for the genre, which in turn inspires the music that you make?
Nick: As Greeks we feel more comfortable singing about ancient Hellenic mythology than, for instance, delineating the characters, heroic deeds, myths and legends of ancient Nordic tribes. On the other hand, telling about Mythology is profound – you can suit the deeds and facts of the past to the ones of the present or to exercise foresight, in other words, we try to tell stories that are closely associated with the world of today.
Do you try to match those stories to your music, or do you match your music to the stories you want to tell? How do they intertwine?
Nick: Mainly music comes first; in other words, let’s say that “stories are modeled after music is created,” you know it is more convenient and actually more effective to do that than the opposite. We usually try to suit lyrics to music tempos, that is, think of a song that has different “qualities” (it could be for instance, solemn, raw, heavy, etc) and match lyrics on these qualities. That’s one of our objectives man!
Greece has a long history of epic music appreciation- even the most epic film score of all time (at least in my opinion), that of Conan The Barbarian, was created by a Greek composer. Does that musical tradition influence you? What non-metal music is a big part of your lives?
Nick: In many respects, tradition feeds upon us but we are still able to deal with it – an ongoing process – it’s like the eagle was sent from Zeus to feed off Prometheus liver which later grew back to be consumed again the next day (laugh). Speaking for myself, I adore traditional-folk music which has nothing to do with Poledouris (lol), it’s not that evident to our music, actually we do not want to be that evident, we try to assimilate tradition into our heavy epic-cum raw style without “You” knowing it (laugh again)
Giannis: The soundtrack of Conan the Barbarian has indeed some incredible music composed by Vasilis Poledouris, but I think this is the best thing he ever did. Go on YouTube and click “Mythodea” from Vangelis Papathanasiou. Watch this concert and after that read about this event. Look for where it took place, what are the lyrics telling and what is the concert’s connection with NASA. That should be enough I think.
How important is imagery to you and your music? Does the music come first, or the tales that you wish to tell?
Nick: As a lyricist and “musician,” imagery is very crucial to the development of the whole thing. Actually, everyone who deals with music has to do that– I respect almost every band that is doing this– for me music and lyrics are of equal importance. It has many benefits too, and it’s a good thing, you cannot hide from the listeners, you are true to yourself and to others. As you can clearly see I am a crazy bastard, so you’d better stay away from me (laugh)!
As a related question to that of imagery, Wrathblade’s logo features a sword impaling the band’s name. The powerful imagery of the sword has been a part of epic metal from the start; is the sword in your logo due to a deeper interest in swords, fantastic or real, or was it a choice more based on the aesthetics of epic metal? Do you guys have a favorite sword (or swords) from fantasy or from history?
Giannis: Yes, this is our first logo, after some changes we did over the years. Kostas, a close friend of the band offered to draw our logo and I think it was mostly based on the aesthetics of epic metal. My favorite sword is the one drawn in “Into Glory Ride.” I suppose you did not expect an answer like that!
What led to the decision to have the mighty Poseidon as the main figure of your new album, as opposed to another god of the ancient Pantheon? How important is your aesthetic to you?
Nick: Actually there is a whole plan behind this; the idea was to “use” the three God-kings (Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus) in each of the first three albums; Hades, the god of the underworld is depicted on our first album (Into the Netherworld’s realm), Poseidon, the god of the sea and waters is portrayed on God of the Deep Unleashed and eventually, Zeus will be the chief-figure on our next album yet untitled. We find it nice and has a flow, nothing by chance, nothing by luck!
How has Wrathblade’s support, both locally and internationally, changed through the years? I saw a lot of good sentiment about the album from fans of the epic heavy metal sound; what does that mean to you?
Giannis: It’s very important if fans from the scene who share the same musical taste as ours embrace the band. It somehow works like a proof of us being in the right path. We have a quite strong following in our hometown Athens. Not that big, but mostly loud, which is perfect actually! When it comes to international fame, we had a lot of warm response from all over Europe from our first 7 inch and that was increasing after ever release until today. We are not a top-seller band but I suppose people who buy our albums are into it! At least the majority. Now, concerning our new album we got highly noticed from U.S.A. which was not the case in the past and that is awesome. Perhaps it was Jason Tarpey’s fantastic review that pushed it (and we truly bow for the support). As we have been informed from our label we have been selling quite good in U.S.A. and we can tell that underground is going stronger again there!
I read in the Metal Squadron interview that Wrathblade ramped up playing shows following the first album as a way to promote it; has there ever been a Wrathblade tour or international concerts?
Giannis: We have played once in Hammer of Doom Festival in Germany in 2012. And we are coming back in Germany for Riddle of Steel Festival in December. After that we have been playing within Greece and once in Cyprus. No tours or any other international concerts. Too bad though. We would love to play in other countries as well. We cannot go on a tour. Even if our personal obligations allowed it, it would still be impossible, as bands of our style do not have that fanbase to make a tour happen. But there are loads of festivals out there.
Have you ever gotten an offer to play overseas in the Americas?
Nick: No, we haven’t any, but certainly we’ll love to play overseas, and it may happen, who knows?
Do you have anything else you’d like to talk about?
Malengine and corruption thy fake purity
Abnormal evolution, perfect insanity
Remedy for heretics that shall relieve the pain
Thus to unleash their powers and no one to remain
But this is not allowed, the truth is by our side
We’re gonna lift our hands high, the blade is gonna ride
Our souls are bound together for one pure, simple cause
To restore Heavy Metal upon the usurper’s throne
The shinning sword’s our weapon filled with hatred and wrath
It shall breed death, destruction; it’ll lead us to glory’s path
More battles yet to conquer, more battles yet to come
But, sure our voice shall be heard, all the way across the land…