Interview With Dead Congregation – The Fallen Angel is Rising…


Last Updated on 05:03 PM by Lilliana Tseka

Dead Congregation is a Greek Death Metal band.
I think that this is the way A.V would want me to introduce Dead Congregation. Without some “dark”, “obscure”, “blasphemous”, “brutal”, “true” or any other kind of catchy and modern adjectives .The band’s 10 years of musical presence that has defined death metal worldwide and the 20 years of personal music presence in the Greek music scene, add a specific weight to whatever he has to say, making it even more interesting. On account of the band’s new album release called “Promulgation of the Fall”, we finally enjoy his chattering.

Your second full length album, “Promulgation of the Fall”, was released this spring and got some praising comments and zealous reviews both from Greece and other countries as well. I personally believe that the album truly deserved that.

Thank you for your kind words.

How satisfied are you by the final outcome and which features (composition, technical and procedure-wise) do you believe were established for your future releases through this album?

We are very satisfied. There are always things that you can improve but this album is really close to what we originally had in mind about our music’s presentation. Our sound and compositions were always of a certain style which we evolve and take one step further on every new release of ours.

How different was the process of composing and recording between this album and the ones in the past? You had to deal with finding a new studio and a new bass player.

I compose our material in my house as always, where everything is being worked on thoroughly and then I present it to the other band members. Through the process of rehearsing, some small changes may take place but the basic core of each song has been prepared back in my house. The paradox with this album is that it was instrumental until the final moment. Only after we recorded all the instruments, we came up with the lyrics and vocals. I personally believe that a song’s music should stand out on its’ own and the vocals should be used only to give that extra something when it’s needed, working evenly with the whole and not having a basic role. We also recorded without using a metronome and without fixing anything in our performance as always, because we think that it’s better for the recording to sound natural and human than to sound like it’s been made by machines. We’re not the most skilled musicians on the planet and we don’t want to mislead people into believing otherwise. The studio helped us flat out since the engineer had the lucid thinking and the technical skills required to follow our vision and catch our sound the way we wanted, without imposing any ideas on us about what’s right or not. When we started recording, George (bass) was already with us for a year. He’s our most technically skilled member so he had no problem with our songs at any point. It took us a while in the beginning, for him to learn our new and older songs, but the outcome was more than worth it. His addition to the band was so natural that we feel he’s one of us since forever.

The production of the album is impressive. And that’s more because of its naturalism and the way it fits the songs than because of the recordings’ adequacy and technological perfection. What were your intentions for the sound of the album before you began recording and to what extent did you achieve them?

Our first thought was that the production should be slough sounding to fit the material’s style on one hand, and on the other hand it should be clear enough so that all of our ideas and performances would be distinct. The first album we thought of combining these two elements successfully was Morbid Angel’s ‘domination’. But right after we started recording the instruments, it became clear to us that our sound won’t follow a certain pattern. We simply let it evolve naturally, just the way it comes out of our equipment, which we also used for recording. Everything from the drum set to the amplifiers and the guitars came out of our rehearsal room, tuned and set they way we had them. The recordings are almost live, so that’s why the album is full of the abandon and rage we had while we recorded it. We’re not against well polished productions. It’s just that our sound is somewhere between grimy and tight so our recordings will not be pretentiously rotten, nor will they be artificially clear with no mistakes and everything edited in the studio. What you listen to in the album is the same thing you’ll listen to in one of our rehearsals.

The album gives off the feeling that nothing is placed randomly when it comes to composing. It sounds like an elaborate work from the riffs’ sweeping changes to the flow of the tracks, down to the last detail. Is that true? If so, to what extent does perfectionism not interfere with abandon and hearty expression?

As I told you before, the core of the songs is written and structured back in my house with extreme abandon and the effect of total inspiration. The details added later such as guitar (dis-harmonies), leads, solos etc are simply the final blow. We’re not Beethoven so we don’t compose everything in detail from the start. First of all, we channel the original feeling that we want to express and then, driven by our ears and souls, we enrich our compositions until they sound complete, to the point that we get the chills when we listen to them.

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How important do you consider the fact that you have managed to establish your personal sound and that the people that mention Incantation and Immolation as your main influences are getting fewer and fewer? Do you think that it was a mistaken choice for the people to connect you that much with those bands?

Our first release was definitely closer to our influences, and that was a conscious choice since a not lot of people were into dark death metal back then. Most of all, we wanted to put across our own version of how death metal should sound like, without worrying too much about being original. After all, when ‘purifying consecrated ground’ came out, it was pretty original to play dark old school death like Incantation and Immolation. Unfortunately, this resulted in us getting labeled and while we think that on our new album we have taken our sound a lot further and the band has its own identity, we still get compared by some with Incantation- as if dark riffs, doom passages and deep vocals are their exclusive innovation. What’s funny is that our main influence, were always MORBID ANGEL but no one mentions them next to our name. Maybe that’s because nowadays, being an “original old sound” fan is considered to be cool, so most of the people when they think of MORBID ANGEL they only think of ‘abominations of desolation’, not caring about amazing albums like covenant / domination / formulas fatal to the flesh / gateways to annihilation.

The cover of the album was made by a Greek creator this time (Α. Lertas) and not Timo Ketola who is known from making your previous covers. What made you collaborate with the specific illustrator and kept you from making a “safer” choice?

Safe choices are for those with no confidence or essential vision for their creation. We could easily have signed with a bigger label, record in a well known studio, use a cover made by Ketola (or whoever is hot these days), use chants once again and also use other unsurprising tricks in order to make our compositions work. But renown is not an end in itself and not trying to diverge from the mass even a bit is certainly an artistic suicide. We want to stand out because of our singularity and the quality of our songs, not because of our homogeneity with the rest of our “scene’s” associates. Us being good friends with Timo, made this decision harder but the die had been cast. Agis responded immaculately to our call and proved that you can step out of your comfort zone and still be true to yourself, which is exactly what we wanted.

After the artistic and commercial success (10.000 copies) of your previous album, what was the reason you didn’t sign with a big foreign label (even though the interest by such labels was great) and work with Noevdia (for the LP version), and Profound Lore (for the distribution in the U.S.A.), maintaining full control of your album through your own Martyrdoom Productions?

The main reason was that we wanted to have full control over the album’s release date and the first months of its distribution. We didn’t want to have any leaks concerning our new release and we didn’t want to adrift because of some commercial campaign by some label that treats all its release like a product for exploitation- advertising the product in ways that do not suit our band. Furthermore, the big labels now address to the people that will either be forced to pay 14-16 euro to get the CD or download the album and both of these cases do not conform to our principles. We can easily give our album to a big label for a future re-release, after our true and die-hard fans have already got the album.

Listening to “Promulgation of the Fall”, someone can detect a, not so accidental I imagine, old school aesthetic without you becoming retro. That is to say you seem like you don’t want to be a part of obscure death metal revival (which you pretty much started 10 years before) or the hip extreme metal scene of our time. Wouldn’t it be easier for you to jump on one of these bandwagons and secure your future audience? What’s stopping you from doing that?

The one thing that’s for sure is that we are a part of death metal without caring about all the subcategories. People always try to categorize everything because it’s easier to label something than to understand it through its integrity. We never jumped on any popularity bandwagon and we won’t do it now either, just to obtain or expand our fan base. Under no circumstance do we expect to win an award for being original. We’re just interested in staying true to ourselves and having a certain quality to what we do, without using overused formulas and CERTAINLY without going where the wind blows.

What’s your opinion about underground and death metal, underground or not, these days? In which aspects the scene got better and in which aspects did it get worse?

Look, talking about underground in the year 2014 is a bit funny, at least according to my experience and perception. Back in the day, underground was a hatchery for bands that were still creating their sound and were trying to promote their name, until they were able to sign with a good label and take a rising course. Others succeeded, while others sank into oblivion (until some label came 20 years later and re-released every third-class bullshit in the name of “old=cult”). Now that everyone can record/release/promote their work, without being in need of some label, underground has become an asylum for mediocrity. Of course there are always exceptions. The general pattern is: get the feel of what’s hot these days, record your material cheap, some douchebag blogger will try to look hip and praise it and the people that scorn the well known bands will get their hero to talk about for some time. There’s no other essential filter these days to separate quality from shit, than the passage of time. Yes, these are the good days for old school, obscure Death Metal (or whatever you want to call it), but let’s see who is going to still be there in a few years from now, and most importantly how many of the releases we hear so many strong beliefs about these days, will we remember after 10-20 years. We definitely listen to more interesting stuff now than 10 years before, when KORN for example was supposed to be metal music’s next big thing, but how many ‘reign in blood’, ‘altars of madness’, ‘iron maiden / killers’, ‘mental funeral’, ‘storm of the lights bane’, ‘slaughter of the soul’ etc have been released since 1995? The classic (in every sense) releases since then are not more than I can count on my fingers.

How do you think you diverge from the rest of the occult scene lyric-wise, since there’s a trend being cemented towards anti-Christianity inside and outside the extreme scene? Doesn’t it bother you to be connected with this trend?

To be honest, I don’t really care for new bands (as I said there are exceptions) that much to look into their lyrics but what is certain is that what Dead Congregation do has nothing to do with trends. Our lyrics are a form of artistic expression, just like the artwork and the music and we work according to our inspiration and not according to what people expect from us.

You are a typical example of a band that is more famous in other countries than in your own country. How did that happen? Did you consciously aim for abroad success for some reason?

There’s a big part of the fans that for various reasons chooses to not look deeper and for better or worse does not scratch the surface and doesn’t see beyond Rotting Christ/Septic Flesh/Nightfall and other bands with great reputation. We lose those fans consciously by not signing with a great label. In addition to that, the fact that we don’t want to play gigs all the time, whenever and by being a support act to any great band when we are asked, also costs us the mainstream metal fans because we lose the “opportunity” to present our band in front of a bigger audience. On the other hand there’s the typical fan that scorns the local bands, because it’s not cult to support your neighbor- and let’s face it, for a long time we’ve taken a lot of shit from the Greek scene until some really worthy bands showed up. Finally, there are a few people called haters, who are simply jealous of the success of their neighbor, and for them it is extremely strange and inconceivable that you are accepted worldwide. Our answer to those people is “write your own graves of the archangels or promulgation of the fall” and we’ll be the first to worship you at your gigs and in front of our speakers. We can’t possibly know what happened abroad, since we didn’t send any promos of our work or asked anyone to include us in a concert. I imagine that we were lucky and our name spread by word of mouth to the point that we caught the attention of some booking agents and everything started rolling. The only time we deliberately promoted our work, was for the ‘promulgation…’ album with an advertisement in a local magazine, not to raise our popularity but because we believe that this album is truly worth of being listened to by a lot of people.

Do you feel that you are a part of the local extreme scene or are you more related with bands from other countries? Which bands are “like brothers” to Dead Congregation?

There are some bands that are like brothers to us either because we are friends with the band members or because we have a common vision about music. Without mentioning who is in which category (some of them are in both of them) we’re pretty close to The Psalm (ex-Nocturnal Vomit), Acrimonious, Embrace Of Thorns, Ravencult, Burial Hordes, Convixion, Wrathblade, Dephosphorous, Inveracity, Teitanblood, Katharsis, Archgoat, Grave Miasma, Cruciamentum, Procession and Antaeus. Also, even though this way we might give an excuse to our haters for more negative comments, we bow down before the almighty metal father Sakis and ROTTING CHRIST because of the ultimate ‘Passage to Arcturo’ and ‘Thy Mighty Contract’ and also because after 25 years of successful career, they are still down to earth and true.

What is the importance of performing your material live for you and how do you choose when, where and with whom you will play?

We consider metal to be a music that’s supposed to be played live. There is a directness and aggression to it that is put across very successfully if it’s played live under the right circumstances. The criteria by which we choose our appearances differ. Generally we don’t want to play alongside bands and for an audience that we don’t identify with and we don’t want to play at the same places again and again so that we don’t become predictable and a joke. Every show must be unique, both for us and for the people that will pay the ticket to see us. On the other hand we also have day jobs that don’t allow us to tour endlessly, even if we wanted to. Not playing 200 gigs a year definitely makes you more enthusiastic about the next show but touring for 30-40 days in a row must be a great experience and challenge.

What inspires you music and lyric-wise? What are the pros and the cons of the maturity and the experience of a musician when it comes to adequacy, originality and spontaneity?

We are inspired by Incantation! We can’t wait for them to release an album so that we can steal some more riffs and save ourselves! Kidding aside, adequacy, originality and spontaneity and everything else you mentioned have secondary significance. What counts is the music to be killer, to listen to it and get the chills, to make you want to cry and laugh at the same time and smash everything around you. Some bands achieved this without having technical skills, by being spontaneous (for example Bathory ‘the return’, Rotting Christ ‘passage to arcturo’) while other bands did it without hiding their influences (for example Morbid Angel ‘altars of madness’/’blessed are the sick’  ‘hell awaits’/’seven churches’) and finally other bands did it by paying tribute to the leaders (for example Murder Squad which are as good as Autopsy were during their golden age). There’s no rule as long as the result is substantive and not just a lot of smoke without a fire.

Give us your impression concerning your last two legendary shows –album presentations- within the walls (with Grave Miasma, Cruciamentum and The Psalm). How did the newly founded Κrisis Productions’ people treat you and what was the crowd’s reaction?

Legendary??? If you say so…the guys from Krisis were incredible and more professional than the professionals, they took care of every little detail and they were there to solve whatever problem would come up. The crowd was a pleasant surprise. It was big in number and active, with Athens outmatching the other gig. We may have to dedicate a show to Thessaloniki exclusively in order to fix that.

What are your immediate plans for appearing live?

We’ll do a mini tour at the end of October in the U.S.A., we’re invited to play Redemption Fest in Dublin in honor of the Primordial’s new album release and we’ll be touring all around Europe during the Christmas holidays, so that the next year will begin respectfully.

Before we end this interview, give us a playlist of 5 non-death metal albums that affected Dead Congregation’s music in their own way.

SLAYER – Hell Awaits + South of Heaven
DARK ANGEL – Darkness Descends
MAYHEM – De Mysteriis + Ordo Ad Chao
FUNERAL MIST – Salvation
DARK FUNERAL – s/t EP + Secrets of the Black Arts (people may now scorn them and be ashamed of mentioning them because they have become caricatures, but their older material was storming).

Nikos Tsiolis
Blood Fire Death
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