Septicflesh: Greek Giants of Symphonic Death Metal

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After an original incarnation among Greece’s 1990s wave of black metal, Septicflesh moved closer to rock structures and took a pseudo-Gothic turn before disbanding. When the group reemerged in 2007—following guitarist Christos Antoniou’s compositional studies in London—it did so in grand fashion, reinventing itself with the backing of a full orchestra.

With Titan, the band’s third album since reformation, the Greek quartet delivers another epic, Gothic dose of symphonic metal. Strings, horns, harpsichord, and percussion complement death-metal brutality, now with the addition of a children’s choir on top of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. We Skyped with Antoniou to learn more about the band and its latest titanic offering.

What did you want to accomplish with Titan? What story does it tell?

The album is not a concept album, but the lyrics revolve around a variety of things and stories. There are some connections and common elements between different songs—for example, the manipulation of the masses through fear is the common element between “Order of Dracul” and “Prototype.” Also, we have the song of “Prometheus,” [about] the bringer of the fire—you know the Greek story. There are many elements with many meanings in our lyrics.

[The commentary] is general. We speak about the planet; we’re not talking about the crisis in Greece and these kind of political subjects.

Septicflesh
Photo by Seth Siro Anton

How was it to work with a children’s choir for the first time? Had any of them heard Septicflesh?

No, no, no…[laughs]. Unfortunately, I was not there for the recording of the children’s choir. There was one percussion guy [in the orchestra] who knew the band, who listens to metal. But the majority of the musicians, they’re very professional. They don’t care about whether this is for metal or film—they just play the music. This is their job.

But the children—it’s good [that they didn’t know], because some parents might have problems. They don’t know the band, and now it’s too late.

Are you always mindful of striking a balance between metal and orchestral?

At the end of the day, we play metal. Although there is a balance, the metal part has to have a more dominant role. And this is more distinctive in the production because many things from the orchestra are not so evident. It’s a matter of sound engineering, but at the end of the day, the aggressiveness works better when accompanied by the orchestra.

What are the logistics of playing with backing tracks?

It’s very easy. Everybody has backing tracks now. Some people complain to us, saying, “Why don’t you have an orchestra live?” And we’re like, “Come on…even Metallica would not be able to have an orchestra for [a tour].” It’s very, very expensive.

We had one offer to play with an orchestra in Athens, but many things are going wrong in Greece right now with the [financial] crisis. Maybe sometime we’ll have the opportunity to play in France; it’s easier to play there with an orchestra.

Is the crisis affecting your careers? Can you talk about the necessity of writing in English to be a successful international band?

No, [it’s not affecting us] because we have our career outside of Greece. The politicians have made everything wrong, and there’s so much corruption. Greece took the wrong path, and now we’re paying the price.

If our lyrics were in Greek, no one probably would ever listen to us. The music business [requires English] in order to make an international career. There are some exceptions, like Rammstein. But in more commercial music—commercial in a good way—you need to sing in English.

We need our country to develop. [Elsewhere in Europe] they have many studios where the government pays. In Greece, the government only creates problems for the bands. There is no support system.

The Greek music—radio, TV—everything sucks. America has a rock attitude. Sweden, Norway—they have a rock attitude. [The local scene] is better than it used to be when we started in the 1990s, but it still needs work. We have a label, Prosthetic, that supports us, which is most important.

This interview originally appeared in ALARM 42 (2014)