Interview with Sathonys of Agathodaimon
It took the band more than four years until “Phoenix” was completed, but when it was released in 2009, it was a vital, unconsumed Dark Metal album that summed up the essence of the previous releases while also offering new impulses. After taking a break due to a line-up change (guitarist Thilo Feucht, who helped out on multiple occasions since 2001, joined the band as permanent member) and a realignment that helped to focus on the song writing, “In Darkness” shows a return to traditional virtues. While “Phoenix” sounded very modern and playful, the new album impressively shows the roots of Agathodaimon.
Now the focus is both on the atmosphere as well as the darker mood: harsh blast beats meet lava-like, melancholic Doom, while archaic Black Metal lines up with ballad-like sounds. Also, the lyrics once again are multi-layered, even in terms of the language, as they’re partly in English, German and Romanian. And even though “In Darkness” obviously can’t be labeled as pure Black Metal, it breathes the essence of this style with its focus on organic, sinister and intense sound, using this as base for its own interpretation of extreme music.
“In Darkness” was once again produced by Kristian “Kohle” Kohlmannslehner at the Kohlekeller Studio (u.a. Powerwolf, Crematory).
I spoke with guitarist/vocalist and main songwriter Sathonys about the new CD, tour plans, art and German/Romanian border control.
HMA: Welcome Agathodaimon to Heavy Music Artwork.
Agathodaimon: Hi Alex, thanks for getting in touch
HMA: Four years in the making, how would you describe your latest release?
Agathodaimon: Oh, as you mentioned, it took quite a while, longer than expected, to release the successor to “Phoenix”. This was due to some line-up changes and a period which we used to focus and meditate about the way the band should take. Looking back, we had the feeling that “Phoenix” went as far as we should go, so we decided to focus on our roots, and started the songwriting from scratch. This took some time…
HMA: What kind of response have you had so far both from media and fanbase?
Agathodaimon: Well, honestly I was a bit disappointed regarding some media-reviews. I sometimes had the feeling that the review was rather superficial, only scratching the surface. Perhaps I’m too sensitive regarding this, as I do write reviews for music magazines myself and have a certain code of conduct here. Of course I should have learned to deal with bad(ly written) reviews over the years, but, we do invest a lot of time and energy into the band, and we also felt we did deliver a great product here. So it really hurts if you get the feeling that some writers just had a short listen and then write things that don’t make sense to you, or don’t seem to match and so on… for example there’s been a guy who complained the album is too slow and melodic, while only two days later, I’ve read another one where a guy wrote that each time a melody comes in, it’s getting crushed as the album is too aggressive. So what? Well, at least the fans did really appreciate the album so far, we did receive a lot of great feedback from both new and old fans. And I guess that’s what counts, besides the fact that we’re still really satisfied with the way it turned out.
HMA: How did the record developed in terms of production, songwriting and creative direction?
Agathodaimon: We did a pre-production with our producer Kohle for some songs, others we did pre-produce completely at home. Songwriting was split between our guitarist Thilo and me, but of course the other guys also had their share and input. In the beginning, we had lengthy discussions about the way the album should sound, and in which direction we should head. And of course we did discuss the progress of the songs in various stages.
HMA: Would like to give us a walkthrough on your past releases leading to “In Darkness”?
Agathodaimon: Well, we did release two demos before we finally recorded “Blacken The Angel” in 1998. The next album “Higher Art Of Rebellion” was recorded in 1999, we went to Romania back then to be able to work with our vocalist Vlad who was a founding member but wasn’t allowed to return to Germany in 1998. We tried various legal and not-so-legal ways to get him back to us in time, but then decided to go to Romania instead. Sadly, the situation didn’t change, and also his musical interest did develop into other directions, so we finally decided to simply continue with our vocalist Akaias (who in 1998 was still meant as temporary replacement) and recorded “Chapter III” in 2001. I’d say it was a good combination of our first two albums, the debut being rather traditional Black Metal, the 2nd one rather progressive, featuring a ballad and very unusual song structures etc. Some line-up changes followed, and in 2004, we did record “Serpent’s Embrace” which was very melodic in comparison. Some more line-up changes followed (our vocalist Akaias did move to Norway, for example), resulting in more delays, until we recorded “Phoenix” in 2009.
After “Phoenix”, we quickly started with the songwriting again, but at a certain point we realized that the music develops into a direction that doesn’t sound like Agathodaimon. This was hard to explain, as we don’t really have limits to what Agathodaimon sounds like – but it’s the feeling that’s important, and I simply couldn’t “feel” the music anymore. The songs were good, but they didn’t touch me. And the majority of the band felt the same – so we decided to take a full stop, and start from scratch again. It was like some sort of diet to our sound, we wanted to get rid of all unnecessary details, so the album was meant to be rather old-fashioned. Less synthetic sounds, we even hired a violin player etc. About the artwork, perhaps you do see some similarities between this one and “Serpent’s Embrace”. I do see “In Darkness” as alternative time-line. It’s the album that could have followed “Chapter III” in a parallel universe, hehe.
HMA: And the artist in charge of “In Darkness”?
Agathodaimon: This was Hicham Haddaji from Strychneen Productions. It was quite a struggle to finally find someone that could do the job. I spent a lot of time on portals like deviantart, but finally stumbled over some artwork of Hicham on Facebook… so, I dropped him a mail, and we talked about the album. I did send him some pre-produced songs as inspiration, and things went from there…
HMA: One thing I noticed from your artwork… you have a lot of architectural features. Is there are reason for this?
Agathodaimon: Hm, not really. On the first albums, we did work a lot with Gerald Axelrod, a photographer from Vienna, who released some great photo books about Angels, mythological places and so on. I liked the aura of his pictures a lot, he has a great eye for composition and detail. And they matched the feeling of our music.
HMA: What trials and tribulation have you experienced in your journey?
Agathodaimon: Well, don’t know what to pick out here. Let’s pick one of many; in the beginning, we had a good connection to the German underground scene. I was working for fanzines, organized concerts for bands we’ve been friends with and so on. As soon as we signed to Nuclear Blast, a lot of shit began; people complained we’d have become “commercial”, and some of the bands I was in touch with began to talk behind our back and that was really disappointing. And it made me wonder how childish the black metal scene back then was. I did receive anonymous death threats and so on. How stupid is this? Of course there have been more important obstacles, like the trouble we had with our original vocalist Vlad. Right after we recorded the second demo, he decided to move back to Romania (after living in Germany for many years), but didn’t realize he wouldn’t be allowed to return to Germany. He came to Germany with his mother during Ceaucescu’s reign, but of course once he left Germany, authorities denied the return as Romania was considered as a safe country meanwhile. So, as mentioned earlier, we tried to get him back, even tried some unusual ways, but it didn’t work out. That was a constant pain in my back, for years.
HMA: What has been the high point of your career?
Agathodaimon: Hard to say. There’s been many which felt like the high point… doing the first gig, recording the first song, first album, first time playing at Wacken… but I guess having your first album in your hands is the most remarkable moment. I guess that’s when we felt like “wow, we’re a real band now”. Or playing shows with bands that you’ve been a fan of for years.
HMA: I believe that your main lyrical theme is “darkness, occultism, vampirism, demons”. Can you elaborate on these topics?
Agathodaimon: Hm, I guess that everyone thought vampirism is part of our lyrics because we had a vocalist by the name of Vlad but he wasn’t referring to the fictive character from Bram Stoker, but to the historical person of Vlad Dracul. And then there’s been a song called “Neovampirism”, but this wasn’t about vampires, but the way society sucks 😉 But of course darkness is an important element in our music. It doesn’t matter so much how aggressive a song is, it should always be dark, have a matching undertone. Same with lyrics. No happy shit here. Music should be heavy and larger than life.
HMA: Future plans or tour?
Agathodaimon: Yes, we’re currently trying to get a tour done. Hopefully we can announce this shortly. And of course we’ll soon start the songwriting for the next album, perhaps do a 2nd video clip to one of the songs on “In Darkness” as well.
HMA: Thanks for the interview and for your interest in Heavy Music Artwork.
Agathodaimon: Thanks for your support; we do appreciate it a lot! Feel free to check our website and get in touch, we love to get feedback.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2013 © Heavy Music Artwork.