With „The Abyss“, melodic death metallers NIGHTRAGE conclude their trilogy influenced by „Dante’s Inferno“ and look into the titular abyss: With a pessimistic view, the Greek-Swedish combo draws a gloomy picture of the future of self-destructing mankind. We talked to band mastermind Marios Iliopoulos about the dark concept and what humanity needs to change to prevent the inevitable doom. We also talk about the familiar band structure, the band’s basic principles and that sad losses like that of Children Of Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho can be a lesson.
Hello Marios, thank you for taking time to do this interview. How are you these days?
Thanks for the chance to let us talk about our new album “Abyss Rising”. I’m fine here giving a lot of interviews for the new album and promoting the release on all our socials around the net. We are super stoked with the new songs and we can’t wait to share them with all our fans out there.
„Abyss Rising“ concludes your Dantes Inferno inspired trilogy. What fascinates you so much about Dantes journey through hell?
It’s our singer Ronnie Nyman writing all the lyrics and he is always getting inspired to write about very apocalyptic themes, very dark stories that has to do with the demise and catastrophe of our own civilization. That concept on the three last albums has some sort of continuation, it starts with “The Venomous”, then to “Wolf To Man” and up to the last new album “Abyss Rising”, so his story has to cover a lot of ground and it took us three albums to complete this dark trilogy. It’s also the fact that this story fits so well with the music that we are playing, and both lyrics and music for us are really important and we want to make people think. We are not preachers of course, but at the same time we are concerned what is happening in the world and we want in a way to share our worries, that we have taken the wrong lifepath as humans, and we need definitely to change our attitude towards our own civilization otherwise we will face the consequences.
How does „Abyss Rising“ concretely continue the story started on „The Venomous“ and „Wolf To Man“, what new elements does the album deal with?
Before on the two previous albums we were walking towards our own extinction, now on “Abyss Rising” we are already in the hell that we have created for ourselves and there’s no turning back. We are done. It has always been mostly the “Inferno” part that speaks to us. We like the narrative and the painting depiction of our most common human traits.
“Hell” is something we create upon this earth. It’s the darkest part of us humans and it lives in all of us. We all carry our own hell inside of us. And when that darkness seeps out from within and pollutes our world around us we create our hell right here on earth.
I think the guy on the cover, pierced by arrows and badly wounded, is Dante? What is the idea behind the artwork and how does it represent the album?
What you see on the cover is Dante, sitting wounded and wondering about the abyss that is coming from the depths of hell to claim us. The concept of the album is also loosely inspired from “Dantes inferno” and the different levels of hell that he experienced.
You described the album the last part of your “conceptual trilogy about the unavoidable demise of mankind”. That’s kind of pessimistic, but also not unrealistic. Why is it inevitable and do you think humanity has taken its chance and learned anything through the pandemic?
Yeah, I know that it’s a very dark concept, but it seems as humanity we always doing the wrong things, instead choose to do what is right.
I really hope that at what we are describing on our dark concept to not finally take place, but as you know and as history has shown us many times in the past, we humans never learn from our own mistakes in the end. Hope we are learning our lesson now with Covid and see how fragile we are and how things can quickly change from one day to another, everything can be lost. I want to believe that we are smart enough to understand this and do something about it, change our mentality and be better for ourselves and also our fellow human beings, and in the end our own civilization. Find salvation and save this earth.
What would have to happen for humanity not to continue running toward its own demise?
Really hope not more bad things. It seems we are so ignorant and we still carrying this rotting apathy with us at everything we do. People need to change their attitude and start to care about each other, spreading love instead of hate and darkness. Caring about our nature and also for the next generations that they are coming after us. What kind of world we are going to give them? Hope not destroyed territories, we are all responsible.
How has Corona affected NIGHTRAGE in the making of the album? What have you had to do differently?
Well, we are unstoppable as it seems, we have recorded this new album during the pandemic and I took the risk twice to travel to Sweden to record the drums with Dino, and then to mix and master the album, and that alone was a huge risk as I didn’t know if I will have a return flight back. But NIGHTRAGE is always priority number 1 for us, and we do the best we can and under any circumstances we have to face, we are doing the best for the band. We used to do this for many years now and NIGHTRAGE is a way of life for us, a friend that never turns your back to you, no matter what.
There was often a lot of movement in your line-up. To what extent does it influence the band, the songwriting and finally the music on an album when the line-up carousel turns again?
To my experience that line up thing never ever affected our creativity and never was a problem when it comes to songwriting. We are always ending up having quality on our albums and keep our signature style intact. Hope we will have the same line up forever, since the atmosphere in the band now is excellent, love all the guys in the band and we have a nice family spirit, I think its good that all these changes happened, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to meet and play with these nice fellas.
While I was listening to „Abyss Rising“, I had to think of Children Of Bodom a lot. How do you feel when a young colleague like Alexi Laiho suddenly dies at only 41? What does this trigger in you, do you possibly rethink the „typical“ way of life of a musician?
That’s a really sad thing and for all of us it is a lesson to be learned and stay away from quick fixes like alcohol for instance. It’s too bad to see such talent to be a waste really, we wanna be here and create good music. Of course, you never know what kind of problems and demons Alexi had to face and in the end, it was too late for him to be able to save himself from the abyss that he has fallen into. He will always be remembered for his talent and great metal spirit.
Children Of Bodom have of course left a big gap in the melodic death metal scene. How do you see this scene itself and your place in it?
There is still a lot of great bands that play that style and we are happy to be a part of the scene and give everything to make it even better. Even though some older bands changed their style a lot and play something different, there is still some great bands around that carrying the flag and release great albums.
You are very true to your Gothenburg type of melodic death metal sound. How do you feel you have improved or changed musically since the trilogy began with „The Venomous“?
I think there is a lot of improvement on our songwriting department and me, Magnus and Ronnie have an almost holy songwriting trinity now. We have a great atmosphere and vibes when it comes to songwriting, there is great chemistry that is helping us creating all these songs, because we trust each other and we are accepting each other ideas without any stupid ego.
When you write songs, do you move within a certain framework? So do you think „This riff and this chorus must sound like NIGHTRAGE, this melody doesn’t sound enough like Gothenburg“ etc.?
No, we just jam our own ideas and that’s how we are coming up with the songs you hear. We don’t have any formulas or scenarios, we are grabbing our guitars and start to play. It’s simple as that, we are not trying to make a specific style, we just want to create the best songs possible and that’s where we are putting our focus into. But for sure all ideas need to be damn good and into the metal spirit.
A song like “Falsifying Life” has an extremely catchy melody that you can hum along immediately, but also has an aggressive side. I would even say, for a genre fan this is feel-good-music. What is most important to you in your songs, what do you want to transport and effect in the listener?
Thanks so much. glad that you liked the song. This is where I think it’s one of our strengths as a band, trying always to balance a sweet melody with aggression. I know we have rough vocals and heavy guitars so the only place to add a nice melody is coming from the guitar melodies department. So we pay a lot of attention to come up with killer melodies that will drive the song, and if that is something that will bring more people to our music it’s even better. We want to write super heavy and catchy songs that can grab the listeners attention, and also try to find the perfect balance between brutality and ethereal melodies. Songs like the ones you just described, hope that’s the case and that they will stay on our listeners ears, and they will come back asking for more.
Besides “Falsifying Life” you released “Nauseating Oblivion” and “Abyss Rising” as singles before the album release. How do you decide which singles to be released and do you think these three songs represent the album best?
We wanted to have some balance, so we started with an energetic song like the title track “Abyss Rising” and then we wanted some more hooks, so we decided to go with “Falsifying Life”, “Nauseating Oblivion” contains elements from the previous two with also a different touch. So, we think that these three songs are very representative of the sound of the new album and a nice introduction to what “Abyss Rising” is.
Your debut album „Sweet Vengeance“ celebrates its 20th anniversary next year. How do you look back on the album today? Ever thought of re-recording it?
That was the beginning of the band, and I went through hell almost to be able to record it and find a label, but I think it was worth the effort, and I’m so happy that people still coming to us and talking about this album. I don’t think that we will ever re-record it, it’s better to leave it like it is and not change anything, because at least for me, it’s perfect like it is.
Let’s conclude with our traditional brainstorming. What comes to your mind first when you read the following words?
Current favorite album: Hypocrisy – Worship.
Best Movie-/Series-/Book-Universe: Flash Gordon, The Mandalorian, Davinci code.
Biggest non-musical influence: Stray dogs.
Traveling: Sweden, Athens, Volos.
Something that makes every bad day better: Music and friends.
NIGHTRAGE in ten years: Still active, more albums, playing somewhere in Japan.
Thank you once again for your time, Marios! The last words are all yours.
Thanks so much for the great interview, wanna send my warmest greetings to all our fans out there, check the new album on the 18th of February and support NIGHTRAGE.
Stay metal and beware of the abyss.
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