Epic/power metal powerhouse ARRAYAN PATH are back with "Αρχέγονοι", their 7th full-length album and the third one in three years. We had the chance to chat with Nicholas Leptos, vocalist/songwriter/mainman of the band, and learn a thing or two about the new album and his views on the band's roots and the future. Enjoy.
Greetings guys. As always, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. So, how have you been lately?
Hello and thanks for the interview! We have been great! Really excited with our new album coming out in a week or so!
Let’s get straight to the point: you just released “Archegonoi” [Nov, 2018] via Pitch Black Records. How does it feel to release your 7th full-length album and what’s the feedback you’ve got so far?
It really feels great to reach album number 7! We haven’t received much feedback yet but so far most of the reviews have been great.
When announced, it was said that it’d be a return to the roots of the band. Is there a connection between this and the title, “Archegonoi”?
There is no connection to the title. The title represents the content of the lyrics which in turn refer to tales and events from the ancient world, thus ‘ΑΡΧΕΓΟΝΟΙ’ 😉 I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that the actual title of the album is ‘ΑΡΧΕΓΟΝΟΙ’. The term ‘Archegonoi’ was a necessary evil just for the ‘non-greek-speaking’ sites so feel free to use the original name of the album.
Which do you consider to be the core elements that form the original sound, the so called “musical roots”, of the band? What’s the main differences when comparing the past and the present?
Well, Arrayan Path has a specific sound whether we play epic metal or power metal or whatever. I’m not sure if there is a certain sound that we wanted to go back to this time. What we wanted basically was to play epic metal again. We didn’t really aim for the songs to sound like our debut album, we just wanted to set aside ‘power metal’ for the moment and find the mindset we had when we were starting the band. Arrayan Path started out as ‘lyrical epic metal’ with lots of drama in it and this is what you hear in our new album. We are well aware that it’s very dangerous to change your style with every album as some people may hear you for the first time playing power metal and then might be disappointed if your next effort is something else. And vice versa of course. So it’s possible that power metal websites will hammer it haha!
But anyway, we are not trying to re-invent something, we are simply being ourselves. We are not trying to prove anything to anyone and we are not competing with other bands. We don’t care if this sounds like our debut album or not. That wasn’t the goal. The debut is one thing and this is something else. These are our most productive years and we are creating our legacy. We don’t want to trap ourselves into a specific sound because we don’t want to have to explain anything to anyone if one day we change our style.
Given that your sound has evolved a lot throughout the years, how does the idea of revisiting your sound and going back to your musical roots sounds like?
It’s a bit scary! We haven’t played like that for many years, even though we usually have slow-tempo epic songs in all our albums. But it’s been a while since we made a full-on epic album. To tell you the truth, it’s possible that some amount of ‘power metal’ ‘leaked’ into the new songs as well. We tried to eliminate the little bastard but he keeps trying to get in!!
Can you tell us a few things about the theme of the album? This is the first album since “Road To Macedonia” with the most references to the history and myths of ancient Greece. How did you choose the topics for each song?
Yes you are right about that. If I’m not mistaken, the last time we mentioned Greek history or mythology in our songs was 2011 (7 years ago) in our album ‘Ira Imperium’. So here is your answer as to why we did it! It was overdue and it is one of our favourite histories and mythologies. We also like to explore other countries’ folk tales as well but Ancient Greece has something magical. You feel it when you visit the ruins and you sense it when you read the books.
How important is Greek history and heritage to you when it comes to composing music and writing lyrics? I’m asking this as there’s at least one song in each ARRAYAN PATH album that links back to ancient Greek history.
I think ‘Chronicles of light’ did not have any song about ancient Greece. Just the cover artwork! Our history is what inspires me to write most of our music. I write music in the ruins (there is a great temple of Apollo and Aphrodite here in Cyprus), I write music by the sea (and as you know most ancient cities were built by the sea so the people would see the enemy coming) etc etc. So yes, our heritage is very important to me even though, as I said before, I admire history and myths from other cultures as well.
“Archegonoi” is your first double album. That’s a lot of music to digest, let alone to compose it. Is everything in the album new material or were there any song from older times?
Actually, the composing of this album is dating back 10 years! When we started adding power metal in our music, all the epic compositions were left aside. With each album we had to decide which songs would make it to each album and some of these songs would always be left out because they would not fit the rest of the music. Of course these are not leftovers; we just couldn’t use them in most of our albums. ‘IV: Stigmata’ was about biblical stories, ‘Dawn of Aquarius’ about Kali, in ‘Chronicles of light’ we decided not to use mythology, and ‘Terra Incognita’ had to have ‘oriental’ sound because it was our first time working with Vangelis Maranis (no need to explain that I’m sure). Plus, all these songs could not be separated. They could only be together on one album! I think with the exception of ‘Lion of Amphipolis’ and ‘King of Argos’, all the other songs had older versions from years ago. If I remember well the chorus of ‘Rod of Asclepius’ was written around 2008.
This is the first album in a long time where Stefan Dittrich isn’t a part of it. Instead, you’ve got legendary WARLORD drummer, Mark Zonder, to record the drum parts. Was replacing Stefan planned or was it a result of unforeseen circumstances (eg. other commitments etc)?
We never had a permanent drummer. Mark and Stefan and Chris from our debut album were session musicians. I was talking with Mark during the Warlord tour and asked him to play because I always wanted to work with him. I have a lot of respect for Stefan and I’m hoping we can continue working together in some of our upcoming albums but I thought that a ‘non-power’ metal drummer would suit the songs better this time. And of course he makes the album sound closer to Warlord. To tell you the truth, with this album we wanted to combine my favourite bands: Iron Maiden and Rhapsody.
You’ve worked with Mark Zonder in real life while in WARLORD. However, I’d be curious to learn how it was to work with him on your own music. Did you provide any guidelines or did just let him “loose” to do his thing? Did everything happened through the internet or did you fly him to your studio for to perform his parts?
No he recorded his drum parts in his studio in Los Angeles. We sent him a pilot track of the guitars plus an mp3 with some programmed drums so that he would know the structure of the songs. But he had full freedom to try anything he wanted! Actually, I felt very bad each time I had to ask him to make minor changes. But he was always polite and professional. A great guy to work with!
While we’re at it, I can’t help but ask: are there any news from the WARLORD camp? Is there anything we should be looking forward to in the (near) future?
No. Things are pretty stagnant at the moment. I’m not sure there will be any more concerts or an album. But you know, things could change as we speak. To tell you the truth I have no update as to what is happening at the moment.
Coming back to “Archegonoi”, would you like to share a few things about the actual making of the album? When was it recorded, who’s responsible for mixing, mastering and the overall production of the album?
It was actually recorded before ‘Dawn of Aquarius’ came out! It was produced by the band and engineered by George Eracleous here in Nicosia. It was mixed and mastered by Simone Mularoni in San Marino. It was a hard album to write, record and mix! It felt like we were trying to complete a metal opera. Like a huge jigsaw puzzle that had to be put together!
If there’s anything else you’d like to share about “Archegonoi”, this is the time…
Hmm..we know it is a long and difficult album. We knew that from the beginning that this album would be an Odyssey from the making. Some people who are used to our shorter songs with catchy choruses might not get it. There are millions of bands and releases so it’s hard to give albums a second chance if they don’t win you over from the first listen. I am a metal fan of other bands too so believe me, I get it! But I’m hoping that in time, and if they give the album a few more listens they will discover more and more things within the music. They will take a journey!
You’ve been on a long spree of releases through Pitch Black Records. What’s the secret for such a long-lived collaboration? What do you seek as an artist from a label nowadays?
We have had a long relationship with Pitch black and we are generally very happy with our collaboration. The secret to a long-lived collaboration is the same as the secret to a relationship or a marriage. Both sides have to know when to stand down. You have to know the limits of your label and they have to know the value of their bands. We have never had any serious issues with our label and we trust Phivos (the owner) with our eyes closed.
Even though all of your albums are of high quality and your production values meet the global metal scene standards, ARRAYAN PATH seem to keep a low profile. For example, despite the numerous releases your live appearances are very limited throughout the years. Would it be fair to say that ARRAYAN PATH works primarily as a creativity vehicle with no further aspirations?
Yes it’s safe to say that. We do like to play live, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always been about creating music with this band. A few good concerts here and there are great but this is not a lifestyle I would choose to follow. Music is a hobby for me. You do a hobby because you enjoy doing it. If it becomes a job the magic is gone.
This takes me to another question. You’ve managed to release three albums within three years. That’s a tight schedule if you ask me. Was it because of contractual obligations with your label or was it more of a personal decision?
It is a personal decision. If you are a band that doesn’t tour but writes music very often, then it makes sense that you will have to release that music at some point. We never rest on our laurels. If we make a successful album, we will not sit on our asses for 5 years, bragging about that album and doing nothing creative whatsoever. Especially us singers, we have an ‘expiration’ date. I’m not going to waste 5 years ‘playing’ rock star. The only one who decides how often we put out an album is the band. If our next album doesn’t match the quality of the previous album it’s a possibility yes.
Successful albums come under all the right circumstances and when the planets align. That can’t happen every time. We are well aware of that. But at least we can say we tried to move on! This is the philosophy of this band.
Was everything in these albums new material or did you had leftover material from previous albums?
Many vocal melodies and riffs were quite old. But they were not completed songs. There were no leftovers from previous albums. The lyrical content and music of the previous albums was totally different.
Some of the greatest bands in metal music have released two or three albums in a similar timespan as you did. However, these were other times when albums were shorter, allowing for multiple releases in short periods of time. Were you ever concerned that releasing music at such a pace might comprise your creativity as a songwriter or the overall quality of your albums? For example, why not wait and choose the strongest moments from each album to produce fewer and perhaps more impactful albums?
The answer to that is simple. Who decides which are the strongest moments in the album? If I ask 100 people I will hear all sorts of opinions. If I ask the band members I will hear different choices. Even myself, I change opinions every week about which is my favourite song in the album! So it’s all subjective. We thought that all the songs needed to be in the album. To be honest, the only song I wanted to be leave out and include it in our special edition was ‘Where the hydra hides’ but the decision we took with our label was to keep it in. Maybe if you ask me in a year I might be able to tell you that ‘hmm ok maybe this and this could be left out’, but at the moment it feels that all the songs had their place in this album.
But yes, you are right; it is very risky to make a second album so close to the first and a double-one too! But, so far all our albums have been sold out which means some people like what we do, so I think we have good judgment criteria regarding the decisions we take for this band. We hope it will be the same with this album. As I said, ask me again in a year!
That said, what does the future hold for ARRAYAN PATH? Should we expect another release any time soon? Are you going to perform any live shows for promoting the new album? Are you considering taking a break?
I guess everyone is dying for us to take a break huh? Ok maybe we will this time haha! Of course a break for ARRAYAN PATH is 2 years the most so you are free to hold your breath! We have lots of ideas for songs but we have to work on them to see if they can evolve into good songs. We don’t usually put out an album because we have songs lying around waiting for their turn. No. They’re just parts and melodies here and there that need to be worked on.
As for live shows, yes we have something planned for Greece very soon and we will see where it takes us. Perhaps this time we can do more shows. Besides, we have 7 albums now!
Any cool music that you’ve listened to recently that you’d like to share with our readers? Doesn’t necessarily have to be a metal/artist.
I will not mention the usual stuff. I am a big fan of power metal and of course progressive and epic. If you like melancholic prog you should check out the new RIVERSIDE. That’s a masterpiece. I have also been listening to some great Greek bands like the latest REFLECTION, SORROWS PATH, SACRAL RAGE etc. What else.. aha yes I am checking QUEENS’s discography after having seen the movie!
I believe we’ve reached the end of this interview. Once again thank you for taking the time to do this – somewhat lengthy – interview. Best of luck with “Archegonoi”! I’ll let you to do the closing. Cheers!
Thanks for this great interview! Hope you like the album and maybe see you in one of our live shows soon to be announced! Regards from Nicosia!