Battleroar (GR) 2008 line up

Battleroar Interview

«There should be a balance between ’80s heavy metal and the necessity for an effective epic atmosphere»

Greek Epic Metal pioneers are back, new album, new more and powerful shows and a new interview on Forgotten Scroll. Marco Concoreggi the singer of the band answers our questions. Enjoy!

Hail to BattleRoar and welcome to Forgotten Scroll.

Hail to you Chris and thanks for the interest in the band, we are proud to be featured on Forgotten Scroll!

Well I think that this album is the best that the band has released so far. So to get started, please share with us a bunch of information about the recordings of the album. How long has it taken you to record it? Where did you record it? Are you satisfied enough with the sound and the production? Would you change anything if you could?

Thank you. I also think this album is our strongest. I’m not referring exclusively to the compositions, I mean as a whole product (performance, production, artwork etc.) this is, in my opinion, the most professional release of the band. The recording of the new album were originally supposed to start much earlier, but truth is we didn’t have enough material. Having a member in Italy and another in London slows down the writing quite a bit if you are a Greek band. We originally planned to record demos of all the new songs before entering the studio, but only two of them were actually realized, and at different times. The first one was a version of “The Wrathforge” engineered and produced by Chris Tsoukalas of Basement Sound Studio at Neo Iraklio, Athens, where we usually have our rehearsals. The second song we did was “Metal from Hellas” and we had John Boulamakis as a producer. We chose to record the whole album there because it’s a place we know for a long time and we feel very comfortable working there. Chris is a very good friend to the band and both him and John worked many extra hours under very difficult and strict circumstances to deliver the best possible sound and take the very best performance out of each one of us. The recordings and mixing took aproximately more than one month. We did first drums in January, then rhythm guitars and the bass, and I finished vocals at early February. Leads and mixing came right after. I am very satisfied of the final result. There are surely details I’d like to change, small things though that don’t spoil my pleasure when I listen to the album.

Give us some information about the compositions of the album. Does it include new compositions that have been brought to life only for this album or did you include  older Battleroar compositions that remained unpublished until today?

After the release of “Age of Chaos” we indeed came up with new ideas for songs that still remain not fully developed and therefore didn’t make it to the album, but they were not full band’s compositions but mostly personal demos that single band members were working on. I think we rehearsed only one song that was “dropped” and even then it was not complete.  “The Wrathforge” is the first song we started rehearsing all together, since it was originally written right before the recordings of “Age of Chaos”. Then came “Finis Mundi”: the band had the music ready when I came to rehearse and I remember that weeks before I had gone with some italian friends to see a theatrical piece, a musical comedy called “Alleluja Brava Gente” which, in spite of his humorous character, had such a strong atmosphere that convinced me I had to write lyrics about the main subject, that is the feared passage between the years 999 and 1000 a.C. The song has nothing to do with the comedy, but fact is the music called for some medieval theme and there it was, quite a coincidence (if you believe in them)! I think in the same occasion we also rehearsed some riffs for what would eventually become “Oceans of Pain”. The very last song to be completed was “Death Before Disgrace”. When I came to Athens some weeks before the recordings, to finalize arrangements for the new songs, the song was still “work in progress”. In the last days at the studio, the lyrics for this one were finished half an hour before recording the voice, and most of the vocal lines were improvised. We had a strict deadline but wanted so much to include this song because we felt it was one of our strongest.  When we make a new album we generally prefer to work on fresh material. The only exception in the past has been “Deep Buried Faith” that was already “old” when we recorded “Age of Chaos”

I know that the album also includes some songs that Marco has composed under the band name Hyrkanian Blades before he joins the Roar. Can you give us some info about those songs as well?

Yes, some of those songs were more or less re-arranged and used for “To Death and Beyond”. However, some of them were written for the band and in the end all the members liked them that’s why they are on the album. This is the case of tracks like “The Wrathforge” or “Metal from Hellas” which originally featured different music for the chorus. The main riff for “Hyrkanian Blades” is probably the oldest, being written around 2000. The song remained incomplete until I joined the band. Manolis heard it and between “Battleroar” and “Age of Chaos” he completed it and recorded a rough demo of the song at Versus Studio, where we made our first album. He sent me the song and I finished lyrics and melodies. The song was then reworked for the new CD, we added the drum intro and the the new riff for the solo and pre-solo part, so we can say this is song an original Battleroar by all means. Another track with a curious genesis is “Warlord of Mars” that was originally called “Down Eros, Up Mars”, a line taken from the Ben Hur movie. I did a bet with my friend Rigas Patsiantas from Volos (that I haven’t seen for some years now). I told him I would write and record a song in one day, from scratch, and that’s what came out. It is strongly influenced from Omen and Iron Maiden and although it was written fast and “for fun” I like it very much because I think it captures well the sincere passion that we have for heavy metal.  Being very straightforward, it doesn’t differ much from the original demo. Only the lyrics were changed and the new ones refer vaguely to the saga of John Carter of Mars from R.E.Burroughs, mixed with some heavy metal imagery.  “Born in the Seventies”, on the other hand, was not written with Battleroar in mind, but the guys liked it and so it made it to the final playlist.

In your opinion what are the main differences of this album compared with the two previous ones? In which musical elements do you think that the band has presented an evolution or change?

I think this album can potentially be enjoyed also by people that are not strictly into the “Epic Metal” sound of bands like Bathory, Doomsword, or Manowar’s Into Glory Ride. Their music has that masterfully “thick” dramatic and epic atmosphere that nowadays is a necessary ingredient of the genre. Battleroar, of course, is an epic metal band but if you think about it, even Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol they didn’t have that dramatic thickness at all. Take a song like Ninth Wave, it’s thick but in a totally different way. What I mean is, in my opinion (and this is exclusively my personal idea) there should be a balance between the straightforward uplifting drive of 80s heavy metal and the necessity to build an effective epic/dramatic atmosphere. I think our new album is well balanced, also because there are different writers in the band.  The other main reason is that we matured as composers and performers, we’re technically a better band now (four our own league, that is). The continuing collaboration with Alex Papadiamantis, who plays electric violin and keyboards on the CD, also allows us to include more acoustic/atmospheric passages that give breath to the big “epics” on the CD. I think this album is an improved, more mature and better performed synthesis of what we did with the previous two. It is still far from being perfect but, for the time being, it’s good enough to make us very satisfied.

In this album the band presents a solid, mid tempo and even more Epic musical background. Do you think that this background will mark the future releases of the band as well?

I don’t know yet how the fourth album will sound like. I think with each new release we try to add something new, keeping the best of what we did before and learning from the previous mistakes. It’s also true that in the new record there are parts we couldn’t perform on the previous for strictly technical reasons, so I think for the next one our goal is for the band’s performance to be stronger and tighter, to keep improving. For the writing, I don’t think there are huge stylistic changes to be expected. We haven’t talked about it yet, but I’m sure the whole band will agree if I say that we want it even more powerful and rich and we want to take special care of the arrangements. I especially like the guitar sound and the overall result on tracks like “Finis Mundi” and I would like to be able to capture that “punch” for a whole album, very heavy and very epic.

In the album we can hear some really inspired acoustic parts; also the usage of violin provides an extra, mysterious and apocalyptic touch to your compositions. It was also a big surprise to see the band performing on stage using an electric violin as well. How did you come up with the idea? How can the sound and the usage of the violin be combined in a natural way to the Epic sound and musical background of Battleroar? Did it take you long time to work and combine all this stuff?

Kostas (Tzortzis, our guitar player) is mainly responsible for this developement in our sound palette. I remember that during the writing for “Age of Chaos” he expressed me his desire to add different instruments to enrich the sound of certain passages and when we started working with Alex things came out quite naturally. Sometimes it’s also a matter of putting the right parts on the most suitable places. There is a demo of “Born in the Seventies” with violin parts which, musically speaking, is beautiful but when you work with an instrument like that you have to be very careful not to go against the original mood and feeling of the song. It did not take too much time to get used to each other and to decide what is best for the band, because Alex is a highly  experienced and accomplished professional. I think in his case the hardest thing in playing with a heavy metal band is the “live performance” factor, when the sounds on stage especially in small clubs are all messy and unbalanced and you can’t hear yourself well, something that doesn’t happen for example in a theater when you’re performing a totally different kind of music and you aim for the beauty of the sound and the perfect control.

Five or six years before it would sound unbelievable to me if I notice an Epic Metal band on stage using electric violin played in a incredible special way by someone wearing a My Dying Bride t shirt. Times change am I right? (and well done to you who take the risk to bring those changes in the –sometimes- close minded Epic Metal crowd)…

Well, I think it depends on the genre we talk about. You can’t play US Metal with a violinist on stage, because it doesn’t make sense. A song like “Warlord of Mars” needs only guitars, it works as it is, if you add more it becomes a burden, not an improvement. But if you are a band that has some US Metal songs and some Epic songs, you can have the violin only when it is needed. It’s not a matter of being open minded, it’s a matter of logic. If you have songs on the album where the violin plays an important role and you want to perform them live, then you have to bring the violin on stage, or to use a backing track. Since Alex likes to play with us and we are very privileged to have him during some our live shows, there’s no reason for us to use a pre-recorded base. As for the My Dying Bride t-shirt, you speak like that because you still haven’t seen his Burzum one! I play heavy metal and I also listen with pleasure to early 90s Peaceville bands, and I can’t see why he shouldn’t have the right to show he likes a band which in a way pioneered the use of lead violin in their metal style.

Which is your favorite track from the new album? Why?

I have two favourites. One song that I feel it is the most balanced and beautifully performed on the album, and it is “Finis Mundi”. I love how the song evolves from the suspended and ethereal intro to the massive electric riff, and then comes again acoustic  and I sing my favourite part on the album, and I always think of JD Kimball every time I am about to sing it, because I think that was a part for JD. I like the whole song, that medieval misty magic that for example Thatcher had in their song “Esmeralda”. I love the solo at the end of the song and the fast part that closes the song, I thibk it is my favourite Battleroar song up to now. The other I like because it’s one of the first riffs I ever wrote and one of my most loved ones, and seeing the song complete and part of this album makes me feel very happy and accomplished. It’s also because it’s full of R.E.Howard references, the Eye of Erlik, the Living Tarim, etc. The first lyrics of the song “In a time when children sing of magic, lords and rings, as the eagle spreads its wings, we rise”, mean that while some children borrow images and ideas from what they believe is the best heroic fantasy (The Lord of the Rings) for their own songs, we follow the rebirth of the R.E.Howard US Metal eagle that never betrays and we rise like the Hyrkanian riders of whom the song speaks about.

Born In The 70s” is the ultimate hit from the new album? What are the lyrics are talking about?

The main idea for the lyrics was born one night while speaking with my friend Guido from Assedium. The song speaks about living for the hystorical period we belong to, we are sons of the 20th century. Ancient myths and heroes, although legendary and respectable, are dead and gone, but there are new myths and new heroes that forged the imagination of children born in the 70s. Back then there were TV serials, movies, toys, videogames, comic books, expressions and products strictly related to a society that was living in a specific historical moment in time, and we were children of that society and children of that moment. And I think that this is the way the most genuine and naive US Metal was born. You live in a time when Alien movies are born, when Star Wars and Rambo come out, when the great action heroes like Stallone and Schwarzenegger rule the big screen, and the Marvel comic books in the 70s and 80s see their golden days, there is the cold war and the wall of Berlin, spy games, the nuclear menace, the wound of Vietnam is still fresh, I mean it’s clear in those days you could come out with great US Metal. It was all there, the conquest of space, the first men on the moon, the birth of home computers, the hope in the future. We hoped the technology and the scientific progress would take us to the stars and that everything would be alright. The young bands were singing about the power of the youth and that united we could take the world by storm to a new beginning through electricity, heavy metal and Star Trek optimism “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. The decay of our society is trying to take us down, but we, the born in 70s, we still believe in this dream and we live day by day and don’t give up saying that it’s over , and as long as there’s life in our veins the ideals and the hope for a better future will never fade.

Another favorite song of mine is Dragonhelm. What topic is hidden behind the lyrics?

This is one of the new songs Manolis wrote, music and lyrics. It’s inspired from Tolkien’s “The Children of Hurin”. The title of the song refers to a mystical helm that belonged to the House of Hador. Crafted by dwarves, made of steel and adorned with gold, it had the power to guard any who wore it from wound or death and to bring fear to the hearts of all beholders. Upon its crest, was represented the head of the dragon Glaurung, from which the name Dragon Helm. I think this is the most straightforward song we have and it’s one of my favourites. For me this is the “german” heavy metal song of the album and I’m always happy when we rehearse it.

Leaving specific songs behind, can you give a general point about the lyrics of the album? Is it –in a way- a concept album or something?

No, it’s not a concept, although some songs feature themes that could relate in some way to each other and to the title, but it didn’t happen on purpose. “The Wrathforge” is about fighting and dying at war without a cause, wasted young lives sacrificed for greed and power games. The first part of the song speaks about this subject using modern warfare imagery, the second part does the same in a sword and sorcery version. “Death Before Disgrace” also refers to war and the lyrics speak about the front cover theme, where warriors slained still keep on fighting after death in their ghost forms. “War is its name and it binds you with chains of thunder”, it means that war is a mark that some people are destined to wear forever. It also means that there are people that will never give up fighting for what they think is a good cause, and not even the death of their physical bodies will stop them. In a way it means that we will never stop upholding our ideals and our vision and the true passion for the music we play. “Oceans of Pain” is a song about dying at sea. A young boy leaves a coastal village to roam the high seas in search of fame and adventure, only to find his own doom as a grown man that, alone in the ocean, watches the flames devouring his ship in the distance, as he hangs to the pieces of wreckage waiting for certain death. The lyrics to “Metal from Hellas” instead are my personal tribute to the Greek Mythology, as I learned it when I was a small kid. It’s not accurate because children are not. It’s just a collection of images that I wanted to use to express my love for the land of Greece and all those who fight to keep heavy metal alive there.

Will the album be released in any special editions? Any chance for a vinyl edition?

The album was released in a digipack edition for the Keep It True X festival and the Up the Hammers earlier this year. It featured an embroidered patch with the logo and the star of chaos, and the Manilla Road cover of “Morbid Tabernacle / Isle of the Dead” originally released on the Solemnity Music tribute to M.R. It was a limited pressing and I was told it’s sold out by now. The regular version is a jewel case edition without patch and bonus track. I know there are plans for a vinyl release but I still don’t have detailed news at the moment.

Any live shows or touring for the new album?

We played a small number of european shows at the beginning of April, to promote the release of the limited edition of the album. We had the chance to open the tenth edition of Keep It True in Germany, and then we moved on to Swizterland where we played a show near Zurich. Our third and last show before Up the Hammers III was in the north of France, at Colmar. We’re going to visit Rome on november 21th and we’ll be in Spain for the first time the day after, for a festival in Barcelona with Avenger. We have plans to play some more gigs in the fall, including an headlining show in Greece to present more songs from the new album, but it’s still early now and unfortunately I can’t provide further details yet.

Marco has managed to build a magnificent voice; I think this album is his best with the Roar so far. What is his secret?

Thank you very much Chris. There is no secret actually. I am aware I am not a mature professional singer and what I’ve been trying to do during the years is to keep on studying and progressing in order to give a solid quality contribute to the band. I am not happy with my previous performances on the first two records. The heart was there but the voice just wasn’t. I can understand the negative criticism that came, since I felt the same way myself. On this record I’m not saying I did big things, because there are thousands of better singers and performers than me, but I think the vocals this time are as good as the music, they fit well the parts and contribute in a good way to the final result. This is the first record I am really satisfied about myself. Since my range is still not so wide I tried to be as expressive as I could and to present a more varied style throughout the album. I am far from having the technique I’d like to have but that’s my goal for the future and the albums to come.

You are one of those Greek bands that started like everyone else, doing raw live shows in front of 20 people, releasing CD-Rs and all the similar stuff that we are all aware on the beginning of a band. The point is that Roar has managed to stay, they exported their name outside Greece marching to all European stages, they have delivered three albums improving their sound from record to record and they are one of the main names when the topic focus to Greek Epic Metal scene. On the other hand almost everyday we are noticing bands with talent and inspiration to release only one album or demo and then to fade away What is the secret or the method you are following in order to R E M A I N ?

Personally, I’m not the most “tactical” member in the band. When it comes to everything different than writing and playing I’m basically a fish out of the water. Most of the activities related to the promotional and financial side of what we are doing I would not be able to perform them, it’s a matter of character. It’s however an extremely important part of a band’s activity, as much important as the writing, the recording and the shows. You can’t go anywhere if you don’t take care of the “business” aspects and for business I don’t mean we are earning money, I’m just saying that to make things work when you have good songs, you have also to work a lot on your own to be able to record them and release them and care about the promotion. In the underground scene even the best labels can’t do all the work for you, you have to help yourself and it takes time and sacrifice. We have the passion to make it because as you see we live in three different countries but in six years together we never gave up. I personally don’t have any other big interest than heavy metal and my loved ones, and my job that allows me to earn money to work on my (heavy metal) dreams. That’s where all my energies and my time go, and the same goes for the other members of the band. We are a united band and our goal is to keep it going and release more good albums. There’s not a secret of a method, it’s just the strive for professionality, the dedication and most of all the really hard work of the founding members Manolis, Kostas and Nick.

What will the future bring for the war machine called Battleroar?

God’s willing … more heavy metal albums and more heavy metal shows!

Beside Battleroar, Manolis your guitarist organizes one of the most important underground events in Greece, I am referring to Up The Hammers Festival which is organized once a year featuring the main forces of the underground Steel. How does he manage to find the time to run  Battleroar, festival, day job etc….?

Band, festival, day job, Olympiakos and now his own family! Manolis is going to get married June 7th! Well I don’t know how he manages to handle everything, but fact is that without Manolis I think there would be no band. We’re all working hard but he is taking charge of key activities vital to the band’s life and he’s the one that keeps the band united in difficult times. Manolis carries a heavy load on his shoulders that sometimes people don’t credit him for, bur for him it is not a burden because you can see how much he is into this scene, and how much heart and passion he puts in the band and in the festival, far from mere “business” reasons.  And don’t forget his virtues come from being one of the ancient Knights of the Medieval Kindgdom of Peristeri.

Thanks very much for the interview. Close the interview as you like.

Thank you Chris for this interview, and my excuses for sending back the answers with such a great delay. We really appreciate your support and wish all the very best to you, Forgotten Scroll and your readers!
EPIC HEAVY METAL … TO DEATH AND BEYOND!