Greek Prog Metallers FORTRESS UNDER SIEGE return back in action with their third "Atlantis" album, to be released this fall on Rock of Angels Records. New album, new record label and the most important new people on the foreground. The band's spiritual father Fotis Sotiropoulos (guitar), patiently answers to all the questions about the new album, the hard decisions, the steps forward and the future to come.
Hello Fotis and FORTRESS UNDER SIEGE. Nice to have you back for a new interview. Thanks for taking some time to answer my boring questions! Six years have already passed since the “Phoenix Rising” release. But now FuS are back with their forthcoming “Atlantis” album. Since the band’s reunion and the 2011 full length, this is actually the longest period that we had to wait for new FuS material. So how did you spend those 6 years as far as the album creating? Which process was the longest? Composing or recording?
We never stop composing new material but the truth is that recording took as quiet long this time, especially if you consider the fact that we started pre-producing the new album, the moment we finished producing “Phoenix Rising”, which is spring of 2014. The real reason for all this delay was that we were trying to stabilize the band’s members. It took us a long and troubling time but it worth trying.
Speaking about composing, I am taking notice of 12 brand new FuS tracks on “Atlantis”. Is this totally new material or have you used any hidden jewel from the 90s or previous 10s era?
It is totally new material, except of ‘Spartacus” which is a combination of new and old material (it is a new variation of GLADIATORS’ “Naked Demon”) and “Lethe” which used to be the intro of “Naked demon”. In ‘Vengeance” also the main riff comes from the early 90’s.
I am noticing a serious musical evolution on the stuff and I would for sure point that “Atlantis” is the most Power Metal oriented release of the band. You -in my opinion- follow this Scandinavian melodic and sometimes dark path of the -Power Metal- genre while keeping the classic Prog touch on the spot. So, how we should call this? Evolution? Talent? Different influences? New persons on the band? Or what?
Who knows? You can never tell for sure about these things. Every album we make has a different approach, that’s for sure. If you exclude “Phoenix Rising”, in which Balakakis left his mark and the album sounds more melodic, the rest are very powerful. “The Mortal Flesh of Love” was very powerful also, although more progressive and darker. The only difference I can mark, is the more professional and heavier production that distinguishes “Atlantis”.
From the music to the people. There are some important changes on the FuS line up and I have some questions about them. Correct me if I am wrong but as far as I can remember after Alex Balakakis left (2015) from the vocal slot, you were supposed to work with Nick Roussakis. Why this co operation never happened?
Nick is a very talented musician and a good friend, but is not that much into metal music anymore. He likes more prog and lyrical paths. We wrote together an exceptional song the time he spent with us, “Silence of Our Words”, but quickly lost his spark and we decided to part ways and stay friends.
The next vocal chapter was Mike Livas. A quite ambitious addition on the band. I still remember this amazing debut live show on my festival back on August of 2016, we were all blown away! Mike stayed with the band for quite sometime, he even entered the studio and begun to record the “Atlantis” material, but the mission was not completed. What happened? Why Mike left the band?
The problem with Mike Livas is his orientation. His big ego does not let him being a proper member of a band. He tries to use each band he takes part, for his own personal goals. This is the only thing that interests him and to tell the truth, he does not hide it. Even if we had seen this coming, we decided to support our choice in the first place and make the record with him. It turned out to be a major mistake that cost us in both time and money, but fortunately in the end we took the right decision and saved the game.
Ok the vocal slot was empty again and you had to fill it. Well.. instead of looking for a new vocal replacement you… transformed your original rhythm guitarist to the… vocal slot. So Tasos Lazaris is now on the microphone. How you come to such a decision?
The real question here is why Tasos was not our singer from the very beginning. Better late than never.
You were brave enough to re record all the album’s vocal from scratch. I guess this process took some good time, or not? Has Tasos re arranged vocal melodies and stuff? How easy or difficult was the revisit of the existing material under a new voice?
It was a tough decision, even though all the musical material had been pre-arranged. Nonetheless, Tasos’ magnificent vocal skills made it seem very easy and quick.
With Tasos on vocals It was obvious that you needed a new rhythm guitarist. And it seems you found it. You did you come in touch with Themis Gourlis?
A friend of mine recommended Themis, he came in touch with me, I showed him the material, he put all his efforts in it, he became our rhythm guitarist. So simple.
Except from Tasos and Themis, were there any other line-up changes on FuS?
No, apart from the fact that our previous bassist, George Kritharis, helping us when our bassist, Alex Stavrakas, is away on the ship, since he earns a living playing with a band in cruise ships.
New people and new album, so I guess we can safely talk about a FuS new era. Right?
Every new album marks a new era. Sometimes new members also do, especially a new singer.
Let’s get back to “Atlantis” I want some good info about the recording process and the production. I want all the good details, the names, the places and a little feedback about the overall process. Hmm this time I am not noticing you -Foris Sotiropoulos- and Ioannis Nikolakopoulos on the production desk. Why??
Actually the last word of what happened in this album was mine, since I was the main composer, but it is the professional’s’ opinion that leads the way and weights the most, which in our case is Fotis Benardo. So I think that it would be unfair for him to share the credits of the production with me. Fotis is a good friend of ours, a remarkable person and an astonishing professional. He led us perfectly throughout the whole recording process, which took place mainly in Devasoundz Studio, he made the mixing and finally, he recommended George Neratzis for the mastering, an experienced professional who has worked with worldwide artists like PAIN OF SALVATION, ABBATH, DARK FUNERAL, GUS G. As said before, we recorded almost all vocals with Mike Livas and then we had to record them again, something that cost us money and time, eight full months went lost. Fortunately, we took quick and decisive decisions when things reached a dead end and Tasos took over.
How long did it finally took you to record, produce and master “Atlantis”?
We started recording the drums in early September 2017 and we took the final master of the album in late November 2019.
So the final “Atlantis” result should get out to daylight. Rock of Angels is the label that will put the album out. Have you looked elsewhere before?
Yes, we sent our material to several labels worldwide and every single one of them wanted to sign a contract with us but we had to reject all offers because their terms were an absolute joke. All these companies exploit bands the worst way and give nothing in return. They actually parasite on bands, they take everything for free and ask a couple of thousands of euros for promotion, which they never do or just spend 10% of the amount on a basic promotion and they stash the rest of the money. After this experience, we decided not to give away our work and do the whole thing ourselves. But before our final decision, we came into a mutual beneficial agreement with ROAR, something that we wanted from the very beginning but could not find a fair deal. ROAR was the first label we talked with and the one we finally agreed.
What were the criteria that made you proceed to this co operation with ROAR? How did you get in touch with them?
ROAR is a normal label, not a very big one yet, but a normal label, not like the ones that mentioned above who ask money and actually cheat on the bands. I believe that it was one of the best choices we had and we are really happy that we finally came to an agreement.
Do we have an album release date yet?
Yes, it will be out on the October 9, 2020.
Which songs will be the singles for the newcomer album? Have you decided yet?
There will be three singles, “Love enforcer”, “Seventh son” and “Atlantis”.
FuS have a serious tradition on good videos. What about this new album? Have you prepared any good video clips for the visual addicts?
We shot two videos for “Love Enforcer” and “Atlantis” and one lyric video for “Seventh Son”.
I want to go once more back on the album content and focus a little bit to the title. “Atlantis” is the title representing the lyrical content of the album, or can we say that it is just a catchy title? And speaking about the lyrics themselves can you refer a little bit to the overall lyrical content of the release?
Every song represents its lyrical content. “Atlantis” is a special case though, because most of the people will think this is a song for the ancient myth of lost Atlantis, the rich and fabulous city that sunk into the ocean, but this is not the case. It is an allegory and it is for all those things that you yearn and desire and you seek your entire life but you never reach, like a femme fatale, always in vain. “Love Enforcer” has to do with the sick role of overprotecting mothers over their sons, that choke their creativity and chain their will forever. The “Seventh Son” is Theseus, the ancient king of Athens, when he traveled to Crete to be given as a sacrifice to Minotaur, the mythical monster-son of King Minos, seven sons and seven daughters in total, says the legend. The rest vary from the legendary duel of Trojan prince Hector with mighty Achilles in “Hector’s Last Fight”, to Spartacus as the everlasting symbol of struggle for freedom against tyranny and oppression in his self-titled song and comic hero Conan, as seen in the 1982 movie masterpiece of John Milius in “Vengeance”, or a quick reference to fierce Viking warriors in “Lords of Death”. Last but not least, we talk about problems like school bullying in “Time for Rage” or the ones of human communication in “Silence of Our Words” and we close with a beautiful ballad called “The Road Unknown” which refers to unfulfilled dreams.
This is a cliche question but I love doing it because nobody can answer it directly: Which is your favorite song of the album?
I don’t have favorite songs, I just have favorite song parts.
In your own words how would you describe the new FuS creation to someone that has not yet listened even a single tune from it?
I should ask him to listen first and then describe it himself.
How difficult will it be to transform this special vibe of the album on stage?
With adequate rehearsals, I don’t think it will be a problem for us.
I know that is it strange to speak about live shows under the current circumstances we are into, but I guess you have made some general plans already, or not?
Not yet, but we will try to play as many shows as we can.
Shall we have to wait another six years for the next FuS release?
FS: We have almost completed the pre-production stage of the next album, so unless something really unfortunate occurs, in about two years time our next album will be on its way out.
What the future will bring for the Fortress?
Who knows? Let’s hope for plenty and good music.
Ok that was it! Close the interview as you like! Thanks a lot!
Stay heavy, stay healthy! We looking forward to play again in Syros, it was a great show back then.