ACHELOUS begun in 2011 as an extreme one-man project but over the years they have evolved into a classic heavy/power metal band with epic elements. Led by bass player and main songwriter Chris Achelous and with Chris Kappas (ex-REFLECTION) as a permanent vocalist, they released the “Al Iskandar” demo and the “The Cold Winds of Olympus” EP in 2014. Now, almost four years later and after numerous line-up changes and live shows, the band is ready to release their first full length album which will be called “Macedon”.
A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the pre-listening session of their album at The Music House Studio of Stathis Pavlantis (REFLECTION) where the recordings took place.
So, here are my first impressions, track by track:
01. “Bound For Glory” (music: Chris Achelous): Not many things to say here as it’s one of the two instrumental tracks which serve as an intro and outro for the album. Nice “cinematic” music which leads directly into….
02. “Macedon” (music/lyrics: Chris Achelous): The first song. A nice acoustic intro combined with the eerie vocals of Dimitra Kaltsidou (one of the many guests) steer into a solid metal tune. The galloping rhythm together with a lead theme create an nostalgic epic feeling, similar to the one created by the underground metal bands in late 90’s and early 00’s. That’s right folks: should you seek retro stuff, then seek elsewhere since ACHELOUS is all about unconstrained epic heavy metal. The vocals of Chris Kappas are captivating: I’ve been listening to this man since REFLECTION released their first full length album back in ’99, and I have to admit that here he sounds better than ever. Deep, sentimental and powerful. Just check the lyric video bellow. Let’s move on….
03. “Gordian Knot” (music/lyrics: Chris Kappas): A more “direct” heavy metal song, with a steady main riff and mid-tempo. The chorus is quite anthemic – generally the band has a tendency for anthemic and catchy choruses, similar to those of ACCEPT or GRAVE DIGGER – and the guitar solo is a bit hard rock-ish, something that came as a surprise.
04. “Blood” (music/lyrics: Chris Achelous): Another orchestral intro and an acoustic theme. The song structure is similar to “Macedon” (intro – main lead – lots of lead breaks) with a bridge that leads to another catchy chorus. There is also a participation by George Thomaides.
05. “Gaugamela” (music/lyrics: Chris Achelous): Inspired by the most difficult and significant battle of the Alexandrian campaign, this is one of the album highlights and one of the oldest songs the band composed (dates back to 2014). There will also be a video clip about it later this year. The intro is embodied with pontic lyra, a traditional Greek-Pontic instrument, which gives an eastern feeling to the song. The rest of the song is a direct, classic metal song with a turbulent lead theme (not modernly aggressive) and an amazing break in the middle, where both the guitar and the lyra have the leading role. Τhe band unfold their true potential in this one.
06. “Persepolis” (music: Chris Achelous, George Mavromati, Stathis Pavlantis, lyrics: Chris Kappas). For me, this one is the best track in the album. Inspired by the destruction of Persepolis by the Greeks, this song had to be re-written almost from scratch due to line up changes. For the most part it’s a mid-tempo tune that’s dominated by a teutonic riff. It’s darker and moodier compared to the rest of the song, but don’t expect it to be less powerful. It actually reminded me a lot of GRAVE DIGGER’s “Heart of darkness” era and PARAGON. There is a tempo increase in the middle of the song and a great guitar lead outro performed by Thanasis Bertsatos (POWER CRUE). This song also features guest vocals by Leo Stivala of Maltese doomsters FORSAKEN.
07. “Warriors With Wings” (music: Chris Achelous, lyrics: Chris Achelous, Chris Kappas): one of the three “teutonic sounding” songs of the album. Another great tune and my second favorite. This is a faster song, prompt and carefully written to be played live. There is a chorus break that leads to an anthemic chorus .
08. “Hephaestion” (music/lyrics: Chris Achelous): I’am not really into ballads but I’ll try to be objective. Even though it begins as an acoustic song, there is a turnaround that leads into a power ballad. There are more hard rock than metal influences and lot of emphasis is given to the chorus. The more the song progresses, the faster it becomes, and generally it’s not the typical ballad someone would expect to listen at this point. Take notice that the lead vocals are once again performed by Dimitra Keltsidou.
09. “The Final Day” (music/lyrics: Chris Kappas): A great surprise! This song was written by Chris Kappas almost 25 years ago, but it was shelved until it was re-worked for this album. This is the third “teutonic” song of the album, but it reminded me of early AXXIS or heavier BONFIRE. This is the only song where the keyboards have a primary role. Its faster with a catchy chorus, more melodic and hard rockish with a nice hook after the solo. Perfect for a live appearances.
10. “Al Iskandar” (music/lyrics: Chris Achelous): This is the very first song the band ever wrote. An anthemic, mid-paced epic tune, with a drum and bass intro that slowly progresses into a heavy doom metal opus. The chorus has an eastern essence and once again Chris Kappas delivers a massive performance.
11. “Legends Never Die”: this is an orchestral arrangement by maestro Kostas Rekleitis that its based on the “Al Iskandar” main theme. A great way for the album to end.
The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Stathis Pavlantis at The Music House Studio and engineered by George Kasapidis.
The impression “Macedon” left me is more than good as it brought back memories of the early 00’s underground scene, the genuine underground. The band draws inspiration mostly from the European metal scene: riff based, guitar driven songs that remind bands like GRAVE DIGGER, REBELLION, ACCEPT but with a mediterranean feeling. The production is massive and focused on the guitars, while the vocals are great and add an epic feeling to the outcome.
Overall, the album is a honest and genuine effort made by an underground metal band that managed to overtake all difficulties and make the best out of them. Check them out and make sure not to miss them this October  at Malta Doom Metal Festival.