Crossing the Line... Towards Hate

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ACID DEATH’s reunion is, without a doubt, an event of considerable proportions in the Greek metal scene. Hailing from the depths of the 80s thrash scene, this band has known chaos and havoc throughout the years, fighting their asses off to get heard, and to live for their craft – they reunited in the 2000s with one venomous and vengeful packaging with ‘’Eidolon’’, an essential of a record that meshes elements of the thrash of yore with bullet-spitting and kickass grooves, coupled with progressive death metal of the finest kind. Diversity and dynamics certainly don’t lack, and Savvas Betinis (bassist/vocalist) sure as hell gets very animated when talking of the thought-process throughout the evolution of this disc, and the context of his band’s (and the scene’s) development in the Greek scene from the 1980’s right towards the present day. Not long after giving a strongly apeshit rating to ‘’Eidolon’’, I conducted an email interview with Savvas, who eagerly responded to my elaborate and very interested questions with top-class honesty and humble appreciativeness.

Eidolon is ACID DEATH’s ultimate come-back album; it has this very characteristic, mathematical knack for meshing stout, memorably engaging, and intricate grooves, along with state-of-the-art thrash aggression, slightly more down-tempo and filthier numbers, and a good portion of tech-savvy progressive death metal flourishes. Tell us about the band’s musical evolution since day one, and how this reunion came to fruition.

For starters, thank you so much for the good words on our new album!! Yes, we are back for sure, since January 2011, but this album is the result of 1 1/5 years of hard work! We hope that the fans will like it, it is an album that includes all the elements that were in the band’s previous albums, but it is also going into more of a Death Metal direction. ACID DEATH have gone through its typical early 80s thrash phase from 1989 to 1995, right towards Progressive Death Metal, from 1996 till today. This was, I could say the “Hard Road” since this style was and, forgive me for putting it that way, still is a “difficult” area of the Music industry to evolve in. Anyhow, we chose that one route of expression.

The band had been inactive for almost 10 years, and there were many reasons behind this fact… in 2009, the first thoughts of “starting the engine again” were in our minds, but 2010 was an ideal time and worked perfectly for us. Of course, it wasn’t easy! We worked really hard re-preparing the old songs and also starting to create new ones, and finally, in January 2011, we were ready. I believe that ACID DEATH is at a very good level right now, all of our willpower and the collective reunion of our souls devoted and focused on the band!

Tell us more about your roots — it’s a well-documented fact that you started out as a primarily technical thrash band; what sparked up your inspiration to go into more of a death metal direction, and how did you approach the forging of your own blueprint spin on this stylistic mash-up in order to create ”Eidolon”? I’m hearing hints of DEATH-tinged riffery on some songs, especially in the melodies throughout ”Convict 655321”.

Yes, you are right! We started out as a typical Thrash Metal band, with some Death influences, but our inspirations mainly came from Thrash/Death and even Fusion/Jazz. We tried to better ourselves as musicians through the years, and also to include all the music elements we like in our songs. “Pieces Of Mankind”, for example, was inspired from Death/Thrash/Nu Metal and Fusion/Jazz also.

The same happened on our second full length, “Random’s Manifest”. Now, in the case of “Eidolon”, whichis our third full length and fifth official release over the years, things worked in a more “Death Metal” way! There is, of course, this technical/Progressive “air” that was strongly predominant on previous albums, but this feel is on more of a Death Metal path now.

Your knack for enticing groove is extremely bold on this record, it shows you guys have been keeping tabs and a close watch on the ’90s metal scene throughout ACID DEATH’s evolution — I’ve been reminded of PANTERA while blasting killer bits and pieces of this record — and these sure as hell sound massive, imposing, and mercilessly (AND infectiously) on the dial. Tell us about about how this era of the metal genre, along with its more accessible and stomping caveman riffery, influenced the reshaping of your sound all the way towards ”Eidolon”.

-Thanks for that!! Yes, there is a “Pantera Style” in many riffs, but it was something we never (intentionally, ed.) tried to create. Of course, Pantera and Death were, and still are big music chapters for us, as they are, I believe for many metalheads out there. We just tried to “write down” the ideas we had in our heads. The songs that stemmed from these include this one important chapter too. We are proud of hearing that there are people like you that pay enough attention to all these elements and think that they give a special character to an album!!

Savvas, your basswork shows luxurious and well-layered intricacy from the very first cut of this release right towards the last. I, myself, called it a third guitar while writing my attentive cover-up of this album. Each instrument, down to your very own vocals, is vital to shaping up this absolutely monstrous (and oftentimes experimental and highly unpredictable) facemelter of a record. Let us in on some details about how you approach songwriting – how do you go about piecing these songs together, and what is your primary source of inspiration to craft up all these nuanced sonic landscapes conjured up in each song?

We gave our 100% on every second that is included in this record! Yes, I will agree with you about the bass being the third guitar in the album. That was our goal, during the album’s processing and production. You know, a band is like a human body. Everything has to work right for the body to be healthy. So, the instruments of the band have to be in the right place, clear and powerful.

That’s the most important thing, because we’re talking about metal music, which needs the guitars to be tremendous and loud, with powerful and equally loud drums, bass…vocals etc. In our case; we took care of the production ourselves, which is something that helped us a lot because we, as personnalities, discovered the “difficult ways” of working together, something that is really important for a healthy band!

About the album’s sound, we tried to reach that warm 90’s sound of Florida with the really big guitars, tremendous bass and drums and powerful vocal lines. Having the production ready, the song structure and numbering, the way that one song follows the other, or even some small things in between songs was our final goal for giving the album more of a ‘’movie’’ feel, and not a typical “push the play button and leave the room” kind of deal.

When did you first approach playing bass, and who were your main influences in the developing of your stylistic direction pre-ACID DEATH and throughout the years in the band?

Personally, I started playing bass back in 1988. I started from bass guitar and not from a typical 6-string guitar. My main influences were, and still are Steve Harris, Steve DiGiorgio and a Greek bass player, Yotis Kiourtzoglou. Of course, the improvement came as years passed, although I have a looooong way to go to become a real good bass player! I’m especially thinking of Steve DiGiorgio; I always admired the way that he puts all these jazz/fusion elements through his bass lines! I wish I had the chance to have this bass monster as my professor!

What are your thoughts about the modern technical death metal scene? The evolution from the ’90s towards the present day has been dazzling, yet legends like Chuck, that you honour thoroughly on ”Eidolon”, sure are still living on through the basic foundation of the sound of the newest wave of envelope-pushing technical venturers, who oftentimes even incorporate a touch of neoclassical riffery to their compositions. Which bands do you listen to lately, and do you picture ACID DEATH touring alongside some of these names in the months/years to come?

Things have been on a really good path this last 4-5 years! There are many really strong names that create Death Metal masterpieces. MESHUGGAH, for example, is a band that is, for sure, a Death Metal Monster these days! You know, I strongly insist that Chuck Schuldiner changed the way Death Metal sounded a lot from 1993 till now and by the same token, keeping the Death Metal scene strong for many-many years! As for touring…we just want to tour with good bands! It doesn’t matter if these bands are big, we just want to be a part in this game and we will try our best to do just that!

While you guys were cooking up ”Eidolon”, what was on your respective iPods?

Hehe! Believe me we hate iPods!! No problem, just kidding! It may be hard to believe, but nothing was in our “music memory” those days! We preferred to focus on the album, away from any kind of modern releases coming out today. It was something like an “experiment” for us, to create and build something and compare it with similar albums of today without having “today’s element” in hand all the time while cooking the album up.

Let’s go back to the early days of A.D.; back in ’89, metal had gone from the schizophrenically (and deliciously) chaotic thrash uproar right towards the popularity of glam metal-creamy-cheesecake BS that practically took over the entire universe’s press channels and tv stations alike. Grunge surfaced up not long after – how was a day in the life of an underground, dedicated-to-the-craft thrash band back around those times, and how did you propel the ACID DEATH name to a sky-rocketing level in Greece? How did you guys get noticed, and how open were the promotional circles around the time your band started composing/gigging?

I dare say that we were taking part in all that madness back in 80’s. Yes, it was a total chaos, that period. Although, Greece is a really small country and I am sure few know many details about our scene. There was a big and strong segregation on these two kinds. There were “big bands” coming from Glam and “small bands” coming from Thrash. But ALL had the SAME audience!!!!!

You know, Greece was unlucky enough to be away from the big gigs and musical facts’ map for many years when those big gigs were a daily occurrence to other European countries, so all those that were there with their hair up in a glam setting, were in the pit in a Thrash live. Things changed when Nirvana knew tremendous success with that record in 1993 but the days and nights of an underground band was still the same. That period was really hard for all of us, trying to find a way to create good music, record a good demo, try to find a good label… As we say, “Greece is too Hard for Metal musicians!”.

How quickly did the rush of inspiration come back to you post-reunion, and how much time went into the writing process for ”Eidolon”?

Everything started in October of 2010. At first, we fixed the old songs with the new lineup and from December 2010 till July 2011, we created the songs for “Eidolon”. Recordings started in September 2011 and finished in February 2012. We worked really hard to have all these good results in a rather small time space, but I believe we made it.

Lastly, which elements on this new album are you the most proud of, and can you give us any stories about the recording/writing process that took place between the moment of the birth of the idea of this record right towards the final day of mixing/mastering? What makes you particularly and especially fond of this release, and excited about the future of ACID DEATH, as a live and on-record act?

Hehe!! Many funny stories! For example, the last evening that we were all sitting together to check all the songs for the “last minute fixes” at 2.00 in the morning, we discovered that almost all the voices from “Towards Hate” were lost! Of course, microphones had been put in their cases, all the knobs on the mixer were totally different from the vocal sessions, and most importantly…in the backup projects, there was the same problem!!! W.T.F!!!! Starting vocals from the beginning??

The next day, we were scheduled to start mixing! I was really glad to see that I hadn’t pushed the “erase trash files” button in the project of the song…And the vocals were in the “Trash” folder! Anyway, we hope the fans will love this record. It includes all our powers and collective soul! I hope this record will be a good step forward for ACID DEATH. And most importantly, a big Thanks (to ToTD, ed.) that gave us this opportunity (for an interview and review, ed.)


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