Septicflesh – Christos Antoniou (guitars)

There are many bands that mix the classical side of music with metal, but very few do it with the finesse and grandiose nature that Septicflesh has been doing it for the past few albums. Their latest album, The Great Mass, uses a full-piece orchestra to give the music a realism lacking in much of the processed symphonic sounds band get from keyboards or software. At times tranquil and at other times fierce and unforgiving, the ten songs on Septicflesh?s eighth album are some of the band?s best to date. Via e-mail, Septicflesh guitarist Christos Antoniou answered some questions about the creation of The Great Mass.

What was Septicflesh looking to accomplish with The Great Mass?

Christos Antoniou: With each release, we try to push our boundaries further, exploring new musical grounds. That was the case with The Great Mass also. Now, as some months have already passed from the completion of the recording process, I can clearly feel that The Great Mass is our most mature work yet. I believe that it combines the strongest elements of our musical identity, surpassing everything that we have done in the past.


Did the band?s experience with Communion affect the creation of The Great Mass?

Indeed. With Communion, we had the chance to experiment a lot with the combination of the symphonic and the metal element. So this time, we started at a point that we felt confident building more exciting ideas upon the orchestral element. We utilized in a deeper extend the specific ?soundscapes? that each classical instrument could provide us. As a result, there are many more emotional and musical layers on the songs than in Communion.


The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which was used on Communion, is used again on this record. Why did the band decide to bring them back for a second time?

I am responsible for the orchestral parts on both albums. We have a unique blend with this orchestra. We feel them as our 5th member. Their contribution and interpretation in our music is beyond our expectations and I am pretty sure this will continue in our future releases. You never change something that works really well.


Was there any difficulty in balancing the orchestral sounds with the death metal elements?

Yes it is. We have to be realistic of what we want to achieve at the end and we need orchestra to be high, but not as high to cover the metal part, which gives the energy and the boost to our music. It was a difficult task and Peter Tagtgren manage to resolve it in an excellent result.


What inspired you when it came down to composing the orchestral parts on The Great Mass?

We had some meetings in order to finalize which path to follow in terms of film-classical music. We agree to approach soundtracks of Batman, Dracula and, from the concert music, Igor Stravinsky. We are all fans of soundtracks and it was not difficult to agree on that.


Do you have a different approach to writing guitar parts compared to orchestral?

In the contrary with Communion, we built everything in our orchestral template. We did not want to create an easy accompaniment or a keyboard orchestral landscape. We needed the orchestra to play a vital role in our composition process.


As a guitarist, is there anything exciting about having to collaborate with not only the rest of the band, but an entire orchestra as well?

This time, a lot of primary ideas were build upon the classical orchestrations. So the guitar had a more difficult role to play, as there were many options available considering riffs and melodies. To tell you the truth, a lot of times I didn’t know from where to begin, especially in songs as ?Mad Architect.? All the members of the band worked a lot in order to reach the final versions of the songs.

A key point was the collaboration with the rhythm section, as the drums and the bass provided the link that united the guitars with the rest of the instruments. We tried to focus on the bigger picture, giving great importance to the overall balance between the various elements involved. In a strange way, it was like creating a movie, having a lot of key characters to present and not just one or two big protagonists. As a matter of fact, the new album is almost ?visual? as it creates intense images for the mind?s eye.


The cover art for the album is very majestic in scope and imagery. Where did the idea for the cover come from?

Seth (Siro Anton, bassist/vocalist) is behind the creation of the artwork. As besides a skilled artist, he is also a member of the band. We felt that he was the most proper person to incorporate the symbolism from the lyrics to the visual aspect of The Great Mass. There is a strong reference to the lyrics of the song ?Apocalypse,? as on the cover, there is basically ?a god that wants to die.? There are also many more symbols that provide direct connections with other songs of the album, such as ?Pyramid God,? ?Therianthropy,? etc.


How important is the imagery of the cover art to the overall concept of The Great Mass?

We consider Septicflesh as a wider artistic experiment where meaning, sound and image form a solid unity. So the imagery has definitely its importance.


What are you most satisfied with on The Great Mass?

Everything turned out as indented; the compositions, the sound, the performance, the artwork etc.  So we feel a deep satisfaction from the whole result.


The album came out in several formats, including a collector?s book and a bonus CD, The Great Symphonic Mass. What kind of appeal do these extras have for the Septicflesh fan?

We wanted to provide to our fans different options considering also the value of each package, giving them the choice to obtain or not additional material besides the main album. The collector?s book edition that you mention is the most expensive edition, but also the most complete, giving a deeper insight to the visual works of Seth, with a 100 page book that includes also the music scores of Christos. Also, an additional CD is included with alternative editions of the songs focusing on the symphonic approach and a DVD with a documentary about the creation of the album.


Are you excited about the Ugly World Tour in the U.S this summer?

Definitely! We can?t wait to return to the U.S.A. to perform again in front of the American crowd, which really rules. A great package with great musicians we are eager to share the same stage with them.


What band on that tour are you most looking forward to going out with?

Well, all of them have their history and personality, I like that this package has different 4 flavors. The fan will be pleased by that, as he will enjoy quality.


How does the band?s touring plans look after the U.S dates?

We will make a European tour with Samael and Keep of Kalessin around 5 weeks in the autumn.


Do you think it will be challenging to perform the tracks from The Great Mass in a live setting?

It is a challenge, but we are not afraid of challenges.


With all the band?s albums, is it tough to get a setlist together?

Not so much. We have to promote our new album and we prefer to play the majority of the songs from Communion and The Great Mass, as both albums represents our second phase.


Are there any songs from the band?s past that you wished could be played more often live?

I would say ?Mystic Places of Dawn? and ?Shamanic Rite? from Ophidian Wheel. Both songs are full of tension and unique character.


If you could tour with one band that you?ve never toured with before, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would say Death and Celtic Frost. Both bands were pioneers in their sound. Chuck Schuldiner and Tom Warrior affected me so much in my early days. Excellent composers.


Any final thoughts?

We are welcoming all restless minds to attend to the Mass…


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