Over the years, the Gods atop mighty Mount Olympus have bestowed some fantastic metal upon those willing to listen. Considered the birthplace of Western civilization and the root of modern democracy, ripe with mythos and legends that are still omnipresent in fables told table, there is small wonder that such a place should yield such an aspiring musical project as Septic Flesh. Since the bands humble beginnings in 1991, and their subsequent debut album, “Mystic Places At Dawn”, in 1994, they have sought to push the envelope, but didn’t fully hit stride until reforming in 2007. Since then, Septicflesh, as they are now known, have astounded listeners with two absolute gems in record form.
Although mystical themes are nothing new to the realm of metal; the addition of a full orchestra most definitely isn’t an everyday occurrence. For the “Communion” album, the band’s first since returning and first recordings under their new direction, the group hired an orchestra that consisted of an astounding 80 musicians and 32 vocalists. “I studied classical music in London, and I researched on the internet for a real, live orchestra that we could use for our come back with “Communion”. I chose the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra because we wanted a really big sound, you know? In order to do that, you need a big string section, a big brass section and a big choir, and that is the reason we chose to go with such a large amount of people” explains Christos Antoniou, before turning attention to the bands most current record, “We had even more on ‘The Great Mass’, I think we had around 130 people for that. We had 8 horns, 4 trumpets, 2 tubas, and a huge section. We also had some additional instruments like a harpsichord and a boy soprano, a big choir and some female singers.”
Given the gravity of the detail that must go into creating an album’s worth of material that will be played by so many, it really is no wonder as to the amount of time that has elapsed between “Communion” and “The Great Mass”. “It took us around three years to write each album” explains Antoniou, “You know, you don’t write specifically for each person, you write for a family. You write for the string section, you write for the woodwind, you write for the brass, for the choir, for the boy soprano and all of this blends, it’s the orchestration subject. You understand?” How fantastic would it be to witness the full orchestra, live, behind Septicflesh? “We have an offer to play live with the full orchestra in Athens, but it’s a really difficult task. You’d need to be very organized, to have a plan. We shall see, you never know, it might happen” Antoniou says with a smile on his face, which perhaps tells more than his words are willing to divulge. “In order to hire an orchestra, it would cost a huge, huge amount of money. Even Dimmu Borgir has only done one show with an orchestra, because it’s so expensive, so at the moment we will promote ‘The Great Mass’ as much as we can. We have another European tour in our plans, but after that, we will start to write new material. Of course, it will again be with an orchestra, I don’t know how big because we haven’t got anything, not even one note written. We are going to do that after the European shows and we will make a new strategy about how we write the new album.”
While his band enjoys its highest level of success yet, in terms of sales and fan and media response, Antoniou’s homeland is undergoing what is perhaps its harshest time in modern history. Greece now faces a severe storm of political instability, which has devastated the nation’s economy and left many scrambling to keep afloat. The country is quite literally surviving on international bailout loans, with an estimated 25% of the population now unemployed. “It’s really, really bad” offers Antoniou, “ The situation now is out of control. But you know ,Greece was corrupted, everybody knows that! We let this system be a poison. For thirty years we had corrupt politicians and for thirty years we had idiots that were voting and now we can see the result. I’m very disappointed in the Greeks and I’m very sad. It is my country, although, they have never helped me or Septic Flesh. You know, Septic Flesh is a product that has helped make Greece well-known. Of course, we are not Metallica but they prefer to give their attention to rubbish music and their money to corrupt people and I think it was time for us to learn our lesson. I hope that this will make things better for Greece. The problem is not Americans or Europeans, it is our fault! Our system was corrupted, it was septic and it was the worse system that could exist and this is the result. Now is the chance for change, although it is a very difficult situation with a lot of people that do not have jobs. One million unemployed! But, you know, it’s their fault. I’m lucky that I’m working outside Greece, but I’m sad about my country. We made mistakes, we relied on our glorious past but you cannot be anything without a future and didn’t care about the future. We cared only about the present and now we have all these problems.” For Christos Antoniou though, the future is as bright as his present, “I’m writing a concert work for a theatrical production, some pieces for the cello and violin. I’m fortunate that I make money off of music, not for the money, but because I’m fortunate to be doing what I like, and this is the most important thing.”
Interviewed by Kieron Yates