It’s been 10 years since DEAD CONGREGATION rose from the ashes of another band in Greece. Their trademark sound combining dense atmospheres and old fashioned Death Metal has been evolving since the release of their first EP in 2005 and their debut full length in 2008, both very well received in the international scene. 2014 brought the release of their sophomore album "Promulgation Of The Fall", which sees DEAD CONGREGATION moving farther into darkness with their oppressing, yet sharp sound. A.V., founder, vocalist and guitarist, was kind enough to answer some of our questions…
Hello Anastasis and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. First off, it’s been 10 years since the formation of DEAD CONGREGATION. What has changed since then? Do you think you have achieved what you wanted with the band?
"Well, since the formation of the band we have released two full length albums, a 5 song EP and we’ve played over a hundred shows in Europe and America. We never had hopes for world domination when we wrote our material, we just did what felt natural to us and what we needed to do as artists to channel our creativity in this dark path that we’ve chosen to follow. So from that perspective we have definitely achieved what we wanted, which was nothing more than compose and play Death Metal. Having gained so much attention and having the opportunity to play live on all those places to spread our gospel is just a bonus."
What was your vision when you started DEAD CONGREGATION? Since we humans are always evolving (in most cases), do you think the band has evolved along the current line-up, not only as musicians, but as individuals?
"I suppose we have evolved as individuals, it would be sad if a person remained the same after having ten years of experience added on his life. The band evolves subconsciously as he don’t like to repeat ourselves and write songs that sound similar to each other. We want our material to have the DEAD CONGREGATION signature but at the same time be a bit varied and unpredictable. It is not challenging to limit yourself within boundaries and do the same thing over and over again. For some bands like BOLT THROWER having a specific formula in writing material works in their favor. So it was amusing to see a few people complain about the new album being “less atmospheric than "Graves Of The Archangels" because it doesn’t have an intro or orthodox chants”. I would rather stop playing than composing another album that sounds exactly like the previous one."
The style that has identified your band so far is, albeit aggressive, full of obscure atmospheres and haunting passages. What you do you have in mind when composing your songs? Would you say there are countless influences or do you base your music in your own feelings?
"Indeed, the atmosphere is very important to us. On "Promulgation Of The Fall" we created all of the atmospheric passages with the music itself, letting the riffs and leads do all the talking instead of using samples and recording the album in a cave so that it would sound archaic and ‘true’. We write our music relying only on our gut feelings, sometimes you just play the guitar and ideas start to pop up without any effort. Of course anyone who is passionate about music and has been worshipping several albums for years and years, absorbs all that music and subconsciously transforms it to inspiration. If you listen to THE BEATLES 1000 times a year, your band will sound like THE BEATLES even if you don’t want to. So DEAD CONGREGATION probably sounds like a mix of all the bands that we personally like and we’ve been following for decades."
Lyric-wise, you deal with mostly anti-christian subjects, but not in the "usual" (if there is any) way. I’ve found references from diabolism, satanism and even luciferianism. Do you base in your own ideology when writing lyrics or are these statements against indoctrination from religions in general?
"Our lyrics are mostly surreal stories that try to create a picture as dark and eerie as the music. We all have our personal beliefs but we don’t want to become preachers and just narrate the doctrine that we follow. We prefer our lyrics to be loosely interpreted by the listener and enhance the overall somberness in the listening experience of our album. Although the message is not entirely specific, it clearly revolves around the decadence of Christian religion, Satanic supremacy and the triumph of Death."
How did you end up choosing DEAD CONGREGATION for your band’s name?
"It was actually a friend of mine who had the idea (hey Johan!). ‘Dead Congregation’ was a song title on a demo I did with my previous band and when I was exchanging ideas for a band name with him he suggested using DEAD CONGREGATION. It was so appropriate and obvious that I was mad for not thinking about it myself!"
The band’s line-up has been pretty stable over 10 years now. And all current members play (or have played) with other bands. Do you think the work with these other bands has influenced the music and ideology of the band? Or is DEAD CONGREGATION a beast of its own?
"DEAD CONGREGATION is definitely a priority for all 4 band members. There was a time some years ago that INVERACITY (a band that our drummer and bassist play with) was really active so maybe our schedules would contradict and we’d have to make careful plans for rehearsals and gigs but that had nothing to do with the creative focus of the band. As explained on the very first question of this interview, DEAD CONGREGATION has had a specific vision from its formation and that remains completely separate from any participations we might have in other projects."
Do all members have their regular day jobs or are they dedicated to the music business?
"Some of us have regular day jobs."
Konqueror Records and Nuclear War Now! Productions. Were you satisfied with these labels and the way they managed both, the EP and your debut album respectively? How is Martyrdoom Productions doing so far for your second album?
"We didn’t have many expectations from them, we just wanted to have our recordings released and they kept their end of what we demanded. We didn’t expect promotion, advertising etc so it was quite easy to be satisfied. Konqueror was the label that offered us a deal when we were still unknown and at a time that our ‘brand’ of Death Metal wasn’t popular at all, so we’ll always be grateful to them. "Promulgation Of The Fall" has been released on CD by Martyrdoom (Europe) and Profound Lore (America) and on LP by Norma Evangelium Diaboli (worldwide). Between all three labels, the album has sold 6.000 copies more or less in 3 months so the response is really good, especially for these days."
DEAD CONGREGATION hails from Attica, Athens. How is the underground scene there and how has it changed in 10 years? Do you feel your band has got a good response from the local scene? Which other bands from your town do you think deserve attention?
"The scene is a lot more active now than it was 10 years ago, that’s for sure. We have a lot of new bands but sadly due to the country’s decadent economy less and less people go to shows. It’s still alright but I sense some lack of enthusiasm from people that go to shows compared to the past. Fortunately for us, DEAD CONGREGATION is becoming a bigger name as time passes. From our first gig in Athens in 2005 we decided not to play locally too often, we want our shows to remain a special event and not become one of those bands that you get tired of seeing live all the time. The latest two shows we did here in Greece have been by far our most successful, with attendance in Athens reaching 400 people. We’ve always been more popular outside of Greece, but it’s starting to change now. As for other worthy bands, I’d rather not say names in order not to disappoint those who will not be mentioned. Those who truly deserve attention will eventually get it anyway!"
Greek Death Metal. That tag is something uncommon due to the fact that Greece has been associated with Black Metal since the late 80s and early 90s. We all know the classic bands that defined, so to speak, that movement and other bands currently expanding it. Do you feel that the influence in your music is undeniable or have you tried to stay away from the overall concept?
"We get this question a lot, it’s quite strange, I simply don’t understand it… Do you hear any Greek Black Metal influence in DEAD CONGREGATION? Do we sound like ROTTING CHRIST?"
What is your opinion about the internet related to the global scene and music in general?
"The way I see it, the music ‘business’ was doing a lot better before the internet. In the past when record labels weren’t losing sales from downloading and streaming, they didn’t need to expand their focal point and reach out to a far greater target group. So if a band was really worth signing, it would get a record deal, if not, it would probably wither away or try to improve to get the desired record deal. Now we’ve got a zillion releases by a million record labels and who gives a fuck really? We hear about countless albums that make an impact for a minute but no one remembers after a few years. It is a fact that we have lowered our standards tremendously in a desperate attempt to appear different from the mass. Liking the new BEHEMOTH album is not kvlt, praising the 2nd demo by UNHOLY NECROS SATANIZER is trve!!! As if bands like UNHOLY NECROS SATANIZER (random name) would have a chance to get heard by more than 10 people if it wasn’t for the internet. What we have forgotten (and the new generations are not even familiar with) is that in the past, in the tape-trading days, when a band was truly good it didn’t stay in the underground for long because it got picked up by a major record label very soon. So it didn’t need the internet to get attention anyway. To sum it up: the internet brings attention to bands that don’t necessarily deserve it, while the few who are really good have the risk of being absorbed in the sea of useless information and battle to stay in the surface for more than a small fraction in time. A good example for that is VANHELGD’s latest album "Relics Of Sulphuric Salvation" which is some of the best Swedish Death Metal I’ve ever heard and I don’t see them getting attention at all."
Have you started work on the third DEAD CONGREGATION album or do you want to take more time to let the new ideas evolve? Are there any set plans for a near future?
"It’s definitely too soon to talk about a new release, we prefer to let our album sink in to the people who like it, instead of disorienting them with a new release within a short time from now. The immediate plans are lots of shows, including a small tour in the USA, a two week tour in Europe, a few individual gigs here and there, Neurotic Deathfest and more offers coming every day. We don’t like to play under every circumstances so we pick out the shows that we prefer and we deem as beneficial for us in one way or another."
Anastasis, I can’t thank you enough for your time. I hope you found these questions interesting and thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Is there anything else you would like to add?
"See you on the road and PRAISE DEATH."