The Greek four piece RAPTURE is one of the most impressive and relentless Thrash acts that I’ve heard in quite some time and their music easily blows away a lot of today’s Death and Black Metal bands when it comes to aggression and intensity, so an interview definitely was long overdue. We hooked up with guitarist / vocalist Apostolos Papadimitriou, who kindly answered all our questions about the band’s history so far…
When and how did you guys get together exactly and what have you all done prior to forming RAPTURE?
“Regarding musical activities, RAPTURE was pretty much the first “serious” thing we ever did. We had no experience of being in a band prior to the formation of RAPTURE. Our line-up has been stable since late 2014 and I find that to be pretty unique. Our cooperation and chemistry is perfect both in terms of music / composition and of management. I have known the bassist for about 13 years, since we were both 10 years old. I got together with our drummer Giorgos around 2013 and a year later he joined the band. Since we were in need for an extra guitarist, his brother Nikitas seemed like the obvious choice, and we are all glad it all turned out that way.”
When you chose the name RAPTURE, were you aware at that time that there’s already been twelve other Metal bands of the same name? Ok, most of them don’t exist anymore by now or changed name, but the risk of getting mixed up with a band of the same name from another country is still there, isn’t it?
“When we first chose that name, we did not really think about it. I think the risk is not that big, firstly because of the facts you mentioned yourself. Secondly, I think that all of them have focused on quite different genres from us.”
By the way, what inspired your name choice? Was it the song from MORBID ANGEL? PARADISE LOST? LIEGE LORD? DRAGONLORD? Or maybe something completely different?
“It’s no big secret that MORBID ANGEL is one of our biggest influences. Our name is also inspired by the notorious track that kickstarts the amazing album “Covenant”.”
What happened to your old band members Manolis Giagas (guitar), Matt Kliszka (guitar), Theo Karageorgos (bass) and George Tsavdaridis (drums), that played with you in the early days and can be heard on the “Gun Metal” EP from 2013 and “2014 Promo”? And how did you hook up with their replacements?
“It’s a good thing that all those members left the band on friendly terms. Times change, people are evolving and by now we have lost contact with most of them. However, we are still friends with our former guitarist Matt. He has been doing some pretty interesting stuff recently, if you are into Grindcore you should definietly check his new band VILE SPECIES. As for the replacements, I stressed earlier how I got to know the members. Besides the friendship part, we figured out that we all share the same vision about music and how it should be composed and played. That was a turning point from the band, and that’s why our line-up has remained stable ever since.”
Your recording debut as RAPTURE was the “Gun Metal” EP from 2013… What made you start with an EP that you self-released on CD instead of a demo cassette, which was more common for extreme Metal acts all those years?
“Back then this seemed like the obvious choice. On a good note, all of the 150 copies were sold quite fast, and we were able to gather some money for our then-future plans.”
As far as I know you never re-recorded any of the “Gun Metal” tracks on later releases again. Don’t they represent the band anymore from your point of view?
“Yes, that is completely true. The RAPTURE “character” started forming properly at our next release, which was the “Promo 2014″ sessions.”
The “Gun Metal” cover artwork was created by Juha Vuorma, who’s already quite known as an artist in the Metal scene… Did you contact him about individual art or was it a piece of work that he already had lying around?
“We contacted him in order to have an individual piece of art. Also, we have to stress that he pretty much came up with the concept himself.”
Your “2014 Promo”, which you only released digitally, features two songs that later also appeared on your debut full length “Crimes Against Humanity”… was that the intention of the promo, to introduce some new material in order to get signed? How many songs did you have finished at that point of time already? Just those two or was the whole “Crimes Against Humanity” album basically written already?
“That’s right. That was our absolute goal at the time, and we are happy that this small unofficial release helped us to achieve it. By the time of the recording sessions for that Promo, those were the only two tracks that were fully composed for the back-then upcoming debut album.”
The third song on that promo was the DEEP PURPLE cover ‘Burn’… even though it’s of course a killer song and has already been covered by other bands quite a few times, it’s still an unusual choice for a band like RAPTURE, so what made you record it nevertheless?
“The main reason was just to try something strange ourselves, just like some Thrash Metal bands did in the 80s. For example, CORONER covered BEATLES and JIMI HENDRIX, EXODUS covered WAR etc etc. Besides that, we also did it to draw some extra attention, get people talking about the band. The cover was available only for about a week on youtube, and has remained unreleased ever since.”
The same year you also covered the way more fitting ‘Merciless Death’ by DARK ANGEL during a live show… The result sounds pretty amazing. Have you never had plans to record that in a studio as well? Any other cover songs that you played live or during rehearsals at that time?
“Thank you very much. Me and the bassist were only 16 years old back then, haha. We never really thought about recording this cover in a studio session to be honest. Regarding live shows, we used to play this cover quite often at our small shows back then. Rehearsals though, are a whole different story. We always jam stuff that we like. Step inside at a RAPTURE rehearsal during the last ten minutes and you will hear us jam stuff ranging from THE MISFITS to REPULSION.”
Musically you are obviously mainly influenced by extreme 80s Thrash Metal, so which bands pretty much shaped the RAPTURE style?
“Well, in general we like to think that our music has no limits at all. And this goes both for the playing and the way we compose our music. For us, everything is an influence. Each piece of extreme music has a great impact on our compositions. Of course, the main ingredients are Death and Thrash Metal, but that does not mean that our influences are “Metal only”. Regarding Metal music, we love stuff ranging from classic bands such as JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN up to brutal Death Metal acts such as SUFFOCATION and DEEDS OF FLESH. Its obvious though, that some influences might be more apparent than others. Of course, I am speaking about bands such as MORBID ANGEL, MALEVOLENT CREATION, DEMOLITION HAMMER, and in general Death and Thrash acts of the late 80s early 90s. Besides all that, all of us are fans of classical composers such as Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt among others, and we think that the works of these amazing artists has shaped us, especially in terms of song structure. Moreover, all of us are huge Hardcore Punk and Crust enthusiasts. Also, I have to address that each and every one of us has his own personal influences. For example I personally really like Post-Punk / New Wave and our drummer loves Jazz and Fusion. I think that if you scratch beneath the surface, you will find traces of such influences here and there. Not only in terms of riffing, but in terms of structure and general aura.”
How did you get together with Witches Brew for the release of your debut full length “Crimes Against Humanity” in 2015? Was the album already recorded when you signed the deal and Witches Brew just handled the manufacturing and distribution?
“Back then, we had no experience whatsoever on how label deals work. So, we just tried our luck. We were familiar with that label because we were fans of some of its releases, such as the early works of TOXIC HOLOCAUST and DEATHHAMMER, and we figured that we had nothing to loose. The recordings took place after the deal was signed, during the summer of 2015. Besides manufacturing and distribution, Witches Brew also provided us with a small budget, that helped us cover the costs for the album’s artwork.”
The “Crimes Against Humanity”CD was limited to 700 copies… I suppose that was enough at that point of time in your career, considering that you were still a totally unknown young band, wasn’t it? Would a second press have been an option, if it would have sold out rather quickly?
“The first press is completely sold out by now. In general, it’s the band’s policy to maintain all of the official releases available for the fans. For that reason, we are already in the talks with a label that is interested in re-pressing that album. We hope that this will happen before the end of 2021. We are surprised by how many of our fans / supporters keep asking for that album as well, and we really thank them for that.”
The album also included the DEATH cover ‘Born Dead’, which is again a surprising choice, since you’re more of an extreme Thrash band instead of a Death Metal band, so what made you go for it nevertheless?
“As we have discussed earlier, there are no limits in our influences. And of course, one of the greatest Death Metal acts to ever exist, was DEATH, and their impact on our music was huge. Actually, the album “Leprosy” was my first contact with the Death Metal genre. The day I bought the album I was fourteen years old and me and the future bassist of RAPTURE Stamatis, spent the rest of the day trying to sound exactly like “Leprosy”, in terms of guitar / bass playing. Taking all these into consideration you could say that that cover was something like a “homage” to one of our very first extreme Metal influences.”
For the album opener, ‘Laboratories Of Infection’, you also released a promo video. When and where did you shoot that and did it help to gain more attention?
“The video clip was shot at the studio we used to rehearse back in the day, which was also the studio we recorded our first album (Entasis Studio). We did our best to make the rehearsal room look nothing like it normally did. It was a bit rushed, because we had less than a day available to make it happen, but it was a fun process and our first ever experience on filming a video clip. Moreover, I think that the video indeed helped us gain a bit more attention, at least over the internet. It drew people on our pages and helped us sell more copies.”
Next up was the “Total Madness Reigns” EP in 2016… Who’s idea was it to release those four songs as a limited cassette edition and did it sell out quick? I’m just asking because it seems to be a quite popular RAPTURE release, considering that it was re-released as a split cassette with TOXIC CARNAGE (re-titled “Preachers Of The Fallen Fate”) in 2017 and also on CD in 2018 via Vulkan Records…
“It was a common decision for all of us. We wanted to create a “connection” with the upcoming release, which would be our second album. But at the time, it was not sensible enough to embark on the process of releasing the second album. Indeed, it is a release that the fans embraced, since the first bunch of 100 tape copies was sold out really quickly and so was the split cassette. The repress on the CD also received really positive feedback. Also, this release was one of our tickets for us to join Memento Mori Records.”
Once again your choice of a cover song (‘Sex And Violence’ by CARNIVORE) was pretty unexpected. Are you big CARNIVORE fans or is it just this song that appealed to you?
“We are all huge fans of CARNIVORE. If you ask me, its one of the most underrated 80s Thrash Metal acts, but I think that their music has no boundaries at all. It’s an amazing blend of Hardcore Punk, Thrash Metal and even Doom Metal at some points. It’s no big secret that Peter Steele was a big fan of BLACK SABBATH. I think that he was an amazing composer.”
“Paroxysm Of Hatred”, your second album, came out in 2018 via Memento Mori on CD and a year later via Empire Records on 12″ vinyl and Metal Throne Productions on cassette. How did you get together with Memento Mori? Was it a deal just for one album? When did the other labels come on board?
“Prior to the recordings of the second album, we had gained some experience on dealing with labels, talking with promoters etc. We were much more capable of negotiating a contract for our releases, or a deal for a live performance in Europe. Besides that, we were aware that Memento Mori was a solid choice for a band like RAPTURE. Α great underground label, taking good care of the bands that fall under its roster. At that time, we were already in contact with bands from all over the world that had worked with Memento Mori and they had nothing but amazing words to say to us about the label, and Raúl (the labelmaster) himself. To be honest, words cannot describe good enough how much Memento Mori did for us and what that label means for RAPTURE’s history. A big part of the success and the reach our previous album achieved has to be credited to Memento Mori. Regarding Metal Throne and Empire Records, they both contacted us after the album was released on CD and expressed their interest on the release of “Paroxysm Of Hatred” on the other formats. Their deals were fair, and they were easy to work with, so we did not hesitate to cooperate with them.”
What can you tell us about the origin of the album in general? How long did it take you to write the material and what made you record at Eleventh Tower Studios this time? As far as I know you previously only recorded at Entasis Studio, didn’t you?
“Some songs that are found on “Paroxysm Of Hatred” have been actually composed before the first album was even released. We embarked on the composition process as soon as we finished recording “Crimes Against Humanity”, and we immediately understood that “Paroxysm Of Hatred” would be a whole differend kind of beast. To me, this is the absolute turning point for the band. Our character in composition and performance became much more distinct, our fanbase grew larger and we got the chance to play abroad for the first time. With “Paroxysm Of Hatred” we managed to play concerts in Malta, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Sweden and Denmark, either by playing on festival slots or by touring. Regarding the recordings, in between the two albums, we met Harris Vougiatzis (the owner of Eleventh Tower Studios), which is the guitarist for one of the best bands to ever come out of Greece, EMBRACE OF THORNS. We did a small pre-productions session and we immediately felt that Harris was the proper sound engineer to incarnate our material in terms of production.”
How come you didn’t play guitar in the promo video you did for the album track ‘Thriving On Atrocity’?
“Actually, I do play the guitar in that videoclip. It’s just that we chose to go with two different variations of me, one of which is much more distinct in the video. The variation that I am talking about, is me covered in blood and not wielding a guitar. The other one, is more performance based and I can be seen playing my guitar parts and singing at the same time, just like at the concerts.”
On the “Paroxysm Of Hatred” cassette edition there’s two additional bonus tracks: the DISCHARGE cover ‘Never Again’ and ‘Behind The Mask Of Evil’, which originally appeared on the “Total Madness Reigns” EP… Tell us a bit more about those two songs and why you only used them on the cassette edition…
“We just wanted to make the cassette version a bit more appealing. Also, it’s possible that these tracks will be featured on possible re-presses of “Paroxysm Of Hatred”, if they happen in the future. Regarding the tracks themselves, they are a recorded rehearsal session at Eleventh Tower Studios. We wanted to capture that “live” feeling on those tracks. The DISCHARGE cover is a dedication to all the victims of the fires which occurred in Greece during the July of 2018. Regarding ‘Behind The Mask Of Evil’ we just wanted to point out the bands’ evolution through an older track.”
In 2020 you digitally released ‘Malevolent Demise Incarnation’ as a brand new track. Were you looking for new label at the time or was it just to let people hear what you were up to musically at that point? Is it the same version that appears as the title track of the new album now?
“This release was made to help us find a label for the third album. You could say that it raised some awareness that something massive was in the works, which helped with everything that had to do with the album. Besides that, it was part of a pre-production session that helped us find the do’s and don’t’s of the main production. The version itself is different from the official album track, some of them are much more than distinct actually.”
When did you sign with F.D.A. Records excactly and how did things develop from that point on?
“Since the April of 2020, we are part of the F.D.A. Records roster. I am pleased to say that things have gone really great. Our cooperation with the label is great, and their professionalism is a great help for us, in our quest to keep expanding our fanbase and evolving our sound. A huge thanks to F.D.A. Records and Rico himself for the big push he has given us.”
Your new album “Malevolent Demise Incarnation” was released this year via F.D.A. Records on CD and colored vinyl editions, but also via Defying Danger Records on clear vinyl… How come there’s two labels involved in the vinyl editions?
“This was an idea that our labelmaster Rico came up with, and I think it was quite effective. Defying Danger is a good label as well and having an exclusive version of our album on that label gives us the opportunity of further distribution and reach.”
It seems you were satisfied how the production of “Paroxysm Of Hatred” turned out, since you returned to Eleventh Tower Studios for this album again. Did you still change certain things or was it recorded in the same way as the previous album?
“”Malevolent Demise Incarnation” was a huge leap forward. For that reason you could say that besides the composition, the song structures themselves and the overall performance, the production has evolved itself. It has much more character, and really brings out the uniqueness of this record. Once again, Harris, the owner of Eleventh Tower Studios, managed to deliver an amazing production that perfectly fits our music.”
How important are lyrics to you? Do you have some kind of concept that you base your lyrics around or do you write about anything that bothers you or pisses you off?
“Our lyrics have to do with misanthropy and nihilism, and exposing the weaknesses and ignorance of the human race. This is the basic idea that all of our lyrics are then written. However, we like to think that each album is a new chapter, and various influences come and go, ranging from philosophy, existentialism and idealism. In the latest album, the basic idea is the total triumph of death over the human breed.”
How active has RAPTURE been on the live front over the years? Your music is meant to be performed on stage, so have you just played selected gigs here and there or also real tours already?
“As we have stressed earlier, after “Paroxysm Of Hatred” we got the chance to perform across many European countries. Some of these gigs were at festivals such as Dark Winter Meeting (Malta), Izmir Attack (Turkey), Raptorfest (Sweden), others were part of mini-tours across a single country and we have also done a European Tour with our brothers VIOLENT DEFINITION.”
Ok Apostolos, that’s about it. If we should have missed out something very important, you can mention it now. Thanks for the interview and all the best for you and the rest of RAPTURE.
“Thank you very much for this interview and for your overall support. We hope we will soon make it to a stage near you as soon as this pandemic is over, and we will unleash our Deathrash misanthropy! Onwards to Total Death.”
Cheryl Schindler (WITCHES BREW), Godwin Borg (VULKAN RECORDS), Raúl Sampedro (Memento Mori) and Rico Unglaube (F.D.A. Records) have at least one thing in common: they all have already released stuff by RAPTURE through their label and therefore are pretty important in the development of the band’s career. We had small chats with all four of them and here are the results…
How did you find out about RAPTURE and what made you offer them a deal?
Cheryl (WITCHES BREW): “I had already been working with some Greek bands like ENDLESS RECOVERY, SABOTER and NIGHTBREED in 2015, so I started getting in contact with lots of bands from that country. I got in touch with vocalist / guitarist Apostolos and he sent me the entire album. It blew me away, it was exactly my kind of Death Thrash! I offered them my standard deal and they accepted. I was extremely pleased.”
Godwin (Vulkan Records): “I discovered RAPTURE sometime in 2017 after buying their debut album “Crimes Against Humanity”, brilliant release, so I wanted to check out what else was there by the band cause I wanted to get more, and until that point there was not much around. They were soon to release “Paroxysm Of Hatred” so after seeing the band live (and if you do get the chance to see these guys live do it, cause they fucking kick ass!) we had a face to face talk and there and than we decided to release their 2016 “Total Madness Reigns” on CD. It was previous released only as a cassette. RAPTURE were never signed with Vulkan, but we did an agreement for this release because it definitely needed to be heard by more people and I hope I helped spread their name a bit more with our release. I am very glad to have done this CD. Their dedication deserved it.”
Raúl (Memento Mori): “I learnt about the band via trading with Witches Brew, the label that put out their debut album. To my ears, it was simply OK, but I felt they had the potential to grow up in future releases. I’m getting older by the minute, and I can’t seem to remember if it was me who got in touch with Apostolos (vocals / guitars), or it was him that got in touch with me, but the fact is, he sent me a few new songs that they had recorded at their rehearsal place, songs that’d be featured on their next album. Those songs blew me the fuck away, so I just had to add them to our roster and try my best to help them spread their music. Luckily enough, I succeeded in both fronts.”
Rico (F.D.A. Records): “I got to know RAPTURE through their second album “Paroxysm Of Hatred”, which was released at the time on the Spanish label Memento Mori. An awesome album, I especially liked this classic mixture of Death and Thrash Metal. The band then came up to me and asked if there was any interest in releasing the third album, so I made them an offer they couldn’t refuse : – ) ”
What kind of response did you get on the record from fans and magazines / fanzines?
Cheryl (WITCHES BREW): “Overall the response was very good, the album was well received from long time followers of the label, as well as it got some cool reviews in fanzines plus a lot of positive responses on social media platforms.”
Godwin (Vulkan Records): “Definitely a positive one, as mentioned above the CD was a “reissue” of the previously tape only release, so it already had some coverage before, but the CD did help to spread the band’s name a bit more I hope.”
Raúl (Memento Mori): “I’m trying hard, but I can’t remember a single bad review on the media, or a single bad opinion from some friend / fan / customer. Everyone seemed to dig the CD we put out for them. No surprise here, because the album kicks major ass.”
Rico (F.D.A. Records): “The new album is so mature, so full of energy and ass kicking. If “Malevolent Demise Incarnation” had been released in the early nineties, we would talk about a classic here that every die-hard fan knows. So, I already assumed that the response would be consistently positive. And so far I have been proven right.”
Is it more difficult to sell a release of a Thrash Metal band than of a Death or Black Metal band?
Cheryl (WITCHES BREW): “Not really, there are enough people who, like me, still enjoy Thrash Metal, whether it be the old classic bands we grew up with or young, new bands with a good attitude and spirit. That being said, I think it is harder to sell releases in general because of the overwhelming amount of bands and labels one is exposed to via the internet. It can be a great tool, but surely one would need a truckload of money to get everything one would want. Haha.”
Godwin (Vulkan Records): “It depends on how much follow-up and exposure the band has already, then again it’s not an exact science or there is a formula of what sells more than what or like we are trying to become rich doing these releases but “Total Madness Reigns” was welcomed with good words in the underground and I’d say figures are similar to Death or a Black Metal release of bands of the same caliber / era of RAPTURE I would say.”
Raúl (Memento Mori): “I actually thought it’d probably not sell too well (not that I care much about sales, anyway), simply because our label is almost entirely focused on Death Metal. But I was wrong. It sold quite nicely, and at the end of the day it didn’t make much difference that it wasn’t a Death Metal release.”
Rico (F.D.A. Records): “I see the band more between Death and Thrash Metal with a tendency towards Death Metal. But to answer your question, classic Thrash doesn’t do as well as Death Metal at FDA Records.”
Do you still follow the band’s career? Have you checked out their newer releases?
Cheryl (WITCHES BREW): “Oh yes, in fact, I just got the newest album some weeks ago and it’s absolutely amazing! I have bought every release after “Crimes…” and they’re all great! The new one though, that is their strongest to date for me. The production on it, the force and power behind the writing and musicianship, just brilliant!”
Godwin (Vulkan Records): “Yes, I do, they keep releasing great material and it is a pleasure to buy their releases and support these guys. “Paroxysm Of Hatred” is an amazing release, one of the best albums of this genre that was released that year. The new album I do not have yet, but I heard some clips of it and it will definitely make part of my collection soon enough.”
Raúl (Memento Mori): “Oh yes. And I must confess that their new album is better than the one we put out, almost on every possible department. As I told Apostolos, it’s a supreme effort. The songs have more richness to them, the performance is ridiculously tight, the bass keeps being super audible, the sound is even better (more depth and heaviness without sacrificing the organic essence)… Damn you, Rico. Why did you have to take them apart from me?”
Rico, how about you? Have you already followed the band’s career before you actually signed them?
Rico (F.D.A. Records): “As I said, I know and appreciated the band since their previous album.”
Did you regret it that you didn’t continue to work with them for a longer period?
Cheryl (WITCHES BREW): “I definitely would have liked to continue working with them, but they had gotten better offers back then that would further their career. I’ve always had the opinion to never hold bands back, so I was ok with their choice to move on. In retrospect it worked out for the better, as I had to close my label later on due to personal life circumstances.”
Godwin (Vulkan Records): “As previously mentioned RAPTURE were never signed to Vulkan but it was a very pleasant collaboration and if the chance comes for another similar release I would do it again, finances allowing of course.”
Raúl (Memento Mori): “It definitely saddened me, but the band knows better than anybody else what’s best for them, so I, as a friend and as a fan of theirs, can’t but support them in any move they decide to make, as long as there’s some good thinking behind it. And this is a band that never act on impulse.”
What do you think is the band’s biggest strength? And where should they still improve?
Cheryl (WITCHES BREW): “Their new album. Although I love all of their releases, this one has just really thrashed the hell out of my neck! As far as improving, I can’t really say because for me, they’ve reached an amazing point in their career with a strong album and label behind them. I’m happy for them.”
Godwin (Vulkan Records): “They are very well grounded, they know their strong points and work on them. They are very dedicated to what they do and I remember them being very good friends out of the band as well. Liking your band mate usually yields in a more productive and fruitful collaboration. As for room for improvement, the answer is, there is always room for improvement for everything, if you don’t strive for excellent you get stuck in a rut. I believe every band should always give as much as they can, RAPTURE give as much as they can and even more, so I wish them all success.”
Raúl (Memento Mori): “Their biggest strength, musical considerations aside, is determination. How they set a goal and work their asses off to try and achieve it. That, and perfectionism: they’re always willing to improve. What is it that they still need to improve? Nothing and everything. They won’t get stuck in self-complacency, that’s for damn sure.”
Rico (F.D.A. Records): “I think on the new album RAPTURE shows that they have the same energy and ferocity as MORBID ANGEL once had when they recorded “Altars Of Madness”. This wildness, feeling for catchy, mega brutal songs and the technical ability are the things that distinguish RAPTURE. I don’t think there is much that can be improved. The boys should keep what they have and never approach their music in a grown up, tame and calculating way.”
Are you still in contact with the guys? Did you part ways with them on friendly terms?
Cheryl (WITCHES BREW): “Yes, I am occasionally still in contact with Apostolos on Facebook. We parted ways on friendly terms, however, now that I restarted my label I would not complain if they were to return. Haha.”
Godwin (Vulkan Records): “Yes, I’m still in touch occasionally and on very good terms indeed. The guys are very hard working and appreciative musicians, so there is no reason whatsoever to not still be friends with them.”
Raúl (Memento Mori): “Apostolos is someone that I can rightfully call my friend. Enough said.”
Rico, how’s the contact with the guys these days? Are they easy to work with?
Rico (F.D.A. Records): “The contact with the band is great and friendly. Mastermind Apo answers incredibly fast and no questions or wishes remain unanswered. That’s how you imagine it.”
Photo credits: Stephan Abela (1-4), Anastacia Papadaki (5), Adam Kinsman (6-7)
Interview: Frank Stöver