It's like yesterday when we first heard the record "Sweet Vengeance". At that time the song "Circle of Pain" sounded through our old Discman in a constant repeat (Yeah, do you remember those old ones without anti-shock that at the very least movement cut or interrupted the song? Time flies!). Seventeen years into its existence, Greece-based melodic death metal horde, Nightrage, has had a storied journey. Founded in 2000 by former Exhumation guitarist Marios Iliopoulos, the band initially featured fellow Greek Gus G. who eventually left to focus on Firewind. The band has moved back and forth between Greece and Sweden, and has now returned to its Greek roots. Iliopoulos has continued to guide Nightrage through seven studio albums, including its latest, "The Venomous". It is the first record to feature drummer Lawrence Dinamarca and guitarist Magnus Söderman, who join Marios along with bassist Anders Hammer and vocalist Ronnie Nyman. Read our very honest Interview with Marios Iliopoulos, one hell of a determined guy!
OBNUBIL: Hey Marios, how are you today? Let's start talking a bit about you. What was the trigger point that made you start creating music? Please give us a little background.
MARIOS: Hey there, I'm fine and very happy with how things are with my life nowadays. Music was always there for me and I remember enjoy listening to music from an early stage. But the trigger point for me and almost a life changing event happened one night that I heard a live show from a German TV live broadcast that have bands like Iron Maiden, Ozzy and Def Leppard among others. That moment and the intensity and passion of the music really affected me and made me understood that it is the thing that I want to do in my life.
OBNUBIL: Please tell us why you left/re-located to Gothenburg from Sydney.
MARIOS: Yeah, I was born in Sydney Australia and I left when I was 3 years old so I can't really remember anything, wish that I can come back one day and see the place where I was born. The reason that I moved to Gothenburg was simply Nightrage. I wanted more options and possibilities for my dreams and since we have already recorded 3 albums in Sweden with my old band Exhumation, it felt naturally to move there permanently to start building my new steps in the music that I was passionate about.
OBNUBIL: Who or what has been so far the biggest single influence on your way of thinking and creating? Is there something you are currently fascinated by?
MARIOS: I think that the whole idea to fight for your band and follow your heart in whatever you do, that was my inspiration to do this with Nightrage. I don't like to listen to people advices about my own decisions or follow a formula, I'm very on the moment kind of guy and act with a lot of heart without thinking about the risks. I feel that I really love Nightrage and I can do everything for the band to carry on and have a better future. With that said, sometimes you get into hardships and you fell into traps, but for a reason I always move forward and do what feels best and better for the band. I'm really fascinated by true and honest people even if it's hard to find them sometimes.
OBNUBIL: When it comes to writing music, we once read that you always start with the title, is this true?
MARIOS: True fact and that's my usual approach when it comes to writing a song, but it is not always the case. But I find it inspiring to have an idea in my mind about the theme of the song and then that triggers some kind of inspiration to get the music out of me.
OBNUBIL: What is your current gear?
MARIOS: I'm using ESP Guitars, Seymour Duncan pickups, Elixir Strings and Orange amps exclusively. Plus a lot of other endorsements like Presonus, toontrack, providence, diago, maxon, motorheadphones, parkwood and dunlop.
OBNUBIL: Besides playing music, what do you like to do in your spare time?
MARIOS: I like to go to the movies and hanging out with my buddies.
OBNUBIL: Tell us a little about Nightrage’s history. You’ve been going for quite a long time!
MARIOS: Yeah, we have started back in the day in Thessaloniki Greece. Me and Gus G. had all the passion and the energy to play music and then I took the band to Sweden to find a better future. We had a lot of cool stuff happened to us and I can tell you it was not that easy, but we never lost our love and spirit to play the music and be creative and connecting with a fan base. So, now we are here and we have a new album The Venomous and I have some really great people with me. Ronnie Nyman, Magnus Söderman and the other guys, we are all in the same page, musically and also as friends.
OBNUBIL: How would you describe the band’s sound to a brand new listener?
MARIOS: It's very heavy and melodic at the same time, not radio friendly but that's how we like it. We are playing music from the heart and we always trying to compose songs and listen and see the music as fans, because we are the biggest fans of the music we are doing. So that gives an extra uniqueness to the sound and the overall songs that we are doing.
OBNUBIL: You've been the one constant in the band from the beginning. What do you feel has kept you and the band going for so long?
MARIOS: Its my crocodile tenacity to never give up and my passion and true love for the music. Music it's a expression tool for me and through the lyrics and the songs we are making, that's a language for me to talk and to be able to say things that are difficult to express in normal life. I know we have changed members through the years but that was for the best of Nightrage and I wish for everybody that have been in the band the best too.
OBNUBIL: Let's talk about your new album "The Venomous". What inspirations lie behind the sound of the album? As far as we know the new album is darkly tinted by the ugliness in this world. The information that came with the album mentions that thematically it deals with the failure of humanity.
MARIOS: We are talking about the ugliness in the world that we are living in and how much we have became closer to our demise, doing the worst things to each other as human beings. “The Venomous” is a concept album that deals with all that hatred and thirst for war that it is on our blood, and we need to change and find the hope on our lives, otherwise we will end up on the worst situation. We got affected from recent events with religious gangs killing innocent people in the name of a god, and we feel that we are living in very scary times and we are wondering where we are leading to. If you just see whats going in the world right now its really crazy. We are the cure to the poison we spit.
OBNUBIL: And, what do you feel makes this one stand out in your catalog?
MARIOS: Its fresh and new and we feel that we are more powerful than ever, something that also can be heard on “The Venomous”. We are proud that after 17 years and 7 albums in a row we are still here, playing the music we love and never compromise the quality and the heaviness of our music in order to become more trendy or being a hit wonder band.
OBNUBIL: Despite the variations in speed and volumes, given the acoustic themes and everything, in the end we were left with the impression that you tried to use the basic Nightrage ingredients and create something with them. What’s your point of view about it?
MARIOS: Yeah “The Venomous” is the next logical step in the evolution of the band, we have brought new ideas and Magnus and Ronnie helped a lot with the music and arrangements and that gave the album a new identity without loosing the signature Nightrage style that we are well known for. We always trying to experimenting with new ideas and evolve our sound, so what you can hear on “The Venomous” its the Nightrage style with a new twist.
OBNUBIL: Could you tell us about the production of the new album? We read it was produced by you and Terry Nikas, mixed and mastering by Lawrence Mackrory… but we don’t know any details about the whole process.
MARIOS: The album was recorded at Zero Gravity Studios with Terry Nikas in September 2017 and we have mix and master in Sweden Uppsala with Lawrence Mackrory in October 2017. Me and Magnus have written all the music for the album, Ronnie did his lyrics and vocal melodies, plus helped with the arrangements of the songs, and Lawrence put all his drum ideas on the recordings, so that it made it a team effort and it sounds tighter than ever. We had a really good time in the studio down in Greece staying there for one month doing everything and then we get back to Sweden to do the rest of the work mix and master. Both Terry and Lawrence are great guys and they helped us a lot to finalize and fix all the details to make us happy and get an album with a great sound.
OBNUBIL: The artwork for this album was created by Revolver Design, a Greek illustrator/graphic designer who has in his portfolio some really amazing work done for many other bands too. How was the creation process of this artwork? Did he work by his own or have you been involved with opinions and feedback? Why did you choose him?
MARIOS: Well Vagelis Petikas the guy that did the album cover first he approached us and he did a shirt design for us that we loved and they we choose him to do the new album full artwork. He is really talented and he visualize very well the theme that we had in mind for “The Venomous” concept. We are all blown away from the work that he has done and we feel that he is very talented and for sure we are going to make the next album with him.
OBNUBIL: With the number of musicians creating music increasing day by day, do you sense some lack of originality overall?
MARIOS: Yeah, we feel that sometimes its just a cycle of repeating riffs hahaha, yeah in a way it's a bit true, too many bands less quality, less great songs. With Nightrage we are trying to be ourselves and play riffs and melodies that we truly love and they are inspiring. But definitely sometimes we see some bands and some musicians trying to copy trendy, sounds or playing silly stuff in order to make it, just for the money and the fame. In the end of the day that is a downer for the newer bands that are coming with pure intentions and they see all this mess. We hope and we are trying that with Nightrage we are giving something honest and very metal out there without sacrificing our musical integrity. Yeah we are not ashamed to call ourselves a metal band that's for sure.
OBNUBIL: After all these years and many gigs, is there a moment you specially remember?
MARIOS: Yeah, the first time that we ever signed with Nightrage and also the second chance we got with Despotz Records, believing in the band and giving us a chance to carry on with our musical dreams.
OBNUBIL: In your musical career we can also talk about guest solo appearances for various artists, such as Dragonland, Dies Irae, Septic Flesh, Firewind, Mystic Prophecy and Universum. Which appearance did you enjoy the most? Is there an artist (dead or alive) with which you would love to collaborate someday or would have loved to collaborate?
MARIOS: Yeah I always have to say yes to any guest solo and I'm willing to help out any cool and hungry metal band, I enjoy all the guests so far even from demo bands, and I wish that one day I would had the chance to work with some great musician from the 80's, you know what I mean hahaha.
OBNUBIL: What do you consider the typical mistakes people make when trying to build a serious band? Any professional advice you may could give?
MARIOS: Be real and be honest, don't try to jump on the next bandwagon and most importantly play music not for the money but for and from your heart, give something back that is original and not fake. I feel that whatever comes from the heart and has a value, always finding it's own way, even if that takes some time, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
OBNUBIL: It has been a pleasure getting all this information! Thank you so much for taking your time answering our questions! Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers of The Covenant and to your fans?
MARIOS: Thanks a lot for the chance to talk with you and the great Interview. I wanna send a lot of warm greetings to your readers and to all our fans out there, and we cannot wait to see you all out soon enough on our forthcoming shows. Maximum respect, we love ya all.
Photo taken by Tasos Thomoglou.
Which of our t-shirts is he wearing in the picture? Do you like it? It is... THIS ONE