Nightrage – Melodeath Survivors

Sunday, 14th April 2019

Bands that play pure, old school melodic death metal aren’t as easy to come by as they were in the past. Many have stopped playing, or incorporated more commercially-driven material to the point that they don’t sound like they used to. But Nightrage has been standing strong for pretty much two decades. With a sound that instantly grabs your ear – bringing in vicious riffs and catchy melodies, they have made their name on playing melodic death metal the way that the fans crave. We chatted with guitarist Marios Iliopoulos just prior to the release of new album Wolf to Man in order to discuss where the band is at, the revolving doors of members, and being considered one of the current flagbearers for the genre.

Dead Rhetoric: It feels like whenever Nightrage releases a new album, you can expect that it is going to be done at a high level, and the band hits all of the marks.

Marios Iliopoulos: On the new one, the collaboration between Magnus [Söderman] and I – who are the main songwriters in the band – went even better. We are in a better situation as friends and songwriters collaborating together. We had a really good time on this one. Magnus and I met a few times and wrote all the songs together, then Ronny [Nyman] came in the picture and wrote his lyrics and vocal melodies. It was really fun – I’m very open too, grabbing ideas from them. It’s a team effort, it’s not just my riffs. At the end of the day, you get better results when you have more songwriters in the band, so that’s where our focus was as a band.

Dead Rhetoric: What does Wolf to Man offer for the Nightrage fan?

Iliopoulos: I think it’s a continuation from The Venomous. But this time around, the sound is better and the songs are more solid. There’s more variation in the music. Magnus composed some songs on his own, and then we arranged it all together – it gives us more variety in our sound. It’s not just Marios riffs, like it used to be in back in the day. It sounds a bit more interesting, at least to my ears. I think we also continued on a path, like we always do. We want to be a metal band, and we just want to please ourselves and our fans. We want to play metal songs that we like as fans. At the end of the day, we are fans and play this to please ourselves.

Dead Rhetoric: In saying that you are fans in the end, do you view Nightrage as flagbearers for the [melodic death metal] genre at this point, given that so many bands have skewed away from it?

Iliopoulos: I don’t want to say that, because maybe I’m not the guy to say that. But to be honest, a lot of fans tell us that. They tell us that we are one of the last few bands playing this aggressive melodic death metal. It doesn’t’ exist anymore. A lot of other bands, like some of the creators of that style, maybe changed and are doing something else more poppy or more commercial, and they can – that’s not a problem. But for us, it’s very crucial to be ourselves and play music from the heart – not from a selling [music] stance. We want to play music that we feel is right. A lot of people tell us that we are true flagbearers of melodic death nowadays.

Dead Rhetoric: For this album, you got a new drummer and a bassist right?

Iliopoulos: Yeah, we got Francisco Escalona our new bass player, who is an old and really good friend of mine. We was the first person we looked at for a new bassist. We also got a new drummer from Greece who is really talented, Dino George Stamoglou. He’s really talented and a nice guy too. So we did well together when we all hung out on the Voivod tour – he helped us out there. The line-up is very solid now – we have a lot of fun hanging out. I think, for me, it needs to be friendship among people in the band. It’s a very cool thing.

Dead Rhetoric: It seems like up to this point, there’s been this revolving door that seems to go around, so it’s cool to hear that you think you have something solid.

Iliopoulos: Yeah, its true. The band has been like a hotel in the past. But there is a reason for that to be honest. The band has been like a revolving door, and I don’t deny that. It’s kind of my fault because I was naïve back in the day and believed all of the bullshit that people would tell me like, “Oh, I love Nightrage, I want to play with Nightrage!” and all that shit. I got excited when people would tell me that. These type of people would get disappointed when they came into the band and realized how hard it is to do. It’s a lot of hard work – you lose money and you lose time. People were expecting something else. When they don’t get what they want, they get disappointed. This is part of the reason why many people left the band. They were looking for something else besides the music. For me, that’s the main reason for this band – the music. All of the other stuff is secondary. I feel like the line-up we have right now, I am on the same page with everybody in the band.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s crazy to me to think that people are going to jump into something like melodic death metal and think it’s going to become this rock-star career.

Iliopoulos: It’s kind of funny because there’s no money in this. You are losing money, because you have to invest a lot of money on merchandise, you have to invest a lot of personal time, you have to lose time from work. It requires a lot of hard work. Not everyone is ready to be there and do that kind of work. In finding these new guys, I feel like they understand me. They understand where they are right now.

Dead Rhetoric: Being able to work with so many talented musicians over the years with the band, what do you feel that you’ve learned from others?

Iliopoulos: Definitely, you always learn. Even from people who are not well known. You just need to have your eyes and ears open, and not be a douchebag, so to speak. You can always learn from people. I feel I have learned a lot, but still have a lot more to learn about the business and the band. It’s a learning process. With the experience I’ve had so far, I’m always listening to people and trying to learn from them. They learn from me as well. It’s a win-win situation.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you see the band as having different ‘eras’ at this point, due to shifts in personnel?

Iliopoulos: Yeah, you could say that. One interesting thing here, is that we never changed our sound too much. We have different eras in the band, but the sound stayed the same I think. It’s strange, but it’s cool at the same time. Maybe because I try to have my particular style in the band and we’ve always tried to incorporate that into the songs. It’s cool that we kept the signature style of the band over these years, apart from unfortunately bad decisions that were probably my fault because I was naïve and said yes to everybody. It is what is it, and you have to live with that sometimes. And you have to move on in life.

Dead Rhetoric: So what do you feel that signature sound is? What makes you say, oh that’s definitely Nightrage?

Iliopoulos: I think a lot of fans say it is the combination of the riffs and melodic guitars. The combination of brutality – the riffs are brutal but then a nice ethereal melody comes in. Something like that I guess. I always keep the metal perspective in my heart. I don’t want to lose that. Nightrage is brutal riffs with ethereal melodies – that is what the fans like as well.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s the tagline right there!

Iliopoulos: [Laughs] The fans always say that. The guitars, the riffs, the melodies are what I hear the fans talking about. I realize that this is us – it’s cool that people can actually see that.

Dead Rhetoric: With almost 20 years of Nightrage in the books, what does the band mean to you personally?

Iliopoulos: It became a part of my life – it’s what I do on a daily basis. I try to keep the band going, and keeping in contact with the guys. It’s like work without pay. For me, it’s fun because I love to do it. It gives me pleasure. Nightrage is my life.

Dead Rhetoric: The ‘no pay’ thing is tough.

Iliopoulos: It’s true, that’s why a lot of people get disappointed because they think they are going to be a rock star. That’s not true, you need to work your ass off. In 20 years, maybe you can become one [laughs]. It takes time.

Dead Rhetoric: So what are some of your most fond memories you’ve had with the band?

Iliopoulos: There are a lot of things – the tours we have done, the people we have met. Its unforgettable to be honest. If you ask me in particular, maybe when we signed our first contract with Century Media. That was our goal, and one of the biggest moments for Nightrage. All of the albums we have done, and the crocodile tenacity to not let down the band. I think that’s one of the things that makes me feel that we are strong. We never give up. Even in ups and downs, we are like cockroaches [laughs]. We never die.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel the band has been more successful in part because of your ‘never give up’ attitude?

Iliopoulos: Yeah, no matter what happens, even if we are in the worst situation as a band, we manage to survive. We are survivors. We never got the success that everyone is looking for – economically. But as artists, I feel we are there. Nightrage is a personal success for me. We move forward all the time, we don’t get knocked down.

Dead Rhetoric: So you don’t really depend on Nightrage for a living, what do you do other than studio work?

Iliopoulos: Right now I’m working in a recording studio here in Greece. Apart from the studio and the band, that’s all I do. There’s not a lot of money there as well, but I don’t really care about that anyway. I care more about creativity. It’s good – there’s no complaints. Nightrage and the studio is what I do, and keeping in contact with all of the guys. They are very happy that I take care of the business and everything concerning Nightrage. We have really good communication right now in the band, and it makes me happy.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that working in a studio keeps you at the forefront of things with each new Nightrage album?

Iliopoulos: It’s a cool thing – we can record whenever we want. Ronnie also has a studio of his own in Sweden where we can record. We didn’t have that before, so it’s a bit of freedom to have your own space and do what you want. It’s really great – I’m grateful for this privilege. for our last album, Wolf to Man, we recorded the drums in my studio and then we went to Ronnie’s studio and did everything else. We took our time. It’s a privilege, to be honest. It’s nice.

Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have once Wolf to Man is released?

Iliopoulos: We have one show in Athens in April, then the Cryptopsy tour in Europe in May. We got some offers for playing North America in July/August from our booker in America. Our booking agency, Artery Global, is looking for more dates for us. We just want to go out and play the new songs and have a good time.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s been a while since you guys have been to the US.

Iliopoulos: The last time was 2011, so we need to go back. There are a lot of fans asking, so hopefully this summer we will be there.

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