Suicidal Angels – A Bloodbath of AggressionTuesday, 30th July 2019
Growing up in the initial wave of thrash during the 1980’s as well as watching its interest wane during the early to mid-1990’s, there was always hope that a resurgence would take shape. Probably due to the Thrash of the Titans cancer benefit in 2001 held for Chuck Billy’s cancer treatment, the electricity came back to the movement – old bands reuniting and moving forward (Death Angel, Exodus) and inspiring a new wave of musicians to try their hand at the genre. Consider Greek quartet Suicidal Angels one of the European leaders in that ‘new breed’ – together since 2001, they’ve released six albums to date and had great opportunities to tour with some of the biggest acts in the thrash/death scene.
Their seventh album Years of Aggression keeps their feet firmly in the thrash mold – while also injecting a bit of their classic/traditional influences in terms of specific guitar harmonies or melodies that weave in and out of these nine songs. We reached out to guitarist/vocalist Nick Melissourgos to give us details regarding their latest album, the classic metal nuance, the long-running relationship with NoiseArt Records and Ed Repka as a cover artist, plus some great insight into the Greek metal scene and some killer concert memories with Iron Maiden, Sodom, and Exodus.
Dead Rhetoric: The seventh studio album for Suicidal Angels is Years of Aggression. How do you see this album fitting with the discography of the past, what do you feel you accomplished this time around that keeps things fresh and interesting for the band?
Nick Melissourgos: I would say, first of all with every album that we do we try to move on a bit, in our style. We want to evolve with our music, and we want to move on as human beings. Every time we lay down our ideas, throw our ideas on the table, and create something that tries to be different, but still in a thrash way of course. We try to add and do different (things) – for this album as an example has more classic, heavy influences than the previous albums. The Judas Priest, Accept, and Saxon influences come into it- but of course it’s totally under the thrash umbrella. Especially this album it consists of nine songs, and each of them is a different song but they somehow fit together under the thrash style.
Dead Rhetoric: Writing more material than necessary in preparation for recording, how do you make the decisions regarding what gets fleshed out from a demo stage cut into consideration for the final track listings? Were there any surprises as a result of this process?
Nick: The fact is that we always make more songs than the ones that end up on the album. The thing behind that- when we develop it and when we finish (the songs), we start practicing them in the rehearsal room. We keep practicing so that we can really learn the songs, and they go through some changes there in the arrangements. We discover in this process the songs that we really like, we want the final songs that make the album to be the ones that really get us headbanging. If they don’t make us headbang, how is it going to make the listener headbang? That’s how we pick out the songs – either nine, ten or eleven. We don’t like fillers – we are not the type of band to write two or three good songs and forget the rest.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned there was more of a classic metal influence on some of the songs- I heard that on a song like “Born of Hate”. Was this a conscious decision to put more harmonies and melodies in the songs?
Nick: No, no – it just came out naturally. And since we like this, why not?
Dead Rhetoric: You decided to keep long-time artist Ed Repka to design the cover again. What fascinates you most about his work, and what have been some of the most memorable pieces you’ve liked from him outside of your own album work?
Nick: What actually makes us keep working with him is first of all, he’s an amazing artist. All of the stuff he’s done, at least for us, they have been some seriously beautiful pieces of art. I’ve loved all the covers he’s done. The thing is, I can’t easily pick out all of his work – they have a different character for each band, they have another approach and atmosphere. I like the way he paints and his point of view on the art, his ability to make something unique for every band that he works for, it adds character to the album.
Sometimes we give him guidance, sometimes we don’t. It depends on the fact if we have an idea in our head. On the last two albums we gave him a bit of something, but for the album Divide and Conquer that was on his own – and we were like, ‘Wow!’.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across lyrically with this record?
Nick: There is no specific bucket with regards to the lyrics this time. I look out of my window and see what goes on around me, get inspired from that. Also – I read a lot of books, either stories or serious books. I read some poems – as an example, the song “Order of Death” is a poem itself. I got influence from the poem -somebody is dying and this entity is saying it’s your time to come, but he would like to live a bit more. There is not a certain source of inspiration – sometimes I get inspired by a really touching story and I could make it a song.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been with NoiseArt Records since Dead Again in 2010. Tell us about your relationship with the label and their importance in keeping Suicidal Angels top of mind for the roster?
Nick: So far we have a really nice cooperation, and things are running smoothly. Nobody knows what the future will bring – so I don’t know if we will have a steady cooperation forever. It’s music, stuff changes, and you never know.
Dead Rhetoric: Fortunate to play on a lot of high profile tours across Europe with bands such as Kreator, Overkill, Exodus, Death Angel, and Cannibal Corpse among others, what have been some of your best memories surrounding these tours, the bands, and what you think you learned from these musicians/bands that you were able to apply to Suicidal Angels?
Nick: On top of these tours that you said, I’d like to add our latest performance that happened last Saturday in Athens opening for Slayer on their final tour, we did the last show in Athens. What I’ve learned from these bands is that, at the end of the day we are all humans. They don’t have an attitude. A month ago, I was at a Cannibal Corpse concert in Switzerland, because I also live there, because I haven’t seen the guys since 2012 and we hung out together again like not a single day had passed. And we are talking about families, their kids, how the tour is going.
I’m really glad to consider myself part of the metal scene. I’m glad I’ve met all these people and these musicians that have been in bands that influenced me since I was 15 years old. I consider myself lucky to have met them.
Dead Rhetoric: I would imagine your 15-year-old self couldn’t imagine playing with Slayer when you were first experiencing the Show No Mercy record, the one that turned you onto thrash, correct?
Nick: Exactly. I would never have imagined it. Maybe I would dream of it, someday the possibility of playing with these people on the same stage. Dreaming to reality is a long, long way (away).
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences between the studio and the stage – and do you have a preference for one over the other when it comes to Suicidal Angels, or do you get equal enjoyment out of both endeavors?
Nick: I would say that the studio time is kind of more stressful. During a live show you have interaction with the crowd, you get energy back- in the studio you are just putting out endless amounts of energy, on and on. Of course it’s really productive and creative, but on the other hand you need to be 1000% focused so you can create the best album out of you. Because that is what you do- you go into the studio to get the best out of you. Not only just playing the songs, and then you have to sing the lyrics and get across those ideas in the right way. I enjoy both, but the studio time is more stressful.
Dead Rhetoric: Since you also play guitar live while singing, has it been a challenge to do both?
Nick: I like it. I needed a bit more time to practice doing both in the beginning, separating the halves from the brain. I remember in the beginning struggling to get them both, I would screw up the guitar playing a lot. But over the years, I’ve gotten much better.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your feelings on the thrash scene today – especially given the mix between older/legacy acts still putting out new music as well as the new breed of bands from all over the globe?
Nick: From my perspective, I’m really glad to see that the thrash metal scene is thriving again. Let’s say (over) the last ten years. When we started playing thrash metal music, people thought it was dead. People would ask me what kind of music I would play- I’d say thrash metal, and they thought it was dinosaur music. I never got into these comments- I kept playing the music that would make me headbang, and enjoying my time. I’m really glad to see the thrash scene rising again, a lot of bands from all over the globe that are playing this music and making nice music. It’s awesome to see a lot of bands from the past that were split up are back together and providing nice music, and we have the chance to see them live because they weren’t together for so many years.
It’s a combination of the newer bands plus the older bands that are making new music – good or bad I’m not able to judge.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that you are in your mid-30’s, how do you look back upon your twenties in terms of your life? Are there any specific areas that you feel you have improved upon due to experience and maturity?
Nick: Oh my god, my twenties (I) was a mess! (laughs) And also my thirties are a mess… no, I’m just kidding. If you want to be able to write music, and especially to write thrash metal music, to play it you still need to be twenty no matter how old you are. Otherwise, it doesn’t sound proper. Inside me, I feel 17-20, and I look back at my twenties and can’t believe I’m 34 right now. If I look at the touring, recording, and festivals here and there – that’s how these last 15 years have passed. I believe I do my best to try to squeeze the life out of every experience. When I was 20, I wasn’t as experienced in life or music as I am now- I didn’t see things as I see them now from another angle. Time flies for God’s sake.
Dead Rhetoric: What goals are still left for the band to accomplish?
Nick: I don’t know. Playing in the universe, maybe playing on another planet. We are still working. I don’t think everybody has achieved their goals. If you want to be a musician, there is no limit in the sky. There’s no limits – and that’s my way of living. I don’t believe in borderlines – borderlines are made to be broken.
Dead Rhetoric: What common mistakes or misconceptions do you see younger bands make that maybe you avoided or try to steer them in another direction if they come to you for advice?
Nick: Patience. That’s the only thing that I can give. You can’t make an album and then the next day conquer the world. Patience, hard work, and being strict on yourself. When you say you have to deliver (an album) on the 10th, you deliver it on the 9th. You have to be strict to yourself as a human being, having a schedule, being responsible. You can’t work hard if you are not responsible, you can’t have patience if you are not responsible. All these things are connected.
Dead Rhetoric: I remember you talking in past interviews about the Greek metal scene and sometimes the lack of professionalism that affects the musicians on the local level. Can you talk to us a little more about that?
Nick: When I was giving this interview, it was quite a long time ago. The last eight years the things in Greece have changed. In 2004 the metal scene in Greece was a struggle to find the right studio and circumstance to develop a band. Nowadays there are a lot of studios in Athens that are working professionally, they do a really nice job. The access to proper instruments and knowledge is easier than it was in the past. The access to labels, the booking agencies, the festivals is easier now.
I only see the Greek scene moving forward, and I see a lot of bands going across the border, participating in small and big festivals, smaller and bigger tours. There is a movement, and I really like it. Sooner or later there are going to be more Greek bands that you are going to learn about and interview. I hope it’s going to happen.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been three of your favorite thrash albums of all-time – and three of the best show/concert memories you’ve had?
Nick: Reign in Blood– Slayer for sure. Darkness Descends– Dark Angel. And now the third one… that’s a tough one. Hmm… does it have to be thrash 100%? Because I would consider something in the death/thrash vein. I was really shocked when I heard the first Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness. So in position three I would put Altars of Madness and Sepultura’s Beneath the Remains. I can’t separate those two, sorry.
As for concerts. My god, I have to go way back now. I will never forget the first Iron Maiden show I went to when I was 15 years old. I even lost my dad’s cell phone because I didn’t have my own cell phone. It was somewhere in the pit and I dived in, couldn’t find it and I thought my dad would kill me. It was the Brave New World tour. I will never forget the first Sodom concert I saw in Athens, because for some weird reason they delayed the concert for three hours and we were just waiting outside. I had to return home to finish my homework, which never happened. We didn’t have the money to return by taxi because the concert was so late – thank god it wasn’t that far from home, it was only a couple of hours walking. The Exodus concert on the Tempo of the Damned album, they played for two hours. And the next day I woke up and I had bruises from head to toe, everywhere.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for the coming year for Suicidal Angels? Will you be doing something special down the road to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the group?
Nick: We haven’t discussed these 20th anniversary things yet. And we are not celebration guys, to be honest. We haven’t celebrated the 10th anniversary of anything, so far. I don’t think we will do anything special, nobody knows. We are quite spontaneous on this stuff. As for touring we are in the process of negotiating with our management a possible tour package. We are in the waiting period for the album to get out, and then we will have more news. We want to hopefully play North America – we had some offers in the past, but they were totally going to be a rip off. We wouldn’t have made it back home. We are working, and we want to come to the states- we have a lot of fans there, we have a lot of friends there. I know this all over social media – we want that.