Nightrage – The Struggle Was GrimSunday, 16th April 2017
Circa 2003, Tomas Lindberg was a near-legend because of his brief stint in At the Gates. Gus G. was a hot commodity, but not quite at guitar hero level. Per Moller Jensen was the respected sticksman for The Haunted and Tom Englund was still Evergrey’s best-kept secret. At the time, these men had one thing in common: They all played prominent roles on Nightrage’s debut album Sweet Vengeance. Considered by some to be the unofficial follow-up to At the Gates’ brilliant Slaughter of the Soul, Sweet Vengeance hit the melodic death metal scene as it was starting to boil, prompting some to question the motives of Nightrage leader Marios Iliopoulos as a simply looking to cash-in. Iliopoulos remains the last man standing from that illustrious lineup, but make no mistake: Nightrage’s longevity is a reflection on the man himself.
Such are the sentiments as the band released its newest The Venomous. The band’s second album with vocalist Ronnie Nyman, The Venomous is as crisp as it is direct, with Iliopoulos’s still churning out those ringing melodic structures as only he can. With nary a blip in their catalog, Nightrage has become one of metal’s go-to melodic death metal bands, a tag well-earned after years of lineup swaps, label changes and changing tastes. All this was on the docket when we caught up with Iliopoulos. Read on…
Dead Rhetoric: Next year will mark the 15th anniversary of Sweet Vengeance. Do you still think about those times, especially in terms of starting the band releasing your first album?
Marios Iliopoulos: Yeah, this album has a special place in my heart. It was our first offering. It is a great feeling now you mention it that we are still here after 15 years still making music. A lot of fans still consider Sweet Vengeance as our best album. That album was the introduction for us to the metal world and gotten great feedback back then, still does when it’s mentioned in the press. I think about it sometimes, but to be honest, I don’t want to live in the past. I know that we did the best we could back then, but I would like to live in the present so that way we have a great future. I love where we are right now and the fact that we have a new album The Venomous that I believe is on the same level or even better like the first album, makes me really happy. All I can see is a bright future and the best is yet to come for Nightrage.
Dead Rhetoric: Nightrage entered the scene when melodic death metal was very popular. Did anyone tell you the band wouldn’t last?
Iliopoulos: I still remember back in the day people telling me that I’m just a daydreamer and that I will succeed at nothing playing melodic death metal and Nightrage will never last because the music that I’m trying to play is very difficult and it’s an uncommercial style of music. I think I have proven them wrong. Well, maybe we haven’t gotten a rock star status and commercially-speaking we are not on the top, but we are still here making the music we love, we have thousands of fans loving the music we are doing, and we have played numerous shows. All these years we worked really hard to be able to deliver the best albums we possibly could. People can say whatever they want and they can have their own opinions–that’s okay, but I don’t see a single reason why you have to be affected from people moaning. Why you have to listen to empty words when your heart is telling you otherwise? Nightrage is a good example of that.
Dead Rhetoric: To that point, why has Nightrage been able to last so long when other bands haven’t?
Iliopoulos: That might be my crocodile tenacity and passion to not let down the dream that I had from the very start. Also the fact that I believe in creativity and I’m a survivor that has a really strong will. But first and foremost, I love to play the music, even if it sounds like a cliché, that’s the fact that kept us alive all these years. Music for me is a tool to express your inner thoughts and desires and you can connect with the world with a such a great way that people can get what you want to say. It is also the fact that I promised to myself to not stop at nothing and follow my heart, I’m happy that I have found Ronnie and our new guitarist Magnus [Söderman]. We are sharing the same ideas and values about honest artistic expression, you can really listen to that excitement on The Venomous.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your favorite memories of that point in time?
Iliopoulos: The fact when we released the first album and we got the chance to work with Century Media, all the great shows that we gotten all these years, the great people and bands that we have met, and also when we signed with Despotz records and they gave us a new chance, a new fresh boost of energy for the band. Plus, for us, every time we release a new album it’s an achievement that we never, of course, are taking for granted. That always makes us stronger and we know that you can do everything that you desire, if you give the chance to yourself to let it happen.
Dead Rhetoric: As for The Venomous, it’s yet another excellent album from you guys. With so many albums under your belt, are you ever at a loss for ideas?
Iliopoulos: We are also very excited about it and we feel that we have continued where we left off from the previous album, only this time we came back way stronger and finally with a solid lineup. It’s kind of strange now you are asking that, ideas and composing new material for us always comes naturally for a reason. I feel that we still have many great albums inside of us and the passion and excitement never fails in the composing department. Every time we release an album is a new chapter for us that we feel very happy and excited about it. Luckily inspiration is always on our side and never fails, and hope this will continue to be.
Dead Rhetoric: This is the second album with Ronnie. Can you describe his growth as a vocalist?
Iliopoulos: Yeah, I think this time Ronnie did a great job on the album and he was more sure about what he wanted to deliver with his vocals. On the previous album, that was the first album we did together, he was still searching for the right tone and style that would fit Nightrage. But this time and you can really hear that on the new album; he found his style and his tone was more varied going from low to high tones, his vocals melodies were more well thought-out, and he made a nice blend from the pure melodic death metal kind of vocals along with his hardcore root influences.
Dead Rhetoric: Did Ronnie assume any lyric writing duties for The Venomous?
Iliopoulos: Yeah, on the demos I did some lyrics and ideas that he took and changed them and re-wrote the lyrics completely keeping the same theme and character. He is a great writer as well and is very creative about ideas and different themes. Our ideas and brains are in the same page and he can always translate the themes and ideas that we have for the concept of the album, and write some good stories and lyrics. It’s a strange method to exchange our ideas and write this way, but works for us and I love to write with him as I always learn something new and vice-versa.
Dead Rhetoric: For you, what are some of the album highlights? I’ll point to “Affliction,” “Bemoan” and “The Blood.”
Iliopoulos: I love “The Venomous” and “Affliction,” as they are a bit different and a bit more melodic and groovier. We are well known that we can play fast but we like when we throw some more mid-tempo type of songs, that they are still heavy and have a groovier edge. I love all the songs on the new album anyway and there is no fillers, we always trying to put out the best material we have on our hands.
Dead Rhetoric: At this point in your career, what’s the approach to touring?
Iliopoulos: We have a new booking agent as we speak and they are looking for shows now. Our aim for now is to make some release shows in May and a bigger Euro tour from September. We also looking at other territories like the Americas, Asia and Australia and we really want to go out there and promote the new album because we think deserves our best attention.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2017?
Iliopoulos: Promote The Venomous as much as we can, play great shows and be active and productive. Support The Venomous and go and buy it, steal it, or stream it but give it a chance. Can’t wait to see you all out there. Maximum respect!