Interview with Anastasis Valtsanis
Dead Congregation is one of the driving forces of the Greek death metal underground. We had the pleasure to interview their frontman, Anastasis Valtsanis. In this interview, Anastasis discusses his influences, favorite albums, new album and more!
Agoraphobic News: This was your first time in Serbia, right?
Anastasis: Indeed it was! The show was part of a tour we did in Eastern Europe/Balkans and we got to play in a few countries that we’ve never played before like Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria… It was a great experience.
Agoraphobic News: Dead Congregation is a pretty young band. Can you tell me something about the band’s history?
Anastasis: I wouldn’t say it’s a young band, we were formed in 2004 so we’re active for 13 years already, if you compare us to Judas Priest I guess we’re young… Not much to tell about our history, we’re 4 members that have great chemistry between us and we passionately play and compose Death Metal the way like it. We’ve released two albums and a few EPs during the years and we’ve played hundreds of shows, that’s it!
Agoraphobic News: What are your biggest influences?
Anastasis: It varies from time to time but generally we are driven by our negativity towards certain aspects of this life and we’re inspired by various forms of art that can be other bands, a book, or even a Death Metal fanzine. For example this fanzine DAUTHUS issued in the early 2000’s by our friend T.Ketola was a huge source of inspiration when we were getting started.
Agoraphobic News: And what are some of your favorite albums?
Anastasis: So hard to say but to name a bunch, for me it is ‘Iron Maiden’, ‘Killers’, ‘Somewhere in Time’, ‘Hell Awaits’, ‘Reign in Blood’, ‘South of Heaven’, all Morbid Angel albums until ‘gateways’, first four Immolation albums, Diabolic ‘supreme evil’, Hate Eternal ‘conquering the throne’, all Arkhon Infaustus, first W.A.S.P., Candlemass ‘epicus doomicus metalicus’, Dismember ‘like an ever flowing stream’, Brutality ‘screams of anguish’, Malevolent Creation ‘the ten commandments’ and ‘Eternal’, tons more…
Agoraphobic News: Since DC is a band from Greece, I always wanted to know if the Greek Orthodox church is responsible for the rise of black and death metal scene?
Anastasis: I can’t really say, I suppose every artist is consciously and subconsciously influenced by his direct surroundings, part of which is the Orthodox Church in the case of Greece.
Agoraphobic News: Some of your songs like Graves of the Archangels or Teeth into Red have these cool orthodox chants. Where do they come from?
Anastasis: They are chants about the Archangels so they fit the album conceptually.
Agoraphobic News: What separates the Greek metal scene from the rest of the world in your opinion?
Anastasis: The Greek Black Metal sound of the early nineties is very distinctive, bands like Rotting Christ, Varathron and Necromantia who pioneered this sound created a whole sub-genre. Greek Black Metal is respected all over the world for sounding quite eerie, authentic and very occult. Apart from Black Metal we have a strong scene with lots of great underground bands who don’t necessarily sound unique enough to be separated from the rest of the world but they still produce really good music.
Agoraphobic News: Your first album, Graves of the Archangels is full of noisy tremolo parts and pinch harmonics. Is that what makes Dead Congregation’s sound recognizable?
Anastasis: Pinch harmonics are by no way a novelty, the majority of American Death Metal bands use them (just listen to Morbid Angel, Immolation, Nile, Incantation, Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse…). We’d like to think that our sound has become recognizable because we blend our influences well enough to show our personality through our compositions, instead of trying to simply copy some specific band.
Agoraphobic News: There is a line in Vomitchrist song which says: Nuclearchrist, Vomitpig. Do you think that Jesus is to blame for the destruction of our planet?
Anastasis: No, mindless human beings are to blame for everything wrong in our world. The lyric itself, as most of our lyrics, is not to be taken literally. The message is hidden and open to various interpretations but the core remains blasphemous or even Satanic.
Agoraphobic News: Your previous band and record label were called Nuclear Winter. Why did you name them like that?
Anastasis: The band was formed by other members in 1995 and I joined a year later so I wasn’t responsible for the band moniker. At first lyrics were in Greek and the band name was also the Greek translation of ‘Nuclear Winter’, inspired by the infamous song by SODOM. Can’t remember what made me use the name for the label, probably because the band was inactive by the time I started the label and I simply liked the name.
Agoraphobic News: Does Nuclear Winter resembles your fears of nuclear annihilation?
Anastasis: Not at all, I do not live in any kind of fear.
Agoraphobic News: Purifying Consecrated Ground is a pretty awesome name for an EP. What was idea behind it?
Anastasis: It was a cooler, more indirect way to say roughly ‘desecrating holy ground’, I like it when the message is not always crystal clear.
Agoraphobic News: I’ve noticed that the Dead Congregation concert in Belgrade had a darker atmosphere without any lightshow (unlike Relics of Humanity). Was this intentional and is there a deeper meaning to this?
Anastasis: We don’t have a light technician with us for our shows so the light show always depends on the in-house technician. I don’t know what made the specific person handle the lights differently for us than Relics Of Humanity, I guess he listened to the music and felt like it needed a darker stage. Thanks for that!
Agoraphobic News: It’s a pity that you didn’t play songs like Martyrdoom or Graves of the Archangels in Belgrade. Is there a chance to hear ‘em if you come back to Serbia?
Anastasis: Yes, it’s very possible. We play all our songs live and we always switch around our track-list. Even when we’re on tour, we never play the exact same track-list night after night because it seems boring for us. We want to remain excited every time we go on stage instead of repeating the same procedure over and over like we’re at work.
Agoraphobic News: When are you going to release a new record?
Anastasis: It’s still hard to tell. Not soon.
Agoraphobic News: And the last one, Ancient Greeks or Byzantine Empire?
Anastasis: Silly question. Ancient Greeks spent a lot of time trying to improve and elevate themselves intellectually, spiritually and culturally whilst the Byzantine Empire was responsible for the exact opposite: Obscurantism and mindless following of their so called ‘values’ without second guessing them if you wanted to stay alive. Killings and destruction in the name of (any) god was not completely sparse in the ancient world either but it didn’t come in the form of genocide and decadence of the will and intellect.