Cradle of Western advancement, Greece counts only 11 million inheritors to one of the oldest civilizations on the third stone from the sun. Population-wise, Ohio’s got that beat. Math, science, literature, and a political science formerly known in this country as democracy – all Greek peaks.
Metal counts more name recognition than most contemporary Hellenic arts in the wake of Homer, and with this month’s Force of Profanation, Ravencult makes inroads on a native brand awareness whose global proxy remains Rotting Christ. The Athenian quartet’s third LP cleans and polishes its blackened death thrash without blunting its serrated decimation. Axe demon Stefanos Fakatselis fielded our email.
Five long years elapsed between Morbid Blood and Force of Profanation. What took so long?
We are very strict and selective when it comes to composing new material, as we always put a lot of effort in producing something very solid and inspired. Every part of the music is chosen very carefully as there is no space for filler songs, not even filler riffs, in our stuff. We act instinctively and never rush on new material, so we maintain high standards, which is aim number one for us. On top of that, add live activities, time consuming day jobs, and discussing our deal with Metal Blade, which took a while.
What effect, if any, was there for the band moving from Hells Headbangers to Metal Blade for the new album?
Artistically, no effect at all. We would release the same material no matter if it were to be released from a big or small label. HHR is probably the top underground label and really helped us breakthrough in the scene with the release of Morbid Blood. Metal Blade is a new channel for us to spread our aural primitivism to a wider audience. Sure there will be more exposure and publicity to the band, but we are really focused on our cause, so the band’s character will not be altered in any way.
Were cleaner production and more intelligible vocals on Force of Profanation a product of moving to Metal Blade, or did the label release an already-finished album?
We just went with the flow. Still, the sound is very raw and organic compared to modern releases and the tracks a lot harsher than Morbid Blood, so we feel we’re on the right track. We signed with Metal Blade when they hadn’t heard the new material, so they got the finished album. The decisions and directions are solely made by the band without any external factors being involved.
What were the band’s goals for Force of Profanation in the wake of Morbid Blood?
Main goals remain the same since day one: glorification of sinister metal and being dedicated to our mission spreading it. Force of Profanation is a statement of what fierce black/thrash means to us at the moment, and we hope with this album to perform in new territories we’ve never played before.
So raw, so feral – what’s Ravencult’s secret to bottling that fury in the recording studio?
I guess there is no secret behind it but only the adoration of primitivism and the urge to express the primal elements of it: nihilism, denial, negativity. Ravencult is about creating tension and rawness through morbid sounds and preserving the tradition by being relentless and uncompromising as extreme metal should be.
Describing Ravencult in the Decibel review, I mentioned Watain because both groups sound so furiously unhinged yet somehow self-controlled in that attack. Are you fans? What were the band’s main influences initially, and what acts do you identify with contemporarily?
Watain rightfully deserves the recognition they’ve earned because they are one of the most hard working bands – extremely dedicated to their cause and emphasizing detail. They have my respect. Musically we have not much in common as Ravencult incorporates a lot of thrash with almost no melodies at all, but we start from the same basis, which is the darkness of black metal. Stuff we like varies from classic heavy metal to raw black/death, but when it comes to actual influences to our sound, it’s the extreme side of metal we adore: from proto-black metal bands like Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Venom, Bathory, to evil thrash like Possessed, Slayer’s Hell Awaits album or early Sodom to the second wave of ’90s black metal bands.
In an interview, I mentioned Ravencult to Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ, who responded favorably. Given that band’s longevity, were they an influence? Have the two ever played together? Was there a point when you were teenagers on the scene watching them and thinking, “We can do this”?
They were an influence in many levels, as we’ve been in contact for more than 15 years and since the beginning of Ravencult. Our first demos were highly influenced by the Greek black metal sound that was incorporated by Sakis with his trademark riffing and feeling, although we evolved in something different through the years. However, in terms of mentality, they taught us one needs to be idealist, hard working, humble, and true to oneself and fans. We’ve shared the stage numerous times, have toured together. I've handled the bass for them on some shows, so I’d say we share a lot of common things and perspectives.
What’s the metal scene like in Athens? In the U.S., we only hear of a handful of Greek bands, but is that just the “tip of the iceberg” as Tolis indicated?
The scene in Athens is really strong, firstly because there are killer acts in almost every metal genre, especially in the extreme like thrash/death/black, but also classic heavy/epic. Greece has always been a stronghold for traditional, straightforward metal and still is. There are many places to perform, from small underground clubs and medium capacity, to bigger ones and even arenas. Many record shops specialized solely in metal, there are lots of distributors, concerts take place every week, and so on. Before the economical recession it was even better, but it still thrives. If you search the underground, you will discover great acts here apart from the well known acts of the ’90s.
Given the effect of Greek culture on all global civilization, how is it that until recently, perhaps, your average American might only have been able to name Yanni as a Greek musical act?
Yanni and Demis Roussos! Well, metal music is generally non mainstream to put it in a way, or even “underground” if you exclude huge acts like Maiden, Metallica, Priest, Sabbath, etc. I guess it would be difficult for the average man in the street to know about Necromantia or Rotting Christ, except if you're deep into the metal scene. However, it’s impressive and shows real potential that such a small and distant from central Europe country has produced so many infamous bands whether countries with larger population have not.
When will we finally see Ravencult on these shores?
Hopefully with Force of Profanation we will march on U.S. shores as we really want to play there. It’s all up to the promoters, but our intention is of course to perform for the U.S. fans that have showed great support towards Ravencult throughout the years.
Apart from the new album, there will also be represses of earlier material that’s out of stock for years, like our 2007 debut album Temples of Torment, tape versions of our discography, new merch, and more. The primitive sound returns....