The Eternalist by Agatus is a very distinctive album. In today’s over-saturated musical climate, that description alone should hopefully be enough to pique your interest. It’s a very more-ish album too; once you’ve devoured its contents once, you want to do so again. The songs are positively infectious, and the way it switches from black metal to classic rock to heavy metal without skipping a beat…well, it’s a joyous thing to hear.
So without further preamble, let’s dive into this interview and find out why Agatus are such an individual creation…
Introduce us to Agatus!
The band was formed in Athens, Greece during the early 90s and we made our first introduction to the scene with our demo A Night of the Dark Ages (1993) a release well received and leading to the recording of our debut album ‘The Dawn of Martyrdom (1996) that was recorded the in 1994, the same year the band moved to Australia.
In 1997 we released The Rite of Metamorphosis EP and in 2002 we followed up with The Weaving Fates, an album with a hint of Heavy Metal elements although the music was clearly classified as Black Metal.
In 2011 we released another EP Night Mares and in 2012 Gilgamesh also an EP however this time the Heavy Metal direction had been embedded in our music and was paving the way for the sounds of THE ETERNALIST.
What are your influences?
On THE ETERNALIST I finally combined my influences with my own playing style to create an album that will capture some of the music I like listening to and continue driving my sound whilst maintaining the Agatus identity.
Bands that inspired me in terms of sounds and feel were Eloy, Al DiMeola, Rainbow, Michael Schenker, Marillion, Bathory and the list goes on…
Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend
This is what I have been listening to lately.
Marillion and Vangelis only partially, however they sound promising as usual.
Joe Bonammasa – Blues of Desperation
Fates Warning – Theories of Flight
Zemial – The Repairer of Reputations
Marillion – FEAR
Vangelis – Rosetta
What’s the defining reason for the existence of Agatus?
To continue the tradition of good musicianship with traditional performance of instruments, natural sounds and musical challenges.
How would you describe the style of music that you play?
The music of THE ETERNALIST will appeal to fans from an array of genres. Contrary to our past releases which were predominantly in the Black Metal genre with hints of Heavy Metal in THE ETERNALIST I did whatever I felt was best suited to the composition without concerning myself how the album will end up sounding.
Vorskaath’s drumming stands out on this album and really helped shape and refine the songs to reach their final form. Some of the drum fills and the locking in with the bass guitar are simply amazing and they are far detached from the realms of Black Metal or even Metal. We are both on the same wavelength when it comes to understanding and interpreting each other’s compositions and find ways of complementing with sound, style or timbre.
With this album we are yet again breaking away from tradition and refining the sound of the band.
It’s been 14 years since The Weaving Fates – I’m sure there’s story here as to why…?
Over the years I have been in involved with different bands and had other commitments outside of Agatus that kept me away from moving the band forward. During those years I did however record albums and do live performances with Zemial, The Watcher, Raven Black Night and other acoustic projects I was involved in at time.
I was very inspired to restart the compositional process and the recordings for this album whilst in Greece, knowing that I will also work closely with my brother again.
It is worth noting that songs such as Perils of The Sea Pt II, At Dusk I Was Born and some other material that is yet to be released was originally composed as far back as 1996.
Tell us about The Eternalist – what are some of the themes and concepts involved in the album?
This is not a concept release, however, the underlying theme throughout the album is the eternal journey of the soul into the realms of the night and the dead , transformation and completion through accessing another state of consciousness. The essence of existence and the voice of the soul, the presence of consciousness beyond the physical, removing confusion for clarity and darkness for enlightenment.
The wisdom of Sumer, the magic of Dusk and the words of a Greek philosophers, the world’s greatest epics all form inspiration for THE ETERNALIST.
How was the album written and recorded?
Many of the album ideas as well as some full songs were composed in Australia, as far back as 1996 as around that time I tried shifting the style of Agatus, so much in fact that some of the songs we even played live were later integrated in Alpha Centauri, our Epic Heavy Metal project.
On THE ETERNALIST all instruments were recorded at my own studios in Australia and Greece, with the exception of the drums that were recorded at Vorskaath’s Studio 9 in Greece.
We both have well equipped studios allowing us to record our albums and I guess we will continue making albums this way.
Contrary to The Weaving Fates which was recorded live in 1.5 hours, on this album I worked alone on all compositions and recordings of my own parts. Vorskaath worked the same way for recording the drums. Together we worked on most arrangements and mixing the album with good friend Dimitris Misirlis from MATRIX Recording Studio in Athens.
We love warm analogue and vintage sounds and do not want to have a sound like that of a modern polished production and I believe that we achieved this on this album. We used natural drum sounds |NO TRIGGERS| and mixed on an analogue desk using a lot of outboard gear. The next album will sound a little different – the compositions will possibly feature fewer instruments.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
I have a several favourites, however I think that the album track title ‘The Eternalist’ stands out for me. Great opening statement, love the diversity in the composition and the blending of styles and feel that together with the lyrics sum up perfectly the essence of the album and what is to follow.
Dreamer is my next favourite for its flow, drum and bass section and its driving melodies. This may be where my personal guitar style is most prominent.
How did you choose the cover artwork?
I had the lyrical theme of THE ETERNALIST in my mind for quite some time, however I wasn’t sure who to approach for the album artwork. It was by pure chance I discovered the works of Robert Cook (Norot Art) and felt that some of his concepts and symbolism were much aligned to my own thoughts and feel of this album and felt that the style of his works would be a great match for THE ETERNALIST. I am very pleased by this collaboration and hope to be able to extend it in future releases.
How do you think your music will progress in the future?
There is a great time lapse between The Weaving Fates and this album and during this time my musical direction, skills, influences and inspiration have changed significantly. I will go wherever my mood takes me so I don’t to want to preempt my next move, although I can probably say that the next album material is divided in compositions that are more simplistic and straight forward and those that are the complete opposite.
I go by this… ‘A man must do what man wants to do’ and my music will express exactly that…In my view there are two options to consider: a) liberty of thought, creativity and challenge b) captives to the appetites of the industry and people make their choices…
How do you think your latest release compares with your earlier ones?
Given the distance between the two albums I was expecting myself to deliver something equally as good or better to its predecessor, ensuring that this time around I add a much more personalised signature to my compositions, embedding the sound of Agatus and reinventing my direction without limitations and with the same drive and passion that characterises a musician.
On THE ETERNALIST the approach was different as I experimented with vocal lines, made greater use of acoustic guitars, synthesizers and effects as well as general ideas and styles that previously I kept for some of the other projects I was involved in.
From a personal point of view, collaborating with Vorskaath on this album was also a sign that once again we are going to create something special by enjoying the liberty of expression and not having to cling on to the past. I have enormous respect for his judgement, abilities to perform and to bring cohesion to the music through his input.
I share a strong passion for various music genres and in this album I just let a lot of my influences and inspirations come into play. Music would be much more pleasant and meaningful if it was purely treated as the art form that it is, straight from the soul and not out the bag.
Playing live – essential or pointless?
Playing live with Agatus again would be a nice experience. It is only pointless if you end up having to perform live without enjoying it.
What are the next steps for Agatus?
A new album is already in the making. I have composed the music for a number of songs, I have a great working title (that I cannot yet reveal) and some lyrics. The next step would be to work through the material, refine part and try and to make it cohesive. Vorskaath has been with me on the drums for the demos and hope with THE ETERNALIST to further inspire him to continue collaboration for new material.
Any final words?
Thank you for the interview and great album review and hope all our fans old and new will enjoy the journey of THE ETERNALIST. Things are not as they appear to be!