For melodic death metal bands and fans, the Swedish city of Göthenborg is the place to be. With that in mind, the Greek born Marios Iliopoulos relocated his melodic death metal band Nightrage to Sweden. With the trio’s sixth full studio album The Puritan hitting record stores, I’ve contacted frontman Iliopoulos for some questions on relocating, collaborating with Gus G, the new album and of course new vocalist Ronnie Nyman.
First of all, could you tell a little about the direction of the new Nightrage album? What are according to you the big similarities and differences with the previous albums?
Marios Iliopoulos: “I think we’ve made a great evolution. Our songwriting has really matured. We sound fresher with some killer vocal hooks and more simplistic arrangements that are easier to get for music fans. Our music is still the same, but our approach and musical energy are much more positive. We feel that we have finally found our own signature sound and our musical stigma is more apparent than ever before. It feels like the chemistry between us works really well and for the first time we can feel that we are stronger than ever before.”
A new singer always changes the sound of a band. In what way does Ronnie fit into the direction you wanted to take?
Iliopoulos: “Ronnie has turned out to be the kind of guy we were looking for. He really helped to finetune all the song arrangements. We have a real good chemistry working together and also we share the same passion and values for playing music from the heart. He is a fighter like us and we are clicking on many levels like trust and honesty and we have the same ideals of what we want for Nightrage. He did the best vocals on any Nightrage album ever and you can hear the sheer power and feelings that he has added to the new material.”
He was also very active in the writing process. How did that work out?
Iliopoulos: “We have written all the lyrics together and it was cool that we could just sit down and go through all of our lyrical ideas and make sure everything fell in its place. He helped me with all song arrangements as well. He has contributed some great ideas and I feel that I have found a great writer to work with. I’m pretty sure the best is yet to come.”
He has a hardcore background. Is that very noticeable? In what ways?
Iliopoulos: “He plays with Always War as well and he has been into the hardcore scene for quite some time now which is a great thing for me, because that broadens our possibilities. He has been in some melodic death metal bands too, so I already knew he is dynamic enough to cover many different styles. With his hardcore background he added a lot of energy and soul into the songs, he delivers some amazing vocals that fit with the Nightrage style. His over the top stage presence adds a lot of energy to our live shows as well.”
The Puritan and working with Gus G
The songs are shorter and more simplistic. Did that happen on purpose?
Iliopoulos: “We surely didn’t plan for it. It was the song material that we had that was calling in that direction. I think the change of studio and the awesome sound that we got from Daniel Bergstrand and George Nerantzis from Dug out production studios were particularly important in making the new songs more in your face and direct.”
On the new album there’s lyrics about the rotten core of humanity and the struggle for power and money. Are those problems of modern day society somthing you are concerned with? Do you reflect on that a lot?
Iliopoulos: “Obviously, we always write about stuff that concerns us. We got inspired to write about that stuff as we also feel that we need to change and try to be good to each other. The quest for Money and power has made us all so arrogant and cruel and we are losing our humanity most of the time, thats something that we are trying to remind to ourselves and change it. We believe in change and thats the positive message we are trying to deliver and we think that our music is still positive at the end of the day. Anyway, we do believe there´s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Some artists try to bring modern day issues into attention with their music while others try to clear their listeners’ heads from all the problems for a moment. Where does Nightrage stand?
Iliopoulos: “We are definitely not preachers. We just want to express our feelings about certain subjects and how we get personally affected by those issues. It’s our own point of view and also our feelings about other stuff like pain and desperation and fight for yourself and your life goal dreams. I think that our music style fits better with those kind of themes that are more personal and down to earth. We love that our listeners can give our lyrics their own interpretation and get inspired for their own life story. We just want the people to think for a while as we are not trying to change anyone here, only telling a story from our point of view, we got a lot of positive messages so far about our lyrics and that sometimes we can make people feel better and make them happier forgetting about their actual hardships in life. That really means a lot to us.”
“When Gold Turns To Rust” contains a songwriting collaboration with your old time friend Gus G. What was it like to work with him after all those years?
Iliopoulos: “We are still best friends with Gus and he always ended up playing some guest leads on almost every Nightrage album. This time he had some riffs that didn’t really fit with his band Firewind, so he sent me that song idea which i liked and we worked together to finish the new song. It was cool to get to work together again writing some new stuff. I think that song turned out to be one of the best on the new album. It’s a bit different from the rest of the songs.”
Was it a lot like when you worked together back in the beginning?
Iliopoulos: “Its been a while since the first two Nightrage albums that we used to write together and it reminded me a bit of that particular period that we were sitting down jamming a lot new song ideas. If you look how things are now with him playing with Ozzy and all that stuff, things have changed drastically and for the better for him. I´m happy that he made it to the top. Our friendship still means the world to me.”
We haven’t heard a lot about Firewind or Ozzy’s solo project lately. Does that open the door for new collaborations in the future? Is there a chance Gus will be involved in the future of Nightrage? Maybe as a touring guitarist?
Iliopoulos: “Gus is always busy with some project or band, of course he sometimes joins us on stage for some guest appearance. I doubt though that he will ever come back in the band as touring guitarist and frankly, I dont see any reason for that since we are both following our musical paths in music and we actually have different music tastes.”
What about Jesper Strömblad? (Hammerfall/In Flames, he toured with Nightrage in 2014)
Iliopoulos: “We consider Jesper to be one of the godfathers of melodic death metal. We were very honored to have him jam with us on some live shows, but he’s really busy with his projects as well. We feel that it’s better for us to have members that focus 100% on Nightrage. So that makes us a stronger unit which is something that we are always aiming for.”
Götheborg death metal
In what ways did relocating to Götheborg affect your approach on songwriting and performing?
Iliopoulos: “I don’t think it played any significant role for my songwriting and performing approach since the band has started in Thessaloniki, Greece and I already had the vision and the ideas of what I exactly wanted for Nightrage. Probably one thing that make sense here is that Sweden gave me the possibility to fine tune that vision and get to work with professionals. Plus they have a music business system here that works even for metal. I still believe that I had the musical vision on my head and who knows what would happen if I had stayed in Greece. I´m sure that I would still be trying to keep the band alive and still writing but it was necessary for us to make the move to Sweden to continue with our musical goals. I´m grateful for all the great things that we got ever to do with Nightrage in Sweden so far.”
Is Sweden the best country for heavy metal musicians?
Iliopoulos: “It can be one of the best places to be since the state really helps young people and bands to work with their own music and arts in gereral and they are pushing them into the right direction. It’s great to see that your efforts are embraced by a lot of people and there is that sense of encourangement that always gives you hope to carry on. For me personally, it feels like we are following a great musical path now, especially now that I have found the right people to work with inside and outside of the band, it feels really great that you get some love for the stuff that you are doing.”
Could you quickly compare Sweden to your native Greece?
Iliopoulos: “Thats an easy one, in Greece people are very different in general. Of course there’s the warm weather compared to Sweden. The cultures are very different as well. I think for me I always try to get the best from both worlds. In Sweden they are super organized compared to Greece where things can be chaotic. Its great to experience those different mentalities and people´s behavior and for sure that is a good lesson for me to get better and learn more.”
Something I always wonder about metal musicians: When you’re walking down the streets, are there any people recognising you?
Iliopoulos: “No I dont think so, we are still an underground metal band and that’s a cool thing. Sometimes people say hi or something on the street, but we are far from being very recognisable guys. It´s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll. Thanx for the great Interview and hope to see you all soon on our shows, listen on our new album “The Puritan “ and hope you will love it. Support us buy “The Puritan” and stay metal and cool.”
Nightrage’s new album The Puritan has been available worldwide since the 24th of April through Despotz Records. I will make sure to post my personal opinion as soon as possible. Something I can already tell you after a couple of listens, it sounds pretty good so far!