Interview: Achelous

Achelous are one of our favourite epic heavy metal bands from Greece. Therefore we are already looking forward to their upcoming second studio album The Icewind Chronicles. To bridge the waiting time for our review, we hereby present an interview with Chris Kappas, the powerful-voiced and incredibly likeable frontman of the band from Athens.

André: Hello Chris, great that you take time for our blog. How are you doing?

Chris Kappas: Hi André! I am doing great! Thank you for the hospitality on our beloved Epic Metal Blog. It is an honour for me to be here!

We are also very pleased! Can you tell our readers which record you bought last?

Of course! I just bought the new Saxon and Praying Mantis albums on vinyl a couple of days ago. Saxon’s Carpe Diem album is an amazing work, putting the band back into the sound of the 80s and early 90s. I have to say that I am impressed that Saxon in their 70s still kick ass and sound as fresh as ever!!! The Praying Mantis is a good album, surely better than the last two or three (that I didn’t like). I know that it’s not nearly as good as their best work A Cry For The New World which is one of my top ten favourite albums of all time, and also has some fillers, but some of the songs are really good not to say great. Anyway, a good comeback. I also got a new split 7“ vinyl last night from Inferahl and Morcrof but I haven’t had the time to spin it. I am also waiting for the new Crazy Lixx album to arrive and I have pre-ordered the new Scorpions album (vinyl, cd, shirts plus 7’“) some months ago which is going to be a cracker, as well as the new Cobra Spell EP in vinyl. Finally I just listened to the Greyhawk EP and I liked it a lot – thus I guess this one will be my next purchase. 

There are probably still a few readers who don’t know your band that well. Tell us something about the history of Achelous so far.

Achelous is the brainchild of Chris Achelous and was born in 2011. It was a solo project that took a more atmospheric and extreme path. I’ve been close friends with Chris for many years and when he asked me to sing on a demo of Achelous in 2013, I didn’t have to think twice and said yes. After leaving Reflection in 2005 because of my job and the birth of my daughter, I had been out of the scene for a few years, so this was something very refreshing for me. We had to take the Achelous songs into a more classic epic metal form just because of my voice, and so in 2014 the Al Iskandar demo became a reality.

After that and seeing that the demo got great reviews and sold out in a few months, we decided to record an EP with a more professional sound and form a full band and not just a studio project. So we started working with our producer Stathis Pavlantis (guitarist and composer of Reflection) on the EP The Cold Winds of Olympus. The EP was a huge success, it’s already sold out and we also had our first live performances, which made us a name in the Greek underground scene.

The Macedon album was a turning point for us as we had a lot of line-up changes during the recording process, but this proved to be invigorating for the band as George, our guitarist, came in with some really impressive guitar parts and solos and the album was finished as we had envisioned it. This was the point at which we received our first invitations to play abroad at illustrious metal festivals such as The Riddle Of Steel and Malta Doom Metal with bands like Demon, Atlantean Kodex, Necrophobic, Ancient Rites, Wotan and many others! Unfortunately the Covid slowed us down a bit, but we had the time to record a tenth anniversary EP Northern Winds and the new album The Icewind Chronicles, which will be released on 17/3.

Suppose someone wants to get to know your band: which song would you play for him? My favourite is “Gaugamela“.

“Gaugamela“ is a classic Achelous track because it combines all the elements we use when composing. Classic heavy metal, epic elements and some Greek folk passages. “Blood“ is also another track that is pure Achelous sound, and it sounds really furious live. I also think there are some classic Achelous sound songs on the new album. “Northern Winds“ is one of them, a more classic, wild epic metal song, “Savage King“, which combines the typical Achelous sound with a lot of Greek folk passages, and also “Flames Of War“, which is a more straightforward and melodic epic metal song.

Let’s continue talking about The Icewind Chronicles, then:. When I got the promo recently, the first thing I thought was: Wow, what a beautiful cover. Who is the artist?

Thank you very much!!! The cover is handmade by Silvana Massa. We wanted a special design for this album as it is a concept for the Icewind Dale trilogy by R.A. Salvatore and we wanted to capture the village of savages that invaded Icewind Dale. We spoke to Silvana, who is a fan of fantasy, and she knew exactly what we wanted! We are 100% happy and hope people will love it too.

Looking at your lyrical concept, there is a break from the past. Did you no longer feel like singing about Alexander the Great and other ancient themes?

Our main lyrical direction is history, mythology and fantasy. We like to tell stories with our songs, and we did a whole album about Alexander the Great. After that we felt we didn’t need to do that on this album as well. We love fantasy literature and especially the Icewind Dale books. I’m a huge fan of the series and also have a big tattoo of Drizzt Do’Urden on my left leg, so an album about the Forgotten Realms and Icewind Dale was a no-brainer!!!! I also have to tell you that for our third album we are planning a concept about Legends from Dragonlance, so all you epic and fantasy nerds like us, be ready for stories about Raistlin, Caramon, Kitiara, Fistandantilus and many more!!!!

Even though I only have the MP3 so far, I can already tell our readers that The Icewind Chronicles sounds excellent. Tell us something about the recording process.

Thank you very much, my friend. That’s really encouraging for us, because we always record completely analogue to get the best result. You have to believe me that the production of our records is not cheap and we literally spend hundreds of hours in the studio to sound as good as possible. John records the drums with a minimum of triggers and the guitar parts are recorded in a special booth with the equipment George uses for our live gigs. There is no autotune for me either. Mixing The Icewind Chronicles took us more than 100 to 150 hours and the mastering was also done carefully to get the best result.   

When you look at the eight songs: Are you generally satisfied with the record? And can you name a favourite song?

Of course we are happy and satisfied with the record. We had a lot of time to work on it because of Covid and it turned out exactly as we imagined it. As for favourite songs, I really can’t decide, even if it sounds cheesy! It’s like choosing your favourite child! I love the pure savage sound of “Northern Winds“, the catchy melody of “Flames of War“, the Greek folk sound of “Savage King“, the melancholy of “Mithril Hall“, the epicness of “The Crystal Shard“, the edge of “Halfling’s Gem“, the heaviness of “Face the Storm“ and the passion of “Outcast“. 

Vicky Demertzi was already featured on your EP Northern Winds (2021). Now she celebrates her premiere on a full length. What can you tell us about her input?

Vicky is a real talent! She is just 20 years old (a bit older than my daughter!!), but she is an accomplished guitar and piano player. She also sings and writes. Come on … she’s a real talent! We are lucky to have her because she composed and played all the piano parts on “Outcast“ for our new album. She will be a great addition to the Achelous family. The only bad thing for her is that she has to hang out with old buggers like us, hahahaha.

Oh, my friend and Epic Metal Blog colleague Aidan is also a few (haha…) years younger than me. That’s fine if you have common interests and the older one doesn’t act like a know-it-all and is also willing to learn from the younger one. That’s why I can imagine that it fits well with you too. Do you actually read reviews that come out about your music? If so, have you ever been really annoyed by a text?

Of course I read everything … I am mainly a fan and then a musician. I read everything that has to do with the bands I play and believe me, I really don’t get angry about anything. The reviews are really just one person’s opinion. They don’t reflect the opinion of a whole bunch of fans. And I know you can’t be loved by everyone, I understand that. I value everyone’s opinion, but in the end there’s nothing else you can do but produce the music you like and hope it has an impact on other people.

Of course, we all hope that we get to go to a lot of concerts this year. When was the last time you were on stage with Achelous? And what are your current plans? Have you already planned something?

The last time we were on stage was on Valentine’s Day 2020 (2 whole years ago!!!) with Ironsword and Airged L’ahm. Actually Reflection were supposed to perform that night, but Stathis (Reflection guitarist and our producer) asked me if we could fill in for them as their singer George had health problems that day. So we had to finish our work 5 to 6 hours before the gig and go straight to the club for soundcheck. To tell you the truth, we had a great time sharing the stage with legendary bands like Ironsword and Airged L’ahm. It was a night to remember. After that, we were ready to take the stage of Up The Hammers in less than a month. We went to bed on Wednesday knowing we would be performing live the next day, and woke up to the nightmare that the festival had been cancelled. We also lost another big festival in France (Skull Crush) along with Sacred Steel a week later. At the moment we are looking forward to playing the UTH festival, which has been moved to June, and we are also working on an idea to present the whole new album and some oldies but goodies in Athens. 

At which festival would you like to play with Achelous?

There are two festivals we really want to play … Up The Hammers and Keep It True. And as the time to play Up The Hammers is getting closer, we would love to perform live at the pinnacle of true heavy metal, Keep It True, where all the classic heavy metal fans gather! Who knows? One day we might get the call to come to Germany for this great festival … and you should all wait for a real old school kick ass heavy fucking metal performance!!!! 

Aidan and I are big fans of the Greek metal scene. Do you have an insider tip for us? A band that we and our readers should check out?

There are so many great bands popping up in Greece right now. I love Crimson Fire’s new album, which is a bit different from the previous two (although we have a few hints from the previous album). If you haven’t heard them yet, you should check them out. I also love Deified, a band we almost started together with that has a more 90s power metal sound. They had an EP in 2015 and have just finished their second EP. So if you don’t know them yet, you should definitely give them a listen.

Chris, thank you again for your time. We wish you all the best with Achelous. And we are looking forward to present our readers our review of your new record soon. A little spoiler: It’s amazing!

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