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Agathodaimon Leader Sathonys Discusses New Album "The Seven," New Members And Nine Year Gap Between Albums

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Band Photo: Agathodaimon (?)

Black metal has a following all across the globe, but it's roots and biggest names all hail from Europe. From Venom in England, to Celtic Frost in Switzerland to the infamous Norwegian scene, black metal is truly a European phenomenon. Of course, being one of the chief exporters of metal music, Germany has more than its fair share of black metal groups too, with one of the most beloved coming in the form of Mainz founded Agathodaimon.

Agathodaimon began life in 1995, reportedly intending to be more of a melodic death metal band, but soon found themselves performing their own brand of symphonic black metal. As time went on, their music became more Gothic than symphonic but remained suitably dark and heavy and established themselves as a premier German black metal band alongside the likes of Dark Fortress.

Their last album, "In Darkness" was released in 2012 but in less than a week, the band will unleash their first new album in nine years, "The Seven," granting the wishes of fans everywhere in what is sure to be a triumphant return. To find out more about the album, its themes, guest appearances and much more, band leader Sathonys spoke with Metal Underground. You can watch the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: It's a very exciting time as the new album, "The Seven" is right around the corner. It's the first studio album from Agathodaimon in nine years. What was the reason for such a long gap in between albums?

Sathonys: I wasn't really comfortable with this question in the beginning, because we're doing black metal stuff. I was thinking, "Should I say that I had to serve a prison sentence or whatever just to make it a bit more 'true black metal'" but the reason was quite simple: getting married and having two kids. My daughter was born in 2013 and I was 100% sure that it wouldn't work out, trying to fit both the band and the family together. I know Agathodaimon is a job that's time intense and of course I didn't want to compromise on either side. I want to be there for my family, my kids and of course the band, so I thought, "Let's make a hard cut here, put the band on ice and then pick it back up when the worst developments, kid wise are through." Our vocalist Ashtrael was in a similar position, he'd also become a daddy, so in 2018 we decided, "Now we can focus on the band again."

Oz: To be fair, I don't think anyone's going to give you shit for being a good dad.

Sathonys: I was wondering if we heard many reasons like that.

Oz: So with that being said, you've got three new members in the band now. How have they fitted in with Agathodaimon so far?

Sathonys: Really well. As I mentioned, it took us like two years to be sure that we're ready and announce that we're back. We had several auditions to test out new musicians and make sure that we find not only skillful musicians but also someone that you can really hang out with after a gig and feel comfortable being around and get a proper band vibe in place, so to speak. There was a little coming and going in some aspects but as mentioned, in 2020 we were confident that the lineup was stable and could proceed and then Corona popped up.

Oz: From what we've heard so far they sound like they're a very natural fit with Agathodaimon and the new material does sound awesome. Obviously you've done a music video and a lyric video. The music video was of course for "Ain't Death Grand?" How well do you think this song represents the album as a whole?

Sathonys: "Ain't Death Grand?" was the first song that we worked on together, as a band and that was one of the reasons that we decided we should put this out as the first teaser so to say. It was a song where it became clear that all the new members fit in really well, that everybody is able to work together and contribute, so I really love that song. On the other hand, I had a really weird feeling in my stomach because we do have a lot of variety on the album, songs that differ a lot from that one, so people could hear another song with more clean vocals or whatever and think, "That's not what I expected."

There's always variety going on with Agathodaimon, so it's difficult to point to one song and say "That's what the album sounds like." Therefore we had the second single, "Wolf Within" and on the 15th of March we'll be releasing a third song, "Kyrie/Gloria" which is quite aggressive, no clean vocals there. We even have Julien Truchan from Benighted doing guest vocals, so it's quite an extreme song and we filmed a video last weekend, so we're looking forward to that and hope that the result will be nice.

Oz: I saw some pictures from the video shoot. Was it Castle Arenfels where you filmed it?

Sathonys: Yes, exactly. We were lucky to get permission from the owners to film there and sort of roam around and pick some places. Also we had some actors and the lady who is in the "Ain't Death Grand?" video makes an appearance as well, so what might have happened in "Ain't Death Grand?" is part of the bigger story in that song. I'm looking forward to getting this one out but we still have things to do in the final cut.

Oz: Very nice. As you mentioned, you have Julien from Benighted on that song. You also have another guest appearance on the album, Vlad Dracul from Ra. How did these collaborations come to be?

Sathonys: I think Julien and Ashtrael were in touch early on but Agathodaimon and Benighted are both regular guests at the Kohlekeller studio, we've recorded there since "Chapter III" and I think Benighted also picked the studio when they heard one of our productions. There was a certain connection between Kohlekeller and us and the producer, Kohle told us that Julien would visit soon, doing some vocal sessions for his YouTube channel. Kohle does a lot of things on YouTube, techy stuff and whatever, so we said, "OK, that might be an opportunity to use that and see what we can do." For that song, "Kyrie/Gloria," we needed some additional colour voice wise. We had the intention of doing some psychotic vocals so we tried it and he really did a great job. His vocal chords are really impressive, I don't know how he does it, even without a microphone he can do so many weird things with his voice so that really spiced the song up a bit.

When it comes to "Mother Of All Gods," the song where Vlad Dracul participated, he was one of the original members in 1995. It's a long story but I'll try to make it short. For those that don't know the history, after we recorded the second demo, he went back to Romania and back then, there was no European Union, you couldn't just travel easily from Romania to Germany, so when he went back, he wasn't allowed to return to Germany and so all of a sudden we faced the issue that he we needed our vocalist for the album recording. We tried some legal and not so legal methods of getting him back and in the end we decided to travel to Romania for the second album and do everything there, but after that it became obvious that it would take even longer to get him to Germany. Also, he wasn't so motivated to do black metal, so we decided to make the cut and that Akaias would remain our vocalist, but I've been in touch with Vlad since then.

He's still a good friend, sometimes we even managed to meet. When we recorded these songs, we discussed a lot and he was also working on stuff. He's been working on music, more electronic, but all of a sudden he pulled out this song which was only keyboards and drums and the atmosphere reminded me of the old Agathodaimon stuff, so we talked a bit and decided to give it a try. We worked really hard on that one and he also contributed the lyrics and recorded the vocals in Romania, which we put together with Ashtrael's vocals in Kohlekeller Studio. It was something I was really happy about because it's the first time since 1999 that we've had a proper guest appearance by Vlad and he's still one of my close friends so it was really awesome to make that happen.

Oz: Wonderful. As for the title of the album, obviously it's the seventh Agathodaimon album, was that the whole reason for calling it that or is there more to it?

Sathonys: No, there are always multiple meanings but I didn't want to make it too obvious. The lyrics and the songs, they're quite connected to the seven deadly sins, but there's been so many movies, books and albums surrounding that so I didn't want to put a big thing around it and also of course, we have more than seven songs, but the lyrics more or less have a connection to this topic. So there's songs centred around, let's say lust, one song about greed and so on and this was something which developed over time. We have this artist, Credo Quia Absurdum from Portugal, who not only did the cover artwork but they also worked on individual artworks for each song, so it just became bigger and bigger. At first it was just a thing that we thought we could do as a loose concept and it became a bit more, but it's not a concept album, more that it's just the main topic.

Oz: I think it's really cool that you've approached it in this way and the art is amazing. How did you find this artist?

Sathonys: It was a really big coincidence. I do work for a metal magazine myself, the German Metal Hammer and typically I visit the summer festivals as a photographer, as well as writing reviews here and there. At the Rock Am Ring festival, there's usually a lot of merch booths, people selling shirt designs and whatever and there was a tiny stand of Credo Quia Absurdum, about two or three square metres and they had a lot of excellent shirt designs and I was amazed that they did all of them themselves. I hadn't heard of them before but we stayed in touch and I asked if they could do something for us, so they did the cover artwork and then we discussed the concept and it just grew from there. I'm really happy that they put so much time into it.

Oz: Absolutely and I think the cover artwork fits the music really well. It's that really beautiful but melancholic blue tone. With the cover art, was there any kind of directions that you gave?

Sathonys: Of course we talked about it and we discussed things here and there and that was also the fascinating thing, that they really put so much effort into trying to make it better. If you don't like something, they try to adapt, but still it's their fingerprint in there and individual style. I let them have artistic freedom, because if you try and tell someone, "I want dragons here" or something, it usually doesn't render impressive results, so I let them have their interpretation and work on that.

Oz: Just finally, what's the plan going forward? I know you have some festival shows coming up, but are there plans for a tour?

Sathonys: It's not so easy. Still in Germany, we're not sure how to best open up clubs and stuff. I think it's more open in the US but here it's still a bit restricted. We're planning some gigs, but there's no full tour in sight. There are some talks and discussions about larger tours but it's still not so easy, especially since all the bands that were locked down are now having their tours that they planned in 2020 or whatever, so finding festival appearances this year was difficult but we're doing our best just to get on stage and see which opportunities we can take.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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