(The Cretan Epic Doom band Doomocracy have recently released their latest album through No Remorse Records, and that provided a good occasion for Comrade Aleks to arrange the following interview with Doomocracy vocalist Michael Stavrakakis.)
Epic doom is a specific genre. Once Candlemass gave it a twisted and loud birth, nothing remained the same. Candlemass set the high level with the performance of vocalists like Johan Langquist, Messiah Marcolin, and Robert Lowe, so any new band which tried to choose the same path naturally needed a strong vocalist.
Doomocracy was founded in Heraklion, Crete in 2011 and it seems they have one. The band’s lineup has remained the same since it was born: Manolis Sx (bass), Minas Vasilakis (drums), Angelos Tzanis (guitars), Harry Dokos (guitars), and Michael Stavrakakis (vocals). And they succeeded, as according to Doom Chronicles the band turns out to be demanded by European doom metal festivals and just released their third album – Unorthodox.
We discussed Doomocracy’s past and present with Michael and here’s the result of our conversation:
Hi Michael! How are you? What’s going on in the band’s camp?
Hello and thanks for your hospitality! Our album has just been released (11-11-22) and we’ve received wonderful feedback from critics and fans. We have worked hard for this album and we are very proud of the end result! We are currently rehearsing and preparing our return to the stage.
When did you play live the last time?
It was back in September 2019 I think. We played at Demon’s Gate festival in Athens along with Eric Clayton and the Nine, Sorcerer, and Saturnus. We have beautiful memories from that festival and from the whole year to be honest. Earlier in 2019 we went on tour with Italian Doomsters Crimson Dawn and we played our first headlining festival show at Seeds of Doom festival in Salzburg Austria. We really miss playing live.
Doomocracy was founded in 2011, so you had your first 10-year anniversary a year ago. Did you play a special show? How did you celebrate this date?
It all started in a rehearsal studio 11 years ago like you say, when 3 friends got together to jam and all that was coming out of the speakers was doom metal riffs, rhythms, and melodies. Myself on vocals, Minas Vasilakis on drums and Angelos Tzanis on guitar. A few months later we were joined by Manolis Schizakis on bass and Harry Dokos on guitar and Doomocracy was created. It’s been a great ride so far, with 3 beautiful albums, many amazing concerts, and precious metal friends. Last year we were preoccupied with the recording of Unorthodox so there weren’t any plans for playing live. We will get back on stage in 2023 to promote our new album.
I believe that a lot of everything happened during the decade. What is your most encouraging experience with Doomocracy?
It certainly was a troubling decade, but we always had music to turn to when we wanted to escape life’s hard realities. We’ve had many encouraging experiences with Doomocracy. First of all, the composing process has always been fun and we put a lot of our energy into it. The invitation we received from Hammer of Doom festival back in 2014 was another encouraging experience, as our debut album The End is Written had just been released and that was our first concert outside of Greece; we will always cherish this memory. Hearing the fans singing our lyrics and seeing smiles on their faces at live performances is always beautiful and encouraging.
Do you keep in contact with local doom bands? Honestly, I remember only The Temple who’s still active, Wishdoom is on hold or disbanded, and there’s Aeon Aphelion, who was cool, yes.
We have friends in many Greek Doom metal bands and we’ve shared the stage with some of them. In the past we invited The Temple and Sorrows Path to play with us in Crete, offering them “the Cretan hospitality” as we say, and we had a great time with them. On Thorns I Lay, Decemberance, Ominous Sky, Heathendom, Immensity, Wishdoom, and Litany are some more great Doom bands to come from Greece. It’s hard to keep contact with everyone but we try to stay on track with their new releases.
The band’s lineup has remained unchanged since the band’s birth — how did you manage to keep playing together?
Like I said, the band members of Doomocracy are also good friends besides being bandmates, so that has helped keep the balance and tranquility in the band. The band’s music chemistry is now better than ever and everyone seems to know their role, which helps us work better and more efficiently in every aspect. I am not saying that it’s an angelic relationship, but even when tensions rise, like in every other band, we manage to emerge wiser.
No Remorse Records just released Doomocracy’s third album Unorthodox. What kind of meaning did you put in its name, as the album sounds quite traditional for good old epic doom metal? The press-release says what you wrote a conceptual story for the album, what is it about?
Unorthodox is a conceptual story about days forgotten and people lost. It tells the story of a man who managed to cheat death. He shared his knowledge with other people and gained many followers. He was persecuted by the establishment to the point of death row. You have to listen to the album from start to finish while reading the lyrics to find out what happened. The title Unorthodox sits very well with our concept story, our album cover, and our music style, which I would call “Unorthodox” Epic/Progressive/Doom Metal.
What inspired you to write such a story?
I’ve always considered the change of the Calendar which happened in October 1582 a strange event. Especially the ten days that had to be skipped to adjust the divergence between calendar and seasons. Greece was the last European country to adapt the Gregorian calendar and it did so after many riots and demonstrations. Inspired by all these events I thought of creating a “conspiracy theory” that these ten days were skipped to conceal something that would have changed the world as we know it.
Unorthodox sounds technically more complex than your debut The End Is Written. How do you value the band’s development through the new material?
I think our albums have always had a progressive and technical side to them. Starting from The End is Written and moving on to Visions & Creatures of Imagination we’ve always tried to evolve from one album to the next and not remain stagnant. You know, for us Doom Metal has always been the key point, but we all listen to other genres like Thrash, Progressive, U.S. Metal, that we try to fit to our music when needed. So that gives us a more complex and diverse sound that appeals to fans even outside the Epic/Doom style.
With Unorthodox being a concept album we had the chance to expand even further, using more progressive and technical patterns, a symphonic choir, and narrative pieces in order to express certain emotions of our story.
You filmed three videos in order to support Unorthodox, isn’t that too much? Do you enjoy doing this?
We actually filmed four videos with Swedish videographer Daniel Wahlstrom and his company “Heavy Groove Media”. Daniel is a very easy-going guy and a great professional and it was really fun and smooth working with him. I think nowadays most people listen to music through digital platforms, and with YouTube being one of them, we wanted to make things more interesting for our fans, by adding “an image and a face” to the sound. We like all our videos and we might have some more coming soon…
What are the more effective ways to promote the band in your case? Are the label’s efforts enough to reach a higher level?
Having a strong record label can help a band reach a higher level, but the most important thing is talent and good compositions. Without them you wouldn’t be signed to a record label in the first place. If you compose good music the record labels will notice you and help you reach your goals. So far we are very happy with our partnership with No Remorse Records and with their promotional campaign. We think that with their promotion team and our music, great things can happen. Of course another effective way to reach a higher level is playing live and giving a good show and we are working hard to bring our music to the stage again.
How did you lure Mike Wead as the guest guitarist to perform a solo on “Catharsis”? Did you search for a special guitarist with special skills or did you need Mike exactly?
We are all fans of Memento Mori and Hexenhaus and we admire Mike Wead. Mike Wead along with Simon Johansson (Wolf, Memory Garden) is responsible for the production and mastering of our album, so while working with him on the mix, we asked him if he could play a solo on one of our songs. We were really happy he was willing to do it and even happier with his beautiful solo!
What was the most technically difficult song for you on the new album?
For me personally it must have been “Eternally Lost” and “Catharsis” because they require a wide vocal range and a change in interpretations. “Novum Dogma” also has many voices and harmonies especially in the chorus, so you can say that it was kind of a challenge.
Also, once more you collaborated with Miguel Robaina of Memento Mori, how easily was it to find connection with him?
Our collaboration with Miguel Robaina goes back to our 2nd album Visions & Creatures of Imagination where we had him as a guest musician on four songs. Our partnership was successful, so we decided to work with him again on Unorthodox. Miguel thinks out of the box when composing and that is evident in his keyboard parts on “Life Death & Other Morbid Tales” and “La Danse Macabre”. He is an exceptional musician and he gave our songs that eerie and dissonant sound we wanted.
Did you record with him in the studio all together or did you work online?
I think it would have been too expensive for us to have Miguel in Athens for recordings, and to be honest I don’t think he would have the spare time to travel as he is a very busy man. But we worked with him online exchanging ideas and sounds until we reached the best possible result.
Once you paid tribute to Candlemass with the cover version of their “Demon’s Gate” which was included in the compilation dedicated to the band’s 30th anniversary. How much does this band mean for you? Did you cross paths with them on festivals?
Candlemass are the fathers of Epic/Doom Metal and certainly one of our favorite bands. They have influenced every Epic/Doom Metal band, big or small. We love their first five albums, which are true milestones of the genre, and even after the reunion they have produced some quality albums. For me personally their album Nighfall along with Beyond the Crimson Horizon by Solitude Aeturnus and Life Death & Other Morbid Tales by Memento Mori are the best Doom Metal albums of all time. When we were asked by Greek Metal Hammer magazine to record a cover of “Demon’s Gate” for the 30th anniversary compilation we gladly accepted. In respect to Candlemass we decided to stay true to the original song and pay tribute to it. We almost crossed paths with Candlemass on festivals twice, and I hope we will have the chance to share the stage with them in the future.
Were you happy when Johan Langquist returned to the band? How do you like their new album Sweet Evil Sun?
Johan Langquist’s interpretations on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus were phenomenal. When I heard that he was returning to Candlemass I was indeed happy, although I had a hope that Messiah Marcolin would return. The new Candlemass album Sweet Evil Sun is better than Door to Doom which for me was a disappointment. It has better songwriting and melodies, but it never reaches the grandeur of the first five Candlemass albums or the albums released with Robert Lowe on vocals.
There is the song “The Celephais Curse” on your debut album The End Is Written (2014). Just one song, but Lovecraft is mentioned among other specific lyrical themes in Metal-Archives. How are his myths important for you indeed? Why did you choose this particular story for one of your songs back then?
When one comes in contact with the books of H.P. Lovecraft he is drawn deeper and deeper into the abyss that he created. In a dark time of insomnia, the story of the dreamer seemed to mirror what our guitarist Angelos Tzanis was going through, only he was not able to go “down the steps of sleep”. We wrote the song “The Celephais Curse” as a tribute to those times and to the delightful and terrible at the same instance thing that is sleep.
How did you emphasize the story’s plot through the song? How does epic doom benefit Lovecraftian horror?
Angelos Tzanis: The story itself acts as an inspiration as the way the Sleeper tries to find peace and his rightful place in the world, and echoed how I felt about myself at that point in time. The insomnia part connected me to him in a way. Having been a Lovecraft fan for years, there is a distinct feeling of excitement you get from the unknown and the way he presented it in writing. It’s similar to how good new music makes you feel when you first hear it. Lovecraft can benefit anyone who wishes to experience feelings that are usually hidden away. And also inspire a musician to seek the paths to the darker melodies which buzz at the back of their head.
What are your plans now regarding live gigs? Do you already aim to play new songs all over Europe? Or will you start with a few local shows?
We are working hard with promoters to arrange shows both in Greece and abroad. We can’t wait to hit the stage again and perform songs from all our albums but especially to perform Unorthodox live for the first time.
Thank you very much for your time, I think that we have now a precise picture of what Doomocracy is about. Would you like to tell a few more words to our readers?
Thank you for this interesting conversation and for your support! Thanks to all our fans for their overwhelming reception towards Unorthodox! See you on tour!