Sathonys: “The number 7 is the most mythological, esoteric, mathematical important number. You have the daily life where you have the seven days of the week, you have the seven wonders of the world. Number 7 is almost everywhere”
De sabbatperiode die voor Agathodaimon begon in 2014 is met het nieuwe studioalbum ‘The Seven’ aan een einde gekomen. De Duitse melodieuze black/death metalband waar gitarist Sathonys en zanger Ashtrael als leidinggevende componisten hun ei in kwijt kunnen is klaar voor een nieuwe start en we krijgen dan ook een enthousiaste Sathonys aan de lijn die ons bijpraat over tal van zaken.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 17 maart 2022
We are very glad to see Agathodaimon back in business. If we go back in time, we learn that it has been since 2013 – when ‘In Darkness’ came out – since you were active. What happened next that you wanted to have a break or stop activities?
(laughs) What happened was simply the fact that I found out that I was getting a daughter and I knew how much effort and time this needs. In 2009 my first born son popped up and that was the first time it was not easy to combine it with a band that wants to work on a professional level, having a family and also just another jobs to pay your bills. I just thought: ‘okay, now with the second kid, it doesn’t make sense anymore’. I didn’t want that one or the other would suffer. The day has just 24 hours. So I talked with the other guys and we decided to put the band on ice for an indefinite period. We thought about six years or so, until the kids were big enough and I could focus more on other things again. That is actually what happened afterwards then.
But in the meantime life goes on for the other former band members too, so you had to form more or less a new band when starting up again. Wasn’t that difficult?
Not a whole new band, we all stayed a bit in contact. At that time when we decided to break up, it was already clear that two guys from the last line-up would not be available for the reunion line-up later on, because our guitar player Thilo (Feucht – Vera), he also was having a family, marriage and so on and he just lost interest in playing metal music. So he is not in the metal scene anymore and it is a bit similar with our bass player Till (Ottinger – Vera), he decided to leave the metal scene and is more into some progressive rock kind of thing. He is not really interested in the metal scene anymore, but our drummer, Manuel (Steitz – Vera), he quickly joined another band. He lives from the music, he is a drum teacher professionally, he can use this extra job to keep him going. He joined The Spirit, soon they will be releasing their third album. They progressed a lot, an excellent band it is. It wouldn’t have any sense to convince him and try to make him come back. He invested a lot of energy into it, so we looked for a new bass player, guitar player and drummer and Ashtrael, our vocalist stayed. We kept in touch during the years. Every now and then we considered going ahead and go for a reunion, but it wasn’t until 2018 when we decided that it would be a good point in time to look out for new musicians and then within two years we found a proper line-up, recorded the demo, sent it to record labels and so on. So it was in 2020 when we officially announced a reunion.
Does it mean that in the meantime you had written all the new songs yourself?
Actually not. It was really a full break from the band. Of course some ideas here and there I did record. To me it is always important that within the band, we have a full line-up, in such a way that there is no dictator who is saying: you do it like this. It should be a band, going to auditions and rehearsals and trying to figure out if the musicians suit us on a personal level and on a musical level. Only this process works. We did it all together. I mean, there are some riffs and ideas from the past, but the big majority is what was created in the period with the new line-up.
Thus it is teamwork, with you as guardian of the flame…
Exactly. I am the gatekeeper in this respect, to make sure that the band isn’t moving into a weird direction. That was a bit the case in 2009 with the ‘Phoenix’ album. As I just mentioned, I had my first son and I was focused on him and I was happy back then when the others take the lead in some respect, but afterwards I was not so happy with the way the album came out, because the feeling, the vibe, the style wasn’t there that much.
However, the new album ‘The Seven’ is a stunner again. One of the songs that stand out is the album closer, the lengthy track ‘The Divine’…
I like your opinion, because that is also one my favourite tracks. It really has this… I wouldn’t say ‘old school vibe’, but it reminded me a bit of ‘Ribbons / Requiem’ from our first album, which is also quite moody and a bit slower. That is also the reason why we put it at the end of the album. Just to have this analogy with our debut where we also had this song as last track.
I think it is also the track with the most traditional heavy metal in it…
(thinks) Yeah, that could be… our new guitarist, Nakhateth, he is very much into some guitar hero style, bands with a lot of lead guitar, like Megadeth or Coroner, but he is also into melodic metal. I think this influence is audible on certain songs. It is mixed with our black metal style and gives it a bit more variety I think.
It is your seventh album, properly called ‘The Seven’, but it should also deal with the topic of the seven deadly sins. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Yes of course. The thing with this title ‘The Seven’, you see we leave it a bit open regarding the meaning. We did not specifically say ‘the seven deadly sins’ or something like that, because I wanted to have it a bit more open. I mean, if you open the booklet and the CD, you will see that the artwork is really centred on the seven deadly sins. Every song has a specific artwork, it fits the topic of the song’s content, so to say and it is all loosely based around the seven deadly sins, but as mentioned, it is our seventh album. The number 7 is I think the most mythological, esoteric, mathematical important number. You have the daily life where you have the seven days of the week, you have the seven wonders of the world. Number 7 is almost everywhere and therefore that was always something that interested me back then, even when we founded the band, because also the name of the band has various, several meanings and I wanted to keep it a bit in that tradition and not just name it ‘seven deadly sins’ or something like that.
If I looked up the lyrics and the titles, I could not find out which sin you are dealing with in every song. Maybe I am stupid…
The bad thing about these advanced copies is usually: you get the mp3’s, you get the lyrics, but you don’t get to see the artwork. If you see the artwork, that will also help with the interpretation, but typically it is not like pointing a finger on a certain topic. It is exactly like that. I always enjoy it a bit more open for interpretation. It is a bit tricky and like you see, we have also ten songs, not seven songs. Not every song is deeply rooted particularly on one sin. What makes them common somehow, is that they are all deeply rooted within the human character, that is the weird aspect about religion. On one hand it tries to influence you in a way, be kind in this part of life and you will be rewarded in the next, but if you are not, just try to make sure that you avoid any sin or basically any temptation life has to offer I think, or you end up in hell. That is also one of the topics in one of our songs, in ‘Mother Of All Gods’, it deals with fear regarding the oppression that is even beyond the religious aspect. Most monotheistic religions have this concept: offering paradise on one hand and damnation on the other side. Free themselves from that fear could help people a lot I think, but that is a hard topic I guess.
You have two guests on the album. One of them is your previous singer, that Romanian guy Vlad Dracul in the above mentioned track…
He is and always remained a good friend of mine, even back then in the nineties when we tried to bring him back to Germany and it did not work out. Ultimately we had to say okay, we go with Akaias, we stayed in touch and we always chat and discuss about music. He is still active as a musician, but also with breaks. He has some family affairs here and there, but he is playing music still. Mostly outside metal, but it is working. I sent him the demo tracks for this new record and maybe that inspired him a bit, because he came up with an idea for a song. It was only keyboards, but that was always the way he writes music. He picks the keyboard as his main composing instrument. He just showed me this sample and I thought: we should work on this and make it a proper Agathodaimon track. This worked out really well and I talked with the other guys about it, because I thought it would be nice to also have his vocals on the album. That is actually the first time since 1999 when he is featured as a vocalist on an album, so I am especially happy about this nice, tiny cooperation. Diverse vocals bring more colour into it and of course it is a nice parallel with the old stuff. The same with the other track ‘Kyrie / Gloria’ where the other guy, Julien Truchan of Benighted, can be heard on guest vocals. I think he had a kind of YouTube feature with our producer Kristian ‘Kohle’ Bonifer. Kohle has a YouTube channel where he talks about technical stuff, equipment and doing a mix and so on. We heard about the session with Julien and we said: why not come together and discuss and see… We wanted to have some weird, psychotic vocals for that song and Julien’s voice is so flexible. He can do a lot of things, from growls to screeches to grunts, whatever… That really brought new variation into the song and we are quite happy with the end result. It was really fun.
By the way, the clean vocals are better than ever. I enjoy it a lot when you do that as contrast…
Oh thank you. In the past I did the clean vocals always myself, except for one or two exceptions, but when we had Ashtrael joining the band, he has a real cool voice and he is really capable of singing. Initially we always say: ‘okay, let us keep the clean vocals low on that album’, but then during the song writing and in the studio, we try things out and then we usually end up with a little bit more clean vocal parts than we firstly intended, but I think it is a good balance, so nothing to complain from my side. The majority of clean vocals was done by Ashtrael, I rather focus on my guitar, surely in live situations.
Did you enjoy the making of the video clip for ‘Ain’t Death Grand’?
Yes. I mean, you can imagine there is a little difference between the big bands and the rather small bands. There is not such a huge budget, we cannot go for a Steven Spielberg kind of clip, but given the money that we invested, we are really happy about the results. We did it with Jonas Sommer, he is a guy that lives like 70 kilometres away from where we rehearse and we liked what he had done before, so we said let us give it a try and it turned out quite nice. And we are actually shooting a new video, almost one month, for ‘Kyrie / Gloria’, that will be the third single. It will be another video clip coming up with Jonas as director. But first, on the 15th of February there will be a lyric video for the song ‘Wolf Within’, our second single. The video for ‘Kylee / Gloria’ will be out on the 15th of March and the album will be out on the 18th of March.
Why did you decide to stay true to the production team of Kohle, a famous name though…
We have been working with him for such a long time and that’s the reason. It might happen on occasions that you made a work with someone and over time you realize that it just doesn’t fit anymore, but in our case… we have been working together since ‘Chapter III’ which was released in 2001, so it is more than twenty years since we first worked together. We know each other, we understand each other, we can be honest to each other. If something is shit, on both sides, we say it, but we also know what we can expect from each other and Kohle knows how we like to sound. With each album we discuss in advance ‘this might be the direction we are going’ and maybe we want to have the drums like this and the guitars like that and then we do a first mixing attempt and we fine-tune and do what needs to be done. It is usually quite a smooth process and it is always also a lot of fun. It feels like coming home to Kohlekeller Studios, because I think we have been the first bigger band recording at his place back then. He wasn’t even ready to do the mastering, so we recorded at Kohle, but we mastered at Communication Studios where we recorded our first album and so on. We have been there since the beginning and it is like a vacation or a second home, so to say.
What do you consider the highlights from the first era of the band, in the past?
I think that is similar with most of the bands probably. When you start a band, it is all fresh and new, you are not experienced at all and you don’t know what to do, what to expect, how to promote the band, how to get a record deal… you are learning on the go. So every step that we have been taken, was exciting. I mean, writing the first song together, I remember that was so awesome. When we had written the first song instrumentally, we recorded it in a cheap studio and we took that tape with us when we went to concerts. We felt like tiny rock stars, because we had our first recording. Actually it was nothing special. When we had the first demo and the first reactions from the people, we got the reviews for the demo tape and people wanted them to distribute on tape. And finally we go to sign on a record label and we realized: ‘oh my God, this is like having a real band’. It was exciting, in many tiny steps we developed: playing the first concert, playing the first time at Wacken Open Air, things like that. Unbelievable! You hope for that to happen, but we are really excited and grateful when something like that happened. So there were lots of occasions where we felt like excellent.
Now again, your comeback is on a pretty important label: Napalm Records…
Yes, we are really happy with the support they are giving us and with the people we are working with.
You are a photographer yourself. Did you add something to the artwork in any kind of way or was that completely different work from somebody else?
I particularly worked on the booklets a lot in the past, but with this album I wanted to give it to professionals, so to speak. I mean, we had Credo Quia Absurdum, these are two artists from Portugal. They are doing a lot of great designs, they have a lot of merchandising, and I met them at Rock am Ring festival in Germany some years ago. They had a tiny stand there with their shirt designs and I was looking at them and they were awesome. Later on we stayed in touch and I asked them if they would be interested in doing artwork. We discussed a lot about the concept and it was really awesome, because they put so much attention to details and everything. It would really not make sense if I would try to squeeze myself in there, because what they delivered was already great from the start. We discussed and did some changes, but all of the artwork stuff was done by them.
Fun to find out that you were once in Nocte Obducta, that’s a nice band too…
Exactly. Also in Germany it is always a bit tricky, because we had German vocals with Nocte. Back then I think it was Marsel who contacted me. Nocte was on ice back then. Together with Matthias, Marsel wanted to bring the band back to life. After two albums – I was part of the demo tape for the first and the second album – I just realized that it was too much work, having two bands in parallel. Therefore I left the band afterwards, also because back then the band was more partying than working. I always had a strict feeling that if you have a band, you should focus mostly on the work. You can have fun afterwards, but we were spending half of the rehearsals drinking beer. I wanted to be more productive on the live sector and that was not really something where Nocte did work on back then. But that was in the nineties.
Let us round off with your plans for the future, if you dare to have them…
Sure. Of course we are aiming to play live. Right now everybody knows it is a big question to be sure about anything, but there are still some festivals that we pulled over from year to year. We are also looking for the Summer festivals. We have a confirmed participation on one festival in Germany in July. In April we will try to play in our hometown and maybe some other stuff. That is one thing. Of course we will do work on new material, once that everything has gone a little bit back to normal. Right now there is a lot of promotion stuff and try to arrange things like the video shooting for the next single ‘Kyree / Gloria’ and the next month we need to prepare a lot of things. It is really good that we have the band going again and that we have found musicians we feel comfortable with, both me and Ashtrael. Doing music again is really awesome. I hope that people will like what we come up with and we are looking forward to their feedback. I hope to see people somewhere live and well somewhere around the stages in Europe. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that…