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Achelous's Chris Kappas: "I believe that in the end of the journey we found out a lot of things about ourselves especially by pushing us further in order to deliver"

Interview with Chris Kappas from Achelous
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 09 April 2022, 1:31 PM

Even if there is the thin line between our reality and fantasy stories, not everything has to be in parallel, it can also be just for the thrill of it and nothing more. The vast majority of the members of the Greek Heavy Metal band, Achelous, are die-hard fans of what surrounds the world of D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) and its counterparts. The vision of the band was to cover events of the characters, legends, local history and everything that is closer. Releasing their debut album, "The Icewind Chronicles", the experience might indicate of a colder night's air, yet with the burning heart of its creators. Steinmetal had a good talk with the band's vocalist, Chris Kappas, about the new album, the stories and more…

Hello Chris, it is good to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Hi! I am fine and very happy to be here with you at the Metal Temple! It’s an honour.

With all that has been happening in the world, whether the ongoing pandemic, which has yet to be resolved, and the war at the Eastern front of Europe, it appeared to me that your baby, Achelous, was pretty much untouched. How have you been keeping everything together, especially in times where lockdowns were imminent?

I have to say that we are very positive people. We always dig deep to find good things even in dark times like that. When the pandemic entered our lives in the beginning of 2020, we were very unfortunate because we lost a couple of great festivals that we were supposed to play (Up The Hammers in Greece and Skull Crush in France) and after that we were in a state of constant lock downs. As you can imagine things were grim for us but in such dark times we said that we had a lot of free time thus we recorded our new album plus last year’s EP (Northern Winds) and we also composed and pre produced our third album! We also worked on our other musical projects (I did and album with my other band Whisper Killers and Chris Achelous did an EP with Oath Of Hermon). As you can see even though we lost some things during this madness we also gained some others!

Other than keeping the band intact, there is the mental state in times like these. How were you able to maintain your motivation towards writing material as high as possible? Were you affected mentally by the outcomes of the pandemic?

For me personally it is what it is … when something is out of your hand and you can’t do much about it you try to be the least affected by this situation. Anyway, during the pandemic we gave all our energy in the recordings of the albums and the creation of new music so I can’t say that it affected us so much.

How are things looking up in Greece at the moment? Would you say that things have gone back to normal, a kind of normal at least? Were you able to perform live here and there throughout the last year?

I guess that things are slowly returning to normal each day … Even though that there are still some restrictions active rumours say that in a couple of weeks things will be better … who knows? But the great thing is that clubs are open and the first gigs have already happened! We are also booked for some shows at the end of May and beginning of June so stay tuned!!!

Signing with the local Metal label, No Remorse Records, was a good move on your behalf, and no doubt a step in your career towards better things. How do you find this signing? Would you say that it was only natural for Achelous to sign? What are your aspirations coming out of this signing?

When we were recording, Andreas and Chris from No Remorse asked me to give them a copy of the new album. When the mixing process was in a good point I send them a rough mix, they liked it and they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse! It is amazing to be a part of a great roster! No Remorse is one of the biggest Underground labels in the scene and I have to say that I grew up with some of the bands they have in their roster!

Treading in fields that aren’t really Greek, but rather focusing on the Fantasy driven, you recently released your sophomore album, “The Icewind Chronicles”. How has the record been received by your fans, and potential new listeners?

The album is out for almost 2 weeks and it’s going great. We have received a huge amount of awesome reviews and it seems that people loved it because we have already sold many copies in just a few days!

Probably not due to the series, “The Icewind Chronicles” follows the narrative of the trilogy by R.A. Salvatore, “Icewind Dale”. Other than being a series of books, and I have the feeling that you are also a reader, are you a D&D fan, or player?

The album is not following the story of Icewind Dale rather than its a collection of stories of the series. I am a huge fan not only of Forgotten Realms but also Dragonlance and I have hundreds of books in my library. As long as the RPG part of the question unfortunately I never played D&D because my friends didn’t play it. We used to play for many years Elric Of Melnibone RPG (Chaosium) which was really tough but also great!!! But I was and still am a huge fan of Icewind Dale Black Isle’s RPG since it was released back in 2000. I have also played (and still play I have to admit) Icewind Dale 2, Baldur’s Gate (1 &2), Neverwinter Nights etc.

The Fantasy element is quite grasping I have to add, it is highly attractive, and in Metal music it is very comfortable to find yourself within the stories, both their dramatic and ferocious nature. What exactly in these stories made you tick? What inspired you to write an album based on this storytelling?

I have always loved stories. The great thing about fantasy is that it has no limits … You can write about anything, and escape from this world even if it is only for a little while. When we formed Achelous we agreed that our lyrical content will be history, mythology and fantasy literature. And that’s what we do …

Through these Fantasy related stories there is always a form of moral, and indication, to our current reality. In your view, are there such morals in existence, and if so, what are they?

I totally agree that fantasy stories’ morals interact with real life’s. Valor, trust and morality, things that you both find in stories and in real life as well. But I believe that it depends mostly individually.

Measuring up to the epic proportions of some of the strongest names of what is considered to be Epic Metal, Achelous took a great step this time around, producing a stellar form of Heavy Metal, based on the old school prowess, yet with a clear eye towards the present and future. Furthermore, “The Icewind Chronicles” feels like storytelling, which is part of the purpose. What is your take on that? How did “The Icewind Chronicles” take the band forward musically?

First of all, I have to say that me and Chris Achelous were raised back in the late 80s early 90s therefore our basic influences are 80s bands. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to other stuff. I also believe that the progression of our sound has to do with our guitarist George who is younger than us and has totally different influences than we do. He brought a different perspective in the band and a fresh air. Don’t forget that our drummer Yannis’ other band is Obduktion which is a death metal band so his performance is a little bit different than more traditional drummers.

All these influences are going through the Achelous filter in order to have the final result you listen in the album. As long as The Icewind Chronicles we believe that it’s a huge step forward for the band because George had the opportunity to participate in the composition of the songs and add his ideas in the final result.

Since there have been a lot of bands that have been trying to find their way through the veils of Epic Metal, forming sort of theatrical plays, or simply mixing the songs up with a variety of elements in order to provide natural elements to the traditional Metal music, what is the game changing factor for Achelous on “The Icewind Chronicles”?

In my opinion the game changing factor for Achelous in this album is the combination of traditional metal music with traditional Greek music. It came to us naturally in the recording sessions and I believe that this combination elevated the songs.

With you being the one of the songwriters behind Achelous, what can you share about the songwriting experience for “The Icewind Chronicles”? What can you tell about the album’s structure, since it shares a form of a storytelling affair?

Chris Achelous is the main songwriter on the album, but George has also contributed with two songs and myself with one. The songs are composed by bringing an idea, then George and Chris work this idea in a demo form and we all finish it in the studio by rehearsing it. As long as the structure, it’s a concept album regarding stories from the Icewind Dale trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. Northern Winds and Flames of war are about the Barbarians’ descending to the Icewind Dale and the Ten Towns and the war between them and the allied forces of men and dwarves. Savage King is the story of Wulfgar the later king of the Barbarians who was saved as a young boy by the dwarf King Bruenor who raised him like his own son. Mirthil Hall is the tribute to the lost ancient dwarven stronghold. The Crystal Shard follows the story of the wizard Akar Kessel and the Crenshinibon as told in the homonym book while Halfling’s Gem uncovers the story of Regis and how he stole the hypnotizing gem from Pasha Pook leader of the Pook guild in Calimport. Face the storm describes the battle of the Crystal Shard and finally Outcast is the story of one of the greatest fantasy characters the drow Drizzt Do’Urden.

Finding that right connection between the lyrics and the music is quite a challenge but not impossible. How did it come to pass on “The Icewind Chronicles”? How were you able to find that perfect cohesion, in your eyes and ears, between the two elements?

It’s not so hard. Most of the times while working on the music and the content of the story the lyrics start flowing on their own. As I told you above most of the time the songs “guide” us on how to finish them or what lyrics it needs.

No matter how experienced a musician, and songwriter, is, there will always be something to learn going forward. Whether from mistakes of the past, or simply because there is a need to be one with the times. What did the course of making “The Icewind Chronicles” teach you as a songwriter first, and second as a musician?

Since The Icewind Chronicles was more demanding than Macedon we all had to surpass ourselves. We had to dig deep inside our souls in order to present an album worthy of the story. I believe that in the end of the journey we found out a lot of things about ourselves especially by pushing us further in order to deliver. Basically we were taught never be satisfied and always try to progress individually, but as a band as well.

The album’s most enchanting tune is the clincher, “Outcast’, at least for me. Musically, I found it to be the release’s constructive tune, a kind of complexity that is easy to reach, and the loads of drama coming out of it are simply outstanding. What can you tell about this particular track? How do you find its impact on the record?

I had this idea in my head long before the sessions of Icewind Chronicles. When I brought the song to Chris and George we processed it together changed some bits added some others in order to reach the final result you are listening in the album. It’s the song for my favourite fantasy character Drizzt Do’Urden. His story is so compelling that the drama is coming out naturally.

“Halfling’s Gem” is where I found the absolute hooks, whether through the riffs, and the great performance of the vocals, and their production. It was also easy to fall for the lead guitar work on this song, and of course the overall concept. What is your take on this track?

Thank you so much for the compliment. This one is based on an idea of Chris Achelous. He brought it as an almost finished song so we didn’t make many changes. If I remember well this one is the last song composed for the album and I think you are right about the big hooks!

Looking forward towards the heart of 2022, what does your schedule look like in order to support the new album?

After two years of live hiatus, we will begin our live appearances with a live presentation of Icewind Chronicles in Athens at 21/05 performing the whole album plus many songs from our Eps and Macedon. A couple of weeks later we are very lucky to perform at the legendary Up The Hammers festival with the mighty Atlantean Kodex, Toxic, Riot City, Fifth Angel and my all-time favourite Titan Force!!! We are also setting up a mini Greek tour on September so stay tuned!

Chris, it was a pleasure to have you for this interview, thank you for your time and effort for this interview. Continue shining with additional methods of how to make a good Epic Metal album. All the best

Thank you very much for this amazing interview! Stay safe and Metal on!!!


 



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