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Doomocracy's Michael Stavrakakis: "If you have the need to believe in something, go ahead and believe, as long as you remain humble and not become a fanatic that sees the devil in science, vaccines etc…"

Interview with Michael Stavrakakis from Doomocracy
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 23 January 2023, 8:34 PM

Think about this way, about nowadays being persecuted by being fresh with a brand new idea, a kind of idea with a potential to break borders and create new waves. When it comes to mankind's history, especially in a religious aspect, new ideas were never a cup of tea, or liked to be blunt about it. Shaping up a story about being unorthodox, there is the Greek Doomocracy, a Metal band that enough Doom its fists that they also harbour more than meets the ear. With the release of their new album, "Unorthodox", Steinmetal had a good talk with Michael Stavrakakis to tell the story of the record and more…

Hello Michael, it is great to have you for a talk about what has been going on within the Doomocracy camp lately, how are you doing sir?

Hello and a Happy New Year to Metal Temple and its readers! I am fine, currently in the process of booking some shows for 2023 with Doomocracy. It’s looking good so far.

We have been underground no less than dramas in our lives, in particular since the pandemic, and now the war in the East. In light of your recently completed journey with Doomocracy, over the new album, it seems that we haven’t really learned anything, haven’t we?

For all of us living in Greece I would also add the economic recession the country has been going through the last 12 years. The war in Ukraine really shook the world and especially Europe, crushing the values that were established after WWII. It seems indeed that we have not learned from our mistakes and we keep repeating them in this self-destructive sequence. What can I say… the future is certainly unpredictable as shown by recent events, but we survive and dare to dream and prosper in a difficult environment, finding solace in music both as musicians and fans.

There are those that claim that in the pandemic, mankind found itself in a different angle, with the need to care for others. Do you believe that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel?

I certainly hope so… I still haven’t lost my faith in mankind. The pandemic however destructive it was, it helped us realize how fragile and depended on one another we are. First of all, I hope that the pandemic will be over for good in 2023 and bands will be able to tour with no problems and organizers will be able to host a festival with no imminent fear of cancelations. It’s been too long since we last toured and we can’t wait to get back on stage.

Going back to Doomocracy, you recently released your third album, “Unorthodox”, which I found to be quite the challenging title, with sharp messages attached to it. What did you wish to express with this title? Since folks have been doing, and representing, unorthodox things, which everything is in the eye of the beholder, what is unorthodox for you?

We released “Unorthodox” through renowned Greek label No Remorse Records on November 11th 2022. The album title was very fitting with our concept story, our album cover and our music style which especially on this album I would call “Unorthodox” Doom Metal. What do I mean by that… Doomocracy has never been a traditional Doom Metal band like Saint Vitus for example… we always had other influences filtered into our music and while Epic/Doom has always been our foundation, we never hesitated to have more Progressive and U.S. metal riffs and passages in our music. Especially on “Unorthodox” we boldly expanded our Doom Metal range, using even more Progressive and even Thrash metal elements, a move that has paid off. Unorthodox as a word has of course a double meaning and in regards to our concept, it symbolizes the way the establishment (in our story the Catholic Church) exploits human hope and pain in order to gain more power and money.

“Unorthodox” is a journey through forgotten times, which I found to be some of the black mark moments of mankind, and its fear of the unknown. In your view, is that fear a sort of the mind killer, which wouldn’t really let people understand things that aren’t harmful for them, or simply accept other beliefs?

Our story is set in 1582. During that time the Calendar was changed in order to adjust a divergence between calendar and seasons. To do that they had to skip 10 days and go from October 4th 1582 to October 15th 1582. I always found this subject intriguing so I kind of created my own “conspiracy theory” that those days did exist, but were later erased to conceal a cosmogonic event. We are born in fear and from the first moment that we develop a conscience, we are aware of our vulnerability and our brief passage through this world. I don’t know if there is something beyond our mortal life, I want to believe there is, but I try not to live in fear, because as we say in our story “the fear of fear is worse than death”. Our fragile existence is enough to make us sad and the shortage of time urges us to live for the moment and never look back.

In the dossier, it was also written that “Unorthodox” deals with people lost, now that piqued my interest. Who are those lost people as you perceive it? Is there a chance that there are still lost people in our present day? Who is considered lost, or rather brainwashed?

“Unorthodox” is a story about days forgotten and people lost… I explained what we mean about days forgotten. Now the reference to lost people mainly has to do with our story. A man learns the ability to cheat death, he shares this knowledge and gains many followers. Naturally the establishment becomes restless and appalled and decides to persecute him and his followers and erase them from the books of history. This is an allegory about the fear of the unknown, the fear of anything new and ground-breaking. Most people feel lost, as they don’t know what the next day will bring, or how much more time they have left, so they decide to turn to religion for hope, but as history has shown, although mankind has always been searching for divine signs, when a saviour appeared they chose to crucify him.

When it comes to “Unorthodox”, in our modern day and age, the chains of the past didn’t really let go of many people, and entire societies. Let’s face it, some folks are still stuck in their minds centuries back belief wise. In light of the conceptual manner of the album, do you believe that it will ever change? What can change this perspective?

Organized religions are just another form of power, sometimes more powerful than any army. We’ve all read the despicable atrocities of the past performed in the name of God by religious fanatics who burned and tortured so many innocent people. I don’t have a problem against personal faith and I think that it is an inalienable right of everyone to choose whether to believe or not. If you have the need to believe in something, go ahead and believe, as long as you remain humble and not become a fanatic that sees the devil in science, vaccines etc. Because let’s face it, if it wasn’t for science most people wouldn’t make it past their 40s.

Mariusz Lewandowski, who created the wonderful artwork for “Unorthodox”, marked the considerable effect of religion as rather the conveyer of illiteracy, and also the comfortable state of affairs that paved the road to impact of religion in people’s lives back in the day. What can you tell about the vision for this artwork?

The Cover of “Unorthodox” is taken from a painting of Mariusz Lewandowski called “The Lower of Hope”. When we came up with the title of the album we started looking for a suitable painting that would give an image to our concept. When we saw this painting we instantly knew that it was perfect for “Unorthodox” and we decided to acquire the rights to use it.

Religions have always been sceptical towards knowledge and fearful towards new ideas. They like to keep people in the dark, so they can control them more easily. Of course the same applies to modern governments, who choose to spend zero money on education but spend billions on law enforcement and war machines. They just want us to work 12 hours a day and then go home in front of a TV and watch reality shows, while eating garbage food. And with social media they have really managed to enervate and castrate modern societies, to the extent that there is no chance for a real revolution against poverty, hunger and injustice anymore. Resistance is limited to a post on social media.

Somewhat farther from the traditional Doom Metal of the 80s, it was quite refreshing to hear a few more directions in Doomocracy’s musical pattern. “Unorthodox” is a groovy release, with signatures of the late 70s, yet, it was also smoothly brought into the light of the modern sound, and musical approach that is of the heavier edge. What can you share about the recent musical developments in the band that led to outcomes of “Unorthodox”?

We try to evolve from one album to the next and not remain stagnant. I’ve always been a fan of bands that took chances, even if they failed. Our albums featured Progressive and U.S. metal patterns since the beginning and our debut “The End is Written”. Our sophomore album “Visions & Creatures of Imagination” moved towards a more mature and “eastern” path, while maintaining the technical aspects of our music.

“Unorthodox” is even more progressive in song structures and has a thrashy vibe at times. One might even find progressive rock elements in it, so I think it’s our most diverse release to date and I think it appeals to people even outside the Doom Metal genre. I mean we receive messages from people who tell us that they don’t really listen to Doom Metal but they enjoy listening to Doomocracy. While we try to evolve our compositions we try to improve our sound as well. “Unorthodox” was mixed and mastered by Mike Wead and Simon Johannson at SolnaRecording studio and these wonderful professionals treated our music with much respect and gave us this reach and powerful sound we wanted. I am not a fan of the loudness war and I don’t enjoy over compressed productions, so I love the sort of analogy feeling that our production has.

One of the fine edges of “Unorthodox”, since it was the first album of the band that I listened to in full, while also catching glimpses of the previous albums, is its progression. Taking it slow, finding the deep spots, enchanting with commanding vocals and meaty riffs, that is tremendous, but to take the songwriting a level up, that is breathing borders. What can you tell about the songwriting process while the album was in the works?

I can’t say that we changed the way we compose, but with “Unorthodox” being a concept album we had the chance to really expand our music borders, in order to express certain feelings and scenes in our story. If that meant playing faster we didn’t hesitate to do so, if it meant being more technical and emotional we were up to the task. We even added narrations and brief interludes to get the listener more involved in the story. At times it felt like we were working on a film soundtrack. We also used a classical choir on some of the songs, to maximize the epic scenes of the lyrics. It was certainly exciting working on a concept album and I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

Continuing on progression, it has been evident that a lot of bands have been trying to find that way in order to sound different than others. In your perspective, and in contrast to a variety of Doom Metal albums coming out nowadays, what makes “Unorthodox” a unique kind of album?

I think almost every band tries to create something new with their music. Some stay truer to their influences, while others try to assimilate them and create something that will sound more unique. Doomocracy’s influences vary from Hard Rock to Death Metal, to music outside the boundaries of Rock. Our goal has always been to create something fresh and unique and try to go a step further with each album. We are not afraid of taking chances and if that means straying from the orthodox Doom Metal path, so be it. If “Unorthodox” is indeed a unique kind of album as you say, then we must be doing something right.

Finding the perfect cohesion is a task that is nearly unlikely to be achieved, it is actually quite tough, and I am referring to the fine line between lyrics and music. With “Unorthodox” being a concept album, how were you able to find that proper angle?

We think that lyrics are as important as the music itself. If your lyrics don’t create strong emotions, then how will your music be epic? We don’t just write lyrics that fit the vocal melodies, we try to write in a way that the listener will be affected and dig deeper into our story. “Unorthodox” is a concept, so creating a fascinating story was really important for the development of the music. We tried to compose an album that the listener could listen from start to finish, while at the same time we created the songs in a way that they could stand alone as compositions. Achieving this was not an easy task, but I think we managed to keep the balance between concept and compositions.

As a Metalhead that has been a sucker for heavy riffery, it was hard for me to deny the powerful impact of the title track, “Unorthodox”. It has that Iced Earth nature for several moments there, but it dwells deeper in the consciousness. It is a dark form of art that shares quite an intriguing story. What is your appreciation of this track and its impact on the record?

The song “Unorthodox” was one of the first ones we composed and I love the riffs in it. While the rest of the tracks feature keys or a choir, we left this one raw (except for the chorus) as it is a really heavy song and it is very important in regards to our concept. It tells the story of how the church hunted, tortured and burned our hero and how he boldly endured his suffering and resisted their demands. I love Iced Earth’s first four albums and the atmosphere on Burnt Offerings is really dark, so I can see how you might have found a resemblance, which I can only take as a compliment.

Talking about the riffs, I found your vocal performance, bringing to the table a hell of a powerful voice. Other than the fine range, his voice channels drama all over the place as he sails about the music. How do you find your position on “Unorthodox” and influence on the album’s magnitude?

“Unorthodox” has several mood swings and through the lyrics I had to express different emotions like, desperation, anger, nostalgia, fear, justice and more. This meant that I had to use the full extent of my vocal abilities. I love high pitched singers like John Arch and Midnight, but I also love deeper voices like Messiah Marcolin and Eric Clayton. I worked hard and my vocal training over the years helped me rise to the occasion, I hope I managed to do justice to the lyrics and the music of “Unorthodox”.

Other than the title track that I mentioned, which of the tracks challenged you the most while those were written?

I think it took us quite some time to compose the middle part of “Catharsis”. It is the part where the massacre of the disciples takes place and we knew we wanted something immense and technical there. Our guitarists and our drummer did a terrific job in creating the right riffs and drum patterns that were necessary in order to elevate the emotions in that part of our story. Also finding the right chorus and vocal melodies for the song “The Spiritualist” was a challenge and we tried different melodies before choosing the one that we used on the album.

Looking forward for 2023, as 2022 is already gone, what are your plans in order to support “Unorthodox”?

It has been more than three years since we last played live, so we are really hungry to perform our music for all our fans around the world. We are working hard to bring “Unorthodox” to the stage for the first time and we are trying to include new cities in our touring schedule.

Michael, it was good to have you with me for this interview, I appreciate your answers and of course your time. Keep up releasing amazing music, all the best

Thanks for this interesting interview and thanks to you and Metal Temple for your support! We extend our gratitude to all our fans for their amazing feedback towards “Unorthodox”, we can’t wait to play our new album for you!



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