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Sacred Outcry's George Apalodimas: "With a total disregard of the fellow man, it only adds up to the negativity and toxicity. People are more divided (in pretty much everything) than ever."

Interview with George Apalodimas from Sacred Outcry
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 26 September 2020, 5:09 PM

It can be assumed that a wait is worth the trouble, and patience, in order for that special gem to finally arise, be out there in the air, for all the world to see and listen. After 2 decades, endless struggles in what would appear as one of the strongest projects that could have been part of the first line of Metal music, Sacred Outcry from Greece released their high level “Damned For All Time”. Steinmetal had a good long chat with founder George Apalodimas about that moment where the album returned to the band members reality in full, vocalist that took on the project, songwriting and more…

Hello George, it is a massive pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been coping with the ongoing situation happening worldwide?

Hello, the pleasure is all mine! Thank you for your interest in the band and our music. It has been a bit crazy coping with the pandemic, a lot of the daily stuff took the backseat and I’m sure everyone tries to balance their daily lives and adjust to the new reality. Hope everyone is healthy and safe.

I can only assume that things haven’t been looking that well in Greece, in particular when this pandemic struck a mighty blow on the economy. Are there any signs of recuperation? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Actually, Greece was surprisingly well prepared and pro-active for the first part of the pandemic and everyone tried their best to minimize the risk of exposure. I’m sure you know tourism is one of the basic pillars of our economy so opening the borders was a one-way street. This caused an influx of untested people swarming the islands and combined with the lifting of the domestic restrictions (and our own relaxation) we’re back in the danger zone.

Let’s get down to Sacred Outcry, shall we? Alright, since I haven’t heard about the band, I thought that it is a fairly new act coming to light. However, as it appears, it is rather a band that has been put on ice for 2 decades. The first question is crucial, why?

The short answer would be that we never managed to complete the album in the form we thought it truly deserved. That, in combination with us being broken (and broke) after all the attempts to record the album properly “forced” a temporary pause that unfortunately lasted 12 years.  Personally, I always knew that at some point we would manage to make it happen, but the timing was always “off”, at least for what I had in mind.

From what I can tell, there was actually a lineup back in the early 00s, yet it didn’t work out. Were there attempts to recruit a different lineup in order to pursue the band’s plan back in the day? If so, why did that plan cease?

Not really. We were a very specific group of people that had created something that we thought was very special. "Damned for All Time" wouldn’t be the same without Dimitris, Stelios, Vagelis and myself. We all had gone through hell and back for that album, so it didn’t feel right to just “replace” someone at that point.

Your debut album, which is currently being released via No Remorse Records, “Damned For All Time”, was already finished in 2003, correct me if I am wrong, therefore only mixing and mastering is needed in order to come up with a final product. What happened that it was decided to put it on hold, eventually the entire band?

When we entered the studio for "Damned for All Time" back in 2001, we were young and vastly inexperienced on the actual process of recording an album. Bad decisions caused friction, friction led to disappointment and we were ultimately disenchanted with the actual band. We decided to take some time off to relax, work on new ideas and get our momentum back. Unfortunately, Vagelis had to move back to his hometown and that was pretty much the “end” of the band.

To give you some in-depth information about our struggles, after we recorded the drums for the first time, we weren’t happy with the result, so we decided to retry. After the second playthrough, we moved on to the bass/guitars/vocals as normal, and when we got to the mixing phase, we realised that the sound engineer had done a very serious fuckup, that needed the drums to be done for a third time. After Stelios re-recorded the drums, the guitars and bass now were all over the place, so we had to redo them as well. Basically, the album was recorded ~3 times, though no fault of our own.

The end-result was good enough given the circumstances, but we were way past the point of being excited with it.

What I could conjure was that in order to kickstart the heart of Sacred Outcry, you needed a sort of luck and a reason. Being part of such a passionate Metal scene as the Greek one, wasn’t there any chance to reform the band with local talents or there was another reason entirely?

We had people throughout the years that were asking for the album, but as I told you, the timing always felt “off”. Some of us kept playing together in other bands or projects and the idea of a possible re-recording was always in the back of our minds. We tried some ideas in 2011-12 but again it took us 3 years to move. We never tried to recruit any local talent because we never had an official discussion about “who wants in” from the original lineup.

After a short meeting between Dimitris, Stelios and me in 2015 we decided to re-record the full album, without any idea who would sing on it. One step at a time we thought. And it was the first step of a long road ahead. The only thing that was clear to me was that the full, “classic” lineup would have to somehow be involved.

Alright, so years passed, and after years through the second decade of 00s, finally “Damned For All Time” was complete. Summarizing all these years, what is your take on that period of time?

It feels very surreal to be honest. For me, this album is a big part of my life, a part of growing up. It was a dream come true, I have been listening to these songs (in one form or the other) for more than 20 years now, so I’d say it feels almost cathartic on a personal level. The road was very long, and we had to overcome many obstacles, but we are all very proud of the end result. Of course, we could have done many things differently, perhaps we could have pushed for a 2003 release but there is no point thinking what could have been. It is 2020 and "Damned for All Time" sounds better than ever!

Eventually, as you said, it was decided to re-record several elements of the album, and on the top of the list, you recruited your countryman, Beast In Black’s Yannis Papadopoulos. I guess it wasn’t that easy to get into his schedule with Beast In Black’s activities. Was it a go right from the start or did you wait patiently for him to take on the job?

For all the years that the album was playing like a broken record in my head I always imagined how it would sound with the X or Y singer. Not having access to a time machine, a 30-year-old Eric Adams was out of the question, so the person that was leading the imaginary race was one of my all-time favorite voices, Daniel Heiman.

When I first heard Yannis through his YouTube channel I was blown away and started following his career very closely. I am a huge fan of his old band Wardrum and I always wondered how come no one has approached the guy to sing in “Epic Metal” with that set of pipes. I started putting together a version of the vocals with Yannis in mind and back in early 2018, when we finished the actual recordings (and after some very meticulous planning) I got in touch with him.

I explained the vision and the story behind the band and sent him a couple of tracks to get an idea. He was already on his way to world domination with Beast in Black, but he was very interested, and we agreed on the spot. I made it perfectly clear to him that I would not want to cause any kind of trouble with his obligations with Beast in Black and we could adjust to his schedule, but the timing was great as he had a 40-day break before the next leg of their tour. He is a phenomenal singer (I guess everyone can hear that), but more importantly a fantastic guy. He deserves all the success in the world.

What can you tell regarding the first chapter of the Sacred Chronicles? What is this supposed saga to be all about?

No, nothing conceptual on the “Sacred Chronicles” other than the promise of quality Epic Music for all those willing to and lend us an ear and their most precious resource; time. The album is described as such in the booklet, as a part of a message to all the people that honor the band with their support and dedication.

There are some -very few- people that were waiting for many years, there are new people coming on board and this is our promise, there will be more. When we started re-recording, the sole purpose was to release "Damned for All Time" after 20 years, you know, have some sort of closure.

Now we are very eager to share more. Many difficulties ahead but hopefully we can make good on our promise.

Does your shared vision have outtakes within our very own reality? Has your perception changed throughout the years ever since you started working on this piece of music?

Hmm, yes and no. We’ve come a long way since these songs were originally written but the vision behind the band stays the same. We have a much better view on both how the “industry” works and what to realistically expect from a band of our limitations (f.ex. playing Live is next to impossible with the current setup) and we are much more mature in the way we handle everything.

Personally, I try to have a clear picture of the next steps for the band, I always carefully plan and try to be ahead of any problems that might rise. Of course, you can never be prepared for everything, but at least now, I don’t leave anything to chance. It requires a ton of work and it is many times frustrating, exhausting and draining, but … the flame never dies. Music is always worth it.

In regards to our current worldwide medical situation, do you find any fine lines between “Damned For All Time” and the present state of affairs?

Haha, interesting question. If I can take the title literally and then yes, you can see that most of the world is indeed heading for damnation. Not with the biblical or high fantasy definition, but with the actual, real world one. The situation is dire in many parts of the world and it is sad to see that most of the problems are due to the innate need of people to prove they are right. With a total disregard of the fellow man, it only adds up to the negativity and toxicity. People are more divided (in pretty much everything) than ever.

The rain of influences and directions within the musical end of this album is quite diverse and varied. To state it as Progressive Metal would be too general. In your opinion, how do you find the integration of your influences and visions entangled within the music of “Damned For All Time”?

Back when we started playing, we wanted to combine our major influences and refine them through our personal view. The stripped down “blueprint” in my mind was to combine the vocals and bass of Manowar, with the guitars and drums of Warlord, again, everything filtered through our various other influences and ability at the time. Domine, Crimson Glory, Helloween, Virgin Steele, Blind Guardian were all integral to the sound we were trying to craft.

Another thing we paid extra attention to, was the variety of the song structures. It may sound oversimplified or even juvenile now, but we were literally discussing and rejecting ideas based on if anything similar appeared on another track and we maintained a strict policy of absolute diversity within the album (this sounds surprisingly 2020ish, haha). Songs would all be connected and work as a whole, but no individual songs would follow the same pattern, so the album would sound fresh and interesting at any given time. That was our intention at least!

What can you tell about the songwriting process of the album? I bet that it wasn’t that easy to craft the arrangements, orchestrations etc.

The vast majority of what you hear in "Damned for All Time", was composed roughly between 1999-2002 so “I shall have to take you back with me, a long way in time…”.
Most of the songs were worked in the studio as the rehearsals were an integral part of our young lives and both Dimitris and I, were full of ideas. In the studio, each of us tried to bring his own individual mark and that’s how the identity of the band was slowly formed. The two major turning points back then was when Vagelis joined in 1999 when he brought a whole new world of acoustic interludes and ideas we could use to develop into full songs and slightly later, when Stelios joined behind the drumkit, a move that allowed us to actually write and adjust the songs at the speeds we originally intended, without limitations. This was our “classic” lineup.

After we re-recorded most of the stuff in 2015-16, I got in touch with John and we started working on the orchestral arrangements just to add another layer of depth in the songs and pay a small tribute to Basil Poledouris. John’s help was invaluable on the actual soundscape of the orchestra and we had a blast composing and arranging everything, but it was a very demanding process, because I wanted the orchestra to accompany the band and highlight the dramatic/epic atmosphere, not turn Sacred Outcry into a symphonic band. Due to several problems at the time, the orchestration took about two years (!) before we could move to the vocals.

Other than the songwriting, what would you say were the band’s biggest challenges earlier on and also later, while finishing up the studio work? Were there any second thoughts that made you question your decisions?

Songwriting was a very fun process altogether; we were very young, and rehearsing was a way of having fun so I wouldn’t say it was a “challenge”. The main problems were coming from the aforementioned struggles in the recording days, the disappointment and the discouragement that obviously affects you deeper than it should when you are younger.

Fast forward 15 years, I’d say that arranging a full orchestra while maintaining the band’s identity intact was a big challenge, especially since we kept the songs extremely close to their original form, because we aimed to preserve the feeling and the vibe of the era they were composed. The only song that had a huge lyrical makeover is “Sacred Outcry” because it was originally written in 1998!

The biggest challenge was actually after we finished all the recordings, because we explored some mixing options that held us back for almost 1 extra year. We then decided to wipe the slate clean and work with Steve Lado who is a long-time friend and a guaranteed result for the Mixing/Mastering and the rest, as they say, is history. So, no, I didn’t question any of my decisions, but there have been some very stressful periods that I questioned my sanity, haha.

Though I have been a Metalhead fan of strong riffery, I was caught in the web of “Scared To Cry”, a heartily kind of balladry, which with Mr. Papadopoulos’ performance, a standard was set on how to write and execute a ballad in Metal. What can share about the experience?

(That’s so awesome to hear!) Lots of Trivia for this one, and again I will have to take you down a trip to memory lane, as this song dates back to 1999! When I first met Vagelis and we were discussing about him joining the band, our influences, what we wanted to sound like down the road etc, at some point he told me “I have a song, that I think would be a nice fit to what we’ll be trying to do” and he proceeded to play "Scared to Cry" in full. I still remember standing there looking at him, speechless, thinking “This is our Bard’s Song! I can’t believe we can now start writing stuff like this!”.

The version you hear in the album, is the actual recording of 2002, with Vagelis playing the guitars, while the orchestra was added 15 years later, in 2017!

This was actually the last song Yannis did, I remember I was at the airport on my way to his place, to “finalize” the album when he sent me a message and told me, “Just finished, I think it turned out really well!”

Now, remember, Yannis is very careful and always chooses his words carefully, so I knew we had something mind-blowing, hahaha. And indeed, I think his performance is breathtaking, certainly one of the album’s highlights.

When it comes to forging a rightful buildup, up until a decisive heavy strike of profound massiveness, “Lonely Man” and “Farewell” come to mind. The former a Euro Power Metal speedster, more Labyrinth than Domine, and the latter, a crushing Iced Earth driven with its meaty, tasty riffs. What can you tell about the creation of these tracks? What do you think are the key dramatic factors within these songs?

Both songs are a perfect example of the evolution of our songwriting as a band. "Lonely Man" is a product of jamming in the studio without a singer and started off as a ballad. We used to spend a ton of time in the studio and most times we recorded ourselves on tape so we could work the ideas at home and/or write lyrics. I remember we had just recorded our rehearsal and we still had some time to kill so we started goofing around. Dimitris came up with the opening riff so we all tagged along and the full thing was put together in 20-30 minutes. I still remember myself brainstorming and singing the chorus “Lonely Man, why to be alone?” thus the title stuck.
This was the first, very rough version of the song, back in late 1999. After the full album slowly started taking shape, "Lonely Man" was still unused, a very rough, unpolished power ballad that conflicted with Crystal Tears, because remember, NO SIMILAR SONGS ALLOWED!

It was with Stelios’ coming that we got the idea of converting the song into a more “classic” power metal form, a celebration of the speed he had brought to the band. The absolute piece of trivia about this song is that I shamelessly stole the idea of the song transitioning from its initial state of a ballad to a full-blown power metal song from Sonata Arctica’s cover of Still Loving You!  After we all agreed on the “conversion” Dimitris modified the main riff for the updated version and the song took its final shape after a couple of rehearsals.

"Farewell" on the other hand was initially just an acoustic intro that Vagelis had come up. We worked together at a full acoustic version for the rest of the song and I purposely didn’t re-write the lyrics to the intro, because I wanted to capture the feeling that Vagelis had when he originally wrote it.

After we were done with the first full draft, we realized there was no room for such a song on the album because we already had "Scared to Cry" (and Crystal Tears similarly written and covering the power ballad slot). Again, rehearsals gave us the answer as we quickly modified the full song into the epic anthem you now can hear, with only a short part of the intro indicating that it was at some point a full-blown acoustic composition.

For me, the key dramatic factor is always the same in principal. A song should always be evolving as it progresses. Short or long compositions, it doesn’t matter, you always have to keep things interesting and always build up towards some form of crescendo.

A rather important question, will there be a full band under the Sacred Outcry moniker once again? When once available, any chance to catch a live show?

That’s a tough one… With the current setup it is extremely difficult, even if we could find a replacement for Yannis, which is a titanic task by itself. As I already told you, our “only” concern was to release the album, so we could share our vision with the world. Plus, we live pretty much across the globe now, so logistics would be a nightmare.

Never say never though, we never know what tomorrow brings. Realistically for the time being, I’d say we’ll have to be happy with meeting people at Festivals and having a beer after this whole Corona-age is behind us.

George, you surprised me, never have I thought to stumble upon such an epos. I thank you for the great music, and do me a favor, make this happen big time. Cheers sir.

I really can’t thank you enough for your kind words. The response so far has been overwhelming and it makes us very happy to see that so many people enjoy "Damned for All Time".

Every comment, every review, every copy sold or even seeing people discussing about our songs gives us a huge boost and a drive to work even harder. Thank you for this opportunity and hopefully we won’t have to wait another 20 years to do this again!


 



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