overground scene

An auto-biography of gig attendance #3: The Haunted and Acid Death 1999

The gig by The Haunted and Acid Death in Peristeri, Greece, back in September 1999 is one of the most memorable gigs I’ve ever been. The reason is not because the bands in question were among my favourite bands (they were not), or because the gig itself was particularly amazing (it was good); instead, what makes this gig particularly significant is the circumstances within which it took place.

In September 1999, one of my best friends migrated to Italy to study economics. He also happened to be the only friend who would have joined me to this gig if he hadn’t left – none of my other friends liked The Haunted. I guess the sadness of his departure, combined with being at the concert on my own, marred the occasion. This is not, however, the only reason this gig has stayed with me. On September 7, 1999, a huge earthquake shook Athens. Many people died as the result of collapsed buildings, and for days people were afraid of staying in their homes. Many would camp out in public squares. My family spent several nights at my grandparents’ house, because our flat suffered damages and did not feel safe to be in as aftershocks continued for days. Being at the gig just a few days later (September 18), I was constantly worried that an aftershock might cause the audience to panic, or some lighting rig to unhook and fall on my head. The club (Woodstock, in Peristeri) was not in great shape, and that added to the stress.

Acid Death circa 2000 (source: encomium zine)

Anyway, neither of those things happened, and the vibrations caused by the sound combined with thrashing around would have probably concealed any minor aftershock. The gig was actually great. Sadly, I do not remember the opening band, Deadlights, performing. The main supporting band, Acid Death, was from Athens and played prog-death. By then they had a couple of great releases (an album and an E.P), and they were incredible live. On that night, they played a few songs from their debut album, which I loved back then, and, if I remember correctly, they may have also played “Apathy murders hope”, a little gem from the homonymous 1993 single (later on also appearing on the split E.P. with Avulsed).

By that point The Haunted had only released their debut, which I loved. Marco Aro had already taken the place of Dolving, and during the show they played a new song off their yet unreleased sophomore album. That song was “Leech”, which I thought sounded awful at the time. Two of the highlights were that they covered “Blinded by fear” by At The Gates, and “Raining blood” by Slayer. The tremolo-picked note after the final lyrics of “Raining blood” surreptitiously bled into the beginning of “Shattered“, and that was an awesome moment! According to the notes on the back of my ticket stub (see below), the band also played “World of lies” by At The Gates, which I faintly remember, and Judas Priest‘s “The ripper”, of which I have no recollection. Of course, the highlight of this gig was seeing two of my music heroes, namely the Björler brothers, whose music introduced me to death metal a few years before that gig. 

A night to dismember

The second time I saw Dismember live was in 2007 when they played the Mylos-Xylourgeio club in Thessaloniki. It was a great night which I remember every time I listen to Dismember’s Where ironcrosses grow (2004). Just like so many things, this album has come to mean so much more than what it was intended by the band when it was released. It is the album that marked the short-lived return of Cabeza, and that was awesome for a fan like myself who loved Richard’s contributions in the past. It also marked the return of Dan Seagrave’s art on a Dismember album after 13 years. It is also a piece of memorabilia, invested with the memory of the Dismember gig and the whole experience surrounding it.

I used to live in Piraeus, and Dismember were scheduled to play almost 500 kilometers away, in Thessaloniki. A friend and I decided to do the 6-hour trip by train to the gig. Whilst waiting at the train platform my friend rang me up to say that he could not make it because there was a chance for him to get laid… After bollocking him thoroughly and briefly considering canceling the trip, I decided to go by myself. Among the stuff I listened to during the trip was Dismember’s Indecent and Obscene (1993) and Entombed’s Clandestine (1991), which I had recorded in the same cassette-tape.

Upon arriving, I did what I always used to do in Thessaloniki, that is, visiting all record stores in the vicinity. Alone, a local record store dedicated to metal, was one of my stations on that day, and I ended up buying Where ironcrosses grow on vinyl. I also had it on CD at that point, but the vinyl version looked so beautiful, plus I thought I might be able to get the band to sign it at the gig. David Blomqvist, Dismember’s guitarist, ended up signing both the record and the cassette-tape!

Delicious cassette-tape with Blomqvist’s autograph

The gig took place in front of a small crowd of no more than a hundred people I would say. The band played a set representative of its entire career – with the exception of Hate campaign (1999) – focusing mostly on its formative years, with songs like “Deathevocation”, “Override the overture”, “Soon to be dead”, “Skin her alive”, “Pieces”, “Fleshless”, “Skinfather”, “Dreaming in red”, “On frozen fields”, “Casket garden”, “Of fire”, “Let the napalm rain”, “Tragedy of the faithful”, and only “Autopsy” off the latest album, which at the time was The god that never was (2006). Fred had just quit the band, so Thomas was the drummer. That put a dampener on the experience for me, to some degree. Anyway, after the gig was over the organisers took the band to a local club which, as far as I can remember (I was drunk by that point), did not play metal music, and some of us tagged along. There, it was both awesome, ‘cos I got to talk to David, Tobias and Martin, and a bit uncomfortable at the same time, as I felt extremely self-conscious; these people were my music heroes, and I didn’t know how to behave. I remember asking David who came up with the main riff of “Case # Obscene“, and he told me it was Fred. I don’t remember much more apart from leaving a while after David had left (maybe 15-20 minutes). As I was walking along Tsimiski road I saw David walking the opposite direction towards me and I waved at him. It turned out he got lost looking for his hotel and he didn’t want to take a cab for fear of being ripped-off. I pointed him to the right direction (I hope I did) and thanked him for the awesome gig and he thanked me back for the support. That night I slept at the entrance of a building ‘cos I had spent all my money on drinks and records, and I couldn’t afford to rent a room. 

Listening to Dismember whilst writing this post

Heavy metal in the classroom

Although I never admitted it to my parents, falling in love with heavy metal marked a steep decline in my performance at school. My parents noted this and were concerned, but I denied any link between becoming obsessed with music and increasingly worse grades. It is difficult to adequately describe my instant infatuation with heavy metal, and how totally it colonised my everyday life when I was 14 years old. The first heavy metal band I fell in love with was Iron Maiden, and the fascination spilled out of my bedroom, into the streets, and into the classroom. In my bedroom, I would listen to Maiden day and night, alone or with friends, on my stereo, and in this process foster friendships and build cultural competences; out in the streets, I would wear my Fear of the dark t-shirt and listen to The number of the beast (1982) on my Walkman (and, later on, Discman), and in this process perform the self (read Goffman 1959) and build a sonic bubble to isolate myself from my surroundings (read Bull 1999); in the classroom, I would decorate every piece of learning material (books, notebooks, desks) with Maiden-related texts, including the band’s logo, Eddie, and song-lyrics.

My drawings inside a Physics textbook – School year 1994-95.

I recently came across the drawing pictured above, in a box where my mom has kept the contents of my old desk at home. This is a typical example of poaching (De Certeau 1984) from my high-school days, an instance where I appropriate materials (textbook) and signs (Iron Maiden logo, mascot, etc.) that do not belong to me, and combine them with other signs that belong to the broader heavy metal lexicon (chains, hatchets, etc.), to pursue my desires, namely to entertain myself and keep myself busy in the excruciatingly boring school environment, a structure I found oppressive.

This type of symbolic work (Willis 1990) obviously shows how obsessed I was with Maiden. The songs blew me away, but the visuality of the albums was also unbelievably captivating. I couldn’t get used to the covers of all their albums up until Fear of the dark (1992). This little artistic masterpiece pictured above was inspired by the No prayer for the dying (1990) artwork, which is one of Maiden’s greatest visually, in my opinion. But although Eddie’s hair and the sparks in the eyes are based on the actual artwork, I also added my own touch with the bolts on Eddie’s head originally featured on the cover of Piece of mind (1983). Note how I modified the letter “o” into Derek Riggs’s (Maiden’s illustrator) famous signature. Back then I could not resist changing an “o” when I saw one. You can also see that I used Blanco correction fluid under Janick’s name. The reason is that, at first, I had written down “bass” where it now says “guitar”. I remember not understanding what each band member is supposed to be doing; I was not sure about the difference between bass and guitar, so Janick playing bass (alongside Harris) seemed plausible at the time. Also, including all the publishing/copyright information is quite funny to think about; it seems like every single signifier was meaningless and meaningful at the same time! Meaningless, because I didn’t really know what they signified specifically, but meaningful because they had something – albeit elusive – to do with Maiden, and that was enough.


– Bull, M. (1999) “The dialectics of walking: Walkman use and the reconstruction of the site of experience”, in Hearn, J. and Roseneil, S. (Eds) Consuming Cultures: Power and Resistance. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, pp. 199-220.
– De Certeau, M. (1984) The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
– Goffman, E. (1959) The presentation of self in everyday life. Middlesex: Pelican.
– Willis, P. E. (1990) Common culture. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Once unwanted albums

I started buying metal albums in the mid-1990s, and, at first, the shops that I would turn to were local record stores in my home town in Piraeus, Greece. Then I started exploring the centre of Athens, and the first major stations there were the two Rock City stores (one at Sokratous street, one at Akademias road), Metal Era (at Emanuel Benaki street), the two Metropolis stores (both at Panepistimiou road), and Happening (Charilaou Trikoupi street). In all of those stores, but especially in Metropolis, we used to find rows of unwanted albums on sale that today are highly sought after. These albums were not second-hand, they were all new. I bought many of those albums back then, at a time when the cultural value of vinyl records was in decline. However, given the limited disposable income that I had back then (consisting in a meager weekly allowance by my parents), I also missed out on many great albums. This is a post about some of those vinyl records, each available in large quantities and unwanted. Now, in a different era where the discourse about the cultural value of vinyl has changed, they are exchanged in the global vinyl marketplace for considerable amounts of money.

1. MercilessThe treasures within (1992)

The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £89. The treasures within was released by Active Records, and Metropolis was literally (not really) giving away copies. Two of the albums in this list are actually from the same record label; for some reason in the mid- to late-nineties these records were sold for next to nothing. It is worth noting that the label went defunct in 1993, so maybe they had huge surpluses which they tried to get rid of. This album cost something between £2-4. I distinctly remember seeing a row of maybe 20 copies of the album every time I would go there, yet I never bought it. I had it on cassette tape back then and I did not particularly like it. Of course, I have regretted not buying it. It is still my least favourite Merciless album, but songs like “Lifeflame“, “The treasures within”, and “Branded by sunlight” are lush.

2. AtheistUnquestionable presence (1991)

Another release of Active Records. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £50. For months on end Metropolis was trying to get rid of this album in the late 1990s. There was a long row of albums at the basement of the shop, and if I remember correctly they were being sold at 2,000 drachmas (around £4). I already owned it by that time, I remember buying it second hand from Monastiraki for around 3,000 drachmas. My impression is that Atheist was kinda forgotten by that point in time, at least in Greece; I don’t remember any mentions in magazines, and even in my network of friends nobody knew them. I was the one who introduced them to our group when, in 1996, I stumbled upon Piece of time at a local record store and bought it because of the sticker which said “Death metal from Florida with a difference. You better believe it”.

3. DeathSymbolic (1995)

The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £176. This was released by Roadrunner Records, and, around 1997, it was sold for 2,000 drachmas (around £4) in 7+7, one of the most historic record stores in the Monastiraki area of Athens. I bought my copy of Symbolic on vinyl then and there. There must have been more than 10 copies of that album for a long time. It is worth noting that the review of Symbolic on the Greek Metal Hammer was far from dithyrambic. I think it got 8/10, and although I don’t remember the specifics I remember thinking, based on the review, that it must be a mediocre album. 7+7 was the first record store I went to the first time I visited Athens, and the first thing I bought from there was Seasons in the abyss, by Slayer, on CD. Later on I bought one of my first vinyl albums, Xentrix’s Shattered existence. This shop is still around today, but it has transformed over the years. In the mid-nineties it used to have this tiny space way in the back where all the vinyl records used to be. To get there you had to go through a short corridor where the floorboards felt as if they were about to collapse. Back then it felt really mystical and hidden, a place of initiation and discovery.

4. TankardTwo faced (1994)

I fell in love with Tankard back in high school. The first album I got from them was Chemical invasion (1987) during a school trip in Athens, and on the same day I got Benediction’s Subconscious terror (1990). Nowadays, I mainly listen to their homonymous album from 1995, which shares with Two faced the thematic emphasis on anti-authoritarianism and progressive social critique. I thought Two faced, released by Noise International, had some very impressive moments (for example, the awesome anti-nationalist tune “Nation over nation“), but by the time I found it on vinyl my tastes had shifted to death metal, so I never bought it. In hindsight, I wish I had bought it; now I like it more than back then, and the cover art is simply brilliant. Metropolis had many copies of these, not as cheap as the rest of the albums on this list, but not that expensive either. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £44.

5. MessiahPsychomorphia (1991)

I never got into Messiah, although a friend of mine repeatedly tried to initiate me to them by blasting Choir of horrors (1991) when we were young. The only album I ended up buying by them was the Psychomorphia EP, another one in this list released by Noise International, and that was because it was sold for next to nothing at Metropolis. I cannot remember the exact price but, just like all the albums on this list, there was a big batch of this on vinyl and Metropolis would sell it for around a couple of quid. The median price of this album on Discogs, at the time of writing this post, is £17.67. Listening to the title track now makes me think that maybe I should check them out again.

Incomplete albums, song-lyrics, and media technologies

Over the years, I have experienced many albums as incomplete cultural artifacts. In previous posts (read here and here) I have discussed how that was the result of missing bonus songs. Another grievance I had as a young music fan was about albums that did not include the song-lyrics in the booklet or inner sleeve. So, when my friends and I accessed the internet for the first time in the mid-1990s, before the days of YouTube or peer-to-peer music sharing, we used it primarily to complement our music-listening practices, and music artifacts themselves, by finding and printing out song-lyrics. Printouts like the one pictured below reside inside many of my vinyl records.

I printed out the lyrics for Xentrix’s Kin at home on 2/3/1997.

In the pre-internet days, I would sit with my friends listening to songs over and over again trying to make out lyrics that were omitted from the booklets of albums. I remember once spending hours trying to decipher the lyrics from various songs off Hypocrisy‘s The fourth dimension (and we did a pretty good job in the end). The arrival of the internet changed that. On the one hand we gained easy access to lyrics that we didn’t have to struggle to decipher; on the other hand we abandoned some of our rituals of music-listening. Just like the internet and the printer replaced endless hours of compulsive listening and comparing notes in an effort to decipher lyrics, web 2.0 and smart-phones replaced the printer. Although I still do not own a smart-phone it’s fair to assume that printing out song-lyrics, now that in many socioeconomic contexts the internet has become ubiquitous, must be a thing of the past. Additionally, websites like Encyclopaedia Metallum, a massive database that is user-produced, has changed how I search for lyrics, not simply by making it easier, but also enriching it with other information about albums and artists.

What I describe above should not be read as a lament for the sacrifice of a more “authentic” music-based sociality on the altar of technology. Instead, these different periods represent different techno-social eras characterised by different actors (both human and non-human) interacting within different networks of social relations. Every new technology that replaces a ritual, introduces in turn new rituals which involve, to use Bruno Latour’s terms, delegations (tasks with which we endow the technology) and prescriptions (skills and knowledge that the technology requires from us). For each loss of a face-to-face social interaction we gain interaction (albeit a more opaque and reified one) with unseen millions on the internet. To quote Xentrix, “each phase of life, a new scenario”.

Is this where I came from? #14 Anti-cimex and Rotting Christ

It has been a long time since the 13th installment of the “Is this where I came from?” series of posts, in which I explored the influence of Horror cinema visuality on death metal album covers. For the 14th installment of this series of posts I will draw attention to what I consider a very obscure case of intertextuality between Rotting Christ, a cult black metal band from Athens, Greece, and Anti-Cimex, a cult crust band from Sweden.

Anti-Cimex – Doing Time (1990)

“Doing time” is a song off Anti-Cimex’s first full length album, Absolut country of Sweden (1990) which came out in 1990, many years and several demos and E.P.s after the band formed in the early 1980s. It could be argued that Anti-Cimex launched the great Swedish tradition of Discharge rip-offs, and, alongside bands like Crucifix, Doom, and Ratos De Porao, they inspired and helped establish the worldwide D-beat genre. “Doing time” is a song that exemplifies Anti-Cimex’s sound. Yet, consistent with the minor stylistic changes present in this album that allude to metal aesthetics, the furious D-beat gives way to a mid-paced, heavy palm-muted chord progression starting at 3:45. This progression is further developed with the addition of a short sharp lick first heard at 4:08, which is the bit that is very reminiscent of the song by Rotting Christ I present below.

Rotting Christ – The fifth illusion (1994)

Rotting Christ is probably the first extreme metal band I ever listened to, through the compilation tape Into the catachthonium (1994) courtesy of Unisound records. The opener “The fifth illusion” comes from the band’s excellent second full length album titled Non serviam (1994). The extremely catchy lick to which I am referring in this post is first heard at 0:41-0:43 in the video below, and is repeated several times throughout the duration of the song. Whether Sakis Tolis (the band’s principal composer) consciously imitated the Anti-Cimex riff or whether it is a coincidence remains a hypothesis. However, it is worth noting that Rotting Christ started off as a grindcore band, so, I guess, listening to a band like Anti-Cimex would not be inconsistent with Sakis’s musical tastes.

An auto-biography of gig attendance #2: Cannibal Corpse, 1998

Each time someone poses the question “which one is your all time favourite gig?” my response is usually, “Cannibal Corpse”. I saw Cannibal Corpse in Woodstock Club, Peristeri (Greece) on the 25th of October 1998. The venue was small and claustrophobic, and would serve as the site for many other awesome gigs in the years to come. I was with two of my best friends (and one not that close friend), all of us big Cannibal Corpse fans. Cannibal Corpse shared the bill with Dark Funeral and Infernal Majesty. Although Gallery of suicide had just been released, we had already learned most of the lyrics by heart. My friends also liked Dark Funeral (one of them was obsessed with Vobiscum Satanas) but I didn’t. Infernal Majesty had just released Unholier than thou, a great album, and even though I wasn’t a big fan (I hadn’t even listened to None shall defy) I was somewhat excited to see them.

We arrived at the venue all pumped-up and with our tickets carefully bent near the bottom so that they could be smoothly ripped at the door, rather than being totally destroyed. It turned out that the people at the door did not tear up the tickets, hence the white line on the ticket on top of the date (see ticket above). I have absolutely no recollection of Dark Funeral playing. I remember seeing Masse Broberg in full leather and spikes, towering over me on his way to the stage. I also remember Chris Bailey, Infernal Majesty’s singer, in the crowd before they played, and I approached him, welcomed him and asked whether they would play “Roman song” off their latest album. I cannot remember his reply but I think they did play it after all. Again, although I remember enjoying Infernal Majesty, I don’t have any recollections as I was burning with anticipation for the headliner.

The year 1998 was a time when exposure to death metal videos in Greece was rare, so, speaking for myself, I didn’t know what to expect from a Cannibal Corpse gig. When the band started playing I could not believe my eyes. I was at the front of the stage, at arm’s length from Jack Owen, and I saw all the mind-blowing fret-work in all its splendour. I had never seen something similar in my life, and, suffice it to say, it changed my appreciation of death metal in terms of musicianship. Webster’s face was hidden behind his hair during the entire gig, and his stage presence was imposing. The band visited all the stops in its, already by that point, long and impressive career. At least one song was played by each one of their six albums. The awesome set-list included (not in order played): Skull full of maggots, Covered with sores, Meathook sodomy, I cum blood, Hammer smashed face, Starring through the eyes of the dead, Fucked with a knife, Striped, raped and strangled, Devoured by vermin, Perverse suffering, Puncture wound massacre, I will kill you, Disposal of the body, Gallery of suicide, Dismembered and molested, Headless (and I’m pretty sure they also played “Sentenced to burn”, although I haven’t written on the back of my ticket). The sound was perfect and the performance was immaculate. Every single moment was an amazing experience.

After the end of the concert we went outside to get some fresh air and catch our breaths. Soon after Corpsegrinder came out, and my friends and I surrounded him. He was in a good mood, and really nice to us. I mentioned his pierced tongue – which I had noticed during his performance – and he did some grimaces for us exhibiting his piercing. He signed our tickets. We then asked one of our friends who had a disposable camera to take a group picture of us with Corpsegrinder. We struck a pose and when he tried to take the picture he realised that he had used up all the film during the concert. So, we started swearing at him in Greek, and, of course, Corpsegrinder picked up the word “malaka” (wanker), and started repeating it in his funny, distinctive voice – a performance which brought about laughter from everyone in the vicinity. Owen also came out of the venue but he was quite withdrawn and walked around on his own. We approached him and asked for an autograph, which he gave, but he seemed almost sad. He quietly signed our tickets and walked away humming some kind of bluesy tune. After a while we got into a taxi-cab and headed home. The taxi-driver asked us if we were in a rock concert, and we said that we were. He was a middle-aged man, and had a macho-attitude typical for Greek taxi-drivers. After a brief period of silence, he addressed all of us with the question, “So…do you guys fuck a lot?”. We instantly burst out laughing, but I have no recollection of how we addressed his question. He then went off on a tangent telling us about his various “hot, young” girlfriends. He dropped us off, and we ended the night making fun of him in raspy voices, the result of our tormented vocal cords.

An auto-biography of gig attendance #1: Rock Of Gods, 1996

Some of my ticket-stubs.

Many years ago I wrote a post about how music gigs are the best form of entertainment. Having reconsidered, I decided that music gigs used to be an amazing form of entertainment when I was young, when I hadn’t seen many bands live, and when I had like-minded friends to go to gigs with. Attending concerts has lost its appeal for me in more recent years. A few weeks ago my mother sent me some old ticket-stubs and rekindled all those memories of gig attendance of my youth. A few days later I learned that Immolation are coming to Brighton, UK, as part of Mammothfest. Immolation is one of my all-time favourite death metal bands, and in terms of consistency, endurance, and creativity, the best death metal band of all times, in my opinion. In anticipation of this gig and in remembrance of the music gigs of my youth I decided to start a new series of posts where I will share with readers some of my favourite moments of gig-attendance throughout the years. I will start with the first heavy metal gig I ever attended: the Rock of Gods festival in Piraeus, Greece, on July 12 1996.

The news of the Rock of Gods festival hit during a summer English course that some of my friends and I were taking. The line-up included Slayer (a band that I worshiped and still do), Blind Guardian (another favourite among certain members of our group back then, myself included), Motorhead (not a favourite at the time, but, still, exciting), Rage (hadn’t listened to them at the time), Nightfall (Greek black metal band), and Fatal Morgana (Greek progressive metal band). At the time I was 15 years old. Although I wasn’t particularly young, my parents were negatively disposed to heavy metal music and the wider subculture. Yet, the congruence of several factors around Rock of Gods allowed me to convince my parents to permit me to go: it was a summer festival (so we didn’t have school-related responsibilities), it was taking place close to our home-town (Piraeus), and several of my friends would accompany me (among whom a friend my mother considered the “ideal student”). So, I bought a ticket.

Most of my memories are of peripheral things around the concert rather than the bands themselves. My friends and I (a group of five) met with some older kids from school in a public square, and together we took the bus to Piraeus. The fan credentials of those older kids were much better than ours; they had long hair, they wore cool old t-shirts, they knew all the bands, and they were doing drugs. Savvas, one of the older kids, grabbed me by my Iron Maiden t-shirt (Fear of the dark) and, half-jokingly, told me “when Rage come out on stage, I will kill you!”. I laughed, but I was also a bit worried. In any case I made a mental note not to be near him when Rage would come out.

The bus dropped us off and then we had to walk for a bit in order to get to dock 3 where the festival was taking place. Our group was walking alongside hordes of heavy metal fans with smiles in their faces. On the way to dock 3, I remember seeing the following slogan written in spray on walls: “Αγαπάς το Rock; 7χίλιαρο!” (“Do you love rock? Pay 7.000 drachmas!”). Although I remember getting the anti-commercial message of the slogan, I was also confused. I was not sure whether the slogan was directed to fans (that were seen as passive dupes of capitalism), music promoters (that were seen as exploiting the fans), bands (criticised for not playing for free), or the broader system including all those actors together (the culture industry). That was a festival that cost money to organise, with an international bill consisting of several awesome and successful bands, so I couldn’t see how the price would be an issue. Upon reflection, I guess it was meant as commentary on the culture industry; a system whereby heavy metal music is mass produced and marketed as a commodity. The slogan was trying to point out that “if you love rock music you are forced into market exchange relations”. The contradiction in this message is that rock music itself, as we know and love, is the product of the capitalist economy; an economy that is producing albums, and has allowed relatively affluent kids from around the world to own instruments and make bands like Slayer and Blind Guardian, that are eventually recruited by the music industry. I still think that rock music as a commodity should be critiqued, but that slogan did not offer any meaningful critique.

Inside the festival area the atmosphere was beautiful. I had never seen so many heavy metal fans at the same place. I remember feeling quite awkward and slightly scared, so I made sure I stayed close to my friends. Before any of the bands started playing, I spotted Thomen, Blind Guardian’s original drummer, in the crowd. The feeling of seeing one of my music heroes up-close was unique, so without much thought I went to get an autograph. Thomen was very friendly and happy to sign our ticket-stubs. I thought about my friend, Nick, who couldn’t attend the concert because he was away on holiday, so I found a piece of paper and asked Thomen to sign it for him. I gave it to Nick when he came back from holidays and the bastard couldn’t care less. Around that time, we heard the disappointing news that Motorhead were replaced by Saxon…

My memories of the actual bands are extremely blurry. I think I was over-stimulated, by the crowd, the bands, and the newness of the experience of a heavy metal festival, so being attentive of the actual music-listening experience was hard. One of the things I remember clearly is the asphyxiating atmosphere at the front of the stage. Especially when Slayer came out, kicking off with “South of heaven”, the heat combined with the the crowd crushing on me, made me feel faint. I was next to my friend Mark, and when the first notes of “South of heaven” came out of the amps we looked at each other with surprise and started screaming like the little fanboys that we were. Mark then asked me “which song is this!?”, to which I replied “Dead skin mask!”, a mistake that I eventually corrected a few seconds later. I have no other recollection of Slayer that night, apart from the fact that they played quite a few of the punk covers off Undisputed Attitude (1996), and, if I remember correctly, Jeff’s guitar with all the punk stickers. Similarly, I have almost no recollection of Blind Guardian, apart from “The bard’s song”. This is really peculiar, especially since I was dying to see them, and Imaginations from the other side (1995) was (and still is) one of my favourite albums of all time. Although I was not listening to Rage at the time (I fell in love with them after the concert) I vividly remember Peavy at the front of the stage singing “Alive but dead”. Under different technosocial circumstances, a recording of this concert would be widely available, and I would love to be able to experience it again. The only thing I could find online was the YouTube video below, of an audio track from Blind Guardian’s performance on that evening, 21 years ago.

Triarchy of the lost lovers: 20 years on


I find it hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the release of Rotting Christ‘s masterpiece Triarchy of the lost lovers (1996). Reminiscing upon the release of this album, my initial engagement with it, and the different ways in which it has been implicated in my life, the vast polysemic position that this album occupies in my biography is revealed. In this post I share some personal stories around what I personally consider one of the most beautiful albums of all time.

26654960_10156136390015407_298416661_oRotting Christ occupy a prolific position in my personal biography as a fan of extreme metal. The very first album that induced me to the more underground facets of metal was a compilation cassette tape by Unisound Records, a Greek metal label. The title of this cassette tape was Into the catacthonium (1994). I distinctly remember my friend Nick bringing the cassette tape to my house. Through this tape I was exposed for the first time to extreme metal, through the song “Primordial” by Mortuary Drape. While both of us thought that the singer’s screams sounded funny, I think it irrevocably infected us with the extreme metal virus. Two were the songs that I remember listening to from that tape; one was “Primordial” and the other “Saturn unlock Avey’s son” by Rotting Christ, off the album Non serviam (1994). Similarly, the initial contact with Rotting Christ was not one of unabridged enthusiasm and unconditional surrender. The music was indeed captivating, but the singer’s voice combined with his accent, especially the way he pronounced ‘volcanic explosion’, were hilarious.

Nevertheless, a big change had definitely taken place. Extreme metal did not go down very well with us, but it had our attention. The fact that Rotting Christ was a Greek band was also part of the excitement. Back then I was totally unaware of other Greek metal bands, so the idea that an extreme band was local, so to speak, was exciting. In hindsight, that was an illusion and an excellent example of how national identity works. The excitement that I would feel back in those days reflected a nationalist sentiment, the fantasy that there is a bond between me and a group of people who I would probably never meet and with whom I had very little in common.

The very little I did end up having in common with Rotting Christ would be taste in music. Of course, metal fandom is itself a whole different “imagined community”. Indeed, over the years I have come to realise that the majority of “metal fans” I have met throughout my life have completely different tastes than me, and relate to music differently than I do. In any case, to return to my previous point, even though “greekness” was in the realm of fantasy, I did share with Rotting Christ love for their music (assuming they were fans of their own music). My friend Mark bought “Triarchy of the lost lovers” in 1996, a few months after it came out. He brought the CD to our English lesson and we used my portable CD player to listen to it. If I remember correctly, he must have instructed me to skip the first couple of songs and listen to “Archon” straight away, the fastest cut from this album. By that time we were already listening to death metal and we were primarily intrigued by speed and intensity. I was instantly hooked and soon afterwards I too bought the CD.

1199Triarchy of the lost lovers is one of those rare albums completely devoid of mediocre moments. Every song is an instant classic. In contrast to most extreme metal, which is loquacious and dense, Triarchy is laconic. It has big openings that give the listener room to breathe and reflect on what they experience. Each musical sentence is a clearly articulated statement and it stands out. I would not use the term “riff” to describe this music; that would be reductionist. Only rarely Sakis (the composer) resorts to the short single-layered patterns that we often identify as riffs in metal music. Although laconic, his musical rhetoric is fascinating; each pattern consists of several layers that involve harmonisations, and a dialogue between primary and secondary melodies. The guitar solos are not ephemeral improvisations either; far from it, they are thought-through compositions in their own right (listen to the solo of “A dynasty from the ice“). Jim’s poems about mythical themes, epic tragedies, and uncanny horror stories, were an essential ingredient in Rotting Christ’s unique style of songwriting.


From left to right: Sakis, Jim, and Themis circa 1996

Back in the mid-1990s one of the best metal record stores in Athens was Metal Era, a shop owned by Jim “Mutilator” Patsouris, original bassist of Rotting Christ. Anyone into metal that grew up in Athens in the mid 1990s knew who the owner of Metal Era was. Over the years I saw many metalheads swarm around him, usually kids who saw him as a rock star. Back then me and my friends often wondered whether some of those fanboys were actually working in the shop for free. In any case, I was not far from being a fanboy myself, because in all honesty I did look up to Jim; he was part of an important chapter of extreme metal history. I too often used to hang out in the shop pestering him to play new releases. Some of the fresh releases or promo versions of albums I listened there over the years include Hypocrisy‘s Final chapter (1997) and Hypocrisy (1999), Hate Eternal‘s Conquering the throne (1999), Broken Hope‘s Loathing (1997), and Dismember‘s Hate campaign (2000). At some point in the late 1990s, after he had quit the band, we ended up talking about Rotting Christ and I told him that Triarchy was my favourite album by them and one of my all-time favourite albums overall. I remember that he was surprised, in a very humble way, and told me that it was his favourite Rotting Christ album too.

But the significance of this album goes beyond simple fascination with the songs. This album is the primary material of many fond memories over the years, one including my younger brother. For a brief period around ’96-97 my brother became interested in the music that his older brother (me) was listening to. One of the songs he used to love was “Snowing still” off Triarchy. Near the end of that song there is an atmospheric passage during which the singer narrates in Greek. This part of the lyrics was omitted from the lyrics in the booklet, and the even more annoying thing was that neither me nor my friends could make out what was being said. My brother wanted to know the lyrics, as it was one of his favourite songs, so I asked Jim to jot down the lyrics on a piece of paper and write a dedication to my brother. Jim was very gracious and indeed wrote down the lyrics in a piece of paper that I’ve kept inside the booklet since.


“Black swans bring tears over his dead body – by dawn they’ll be lying dead together” – Dedicated to our friend Anthony (Jim Mutilator)

Triarchy is undisputedly an extreme metal album, yet it is very difficult to classify it. I personally think that it singularly occupies its own category. Over the summer holidays of 1997, I decided that this album stands out as one of the very few albums where each single second is characterised by sheer perfection. I used to think back then that any band would kill to have even one of the “riffs” on that album. Its melodic dimension anchors it to traditional metal, which was my great love, but also to other styles, such as popular and folk Greek music, that resonated with my habitus. Twenty years have passed since I first listened to it, and today I simply confirm what I had already thought 10 or 15 years ago: Triarchy of the lost lovers is a timeless masterpiece whose significance will only increase with time. Every day that goes by is and will be a reminder that what this band achieved in terms of aesthetic expression and inventiveness cannot be repeated, so this unique example will be admired and treasured.

Shaping the discourse on the EMU crisis
July 15, 2015, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Greece | Tags: , , , , , ,

The Greek government failed, following an anti-austerity stance that was widely supported by the broader populace as well, to resist and push back the neoliberal forces of the European Union. The result of the negotiations with the EU is a new bailout package accompanied by harsh measures that are expected to weigh more heavily on the weaker and weakened parts of the population.

The until recently anti-austerity stance of the Greek government was inspiring and a beacon of hope in an increasingly dehumanising world. The outcome that Syriza and the Greek people hoped to be achieved, however, was a long-shot. Greece is a small member-state embedded in European and global capitalism, with a government whose ideology opposes the hegemonic one, and its bargaining position is weak. An important reason underlying this weakness, in my opinion, is that the Greek and European Left had already lost an important battle in the war against neoliberalism. That battle is the shaping of the discourse on the crisis.

The crisis has been constructed mainly as a Greek one, rather than a European one. Although this is an assertion based on anecdotal evidence (I have not done a critical discourse analysis of the crisis), it has come to my attention that I rarely read about the crisis as a European one. I almost never read about what the implications of all the different scenarios are for the EMU. Is it not possible that contagion, even if European banks have gotten rid of “unhealthy” Greek assets, still poses a problem under the scenario of Greek bankruptcy? What about the infamous Grexit? Why is it being widely offered as an unambiguously positive outcome by EU leaders and Schäuble? Why almost nobody mentions the illegality of a country’s expulsion from the EMU? While in the Treaty of Lisbon there is a clause, for the first time, according to which a member-state can negotiate its withdrawal from the EU, there is no clause regulating a withdrawal or expulsion from the EMU. Also, why there is no discussion of the potential long-term negative implications that an expulsion from the EMU would have for the EMU? I don’t think that EU leaders would want a “revolving-door” EMU whereby anyone can go in and out whenever they feel like it. Also, why is there no discussion on the implications of reforming the European treaties? Member-states would have to enter negotiations to include a break-away clause for EMU, some of them would be in favour, others not. The latter will ask for other things in exchange for their approval and, even then, the Treaty might not be ratified at the national level. Moreover, why hasn’t the Greek Left offered a credible alternative scenario? What would bankruptcy mean? What would the Greek central bank have to do for funding and to re-gain credibility in world markets? Finally, why is there not any talk of EU officials’ accountability, or the Greek government at the time, in making the mistake of including Greece in the EMU (since Greece would probably not pass the optimum currency area criteria)?

The questions that I pose above would be the basis for contributing to the discourse on the crisis. These questions would potentially change the discourse from one whereby all the burden and blame falls on Greece, to one whereby the problem is systemic. Within the latter discourse, both European publics and European politicians would be aware that Greece’s exclusion from the EMU is not a panacea for the EMU, both due to the political/institutional and economic implications. Greece’s bankruptcy would also not be something that EU leaders would want. A more balanced discourse would mean that Greece’s bargaining position would be improved.

Making an educated guess, I would imagine that behind this exclusion of counter-voices is a pattern of media ownership whereby mainstream media are both over-concentrated and over-dependent on economic elites. Interestingly, after the latest bailout agreement there are voices both from Greece and elsewhere, such as the ThisIsACoup hashtag and numerous (social media) groups, that organise in favour of rejecting the bailout package. These actors claim that Greece would be better off bankrupt and out of the EMU. While my opinion is that most of these people don’t have a clue what the implications of a bankruptcy/Grexit would be, I think that their presence contributes to the discourse of the crisis the notion that “we don’t believe EU officials who tell us that austerity is the only way and that a Grexit equals catastrophe”. In that sense, if this counter-movement in Greece gains momentum (and assuming that the Greek Left will not be irrevocably divided) making separation a popular choice, the political elites of the EU might have to rethink what bankruptcy and Grexit would imply and reconsider their strategy regarding the Greek debt.