They have been there at the dawn of Hellenic black metal in the early 90s. They are here now. Varathron seem to have no intention to let this flame die.
Stefan Necroabyssious, the only founding member still in the band since 1988, is joined by the young blood and with the current line-up the band is still very much active, staying true to their origins. Their long career that started with early demos, one of the most eerie occult black metal splits with Necromantia, and two absolutely classic full-length albums in the style is still strong with the addition of Patriarchs of Evil, a modern Hellenic black metal album that is not short of the quality of 90s classics and their new track on the 7” split with Rotting Christ in 2019.
Members of the band do not only have Varathron to put out their occult, melodic, and old school creations. Necroabyssious and Achilleas also play in Katavasia together for fans of folky Hellenic black metal like Kawir. Necroabyssious is involved in Funeral Storm who released their debut full-length, Arcane Mysteries, recently as well as Zaratus who had their EP out this year that sounds like a primordial mix of Hellenic black metal and Celtic Frost.
We had the opportunity to talk about the past, today, and future with the men behind the old school cult of Varathron. You can find the interview below.
Listen to Varathron’s latest album, Patriarchs of Evil, here:
Most Hellenic black metal bands from early 90s moved on to different sounds over time. Varathron always stayed close to the original Hellenic black metal approach and last year you released Patriarchs of Evil, which was as highly regarded as your first releases from early 90s. What do you think about evolution and traditions?
Varathron “stayed close” and insist on that sound because we’re the creators of that sound. Mutilator, Captain Death and I, created that sound and we still continue to keep that spirit alive. About evolution and tradition are two different things on the sound of the band but I think we keep a good balance between evolving but keeping our identity clear including beliefs and values concerning our underground and spiritual path.
Your split with Necromantia from ’92 is one of the most essential cornerstones and one of the earliest examples of Hellenic black metal sound. But on the other hand, you and Rotting Christ – two of the biggest names in the scene – never had such a split until 2019, the recent Duality of the Unholy Existence. In fact, two bands together with Death Courier shared the stage for the earliest black metal show in Greece in 1990. How come you never worked together on some studio recording in 90s before the recent split?
You know we talked for about this a lot of times in the past and the only reason it didn’t worked out all this years were the hard schedule with tours, albums and everyday jobs that needed good synchronization and timing between the two bands. Finally, in 2019 we made it happen and I think we did a very good job creating a very good split release with new powerful tracks and killer artwork.
How did you first get in touch with those people in Death Courier, Rotting Christ etc. in 80s. How did it all start for the “Hellenic metal scene”?
We talk a lot of times about those years, so great memories from the glorious past. In the middle of 80’s, metal people liked Iron Maiden and Manowar. I was a student of University in Athens and I met some people who were restless spirits and they listened more extreme and underground music than what the clubs were playing at that time. They listened and communicated with bands that played grind-core –noise and I created a band, too. It was a place, a rehearsal place all of us went to make noise! Sound Pollution and Rotting Christ were playing grind-noise at that time and at some point Captain Death (Spyros) and Jim Mutilator started getting bored and wanted to create something new and unique. At the same time my first band “Sickness Mind” played a thrash/gore sound and then we start to rehearsal some covers of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Death, Venom and more. I had the same vision with the guys (Captain Death and Mutilator) so day by day we hanged out and one night the idea of creating a band playing this unique Black/Death metal music arises and Varathron are born! So, this is how Hellenic black metal style was created, which remains immortal through the years until our days!
When the early Hellenic black metal bands started finding their own unique sound, the bands all around the world had their own interpretation on how to make black metal. A lot of unique local sounds and scenes arose all over the world in those years (Czech, South American, Italian, Scandivanian…). Were you personally in contact with any of those other local scenes in early 90s?
In these glorious days – without internet, cell phones and more – we had so passion for creation and “appetite” to hear new stuff, new demos and new releases. So, we were in touch with all the scenes. You know the Latin America scene – a great amazing scene – still worships the Greek metal scene because of our communication and tape trading back in the days. I witnessed this worship because I received so awesome respect and love on our South America tour from so many people, bands, zines and labels. Besides that, a lot of bands around the world talk for our Greek metal scene like a big inspiration to them!
While most of these local early black metal scenes aimed to become more and more extreme, Hellenic sound opted to embrace 80s metal influences. These influences manifested themselves not only in the black metal bands but also early Hellenic death metal releases. How close were the ideas of classic heavy metal and extreme metal back then for the people in the Greek black metal scene?
I think the unique style of our Greek metal sound is also affected by our love and influences of the classic heavy metal and hard rock sound. Those melodic and atmospheric sounds were drilling in our minds and made us travel beyond the normal world. Is something you can find in our culture, our ancient roots and the feelings that comes from our Mediterranean hearts.
For better or worse, Norwegian black metal sound heavily influenced the course of events for the genre after mid-90s to this day. Why do you think that Hellenic black metal sound didn’t become more prevalent in the past?
I answer you with the words that my friend Metallion wrote me a lot of years ago. “If Varathron was a Scandinavian band you would sign on any label you like!” I think he was absolutely right because all the bands from the North are popular- most of them are copies of the big ones and later everything was about labels manipulating the bands to make money. So, we live in South man, we are poor neighbors of Europe and we don’t have a lot of opportunities for something big!
You are actively touring around the world after Patriarchs of Evil; also other bands of which you are the members (Funeral Storm, Katavasia, Zaratus…) are releasing new albums. Other modern bands like Cult of Eibon or Caedes Cruenta are also keeping the old school Hellenic flame alive. Would you say there has been an increasing interest in Hellenic black metal sound lately, a “Hellenic black metal revival” if you will? Where do you think it could go in the future?
Yes, I think the Hellenic black metal sound is rising from the ashes once again! In the late 90’s and the early 2000, the Hellenic sound was “frozen”. After some reunion of the old bands and some new who bands that wanted to keep the black flame alive, the sound arise and now our scene is one of the most great scenes worldwide! I hope and I wish to continue that situation for more years. From my side I give an oath to continue my creations because my madness is never-ending!
Necroabyssious is the only remaining founding member of the band from late 80s and the rest of you joined the band past 2000. How did that all work out? Were you friends before coming together in the band or was that more of a professional relationship?
Well, I finished with the guys in Athens, after so many travels to rehearse on studios, spreading money and hardship from Ioannina to Athens every second week. So, I decided to to “move” the band here in my hometown and I started to look for new members. First I found Achilleas, a student of High School who worshiped Varathron and he became a basic warrior of the second “face” of my band. On the next months we found the rest members and now we have a strong team – a perfect family that is working so hard for the band. That fresh blood upraises the band on a new level!
Do you follow modern traditional heavy metal bands and releases? If so, any personal favorites?
I have a metal radio show every Saturday and Sunday called “Twilight Zone”98.5FM. So, I listen to a lot of releases every month. I like the traditional heavy metal sound because I was “born” with that sound and specially NWOBHM. I like to listen most of the heavy metal sub-genres like Thrash, Death, Black and Doom metal.
Final words to you, do you have any message to the readers of RideIntoGlory?
Thank you for the support! I salute your metal maniac readers! Keep the black flame alive and beware for our next unholy invasion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!