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I am quite sure that most of you reading this article right now have minimal to no idea of what's the relation of these two words: 'Greece' and 'Metal'.Well,I think we should take things from the very beginning.Greece is a small land(at least now) with approximately 10 million people population, with long history,exemplary musical tradition and miraculous civilization.Greece is remembered and referred as a sunny place,ideal for vacation,with many monumental sightseeings and excellent kitchen. Unfortunately, only a minority of collectors are aware of the fact that Greece just like most countries in the world from the early 60's 'till today has to display an exceptional host of artists,bands, musicians that adopted the rock dream and created what was to be known as the Greek hard rock and heavy metal music.In this special article we are going to focus on the unexplored '80s Greek heavy metal scene(and some of the 90's as well) and reveal to the unsuspected reader that a small metal revolution was taking place here ,a revolution that was a bit delayed and this is due to the intense and constant political changes occuring throughout the 20th century.I know that there will be a great controversy among metal collectors about when is the starting point of heavy metal in Greece.In the seventies there was no hint of a metal heart pounding in the youngsters of those days but the first serious attempts were made by two well known Greek psych/hard rock/prog bands Aphrodite's Child and Sokrates(a.k.a.Sokrates Drank the Conium).Especially the latter band was the closest thing in the seventies to happen in heavy music.We won't reffer to other bands of the time because that's not the purpose of the present article but we'll move at full speed in the year 1982.
To us this was the birthdate for Greek heavy metal with a privately released album-compilation entitled 'Happening '82'.From that LP only side A is heavy metal and the three pioneers-metal bands featured on that side are Vavoura Band(which also released a very collectable 7''),Heaven and Hell, Aeolos.From these three bands Heaven and Hell stood out as the best one and although they were a short-lived band with many line-up changes,gave some live shows with other bands of the time. They were for sure the heaviest band to come out of Greece in 1982.Later the band was renamed Black Heaven and only the bass player remained from the original line-up.At the same year another band named Coo released a very scarce nowadays album titled 'Rock Eyes' that was definitely a less powerful attempt than 'Heaven and Hell'.
But the big surprise in 1982 came from the north part of Greece,Thessaloniki,from one of my favorite Greek metal bands,Northwind.And the title of their first very rare Lp,'Northcomin', on Vertigo records was indicative of the bands's origin. It was a great Black Sabbath 'Sabotage'era piece of music.After the release of their debut,Northwind spend their time performing live all around Greece,seeking at the same time for a new record label. So five years after their first attempt,having already built a respectful reputation in Greece,Northwind returned with the successor of 'Northcomin',the LP 'Mythology' which was issued under the EMI label.Their sound was more 'metalized',the lyrics changed completely direction, totally dedicated to the Greek mythology this time and operatic female backing vocals were added. The result was a unique hard n' heavy majestic musical landscape.Songs like:'Prometheus,the man', 'Iole','Bad Orion/Scorpio the punisher;, 'Eagles now the fly', 'Media', undoubtedly worthy of being included in the European metal 'Hall of fame' of the '80s,making 'Mythology' one of the best metal recordings that has ever come from Greece.Surprisingly though,the band didn't seem satisfied enough from neither release.For a long time Northwind was practically inactive until it returned in the early '90s with a demo,but the third LP which was scheduled to follow up,never came.
Vice Human hit the streets in 1984 with their very first same-titled album on Polyavlos records(that nowadays fetches about $100 to its owner!). If the first album of Northwind was characterized as sabbathic then Vice Human was the Greek Black Sabbath(coupled with Deep Purple maybe).Really,exciting hard n' heavy unleashed from the quartet formed in Athens, in the early '80s.The metal assault from Vice Human came one year later on Famous records and it was named 'Metal Attack',but unfortunately didn't live up to our expectations of the band as it contains uneven songs.After a few live shows and demo tapes they disbanded.
Apart from Vice Human in 1984 another qualitative hard n' heavy quartet,called Douglas amazed us with a more than decent 12'' release on Virgin Records featuring two songs,one of which is a cover tune of the legendary 'Baba 'O Reily' WHO song and the other one is a great heavy metal anthem titled 'I'm free now'.The follow up to that great and rare 12'' was a full length album entitled 'State of Rock' with only good point the very interesting front cover.The album(on RCA records) was a very commercial effort with mellow/average compositions that didn't honor their composers.After that album we didn't have any other signs of existence of the band.
Although covering the Greek thrash/death/black metal scene is out of the goal of this article,an exception will be made for Flames.In 1985 they released their semi-thrash debut 'Made in Hell' which had some quite interesting songs to display like 'Beware the dogs of War'.In 1986 'Merciless Slaughter' was out with an extreme splatter cover,more thrashy sound,an LP that was responsible for the creation of a solid core of fans that followed the band from then and on.'Made in Hell' and 'Merciless Slaughter' were Greek top-sellers and the band was the first that gained sort of publicity abroad. The live-EP 'Live in the slaughterhouse' was the 'swan song' of the guitarist and vocalist Nigel Foxxe.This was a critical point for the band which lost not only some of the support of the local Press(Nigel was Media's favourite)but partially its musical identity and personality. 'Summon the Dead' was more in the likes of German thrash and although it was distributed worldwide by Black Dragon and the band participated as a support act in many important live shows in Greece,the cult status of Flames began to fade gradually. 'Last prophecy'(a 'Greatest Hits' was released a bit later) to some extent,but mostly the '90s releases 'Nomen Illi Mors' and 'In agony we rise' were hardly even noticed by the majority of metal fans,as Flames didn't manage to be part of the new metal generation.
On the other hand Nigel Foxxe after leaving Flames formed Thanatos Inc(they had nothing in common with the Dutch band Thanatos with the 'Emerging from the netherworld' Lp). So,in 1987 with great delay for the Greek standards once again,we had the first techno-speed metal outfit with an official album which was in the vein of early Metallica,Flotsam and Jetsam etc. That album, 'Life L.T.D.' came on FM records.Thanatos Inc. were more or less the vehicle of the personal ambition of the very good guitarist Nigel Foxxe.The other three members of the band had also adopted pseudonyms as most speed-thrash bands were doing at the time.'Life L.T.D.' features 8 compositions that apart from the skillful guitar playing of Foxxe was a very average attempt of fast-paced metal.The band was eventually forced to change its name(because of their namesakes Thanatos) to Nigel Foxxe's Inc and the band became trio after the departure of Fabian(the singer), in order to follow a classical career.Nigel handled the vocals for once again,but neither this time was adequate for these duties(although when singing in Flames noone seemed to have noticed it). 'War of the Godz' was the sole effort of the band ,a melodic techno-speed Lp containing a great song 'Treason' but overally was rather boring,one dimensional and its quality didn't correspond with the publicity it received in Greece.Nigel has quit playing metal since a long time ago.
The invasion of 1986 brough a wave of excellent metal albums/bands.To me the greatest band of Greek metal with the greatest debut appeared and its name was Vavel.These five skilled musicians Managed to compose 8 tracks with unique power aesthetic that consist the 'holy grail' of the Greek Metal offerings.That Lp that was simply called Vavel is a very tough piece of vinyl to get(nowadays it can be sold for more than $200) and came with a majestic cover.To everyone's dissapointment due to the bad mamagement and the lack of interest of the record companies that was the last official effort of Vavel.They had written some more songs for a second LP but has never seen the light of day and that was the 'swan song' of Vavel,that disbanded sometime in the early '90s leaving to us the music heritage of songs like: 'Vavel','Fight With Metal', 'Atomic Energy',etc.
Mental Powers is a totally unknown even in Greece hard rock-melodic metal band and the 1986 LP, 'Fantasy',is the ultimate obscurity of the '80s.Practically,an one man's band, 'Mental Powers' features the impressive guitar work of Ramos Alexiou(who handles apart from the rhythm/lead guitar- bass,piano,drums,synths,sound effects) whose guitar monologue recalls Michael Schenker,Gary Moore,Ritchie Blackmoore,etc.,and a decent vocalist who inevitably has the second part in this recording.It's a pity that the broader public didn't have the chance to listen to beautiful compositions like 'Throw the dice' but mainly to one of the best guitar performances of the '80s(in Greece of course).
Another of the most important groups of the '80s in Greece was definitely Spitfire.Everything began in an ideal way:The band drew the attention of EMI Greece and so,it was one of the very few fortunate metal bands that had the support of a Greek major label.The debut 'First Attack'(1986), which contained metal songs of various directions,ranging from the Y&T US metal to intense,up-tempo power metal,was destined to succeed as the professional sound,the very good promotion and the existence of some great compositions('Lead me on','Explosion','Whispers' and more)made the difference.Unfortunately,things didn't turn exactly this way,as the band due to various problems-like the severe injury of the singer Dinos Kostakis in a car accident-didn't manage to fulfill its potential and the great expectations were never realised(at least to a satisfactory extent).In 1990 one the most essential releases for Greek metal is the live album of Spitfire under the name Speedfire(legal restrictions didn't allow the band to use the name Spitfire),entitled '100% Live' on Molon Lave records, a label with mostly thrash/death bands but also very helpful for the Greek metal in general.That live took place in Greece's best metal club,Rhodon,and to our opinion it's a must have LP for two reasons:i)stands as a good live album,ii)features killer songs like 'Taste the fire','Fool Enough',etc. not availbable on their first studio album.Also,to our experience as metal collectors this is a very rare case that a metal band with only one studio album out releases as a follow up to it a live one. Bands like Lester Maddox,Full Moon(Norway),AIIZ have tried something similar.Speedfire or Spitfire if you prefer still go strong today,acting mainly as a live band that is expected to release new material from time to time.
Credits also should be given to Molon Lave for the early '90s compilation 'Metal Gear',which featured 5 metal bands(2 songs of each one of them)of which stood out Blacklace(not the US-female fronted band) and Leviathan with their offerings.
In 1987 was the first apperarence of a controversial personality:the guitarist Dimitris Katis.His self financed instrumental symphonic rock attempt,'Dorieis-Epistrofi sti gi' LP(it means Dorians-Back to Earth) paved the way for a break with EMI Greece.So in 1989 he released with his personal band,Exoristoi(it means exiles)the first metal record that consisted of songs sung in Greek.The result although quite unusual was really great.Exoristoi composed great epic metal songs like: 'Doxa kai timi'('Glory and Honor'),'Synora pantou'('Frontiers Everywhere'),'To spathi tou nikiti'('The Sword Of the Victor'),'Exoristoi' which gained the respect and the appreciation of the Greek metal fans but also contained the ballad 'Kano mia efchi'('I make a wish'),which was the only 'metal song' that has ever hit the mainstream.The video clip of 'Kano mia efchi' and the radio broadcasting of the song,made Exoristoi a quite successul band.Unfortunately,the following releases '19' and 'O litrotis' ('The redeemer') suffered from a not so good song writing quality(mainly the former,'O litrotis' was a quite good release) and a very bad distribution(these LPs have become collector's items,almost immediately after the release!!!!)The live album 'Exoristoi-Live in Servia'-which was recorded during a metal/rock festival in Serbia-suffered also from a poor sound quality.Dimitris Katis because of various reasons gradually became the person the Greek metal media loved to hate and soon the band was indeed 'exiled' from the rest Greek metal world.His recent 'A night on Murs' CD(containing orchestral epic music) and a best-of Exoristoi although reviewed in Greek Metal Hammer was never seen in any record store.
In the beginning of 1989 FM records strikes again with a legendary double-lp compilation entitled 'Greece Attacks' featuring twenty Greek metal bands of all metal genres.For the first time we see two of the best Greek metal acts,participating in an official release with two tremendous compositions. The bands are Mystery and Crush and we must mention that Crush was one of the oldest metal bands in Greece,struggling for a contract,since 1985.Other memorable bands in that sampler were Vaal, Gladiators(that in the '90s changed their name to Fortress under Siege) ,Angelheart(an excellent Greek demo band,known as the Greek Warlord),Extasis and Beauty and the Beast.
After two years of existence in the underground and with some of the best and most intense live shows at the time,Rust,a powerful quartet from Athens,released its first and only 'till now Lp, 'Shoot'em higher' as a private self-financed album in micro-quantity.That album is well-worth looking for and it's a blend of German Accept/Running Wild metal with classic metal influences. From 1989 to 1998 the band hasn't put out anyhting new officially except for some new songs available as demo material and they're in a state of inertia.
The Greek metal scene has never managed to be synchronized with the music facts of the rest of the Metal world.This happened either because some bands managed to resist deliberately to the popular trends,or because of slow reflexes and bad timing.Because of the latter,when in the early '90s the worldwide poser/glam/hard rock/commercial 'metal' genre,had almost faded away,the Greek hard rockers tried to revive that obsolete movement.Until the mid-eighties,many worthwile or not bands appeared claiming a share of the fame their counterparts from abroad ,received some years earlier.
Raw Silk ,which had the Lp 'Silk under the skin',a very good pop metal effort that was followed by a semi-successful video-clip, Trademark,an interesting hard rock band with their EP 'Fatal Blues' and Divorce,were probably the only bands that singled out from this sound.On the other hand,Silver R.I.S.K.,Who Knows,Velvet Gang,Nok Aout,Magna Carta,Diesel,Dragster had very little to offer to the metal fans.
The 'hostile' attitude of the Greek major labels towards the majority of heavy metal bands and the almost total inexistence of underground true metal labels ,forced the bands to turn to the only available means they had in order to present their work to the public:The demo tapes.So it won't be an exaggeration to claim that the demo releases were equally important to the official ones!Most of them quite amateurish but probably these demos were the most pure and authentic manifestation of the Greek underground true metal spirit.Crush,Vaal,Sacrament,Denial Price,Ageless Wisdom,Sarissa, Deceptor,Black Fate,Guardian Angel,Angelheart,Windspout,Nemesis,Powercrue,Depression, Marauder,Airged Lamh,.......were only few of the great bands that have offered INCREDIBLE demo works,either if later they managed to release something official or not.Unfortunately,countless of heavy metal masterpieces were never recorded,so the majority of metal fans was deprived of the chance to listen to them.
In the early '90s,Cyprus invaded in the metal World.Although it can'tbe proud of posessing a huge Metal scene,Cyprus' contribution to the universal metal isn't totally significant.Armageddon which was the support band in Spitfire's live in Cyprus in 1987,managed to release a very interesting 4-tracker EP in 1991 under the Cypriot label All Records.Apart from the obvious resemblance of the singer to Klaus Meine,the music of the band is purely '80s classic heavy metal and it's a pity songs like 'Raiders of Steel' didn't have the chance to reach a broader public. Accidentals was another Cypriot band that consists of 5 young musicians and I say 'was' because this band disbanded shortly after their only same-titled 12'' that features two great compositions, coupled with amateurish production(released on All Records as well-a label that initially was founded to support hard n' heavy bands).With that 12'' Accidentals achieved 2 things:i)to have a good album with one of the worst front covers in metal history,ii)put out one of the most obscure metal albums worldwide that's barely known to any non-Greek collector.
In 1992 Mystery at last achieved to return with their debut full-length Lp 'Angelo Perlepes Mystery'. For the third time,a guitar player(Nigel Foxxe,Dimitris Katis were the first ones)formed a group to fulfill his personal ambitions and to be completely the vehicle for his personal musical quest. 'Mystery' is a very good Lp which consists of guitar-based songs in the likes of Y.Malmsteen/Alcatrazz/Rainbow and Impelliteri.Although Angelo Perlepes was accused of being egocentric and Ritchie Blackmoore's rip-off(not totally unfairly),he has offered in this LP some exciting guitar work and very interesting songs like the highlights, 'Mystery', 'Unicorn' and the instrumental 'Angelo's Capricio'.The good news is that Angelo and his band were back in 1998 with a new album(that is only available as a promo-CD)!!!
In 1993 one of Greece's premier unsigned epic metal bands,Crush, stroke with a fantastic heavy metal thunder on vinyl only,named 'Kingdom of the Kings'.This four-member band from a suburb of Athens with that self-financed release,elevated on the heavy metal elite,presenting some of the greatest and most ferocious songs in every metal genre.If there was one album that you should definitely get in your collection as a sample of pure Greek heavy power metal as meant in the '80s ,that is 'Kingdom of the kings'.Also,the cover of the album is outstanding.Crush still exist today as a live band with the replacement of their bass player,they have written only one new composition all this time.They have a hardcore following and are one of the most beloved bands in Greece today.If they had kept trying a bit more I think they would have 'CRUSH'ed many so-called 'great' foreign bands.We're expecting their next move with anxiety.
In 1992-93 the Greek metal bands took a bite from the 'forbidden fruit':progressive metal.The formerly epic metal band Guardian Angel caused a slight dissapointment to their fans.After various line-up changes the music style of the band was altered from pure epic metal(monument of this era is the magnificent demo 'Travelling on the wings of eternity')to progressive oriented metal.A 7'' single 'Beyond the twilight'(Cygnus Records,1994) managed to counterbalance the negative impressions of this musical turn,containing two high quality progressive metal songs;especially the same titled composition is outstanding!Despite this,none of the older fans were too optimistic about the future of the band as it was already known that Guardian Angel planned to get even more deeply into the progressive metal area.And so did happen,some years later with their mini-CD 'Oblivion Seas'.
Another fair band of the time(1994) from Thessaloniki was that of Fourth Dimension.They began as a four-member band in 1992 and they had a 5-songer promo-tape with nice speed/power metal songs.In 1994 they put out on Wipe Out Records their debut 12'' 'Novo' featuring three good compositions in a more classic-speed style.Their status is ignored but I assume they must have broken-up.
One of the highlights of the '90s Greek metal was Dark Nova.Its debut album 'The dark Rhapsodies', is a fine sample of epic/dark/technical power-speed metal with imaginative guitars,majestic vocal lines and great compositions.It's still beyond my comprehension how a band of such quality,didn't make it to the top.Songs like 'Twilight star','Avenger',the instrumental 'Haunted Forest' but also most of the rest,placed the band in the power metal elite of the '90s!It's too bad that almost noone outside Greece had the chance to make the acquaintance to the music of the band.After some live shows and a promo tape,the band dissapeared without a trace.
In 1994 another legendary Greek metal outfit from Thessaloniki,Sarissa, came into light(leaving temporary the underground dungeons)with their same-titled CD-release.Another masterpiece of Greek metal was achieved and that was,to say the least,a good ending for a band that had a cult following from their demo days.
In 1995 one of my favourite demo bands returned with their only up to date offical recording,a 7'' single entitled 'Sire of the storm'(Dark Side Records) featuring 2 tracks.The band is none other than the 5 epic metallers from Athens,Reflection. 'When immortals die' is a top-notch composition that ranks among my fave metal songs of all time.Reflection had some problems with their military/university obligations of some of their members;that's why apart from a great promo tape in 1996 they put out nothing new(actually now they have a new CD out-but I will let you know more about it soon!).Check that band,it's worth it.
After the mid-nineties(this article was supposed to cover mainly the '80-'95 era)a great deal of true metal bands emerged assuring the future of the greek metal scene.The Greek underground metal labels have taken the fate of the Greek metal scene in their hands and so recently the number of true Metal official releases has increased.Marauder,Wisdom,Powercrue,Fortress Under Siege,Outcast, Powerdrops,Depression,Horizon's End,Hatred,Clairvoyant,Inner Wish(Manos' note:Inner Wish put out the best Greek metal CD of all time,called 'Waiting for the dawn',unfortunately the CD,that came in 1998,was limited to 500 copies and they are all gone!),Guardian Angel,Secret's Keeprer,and few more have started the heavy/power/progressive metal counter-attack which will make the rest of the world lay its eyes on the Greek true metal scene.The Greek metal bands will keep on defying the music trends for a long time thereafter and one thing is for sure:Even if metal fades away some day,one of the last bands that will be playing metal it will be definitely, A Greek one!!!!!!!
ALL TIME GREEK METAL ALBUMS TOP TEN(in our opinion-in order of preference):
1)Crush "Kingdom of the Kings"
2)Sarissa "Sarissa"
3)Dark Nova "The dark Rhapsodies"
4)Vavel "Vavel"
-Spitfire "First Attack"
6)Guardian Angel "Beyond the Twilight"
7)Northwind "Mythology"
8)Exoristoi "Exoristoi"
9)Reflection "Sire of the storm"
10)Mystery "Mystery"

Manos Koufakis(editor of 'Steel Conjuring' fanzine)
Costas 'The Tyrant' Pentidis(editor of Singing Swords fanzine)