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This huge, in-depth guest interview with Kostas Panagiotou (Pantheist, et al, and former doom-metal.com mainstay!) is republished here by request, and with kind permission, from LAMUERTETENÍAUNBLOG.

Interview with Pantheist.
SEEKING KOSTAS THROUGH INFINITY, A CONVERSATION IN GLOOM...





Pantheist - 'Seeking Infinity': The Vinyl Division NIHIL013LP, 2018.


"Seven fucking years waiting for a new Pantheist release after the acclaimed and proggy namesake 'Pantheist'... a clean-vocal oriented and nearly King Crimsonian bastion of monumental Doom that shook my mind. After that, silence fell on the band except rumours from non consistent sources. But, dear friends, I am here listening to a glorious edition in marble/bone double vinyl of 'Seeking Infinity', an instant classic made of Neoclassic (or is it Baroque) forms built by a cyclopean master of Synths and Keyboards, Mister Kostas Panagiotou with Aleksej Obradović (bass), Frank Allain (guitars) and Daniel Neagoe (drums).

The project has been warped by The Vinyl Division (vinyl) and Melancholic Realms Production (CD) and bring us a fresh version of a band with a unique, personal style that is so difficult to imitate. Again the grunts after the epic intro ('Eye Of The Universe') in 'Control and Fire', eleven minutes of catchy riffs, leaden percussions and an insistent bass that sets the forms that backbone what I think is a comeback to the first two releases of the band.

'500 B.C. to 30 A.D.- The Enlightened Ones'. The piano brings melancholys and take fans of this genre to well known realms of gloom. It's dark, it is atmospheric and has a dragged development into Funeral Doom. Guitars cry evolving in agony and despair setting the trademark of a band growing like never before... a gregorian vocal style interlude that shakes my spine and puts tears in my eyes. Glorious old times are here again.





'1453: an Empire Crumbles' is the natural evolution after the climax from the previous track ending. A more ethnic oriented tune with acoustic passages shaping the body of an old Church organ sound and keeping the atmosphere of a (perhaps Coptic, don't know) old ritual. Extremely original, different and oppresive in form but equally perverse. 'Emergence' is another stone in doom. A dialogue between piano and guitars, a rhythmic base so perfect that you can only kneel and pray. Grunts and clean vocals sustaining two different moods.

Last and fifteen minutes 'Seeking Infinity, Reaching Eternity' is Pantheist in its purest form. Syncopated bass, striking guitar riffs and the constant vibration of sadness that seems will never get to an end. 'Seeking Infinity' is perhaps the best Doom release I have heard in a long time... I have been into this genre for 20 years now and listened to tons of music and Pantheist... oh God, Pantheist is always there.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing Kostas. One of us has a knife. Results depend on you because you decide the end of this fucking text. READY YOUR WEAPONS!!!"


A FACE TO FACE WITH KOSTAS PANAGIOTOU




CHAPTER 1: 1000 χρόνια (1000 years)


Greeting Kostas. It is my pleasure to having the possibility of doing this interview. I have been following your career from your beginning. I first heard about Pantheist after the free download of the '1000 Years' demo. I was fed up with Doom then and I thought nothing would ever amaze me again but I was stricken by the darkness of that demo and it is the main theme of this first part of the interview.

Greetings to you too Antonio, and I am also very grateful for this opportunity to be given an interview in your blog. I have been following it for a while, with the help of my trusted companion Google Translate! They say that the internet divides people, but it also brings them together, even breaking beyond the language barriers!.

So, '1000 Years' was recorded at Templa Libitina in 2001, owned by Stijn Van Cauter, an active Belgian involved in a few different projects. My first question is about your relationship with the Belgian scene. How did you become part of it being Greek? You seem to be connected with Belgian musicians most of the time.

I was actually only 11 years old when I moved to Belgium from Greece, so Greece is no more than my motherland and although I carry its rich cultural heritage and baggage, I mostly grew up abroad. It was in Belgium where I got into doom metal, while at the University (some freaky guy started giving me the albums of My Dying Bride, Anathema and Moonspell to listen to, probably because I looked freaky enough as well). At the University I also met Nicolas, our first guitar player so it was, in retrospect, a good breeding ground for doom (and for those who wonder, I also managed to complete my studies as well).

I do have to say however, that I only really got into the doom scene via the good old #doom-metal mailinglist, and subsequently the doom-metal.com site and forum, where I was Aldo's (the original webmaster) right hand for many years. It's through the mailinglist I also met people like Heiko, with whom we organized the first (and probably only, such a bizarre idea) doom metal 'party' in Ghent, which strangely enough was very successful and sold out (that was back in 2002). It's through doom-metal.com I met Oscar, our original drummer and Frederic, our original bass player. It's also through that site I met key people such as Pim from Officium Triste, who organized the first Dutch Doom Day where Pantheist played their first gig ever, and also Stijn (who, as I got to know him over time, appeared to be a kindred soul in his love for doom as well as classical music, the two major influences in both Until Death Overtakes Me and early Pantheist).


Photo: Alexandre Paixac.


Pantheist headquearters were established in Antwerp. What does a Greek man do in Antwerp? Then the band moved to London, the cradle of death doom. I cannot leave the opportunity to ask you about the trinity Anathema, MDB and Paradise Lost. Are they an influence for your music?

Again, as stated earlier, I grew up in Antwerp since the age of 11. That was where I went to school, that was where I lived. Our first guitarist lived in Mechelen, but as we didn't have a rehearsal studio he would come to my flat in Antwerp to lay down tracks on my 8-track recorder (where versions of most of the songs of the demo, first two albums and 'The Pains of Sleep' EP were first created) while we munched pizza and drank beer.

As for the 'Holy Trinity' of doom, like many people I got first into doom through MDB and Anathema, as mentioned earlier. I only got into Paradise Lost much later. I think these bands lay the template for many others by finding the right balance between brutal heaviness and elegant melody.

Greece is a country with a few great and well know bands; from Rotting Christ to Nightfall or Septic Flesh. Where did your musical career start as a band member? Was keyboard your first instrument?

I only started playing music in Belgium and I found out about the Greek metal scene many years later. Yes, the keyboard was my first instrument, and the first band I was ever in, was playing Greek rebetika music. Nothing to do with the Greek metal scene of course, but a huge influence on Pantheist nevertheless, something you can hear clearly in the use of ethnic instruments like the baglamas and oud in Don't Mourn and Oblivion, and in the oriental scales used in tracks such as Unknown Land.

A pantheist is someone who believes in God and the Universe. The equivalence God/Universe (πᾶν (pan), and θεός (theos)). The origins are said to begin in the night of old times though we can name Heraclitus as the first thinker using this term. Are you a pantheist? How do your Greek roots influence your way of seeing the world? What is your concept of God and Divinity.

I'm not sure if we got lost in translation here, but I don't agree with your definition of a pantheist. To put it plain and simple, a pantheist is someone who believes that God is the world, or with other words that the universe has divine qualities. There is also a more 'scientific' version of pantheism and this is the one I subscribe to. I believe that nature itself is sacred and needs to be treated as such, and I believe that the very fact there is existence, is a miracle in itself.

There is no 'supernatural' world beyond the phenomena, and the world has all the magic you need. Yes, this view definitely has its roots in ancient Greece, but also in later philosophers such as Giordano Bruno and Spinoza. I also feel the view of connectedness to the universe around us (rather than the assumption that everything in the world should be studied broken down in their smallest components) feels more natural in Eastern philosophy and particularly Buddhism, of which the philosophy I rate very highly.



Back to music, the track 'Envy Us' has a very noticeable classical touch; based on (if I am not mistaken) Chopin and Beethoven. Since the beginning, classical music seems to have a strong influence on your music. Am I right?

Yes, you are absolutely right; classical music has always been a major influence on Pantheist, especially in the early days. This particular track was a cover of Prelude Op 20 by Chopin, which somehow I saw fitting with the second movement of Beethoven's 7th symphony. Interestingly, a French girl I knew (with whom I have unfortunately lost contact) wrote a whole thesis about this track, analysing it in detail and comparing it to Angra's version of the Chopin Prelude. But for me personally, the significance of classical music, is that it taught me to listen to musical pieces as individual, self-consistent stories with a beginning, middle and end rather than the simple verse/chorus structures we have been brainwashed with by the media.

Back to 2001, how did Pantheist start and what musical concept did you want to bring to the listener with the first recording? Also, I am curious to know how you got in touch with Nicolas Tambuyser, who was a band member until 2005.

I met Nicolas at the Free University of Brussels around 1998. We got on well and we had some musical preferences in common. We found a common ground in bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead and (newer) Anathema whose tracks we were jamming together. I had started to get into doom metal, while he was mainly a death/black metal fan so we were trading CDs and I introduced him to the world of slow music, while he got me into some black metal (mainly) and some death.

When I started Pantheist in 2000 it was mainly a synth project as I didn't have a clue as to how to record guitars. Keyboards were easy, just plug in a lead to the computer and record, but guitars needed more work to get the right sound and I didn't know how to do this. I first wrote an unofficial demo called 'Dying Millennium' which had two compositions of Nicolas as well (he was playing the parts on guitar, and I transcribed them for keys).

Then, as I had started to get ideas in my head which were more in (funeral) doom territory, I bought an 8-track recorder in March 2001 and I guess that was the start of Pantheist as we know it now. We started to record demos there and a lot of these demos became tracks in our '1000 years' demo, the first two albums and 'The Pains of Sleep' EP. If you ask whether there was a pivotal moment when it became clear what exactly we wanted to do, I would say there were two of them: in the first, I had sent a CD-R copy of some of these early demos to a friend I was trading CDs with, and he responded that he really liked them and that he 'hoped we will continue to use the church organ sound, like the godfathers of funeral doom Skepticism'.

Something clicked at that moment, and I decided we needed to use the church organ consistently, and that would be what makes us unique and different from similar bands (not that I knew that many of them at the time). So the church organ became very important in our '1000 years' demo as you can hear, but at the same time we didn't feel we were copying Skepticism as our influences came from baroque music, while Skepticism took more of an ambient/dissonant approach. Secondly, I was strongly influenced by a track often played on the doom-metal.com radio; it was 'As the Shadows Fall' by Godsend, where Dan Swano is using dirgey, double-tracked vocals. It sounded to me like some monks solemnly chanting together, and I decided I wanted to also sing like that. It was this combination of church organ sounds, heavy guitars and a mixture of brutal vocals and chants that defines the early version of Pantheist.


Photo: Lorenzo Mischi.


When I first listened to Pantheist I also found about the symphonic doom of Until Death Overtakes Me and it was just a matter of time until Bellator came to my ears too. Bellator was started off in 1995 and you were part of their 2002 album 'Iridiscence'. There you appear as PAN (instead of Kostas). What can you tell us about that project?

I had seen Bellator playing live at some fest in The Netherlands and I really liked the mixture of atmospheric/gothic doom and death metal elements. After the gig they mentioned on their website that their keyboard player left (and that they were looking for another one) and I left a message on their guestbook saying I was a keyboard player. We met with the guys and it clicked, so I decided to join the band. My idea was that this would be my 'live' band; at the time I didn't have any plans to play live with Pantheist, as I didn't know how to do this with two members only (that was clearly way before the times of Bellwitch and Bolzer, haha).

Ironically, we just recorded an album and only did some rehearsals with Bellator, never playing live in the time I was in the band, while Pantheist started to play live in 2002! The problem with Bellator (at least in the time I was in the band) was that the line-up was changing the whole time so we could never really concentrate on planning gigs together so eventually we just broke up after self-releasing the album we made.

First years, first projects. I have been listening to Doom for more than half of my life and my impression is that bands tend to copy one another. But as I told you, Pantheist (and others like Aarni or Umbra Nihil) made me come back to this. How do you remember these first days and what has changed after 17 years?

These were exciting times, and we felt we were doing something new and unique. Things were very different then, because, around the time we started, we didn't really have much contact with other bands or fans and all communication happened through emails (usually through the band's website), letters and, in the early days of internet, the #doom-metal IRC channel where it was the only opportunity to actually speak to other like-minded people in real time.

At the time, discovering new music, especially in an unfamiliar genre, was a process which took a very long time as it was not easy to find bands related to what you were listening. As a result of that, the likes of Pantheist, Aarni or Until Death Overtakes Me had to use their own imagination to fill in the gaps in a new genre. Nowadays, if you listen to a band you like and you discover a new genre, e.g. funeral doom, a simple Google search or a Spotify algorithm brings you literally hundreds of other bands that sound similar to the one you have discovered. You don't have the time as an artist to develop your own unique vision and originality, because the more you listen to a genre, the more you unconsciously leave other bands and artists fill in the gaps and decide how the genre should sound, rather than using your own creativity to construct your own musical world!.

I would like to finish this first part asking for the cover. What is that woman holding in her hand?

This is the only non-original cover we ever used in the history of the band. I saw this picture on the net and thought that it was a strong image, as it was (supposedly) a photo of the ghost of a child in an orphanage that caught fire. Unfortunately, after I started using it, I discovered it was used by other bands and artists as well. It's visually striking, but it's never a good idea to use something that was used by others before and that was another good early lesson for me.



CHAPTER 2: ή μοναξιά (o solitude)


It was just a matter of time before the duo became a quartet. Pantheist signed to Firebox, who were releasing all far from conventional doom metal projects (like the before mentiones Aarni and Umbra Nihil).What can you tell us about your relationship with the label? 'O Solitude' was a huge debut album and meant some kind of revolution to the doom metal scene both for media and fans.

We had a very good relationship with Firebox records in the early days. It felt like there was mutual respect and both parties were working together to achieve a common goal. I definitely have no complaints about the promotion for 'O Solitude' and how the label helped us to establish the name of the band. We were also one of the 'bigger' names on the label in the beginning (until the likes of Saturnus and Swallow the Sun signed for them), organized the first ever funeral doom tour ourselves (The Funeral Procession Tour in 2003 with Skepticism, Pantheist and Until Death Overtakes Me) and it certainly felt like we were at the forefront of a movement.

Regarding the album lyrics, 'O Solitude' is a poem by Keats. The tone is pessimistic and gloomy not only in the personal area but transcends into existential area, especially 'Don't Mourn'. I was obsessed with this track for a long time. What you tell us about the lyrics?

Actually, the name came indirectly to us, through the band Elend which made a version of Purcell's 'O Solitude' and that was my actual inspiration to use the name, as it felt very fitting with the theme of my lyrics (which are all directly or indirectly dealing with themes of solitude and loneliness).

Don't Mourn is a story that was dictated by my subconscious, and it's a fantastical tale of two lovers who are separated by death. I can't tell you more than that, as I'm basically just the messenger and don't always fully understand what my subconscious wants to convey! Lyrics like that come like epiphanies, I just sit down and write them within minutes and I just know at that moment that I have to do this, if not they will torture me forever (the same happens with the music itself).



The album production sounds remote, there is something crazy and insane to the outcome. Clean vocals look like coming from a Gregorian abbey in a forgotten forest. These cathedral-wise keyboards show the Pantheist trademark, twisting the old funeral doom sound to take it to more epic areas. What is your feeling when listening to 'O Solitude' nowadays?

I think we definitely need to give some kudos to Kris from CCR studios, who managed to produce this amazingly chilling atmosphere on the album in just six days, even though he didn't have much experience working with doom metal (he was mostly known from working with extreme metal bands such as Aborted, Leng Tch'e etc). Most of us (with the exception of Frederic) were inexperienced musicians at the time who had never seen a professional studio from the inside! His direction was crucial to help us create the right ambience for this album.

Nowadays I am still very happy with how this album turned out to be. As the creator of this work (and I don't say this lightly, as I composed pretty much 100% of what you hear on this album) I obviously have a different view of it than most other people, and can't really 'enjoy' listening to it, as I always focus on technical details. However, I believe it sounds spontaneous, it sounds authentic and it's easy to forgive the beginner's mistakes we made here and there. I think it was perhaps best summed up by a reviewer, who described it as a 'flawed masterpiece'.

The album has been re-released a couple of times with different artwork but during release date, CD Maximum had the Russian version. Doom metal is very strong in Russia with several important bands and labels and I think it has a tremendous potential market. Do you have contacts in their scene? You've been popular there from the beginning.

Yes, I can definitely confirm that we have a strong base in Russia. We even co-headlined with Esoteric the Moscow Doom Fest back in 2010, it was an amazing experience. And I remember Rami from Firebox telling me in the early days that we were their best-selling act in Russia! We have kept in touch with various Russian labels and fans throughout the years, e.g. Russian label Serpent's Lair released 'The Pains of Sleep' and Vitaly from GS productions has been extremely helpful in getting our latest album printed.


Photo: Alexandre Paixac.


CHAPTER 3: αμαρτία/εμείς, αποθανόντες (amartia/we, deceased)


In Spanish language, amartia is a malformation that happens in early days of any person organ's development that leads to tissue anomaly. In ancient Greek, Hamartia (αμαρτία) is used in Aristotle's Poetic, usually translated as "tragic error", defect or sin. Your 2005 album 'Amartia' tells about the seven deadly sins. The sound is cleaner but discouraging anyways. How is the writing process in Pantheist? As keyboards are so important, I doubt it is just an arrangement but the main melody.

In this context, I specifically use the word 'Amartia' as the direct Greek translation of the word 'sin'. It is superficially a concept album about the seven deadly sins, but at its heart it's a story about a man who decides to test God's existence by committing the seven deadly sins, hoping for God's punishment which will prove in his eyes His existence. As the story unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that the man is actually just fantasizing about committing the sins rather than actually committing them, which makes it more of a story about psychosis and madness.

As for the writing process, especially in the early days it was, with only some exceptions, pretty much keyboard and vocal arrangements around which the rest of the instruments were built. This has changed somewhat over the years, with nowadays the tracks being composed in more varied ways. I have learned to value the role of the guitars, bass and drums more, which I guess makes sense when you play doom metal ;) And I think 'Amartia' was the first album where the guitars started to take some initiatives independently of the keyboard work.

You changed drummer and bass player. Frederic Caure joined the band and you previously knew him from Bellator (and Bunkur too). On drums you had Andy Semmens, previously known for his work with Esoteric and Moss, and the Australian Mark Bodossian (Mournful Congregation, Esoteric…). These names are spectacular but what was the reason for breaking up with these musicians and "signing" those BIG names?

I need to make a few corrections here. 'Amartia' was the first album we recorded in England after I moved there from Belgium. This was the main reason of the line-up changes, not an attempt to sign big names or something like that. I always use whatever creative musicians I find around me that fit into the philosophy and sound of the band, so the criteria were the same at this stage. Frederic was in Belgium at the time, so he had left when we recorded 'Amartia'. He also never played in Bunkur, not sure where this wild internet rumour has come from! He has played in Bellator (where I introduced him to the band) but was mostly known from his work with a cult Flemish pagan metal band called Rhymes of Destruction. Andy worked in the same town I worked at the time, so that's how I got to know him as we used to meet for lunch and to discuss music. He got involved as a session drummer first, but then he tried some operatic clean vocals and the result was amazing, so we recruited him as a vocalist/drummer (and just vocalist when our drummer Sterghios joined later). Mark I knew from the early days of the #doom-metal IRC channel, and I will never forget a conversation I had with him at the time, when I lived in Belgium and he in India. I had sent him a copy of the '1000 years' demo and he was telling me how he wished he would join Pantheist as he loved this type of music. I had a good laugh then, but a few years later we were both in England and playing in the same band!.



And then, 'The Pains Of Sleep'. Apart from new tracks, the first demo was included as a bonus. The line up became a sextet with Ilia Rodriguez from Indesinence, a cult UK band and Sterghios Moschos. I think it is around this time you gathered some of the top names of funeral doom and Wijlen Wij was born, releleasing one of the most underrated and astonishing gems of the genre, mixing the bombastic stuff from Basil Poledouris together with Stjin Van Cauter. How did this project came to life and how did you met Greg Chandler before releasing the album with Aesthetic Death?

Actually, Wijlen Wij started much earlier, back in 2002. It was the time we all started developing our own bands: I had Pantheist, Stijn had Until Death Overtakes Me, and Lawrence had Solicide. So, a mutual friend (Heiko, who I mentioned before) was joking that we should start a 'Belgian funeral doom supergroup'. We thought it was a hilarious idea (considering how underground the music we played was) but when we came together something sparked and we decided to compose an album. We were also joined by a drummer (Kris who used to play a local folk metal band called In Somnis) and because I moved to England the year after, things got a bit delayed. I used to travel for recordings to Stijn's studio in 2004 but after that, for various reasons, it took another three years for the album to be finished.

As for Aesthetic Death, I had met Stu in 2004 when we organized a gig in Antwerp for Esoteric, Pantheist and Until Death Overtakes Me and he was driving Esoteric around. When we completed the Wijlen Wij album, he seemed the obvious choice to ask to release it, as the album's sound and direction were in line with his releases. Greg's only involvement with this album, is that he mastered it.

Next Wijlen Wij album 'Coronachs Of The Ω' was not as impressive as the first but the split 'Unveiling The Signs' has, apart from their track, one song with your keyboards. What happened to the band and the change of style? Not being a bad album, it is also curious that this release seems to coincide with the disappearing of Stjin Van Cauter from the scene.

I don't often regret things in my life, but this album is probably one of the few things I regretted doing. Even though conceptually and structurally, the compositions were mostly mine and Lawrence's, the reality is that Stijn was very important in shaping the sound of the band in his studio as it has that typical 'Stijn feel'. At some point after the release of the self-titled Wijlen Wij album, Stijn started to lose interest in creating music (luckily, he has now started making music again). So even though he reluctantly did the track for the split release (where I think we should have called it quits) Lawrence and I kept having ideas for the band and we somehow felt it would be good to continue and make a second album, even though Stijn was clearly not into it anymore. So, when he left, Lawrence, Kris and I recorded a number of demos and went ahead with making 'Coronachs'. However, because we all lived in three different countries by then, I believe the chemistry and direction in the band were kind of lost, which was further highlighted by Stijn's absence. The album has some good compositions, but perhaps not a very clear 'extremist' philosophy like the first album which was pretty much uncompromising in its attitude, mostly thanks to how Stijn perceived the sound.



CHAPTER IV: DOOM παραμένει η ίδια (DOOM remains the same)


In 2011 'Pantheist' (the album) was released. And it meant a considerable change for the band, making it more easy for the average audience and also depressive. It is the same that happened with 'Cloak The Ages…' from Morgion. How was the writing process of an album with tracks so different to the others like 'Be Here'? Was it a natural evolution or did you want to go further (I do not think in a commercial way)?

At the start of each album, you always start with a 'mission statement'. What do you want to achieve? How are you going to do it? WHY are you going to do this? My mission for this album was 'to make an album that even my mum would enjoy'. Perhaps quite a big statement for a funeral doom band, but we felt at the time that we had the need to break free from the constraints of funeral doom and create something more individual and personal. Especially Ilia and I had some personal issues to work through, and wrote tracks inspired by these issues and circumstances. Furthermore, we had gone completely crazy on the previous album 'Journey Through Lands Unknown' and unleashed some of the craziest ideas upon the world, so there was no need to do anything too 'out there' this time. Instead, our aim was to adopt a more measured and controlled approach and concentrate on the actual songs, rather than creating atmospheres.

The writing process was rather scattered: I wrote my tracks by myself, and Ilia wrote his by himself, so there was not much interaction. The atmosphere in the band was a bit weird, because we knew that Mark was going to leave after the recordings (in fact he left before the recordings were completed) to move to Norway, while Ilia also seemed to have completed his cycle in the band after writing his tracks, it was almost as if the process had emptied him from the inside and he had to move on and concentrate on other things. So basically, we had two core members leaving before the album was released. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed the recording sessions which felt very fragmented at the time, but I did certainly enjoy the end result and this is still my favourite Pantheist album release (until the new one of course).

Pantheist has some Bauhaus and '80s rock influences. What kind of sound influenced you at that time?

Both Ilia and I are into a wide range of music, including gothic rock and I think we opened ourselves to a lot of different influences, but concentrated on writing proper songs inspired by individual circumstances. I would say there are also some obvious prog rock influences here and there, and the vibes of bands such as King Crimson, Anathema and various shoegaze influences are never too far away! We even finished the album with (what I thought was) a proper power ballad. Much to our surprise however, we still heard many people say that we played some sort of 'progressive funeral doom', 'post funeral doom' or 'emotive doom' on this record. We might have been pursuing the ghosts of prog and shoegaze, but in the end, we were followed by the ghost of funeral doom ourselves!.



It was a turning point for the band as after its release a long hiatus started and rumours came here and there. You played in Crippled Black Phoenix for instance. What brought you there? I love their music by the way.

Yes, Crippled Black Phoenix are excellent. Check their new album 'The Great Escape', it's excellent (and I even managed a short cameo on accordion on a few of the tracks). But I had actually joined Crippled Black Phoenix around the release of 'The Pains of Sleep' in 2006 and already left by 2009, so that was way before the self-titled album!.

I remember the idea for a new Pantheist album was to be based on a list of themes following a story. After a long break these tracks were forgotten and went to your solo project Chapters, used to raise funds for a next album. I do not want to go ahead without saying that album is a very good one.

Thank you, I am very pleased you enjoyed it. Basically, the new album was written three times! We had a first version with the line-up that 'survived' the self-titled album; this version included some of the tracks you hear on the 'Chapters' fundraising EP (which were demos from these sessions, which I 'cleaned up' and had properly mastered by Deha). When our only guitarist Pepijn left for the USA, we recruited Valter (Before the Rain) with whom we started writing completely different tracks as he wanted a 'heavier' album. We ended up working for three years that way, but we never got anywhere as there were too many creative (and personality) differences in the band, which affected the atmosphere and the vibe when we were coming together to rehearse and play gigs. So once Valter left the band, we threw all these ideas in the bin and started working on the album for scratch once again, this time with guitarist Frank (who had joined as a second guitarist after Valter). This definitive version has taken some ideas from version number 1, complemented with some new ideas which were co-written between Frank and I. I hope that you can now see why there was such a big gap between the self-titled album and 'Seeking Infinity'! The band came a number of times on the verge of collapsing, but luckily pulled through and it seems that this album was meant to happen.



CHAPTER V: ΤΩΡΑ (NOW)


2014 saw the release of 'Doliu', the impressive and magnificent debut album from super group Clouds. What is your role there? By the way, 'Doliu' was released on vinyl by The Vinyl Division, who is also doing the upcoming 'Seeking Infinity'. How did you meet the label and what is your relationship with them?

I re-arranged some of the keyboards, as in all fairness the tracks were pretty much complete so I ended up adding some arrangements, and choosing good sounds for the keys. I am still very fond of this album and the two gigs I managed to play with this band, especially the first one at the Dark Bombastic Evening festival in Alba Iulia, Romania.

Yes, I did meet David from The Vinyl Division through Clouds, as I was introduced to the label by Dan who was very happy with the work done on the Clouds vinyls. I started talking to David by email and then met him at the Clouds gig in AMUZ (Antwerp), by which stage I was there as a fan rather than band member. David and I had a long conversation which convinced me that he is a great, principled music enthusiast, exactly the sort of person I wanted to work with, and I guess this meeting sealed our collaboration! We regularly talk to each other via Skype and discuss coordinating the promotion of the album, as I release the CD version through my own label while he releases the vinyl version. I think he is a great guy, and I'm sure I am embarrassing him right now as he is translating this interview from Spanish to English and back, haha!.

You also played keyboards on the first Aphonic Threnody. What kind of hyperactive man is Kostas Panagiotou?

Hehe, in all fairness I only played in Aphonic Threnody for about a year, a period in which I still managed to record keyboards for two albums and one split CD, as well as to play a gig with this band! I am still in a band called Towards Atlantis Lights with Riccardo from Aphonic Threnody (as well as Ivan from Void of Silence).

A lot of my activity in side projects happened between 2012 and 2016, when things were not going as I wanted them to in Pantheist, so I was distracting myself with various diversions. I wouldn't say I am hyperkinetic, but I definitely need to be creative and busy doing new stuff, if not I get nervous and very unhappy! Like many other artists, I consider music like some sort of therapy which often helps to distract me from the - let's face it - rather shit reality of the world we live in.


Photo: Pepijn Robben.


And now, 'Seeking Infinity', digging into the band's early days but without using the same structures. The first track made me goosebumps and everything that made Pantheist a different band is now sublimated, making again a classic masterpiece. Speaking about the classics, what happened to bands like Anathema and what do you think of their current activity?

I am very pleased to read your comments on the new album. I value your feedback very much as you are someone who has been following us from the early days! As for Anathema, I do actually like several of their newer albums and I have no problem with bands changing their sound and evolving over time (I would be a hypocrite if I did since I am doing the same with Pantheist). However, I don't like at all their attitude, as they are so desperately craving success nowadays that they dismiss their early metal fans as 'immature' and probably fancy themselves on par with the likes of Porcupine Tree or Radiohead. Alas, they are 'only' Anathema and my advice to them would be to stop trying to be someone else and to seek a different audience, and instead be the best Anathema they can be for the audience they already have.

What is the current Pantheist lineup? Any story you can tell about the recording? Looks like you also recorded a videoclip!

At the moment we have, other than myself on vocals and keys, Dan on drums (Shape of Despair, Clouds, Eye of Solitude), Frank on guitar (Fen) and Aleksej on bass (he is the most senior band member after me, having joined us in 2011). This was the first time we completely recorded the album ourselves. The two previous albums were recorded at Greg Chandler's Priory Recording Studios, and he did a fantastic job on these albums. However, as we didn't have a budget this time (hence the fundraising EP) we took the risk and had our drummer Dan do all the mixing and mastering. It took a bit longer than usual to record as we had to spread recordings over a period of 9 months, but like a wise man said: "you can either have cheap and slow, or expensive and fast. But cheap and fast will most probably sound crap". I have to say we are very pleased with the result, as the album sounds very powerful and clear at the same time. Dan is constantly learning and updating his equipment, so I am sure the next album will sound even better!

Yes, we did record a video clip as well, which started with a simple idea of doing a lyric video, but we wanted something more. In the end we asked Francesco Gemelli (Mayhem, Katatonia, Abigor etc) to direct the video and he created this amazing, low-fi masterpiece which you can view here:

Pantheist - '500 B.C. To 30 A.D. - The Enlightened Ones' (Official):


Now when making numbers, you have been out there 20 years as a band so I think the status of "classic" is, up to a certain point, relative. Bands coming from nowhere got a status of cult that should not belong to them. Do you follow the Doom metal scene? What do you think of the current hype on vinyl, tape and so?

I don't actively follow the scene, but because I am quite involved in it through the bands I play in, I am quite aware of what releases are around. As usual, some stuff I like and some not, and I find myself preferring bands and artists who don't just stick to a genre, but have a more open-minded approach. Either that, or a very closed-minded approach where they make the most uncompromising doom. I think this contradiction has also become part of Pantheist over the years, as we are a very open-minded band that incorporates different influences and tries different stuff, but at the same time we refuse to leave the uncompromising funeral doom genre. Or rather, the genre refuses to leave us!

Regarding hypes, they come and go so I don't really care about them. We are blessed to live in an age where music is available in so many different formats, and I personally listen to all of them: digital, streaming, vinyl, CD, tape…everything you want. It's amazing how it's possible to listen to music in so many different ways nowadays, while in the past the only way to listen was to attend a live performance!.


Photo: Alexandre Paixac.


The Vinyl Division is doing risky work, releasing doom bands on vinyl format and it is not something others would dare to do. Are you happy with their work and what you can get from them?

Yes I am very happy as I explained above, it's an excellent label which releases just the type of doom I like and David is very serious about getting his releases out there in the best possible quality. But let's not embarrass him even further, haha!.

Back to the album. It is a conceptual album, right? Can you tell us a bit more about it?

With the band name Pantheist I always wanted to express some sort of spirituality and connection with the surrounding world through my music. This concept was supposed to be a 'pantheistic' one; it would start with a story I wrote as the basis of the album's concept. The story is about a professor who travels back in time through a time machine in order to understand the shape of history.

I also had some grand ideas about how music, audio, visuals and the concept will all work together to create this transcendental, overarching whole. The idea was for this album to be some sort of overview of the band's history and sound, as the concept is a historical one, dealing with the world and history having the shape of a spiral. With the aforementioned line-up changes and re-writing of the album I lost the way a bit, and in the end, I had to compromise here and there. As a result, this became a 'looser' concept even though the original ideas were somehow incorporated, just not in the way I had originally envisaged.

Well, it has been my real pleasure to having the opportunity to exchange a few words with you. My humble blog is focused on the Spanish scene and sounds from classic to experimental (being a strong fan of Greek bands myself like FUN WITH NUNS, BUDALAH, CALF, RITA MOSS…). The next lines are for you to say goodbye. So let's raise some ouzo jars!

I greet thee Antonio and I am very grateful for you taking the time to write these challenging and in-depth questions. Best of luck with the blog, it's amazing that you stick to your passion for so many years. These are strange times, where I feel I know so many people through the internet, but at the same time I don't know anyone well enough as I have never had the chance to meet them in person. I do hope this will happen one day and we will meet, until then I raise my ouzo back in your direction and shout out: γεια μας!


Note: This interview was originally published by CORONEL MORTIMER on LAMUERTETENÍAUNBLOG, and is reproduced here by request and with kind permission.


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Interviewed on 2018-09-20 by Coronel Mortimer.
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