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Towards Atlantis Lights, the collaboration between members of Pantheist, Void Of Silence and Aphonic Threnody, have returned with sophomore album 'When The Ashes Devoured The Sun'. Comrade Aleks wanted to know more, and Kostas and Ivan were happy to oblige...

Interview with Towards Atlantis Lights.
"There are bands inside the underground scene which are always mentioned with respect and honoured for their creativity and approach towards the music they play. Void of Silence, along with Pantheist are amongst them: these bands deserve recognition for the experimental side, verging on avant-garde, of their composing, for in-depth concepts behind almost every album, and for their vitality - as both have held their line since 1999 - 2000. Naturally, a common project between Ivan Zara, Kostas Panagiotou, Aphonic Threnody's mastermind Riccardo Veronese and Ivano Olivieri drew attention, and Towards Atlantis Lights became a thing in itself. The full (but scattered around UK and Italy) line-up produced the nice debut album 'Dust of Aeons' in 2018, with a good story behind it. And, of course, news about a new album heated my interest enough to want learn more about it!

'When the Ashes Devoured the Sun' swoops up and spreads the timeless sorrow of 'Dust of Aeons', inviting us to witness the funeral of once mighty civilizations. From 'Babylon's Hanging Gardens' and 'Alexandria's Library' we now march onward to face 'The Minoan Tragedy' and hear 'Mad Prophets' and 'Pelasgian Tales'! Both Ivan Zara and Kostas Panagiotou will guide us tonight Towards Atlantis Lights!"

Kostas Panagiotou - vocals and keyboards.

Hello gentlemen! Life goes on despite all odds, and your new album, 'When the Ashes Devoured the Sun' has seen the light of day. What do you feel regarding this release? You have enough proper albums in your discographies, so what does another one mean for you?

Ivan: Well, personally, but I think it's the same thought for the other guys, we just do what we like to do, I have to tell you that I'm quite satisfied with the final result, we put all our efforts without leaving anything to chance, this is also valid for the work done by Luca Soi and Francesco Gemelli, they brought a considerable contribution to the achievement of the album, they understood and achieved what we were looking for in terms of sound and visual atmospheres.

How did the pandemic interfere with your plans for Towards Atlantis Lights? Did you have any chance to publish this material earlier? Or did you even think to finish up the project? Though actually I don't remember if any bands did split up due to Covid.

Ivan: Yes, that has been a big problem for us. The album should have been released already in 2020. Everything was ready, but then the pandemic broke out. Even though it had its consequences, it never occurred to us to drop it, so we can't wait to get to work and create new material.

Towards Atlantis Lights - 'Babylon's Hanging Gardens' (2018):

Kostas, Towards Atlantis Lights debut 'Dust of Aeons' was released by Transcending Obscurity Records, a label with good taste and wide, as far as I understand, distribution. Why did you take a decision to release 'When the Ashes Devoured the Sun' on your own label Melancholic Realm Productions?

Kostas: it wasn't originally my decision; Kunal was supposed to release the second album too, and we were in discussions with him about this since the end of 2019! One of the tracks on the new album was even featured in the Transcending Obscurity label sampler in 2020. Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic put a spanner in the works and Kunal decided to cut down on his releases, so he dropped the TAL record. Even though it was understandable, it still came a bit as a surprise as he had repeatedly committed to release it in the last 1.5 years. However, it all turned out ok as I am not a massive fan of working with other labels anyway and prefer to keep artistic and commercial freedom of my works where possible. So I suggested to the other guys to release it through my own label (as I did with the last Pantheist album) and they accepted. Within a few months, the CDs are printed, the promotion and marketing is ongoing and the album is ready to be launched on all major streaming platforms, so end good all good. Any interested parties can already listen and pre-order here: Bandcamp

Actually I've asked this same question to Cross Vault just five minutes ago, but why not use it here as well? I'm reading Moonspell's biography by Ricardo S. Amorim, there are some interesting things said about labels' ethics in the '90s. Well, it's interesting just like with Hammy's book 'Peaceville Life'. And it's clear that deals with labels in the '90s aren't the same as today. How big is the underground label's role nowadays in promotion from your point of view? I know this question from my side as there are active labels who send promos, reminders and etc. constantly, and there are also less active guys, but in the end none of them are rich dudes with Cadillacs. Or BMWs?.. I suppose BMW is more expensive…

Kostas: I always preferred BMWs to Cadillacs so I will go with the second :) I think you hit the nail in the head when you say that the role of underground labels is extremely limited nowadays. My label is just a name and a logo, nothing more. It's all about distribution, networking, connections and knowhow about the digital world we live in. So why give away your rights as a musician and whatever little money you can earn (and invest back in music) by allowing labels to take it all away? I see no reason for that, other than laziness. Surely, no one can promote your album better than you? It's different when we talk about bigger labels who can give you airplay at major radio stations, lobby for you to play in big festivals and take front page ads in the high profile printed press. But in the metal underground genre, it's almost criminal nowadays to give your power away to labels run by people who are not directly involved in the band. Keeping control of your musical output is a matter of commitment to your art and pride in what you do.

Kostas, do you plan to release any other bands through the label or will you keep it only for your own bands and projects?

Kostas: I only plan to use it to release bands and projects in which I am involved one way or another. Of which, to be fair, there is a considerable number out there!

What do you see as your personal progress on 'When the Ashes Devoured the Sun'? How far did you go from 'Dust of Aeons'?

Ivan: We definitely got to know each other better, this contributed more to the positive result we reached. Definitely this work is more homogeneous than "Dust".

And yet I'm wondering what else could one improve in his manner of playing after years of performing music in same genre? Do you search for new amps, for new textures or do you try new techniques in order to reach new level as a musician?

Ivan: It's obvious that we are always looking for something new, the technologies in our branch are always evolving, always offering new developments. You ask me what could be improved in terms of style and technique, what can I reply to you......try to bring out what you have inside and play what you really like.

Ivan Zara - guitars - and Ivano Olivieri - drums.

Did you record the whole album separately or did some of you meet and record their parts together?

Kostas: Ric and I recorded our parts separately in our UK homes. I suspect that Ivan and Ivano worked together during the recordings, but the only evidence I have for this, is a picture of them eating spaghetti together!

Ivan: Once again Mister Kostas proves his infinite wisdom…. hahaha

Would you say that Towards Atlantis Lights is an amalgam of Pantheist, Void of Silence and Aphonic Threnody or is it a clearly different thing for you?

Ivan: I think both in concept and style, we are talking about a project with a life independent from our other bands where we play.

Kostas: The more we work together, the more individuality our music gains. Yes, you can hear echo's of our main bands of course, but no one can confuse any TAL track with tracks from Pantheist or Void of Silence albums.

There's a hint in the album's press-kit concerning the lyrics, it's said (and actually we can find it through corresponding song titles) this time you focus on fate of the Minoan and Pelasgian civilizations, amongst other topics. Did you choose their examples because of changes happening with our own world or because it's a proper epic vibe fitting perfectly to your Funeral sound?

Kostas: Both! I think it fits in our epic and arcane concept. However, there also is quite a lot of commentary about our society and civilization -or civilizations in general- in the lyrics. There is a particular part of the lyrics where this connection becomes clear:
And while their collective existence now unknown
They keep guiding us, connecting the lines
Bringing the past via our present to the future
Forming a mighty spiral
Destined to eternally revolve

What kind of themes do you explore through other songs?

Kostas: As the lyric above suggests, the themes are mostly related to the mystery of lost civilizations, while parallels are drawn to similar patterns throughout history. What has happened before can repeat itself. I believe that history is like a spiral which constantly revolves, bringing up similar themes under a slightly different guise. We tend to think of our civilization as the highlight of humanity, an era far superior to anything that has existed before. But one day, this civilization will disappear too, and at some point in the distant future, there won't be many traces of it left. It's even doubtful there will be a observer to be looking for these traces in the first place.

Towards Atlantis Lights - 'When The Ashes Devoured The Sun' (Teaser, 2021):

Mediterranean culture is a rare guest in metal music, but I remember well Plateau Sigma's album 'Rituals', it keeps some spiritual legacy of Ancient Greece and Rome. Kostas, can you name Greek bands (besides Septic Flesh and Kawir!) which successfully used images from local myths and legends in their music? I think it's easier to name some authentic bands from Italy, especially as Italians more often use their mother tongue for songs' lyrics.

Kostas: Haha, I think you have missed a few recent episodes of Greek metal music, Aleksey my friend! There are literally tons of Greek bands which keep a connection with their spiritual legacy. Other than those you mentioned above, I can also quote Rotting Christ, Agatus, Deviser, Horrified, Nightfall, Macabre Omen, Necromantia…and those are just only a few examples of Greek bands with a strong spiritual connection to Ancient Hellas.

Shame on me! Though I know RC and Nightfall, it seems to be the right time to reach out from a comfortable doom-shell! Speaking about the titles of your albums… 'Dust' - here, 'Ashes' - there… What kind of concepts unite both albums?

Kostas: as these words suggest, they refer to the fleeting nature of civilizations. What was once a majestic empire that seemed eternal, will eventually always be reduced to ashes and dust, for time is the great destroyer.

What do you think about the genre's popularity nowadays? You run two of the most well-known Funeral acts, both bands are known for their tendency to healthy experiments. How has the situation changed around the scene since times you started Void of Silence and Pantheist?

Ivan: Definitely a lot has changed, the scene has expanded considerably. Social media has made it possible to achieve a popularity that was unthinkable back then. Nowadays there are many bands experimenting, more or less well, more or less successfully. Personally, I still prefer the old big names of the scene.

Kostas: Yes, I agree with Ivan. Social media and the internet have changed the landscape significantly. Likewise, I am also more 'old school' when it comes to my tastes, even though I occasionally listen to, and get intrigued by new bands such as Slow or BellWitch.

Riccardo Veronese - bass.

It's a hard time for everyone, people are occupied by more grounded daily problems -but the band's title reminds me of a period when I had time and energy to reflect on such questions like Atlantis' existence and other related topics. Reptiloids' conspiracy is all that is left for us, haha... So that's another question about escapism and the intellectual filling of Metal lyrics. Do you see the band as an instrument which could make people reflex, which makes people think.

Ivan: Honestly this was very close to my original idea, then Mister Kostas (fortunately) gave his imprint creating a much more appealing concept.

Kostas: Yes, it's still about escapism to some extent. It also makes you reflect at the same time, as discussed above. I don't think these two notions are necessarily unrelated, you can do both.

Kostas, what's the news concerning Pantheist? You said the new album is almost at hand, how much is left to polish?

Kostas: Good timing for you to ask this question! I am literally listening to the first masters that Greg Chandler has just provided us as we speak, and I am getting goosebumps. Which is a good thing, I guess! Once the master is finished (which is almost there, barring some small adjustments), it will be just a matter of getting Cheryl to finish the artwork and then we can start printing the albums.

Ivan, the same question was prepared for you: do you have some dates for a new Void of Silence album? What new material do you prepare for the band's fans?

Ivan: Well, we have some material already done, but as I told you before, the global pandemic situation has held us back a lot, so it's still too early to talk about it.

Thank you for the interview gentlemen! How would you like to finish this? What's Towards Atlantis Lights ultimate message?

Kostas: Thank you for the interesting questions as ever! Our motto has always been Intellegetis unum diem…unless Ivan can think of a catchier slogan to reflect the new opus!

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Visit the Towards Atlantis Lights bandpage.

Interviewed on 2021-06-29 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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