It had been kind of an odyssey for the greek epic metal-band SACRED OUTCRY to get their first album “Damned For All Time” finished and released. With its successor “Towers Of Gold” things went a lot faster, but this was not at the expense of quality. On the contrary, with “Towers Of Gold” SACRED OUTCRY have secured themselves a place in my personal Top 3 of the year. I took the opportunity to send band leader and last remaining founding member George Apalodimas an extensive questionnaire.
Hi, George! How are you doing and what’s up with SACRED OUTCRY right now?
Hi, Daniel, and thank you for reaching out! All’s well here, just got back from my summer holidays and slowly starting to readjust. A lot is going on in SACRED OUTCRY at the moment, but the most exciting thing is some early ideas for the songwriting for the next album, which will go in full focus in a couple of months.
Thank you very much, we’re very proud of the album and the feedback we’ve been getting is absolutely insane. Can’t express my gratitude to the people that spent time with “Towers of Gold”, just know that I try to read every comment, every message, and every single piece of feedback, and it’s really moving. Let’s see what we can come up with next!
It took almost two decades to get your first album ready and released. What happened in these years? Why did it take so long?
There was a very long period that the band was completely inactive after our initial “disbanding”, so most of the time was spent doing other projects or playing in other bands until we decided to slowly start re-recording “Damned for All Time” around 2015. After that, it was more of a timing issue, finding the right voice for the album, recording everything to the best of our abilities, as well as composing the orchestral parts that were added compared to the 2003 version.
We took many lengthy breaks as we had no time pressure, so this helped to make sure everything was as close to the original vision as possible. And then, there was mixing and mastering as well as finding the right slot on No Remorse’s release schedule, so the delays piled up significantly. We did better on the time management for “Towers of Gold”, though, hahah!
“A dream come true” – George Apalodimas about the release of “Damned For All Time”
How did you and the rest of the old line up feel in September 2020 when “Damned For All Time” was finally out?
For me it was crazy, a dream come true. We’re talking about an album that I’ve listened to thousands of times, even before the public was aware it existed. Having a voice like Yannis on board and hearing those songs in their absolute form was an unbelievable feeling and I hold this album very dear to my heart, it’s a companion of a lifetime. The rest of the guys shared that sentiment more or less, but there were some not as excited. The original “Damned for All Time” was an exemplary team effort in terms of songwriting, so you’d expect everyone to have the same feeling of fulfilment when we managed to release it, but not everyone saw it that way unfortunately.
There also exists a demo version of the album. How much does it differ from the 2020 release? Is there still a chance to hear it?
The album is practically identical, just a lot worse, haha. No, really, the 2020 version is more refined, it has a huge advantage with Yannis singing, and has “the orchestra” playing along with the band. Other than that, there are a couple of minor lyric changes, apart from “Sacred Outcry” which was originally written when I was 15 or so, so it naturally needed a lyrical makeover. We tried to keep the changes to a minimum though, since the whole point was to release what we had created back then. I still have the original files somewhere; it would be nice to mix them and include it as a bonus in a future release, or give it for free on Bandcamp, we’ll see. Oh, also the original version is in standard E tuning, everything since is tuned half a step down!
People grow and sometimes they grow apart, it’s only natural. After the release of the debut, we had a long talk with the guys, but it quickly became apparent that there were different priorities and viewpoints on how to move forward. We just didn’t see eye to eye anymore. One decided to quit altogether, and another decided he didn’t want to be a part of the band if the “original” line-up couldn’t stay intact. I spent a ridiculous amount of time doing everything for “Damned for All Time” and I keep spending a ton of time on practically everything around SACRED OUTCRY. And while I don’t expect everyone to put in my crazy hours, I really don’t have the energy to dwell on things I think are trivial against the big picture. And the big picture should always be the band and the music.
I understood that Yannis Papadopoulos was only a guest vocalist for “Damned For All Time”. Was it never an option to have him join the band as a permanent member?
No, not really. I mean, Yannis is a fantastic vocalist, most probably my favourite “from this generation” and a great guy to work with, but he was very sincere about BEAST IN BLACK being his one and only focus right from the start. We went through some possible scenarios to see if we could make it happen, but it was just impossible. Maybe we can make a killer duet in the future if he finds the time, he will always be welcome here!
“Daniel has always been my dream candidate for the band.” – George thinks highly of his singer
Why wasn’t your original singer Vagelis Spanakis available for “Damned For All time”?
Vagelis is not involved with music anymore, but I really wanted him on the album because he was a crucial part of developing our sound back in the day. The acoustic guitars on “Damned for All Time” are actually the parts that he recorded back in 2003, so they work well as a bridge between the past and the present. I also contacted him before starting “Towers of Gold” because he had composed some intro parts that I modified and used on the album, and I really wanted to have him play those, but he wasn’t available. I think he will always be “involved” in one way or another, I still have a lot of ideas we had composed together back in 2001-2003, so some of those things will eventually find their way in a future release.
The new singer is Daniel Heiman, who did an awesome job. His vocal performance is outstanding. How did you get in touch with him?
Daniel has always been my dream candidate for the band, even back when we first went on that prolonged hiatus. I always wanted to work with him because I felt his voice would really fit our music, he has that sweet melancholy on his tone and our music is full of melodies that could further enhance that aspect, while maintaining the tremendous amount of power he carries. I was fortunate enough to work with Yannis on the debut, so I never actually contacted him, but when Yannis informed me officially he could not sing for another album, there was no other option in my head. I reached out to him and presented the full project and why I thought he would be the most ideal candidate for it, and he got on board pretty fast.
I read in another interview with you, that you already had him in mind for “Damned For All Time”. Why didn’t it work out back then?
It’s funny, but I had originally written an email to Daniel back in 2006 or so, but obviously never sent it, since I didn’t have anything presentable to show him. Fast forward ten years, when we started re-recording the debut, I met Yannis and we had such a good chemistry that it seemed very natural to have him on board. But I knew it would be difficult for Yannis to stick around and was so set on my path to work with Daniel, that I had hidden a small runic riddle in the inlay of “Damned for All Time”, so anyone who sat down and tried to decipher the secrets of the debut, might have had an early idea what was coming, hahah.
He is also the singer in WARRIOR PATH, another greek band. He is from Sweden, does he still live there?
I don’t think Daniel is still with WARRIOR PATH, I’m not even sure he was ever a band member in the traditional sense. He still lives in Sweden, but he is a professional so distance doesn’t really matter. It’s a bit trickier to arrange stuff like video clips or photoshoots, though!
How did you work on the songs for “Towers Of Gold”? Did you do all the songwriting, arrangement alone or did the other musicians contribute something?
“Towers of Gold” was entirely composed after we finished the recordings of “Damned for All Time”. That album took a lot of time to mix and master as we tried several different approaches until it actually happened. I knew we would have a good momentum upon the release, so I asked the old lineup to start sending any ideas they had in order to slowly start working on a follow-up, so we could take advantage of the downtime. The first full song I wrote was “The Sweet Wine of Betrayal” and I shared it with the rest of the guys to maybe kickstart them into contributing songs or ideas, but no one ever sent me anything.
There were some acoustic passages and a couple of riffs from the early days that I had to dig up and develop into full songs, so I kept going until I found myself with a full album’s worth of material, even before “Damned for All Time” was released. So pretty much everything was ready before the line-up change took place. When the new guys came on board, we went over the songs and they did a tremendous job putting their signature on them, either by their personal style of playing, or by suggesting some ideas that ultimately worked for the better.
Will the band always be more or less your project or are you aiming for it to be a real band with equally contributing musicians?
In my eyes, in every band there are one or maybe two people handling every major decision. That’s not to downplay anyone’s contributions, but the level of involvement of every individual is a choice. I have a very clear idea on what direction I want the band to head towards, and I work around the clock for everything here, so naturally I am involved in pretty much every artistic decision. It’s tricky because we don’t rehearse to exchange ideas and write something on the spot. But I would love if anyone sent me whatever crazy idea they might have and work together on something, as I think we could benefit from some out of the box thinking compared to my usual process of writing a song.
As I understood, there is a concept called “The Sacred Chronicles” for the story of your albums. Can you tell us more about that? Have you written the story completely by yourself and do you already know how and when it will end?
The first album was described as such in the booklet, as a part of a message to all the people that waited and honored the band with their support and dedication. This created a slight misunderstanding because people thought it was a concept album, while it was more of a loose way of saying “thank you, and there is more coming!” to all the people who spent their time listening to the album and sending us messages, helping us get bigger etc etc.
The term “Sacred Chronicles” was at some point a potential name for the band in case we had decided to change it before the release. It originated from an inside joke I had with some friends before we reunited, where I joked about a future that we would eventually stop playing (after managing to break BLIND GUARDIAN’s streak of awesome albums), and there would be an old guy narrating the story of the band, like the intro of “Conan the Barbarian”: Let me tell you of the days of high adventure! Let me tell you the story of “The Sacred Chronicles”!
What is harder for you to write? The music or the lyrics?
I have a very easy time writing lyrics in general, as long as I can think of something interesting to write about. Many times, I brainstorm a vocal line over the music and I’m using some “key words” that I think fit the specific part, then work my way around those words because they sound so great in my ears, hahah. Music is a bit trickier, since I want to make sure the songs can be interesting and stand on their own, way before the vocal lines and lyrics are added. The biggest challenge though is to make sure those two blend together in harmony, and the music generates the feelings that the lyrics potentially describe.
As main influences you stated MANOWAR, WARLORD and BASIL POLEDOURIS. I can see where that is coming from, though I think the first album was a little bit more “warlordy” than “Towers Of Gold”. Which other bands influence you as a musician and which one as a fan? Some odd bands/artists we wouldn’t expect maybe?
Hmm I don’t really agree that “Towers of Gold” has “less” of a WARLORD influence, especially when it comes to the guitar melodies. Maybe it’s because we have a lot more going on in the big picture and never try to go for a 1:1 influence of any given band. I have included my main influences when writing “Towers of Gold” in the booklet, MANOWAR and WARLORD are always there, so is BLIND GUARDIAN, VIRGIN STEELE, CRIMSON GLORY or HELLOWEEN. There’s a bit of ANGRA and early AVANTASIA in as well, and the odd one out this time would be DISSECTION. I wanted to explore the extreme side a little more on the next album, but TRIUMPHER did it so well on their debut, that I have to find a clever way to work around it, hahah.
In my review for “Towers Of Gold” I described the music as “if BLIND GUARDIAN and RHAPSODY had a child of love”. Can you live with that description?
Sure, could work. I’ve had a lot of people getting early/dark RHAPSODY vibes, and while it was never my intention due to the much less symphonic direction we have, I think the beauty of the music is that everyone can interpret it differently. People will connect with what they love the most, so I don’t think there is a 100% correct answer to “how we sound like”, because all these influences find their way to our music, and the album speaks differently to every individual. Some people told me we sound “more Europower now”, others that we have “a greater EU/US power balance”, so I don’t spend too much time worrying how we are perceived, as long as it’s good, hahah.
“The Flame Rekindled” offers classic european style melodic speed metal, but also with some more US Metal style riffing in the middle and an awesome guitar solo.
Thank you! I really wanted the album to start with a slap in the face and I always try not to be one-sided when composing, so I’m very happy with how it turned out. I really wanted to avoid the “happy power metal” feeling as I generally prefer the tragic stories with an emotional depth, and while it’s not as somber as the second half of the album, I think it does a great job pulling you into the world I tried to create. An epic adventure is about to begin!
It blends seamlessly into “The Voyage”. It sounds just like the song would continue in another pace and mood after the break, as if the songs belong together as one big piece.
Exactly! In my head there are three “Acts” on the album, since I wanted it to play out like a short novel, so those two songs along with the intro piece would be the first “Act”. I love how they’re a bit more hopeful and have a vague feeling of optimism that is a direct contrast to the gradual sinking towards despair as the album moves forward. This is why I think “Towers of Gold” shows its true strength if you take your time to read the full story and follow the lyrics, everything was built around the immersion that a good story should be able to provide.
The only thing I would maybe criticize on “Towers Of Gold” is that there is no other fast tune like “The Flame Rekindled”. Because it is just so good!
Haha, I know, I know. It’s weird, because in my head we don’t strictly fall into the power metal category, but we are “labeled” and marketed as a pure old school power metal band, so naturally many people come with expectations of at least half the album being double bass / big sing along choruses etc. I try to keep a good variety on everything, as I feel this makes the album more interesting and can give more to anyone who spends time on it.
The title track is – like “Damned For All Time” – nearly fifteen minutes long. It contains some of the heaviest parts on the album, including some harsh vocals by Daniel Heimann. Again, a great piece of music. Is it intentional that the title track is again such a long epic?
Yes, it has become somewhat of a trademark and I really enjoy writing those long epics, so I think we will always have something of the sort. Gives me a good opportunity to reuse patterns that are scattered throughout the album, and can experiment with everything, from super-fast aggressive ideas to slower orchestral parts etc.
No, I really love that album and Andreas Marschall’s cover is one of my all-time favorites. It was a great way to pay a small tribute, and it fitted the concept and the general feeling of the album.
WARLORD seem to be THE most important band for most greek metalheads. Would you agree?
We do have a lot of love for them, that’s for sure. Epic metal in general is really big in Greece’s underground and WARLORD was a legendary band for our generation.
I guess that you are a huge fan of fantasy literature. Which books, stories, but maybe also movies and TV shows are your favorites and were an influence for the lyrical themes in SACRED OUTCRY?
Way too many to mention! Lyrically, one major influence is Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Champion cycles. I strongly prefer that tragic antihero approach compared to the happy ending stories where everything worked out and the pure heart prevailed. Everything must have shades of gray, black and white doesn’t really work for me. Robert Howard and JRR Tolkien are obviously also a big influence. Kentaro Miura’s Berserk as well, what a great piece of art!
“Towers of Gold” was created as a love letter to all those things that shaped me when I was younger, some great sword & sorcery authors and stories, some albums from favorite bands or even video games that I grew up obsessing with. I am a big fan of storytelling and immersion so I’d like the band to work as a way of escaping the daily problems and the mundane issues of everyday life. There’s a ton of easter eggs in the booklet for anyone willing to search, and I love it when people send me messages to ask if a certain idea or story passage is a direct reference to something they had perhaps played or read in the past.
While preparing the interview I was of course also stalking your facebook page and saw that “Breath Of Fire” screenshot. Man, I played the hell out of that game and its successor back in the day. I still have my SNES with “Breath Of Fire II”. Which recent RPGs did you enjoy?
I played a ton of RPGs while growing up! I really love all the 90s and early 2000s output, especially on the SNES and the first Playstation. I used to do replays of old favourites every couple of years (“Final Fantasy” series, “Xenogears”, “Breath of Fire” series, “Chrono Trigger” to name a few), but I don’t have much time anymore, so I just try to keep up to date with all the new stuff. There are not many old-school RPGs these days, I have the “Sea of Stars” lined up which seems amazing and I got my eye on “Baldur’s Gate 3”, but I have a huge backlog of games to go through! Last game I spent A LOT of time on was obviously “Elden Ring”. Other than that, I play many Metroidvanias and I’m currently finishing up “Death’s Door”, which is unbelievably fun and beautiful!
What is your favorite dinosaur?
T-Rex dominance! Love that big guy with it’s tiny arms.
Did you play concerts with SACRED OUTCRY or do you have plans for doing so?
We used to play a lot back in 2002-2003, we even opened up for the first DOOMSWORD show in Greece, good times! But since our reunion, it was super far fetched due to the structure of the band and location of all the members. There is a will, and there is certainly a lot of demand, but we’re just trying to figure out the logistics around it and see if something would be possible. It’s a bit too complicated with the current status, but it is something that we regularly bring up and try to find a way to make it work.
What are the next steps for you and SACRED OUTCRY? Are you already writing new material? I feel that the band really has kind of a momentum going on right now.
Yes, the momentum is great. To be honest, we were very confident about the quality of “Towers of Gold”, but we never expected it to blow up the way it did. It feels very surreal and can’t thank the people enough for the kind of feedback we have been receiving. For the next album, I have a rough roadmap planned, some song titles, and a general direction I want to move towards both lyrically and musically. Full songwriting will probably start in a couple of months, since I need to put everything down and see how my new ideas actually sound like outside my head, but you’ll be happy to know I’m aiming for a couple of faster songs for the next album! Let’s see!
You have reached the end of the interview. Thank you for your time, your answers and most of all the awesome music. The last words are yours!
Thank you for this fantastic interview and your interest in the band. We’re very happy we get to meet people around the world and connect through music! The people that buy music and spread the word about the bands they love, are the real heroes as every little bit helps us more than you can imagine.
Hope to see you all on the road some day, have a beer and have the geekiest conversations possible!