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Having trodden a fairly tortuous route from Death Metal beginnings through Gothic/Death/Doom to Gothic Metal, Greek band On Thorns I Lay returned from hiatus in 2014 with a more classic Death/Doom sound - Comrade Aleks unearths more details from co-founder Christos.

Interview with On Thorns I Lay.
"I bet that no-one could have expected that after 20 years of experiments, On Thorns I Lay would return to their roots. Well, actually their new full-length, 'Aegean Sorrow', has even more pure monumental Death Doom than their debut, 'Sounds Of Beautiful Experiments'. No more ladies on vocals, no more Gothic stuff - just profound, sombre and melodic Death Doom metal. Trust me, I'm a Doctor (Doom), 'Aegean Sorrow' is worth a listen. It's not innovative, but it's an honest, strong and melodic record. So, we've discussed the band's pilgrimage from the underground labyrinths with one of its founders - Chris Dragamestianos (guitars, keyboards). Hello Chris!"


Talking to Aleks today, Chris Dragamestianos, co-founder of On Thorns I Lay.


Hello Chris! Thanks for the time you spent on this interview, and before we turn to On Thorns I Lay's new album 'Aegean Sorrow' let's take a look at the past, if you don't mind.

We would like to thank you for this interview!

Chris, there were two bands before On Thorns I Lay - Paralysis and Phlebotomy founded by you, Stefanos Kintzoglou, Fotis and Jim, how did it all start back then in 1992? What were your goals?

We started in 1991. We were just a couple of kids who liked a lot listening to death metal and wanted to play like their favorite bands. No goals or anything else just the usual way that most of the bands started in those times...


Full 2018 line-up: Antony (keyboards), Akis (guitars), Christos (guitars), Stefanos (vocals), Fotis (drums), Jim (bass).


On Thorns I Lay's debut 'Sounds Of Beautiful Experience' saw the light of day in 1995. How much of Paralysis and Phlebotomy were left in this material? How did you form this sound?

We were progressing as musicians so 'Sounds Of Beautiful Experience' was an experimental album, you can hear there many music elements but we think that in the end it is a death metal album with many atmospheric parts from our first demos and from our promo tape we did just before we signed with Holy Records in 1994, as far as I can remember.

Do you mean that you don't consider On Thorns I Lay as a Doom metal band?

I think that our sound is more complex. Of we are a doom band but you can hear more elements from the larger spectrum of death metal as we combine a lot of aspects all of course under our characteristic way of composing our melancholic OTIL melodies. You can hear doomy and funeral death metal parts together with acoustic riffs, pianos, double and triple acoustic guitars, violins etc.

On Thorns I Lay - 'Sunrise Of A New Age':


What were the core bands who influenced your music back then?

My first ever metal albums were Autopsy "Severed Survival", Obituary "Slowly We Rot", Entombed "Left Hand Path", Nocturnus "The Key" but the bands that marked our sound are the old Paradise Lost, old Anathema, My Dying Bride, old The Gathering, old Opeth and old Katatonia. It's a pity that most of the aforementioned bands have nothing to do with their original sound nowadays

How did the band's concept change with the 'Orama' album? Music-wise it's close to the debut's dreamy Death Doom tunes, but the female vocals make a difference, as do the lyrics.

As most of the people know we were a band that we were always try to explore more and more through different musical styles all of course having the melancholic element inside. So this is how 'Orama' one of our fav efforts came up then.

What kind of influences softened the band's sound on 'Crystal Tears'? What made you to switch to this dark Gothic wave?

Of course our hearings then inspired us in this way. The whole doom death metal scene was changing and being part of it from the beginning, we contributed on it during this change. Think about that we are talking about 1992 to 1997 and all what happened musically then...

Did you want to change the band's overall mood this way? You know, with female vocals and a more melodic sound it seems to be softer and more melancholic…

We always played music from love of music. In this album we felt that we wanted to be heard as much as doomy, deep, dark and melancholic. So the female vocals had no place, believe me. Neither on the next one - that we're currently composing - we will not use them as we will have our sound heavier...


Complete discography (click to expand): 'Sounds Of Beautiful Experience' (1995), 'Orama' (1997), 'Crystal Tears' (1999), 'Future Narcotic' (2000), 'Angeldust' (2002), 'Egocentric' (2003), 'Eternal Silence' (2015), 'Aegean Sorrow' (2018).


'Future Narcotic' shows band's further development towards modern sounding Gothic stuff. Did you understand the risks you took when you recorded it? How natural was this metamorphosis?

In fact we never thought about the risks and that is something that probably harmed us as the often changing musical style confused many of our fans. We cannot say that we regret about it now as what happened just cannot change... Of course the doomy and melancholic atmosphere is something that exists in all our efforts since the begging. This is a characteristic of our band. We feel that our melodies have personality, you hear them and you just recognize that this is OTIL's music... It is something that we are proud of.

'Angeldust' continues the line of 'Future Narcotic'. yet it's slightly different… And at the same time the guitar tones, for example, sound very recognizable – it's really On Thorns I Lay's sound, how did you work it out?

It is exactly as I just said. It is something that is pure and just comes up. We do not try to sound like someone, we have of course our influences as we are fans of death metal music in general. This is what we mostly hear. To be honest I can not understand bands who play death metal and they claim that they do not hear metal at all. I do not know, it sounds to me very weird...

By the way, how would you describe the On Thorns I Lay general concept? Can you say that some of its parts have been left untouched despite all the stylistic changes in your music?

Yes it is exactly this way. Despite all these changes I feel that the OTIL element is there through all the albums. Of course now we have a new album back in our roots and the next one that we already started to compose will be on the same root, pure atmospheric doom death metal. So no more surprises for us in the future regarding the musical style as we feel we had enough.... he he he…



So what are the band's main features which you keep from album to album?

Melancholy, melancholy, melancholy.

You almost got rid of the female vocals for 'Egocentric': what influenced this?

We wanted to give a darker and heavier atmosphere in the album and the female vocals just did not fit... In the next one we will not use them again for sure as it already sounds doomier, heavier, darker....

It seems that you tried to return to a Death Doom sound with previous album 'Eternal Silence', yet in the end it seems to be a cauldron of On Thorns I Lay's different aspects (except, probably, the most Gothic parts). You know it looks like you're always searching for your sound, were you ever really satisfied with the direction of the band?

He-he-he, I understand exactly what do you mean. It seems exactly this way. Music always evolves and is progressing. In 2004 we felt that we lost our musical identity through all these musical style changes. That's why we stopped then. So in 2014 when we decided to start again, we focused a lot to have the same style we had when we started with the band. During first rehearsals we felt again the same enthusiasm like then back in 1991. We are on the right path now for sure as simply music speaks in our hearts by itself....

And the crux of this interview is On Thorns I Lay's final return to its Death Doom roots. Were you sure that you could write a proper album in this vein? 'Aegean Sorrow' is actually the most Death Doom album in your discography, it's heavier than everything you did in the '90s, yet again the guitars are the same… So how did it all happen? Were all members of the band in agreement with this change?

Yes it was an overall decision. But most of all a need. We were kind of disappointed with how musically things turned out in the last years of the band back in the '00s, so all together we knew what we had to do this time.

How long did you work on the album? Who was involved in the song composing?

I composed most of the music in this album with the contribution of our keyboard player Antonis. I started writing in 2014 but I also used some old stuff like the opening riff of Aegean Sorrow, which was written in 2001 as far as I remember. I have many riffs that we did not use in the past 'cause they sounded then to heavy for the style of the band back in the '00s. Probably we will use them in the next album... we will see.



What kind of obstacles did you face in the studio? Was the recording session relaxed enough or - for example - did Stefanos have to learn how to growl anew?

The atmosphere was just great. This time we were so confident at what we are doing. We knew that these songs are so unique and we collaborated with great people. We recorded the album with the previous drummer of Septic Flesh Fotis Benardo at his studio with Mr Tzanetopoulos also. It is the studio where they also recorded Septic Flesh and Rotting Christ their previous albums.

Did you record the songs live or instrument by instrument, part by part?

We recorded first drums and then all the guitars. Then the bass, keys. In the end the vocals

The new stuff was mastered by well known musician and sound engineer Dan Swanö. Did you discuss with him what kind of result you were aiming for, pointing to some of his works?

We chose for the mixing and mastering to work with Dan Swanö. A great producer that we admire his works since the early '90s. He managed to get a huge and heavy sound but in a very organic way. It was like he was in our minds and in less than 10 days he sent us everything as you hear it. We made minor changes and of course we are more than happy with the great result. In the next one we will follow the same path for sure....

On Thorns I Lay - 'Eternal Silence' (Official):


The Death Doom scene shows that it's still able to bring forth something new: how do you value your contribution? What are On Thorns I Lay's features? How do you see band's personality?

As I mentioned we are proud that despite the changes in our sound in the past we have our own characteristic way of writing melancholic music. Doom death metal one could can say that it is a classic style of metal music, existing for more than 25 years. One can explore many through listening albums like the old Opeth but also new ones like Hamferd's work for example. I gave you 2 different periods with at least 15 years between them but so great music now and then.

Do the new song lyrics differ from ones you wrote before? What are they about?

The new album is a concept one. It speaks in poetic way about all the misery and grief that exists right at our door. So much pain and misery through the continuous wars...mankind has a tendency through its catastrophe and this never changes. Most of these situations have been told by inspired people in the past but nobody can say where this situation may lead...

On Thorns I Lay - 'Erevos' (Official):


Now there aren't any ladies in the band, so I wonder how do you manage to play gigs? What's your set list nowadays? Which periods of songs do you play?

We have our best record in our career so we mostly play songs from Aegean Sorrow. Due to lack of time we play 4 old songs. But we are planning a headline show here in Athens (winter 2018) so there our fans will have the chance to hear more music coming from all of our previous albums.

Do you have more gigs, or a tour, in your plans?

We played 3 fantastic gigs with Satyricon in Athens, our good friends Septicflesh in Volos and in Thessaloniki here in Greece and we are planning a headline show for November 2018 in our home town Athens. We are also very close in signing with a big tour agency from abroad so in few weeks we will probably have some new dates as we will do our best to support and promote our new album.

Thank you Christos! It's good to know that you have returned to the Doom womb! I hope you'll stay here with us for awhile! And good luck with the promotion of 'Aegean Sorrow'!

I would like to thank you again so much for this interview. We hope that you and our fans will love the new album and be sure that this new era for us just began.


Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.


Visit the On Thorns I Lay bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-04-29 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Aesthetic Death
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