After 12 years of musical battles, some demos and three self financed EPs, you have finally signed a deal. How does it feel to have your album properly released and promoted at last?
Well, it's very strange! I just can't believe it! After all this time working with self productions it's quite unusual for me, to realise that Holy Martyr have their first album. I consider "Still at War" a new start, indeed.
"Still at War" was out on Dragonheart, you're distributed by SPV and promoted by Metal Blade. It seems you've got a solid back-up now. Has much changed since the self-production times? Do you do more interviews, play more gigs?
I don't know... It's more or less the same I think, also in the past I was very active doing interviews and we were often in many magazines as well. The difference is that I'm not behind the promotion, the guys from Metal Blade are doing a good work with many radio and magazines, we hope to receive some good response back. SPV is also a good channel of distribution, actually we are not doing many concerts... We'll see if this will change in the future.
Was the deal signed after the album was ready, or were you offered financial help before the recordings? Is it a one album deal?
We have signed a standard contract before to release the album. The label paid all the recordings and the printings of the CD. The deal is intended for three albums, but depends on how much the first album will sell I think.
When I spoke to you three years ago, after "Hail to Hellas" was out, I asked you why, being Italian, you had written lyrics about Greek history. You said back then that you preferred Hellenic history to Roman. Yet, you have a song about Romans on the new album, ha-ha...
I've just written a song about Romans because you were asking me! Really! Ha-ha! I'm not kidding, I still remember the interview. There were many people asking me the same things, to release some stuff about Romans... So I have done it. It was just like a bet with myself. I still prefer Hellenic history, I think. Romans were very bad and evil, but it's very epic to write about the legions, they were invincible. Apart from "Vis Et Honor", the rest of the songs are about Norse mythology, only one is taken from a book, "Hadding Garmsson", taken by a novel of Poul Andersson. Then we have "Ares Guide My Spear" which speaks of heroes and ancient warfare in Greece and "From the North Comes the War", about the war seen by the point of view of innocent people of a village. The last song of the album, "Ave Atque Vale", is a sort of tribute about Europe, about the heritage and the countless battles fought in this land.
Are you still the sole author of music and lyrics?
Yes, and we have just released many songs from the past demos. Sometimes it would be better to have some help, especially with the lyrics. It's not so easy to do all alone, considering that English is not my tongue and sometimes I haven't enough terms to explain my feelings.
Last year you put "Frost and Fire" onto the "Tribute to Cirith Ungol" compilation. How did you like the other bands' versions of CU songs?
Some versions were very cool, some other strange, and some other too similar with the originals. I was expecting to see "Nadsokor" from DoomSword, it's a very good cover and a great song.
After "Vis Et Honor" was out, I heard some rumours about disbanding. What happened?
DragonHeart saved us! Ha-ha! Unfortunately, there were a lot of problems, and above all some line-up changes. I think that it's very difficult to stay alive without a label behind, especially if there isn't enough money to finance your music. We weren't going to split up, we just said that was impossible to release again self financed records, "Vis Et Honor" EP was the third and the last.
You've managed to gain a huge base of dedicated fans, especially in Greece. I'd say you've got a "cult underground band" status now. But is that enough for you? If someone proposed you to release your stuff through a major label, providing you changed your style into more mainstream, what would you do?
Yes, many say that now we are a "cult" band! I don't know... It's very strange, I used to listen to cult bands like Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol... Never thought to be considered like my fave bands, incredible. I think I am fine if I play a lot of concerts and I can do good music, this is enough to make me happy. I can't write songs by command... Sorry, I haven't idea I could change my style in something mainstream, maybe in something which I don't like... So no way, sorry.
Talking about your fanbase, your second EP recording session and pressing was financed by over 200 of your fans. Was it your idea to start such an action, or was it some fans' initiative?
I was against this thing at the beginning... It wasn't something started by me, but then I agreed, with the promise to send a T-shirt and a CD with a bonus track to everyone. In the end, I think it was very special thing, there is a deep bond with all the guys that helped the band for "Hail to Hellas" EP.
Why do all of your release titles have three words? Is it a coincidence or was it intentional?
Aha-ha! Intention... It's a magic "triad"! It was just funny to repeat three words on every release, the titles sound powerful. All my fave albums have three words... "Piece of Mind", "Into Glory Ride", "Warning of Danger", "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus"... I think we will continue to use three words for the releases! Three is a lucky number ha-ha...
At the beginning, when you played a different kind of metal, more speed/thrash I'd say, the band's name was Hell Forge. You changed it to Holy Martyr, after a song by the cult U.S. act Omen. Was the change necessary, I mean, didn't Hell Forge sound epic enough or something?
I was thinking to something different, but I was very impressed after reading a book about the Battle of Thermopylae, and the figure of a martyr fallen for his land was very strong. At that time, I was a huge fan of Omen... So Holy Martyr was the perfect combination of history and U.S. power epic. Hell Forge was something for a kind of speedy heavy metal like Judas Priest, Anvil or Exciter.
Your inspiration by the U.S. scene, including early Manowar, Warlord, Omen, Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol is undeniable. But in the press release sheet for the new album, I found information that your music is inspired by Iron Maiden. Can't hear much Maiden in your songs to be honest...
The press release was made by the label and me. I really can't find nothing wrong. I read that the band is connected to the British heavy metal and to U.S. power epic metal bands. I'm saying this since our first release "Hatred and Warlust", we are a combination of NWoBHM. and U.S. metal with something from the Bay Area thrash. Iron Maiden is my favourite band, the first I have listened many years ago and the same is for the rest of the band members. All the bands you have named are OK, but all have one guitar, I follow something different when I write songs, I can find something from Manowar and Omen on our vocals lines, and I like the guitar style of Warlord, but really, in my mind there are the twin guitars of Maiden and the approach on the music is more British. Listen "Ave Atque Vale", "Ares Guide My Spear" or "Hadding Garmsson", I can hear British echoes together with U.S. epic metal stuff I think.
Talking about inspirations, there was a great band in the USA once, who released such epic diamonds as "Battle Hymns", "Hail to England", "Into Glory Ride" or "Sign of the Hammer". Have you listened to their last works?
You have named the best epic metal albums ever. I really adore the old stuff, diamonds is the perfect word. After "Sign of the Hammer" they started to play a more easy hard 'n' heavy, I like "The Triumph of Steel" but I don't really follow the new things. They are still great for me, but in the past there was magic.
Have you heard Sacred Blood's release "The Battle of Thermopylae: The Chronicle"?
Nope, I know this band only by name. Our second album will continue the concept album started in 2003 with "Hail to Hellas". You'll hear again a song called "The Lion of Sparta" he-he!
I'm sure being a huge fan of Spartan warriors you've seen the movie "300". Did you like the unusual way it was done?
Yes, we saw it all together. It was strange... To see Leonidas and Spartans warriors acting on a movie! It was like a comic, and the story was taken... from a comic. Nothing more, the Spartans were not so bad, but the history was changed.
So, the debut first album is out, but that's just the first step, hopefully. Do you have any ideas for the next steps yet?
As I said before, we'll release all the songs from "Hail to Hellas" and some new stuff, to make a concept album this time. We have some songs ready... very epic, not so far from the style on the EP. We'll add many folk parts and some songs will be doomish, with a heroic attitude, can't wait to release a new album soon... Not in the next 12 years!
Thanks for your time. Hope to see you live in the U.K. some time, your Keep It True show I saw was so long ago...
I hope too to play everywhere... I'm desperately searching a way to make a little tour, I hope to find the help of some agency in the next future. I think that we are better from the past show at the KIT... Expect aggression! Thanks a lot for the interview... Hail epic metal!