Metal, as much as any other genre, loves a good comeback story. There’s something immensely satisfying in a band that comes roaring back to life as strong as ever that just feels exhilarating for both the fans and the performers. The last decade has been filled with triumphant resurgences of a multitude of killer bands who have risen from the dead to put out memorable albums and go on massive tours. With their first full-length record since 2011, Evil Summons Evil, Greek black metallers Deviser have added their name to the list of worthwhile metallic resurrections.
Since 2011, Deviser has been relatively silent. After releasing Seasons of Darkness that year, the band has really only put out the 2017 EP, Howling Flames. When singles for Evil Summons Evil started appearing last year, fans began to froth at the mouth for the idea of the first Deviser LP in more than a decade. When it dropped in February, Evil Summons Evil showed that the group that formed all the way back in 1989 had plenty left in the tank and a renewed vigor that was highly infectious. I recently caught up with bassist/vocalist Matt Hnaras to talk about the new record and the return of Deviser.
First off, how did Deviser get started? How did that first lineup meet and what made you want to start this kind of band together?
Matt: I got the whole idea by learning [about] Bathory’s releases and being influenced by Hellhammer. Such was my thirst for dark metal, I didn’t even wait for the lineup of the band to be completed and I started alone, completely inexperienced at the time. With the help of Agatus, the first complete form of the band became a reality, a little later Nick also came, everything had now taken the right direction. Very soon, with demo releases and some live shows, we started our journey that continues to this day .
What got you into black metal in the first place and who are some of the important bands to you becoming a fan?
Matt: Through the underground circle I first came into contact with interesting bands, I had personal contact with them since the ’80s. Samael had made a big impression on me, Rotting Christ, also. The underground scene was thriving and many bands stood out for their passion and originality. Everything was so new back then.
What was the local scene like there in Greece when you were starting out? What kind of changes have you seen in it over your career? Do you feel like the band has been shaped by the metal scene in your country?
Matt: Many bands started in 1990, trying to get a personal style. With clear influences from the death metal scene, maybe also from the grindcore movement, they released some interesting demos that put our country on the global underground map. Then, the first albums of Nightfall and Rotting Christ were released, we were so impressed that those who had taken the whole explosion of this movement seriously, continued with even greater passion creating the Greek scene that stood out from other countries because of the melody that was something exotic for extreme music. We were obviously influenced by these releases of that time, adding other elements that accompany us to this day, such as melancholy and majestic elements.
What’s your lyric writing process like? What Kind of themes do you like to explore with your writing and do you turn to anything particular for inspiration?
Matt: All this is directly related to the atmosphere of our compositions. When our songs sound so Hellishly haunted, I automatically think of similar aesthetic themes that I find interesting and I think add to that atmosphere of fear. Our lyrics must keep up with this darkness. To add additional dark emotions, to help listeners feel what is being forced through our music. To enter our world, to feel the real darkness. Mainly I am fascinated by real incidents, which are hard to believe that they actually happened. Some other times, images from a book or a movie are created in me. I then try to transform these images into words and phrases. In all cases, however, what I write must be as haunted as our music .
What’s the music writing process like for the band? How has that changed as the years have gone on?
Matt: Usually one of the two of us has an idea, a basic theme, and then we work on it to complete the composition. Once we feel that this idea really satisfies us and makes us feel its darkness, we continue with its completion as a complete song. On our last album Evil Summons Evil, all the compositions were the result of Nick [Christogiannis]’s extraordinary inspiration. I thought it wise to let him complete what he envisioned, what seemed so grand and dark to us already very early on. It seemed so clear that we were going to make a very impressive album, perhaps the most haunted of our career, and it would mark a return to the genre that would be talked about with admiration .
Your most recent record, Evil Summons Evil, is another killer piece of your discography. What was the writing/recording process like for that one? What did you want to do with this record, musically and lyrically? How happy are you with the final result?
Matt: Immediately after the release of the Howling Flames EP, the composing of the main riffs on which our new record is based began. Since we felt that the endless darkness prevailed, we continued with the completion of all the material. This sense of evil and darkness was present from the beginning. We felt that the result would be a grand dark crescendo of fear. I was lyrically forced to walk haunted paths that would complement this eerie feeling, and why not give an increase in the level of it. As I described to you before, we felt very confident that we had on our hands a beast that, when released, would impress those who discovered it .
I wanted to ask about the inspiration behind a few of the songs on that record. What’s the origin of that opener, “Death is Life Eternal?”
Matt: This song was heavily based on unanswered questions and speculations that tormented my mind at the time after being so close to death. If death is not a complete end but the transition to another dimension. On whether spiritual energy remains around the living or whether it disappears after the physical death of a being.
What’s the origin of “Absence of Heaven?”
Matt: It exudes the feeling of our first albums. Mainly of Unspeakable Cults. It refers to the ten characteristics of Kabbalism, when the infinite reveals itself for the transition to higher metaphysical realms. The song tells us about when the unknown divine power reveals itself to understand everything. The ten Sephiroth that live within us.
How about the story behind “Evoking the Moon Goddess?”
Matt: A song that is also based on elements like our first two full-length releases. Lyrically, I tried to bring to life that period of the band. It’s a belief of the unearthly and demonic nature. A ritual narrative about unholy existences and dream states of the subconscious world that surrounds us.
How did you come up with the music and ideas behind “When the Lights Went Out?”
Matt: This song is a great inspiration from Nick, I think the first composition of the album that was completed. It awakens memories from the distant ’90s, it contains several elements of that era. True and pure emotions emerge throughout the song. Lyrically, it is inspired by real events, by incidents of spirits in a house in England in the late ’60s and early ’70s. A really fitting song as a finale to Evil Summons Evil.
I really dig the cover to that one too. Who did it and how much direction did you give them? How stoked were you when you saw the final piece?
Matt: This so fitting cover is a creation of Kris Verwimp. We explained to him in detail what we wanted, but let his inspiration speak based on the lyrical content of Evil Summons Evil. It is very important for us that the artwork of our albums matches its musical content. To prepare you in advance for what you will hear. We were really impressed, it’s as devilish as the songs on the album, I think it’s a very fitting cover to reflect its content. We have received very good feedback about it.
Being that this is your fifth LP, how do you feel the band has grown and evolved over the years? What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you were just starting out making records?
Matt: Some things did not turn out the way we wanted them to, especially in the last two decades. Working with members I did not know well turned out to be disastrous and kept us in inactivity for many years. We have now identified all these wrong choices and decisions. We took the time we wanted and returned the way we should. We definitely wouldn’t trust some people if I went back in time, and we’d make different decisions about our live show plans.
You and Nick have both been in the band since the beginning. What keeps you guys coming back to Deviser and what makes you work so well together?
Matt: Deviser is our darkest love, our passion and a way to express ourselves creatively. Bringing all our emotions to life and searching deep within for ways to express our spirit through music. We found this out some time before the release of Howling Flames, it was the year we decided to come back the way we wanted, working on our material exclusively by the two of us without any suggestions from third parties. That’s how we worked at the beginning of our discography and it’s really so amazing that it’s happening again the way it was meant to be. Our chemistry is present again, it is also the most important decision we made to actively return to the scene. We understand each other, we know how to complement each other, there is a magic in our collaboration.
Lastly, what’s next for Deviser? What kind of goals do you still have for the future of the band?
Matt: We are soon starting work on a new album that will probably be released next year. There are several songs ready, we are working on several ideas, what I can say for now is that it will be a great album worthy of expectations. We are also planning some selective live shows in Europe for next winter, details will be announced soon. We will definitely not rest, we will continue the hard work we started with Evil Summons Evil and we will try to make our next album make a big impression and satisfy our fans.
Photo at top: Evil Summons Evil album cover.