The last decade or so has seen plenty of events that make the doom of mankind seem rather imminent. Between economic collapses, pandemics, wars, and environmental destruction, it can feel like the end is nigh and getting out the sandwich board and screaming it from the street corner might start making sense. It’s hard to feel optimistic about the world these days when watching the news, but the current atmosphere does make for good inspiration for heavy records. When it feels more like democracy is in decline than ascent, a band like Doomocracy seems made for these times.
Since forming in 2011, Doomocracy has put out three heavy-as-Hell doom records, including this year’s killer Unorthodox. The new record is more of what makes Doomocracy a fan favorite with 11 tracks of the highest caliber doom metal. The first two records in the discography were solid outings but this one takes things to a whole other level. I recently caught up with vocalist Michael Stavrakakis to talk about the new record and Doomocracy’s history.
First off, what is the origin of Doomocracy? How did you all meet and what made you decide to start this type of band?
Michael: Minas Vasilakis, Angelos Tzanis, and myself have been lifetime friends. We’ve always wanted to play Doom Metal but we were preoccupied in other bands and living in different cities. So in 2011 when we finally got together in Heraklion, Greece, we jammed some music and all that was coming out of the speakers was Doom Metal, so we felt the time was right to start Doomocracy and play the music that we always loved. Later that year we were joined by Harry Dokos and Manolis Schizakis and we started composing music for our first album.
How did you guys come up with the name? Were there any other ones that you considered?
Michael: In 2011 when the band started, the economic crisis had just broken out in Greece. There were riots everywhere and state oppression. The land that gave birth to Democracy was becoming less and less democratic… it felt like a Doomed Democracy…a Doomocracy. Given the fact that our main focus is Doom Metal and that we are coming from Greece, it felt like a fitting name for the band. There were of course other names on the table but this felt just right.
What got you guys into doom metal in the first place and who are some of the bands that got you into the genre?
Michael: Nightfall by Candlemass was the third heavy metal album I ever listened to. I remember I was at a friend’s house and he told me that I had to listen to this band…he pressed play and just after the majestic intro of “Gothic Stone,” came the incantation of Messiah Marcolin “I bind unto myself, today the strong name of the trinity.” That was it… I was bewitched and I instantly became a fan of Doom Metal and bands like Trouble, Solitude Aeturnus, and Memento Mori. I fell in love with the heavy riffing and the wonderful voices of the genre, plus the content of the lyrics.
What’s the writing process like for the music side of things? Has that changed at all as time has gone on?
Michael: The composing process [of] Doomocracy is a team effort and everyone contributes music and ideas, which we work on [in] rehearsals and online. We then move to preproduction to see what the songs sound like and if we are fully happy with the result, we start recording. It’s always been like that, unless a band member is not living in Crete, in which case we mostly exchange ideas online. But we always rehearse the songs before we start recording.
What’s the writing process like for the lyrics side of things? What do you try to do with the words to a Doomocracy song and is there anything that you turn to in particular for inspiration? I’m a big Lovecraft fan so I really dig all the imagery that harkens back to his writing.
Michael: For Doomocracy, writing lyrics is just as important as composing music. We don’t just write words that fit with the vocal melodies. We draw inspiration from our “inner demons” and our concerns, but also from films, video games, books, and mythology. Anyone that comes in contact with Lovecraft’s writings is drawn more and more into the magical abyss he created. We are fascinated and inspired by writers like Lovecraft and we love writing dark and mysterious lyrics and creating stories.
I’m always interested in how bands got the opportunity to record their first album and what that process was like. How did getting to make The End is Written come about and how much of a learning experience was the process of writing/recording that one? What did you learn making that album that you took to future recordings?
Michael: Ι think that if you want the record labels to take you seriously, you need to present the best of your music and artistry…and that’s what we did. We completed the compositions, we recorded the album, we found a suitable album cover, and then looked for a record label. Taking the right steps and keeping our music at a professional level was not an easy task at the beginning and we learned a lot during the recording process of our first album. When you do something for the first time, it’s hard to avoid making mistakes, but we learned from those mistakes and we have not repeated them again. The first album is very important of course, but it’s also raw most of the time, as the music relations between the band members have not reached their optimum chemistry. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because as relations and bands grow, you tend to overthink ideas and maybe polish the compositions more than you should. There’s magic in composing and recording an album that never goes away.
Your lineup has been incredibly consistent over the life of the band. What makes you all work so well together and how do you keep a healthy band dynamic?
Michael: Like I said, me, Minas, and Angelos have been friends for almost a lifetime and we’ve all known Harry and Manolis for many years now. That has helped the band avoid arguments of fights and even when an incident occurred it only helped us to get wiser and stronger. Having the same lineup is a great advantage, as the band chemistry is now better than ever and everyone in the band recognizes his role and knows what to do with each album.
What is it about this band that keeps you coming back and has made you want to dedicate so much time and energy to it?
Michael: I guess it’s the music itself. I think we have released three great albums, each one beautiful in its own way, and we loved the process of making them. It’s also the thrill of playing live across the world, meeting people, making friends. and sharing cultures and music with our fans and other bands.
What was the writing/recording process like for the most recent record, Unorthodox? How did the process go for you guys and how happy were you with the final product?
Michael: We worked really hard for Unorthodox and we are very proud of the end result. We started composing at the end of 2018 and we were supposed to enter the studio in 2020, but of course the pandemic had us postpone everything as we didn’t want to release an album without a chance of playing live. Although this was frustrating, we saw it as a chance to fine-tune the compositions and the lyrical concept to the last detail. With Unorthodox being a concept album, we expanded our Epic Doom Metal range, having Progressive, U.S., and even thrashier music patterns and passages. You can say we took a chance and we placed a “bet” that I think we’ve won.
I wanted to ask about the lyrical and musical inspiration for a few songs on that album. Could you tell me how the song “Eternally Lost” came about from a musical standpoint and where you got the ideas for the lyrics on that one?
Michael: I wrote the lyrics to “Eternally Lost” as a tribute to my father and his final years of living with dementia. It’s hard witnessing someone you know and love, not being able to recognize you and answer your every question with a peaceful yet awkward smile. Of course I adjusted some lyrics in the bridge of the song so that they fitted better with our story. I think it’s a great album opener with many mood swings and surprises filled with strong emotions.
“The Spiritualist” is another favorite of mine. Where did the musical and lyrical ideas for that one come from?
Michael: “The Spiritualist” in one of the Doomier songs on the album. It has a great verse and probably one of the best choruses we’ve ever written, featuring beautiful harmonies from the guitars and very intimate and sentimental vocal melodies. It also features a colossal doom bridge, complemented by the beautiful characteristic keyboards of Miguel Robaina. The lyrics talk about the origin and the purpose of the hero of the story and the impact he is about to have on mankind.
“Our Will Be Done” is another song I really dig from there. Could you talk about the inspiration for that one?
Michael: “Our Will Be Done” is probably my favorite song on the album. It talks about the hypocrisy of the establishment (in our concept the Catholic Church) and how it takes advantage of human pain in order to serve its own needs and purpose. Religions ask us to believe in God so they can earn more power and money. This is why we say “In God We Trust, Our Will Be Done.” Of course I have no problem against faith, but organized religions, especially in the past, mostly take advantage of people. The music is quite progressive on this one. I love the choir we have used, they did a fantastic job in giving the song that eerie feeling we desired.
The cover for that album is really memorable and I really dig the imagery. Who did it and how much direction did you give them for what you wanted? To you, what does that cover represent?
Michael: The cover is a painting of Mariusz Lewandowski, the famous Polish painter who sadly passed away a few months ago. It is from his painting called “The Lower of Hope”, a painting whose rights we acquired in order to use as our album cover. It perfectly represents our album concept and title and the mysterious and eerie feeling we had in mind.
How affected has the band been by the COVID pandemic, either in terms of recording new music or getting to play live?
Michael: Like I said we had to postpone our recording for two years, which was really frustrating. We also stopped playing live and have not played live since September 2019, so you can imagine how hungry we are to get back to the stage and perform songs from our first two albums and especially the new songs from Unorthodox!
What is the metal scene like where you live in Greece and how has it shaped the band?
Michael: The metal scene in Greece is alive and kicking. We have many quality bands in all genres and many concerts take place every week. We are fans of bands like Sacral Rage, Disharmony, Hail Spirit Noir, and others. As for Doomocracy, I can say that we have a strong fan base in Crete and we want to thank all our fans and friends for their support.
Lastly, what’s next for Doomocracy? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Michael: We want to continue releasing great albums and to share them with our fans. We want to return to the stage and play “Unorthodox” live for the first time and we hope to see you on tour! Thank you for this interesting conversation.
Photo at top: Unorthodox album cover.