Sing to me, Muse of the everlasting sins, of the stygian grace and of the swampy majesty conjured by three young musicians from the land of Hellas, 1993.
The microsubgenre of melodic Greek black metal commonly referred to as “Hellenic black metal” is so familiar to extreme music fans around the world that, having read those three words, you’re probably even now hearing some sinister melody in your head. Something like “Transform All Suffering Into Plagues” by Rotting Christ, or “Unholy Funeral” by the Swampkings themselves, Varathron. Looking back, the various origins of second-wave European black metal during the early ’90s each carry a certain mythology. While the Norwegian second-wavers are remembered for infamous criminal acts that often overshadow their otherwise brilliant contributions, and the Eastern Europeans are known for their weird antics and equally outlandish black metal stylings, the works created by the Achaeans that comprised that small and entangled scene in Athens are remembered solely on the strength of godly riffs and a common atmosphere, dark and magical.
The mythos of Varathron begins in 1989 with the release of their first demo, Procreation of the Unaltered Evil. Their influences glare out at you from the title alone, but Varathron, alongside Rotting Christ and Necromantia, were already well on their way to carving out their own unique black metal sound. The following year spawned their second demo, Genesis of Apocryphal Desire. As you’ll read, this demo represents a blueprint not only for His Majesty at the Swamp, but for Varathron as a whole. The eerie Slayer-esque melodies of “La Reine Noir,” the predatorial thrash assault that is the title track, the evil call-to-headbang of “Seven Endless Horizons” and, of course, the twisted and darkened heavy metal guitarwork of “The Tressrising of Nyarlathotep”—all of these elements remain strong throughout Varathron’s discography. Yet, His Majesty at the Swamp, for reasons you’ll read below, is a beast entirely its own. It clearly belongs to its time and place, but is more mysterious and magical than anything else in their catalog so far, and likely never to be topped. For one thing, this record seemed to bring in every working Greek black metal musician at the time and their brothers. Which made it difficult even to begin to assemble a lineup for interviewing. At the same time, certain questions persist, and fail to yield straight answers from anyone.
Besides giving different answers, the three musicians interviewed also have varying names. For the following feature, Stefan “Necroabyssious” Karasavvas, Dimitrios “Necroslaughter”/“Vorskaath” Dorian and Jim “Mutilator” Patsouris will be referred to as Necroabyssious, Vorskaath and Mutilator, respectively. We must also acknowledge and extend our sincerest gratitude to Achilleas C. (current guitarist of Varathron) for all of his help in bringing these interviews together. Now, and finally, Decibel welcomes His Majesty at the Swamp into the Hall.
Need more Varathron? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with all members on His Majesty at the Swamp, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.