I love Humans, and I’m not talking about the primate species. ‘Humans’ is the new album by Extreme Metal band, Eight Lives Down. The band, formed by Greek-Kiwi vocalist, Aliki Katriou, released their debut album in September. We had the chance to chat with Aliki about her band’s new album and other things. We also listened to ‘Humans’ and wrote a review.
‘Humans’ is an 8-track album, with blistering riffs and wonderful vocals for 41 minutes. Here are three things we loved about ‘Humans’.
1. The Vocals
Aliki Katriou has a wonderful voice and can sing aggressive and clean vocals. She can scream and growl and do wonderful things with her voice. ‘Humans’ has showcased her ability to sing wonderfully on all these levels. The screams on Opening Shots were electrifying and then the change into a somehow lighter voice in the intro of Misguided was incredible. Her growling and screams on Sacrifice and Organize Your Mind was mind-blowing, and the final track showed how she can sing on every level excellently.
One of my favourite thing about her harsh voice is how she can flow with the guitar riff in a very exciting way. You can hear an example of this in the song Misguided.
2. Progressive Music
I don’t take the phrase ‘progressive’ lightly. Progressivism is an art movement, not just a genre. A band that makes “Progressive Rock/Metal” music is not necessarily progressive as per definition. Eight Lives Down, however, were progressive in ‘Humans’ in the finest way possible. The expanded themselves musically beyond the edges of the known “Aggressive Metal”. Examples of that would be songs like Angela, From the Cradle, and Colder.
There are these albums that you’d sit down and read the lyrics to enjoy and understand the depth of their full meaning. ‘Humans’ was one of these albums. Eight Lives Down went deep into many topics of cultural and social importance with their lyrics and delivered their brilliant ideas in the best singable words possible. From the Cradle and Opening Shots are my favourite songs lyrics-wise.
4. Favourite song: “From the Cradle“
From the Cradle is the song that has everything. It’s 7:40 minutes long, and yet it’s so good it feels like 3 minutes! The vocals on it are brilliant. The riffs and beats are majestic and internal alternations of style in it make it more and more interesting. What a song!
We recommend ‘Humans’ to all the humans (Ba-dum-tss) who like a taste of old school Thrash mixed with some groovy sounds in a progressive and modern Metal sense.
And here’s the interview we had with Aliki. We hope you enjoy reading it.
Hello Aliki! It’s wonderful to chat with you. How are you doing today?
I’m alive, so pretty stoked about that today. Listening to good music, which means my mood is working in my favour. Every part of me wants to ask how you are but we’re not face to face so I won’t be finding out immediately, but I hope and trust you are well 🙂
Well I just finished listening to your album for the fifth time and wrote the review, so this would mean I’m pretty well myself. ☺️ We’re going to talk a lot about your new album ‘Humans’, but first, how would you introduce your band to our readers who are learning about you for the first time?
We are Eight Lives Down. Think 4 humans beings, all from different countries, all with different musical tastes, willing to listen to everything and mesh up what we like into the material we create! We don’t particularly care for sub-genres and this is reflected in our music. I’m the singer. My father is Greek, my mother is a kiwi. Marcin’s the bassist, he’s Polish. Paul’s the guitarist, he’s French. We happen to live in London at the moment. Our drummer, Rodrigo, is Brazilian and has moved to the Netherlands a while ago. Musically, we have solid roots in metal and are definitely some variant of extreme metal but we don’t stay in one sound long enough to enable ourselves or others to state a certain sub-genre. We like it that way. We like it when people come up to us after gigs and attempt to talk about the way they experienced our sound in relation to genres and bands.
That’s wonderful! Your album was released in the beginning of September. What are you feeling about the reception ‘Humans’ got from the fans so far?
Dude!! It’s surreal! I care a lot about this band and this album and so every time we get a review or someone messages us having bought the album, I swear I sweat the universe out. It’s our first album, it’s out in physical format, which means so much to us because we are quite old school in our music purchasing habits… What has surprised me most has been the number of people from all walks of life who have been happy to listen to this album and even play it to others! We’ve also been surprised to get humans buying this album from across the pond, especially in the US and Canada – who knew? That makes me so happy because I always think of metalheads as a proactive group of people who put effort and care into finding music and it’s lovely to see. We did a gig two weeks ago in Switzerland and our manager overheard these two guys discussing after our performance. They called our sound “special”. Later on they came to our merch table and bought t-shirts and our manager asked them what they thought of the band and they just said “special” again. It’s like they couldn’t decide what to think and that made everyone in the band really happy, especially our drummer who was overjoyed and said he’d rather make music that causes people to pause and think rather than something they’ve heard before.
That’s so amazing! Well the album IS one of the best in 2020, in my opinion. How did you manage to complete this work during the COVID-19 pandemic? Did it have any effects on the album writing or production process?
We were lucky because we completed the recording process before the pandemic shut everything down. So it was just a matter of looking at the mixing and mastering and tweaking that until everyone was happy. I know that the pandemic has been terrible for bands and live shows and venues are in shambles. Being unable to gig sucked. On the other hand, we had decided not to rush with this album or any other album. It’s important to take time to release something that we value. The pandemic has forced many people to introspection and a shifting of certain values. For us, it reinforced the sensibility of our working pace as a band. It also came at “convenient” time because our drummer had moved to Leiden and we were trying to work out how to create and function at a distance. So it gave us the time to sort that out and get into a rhythm around this reality.
In order to get to know your album better, and have some fun at the same time, how about we play a game! I will give you a scenario and a task and you have to pick one song from ‘Humans’ that would best fit. Ready?
That’s such a cool idea! I love that ^.^ I’m ready, I don’t know if you’re ready to hear my absurd reasoning but let’s do it!
😂 Which song from ‘Humans’ would you use to show someone who never listened to Eight Lives Down what your music is like?
I would use the first track on the album “Opening Shots”. This was, in part, why we chose it as our first lyric video prior to the album release. Vocally, it’s got some high screams, some clean singing, some growls. The guitar is a good example of our tone and it’s got an awesome solo. The song has a dropout highlighting the bass. You don’t fully realize how bass heavy we are necessarily from this song but it does hint that we care about bass a lot. You get a feel of Rodrigo’s drumming and cymbal work and how he underlines the phrasing of the guitar or vocal line. Of course, for me, the most significant part of “Opening Shots” as a song that introduces the band is the structure. This song has no chorus. There’s no real ‘anchor’ to the song but, like most of our songs, it isn’t alienating the listener with overt complexity. We find a fun balance of catchy and weird.
Which song from ‘Humans’ would best fit as a theme song for a series based on the events of your life?
Oh, hehe, this is going to be horrifying! My vote goes to “From The Cradle”. The song was actually written about the move from communism to capitalism in the Soviet Union/Russia, so it’s a bit odd to relate this to my life. However, having grown up in Greece, I find quite a few common points between Greece and Russia and I think this is predominately because of the economic realities and role of religion in both countries. I grew up in a pretty horrible neighborhood and I sometimes find myself surprised that I got out unscathed, unlike most of my friends. I have quite explosive emotions and I struggle to make accurate observations about myself and my life often, so the chorus of “From The Cradle” resonates with me (“We are too close to see ourselves” etc). In terms of singing, I feel most at home during the doom-like ecclesiastical section of that song with the Greek church chanting. Depression is just a normal part of life for me so the ending of the song, during which the environment is decaying and everyone is decaying alongside it, rings quite true and one great concern of mine is falling into a state of apathy, especially if one’s surroundings are so hopeless. All in all, I think I infused a lot of myself and my struggles into the song and I was using the history of a country to explore this.
Wow that’s the best answer for this question I got so far. If all songs from ‘Humans’ became actually humans, which one would be your best friend?
Colder. I would like the degree to which Colder does and doesn’t display emotion. It starts off and makes you think it will be insane but then starts a very reasonable verse with a bit of socio-political criticism. It moves on to a catchy hook for the pre-chorus, full of cynicism. The chorus takes us to a heavier section with growls that are merely stating the ‘facts’ but there’s an anger to keep pushing on. I guess I like my friends to have weird outbursts of emotion that they are able to regulate and I want to hang out with people who don’t have a friendly attitude towards society? XD This is probably accurate. I stand by my choice, I would definitely hang out with “Colder” because, even though it is misanthropic, it doesn’t promote any extreme behaviours.
Aliens with superior tech invade planet Earth. The Earth resistance finds out their only weak point is that songs with brutal screaming vocals give them brain damage. Which song from ‘Humans’ would you lead the charge against the alien invaders with?
Hahaha, I’m going to assume you mean high pitches by the word ‘screaming’. If you had said ‘growls’ or something lower, I would have gone with “Sacrifice” because it’s just this stable, low growl the whole way through 🙂 Given the screaming, I think the honour goes to “Angela” for its manic chorus. I’m pretty sure that chorus could deal a bit of damage to humans, so I’ll bet on it versus aliens too!
That would do it! An archeologist in 3020 discovers a working CD of ‘Humans’ album. He manages to play it and listens to what 2020 music sounded like. Which song would he like most?
Organize Your Mind. You’ve got a basically groovy song with weird time signature changes, the lyrics are oddly simple. There is an odd detour into an experimental riff with classical singing over it. Then chaos. You get distorted singing to various degrees. The song has purposeful dissonance, which is something I really associate with metal post-2010. Not that there wasn’t dissonance prior to that but it really increased in the last ten years.
Finally, which song from ‘Humans’ would you use to encourage a friend going through rough times?
“Why” is the track for the job! It questions the behaviour of people but it does so in a caring way. The song opens up to a chorus that takes on a broader perspective (“Time is always on our side” etc), which is saying that one is capable of change despite what they may think. The song encompasses a whole musical narrative with a bass solo and a guitar solo, both well over 1 minute long! I think when one is faced with a particularly difficult situation it can help to zoom out from one’s own misery. I also think that it is important to pay attention to shifts and ‘movement’ within that situation as a way of feeling less stuck. Being kind and caring is important. That being said, the best way to do this might not be by harbouring false hopes. “Why” is crushing the idea that things get better with time or that time has anything to do with the human condition at all. Waiting for things to get better is a passive behaviour and it’s better to deal with your problems head on if possible.
Thank you for playing Aliki! Throughout ‘Humans’ we can hear you sing in so many styles in a wonderful way. Did you always want to be a vocalist? Or was there a moment when you decided you want to do that as your profession?
No, I never thought of being a vocalist. I always enjoyed singing and found it very interesting on a mechanical level. Career-wise, my sights were set on films and directing. I had a bit of a bad run when I turned twenty with a number of important people dying in my life and I decided to chase singing instead. As long as I’m involved in the arts in some shape or form, I’m happy. My main resistance towards performance-based options, like singing or acting, was my preference for directly creating content as opposed to bringing the content “to life”. I’m an introvert and I like thinking a lot and performing is more about ‘doing’. At the end of the day, I think I benefit from more doing and less thinking because I really can’t stop the thinking anyway…
Do you remember the first time you performed live on stage? How big was the audience and how did it feel?
I remember our first performance as Eight Lives Down. It was back when James Scott was still on guitar and Paul hadn’t joined. It was a strange experience; I was more focused than stressed. We were playing at the Cart & Horses in London, so it was full of Iron Maiden memorabilia. It was a weekday and we had landed the gig thanks to a friend of mine who was gigging there on that night. The audience would have been a handful of people and we were on a bit late so people were leaving (people in the UK sleep really early, at least in relation to Greeks). We started playing and it was a pub, so there was no sound proofing whatsoever. People started coming in off the street and by the middle of our second song we’d amassed quite an audience. It was probably that gig that made us feel that we might have something interesting going on musically and think we should move in that direction more.
What bands did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to a lot of Greek music, Savatage, Slipknot, Sonata Arctica, Homo Iratus, Stratovarius, Rotting Christ, Arch Enemy, Therion, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Blind Guardian, Megadeth, The Dresden Dolls, Good Charlotte, Sum 41, Linkin Park, Iron Maiden, Bad Religion, Mindless Self Indulgence, The Offspring, Eminem, loads of classical music, Japanese music, we could be here for a long time… In terms of what had the most significant lasting impact, I would say Savatage and video game music.
Wow I almost forgot there’s a band called Mindless Self Indulgence. I used to love them as a teenager. I’ll go binge listen to them later. 😂 Have you ever been treated in a sexist way? How would you face sexism and what advice do you give to young people who face discrimination in their lives every day?
What a question! Commence the ranting female, hahaha! I’m going to have to break the question down into a few parts. For the first part, yes, and the fact that I personally know a handful of females who say they have never been treated in a sexist way blows my mind away. Where are these women living? I want in! So, in life, yes, constantly. In the metal scene, I’ve been somewhat lucky. It was rough in the beginning because I literally spent 2 years of my life sifting through band ads that explicitly stated “no women wanted”. Then there are the people who want “women” in the band, which means they want someone dressed in a specific way wearing makeup… I don’t wear makeup. It just isn’t something I choose or want for myself. Either way, that was annoying. From then on, I didn’t run into much trouble. It’s been a good ride so far. How I face sexism really depends on the context. Often sexism is some form of power play, an attempt at superiority of some kind so I need to question what kind, how much I care, how much I think this is aimed at me specifically or might impact other women. I’ll push back or stay silent depending on my mood. In general my approach is to stay focused. If someone thinks women can’t do something, I ask myself whether this interests me and, if it does, I set out to learn how to do it. Advice for people facing discrimination in their daily lives… My experience of daily discrimination comes from childhood because my mother was a “foreigner”, and this was unwanted. I think there are multiple struggles to navigate if it’s your daily life. First, you have to check that you aren’t associating the discrimination with a position of power but that you remember that it is usually abuse of power. This is in order to try preventing yourself from becoming part of the problem. Many people who are pushed down in life will push others down if the opportunity presents itself. Second, you need a sense of perspective that’s wider than your personal suffering. Is pushing against the discrimination going to make everything worse? Is it better to face the discrimination head on or through a third party, some form of activism etc? Third, what can you control/change? Why is this discrimination there in the first place? Are the roots historical, cultural, personal? If you’re lucky you might be able to talk to the people who are making your life difficult directly. Don’t criticize, just ask honest questions. I have been able to have honest, difficult discussions with bullies and people who were terrible to me. Whether it resolves the situation or not is a different matter, but you personally gain many things in life from having these kind of experiences and the skill of being able to talk to others without flaming a fire from hell is valuable. If you can, develop this skill! Try to figure out who you’d like to be and whether you think the best strategy is to join them and attack from the inside or fight from the sidelines. Both have different pros and cons. Good luck!
That’s a brilliant answer! If you could get rid of one problem the world is facing right now, which problem would that be?
I could give you a million different responses depending on the day and mood I’m in when you ask me. My first though was intellectual poverty. My second thought was poverty itself. However, I will conclude that if I had to eliminate one thing it would be ad hominem arguments. Is there any space on planet earth, whether in-person or online, that an individual will not be attacked simply for who they are? It is effective because it conjures up emotions in others and makes them more likely to agree with you but this is a case of numbers and mob mentality not being a societal positive… I catch myself internally throwing around ad hominem arguments. It’s normal and natural but we’d be better off without them. Imagine how many issues we could discuss and tackle as a species if we were mentally capable of staying on track! I’d like ad hominem gone both for myself personally and society at large.
Thank you for the interview Aliki! Interviewing you was an education for me. Good luck for you and Eight Lives Down in all your future plans.