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Press of Darkness

UNDERGROUND METAL FANZINES SINCE THE 80S

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Interview with Experience the Power from Greece

Experience the Power

"Experience the Power" has been carrying the flame of traditional power and progressive metal since the early 90s. Its dedication and enthusiasm is second to none, focusing on unknown and upcoming artists and perfectly representing the essence of a fanzine.

In an age where music is just a few clicks away, qualified recommendations on what to listen to are harder to find. If you're looking for traditional power metal, sometimes with a progressive flavor, "Experience the Power" should be your selected choice.

Steve Totomis, the man behind the steering wheel, answered our questions. Hi Steve! Please introduce yourself.

My name is Steve Totomis, 50 years old and I come from Greece. My main daily job is Telecom Engineer in T-Mobile here in Greece since I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering in the university in my teens, but my true love comes to music and more specific in classic Heavy Metal that I discovered in the mid-80’s when I was 15 years old or so.


You started publishing “Experience the Power” fanzine in the 90s. Can you tell what inspired you to start? What are you most happy about from those times?

Well, I have to say that in my early teenage years I was mostly listening to foreign Pop / light Rock music but when Hip-Hop and Rap made an entrance in the scene and, as I was going older, I discovered Hard Rock and Metal and soon I was fascinated by bands like SCORPIONS, DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW, WHITESNAKE, ACCEPT just to name a few of the big legendary acts of that era. My first record was “Hysteria” of DEF LEPPARD and soon I started buying records and cassettes since CDs were not available at this period. I remember I got my first CDs around 1990 with SCORPIONS “Crazy World” probably being the first one. Soon after I started listening to HR/HM, I met my long-friend George “The Omen” Theodorelos, editor of the first legendary Greek Fanzine titled “Power Metal Zine” which is still available, and he quickly introduced me in the local and international underground Power Metal scene. It took me a couple of years searching, listening and attending local live shows collecting real underground Metal gems and even helping George writing some articles in his zine when I thought it was the perfect time to start my own fanzine. I must say that I collected most of the legendary fanzines of that era like the German bible Underground Empire (now continues as an e-zine), SNAKEPIT or the great Dutch newsletter type “Underground Scene Report”, later That’s IT or Heavy Oder Was?! and also bought all the rare demo cassette tapes from distribution services like Hellion Records, Master Records, Sentinel Steel, so I was ready to start my own zine. My main vision was to introduce all these great new underground bands to the fans and I decided to write it down in English since I could as I wanted to reach to as many fans as possible from all over the globe and also give a chance to our local Greek Metal bands to get a bigger publicity abroad as well. What I recall from that era was the true underground spirit and the enthusiasm we felt when we discovered a new great underground Metal band.

Why did you stop publishing your fanzine in 1996 after issue number 7? Can you tell how #8 and #9 issues happened? (If I am correct, they were published in the early 00s.)

Actually, the zine stopped after the release of #9 Issues #8 and #9 has a different format, but this was mainly for two reasons. The first 7 issues has a specific format that was inspired from the newsletter format of Underground Scene Report (the Dutch fanzine that I already told you) and also because the computer means / equipment we had by the end of 80’s were allowing to keep a certain set-up in the publication. As technology was advancing and MS Windows and Office were created, abilities multiplied so the next two issues #8 and #9 were edited in a different, more professional way. Also the fact that both issues were a lot bigger in number of pages we had to publish it in a different way that the typical A3 newspaper format that the older issues had.


Now why did I stop after issue 9? It was the period when I had finished by studies in the university and had to attend to the army for my obligatory 2 years military service in Greece. During that period everything stops in the normal life of a Greek male teenager here in Greece since you must live for two years into military camps learning to be a soldier for the nation’s needs. After the military service was over new chapters had to start, meaning a search for a first job and in my case also an engagement with my beautiful wife Marina so time was very limited although I never kept my self away from the underground scene. I just had no time and perhaps desire to return into the writing process of the fanzine.


You resumed your fanzine work in 2019 with issue 10. Why did you decide to revive the fanzine? Why did you choose the printed format and not a website, FB page or a podcast?

I have to say that during all these years there were a few times when I had strong thoughts of getting back into business and several friends of mine were trying to encourage me to start it all over again, but something happened, and I never took that final decision. In 2019 though two new friends I met who happened to be old-time fans of my zine, Theodore and Christina got in touch with me and convinced me to start the zine once again with their own contribution as well, so it was actually my return but with their help as well. Some of the interviews we put in issue 10 were the interviews that were taken back in the end of #9 when I had started to collect material for the next issue that unfortunately never released. We added a few new fresh ones and all the other reviews and columns, and this was the birth of issue 10 and the return into business. Choosing a printed format was the only option since we are old school guys and we wanted to present what the fans knew as E.T.P. I have also foreseen that internet e-zines, blogs and web browsing was starting to transform into the new mobile social media with Facebook and Instagram being more and more popular and I thought keeping the old school printed fanzines for the die-hard fans and having a Facebook page for all the fresh and quick announcements would work better than writing in a blog or e-zine.

Did your taste in music change over the last 25 years and, if yes, how?

Definitely, but not in a dramatic way… it’s just followed the progression of the music I loved. Classic Hard and Heavy in the 80’s, Power and Progressive in the 90’s and more progressive (modern and classic) in the new millennium, but still I kept myself away from all the trends and the extreme side of Metal. So, I guess more or less I am definitely more opened minded, I can listen to swallow more genres and sounds but still in the end of the day my favorite ones are the ones that used to be in the past.


Your archive re-issue of your first seven issues from 1994 to 1996 is very impressive. What is difficult to implement this re-publication technically? Did you encounter any issues and how did you cope with them? Was it a nice experience to do this project and browse through the old pages again?

Many people keep asking about the old issues and although I still have the original printed test press year by year, it is getting difficult to reproduce directly from papers since I didn’t have the digital files saved after all these years. So I thought it would be nice to create a special Archives issues including all 7 issues in one. For this project I tried to make the best pdf files I could in the best analysis possible without creating too big digital files in Mb so I can use them more easily, but at the same time I restored most of the pictures and logos I could as nowadays through web searching you can almost find any of these pictures and logos in great analysis and even in color format that back in the days may not be available. If I couldn’t find anything I either kept the original ones or if the quality was too bad, I replaced them with different photos from the same period of band. The final result was quite decent although I discovered that in certain pages mostly of the early issues some texting needed to be more clarified or cleaned and there may be a difficulty in reading especially if you have eyes issues, haha… If I find some time I may rework these pages once again to give them more clarity for sure


What fanzine-related activities do you enjoy most? Are there any you dislike?

I enjoy almost everything, the entire process from setting down the bands that will be featured in each issue with interviews and then the questions I have to send after hard study of the band’s history since I want to make unique interviews and not copy-paste questions. I have to say the most difficult and the less enjoyable is the reviews part since I have to listen to the albums extremely carefully at least 2-3 times before writing down an opinion, and this needs quite a lot of time which obviously is not always available, but it is absolutely needed to be 100% honest and fair about every band’s effort, taking under a consideration that every criticism from fans like us who are not musicians implement a risk to say things that may sound or be incorrect music-wise. So at least we need to be honest and precise and, of course, review only albums and music that we personally like and in a way our review will help and offer something to the bands and not the opposite.


 

View Experience the Power issues on Press of Darkness by clicking the covers below:



 

Would you say that the focus of your fanzine coverage shifted from the 94-96 era compared to now? If so, how?

Yeah perhaps a bit as I said I developed as a listener and now I can adapt easily music genres that in the past might have been harder to swallow, haha. But generally I believe I stick to my roots and try to add new directions here and there. Don’t forget that music has changed quite a lot during these decades so we need to follow it as well.

I see that you favor "older" styles like US power metal, for example. However, in reviews you also reference recent bands with a more “modern” sound like Leprous and VOLA. Do you like them? What part of your listening time do you allocate to bands of "newer" styles?

Yes, Progressive Power Metal and related genres like classic Heavy, Hard Rock, Prog Rock and Doom Metal are all music that I love. I even like some heavier stuff in Speed/Thrash if there are certain elements that are followed basically bringing melodic parts as well and having clean, even mid-range vocals. Even after all these years, I truly can’t listen to Death, Black and extreme Metal genres while I can also follow bands that sound a bit more modern, what I used to say Alternative-based Progressive or modern-based technical progressive, but definitely not Nu-Metal, Hard-core stuff and Grunge.


Greece is famous for passionate metal fans and many bands warmly describe their live-show

experiences in your country. If, let's say, I will visit Greece someday, which venue and what kind of metal show would you recommend to attend?

I believe before the pandemic we had quite a few small/mid level venues where you could listen in a quite decent sonic level most of the Domestic Metal bands plus mid-size Foreign ones as well. We have 2-3 bigger clubs that can host around 1000-2000 fans and then we have a lot of great open places / theaters / stadiums where bigger names like IRON MAIDEN can perform or Summer Festivals as well. There are also several quite famous festivals during the year like Up the Hammers, Release Athens Festival, Rockwave Festival and several others in the rural part of Greece and in the islands like Horns Up in Trikala , Chania Rock festival, Rethymno Rock Festival and Over the Wall in Heraklion (all in Crete) and several others in Athens, so even if some smaller clubs and venues closed during the pandemic, slowly we return to the post pandemic situation and to normality. Things are definitely better than in the 80’s where we attended 3-4 big bands lives in the

entire year since Greece has a drawback that is in the far east side of Europe and getting there takes more time and cost more money.


How big of an audience bands like Ghost or Helloween would attract in the biggest cities of Greece? What about Atheist, Dream Theater, Voivod or Fates Warning?

These kind of band on their own will be somewhere between 1000-2000 fans but if they come as a part of a bigger festival like HELLOWEEN did in the summer in Release then you can get closer to 10.000 people. More famous bands in the Greek audience like MAIDEN, GUNS AND ROSES, AC/DC, SCORPIONS may get somewhere between 30000 and even more. This summer in release they are announced bands like JUDAS PRIEST / DICKINSON/ ACCEPT in day 1 and MEGADETH/BLIND GUARDIAN at day 2 so we expect more than 10.000 per day easily. Greek fans don’t have the chance to see such big names more than 1-2 times in a lifetime unless they travel abroad so when venues book bands of that level, even not in their prime fans always attend to live the show and the atmosphere of listening to these all-time classics


From the outside, it seems that Greece fans love different kinds of metal. However, not so many Greek bands got famous worldwide. I can think of some extreme metal bands, like Rotting Christ, or maybe power metal like Firewind, but not so many more. Do you agree with this? What do you think are the reasons why not so many Greek metal bands broke through on a bigger scale? Are there any recent Greek metal releases that you would like to recommend to others?

In terms of music quality, I believe the scene is better than many bigger scenes in my opinion as we have fine artists and bands. We also have quite a lot bands per fan if you read some articles about the ratio of bands quantity per country’s population. Now I believe the main reason why we don’t have the popularity and the international career that many bands would deserve based on their quality is definitely not one but a combination. But the most important reasons are definitely the fact that we are in the far East side of Europe and getting closer to scenes and fests in Europe (central and Northern) demands time and money that many bands don’t have. Also dedication on what you want to do. The is a certain lack, because most of these artists don’t manage to make a leaving out of music so they have to keep a priority in their daily jobs to support themselves and their families and secure some extra income to spend for their bands as well. It is hard to be a Metal musician not only in Greece but in most small countries with few labels / managements /

places to perform live and affordable studios to record and publish your music. I believe these are the main reasons when we listen to several great releases from Greek bands, but at the same time a lack of presence outside Greece in the bigger scenes and festivals where thousands of fans gather and you have the opportunity to present your music and also get some profit from selling merch.

 

Sacred Outcry's (power metal from Greece) "Towers of Gold" album was a frequent guest on many metal Top 10 lists of 2023.



 

How do you discover new music? Do you have any websites or printed media that you follow? Do you stream or do you listen to physical records?

In the past it was all about buying mags and fanzines since there was no web. Also getting in touch with fans from all over the world as pen-pals who later trade music through tape-trading. I had made several great friends from all over the world and met so many underground bands especially from Germany and in the States, friends that I found again later in Facebook mostly and re-united with them. Nowadays is mostly through YouTube channels, Facebook and generally through the net. It is hard but there are very few fanzines at least printed that still exist and are able to dig deep in the underground. I still try to do so and as I was proud to be one of the very first that discovered bands like ROYAL HUNT, SAVIOR MACHINE to the wider audience when none almost knew about them and even now that things are definitely more easily discovered, I still try to get into bands that are not so widely presented and believe there are still quite a lot of these but you have to search, listen and have your eyes and ears open.


As for streaming I definitely do, and I also get most of the new releases I review in mp3 format through the bands press kits since for cost-efficiency reasons most of the bands work that way but as a fan I want to keep the very best music I love in psychical formal and although I am not a vinyl fan from the day CD was introduced in the market, I keep more than 10.000 CDs in my collection and a few hundred vinyl, and I still keep buying the kind of music that feels special to me. In the past I tried to collect almost everything, but recently I understood both that it is impossible to have everything even if you try so it is kind of vanity, and second in this way you will definitely stock even too mediocre stuff that you probably won’t listen for your rest of your life and I believe there is no reason to do so.


 

If your memory got a bit fuzzy or you missed the boat, enjoy Royal Hunt's melodic power with a progressive flavor and Saviour Machine's grandiose gothic symphonic metal!




 

Do you feel that you can appreciate new albums, or do you catch yourself concluding that new albums don't impact you the same way as the albums from the 80s/90s?

I believe 80’s/90’s had a more unique and influential sound and definitely can’t be compared with modern days. I keep listening nowadays to old underground, unreleased stuff that back then sounded rather mediocre to me compared to the great ones that had official contracts and releases, and if I try to compare them with most of the new stuff I listen from young bands they sound 10 times better proving that these days were truly amazing in terms of music quality. On the other hand, nowadays you may definitely listen to better musicians in terms of technical skills, better productions as well, very well-presented releases but mostly you will miss the genuine feeling and the great ability that these bands had: To create memorable songs that could pass the test of time and sound classics for ages.


You have been following the scene for many years. Can you name Top 3 - 5 bands or records that remain very obscure to this day, but you feel that they should have received wider recognition?

I don’t want to make a research right now, but if you have all my issues, especially the first 9 ones you will definitely read inside about some of the most obscure bands ever existed and even demos and promos that are not listed anywhere not even in Metal Archives and there were definitely several bands that deserved to had a bigger career and success like MYRMIDION CREED, REACTOR, FERNGULLY, TWILIGHT KINGDOM, ETERNITY X, DAYS OF YORE, CRUSADER, FRANTIC and many many others and for several different reasons failed. But mags like Experience the Power captured this period of time and kept all this information for the younger Metal generation to read, learn and discover and who knows, maybe some will manage to re-locate these artists and bring their music back to the frontline giving them justice even after all these decades.


There are a number of great record labels worldwide that focus on releasing old obscure cult metal records that may have never had a proper release before. Some of those labels are based in Greece, for example, Sonic Age or Arkeyn Steel/Steel Gallery. Do you closely follow their activities?

Yes, Kostas from Arkeyn Steel, Manos from Cult Metal and several other great people like Matt from Divebomb and Jeremy/Gary from Heaven and Hell or Stormspell Records are all friends of mine, and I don’t only follow them but also co-operate with them and if I can I also help them locating artists that may be interested in and we have managed to re-release several forgotten lost gems and hopefully we will continue in the future with God’s will.

 

Check out some of the great metal record labels that focus on re-releasing old cult classics!



 

Thank you for the interview and for your great effort and enthusiasm writing about the metal scene!

It is the first time I give an interview and not take one, and I am honored and grateful as well. I am in the Underground scene from the early 90’s and I give my best for the music I love and for all these bands that deserves our extra help and attention. And like my good friend and Metal brother George “The Omen” says “Don’t support the Underground – Be a part of it”. Do it and you will see everything under a complete different view. Experience the Power Fanzine on Facebook

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