ZEMIAL has yet been part of Franang zine when the zine was on paper format, and for those who follow the saga since the early days, they know that I like to support bands all along their career. ZEMIAL is one of the few Greek Black Metal band (even though they were established in Australia for some years ) that remains true to their root. Nevertheless, their new album "In Monumentum" was the opportunity to get news from the twisted brothers who officiate in this truly excellent combo. I caught the opportunity to get news from Agatus too. Read on clever answers from Vorskaath. Interview conducted in August 2007.
Hail Eskarth and Vorskaath, first of all thanks again for answering a new interview with Franang zine !!! Horns
up !

Greetings Eric, it is my pleasure to do so.

How is the day today ? So now you're come back from Australia and live in Germany now. How has your experience been over there and why did you move back to Europe ?
The day is great: raining gently and the sounds of Camel’s “Single Factor” provide the musical inspiration and background. A good start for the day. Now my brother and I have long wanted to return to Europe and continue our music projects from here. Australia was nice but very far from the rest of the world when it comes to what we do. At present I am very close to my friends and family in Hellas and the immediate opportunities available for musicians are far greater than in Adelaide – Australia.

I guess you choose to come back to Germany because it is the largest Metal scene in Europe…?
I chose Germany because I had already been here several times in the past and always liked what I saw. Germany has the biggest music scene of any genre. I certainly would not move here just for the Metal scene ! Music in general is big here and German people seem to be open to most styles and approaches to music, hence the reason for all European tours always passing through Germany.

Excepted me being wrong in the early days of ZEMIAL you were really involved in the underground Metal scene collecting demos, EP and fanzines. How is your regard now on this early Black / Death Metal scene ? What were the demos and 7EP that really affected you musically back then ? Can you remember some fanzines you were die-hard fan of ?
You are right. As I always say, the underground scene was entirely different to what the scene is today (naturally). I definitely preferred it to today, though the scene today may have its moments as well. Demos that really inspired me were:
Rotting Christ "Satanas Tedeum", Treblinka "The Sign of the Pentagram", Asphyx "Crush the Cenotaph", Master’s Hammer "Jilemnický okultista", "The Mass", Samael "Messenger of the Light", Varathron "Genesis of Apocryphal Desire".
Good fanzines Daemonium Aeturnus, Slayer, the short publications from the Absu guys, Putrefaction and others that elude at the moment.

Let's keep on this topic, the scene you come from was born nearly twenty years ago could you remember your very first steps in this scene both as a fan and a musician ? The Greek scene was pretty strong back then with Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Varathron, Kawir and Zemial, do you have funny stories about these bands in their debut as I guess you shared rehearsal rooms, gigs or pub with them and do you like the latest materials from Rotting Christ and Varathron ?
I definitely remember the early days of the scene in Hellas. To begin with everything seemed completely new. Most of the people involved in the formation of this early scene were not really musicians but fans that were trying to play their instrument as well as possible.
There were certain studios that we had shared (Zenetzis studio, Storm/Molon Lave studio) for recordings and rehearsals and hence the similarity in sound in many of those bands. Yea, there were many good stories from that time either at clubs, at gigs, at the studios or when meeting at somebody’s house (there were times when there were up to 10 - 15 people in the bedroom of the Rotting Christ brothers). Too many and too long to mention really.
I have not heard the latest Varathron, but the little I heard of the new Rotting Christ sounded good.

The musical evolution of ZEMIAL is rather uncommon, "The Sleeping Under Tartarus", "For The Glory Of UR" are pure grim Black Metal while "Face The Conqueror" is more Heavy Metal oriented and the new "In Monumentum" is more Epic Black Metal. How could you explain these changes according to releases ? Do you think ZEMIAL has no musical borderlines and can play in any Metal directions ?
I think we can play in most musical styles (depending on the personnel of course) and during the last tour I presented an instrumental piece that was 13 minutes long with constantly changing time-signatures, with lots of counterpoint, harmonies, classically influences sections, very soft parts and so on. Some people tried to headbang, but doing so with ever changing time signatures was good cause for whiplash, ha, ha ! It seemed something difficult for fans to digest in a live situation, so we stopped playing it on the tour.
I realise that we have evolved since the beginning and without that evolution (however slight) I would be really bored of the band. Certainly I am not interested in playing the same and the same.
I think there are certain ZEMIAL elements in everything I do, however the greater picture is ever-changing and so it will be for the future as well. Playing "Full Moon Necrophilia" live might be a total blast, but when it comes to writing music, 3 riff-songs can cover some ground perhaps but naturally they cannot cover a wide area of emotions and images. There is still much to be experienced !
The first criterion for ZEMIAL is that I am satisfied with what music that I write at the time I write it. I normally write for 2 guitars, bass, drums and vocals (without counting additional percussion or keyboards) and there is just so much that can be expressed with those instruments individually and as sections. I am open to those possibilities and I definitely want to explore them gradually. Different scales, rhythms, instrumentation, concepts… They are all tools for expression.
I have to congratulate you for the new album "In Monumentum". I was astonished to see a "pagan"-like cover. I feared that ZEMIAL would have turned a Pagan Black Metal band, but actually except for the lyrics, the musical part of the album reminds me a lot like "For The Glory Of UR" with a slight epic touch. What is your view now on this release ?
Thank you. I am glad you like the album. I am not sure why you ‘feared’ that we would have turned into something else (cause many bands just turn the jacket up side down with years –eg). As I told you, I like to constantly change and I really do not think, ‘ok we will be a Thrash band today and a Pagan band tomorrow’. I am not sure exactly what Pagan Black Metal is anyway ! I write what I write and I don’t think of the labels people place on my music. Some people think of "In Monumentum" as a predominantly Heavy Metal album, whilst others find it Black Metal, Pagan Metal and we have even had people think that we are now a right-wing band ! It is incredible how the mind works… Certainly I don’t care how people interpret our music and image. My position has been made clear a thousand times: I write music and evoke images. The music includes a variety of elements and influences filtered through a Heavy Metal approach and my lyrics deal with mythology, fantasy, history, philosophy, etc. As long as you like what you hear then the labels don’t really matter. It is music. I am not passing any hidden messages trying to manipulate the masses, it is just music. For pleasing the mind and soul. Simple.
I view "In Monumentum" as our most mature release so far. It includes a variety of different musical elements, unusual instrumentation, and though it brought ZEMIAL to a new direction, it clearly reflects our past as well. I am still very happy with the album and I still enjoy the compositions. They are simple, yet they have different layers of harmonies and poly/rhythms that are below the surface so to speak. Those details I appreciate most.
I always look back and consider what can be improved and what I will do better in the future, but with this album, I have felt more content than I have with releases of the past.
How has "In Monumentum" been recorded ? I mean did you record the sessions live ? Could you describe your gear as your sound is very personal ?
All the tracks were layered. It would not have been possible otherwise, because when I went into the studio I only had a couple of riffs and some ideas for song structures nothing more. "In Monumentum" (the title track) for instance, was composed about 2 hours before I recorded it. I had a deadline to meet and the ideas just kept coming. If we were not limited by the tracks we used and the time-restriction, there would have been many more details in this album. Besides, there are multiple lines fin each song, so they could not have been recorded live unless we had a small ensemble in the studio.
We tried to emulate the various stages of Bathory as closely as possible with regards to the equipment used (brands and models), the guitar sounds, the tempi of the songs, the mix balance, the synth sounds,
Here is a list of some of the equipment we used: Gibson Les Paul Standard and MHX guitars through Fender and Woogie amplification; Boss and Lexicon effects, Ovation Elite Custom acoustic guitar, Ibanez 12-string acoustic guitar, Yamaha 5-string Bass through a Peavey amp; Pearl DLX (mahogany & maple) drums; Sonor Designer (thin maple) drums; a Brady Jarrah snare; Remo roto-toms; assort cymbals by Paiste, Sabian, Zildjian, Bosphorus and UFIP; various percussion; Silverfox + Grover sticks and mallets ; various synthesizers and it all went through a small 16-track Yamaha console. We used no outboard effects or processors, so we were limited to the few items available through the console and I think it went really well. The original intention was to produce the album to sound similar to Bathory’s different stages. In fact, it seems we also approached the Bathory production methods in terms of technical limitations. The result is convincing and that is what counts.

I was wondering if "In Monumentum"' title album is a dedication to the old Italian band Monumentum that released an awesome debut album ?
If you carefully look below the lyrics of the title track, as well as between the credits, you will find that the album is in fact dedicated to Quorthon and the song itself dedicated to Quorthon and my good friend and incredible guitarist C. Puglisi, who passed away shortly before the completion of "In Monumentum". It is a memorial to their names. "In Monumentum" to Bathory really.
Monumentum were a great Italian band and their debut was indeed an awesome album but it has nothing to do with the ZEMIAL "In Monumentum" album.

"Face Of The Conqueror" and "In Monumentum" have been recorded in Australia while others older materials were recorded in Greece, what are the main differences between European and Aussie studios? If I'm not wrong you always recorded ZEMIAL's album by yourself didn't you ?
That is not correct. Our 7” EP Sleeping Under Tartarus" as well as the demos we between 1989 and 1992 were recorded in Hellas. All other Zemial releases were recorded in Australia.
The country where the studio is located does not affect the sound. The engineer, the rooms and the equipment does. "Face of the Conqueror" and "In Monumentum" were recorded entirely at Eskarth’s studio The Vault. "Necrolatry" was recorded as a 4-track rehearsal at my house. The rest has been recorded in different studios around Adelaide which were all appalling (there was also one recording done in Berlin 1998). After several encounters with ridiculous situations during recording sessions, Eskarth decided to build his own studio which is where we recorded from that time onward.
Yes I always record everything alone, though Eskarth puts the occasional touch. In the last 2 releases he has contributed some solos for instance. Other than that, I normally record a basic guitar track and then record the drums and begin the multi-tracking process.

"In Monumentum" hasn't got much of promotion in the Metal scene in comparison to "The Glory Of UR". I got the news by chance going on your web site but otherwise I wouldn't have seen the new release. Don't you think that releasing an album on your own was a mistake ? By the way why didn't you release this album through Iron Pegasus ? Are your relations with this label altered ?
"For the Glory of UR" had been released 2 times by 3 different labels. Their distribution and advertising is greater than my own when starting with my first release. That aside however, we are now reaching almost 3,000 copies sold of the CD version and 400 (out 500) copies of the Picture LP have already been pre-sold. That is better than most of our old releases.
I have been accepting orders directly and I have been collaborating with official ZEMIAL distributors around the world, which buy large quantities directly from me and distribute it in their region. We have official distributors in Australia, North America, Brazil, Hellas, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, and Finland.
Iron Pegasus had never fully financed a ZEMIAL release. They only licensed what we had already done. We had a serious issue with royalties not being paid and so I moved on. In addition, the promotion they were offering was very, very limited. There were way too many fans and magazines writing to me saying that they cannot find the release anywhere and that Iron Pegasus did not respond to their requests. I now own all the rights to the entire ZEMIAL back-catalogue which is good, as it is now in my hands what I do and I personally deal with fans and media.
Releasing "In Monumentum" on my own has been one of the best things I have ever done for ZEMIAL and myself as a working musician. Not only have I been able to find exactly how much interest there is for ZEMIAL and communicate with fans and media directly, but in addition, I sell the album cheap enough to be accessible for fans and distributors everywhere and I also receive the full profit for my hard work (instead of 10% which never arrives). I may collaborate with a bigger label in the future if I receive a good offer, but at present, I prefer to reap the fruit of my labour alone.

"For The Glory of UR" and "Necrolatry" vinyls are fucking awesome pieces of Black Metal. These two vinyls are very rare and expensive now. Do you feel proud of this as now ZEMIAL is considered as a "cult" band ?
Yes, it is a great honour to receive that status from fans. Definitely ! It is the best reward to have your creation appreciated. I make music that inspires me and hopefully affects people in some way. I am not doing this to be “cult” or “necro” or any of that stuff. If it is “cult” then great, if it is not then great again. I am happy.

On Metal-Archives web site I saw that you recorded a MLP in 1998 "Breath Of The Pestilence" that was never released, how does it come and how does this vinyl sound ? Will you print it in future ?
"Breath Of The Pestilence" was recorded in Germany in 1998 with Harris Johns but the financing was discontinued from the label, so we kept the masters and put the project on hold. The production is really excellent and perhaps the best we have ever achieved. However, due to the limited budget we only recorded 4 tracks. After "Necrolatry" was released followed by "Face Of The Conqueror" I could not find it within me to release yet another mini album. I am still not sure what I will do with it, but it is likely to see the light of day sometime in the near future - perhaps after another full-length album ! (wow man you've to publish it no matter the it's a mini LP or full length ! - ed)

Vorskaath, you're also drummer in Nocternity, a Greek band that released great albums and that is largely acclaimed in the Black Metal scene. How does it come you joined this combo and how do you fit in Nocternity ?
The main man behind Nocternity has been a very close friend of mine for some years now. He is very particular with how he represents himself and the band and he was mainly interested in collaborating with friends, or people that share a particular way of thinking, not just strangers that could play an instrument. That was the basis of the proposal. So he sent me the material in a pre-production form, I went to Hellas, and without rehearsal he booked a studio and sat in the room with me whilst the tape was rolling, directing me as to what I should play. The result can be hear of the "Harps of the Ancient Temples" EP.

How could you compare your work in ZEMIAL and Nocternity ? I mean it's a different Black Metal approach and philosophy, isn't it ?
Entirely different. Night and day as Khal Drogo himself puts it. However, for me that is good, as it is interesting to collaborate with someone that has an entirely different musical approach. We don’t always agree on musical aspects but we agree to disagree as the saying goes.

I feel like Black Metal fans were a lot into ZEMIAL until you released "Face Of The Conqueror" MLP. This release is much different from the beginning and shows a more Heavy Metal side of your band. How has the band evolved to this MLP ? It's a real shame this MLP didn't get the whole support from the scene as it really kicks ass, don't you think so ?
I am surprised to hear that, because at least from a sales point of view, it seems that people are still as loyal to ZEMIAL as the were in the beginning and since "In Monumentum" we have also gained fans from other genres of Metal. (I stated that as I didn't saw many comment on internet Metal web site-ed) The vinyl edition of "Face Of The Conqueror" was sold out very fast as was the CD edition, so that normally indicates that fans like it a lot. Why would there be the demand for that release otherwise ?
From my side, "Face Of The Conqueror" is one of the strongest ZEMIAL releases and the title track is one of the best ZEMIAL songs ever. "Full Moon Necrophilia" has received a permanent part in our live set list as so many people like it and several bands already cover it. Ultimately, given the facts, I must say that I disagree with your assessment. If you take into consideration factors such as sales, reviews and the crowd response when we play stuff from "Face of the Conqueror", it seems that many people consider it as one of our strongest releases still.

What is the status of Agatus ? The band hasn't recorded anything new since "The Weaving Fates" in 2002, so do you have new songs ready for a new full length ? I feel like ZEMIAL is more Vokskaath's band while Agatus is The Dark's baby….
Correct. Agatus is Eskarth’s brainchild. He has prepared a new album which is now in the final pre-production sages and he is looking for a label to release it through. From the pre-production alone I have to say that this sounds like the most impressive Agatus material yet. Agatus always used a great deal of melody and harmony and the new album (tentatively titled: "Of Magic and Fire”) has taken those elements to the next level. There is still the fast aggressive stuff in there but there is much more added to it. I am certainly looking forward to the full project being completed.

Many European bands deal with Nordic Mythology and bands like Manowar or Bathory really brought Odin and Viking to the front light of Metalheads. As a Greek with one of the strongest European mythology how do you see the Nordic one ? How would you compare both mythologies ? Do you think that now Greece has faded away in the European Union and isn't as important in main political European decisions ?
I think the Nordic Mythology has some really interesting concepts and particularly nice aesthetics. I'm still prefer more ancient mythologies like Sumerian, Babylonian, Aegyptian and Hellenic but every part of the world has it’s own beauty reflected through the beliefs of its native people. Hellenic and Norse mythologies have many common elements as do most mythologies of the world. Both are interesting both are insightful.
The role of Hellas within the European Union… Pan-European decisions are never representative of all Europeans so I am not sure what your point is. Certainly the country has developed a great deal in terms of economy and infra-structure, but it is not one of the big players in the league of Germany, France and Italy. Hellas no doubt remains influential in what it offers Europe culturally. Perhaps not so politically, but few nations offer both (Italy and France perhaps ?).

A final close before closing this chapter, as "In Monumentum" is a bit different from the previous releases, I would like to know if you have yet an idea of how the new album will sound ?
I have no idea. It will probably be different again.