Photoshoot by Fernando Lezaun
The years since last album The Wanderer has seen Spanish symphonic metallers Diabulus In Musica as busy as ever whilst facing the challenge of losing and replacing two thirds of its line-up. The band’s return with new full-length Argia shows that not only have they overcome a rocky time but found a new potency and strength to their sound and presence. Written by the band founders, vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez and keyboardist Gorka Elso, the album is an immense and increasingly impressing encounter, a release which grows and explores emotions with every listen. Given the opportunity to chat with Zuberoa once again we explored the cloudy time between albums, the chance of the band calling it a day, new members and much more….
Hi Zuberoa, welcome back to the RingMaster Review
We talked to you last just after the release of the Wanderer and have the pleasure to catch up with the recent release of new album Argia. Before we talk about the release, can you bring us up to date with what has happened within and to Diabulus In Musica between releases?
It has been a very intensive period. After the release of The Wanderer we worked on a soundtrack for a book of Basque mythology (Itzalen Sua) and we played some shows to present that project. Right after this we started to write the songs for the new album and at the same time we started with rehearsals with the new members for some shows we had at that time too, so we haven’t stopped!
You mentioned new members; it is a major thing to have 3/5 of your band change, how did that impact on the band at the time and if at all on the new album?
They told us they would leave in summer and they still played a couple of shows with us. In the meanwhile we searched for the new members to play the “Itzalen Sua” show we had in January. At the beginning we weren’t sure what to do after this show, but we decided to continue with the band. After all Gorka and I are the main composers and founders of the band, so it had no sense to give up. After taking this decision the inspiration came to me and I started to write the new album. We also had some shows with the new line up in June and they turned out pretty well, so that also made us feel more confident about the future. As I said before we haven’t stopped working, so even if at first their departure was really hard for us, we soon followed our musical instinct so it finally hasn’t impacted that much. We feel more confident now about what we are able to do alone. We are very happy with the new album!
Was there any thought of bringing Diabulus In Musica to a close because of the departures, of starting a fresh with a new project possibly?
To be honest yes… At first I tried to convince the others to stay, we even proposed to start a totally different new thing and change the name, just to stay the five of us, but they already had their own project so I don’t think it would have worked. We would have regretted it at the end, because Diabulus in Musica is like our child and we have achieved things Gorka and me would have never imagined when we started. It was our project, we were the core of it and that’s what made us understand DiM would definitely have to stay alive.
How difficult was it in finding the right people to suit, fit in with, and inspire the next twist of the journey of the band?
We always try to work with people we already know. We don’t like to do castings. DiM has always been like a family, so we preferred to work with people we know we can work with. We are lucky to live in a small but very active city musically wise, so we already had in mind some candidates. We had met Alexey (guitar player) and David (drummer) for some years, so we first thought about them. Odei (bass player) was the only one we didn’t know before, but he was a friend of Alexey, so we already had some references too. We feel we all fit very well musically and personally.
I believe some of the new members are involved in other bands, how has that worked with their addition to Diabulus In Musica?
Yes, Alexey is the leader of his own death metal band Allowance and David is the drummer of the famous Spanish band Tierra Santa, but we really wanted to work together and the schedule for the other bands was compatible with ours, so for the moment there hasn’t been any problem.
Backed to your excellent new album Argia, a release we have to say has continued to work on us and impresses more week by week. How would you say it differs and has moved on from The Wanderer?
Thank you; I’m glad that you like it! We are very happy with it. For me it has been a step forward. It is more mature and much more personal; the most personal so far, because the inspiration came from all the happenings that took place these two last years. The writing process has been also very different, because for The Wanderer we wrote a story before and then thought which kind of songs would fit on it. Everything was planned and now it has been more spontaneous. Musically I have also done what I wanted to do. Before we were five people to give opinions and now we were just two (the new members just wrote a couple of riff structures, we preferred them to focus on learning the old songs), so I have expressed just what I wanted. It’s a very varied album where almost all my musical influences are present.
Is there a theme behind Argia and has the departure of members in its emergence brought anything extra to the songs in any way?
Yes, that’s actually the main topic on the album and three of the songs refer to our new situation as a band. “Argia” means “Light” or “clear” in Basque. This title somehow reflects how we feel now, after we had to start from scratch when the other band-members left. It was very hard at the beginning, but we both alone managed to write new songs, find new band-members and play some live shows in only one year. We saw the light in our path again and we had a clear view that we had to continue making music, just because we love it so much that we cannot live without it. On the other hand, this situation and others I’ve also experimented at the same time made me wonder about some human behaviours and made me try to understand others and myself better.
So a stronger personal element has emerged in your songs and music this time around as listening to Argia you do get that sense of intimacy and personal angst.
Absolutely. As I said it is our most personal album so far. The lyrics are directly connected to what I’ve just said. All the themes come from personal experiences and feelings. Some of them refer to our new situation, some others are more critical and the rest are much more introspective and are related to some of my spiritual believes. That’s why the album is so eclectic, because many different feelings are reflected. This album was born from a need to express so many feelings I had inside. I always say “Argia” had a therapeutic effect on me.
I am assuming with the new album the writing process was a little different to that around The Wanderer, with it just being the two of you at one point?
Yes. The Wanderer was a planned consensus and Argia was a kind of spontaneous dictatorship (ha-ha just kidding), but it is true that I was in a kind of bubble, focused on my music and feelings. It is easy that one loses the perspective, so at the beginning we weren’t very confident. Our friend Ad Sluijer was the first to listen to the first new songs and give his opinion, he even wrote the riff structure for From The Embers, that made us recover the confidence too, because it is not the same to count on five opinions than writing alone, as I said it is difficult to find an objective point of view of your own work.
Did you find that just the process of writing songs helped give you clarity in making the decision to continue as Diabulus In Musica or did they come after you both had sorted out thoughts and feelings after the leaving of members?
We decided to go on before writing the new stuff, but I suppose that if the inspiration didn’t have come, we would have had to change our minds and stop with the band. When we saw we loved what we have done we recovered the strength to continue. Now that we have seen the reviews are so good, we are even more thrilled about the future. We will try to write the five of us from now and work as a team. We all come from different music background so I think the result of writing together can be very interesting.
In our review of The Wanderer we felt the band either went on the aggressive attack or all out melodic seduction with songs, not really merging the two between one individual encounter. Argia seems to be more willing to let the extremes share moments. Is this something you will investigate further do you feel, really entwining the two at times?
You never know how it’s going be the result when you start writing. We sometimes think we are going to follow one direction and then when we finish we realize we have done something different from what we had in mind at first, but I think this is the magic of music too, that it takes shape and grows with you, it is something alive. I’m sure our music will always be full of contrasts, because I find them necessary to express different emotions. I love musical eclecticism. I also like to conceive an album as a soundtrack that makes one travel through different sceneries, feelings, atmospheres… that’s why we use so many elements. We will follow this path and we will keep on working with extremes and exploring with new sounds, but I cannot tell how this will turn out at the end.
Our two favourite tracks on the album were Spoilt Vampire and Mechanical Ethos with ease. Can you give some background and insight to the pair?
I love those songs too. They are maybe the most experimental and more metal in this album. In fact these two songs are the only ones where the new band members have written some riffs and I think the mix with our symphonic elements worked out pretty cool, so I’m almost sure we will keep on exploring this side with the new line-up in the future.
How was the recording process with Argia, did you approach it any differently to how you created The Wanderer in the studio?
The production process was quite similar. We recorded in our home studios and the mixing and mastering was done by Jacob Hansen. We have changed only a few details regarding the acoustic instruments and choir. We doubled the voices searching for more timbres and we recorded a real wood wind section of the orchestra as well as the percussions. We wanted to introduce new colours in the music so I also recorded different flutes and the Celtic harp. I really liked the result, it sounds clear, round, bombastic…
I have to say that Argia took longer to ignite the passions than its predecessor but did do to the same depth and rich success. Obviously taste and emotions are a personal thing to discover with a release but is there anything different about the album which you could see might take longer to persuade?
Maybe, I don’t know, but it can probably be because this one has a bit more depth. Being more personal, it has our essence and it is not maybe so easy to take for everybody, but I’m surprised we have received many compliments from the listeners about the feelings it transmits, so I guess most of the listeners really caught the emotions captured in the songs of Argia.
As with all your albums, it sees exciting guest appearances; this time the likes of vocalist Ailyn Giménez of Sirenia and Therion frontman Thomas Vikström. What was the spark to bring them into particular songs?
Yes, we were very lucky to count on them! I met Ailyn some time ago and we became friends, we even sung together live last year at MFVF. As the song where Ailyn is singing is in Spanish and both of us are from Spain, it was the best choice. Besides, we have different voices that complement each other very well, so I asked her if she would like to take part in this song. She likes a lot the band, so she immediately accepted and I was very happy to have her beautiful voice in one of our tracks!
Regarding Thomas, we needed a very special voice for this duet. I must admit that this song wrote itself. Gorka started with the verses, but he wasn’t sure. When I listened to them I could easily hear inside my mind the choruses and even the voices on them, so I continued with the song. Then I was wondering who was that male voice I could hear inside… We wanted a versatile male singer who could give to the song a “music theatre” touch, even operatic. Thomas is an amazing singer; he has actually sung a wide variety of styles from classical to metal, so he was the perfect candidate. I contacted him and sent him a rough demo of the song. I was so excited when he accepted and he told me he really liked the song and my voice! It has been such an honour for me to sing with him!
The album also sees you sing a song, Furia de Libertad, for the first time in Spanish. It is surprising in hindsight that you have not done so before so is there any reason for that and what inspired you to do so upon Argia?
You’re right. Honestly I had never thought that Spanish would sound good on Symphonic metal, but our Latin fans were asking for a song in Spanish for a long time, however, I had never found the right place to include a song in Spanish. I thought it would be nice to give a try with Argia. Actually, when I composed this song I knew this was the right one to try, as it had a Spanish flavour on it.
Can you tell us, as we are linguistically useless, about the lyrical narrative in the song?
It actually talks about the Spanish situation nowadays. The song is dedicated to all the victims of the political and economic crisis (and also crisis of values) in our country.
Last time we spoke we talked about the metal and music scene in Spain. Has it improved any over the past couple of years and is it seeing more bands of any genre emerging with stronger politically driven and anger fuelled intent over the financial and social problems which has hit every country in Europe and around the world.
I wouldn’t say it has changed at all, I think the situation is even worst… It was a bit exasperating to see no reaction from the population and more tedious to see how the government wrote new laws trying to criminalize all kind of protests. It is really a shame!! Anyway, it has been a relief to finally see we were able to break the bipartisanship in the last elections. There is still a long path ahead though…
What is next in store for and from Diabulus In Musica?
We will try to play live as much as we can to present the new album out there and then start to write the new stuff for the following release!
Once more many thanks for talking with us, it is always a pleasure.
Our pleasure! Thank you so much for your questions and the interest, we really appreciate it!
Is there a last thought you would like to leave us contemplating?
I just want to thank everyone who has supported us in some way. You know we are not living easy moments in the music industry, so your support is more important than ever! Hope to meet you all in the road one day ;)
Read the review of Argia @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/diabulus-in-musica-argia/
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