The sounds of passion: an interview with Zuberoa Aznárez of Diabulus In Musica

DiM Photoshoot by Fernando Lezaun

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!

DiM Photoshoot by Fernando Lezaun 3Was 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? Dim cover

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.

DiM Photoshoot by Fernando Lezaun 3As 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 😉

http://diabulusinmusica.com/

Read the review of Argia @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/diabulus-in-musica-argia/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review

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Interview with Zuberoa Aznárez of Diabulus in Musica

photoshoot by Nat Enemede, edited by Heile

Symphonic metal has had an impressive start to the year so far with firstly the excellent album from Xandria and as equally impressively with the release of the new Diabulus in Musica album The Wanderer. The follow-up to their acclaimed debut Secrets the new release shows an even more defined and wonderfully structured sound from the band and a stronger and more dramatic combination of gloriously flowing orchestral symphonic sounds and formidable aggressive intensity. Needing to know more about the release and band itself we had the pleasure of having vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez answer our questions and tell us more about Diabulus in Musica.

Hello Zuberoa and welcome to The RingMaster Review. Thank you for talking with us.

Could you start by introducing the band members and give some history to the band?

Hi! Thank you for the interest and questions!

photoshoot by Nat Enemede, edited by Heile

Gorka (keyboard player) and I founded the band in 2006. We played together in another metal band and Gorka also played with Adrián (DiMs guitar player) in another band, we immediately thought about him when we founded. We started to write songs and we won some contests with them, so we decided to record our first album, Secrets. It was in that moment when our drummer Xabi joined us and a few months later Alex, our bass player. Secrets was released by Metal Blade Records in 2010. It received many great reviews and we had the chance to play in big fests such as the MFVF or Metalfest. Now we have just signed a contract with Napalm Records and our new album The Wanderer has just been released by them on February the 29th.
I am sure you are asked in every interview but please tell us about the band name Diabulus In Musica, the inspiration for it.

There are two reasons why I chose this name for the band. On the one hand, because Early Music is my favorite period in music (and what I usually sing apart from metal), and ‘Diabulus in Musica’ is a medieval music term. On the other hand, it sounds a bit dark, as our music sometimes. We like this dark romantic aesthetic as well as Early Music, so we thought Diabulus in Musica was the name that fitted us the best. The duality of our music is perfectly described with the term.

You have just released your excellent new album The Wanderer, what were and are the emotions as it takes its early days in public view?

Thank you! We feel very excited about the release! The reviews are being really awesome and the feedback from fans could not be better, we are very happy with the reactions so far! Now we cannot wait to spread our music live everywhere!

Did the album turn out as you envisaged going into the studio or did it hold some surprises for you too?

The result has been as we expected in almost every field. We did the recording in our home-studios. We learnt a lot during the recording process of our first album Secrets, so we decided to work on our own on the production and recording of the new album.
For the mixing and mastering process we sent the tracks to the great Jacob Hansen, a guarantee of a powerful sound! He did great!
For the new album, we wanted to try a different way of working and it worked out really well. Before writing any song we sat all together around a table and we discussed about how we wanted the next album to be. I think it is easier to work when you know exactly what you want to achieve. This way everything flows much better.
How has your sound evolved between debut album Secrets and The Wanderer?

Being a conceptual album, the way we worked was totally different from what we had done before. It was much more challenging because we were searching for something more like a soundtrack. Music had to fit what we wanted to tell in each song, it had to recreate the atmosphere we had in mind in each scene.

I think The Wanderer is a very passionate album. All the feelings are perfectly captured. I would say that ‘The Wanderer’ is denser, more bombastic… but also more refined than Secrets. The arrangements play a very important role in all this, so we paid special attention to them.

I would say that this album is more eclectic, the orchestra and the choir are bigger, the guitars are harder and there are new instruments (lute, flutes, percussions, acoustic guitars…).
We tried to give space to each section in order to be heard in the right moment and let sound the other instruments when needed.

Can you tell us about the premise behind The Wanderer?

The whole concept is an allegory of Mother Earth, Humanity and Corruption and the shock between people who stays pure (and linked with nature) and modern society. It is not easy to reconcile this way of being with all the changes that society is suffering, and above all, with human corruption. All these special people are unfortunately starting to disappear and in my view, they are the last hope to change the World. It is so sad that human beings are forgetting where we come from!

It is also kind of odd that after thinking about the concept, I’ve seen many artists talking about something similar in their works. It seems that many people perceive that society is not walking towards the right way… It is clear that some of us have this kind of apocalyptic thoughts… Maybe that’s a good sign and we can still change?
The blend of a harder metal and symphonic sounds lies easily side by side, has this emerged naturally or do you have to layer it carefully?

Yes, the album is plenty of different feelings. We prepared each song before writing it, I mean, we didn’t start writing only songs, but also the idea of how they should sound, what was the feeling we wanted to transmit with each song… Then after one of us wrote a complete song, we started to work on the arrangements all together until we all felt the song was completely finished.
In short, the music came naturally when we thought about the feeling needed, but after that, we worked carefully on the arrangements.

There is an eclectic range of sounds on the new album which offers multiple possibilities for your sound ahead. Do you have a defined direction for your music or do the songs evolve it themselves?

I would say the second. I sometimes have a clear idea about what I want, but sometimes it turns into a very different thing hehe.
Our music is eclectic, because all of us are so. I mean, we don’t have only a musical influence, we like different stuff and we have no boundaries in creating music. Besides, all of us have a different musical background… You cannot imagine how many different music styles we listen to.

It sounds like a cliché but we do what we want to do and we don’t think whether it’s going to be too hard, too poppy… We only think if we like what we have done or not. Music is above all self-expression, and you do not feel always in the same mood, so does happen with our music…

In our review we got the impression that your more aggressive edge attack was kept more subdued in the symphonic glory of songs like Sceneries of Hope and only allowed to be really unleashed in the likes of No Time For Repentance and especially in the mighty Shadow of the Throne. Are we being slightly unfair?

Hehe not at all! Being a conceptual album, every song was made to tell a part of the story. We used aggressive sounds when the story needed it and the same with the soft parts. The climax of the story comes with No Time for Repentance that’s why it sounds darker. Shadow of the Throne is the song when the bad character of the story and his slaves are introduced, that’s why there are only male voices… Anyway, I think the duality is well represented in other songs too and when they are not it is because it didn’t fit the story.

photoshoot by Nat Enemede, edited by Heile

At the beginning it was only Adrián, Gorka and me who did the songs. Now all the band-members are involved in writing the music. It is usually one of us who writes a complete song and then forward it to the rest. It’s in that moment when we start to work on the arrangements all together until we consider the song is completely finished.
As for the lyrics it is me who writes them, although in the new album there is one song written by Alex.

Where do you draw your inspiration, lyrically especially?

My inspiration comes from the World itself and I usually write about my personal worries usually related with Nature, Freedom, spirituality and social problems. I am a very nonconformist person and always think a lot about every aspect in life, although I rarely arrive to a clear conclusion hehe
I consider myself as a complicated personality, with sometimes rare ideas rounding my messy brain (I suppose this is normal among artists? hehe)

Your vocals as always are amazing on The Wanderer, at times even more staggering than ever before. With such a powerful and skilful voice does it bring an extra element to the song writing to consider?

Thank you so much for the compliments! It is weird but we rarely think about the voice when we are writing a song hehe Well… in my case, I usually start a song with the vocal-line, but the guys usually start by the music, so the vocal-line is the last thing I make in those cases. Sometimes it’s even more challenging for me, because I have to adapt to the tones they chose.
It appears that a comparison to Epica is inevitable when you are reviewed or talked about. Has it got to the point yet where the generally well meant compliment is wearing thin and you wish they heard you as distinctly Diabulus In Musica?

Comparisons are always inevitable when you are a young band. The same happened to Epica when they started. Everybody compared them with Nightwish or After Forever. Now they are a big band, so smaller bands are compared with them. It is the logical process, although I don’t understand very well why it must be like that… I think people should enjoy music if they like it and forget about so much tagging. We can be similar to Epica because we play the same genre: symphonic metal which is obviously metal, with choirs and orchestra. We could also say that a death metal band is similar to another death metal band, or a hard rock one similar to another hard rock band. Sure! They play the same genre! Then, for people who compares: does only one band per genre has the right to exist? Hehe I do not think so!
Anyway, it does not bother us… We like the music Epica does. I think that maybe we were compared because Ad Sluijer and Sascha Paeth worked with us in our first album. Anyway The Wanderer sounds pretty different (it was mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen). Besides, I think we have many other differences: we use more electronic and ethnic sounds, we use different instruments as for example the Renaissance lute, the baroque flute, whistles, the cajón, Early music choirs… So I guess there are enough elements to have our own sound.

Secrets had notable guests on it does The Wanderer also hold extra talent alongside the band?

Yes! We were honored to have Mark Jansen from Epica grunting and screaming in the track Blazing a Trail. We invited again our friend Maite Itoiz (for the choir, for a duet and to play the lute in one song) and her husband John Kelly (Elfenthal) who is singing in the beautiful ballad Sentenced to Life.

We also invited some great classical soloists for the big choirs, most of them colleagues from classical ensembles I sing in. And well, I invited myself too hehe to play the baroque and traverse flute as well as some Celtic whistles.

What is the Spanish music scene like for not only symphonic metal but metal in general? Other rock bands seem not to be impressed with it right now.

Metal in general is not the most popular style in Spain. I guess the same happens in the rest of Europe…  Also Spanish metal-heads like better the national old school heavy metal, sung in Spanish. Nevertheless, there is a rising new metal scene, although these bands aren’t well-known.

Do you see Spain as always your base or could there come a time as success follows you that you may have to relocate to be able to grow as a band?

We hope so! Haha just kidding, of course our dream would be to live on the band and be successful, but nowadays I do not think it is necessary to move. Europe is very small if we compare it with North and South America and there are also many low cost flight companies, so we could manage it.

photoshoot by Nat Enemede, edited by Heile

The 31st March it will be The Wanderer official release party in our hometown. We are also working in a European tour. We hope we can visit many countries this year!

Many thanks for talking with us and good luck with the album.

Would you like to leave us with any last thoughts?

Thank you so much for your questions. Of course thanks to all the readers and fans! We hope that you like The Wanderer and we hope to see you all on the road!

And finally could you give us an idea of the sounds that fire up your day the same way The Wanderer does ours?

Thanks! Well what usually fires up my day unfortunately is my clock alarm! Hehe Well… It depends on the day and on our mood… as I said before we listen to so many different styles that it would be difficult to select them! If I need energy I usually listen to any kind of metal, but if I need a rest, then classical or ethnic music are my faves!

Read The Wanderer review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/diabulus-in-musica-the-wanderer/

The RingMaster Review 14/03/2012

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