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Darzamat

Bij een stevige portie extreme metal uit Polen denken de meeste mensen uiteraard allereerst aan Behemoth en Vader. Hoewel Darzamat nooit de status van bovenvermelde bands heeft bereikt, zijn ze toch ook al actief sinds 1995. Er waren moeilijke jaren tussen, maar sinds 'SemiDevilish' in 2004 uitkwam – en een nieuwe bezetting rond vocalist/tekstschrijver Flauros zich aandiende – gaat het gelukkig terug in stijgende lijn. Zodanig zelfs dat de tijd rijp was om een conceptalbum te maken, een idee waar men al jaren mee rondliep. 'Solfernus' Path' biedt dan ook – buiten een knallende productie en dito muziek – een boeiend verhaal. Er is heel hard en lang gewerkt aan dit vijfde studioalbum en we hebben dan ook uitgebreid bijgepraat met Flauros.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black metal

Now that your excellent new album 'Solfernus' Path' is out, it is time for an update and a new interview. Let's pick up the thread around the release of the previous album. What happened on the live support front after the release of 'Transkarpatia'? Could you tour enough and did you visit new territory?
Our previous album, 'Transkarpatia', was released in December 2005, so all the year 2006 and half the 2007 we spent promoting the album live. During that time we visited a lot of fantastic places. We played in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, France, Holland and Belgium. There could be more gigs but not always everything worked out the way we planned: for example, we thought of participating in the X-Mass Tour, but the Metallysee agency cancelled the event a few days before it actually had the chance to begin. This decision left loads of people pissed off, since bands and their labels lost some money as a result. Still, summing up our 'Transkarpatia' promotional season, I think it went really well. We appeared in quite a few new places and played a couple of festivals we hadn't had the chance to play up till then.

In the meantime you released your first DVD in 2007. It was registered at the famous Metalmania festival. How do you look back at this happening?
'Live Profanity' DVD was a recapitulation of sorts, a summing-up of a certain stage of Darzamat's development. Personally I love DVD releases because with all the behind-the-scenes footage they afford the audience a chance to get close to their band of choice. Also, they usually grant a possibility to see the band live. Darzamat doesn't play every nook-and-cranny, so for many fans from different parts of the world it is the only occasion to see our show. I really like that particular release of ours and I believe that as of that time it was the best thing we could do. Of course we had some problems with producing that material, but they were largely beyond our capacity to foresee and prevent. For example, the Metalmania gig - and making a recording of it, which would later become the main dish on the DVD - had at the time a big question mark hovering above it, because two days earlier our vocalist Nera had landed in the hospital. We didn't know if the recording would happen or not, and this situation lasted until the very last moments before the gig itself, when finally Nera showed up straight out of the hospital bed. She is a very tough and charismatic girl, and she's got unbelievable character. In a situation like this many guys would give up, but not her! (laughs)

You worked almost a year on the new album, from preproduction till release. That's a long time, but the result speaks for itself: amazing! I guess you did a severe preproduction? Can you tell about this process?
We started working on everything much earlier. Before entering the studio we prepared a very good demo. That allowed us to work out all the small details well before the real thing started. I admit we worked like this for the first time and we are really satisfied with such tactics. When you listen to the practically ready piece which sounds as good as it can at the preproduction stage, you can analyze the arrangements one more time and have less of a trouble imagining its final shape. Entering the studio(s) we knew exactly what we wanted and how the songs were supposed to sound. Also, there were no songs left somewhere in the drawer, no album outtakes. From the very beginning we knew precisely what we wanted and we went straight for that. That is why every song which was composed for the record is really well thought-out and exactly the way we wanted it to be.

band imageFor the first time in Darzamat history you wrote a concept album. I think it is more difficult to make everything fit. Or was this guidance by lyrics easier to compose?
Yes, for the first time in our history we decided to create a concept album. The idea was a novelty, but to be honest we had been thinking of such a move for quite some time. Since the days of my youth I've been fascinated with concept albums, such as released by, say, King Diamond. So that move was simply unavoidable, it was just a question of time (laughs). A coherent story to be told by lyrics and music alike is much more of a challenge than fashioning ten new songs in the same stylistic vein. As
the story unfolds, so does the music and both elements have to go hand in hand. It is, in a way, like a movie script, created to pull the audience in.

Can you give some insights in the story of the concept? I read it is about a mystical mansion…
The story told on the album takes place in a mystic scenery as provided by Countess Josephine von Küchmeister's manor, the inspiration for which we derived from two truly fantastic places in Silesia, namely the Willa Caro in Gliwice and the palace in Plawniowice. The tale itself is set in the beginning of the 20th century. Our main hero is a young medical student who undergoes a spiritual transformation - he experiences the existence of the incorporeal world and perceives the other side. The whole story is permeated by a fairytale-like atmosphere, full of occult key concepts. Nothing is obvious, nothing is predictable.

Where did you get the inspiration from? Your environment, books, writers, movies or…?
We draw inspiration from a variety of sources. Frequently it proves to be literature or films, but also some event which touches either us or someone belonging to the circle of our family or friends. I believe one should not confine oneself to one or two usual places but rather search for a possible creative impulse anywhere one can.

The album was recorded in three Polish studios, that's also more than ever, isn't it? Who did you work with as producer?
The situation during the 'Solfernus' Path' sessions was very comfortable. We weren't concerned with economizing at all: our sole concern was the quality of the album, which is why during the sessions we worked in as many as three different studios. All the instruments and vocal tracks were laid down in Poland under the scrutinizing eye - and ear - of our sound engineer, Jaroslaw Toiffl. We worked on the drums and guitars in HH Poland studio in Gliwice; the vocals were done in Maq Studio. As to the keyboard parts, we got these done in Red Room studio. For each instrument we chose the most optimal place to lay down the tracks and we spent quite some time analyzing all the elements of this puzzle. We listened to various bands produced in those places and at the end of the day we didn't have any doubt as to our choices - they were simply perfect. The only thing that mattered was the effect total, and we are positive it will satisfy the biggest of malcontents. Hence, the process of recording took us over a month; after that, the songs were mixed in Sweden by Jonas Kjellgren - the Scar Symmetry axeman - in Black Lounge Studios. Frankly, it turned out that Mr. Perfect Symmetry was in no hurry either: his work took around four weeks. But I'm the first in line to admit that the finished album sounds excellent, so it was well worth the wait.

There are two eminent guests on the album. Firstly the intro is written by Stone Sour drummer Roy "Maurice" Mayorga. How did you get in contact with him and can you tell more about this cooperation and way of working?
We've been friends with Roy Mayorga for quite some time as well. When we recorded 'Transkarpatia', he sent us his congrats - he simply liked the album a lot and he wrote to tell us so. We've been in touch ever since and when he shows up in Poland for a gig, we always try to find time to see him. Maurice is not only a great drummer, but also an excellent songwriter. When I heard the intro which he'd written for Asesino, Dino Cazares's project, I had no doubt that he should write something for us too. Nera prepared a couple of vocal samples and using those he was able to create an intro for the album. Maybe some day we'll be able to create something more together - we do have a lot of shared musical dreams! (laughs)

Andy LaRocque did a guest guitar solo on 'King Of The Burning Anthems'. He is not your producer anymore, but added this as a friend I think?
Andy is not only an excellent guitar player and a producer, but also a great personality. We did meet during the sessions for our previous album. We've been in touch ever since, and when another occasion for cooperation arose, we didn't hesitate for a second. Him playing a solo on a Darzamat album was a dream come true; it was really supernatural that he agreed to participate in the sessions. This is the most important album in the history of the band, and it took us a lot of work. We poured loads of energy and emotions into it, and the presence of LaRocque on this album is the crown jewel in the whole structure. I take enormous pride in the fact that he is there, because so far all the records he has appeared on as guest performer are special. Just look at the list: Death, Individual Thought Patterns; At The Gates, Slaughter of the Soul; Evergrey, Dark Discovery; Dimmu Borgir, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. And now we are on that list as well! (laughs)

The mix was done by Scar Symmetry guitarist Jonas Kjellgren in Black Lounge Studio in Sweden. That's another big name! Please tell me everything about this adventure!
This decision was made due to many factors, among the most important was a short deadline. Jonas was free then and he could make this job for us. We were well acquainted with Jonas's previous production work: Katatonia, Sonic Syndicate, Centinex or Steel Attack, to name but a few. But it was our friend Marek Dobrowolski, drummer for One Man Army and the Undead Quartet, who recommended Jonas to us, as he had worked with him before and knows his skills and abilities first-hand. The preliminary talks with the Scar Symmetry guitar player made us feel very optimistic. Jonas mixed one song of ours and the effect was staggering. It only reinforced the idea that it had to be him. The cooperation was smooth; Jonas is very patient and listens carefully to any sort of suggestions from the band. In my view, he is presently one of the best young generation producers, in Europe anyway.

In the title Solfernus has also a special meaning (derived from a play and so. I read all kinds of interesting thoughts around this)…
Naturally, the eponymous Solfernus is not the main hero, he's just a grey eminence. This character is respectfully lifted from a work entitled 'Playing with the Devil', written by Czech dramatist Jan Drda. Still, this is just inspiration, an impulse which does not mean we take Drda's story as-is. In fact, his play is grotesque and rather humorous. Our story, on the other - left! - hand (laughs) has a totally different character, closer to horror stories of a Polish classic Stefan Grabinski than to the work of the Czech playwright.

The core of the band is you Flauros, Nera, Chris and Spectre which are the main composers. But the other musicians seem to play hide and seek these days hehe. First of all, what about the bass player?
Bacchus's departure had purely personal background. One day the guy shows up and says he wants to focus his attentions on his work; he just can't keep up with the band and he doesn't want it to get in the way of Darzamat's development. We considered the matter and together came to the conclusion that the best course of action would be to part ways. As Chris is no stranger to bass guitar (and he plays it in other bands), he recorded appropriate parts in the studio and I think he really did a great job. Still, we knew that eventually we would need a new bass player to join the band. This post is now occupied by Marcus, who for the time being fills it as a session musician - it is a completely natural situation that when a new musician appears, we give everybody some time to observe one another. We want to play some gigs and spend some time with him. When he is road-tested and everything checks out fine, we would like to enlist him as a permanent member.

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Same goes for the place behind the drums. Rogol plays with you as guest? Does he replace Darkside? Why did Darkside leave? Are you still looking for a permanent drummer?
I should probably start by telling you that the creation of the new album was delayed by the situation involving Darkside, our drummer. Darkside, who earlier played with Crionics, was badly injured in a car crash which happened when they were touring Russia and Belarus together with Decapitated. This infamous car crash which claimed the life of Vitek, Decapitated's dummer, rendered Darkside unable to play drums for a year and a half. That is why 'Solfernus' Path' was recorded with a session drummer, Rogol, known from his involvement with the prog-metal band Division By Zero. The guy was really helpful, and he recorded excellent drum parts on the album. Now, the fully recovered Darkside reclaimed his drumming throne and he's been back with Darzamat since January 2009.

In April 2009 you signed a deal with a new label: Massacre. This must be pretty exciting! First time signed by a foreign label! Any expectations or pros you already experienced?
As far back as in the late nineties, we were close to signing a deal with them; unfortunately it didn't come through. So, after all these years we are all the more thrilled to see that the Solfernus Path ultimately led us back to Massacre Records door (laughs) and that finally we will have a chance to work together. As far as our expectations are concerned, we'd really appreciate much better promotion of our band than we experienced before. The previous companies we worked with had much, much smaller possibilities. That is why I'm positive that thanks to Massacre Records we will take a leap forward. I firmly believe that the experience which the MR staff has gained over the years will result in the chance for many more to even get a hold of Darzamat's albums. We put a lot of hope in the promotion and distribution prospects of the 'Solfernus' Path' album and also we are really looking forward with great curiosity to seeing the fruit of our cooperation with Massacre Records over our future albums.

In October you will play in Belgium at the Metal Female Voices Fest. Welcome again in Belgium. What are your thoughts about the approach of a female vocals fest? I mean, Darzamat isn't a regular gothic band…
I remember Arch Enemy playing there some time ago too, so it can't be that bad! (laughs) I believe MFVF to be much more open to other stylistics than the Germany-based Wave Gotik Treffen. But I do agree with you that a strictly gothic festival wouldn't be the best place for Darzamat. We do have a metal heart so putting us on the 'Gothic' shelf is simply wrong. We have some elements of that particular style, but we are much closer to metal. Getting back to the MFVF festival, I believe in the openness of the attending crowd. I hope we're not going to get booed off the stage! (laughs)

The album will also come out in Japan. How did you achieve this?
Yes, that's true - the album has been released simultaneously in Europe and in Japan, where it's been handled by Spiritual Beast. The Japanese side is has close liaison with our label, Massacre Records, so there is no mystery as to the whole event having been initiated by the Germans. It was them who suggested that our album be released there, and when the Japanese heard it, they acceded to the suggestion.

Why was the Mexican tour postponed? Are there plans to go back (I remember the feedback was positive over there) Will it be only one gig or a proper tour?
There were a lot of factors in play there and, well, what's done is done, I see no reason to come back to that. The fact remains, though, that the reception of our music in Mexico has been truly extraordinary. Every now and then we used to receive a proposition to play over there, so we would make all preparations necessary and then something would always stand in the way. But this time around I assure everybody that we finally are coming. We found the right promoter and, together with the Finnish band Korpiklaani, we are scheduled to play on the 30th of October in the capital of Mexico. There may yet be an additional concert, but as of now I don't have any details concerning that.

Are there other tour plans in the pipeline?
We've just signed up with a German booking agency Go Down Believing and we can hardly wait to see the first results of this newfound cooperation. We strongly believe that thanks to (GDB's head) Allen Wright's experience we will have more gig opportunities. So far, aside from our Mexican date(s), and the planned appearance at the Metal Female Voices Festival, we are scheduled to tour Poland in February 2010. Next dates are to be announced, and announced shortly, as I do hope.

The artwork was done by an agency. Can you tell a bit more about that?
The party responsible for that is the Mentalporn.com agency, with whom we've been cooperating for a couple of years now. There is perfect understanding between us, and we are very glad about the effects this cooperation yields, which is why there was no need to look for anybody else. Also, the group has been generating more and more acclaim, and they have a couple other acts they have been involved with, like Behemoth or Deathstars. To get back to the cover itself, naturally it is far from accidental and has everything to do with the very content of the album. All these elements: the cover, the photos, the story and the music create a uniform whole. It has a lot to do with the grey eminence of the story, which is to say with the eponymous Solfernus.

The photo shoot for the album was quite an adventure! Any fine details would be nice hehe.
The photo session took place in the enchantingly beautiful park in Swierklaniec, in the Silesia District of Poland. The Bachelor Palace, to be found there, renders the character and the atmosphere of the story perfectly. It is an amazing place and it put a spell on us the first time we saw it. The shoot was done in a couple of locations - each was different but as mesmerizing as the previous one! (laughs) Besides the musicians, we also had a surprise session participant, namely... a vintage 1934 BMW. This element really added its glory to the photographs, helping us go back to the times in which the story of the album is set. In my view, the effect is grand. On the other hand, this was no easy task. We felt as if we were shooting a video. A huge tech support staff was engaged in the process and the session itself lasted almost ten hours! The worst part of it was that we had to be on location at 3.30 a.m. - the photographer had the idea to catch a magnificent view of the sky just before dawn. In the beginning we thought it nonsensical... only when we saw the effects we understood what he'd had in mind.

Are there plans for a videoclip? I think the story is a good theme for a clip, but that makes it more expensive to make one probably.
Soon we begin shooting a video for a song from our new album. We are still immersed in hot debates over which song to choose for the video - 'Chimera' or 'Pain Collector'. Opinions are divided and the discussions can be really red-hot. It would be best to make videos for both, but I'm not sure that the finances would allow such a move. Time will tell, but one of these definitely will be made into a video. At present we are 'setting the stage', so to speak, for the whole production, so it's hard for me to tell you anything more specific.

If there is any news I forgot to cover, feel free to add it here…
I also must add that next year we plan to release our side project albums. On autumn, we will be involved in making new music. Our singer Nera, with a little help from our axeman Chris, is preparing a debut album for something called NeraNature. Nera lends her name to this project, which will be closer to alternative rock, as it evokes the spirit of The Gathering or Katatonia rather than the true metal roar. There will be loads of great harmonies and melodies, so watch out for that. As for me, I'm in for a little exhumation session as I'm planning to 'reload' my forgotten old band, Mastiphal. We already got together with the guys for a couple of rehearsals and we filled them with dirty black'n'roll, so you can expect tough and non-compromising music coming your way.

And the last words are for you my friends.
Thank you for your support. Thanks for your interest in Darzamat and I hope to see you soon at a concert! Stay metal!

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