"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Interview

Bassist Max Malmer Checks In On Releasing "Arrival Of The Red Sun" And Filming New Video

Swedish melodic death metal merchants Zonaria had been quiet in their camp up until late. In the years after 2008's "The Cancer Empire," the band took time out to reflect on how they wanted things done. Zonaria's last album was rushed to make the release date schedule, something the band wishes it had more time with. On 2012's "Arrival of the Red Sun" on Listenable Records, the group gave itself all the time it needed in the production process to release an album with no misgivings.

Once again the band enlisted Jonas Kjellgren of Scar Symmetry, whom it had went with on the first album. Now in the midst of filming a video for the track "Silent Holocaust," (a song which is streaming over at this location), Zonaria took the time to give us a brief chat about the band. The band's bassist Max Malmer, who was a sessionist until joining full time recently, shared his thoughts on Zonaria's path with the new album.

Sonic: Hello! You know you've arrived when YouTube starts putting ads on your videos! Some of your official videos have over a quarter of a million views. It's an unreal feeling, no? I also see that the band comments back frequently to all the fans on the thread.

Max: Well, it feel incredibly ordinary. Life spins on as usual. Of course it feels great to know that your art is making a difference. But I realy do belive that it isn't something that would make you more happy. Happiness does not come from wealth. I guess this is also true about art.

Sonic: From the "Rendered in Vain" video to the three other videos that Zonaria has filmed a few years apart, it's interesting to see your evolution as a band. "At War With the Inferior" was involved and more complex and dramatic than the two that preceded it. Did you set that one up in a large darkened room and have all the blue flashing effects edited in afterwards, or what was that process like?

Max: The process of that video is pure green screen. For anyone reading this not knowing what that is, it's when you record infront a... well.... green screen and then edit in whatever you want to into the background. Unfortunately ruined metropolises are hard to come by in Sweden!


Sonic: Ah, kind of like chromakeying from the old days. You have stated that you took four years to release this third album "Arrival of the Red Sun" since you wanted to take your time. Has Listenable Records given you more time than when you had to rush an album out, like 2008's "The Cancer Empire" on your old label Century Media?

Max: There's a big difference and mostly because we did the process of changing labels while recording. Then suddenly you make your own schedules and time is your friend. It's great to take your time when it comes to music. It's never really finished so you can't take too little of it.

Sonic: For those who aren't familiar with Zonaria, the band started ten years ago when two of the members - Simon and Emil - were only fifteen years old. It must be pretty surreal to be 'celebrating' ten years with a band when one is only 25 years old. Do many of the Swedes get involved in music at that early of an age?

Max: Haha! Well I haven't played in the band for quite that long, but I know the other guys have said that it feels surreal, yeah. In sweden you have free programs and music schools for anyone to play in if you would want to. So yeah, many start at like 8 years of age to learn an instrument.

Sonic: Cebbe came in around the second demo, and then ensued a lot of line-up changes until after the first album. It's really something to see that ten musicians, some of them sessionists, have played in Zonaria. In that time your sound has gone from simpler to complex. Tell me about this period.

Max: As the last addition to this band I can't realy say much about that period. One thing that I know is that this period came by itself. Some members left due to personal reasons and such, and the music went to the more complex sound simply because the band became better musicans.

Sonic: Between "The Cancer Empire" and now, you and Caleb have joined the ranks. Have the other members said that having two people with fresh outlooks makes it less tedious to tackle all the material you must play over and over?

Max: Well, the reason they took me in was that they needed a bassist. So there's really no more of a story about that. And the reason Caleb joined the band was because we needed to bring in new inspirations, and that really made a difference in the band.

Sonic: Caleb Bingham is touted as coming from Five Finger Death Punch. Well, yes, but that was over five years ago and he only played on the debut "The Way of the Fist." That's a radical change in metal style for him. He certainly wanted to be in an 'underground' metal band, and with all Swedish bandmates!

Max: Yes that is very true. I know that he disliked where the band was going. He is actually really into the underground stuff.

Sonic: With the addition of him, you are now in that exclusive band category of groups with three guitarists. Your last album was complex, but this one has even more intricate songwriting and noticeably more varied and layered guitars and rhythm. This should put you past the Hypocrisy comparisons that you get all the time, especially with the more symphonic elements you've brought in. Do you concur?

Max: I do concur! It's great you precisely got the point that we are trying to make. We are trying to make something different, something unique!

Sonic: You opted to go once again for the producer you used on the first album, Jonas Kjellgren of Centinex/Scar Symmetry. Was Per Nilsson part of the process this time? Do you feel that Jonas can understand Zonaria better from a technical metal musician standpoint than, say, Frederick Nordstrom from the last album's production?

Max: Well, the reason we went back to Kjellgren is because we were really pleased with the results on the first album and yes, Per Nilsson produced the guitars. But I can't say either that we were unpleased with Nordström and his studio. The result on "The Cancer Empire" is still great.

Sonic: On "Arrival of the Red Sun," what I like the best is the variety in which the songs are written. All the intros are different and the leads and rhythm sound completely diverse from one track to the next. One minute you'll hear a symphonic wall of sound as in "My Vengeance Remains," the next you'll get pummeled with the insane double bass of "Full Spectral Dominance" and then come staircase leads in "Liberation Zero." You must have put much thought into the writing process.

Max: Yes exactly. The base of it all is that we had more time to think about the songs. The album has been 'done' like 16 times. It's amazingly greater now than the first time it was 'done."

Sonic: Did Seth do the artwork for the new one, which shows a city smoldering under a cloud of red dust? I noticed you used a similar backdrop on your band page, but it shows the band walking out of it like urban commandos - "Swedish Death Metal Saviors." There are only four of you in the illustration, though - must have been done before someone joined!

Max: It was Per Olofsson that made the pictures. Caleb is not in the picture because of reasons. No, but seriously - He is in the U.S. at the moment therefore he is not in the picture. In other thoughts we are realy pleased with the results.

Sonic: You've been telling the Zonaria followers on Facebook that the next video is about to get filmed four miles from your hometown of Umea in a quarry with producer Jacob Avevarn in a rock quarry. You even posted some pictures...one where Simon is covered in ash and another on Emil's blog which shows a five-frame process of a man holding a lantern next to a fox and a puma. Which song is it for?

Max: The video is for "Silent Holocaust" and the picture of the man is unrelated. Anyways, it will be released soon! The 31th of August is the date set for the release. It's a bit like the last video we made but a little bit darker and well produced. We are really looking forward to the release. It's a great video and an awesome song.

Sonic: On the new album, the people who buy the physical CD release get a bonus eleventh track, the (4:08) track "CC Cowboys." Is this an ode to that Norwegian pop-rock/blues band? If not, what's the significance of the title?

Max: The song is a cover of the band Imperiet, a Swedish pop band from the 1990's.

Sonic: You have had some good tours with Vader, Impaled Nazarene, Nile, Satyricon and Melechesh to name a few, but you've cancelled the Winterfest One in the past due to having to go on too early. You probably aren't too fond of having to go on too early, when there are all of ten people there in the beer line or having to share the stage with a ton of everyone's equipment. Are you going to do a tour with few bands this time and what are your plans?

Max: It's more about having to make priorities not being too high on the list so to speak. It's not desirable to break the recording process or something like that for a festival that wouldn't be worth the while if you get my point.

sonictherapy's avatar

Vicky Willis has been a freelance journalist and former college radio disc jockey for almost twenty years. She has been contributing to Metalunderground.com since 2010.

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