Interview with Adam Zaars (Guitar) of Tribulation | By Eric May
This Swedish four-piece might have begun as a relatively potent emulation of the death metal of their peers, but in recent years the band have evolved into something altogether different. With The Children Of The Night, they take their Formulas Of Death a step further and reach out into the cold blackness of the… ’70s? If The Beatles ever decided to experiment with black metal, then it might sound something like this.
The new album is called The Children Of The Night. It almost sounds like it was inspired from a horror film of sorts.
It originally comes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I read it for the first time when I was on tour in the US six years ago. I bought it at some second hand store and it was actually mouldy all over. I got sick and it felt like the book was keeping me sick for the weeks to come when I read it because it always got worse when I was reading it… it was strangely comforting for some reason. That feeling stuck with me even though it obviously was not the first time I was introduced to the concept of the vampire and Dracula. Now it just so happened that my girlfriend suggested the title or some reason. It sounded very superficial and obvious to begin with I thought, but after a week or so we all knew that it was the title we were looking for. It encompasses the feeling of the entire album I think and welcomes you in to the night time world that is Tribulation.
In the past, you played a very straight-forward, yet menacing form of death metal, but with your last album The Formulas Of Death and this one you seem to be experimenting further beyond those realms. What made you guys want to experiment into these other styles?
It was mostly time I think. It’s been eight years now since we recorded the first album that was a lot more straight-forward death metal, and even on that one I think you can sort of sense that it’s bound to head somewhere else. We didn’t really think about it a lot when we made the second album, we just realized after a while that this might actually be a lot different but we all had the same vision about where we were heading, or where we weren’t heading I suppose. We see what we do as art, and as such we can’t really tamper that much with where it’s all heading, we leave a lot of it to intuition and try not to analyze it too much.
I read a lot of reviews for your previous album The Formulas Of Death where people seemed to be rather upset that you were making an album that “wasn’t death metal” and I was quite discouraged that, because of this, you’d be pressured into making something more along the lines of your older material. Were you a bit worried when you started reading these kinds of reviews on that record, or did you just completely ignore it?
I’m afraid it’s not hard to upset people in the metal community. Even if it’s actually some kind of rock n’ roll we are dealing with here, people are still often times very conservative. We are not. We are not making music to satisfy other people’s expectation, we are doing it because we have the need to express ourselves and at this point it’s more or less become a job for us. I understand that people who like that kind of music want to hear more of it, I know I’ve felt the same for other bands before, but that’s not our business. Our path is set out for something else. I don’t think we are playing death metal per se any longer; we are clearly doing something else. We know where we started and we respect that, but we won’t let that hinder our creative ambitions. That would just be stupid I think. There are a ton of other bands playing death metal, but there are no other bands doing The Children of the Night.
The Children Of The Night is a truly remarkable album. It literally sounds like a black metal record that had been recorded in the ’70s. As if The Beatles had gone into black metal, or something of that nature. Did you know that it was going to be that kind of record at first, or was it an overall progression?’
We had a clue where it was going, at least after a while, but I imagined something quite different to begin with. My idea was an even longer album than our previous one and it was going to be a lot more “spacey” and meditative. The gods wanted something else apparently, which is fine by me. (Laughs) In retrospect it wasn’t really that much of a surprise to us, we have been leaning to something more rock based for quite a while now and I guess we just took that step now. The way that The Beatles started making music after they stopped touring is actually very inspiring. Both the music and the attitude behind it.
Tell me a little bit about the lyrical nature of the album. What was going through your head at the time that you were writing these lyrics? Do any of them have any personal meanings to you, or do they relate to a story concept?
They are all personal and mean something quite specific and often more than one thing but my hope is that people will interpret them on their own. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong in doing it really since this is a piece of art that we’ve released for anyone to see and hear. Everyone comes from a different background and will inevitably interpret things according to that, and I like that idea. They all deal with magic, the supernatural, religion and transcendence. Jonathan (guitars) wrote half of the songs and half of the lyrics as well and I’m sure his lyrics mean something quite specific as well. A lot of it is about so called “altered states of consciousness” a term that seems to be more and more popular, and how to get there and what’s going on there and how that affects our lives. A lot of it is symbolical and quite abstract I guess, but that’s the very nature of it all.
I’m hearing a lot of influence from bands like Opeth and Enslaved as well Satyricon and Dissection, among others. What would you consider to be some of your greatest influences in Tribulation this time around?
I have never actually listened to Opeth, Enslaved and Satyricon. I have barely even heard them actually. Dissection on the other hand has been a big inspiration for a long time now. I’m actually listening to Reinkaos at this very moment. The inspiration comes from a lot of different places actually but they’ve always been more or less the same. Musically I think post-Blaze Iron Maiden (even though the Blaze stuff is fantastic and inspirational as well) has been one of the biggest sources of inspiration. The same with what I just said about The Beatles, it’s both the music and the attitude behind it. Nowadays Maiden don’t care about making songs in a certain length or anything like that, they just make fantastic music! A lot of horror soundtracks have also been highly influential like Goblin, Popol Vuh and Fabio Frizzi. This time around we already have a pretty solid foundation of what our influences are so we really tried looking to our own music and to each other. It proved to be quite successful. I just gather impressions from anywhere really and try to express them again through Tribulation.
Since The Children Of The Night is so radically different from anything you’ve made in the past, do you think that your next record will also be a completely different sound? It seems like you’re giving us something new every time and I like that.
I’m sure it won’t sound the same, but my guess is that it will be more similar to this last one than anything we’ve done in the past. We don’t really know, and that’s the beauty of it I think! There’s nothing that says we won’t have a lot of blast beats on the next one, but it might be something completely different. Creativity for us is to let go, to really try to stop thinking about what you’re doing and just do it. When you view it like that and don’t think in terms of “will this be fast enough, or slow enough, or short enough” and so on, chances are that you’ll end up with something that’s a bit more exciting than what you’ve done before, or at least different.
What do you guys do when you’re not playing music? What sorts of hobbies do you enjoy and what would you recommend?
I spend time with my family, read a lot and work as a designer. I would recommend for people to read books and to immerse your life in art.
Tell me a little bit about some of your recent tours. What can you say are some highs and some lows about life on the road?
We’ve done two tours in the US and two tours in Europe for The Formulas of Death. All of them have been great! The highs are that you’re given the opportunity to play pretty much every night; something that’s physically, mentally and spiritually draining but also something that gives you so much back. It’s also really great the times you meet new good friends. The lows are that it’s very expensive and that you’re away from your family. It isn’t very luxurious to tour either, but that’s something you just have to deal with and in the end it’s all perfectly fine! You work pretty much twenty-four hours a day and sometimes you don’t even have time to eat and then you have to perform the show of your life! Sometimes those shows are the best! It’s always filled with paradoxes and sometimes it’s pretty much like smoking weed: weird things tend to happen at times and it’s not the weed that’s causing it.
The Formulas Of Death started with an instrumental number called “Vagina Dentata” which sounds oddly to me like the theme music from the “Blizzard Buffalo” stage in the classic video game Mega Man X3. There are obvious changes here and there, but I still sense that an inspiration was derived from this classic Super Nintendo theme. Was the instrumental actually inspired by that Blizzard Buffalo theme? We all grew up with those kinds of games, so I kind of figured that it wasn’t impossible.
No comment. (Laughs) I love that game and still play it regularly. Me and Jonathan used to play so many Super Nintendo games together and Mega Man X3 was one of them.