Interview with Zuberoa Aznárez (Diabulus in Musica)

Ahead of the imminent release of Diabulus in Musica’s third album Argia (reviewed by swirls of noise here),  singer Zuberoa Aznárez took some time to talk about the release:

Hello, and thanks for taking the time to talk to Swirls of Noise. Your new album Argia is a really powerful album, with a very heavy pounding sound. How do you feel it compares to your first two albums?
Thank you! I think Argia is our most mature and personal album so far. Our first album, Secrets, was made of the first songs we had written, but it was the very first time we recorded with a choir and orchestral elements and we were still finding ourselves. We worked very hard and we learnt many things that we had the chance to develop later on our 2nd album, The Wanderer. For that album we introduced new sounds and we changed our way of working. We first thought about a story and decided to create a concept album, so we had a very clear idea about what we wanted to achieve and the kind of songs we wanted to write. Everything was planned and I think it worked pretty cool. On the other hand, our latest album Argia is much more honest, it directly comes from personal experiences Gorka and me have lived these two last years. I think the real essence of Diabulus in Musica is now more present than ever. Musically wise the eclecticism and contrasts that define our music are even more evident now.

There have been several lineup changes between previous album The Wanderer and Argia, with the bassist, drummer and guitarist all being replaced. How big a challenge was this when recording Argia, did the new members fit in to Diabulus in Musica easily, or did it take a while to get the chemistry in the band right?
Gorka and me 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, so it was definitely a big challenge that made us be a bit afraid about the future. Anyway, we both are the founders of the band and the main composers, so even if we first thought about leaving, we soon realized we had to go on just because music it’s our life.

Regarding the new members, we knew each other from the local scene, so it was easy to get that chemistry. We always prefer to work with people we already know when it’s possible. We were lucky that we knew them and that besides they are awesome musicians. Anyway, they didn’t take part on the composition (apart from a couple of riff structures), because we were already working on that and preparing the shows we had at that time, so we preferred them to focus on learning the old songs.

The symphonic elements of the album are really breathtaking at points, really epic in scope. Do any of the members of Diabulus in Musica have a background in composition or orchestral music?
Thanks! Well, Gorka and me have studied music theory for years. Non exactly orchestral composition, but we are familiar with classical music because we both come from that field. Also, we have learnt a lot and each time we write a new song we learn more and more. The orchestration and choir is my favourite part of the composition and even if it’s not easy to mix all the elements I really have fun working on that! You never finish to learn new things, music is never-ending learning process!

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The orchestral sections in the music are sometimes reminiscent of film scores, are you at all influenced by movie composers, and who are your favourite classical composers in general?
We both love film scores and Gorka in special is a big fan of Hans Zimmer. He also likes a lot classical music specially from the Romantic period. I’m more a fan of Early Music, from Medieval to Baroque. That’s nice because our classical music tastes are different and maybe that’s one of the reasons why our music is so eclectic. Besides, we have always conceived our songs as a soundtrack too. For me it’s very important that music is able to make the listener travel to different places, dimensions, feelings… Music has to make the listener dream, or at least this is what I search when I listen to music and this is what I like and try to do when I’m writing music too.

The heavy metal riffs on the album are really powerful, and pound along with real energy. What do you think it is about orchestral music that fits so well with such a heavy sound?
Maybe that both styles are very “passionate” and powerful. This helps a lot to the expression of feelings and makes both elements being complementary.

As well as singing in English, Zuberoa sings beautifully in Spanish too giving a more exotic sound to the music, is it easier to sing in your native language than English, or do certain songs fit different languages better?
To be honest, I had never thought that Spanish would sound good for symphonic metal haha! and I had never thought about writing in Spanish before. I also thought it would be more difficult to write in Spanish, maybe because the words are longer in general… but many Spanish speaker fans were asking for a song in Spanish for a long time and I decided to try. I was surprised that the result wasn’t that bad! ;D This has made me change my mind. I always thought English fits better for metal, but on the other hand, I’ve written in Basque, Latin and now Spanish and I think it sounds nice too!

Zuberoa, your voice sounds very varied on this album, with pretty cleans, powerful operatics, and deeper vocalisations, bearing similarities to Liv Kristine, Simone Simons and Lisa Gerrard, to my ears at least. With you also singing in Spanish, are there other vocalists who you would say you are influenced by?
Well, I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by any particular singer. I’ve been singing since I was a child and I would say that the biggest change in my singing took place when I started to learn classical singing many years ago. Then I tried to adapt the classical technique to the “normal” or chest singing because before that, I didn’t felt so comfortable singing “rock”. At that time when I started to mix both techniques, I remember I used to listen to singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Loreena McKennitt and started to understand how the mixed technique worked. I discovered other position in my voice that worked much better. Anyway, I don’t think any singer has influenced me in the style. I also use different styles of singing depending on what I want to express or depending on the kind of song, so I don’t have any particular model (apart from my teacher who I could say is my main influence right now!). Each singer has his/her particular voice colour and personality and it’s very important to always preserve this.

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What lyrical concepts are there behind the album, and how well do they fit in with the epic sound?
Argia is not exactly a concept album as “The Wanderer” was, because it doesn’t tell a story, nevertheless, all the lyrics are somehow connected to personal experiences and ideas. Some of the lyrics refer to our new situation as a band, some others are more critical and the rest are much more personal and are directly related to some of my spiritual believes. In conclusion, I would say that all of them are related to the word “Argia” (light/clear) referring to the new and lighter path we found as a band and as individuals. If there is something I hate is fake people and unfortunately we have found some lately. We are transparent and our way is clear now.
As I said before, metal and classical music are two of the most expressive music styles I know and this album lyrically is the most expressive as well, so lyrics and epicness had definitely to fit together. When I have an idea or feeling, it always comes out in the shape of music. The words come later, even if the idea of what I want to say is there. Then the epic sound is just a consequence of the feeling.

Do you have a favourite song from the new album, or if not which songs will be making an appearance on upcoming setlists?
I cannot choose just because each song has its specific message and function. This album is like a therapy and each song was made to heal certain wounds. So, depending on my mood I would choose one or another. Regarding the songs we will play live, for the moment we will  play three new songs at Masters of Symphonic Metal, one week before the album is released. We will see how the audience react, but I think they will work out pretty well live. After that I guess we will include many of them in future setlists!

Therion are a clear influence in the band’s music, how was it being able to work with singer Thomas Vikstrom on “Encounter at Chronos’ maze?”
To be honest I’m not familiar with Therion’s music, so I wouldn’t say we are influenced by them, even if it’s true that we both use orchestra and big choirs. Of course I had heard about them, but I had never listened to their music until I saw them live a couple of years ago and I was blown away by their performance!
Regarding Thomas, we needed a very special voice for this duet. We wanted a versatile 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 was a big honour for me!

You’ll be playing the Masters of Symphonic Metal festival in Switzerland, as well as the 12th Edition of Belgium’s Metal Female Voices Festival. Are there any plans to play in the UK at any point?
For the moment we have nothing at UK, but we would love to go! It is not easy to organize a tour, mostly because of financial problems, but we will play some festivals in Europe and we are working hard on finding some more dates, so hopefully we will go to UK too, cross fingers!

Thank you for your time, is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks a lot for the interest and support and thanks to the readers too for taking the time to read this interview! We are looking forward to present the new songs live and to meet you all somewhere on the road! 

Thanks to Andy Turner for setting up the interview.

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Argia tracklist:
1. Et Resurrexit (Libera Me)
2. From the Embers
3. Inner Force
4. Furia de Libertad (feat. Ailyn Giménez)
5. Maitagarri
6. Sed Diabolus
7. Spoilt Vampire
8. Eternal Breeze
9. Mechanical Ethos
10. Encounter at Chronos’ Maze (feat. Thomas Vikström)
11. Indigo
12. Healing
13. Horizons

Argia is released 11 April 2014 on Napalm Records.

Listen to Inner Force:

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