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Zaratus's Stefan Necroabyssious: "In some cases, we would say that all social and human prospects for something "healthy" and hopeful for humanity, were destroyed"

Interview with Bill Zobolas & Stefan Necroabyssious from Zaratus
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 21 March 2021, 10:53 PM

Why break it if it is not broken? Why change it if it works? These questions, and similar others, must have been part of the brainstorming period of every artist out there. To be unique, to be out of the box, to be different than others and by heavens not even slightly sound as a copycat. It is true that the chances to make something new are slim, even less than that. However, there is still that stuck notion that everything has to be different in order to become the picture perfect of the next new thing. The Greek Black Metallers Zaratus is a duo that tells a lot of stories of the past but largely looking forward to the future. Their new album, “In the Days of Whore”, proves that there is something there. Steinmetal had a talk with Bill Zobolas & Stefan Necroabyssious about the new album, the concept and more…

Hello guys, it is a great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Bill: I'm fine thanks. You are currently finding me at my home after a month of quarantine.

Whether in Metal music, along with the state of affairs worldwide, times are changing. The past remains a totem, yet the future holds a lot of surprises. Two years ago you founded Zaratus, which I believe with a sense of purpose. What can you tell about the nature of the new band? As I know that both yourself and your partner, Stefan Necroabyssious, have been entangled with quite a few projects

Bill: Yes, both myself and Stefan are constantly active with different musical groups. This is mainly because we love music so much and we are refreshed through it. Music and creation give us the necessary energy we need to be able to cope with our daily life. Stefan and I wanted to work together for years, but we did not have the opportunity to do so.

I had written music that I had not released with the bands in which I participate, mainly because it did not match the style of any of them. So in a conversation we had after a concert in which Soulkinner played together with Varathron, we decided with Stefan to do it, and so Zaratus got flesh and blood. Our goal is to bring a fresh breath to the characteristic sound of "Greek black metal" that has stigmatized an entire era, and in which we are largely collaborators. But as elders, and also as responsible to a degree - as far as we are concerned - for what we call Greek black metal sound that was created in the 90s, I feel that we have the responsibility and the need to escape a little from the past, showing respect for it, honoring our roots, but offering new ways and new breath to this style.

Were there thoughts to make Zaratus as a full time band with additional members or it would be a sort of a duo with mercenaries for live purposes?

Bill: No, there is no such thought, it is not possible to make Zaratus a full band. First of all, it is a personal opinion of mine as to how I like this genre, and I don't want to operate it within a band, secondly with Stefan we want to be flexible, to continue working on the pattern we have found that the chemistry between us works. Finally, I think it would take a lot of time for rehearsals and finding the right musicians to perform all this, a fact that does not even exist in our minds. Our free-time is so limited that if we spent time of a full time band in Zaratus, then we couldn't do it right.

Following the release of your debut EP, which I really need to listen to, certainly after this experience, you signed with Van Records for the release of your debut, “In the Days of Whore”. What do you make of this signing? What makes this platform the rightful one to carry your music forward to the world?

Bill: After the release of "The descent" EP, we did not waste time and proceeded to the recording of the new album, without having any company to release it. When I finished with the mixing, I sent it to Achilleas Kalantzis (Suncord Audiolab), who also took over the mastering, as he had previously undertaken the recording of Stefan's vocals. When the whole production process was over, we started thinking about which company would be suitable to release it, as there were some standards on our part, which concerned quality and aesthetics. We thought that Van Records was the most suitable, as we had seen releases, they had excellent aesthetics and also, all label's bands are unique in what they do, I would say they are more progressive and less conventional with the prevailing fashion.

So through Achilleas we came in contact, and when they listen to our material, they immediately responded positively, as they liked it very much. I consider that this is a highly professional company that has shown us absolute confidence, has met our every requirement, offered the appropriate quality package for our music to be heard (covers, vinyl and cd quality, t-shirts, etc.) and we have a perfect collaboration.

The artistic artwork for “In the Days of Whore” is quite intriguing, I felt that there is a sort of mixture when it comes to ancient time periods, I thought it to be whether the Roman Empire or a little later. Who made this artwork? What was the vision behind it?

Stefan: The creator of that amazing art was a Polish painter, Henryk Siemiradzki. He created that painting in 1987 and called “Christian Dirce”. “Christian Dirce” by Henryk Siemiradzki is a large format composition, showing a scene in a Roman Amphitheatre, where Emperor Nero, his court, and spectators, are looking at the corpse of a girl, tortured in a spectacle which has just finished.

What does the dead animal and the woman laying on top of it represent? Is it a kind of sacrifice or rather a set example?

Stefan: “Christian Dirce” meets and exceeds this requirement, as in its representation of the martyrdom of the first Christians sacrificing their life for their faith, it not only refers to the history of ancient Rome in the 1st century AD, but also, through its title, alludes to the Greek mythology: Dirce, second wife of Lycus, the king of Thebes, was tied to the bull’s horns by the sons of Antiope, the king’s first wife, in an act of revenge for the mistreatment of their mother.

As a title, “In the Days of Whore” sounds strong, but also rather puzzling, what really went on in that period of time that you refer to? Is it a blend of fiction and history?

Stefan: The painting refers to the early Roman Empire but the title of our album goes far back to the ancient dark times of sacrifices to the black and dark gods. Our album has as a general idea the Whore of Babylon. The Whore of Babylon is related to the same beast in the book of Revelation. Manaka Sajyou is the master of the beast and the beast considers Manaka to be his mother, who fits the description of the Whore of Babylon’s: "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth", with the beast being the abomination. So the theory is that Manaka is the Whore of Babylon. The Beast's mother!

Do you find any correlation between our present and the past reality that you are describing throughout the record? Any hints in regards to the brutal nature of mankind and perhaps its inner evil?

Stefan: Of course, the cruel nature of humanity is found from the first historical reports until today. The spectrum of her inner evil has changed and she has turned to absolute greed and the pursuit of wealth. Ideals, ideas, values have all been set aside on the altar of money. In some cases, we would say that all social and human prospects for something "healthy" and hopeful for humanity, were destroyed.

When it comes to your personal belief, in light of the record, do you think that mankind will perhaps go through devolution given the chance, like a worldwide turmoil that is stronger than the pandemic we are having?

Stefan: These days we are going through perhaps one of the worst social and human situations in the entire history of mankind. We see all governments - on the altar of guarding global health - violating the values, rights and freedoms of people who have been conquered by blood and struggle over the centuries. We are talking about the absolute form of terrorism that they impose on you and you do it with your own will - like a puppet - after the social media have first brainwashed you. Of course the first signs of unrest and reaction have been seen and this must be done as soon as possible. The absolute control they want to achieve must fail on the altar of the true free spirit that must characterize every human being.

Zaratus, following the musical export of “In the Days of Whore”, takes on Black Metal and provides it with quite a twist, and that is to put it in simpler terms. Since both yourself and your partner have been of the old guard of Black Metal in Greece, was it only that itch to go beyond in order not to do the same thing all over or you had something else in mind?

Bill: We did not want to create another clone of the familiar sound. For me it was just a nice period where I sat and wrote music, having in mind to write some songs, as I would like to hear from other bands that would continue what we call "Greek black metal", but not copying the past. I think this stuff would bother a lot of people if we included it in an Thou art lord album for example. For me, as well as for many of my age, who lived in other times, some things you don't care, you leave them as they are, because that is how history was written. But at the same time there is always the thirst for creation, the anxiety to explore new soundscapes and when this happens through your soul in which an identity has taken root, then the satisfaction you experience as a musician is enormous.

The implementation of a variety of elements to the music, almost as if by a wild nature, is no doubt a journey, thinking outside of the box in order to reach new horizons. How do you feel that this wandering through the belly of the beast and beyond took you forward as a songwriter and a musician?

Bill: Music is an expression of the psyche that each of us has. Nature is full of music. Every sound is music, we just as humans can neither hear all the sounds, nor perceive them as other creatures perceive them. I had read once, that all the music you can imagine has already been written since the world was created. This music, all the melodies, all the feeling and the soundscapes, exist in the universe and they are just there. When we succeed and get in the right mood, in various ways that mainly concern our spiritual state, then depending on what we want to hear we hear it and just carry it to earth. The composer is essentially nothing more than a carrier of the message that already exists. Beyond that, the sound that this message will receive, that is, the garment that we will wear, depends on where we are ordered. I do it through what I love and it is metal. I'm not interested in evolving technically as a musician, because I think there are thousands of great musicians who can do everything extremely well. What is interesting is to mature spiritually and to be able to understand the messages so that I can transfer them to my music and better express my soul.

Nearly each song on the album prevails through a different atmosphere, a strong relationship with the lyrics as it seems. What can you tell about this connection between the music and lyrics? How were you able to embrace it while the album’s songwriting process?

Bill: Here is the chemistry with Stefan that I told you about before. When I write music and lyrics for Soulskinner, it's easier for me to marry them because I have in my mind, exactly the whole image I want to convey. So I will write music and lyrics at the same time, it does not matter which is first and which is second.

With Zaratus, I only wrote the music, having allowed myself to travel beyond the limits of a song, but as if I were just writing music and without counting verse-refrain etc. When I gave Stefan the music, I told him write what you want, I will not tell you anything, do what you like. But I knew that Stefan has more sense than me in terms of images through music as he functions more as a listener and not as a musician who will start looking for details, notes etc. The result was exactly what you said. The lyrics tied in perfectly with the music and helped to create all this special atmosphere. And of course it is not only the lyrics but also the way that Stefan has sung, where for me it is one of his best moments!

One of the album’s oddities is the vocals of your partner, Stefan Necroabyssious, reaching various types of singing, that are really intriguing. What can you tell about your vision in regards to the implementation of the vocals on the album?

Bill: Stefan has huge experience and knows exactly what he has to do. He is one of the few singers in the genre, worldwide, that if you see his progress, the older he gets, the better he gets. I think the walk with Varathron, in recent years has helped him to set himself free and to sing, not to shout, haha. I'm joking, of course, because every album you hear Stefan sing, you'll hear that he did it right. He also did it right with "In the days of whore". He gave the necessary theatricality that he considered correct in order to convey his lyrics correctly. I'm just very happy that I gave him the opportunity with the music I wrote, to do it and that everyone has pointed this out as a great asset of the album. And of course to mention the huge help of Achilleas on what he undertook and the recording of the vocals, but also on the performance of Stefan, because for the singer the environment that will recording vocals and the engineer plays a big role.

One of the songs that had me chilled a bit was the last tune, “Zoroastrian Priests”, it takes a bit to get used to it but its uncanniness makes it special and a level up in the need to understand it. What can you tell about this track?

Bill: It makes sense to feel something "strange" listening to this song! The reason is because the rhythm that it has at the beginning, from the percussion is Kalamatianos. It is an idea I had, to write Greek rhythms with oriental instruments and to marry them with metal. So I wrote on a tempo of 3/4 of a classic Kalamatian rhythm and used canon, sitar, flute and some Persian percussion and the result was to get “Zoroastrian Priests”. In the process the track evolves of course, as it turns into a classic black metal with guitars, bass, drums, and in the end everything marries with the original part tying with the metal evolution. I believe what it is a special track that shows at the same time that music has no limits and can travel you to a completely different time and place through a song of a few minutes.

Which of the songs stopped you in your tracks while listening to the album? That one song that you sitting down and trying to comprehend what you had done? That one tune that you have a stronger personal connection to

Bill: It is like asking a father which child he loves the most. I cannot answer you. Each track means something different for me and marks a specific moment. The music tracks are memories for the one who writes them. I have heard songs that I wrote 25 years ago and I think that technically it is not the best I have done , but I moved to that time, I remembered situations, I remembered the friends and collaborators we played, and in the end I realized that I am getting older and not I heard  again hahaha.

What forms of challenges were on your way while the album was in the making? How were you able to rise above those risks?

Bill: The only challenge was towards the end of its creation, when the state of the pandemic began. Of course because we operate from a distance, as we live in different cities, this was a small problem for us, but when everything around you changes with something so unknown and uncertain, you don't know what dawns on you tomorrow and you are influenced as an artist. You cannot function inseparably, if you have in mind that your father who developed a fever and lives far away from you, may have fallen ill by Covid shit. You understand that their music comes second. This was probably the most difficult part, but we overcame it and we succeeded.

Currently, due to the pandemic, culture is at a standstill, yet there is a hope that the current vaccination process will bring back the scene. In Greece, do you see it coming back in full or you lost more than it is possible to save?

Bill: Sooner or later everything will come back. Maybe through a new form, but they will return. Unfortunately, this situation has done great harm to many artists and in fact many face the issue of survival. We, on a personal level, because for years we have chosen not to live from music, but to live for music, we face financial difficulties, but not to a degree of survival. Let me also tell you that art in many periods of history has been hunted, faced with pandemics, wars, silence, but as long as there is a human need to express itself, so to live, so there will be art. So we did not lose anything. It is a historical break and some may not exist as artists in the future, because they decided to work, but art will not cease to exist

Guys, thank you so much for your time for this interview, you created a new musical entity that is far reaching and one needs to be open enough to endorse it. I wish you all the best and thank you. Cheers

Bill: Thank you very much for this very interesting discussion and for your kind words. I hope in this journey with Zaratus to have other companions, and to offer a new breath in the music we love.


 



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