Originally formed out of two thirds of Norwegian black metal gods, EMPEROR, ZYKLON grew to become a formidable yet distinct beast on its own. ZYKLON‘s debut album, World ov Worms, was an impressive record that combined death metal and black metal along with some industrial/electronic influences into a violent machine. With a new frontman in tow in MYRKSKOG drummer, Secthdamon, ZYKLON‘s highly anticipated sophomore effort, Aeon, stirs up their musical recipe for a well-balanced record. APESHIT recently spoke with guitarist and ringleader, Samoth, about the band’s new record and their brutal yet state-of-the-art metal.
APESHIT: There are two big noticeable differences on the new album compared to the first one. One is the thicker, heavier sound. The album sounds more organic overall. What did producer, Fredrik Nordstrom, and Studio Fredman bring to the mix that you couldn’t get at Akkerhaugen?
Samoth: Well, I think he managed to bring out more balance and depth in the mix. We recorded it in Akkerhaugen and took it to Sweden. He had objective ears to the whole recording so I definitely think that he managed to bring out a more professional mix compared to what we’ve gotten at Akkerhaugen. There’s a lot more depth in the mix and it’s a lot heavier.
APESHIT: Yeah, you can hear the bass clearly and all the pieces of the drums.
Samoth: Yeah, everything has such a strong balance between all the instruments. You can actually hear the toms and everything. It’s all good at Akkerhaugen. But at Akkerhaugen, the end result is usually this huge wall of sound. Everything is like melting together.
APESHIT: The other big difference Aeon and World ov Worms is that that the songs are not only slower on average but the songs feel more evenly spaced out with even more dynamics. Was this a conscious decision?
Samoth: Yeah, it was a conscious decision to take things down in tempo because we definitely want to create more diversity in the material and focus more on heaviness than just pure speed. I still think that the album has a lot of intensity and aggression to it but we decided to cut down on the blast beats. And in the live context, we just found it to work much better with the heavier side of the band, both for us up on stage as a band and with the audience. I really wanted to take things down in tempo a little bit.
APESHIT: There are bands like KRISIUN that will play a blast beat for five minutes straight. I don’t know how much more extreme you can get than that.
Samoth: That’s kinda much how I felt with the first album (World ov Worms) as well. Obviously, I could have done the same thing over again but I just felt like doing something else. It’s not like we don’t have fast stuff. There’s plenty of fast stuff on the album. We’re still going to be doing fast stuff in the future for sure. We just wanted a little more variation in the material.
APESHIT: You’ve recruited a new frontman/bassist with the arrival of Secthdamon. What would you say than he’s brought to the band?
Samoth: Well, he’s a very talented musician. He’s a multi-talented musician because he’s played drums, guitar, and sang for his old band called ODIUM. He definitely has strong talents as a musician. He’s a very tight vocalist and he plays the bass excellently and he’s a good songwriter as well so he’s perfect. He’s just what we were looking for and he’s a good frontman. He’s very dedicated to the band and he has been working very well.
APESHIT: Would you say that the songwriting for Aeon was more of a group effort?
Samoth: Yeah, we’ve all been active in the songwriting process but I usually work on the basic ideas for the songs. And I’ve been working a lot on the preproduction. I work with a friend of mine recording it in Cubase and sequence the drums, just playing around with ideas. I brought CDs to rehearsal and we all went through it and everybody came up with additional ideas. Also, ideas come up with Trym (drummer) and myself jamming a lot. That’s how we often come up with basic ideas for songs. And with Trym being active, he’s great with drum patterns. So it’s been a good working unit for this album. Everyone has been involved. It makes me feel like we have a proper line-up. Everybody’s dedicated to the band. That’s been the difference from the first album. On the first album, we rehearsed it as a three-piece and brought in a session vocalist. Everything was more spontaneous. Well for this album, we’ve been more prepared and more confident in the whole process of making a whole album.
APESHIT: When you first formed ZYKLON, EMPEROR was still an active band. Was it your intention to form a new, full-time band?
Samoth: Yeah. The intention was to form a new hardworking, proper band because even at that point, I kinda knew that EMPEROR was coming to an end. Ihsahn (EMPEROR frontman) had already started up PECCATUM and Trym and I decided to get this new thing going now. We wanted something to fall back on and…EMPEROR went to the grave.
APESHIT: There are some pretty shredding leads on the new album, especially on songs such as “Specimen Eruption,” “The Prophetic Method” and “Core Solution.” Did you guys try to focus on stronger guitar solos this time around?
Samoth: Absolutely. We already used quite a few leads on the first album but for this one, we pretty much have leads on every song. And Destructhor had a lot more time to work on his leads. He did an amazing job. He’s a fuckin’ guitar hero in my opinion. He’s been doing great work.
APESHIT: He does all kinds of soloing techniques.
Samoth: Yeah, he’s amazing. And he never had any training or anything. He just shreds. He can fuckin’ do it! I’m very happy with having him in the band, obviously. He’s a very strong lead guitarist and that is very important for a band.
APESHIT: One distinct aspect of your sound is the use industrial/electronic samples/parts. Are there any bands/artists that have helped to shape this aspect of your sound?
Samoth: It’s hard to point out a direct source of inspiration for these types of electronic parts that we put into the band. Basically, I’m so open to any kind of music. I like a lot of more, darker electronic music and even like some techno stuff. I don’t think these electronic parts are essential for the ZYKLON sound but it’s a strong addition to our basic sound and it works really well. It kind of enriches the sound on the album and the overall vibe of the album. I just like that industrial feel. I don’t know. It just creates an extra atmosphere, a dark futuristic feel. But it’s also important not to over do it and make it cheesy like some bands…like THE KOVENANT maybe.
APESHIT: On both ZYKLON records, you have featured different vocal styles from guest musicians. Garm (ULVER) contributed some on “Transcendental War ??” Battle Between Gods” on World ov Worms and Ofu Kahn (RED HARVEST) did the lead vocals on “An Eclectic Manner” on Aeon.
Samoth: I think that we’re always going to experiment with things. I really like to do that, like trying something new, like new elements. I don’t like to have this set type of sound. I always think that it’s interesting to bring in some guest artists. “OK, let’s try something new for this song or try something different with the vocals or add on an electronic part on this song.” I just find it more exciting to be able to experiment a little bit. I think a lot of people are afraid of that. They just have strict formulas on how music is supposed to be. I guess this is also from being in EMPEROR for so many years. We were always so open to evolution and progression. It just comes naturally for me to continue that attitude with ZYKLON.
APESHIT: I think that a lot of bands restrict their sound to a point where they have nowhere to go after a few albums.
Samoth: Yeah, that’s very true. In some ways it’s a good thing. It just depends on how you do it…if you can pull it off or not.
APESHIT: Songs such as “Core Solution” and “Two Thousand Years” have an almost doom metal feel in some parts. Were there any doom influences that directly influenced these parts?
Samoth: Well, again I cannot tell you that a certain band influenced us. (But) I do like some doom metal like old CANDLEMASS for example. I wouldn’t see it as a direct source of inspiration for what we’ve done (though). It’s like, “make what feels right.” When I write music and I come up with a doomy riff and it has a certain vibe…and if I think like, “OK, this is going to work,” then we try it out…whether it’s doomy or some total insane blast beat part. As long as we can make it work and it works for us, then “let’s go for it.”
APESHIT: Bard Faust (ex-EMPEROR drummer) is back again as the band’s lyricist. Did you give Faust early versions of the music or did he bring you the lyrical concepts and ideas after the music is completed?
Samoth: Well, he writes the lyrics completely independent of the music. So we have to work through the lyrics. Maybe some lyrics don’t fit and we have to tell him to rewrite it or we rewrite them. But it’s been going really well so it hasn’t been a big issue. He’s free to do whatever he wants.
APESHIT: So do you plan on having him write lyrics for future albums?
Samoth: Well, he’s pretty much the prominent lyricist for the band already. So far it’s working well so I’m guessing that he will be doing the lyrics for the next album as well.
APESHIT: I found it interesting that ZYKLON has four drummers (both past and present) within its ranks. With the background that the four of you have, does everyone contribute to writing the drum parts or does Trym write them on his own?
Samoth: We all have ideas when it comes to that as well. Especially on this album, I did a lot of preproduction stuff and we programmed the beats even before he heard the songs. Maybe he makes changes and has additional ideas. But we all work through it basically. He’s more of the drummer type. I played drums for a little bit in the beginning of EMPEROR more for the fun of it really because we never had any other drummer (at the time). I was never a proper drummer. And Secthdamon is really a guitar player to begin with. And he was the same thing as me. He could play a little bit of drums and he ended up playing drums in MYRKSKOG. Just starting because he knew a little bit and turned out to be a fucking awesome drummer. So it’s all pretty complicated.
APESHIT: Both you and Trym have toured with MORBID ANGEL several times in the past both with ZYKLON and EMPEROR. Your cover of “Dominate” on the MORBID ANGEL tribute on Necropolis Records was probably the best track. Would you say that MORBID ANGEL is a big influence?
Samoth: I think in general…yeah. We are influenced by MORBID ANGEL and I they have been one of my favorite bands since I heard them when Altars of Madness first came out. So it’s not something that just started to inspire us just now. I think that even with EMPEROR, we were influenced by MORBID ANGEL on certain albums like IX Equilibrium for example. It had a more death metal vibe to it. I think that they’re almost the SLAYER of death metal, you know? They just have this huge impact on the death metal scene. They do inspire a lot of bands and I see nothing wrong with being inspired by good bands. The main thing is to make sure that the music you make has a personal touch to it. It’s not so important to me to be completely original but I think it’s important to have an individual sound, which I think we have even though we are clearly inspired by MORBID ANGEL and SLAYER and whatever. Tell me what extreme metal band who is not.
APESHIT: What are your touring plans for the rest of the year?
Samoth: Nothing is confirmed at the moment but we hope to confirm a European tour soon. And we’re doing some smaller, individual shows in Norway. We might have a mini-tour in Finland. I’ve been talking to various agents and promoters for stuff around Europe. We’re also looking into coming out to America at the beginning of next year. We’re quite eager to come out and try the new material.
APESHIT: Are there any particular bands that you would like to tour with for Aeon?
Samoth: Hmm…there are plenty of bands. SLAYER would be good…TESTAMENT, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. I would go out with SLIPKNOT if I could. That would be fucking great. So we’ll have to see what offers we get. I would love to go out with MORBID ANGEL again. NILE would be great. HATE ETERNAL would be great.
APESHIT: If you had to summarize what ZYKLON were about in a word or short phrase, what would it be?
Samoth: Fucking metal.