We, at heart, are just metal fans, giving our opinion to you, our readers, five times a week. When we have a chance to interview a band that we admire, it is a thrill for us, both as writers and fans. So, as keyboardist Gorka Elso and vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez sat down to answer some of our questions, we were like the proverbial kid in a candy store. See what they had to say about their emergence as a symphonic metal powerhouse, their classical inspirations, and where things go from here.
First and foremost, we want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to answer some questions for us.
Thank you for the interest! We really appreciate it!
In the formative days of the band, who were your major influences in crafting the sound that has been so synonymous with your name? When did you realize that your music was... special?
Our main influences are all kind of metal and classical music, but we don’t have only a musical influence. Our music is eclectic, we like different stuff and we have no boundaries in creating music. Besides, all of us have a different musical background… You can’t imagine how many different music styles we listen to!
It sounds like a cliché but we do what we want to do and we don’t think whether it’s going to be too hard, too poppy... We only think if we like what we have done or not. I have never thought our music is special, but what I can say is that is ‘honest’ if you see my point. Music is above all ‘expression’, and you don’t feel always in the same mood, so does happen with our music…
We are lucky that the five of us are very open-minded in this matter. We all like to experiment with music and sounds and you easily can see that when you are listening to ‘The Wanderer’.
In my particular case, I like Early Music, folk and world music a lot, so it is easy to find some ethnic winks in some of the songs. I actually played some Celtic whistles and the baroque flute in this album too.
The name of the band carries a lot of weight. What led to choosing this name, Diabulus In Musica, for your project? And what do you think the name conveys to your listeners?
‘Diabulus in Musica’ is a Latin mediaeval music term that means ‘the devil in music’. It was like that as they called the triton or the interval of the augmented fourth in the Middle Ages. The medieval ear was used to hearing perfect fourths and perfect fifths. The augmented fourth, being halfway between these two most common intervals, was about the worst discord imaginable. That’s why they thought that the devil was inside the triton.
As Early Music is my favourite style in classical and actually is what I usually sing, I chose this name. It was perfect for us not only because of the meaning it has to me, but also because it sounds a bit dark, as our music sometimes. We like this ‘dark romantic aesthetic’ as well as Early Music, so we thought Diabulus in Musica was the name that fit us the best.
All of you made the decision to make Diabulus In Musica your main musical focus, leaving other bands to stay together full time. What was it about the music you were making together that led to that decision?
For me it was clear, because in the band I sang before I didn’t have the chance to write songs. I had to adapt my voice to the songs that were already written for a male voice. I wanted to express my own ideas so I started to write my own songs in the style I really felt like. Gorka played with me in that band and also with Adrián in another different one, but the future of both bands wasn’t clear. Also, the way they worked wasn’t the best, so we decided to create something more serious. We immediately saw that together the songwriting process flowed better and that we complemented each other very well. We have grown together as musicians and realized that we are in the same way even if we are very different also in our music tastes! There is a kind of magic among us!
How do you think your sound and songwriting evolved from the release of "Secrets," to your new album, "The Wanderer"? How have you all grown as musicians in the span of two short years?
I think we learned a lot during the recording process of our first album. Even before Secrets was released we started to talk about the following album. We were very happy with the result of Secrets but it had been recorded more than a year before it was released, so we were looking forward to develop new ideas and improve some things.
One day we sat all together and started to think about the new album. We wanted to write a conceptual one, because we didn’t want to record just a collection of songs. It was challenging and exciting to work that way, also like an experiment. We enjoyed the experience a lot, I think that feelings express themselves much better through music if you have something clear to tell before. We also had a very clear idea about how the songs should sound. That’s why we decided to do the production by ourselves and I think it turned out really well! We are very happy with the result.
In short, we wanted to create something more like a ‘soundtrack’. Music had to fit what we want to tell in each song, it had to recreate the atmosphere we had in mind in each ‘scene’. I think ‘The Wanderer’ is a very passionate album. All the feelings are perfectly captured. I would say that ‘The Wanderer’ is denser, more bombastic… but also more refined than ‘Secrets’. To achieve all this we have worked a lot on the arrangements, we introduced new instruments and even folk or ethnic touches. It has been a very enriching experience and for sure we have grown a lot musically wise!
On both albums, you had the services of some huge names in the metal community, from Sascha Paeth (On "Secrets") to Epica's Mark Jansen (On "The Wanderer") to name a few. How did these collaborations come to be, and how do you feel they put their unique stamp on the work?
In the case of Sascha, it was Ad Sluijter (who mixed ‘Secrets’) who contacted him. They know each other very well and Ad was sure he would do a great job in the mastering process so he proposed him and accepted. Both did a great job! For the Wanderer we decided to work with Jacob Hansen because we wanted to have a more aggressive approach in the sound that fitted better the new songs. He has done an amazing job too!
As for Mark, we wanted to have a collaboration of a “grunter” because all the collaborations until then had been “melodic”. We thought about him because we like their music and also because of our friendship with Ad. I sent Mark the whole song to ask him if he would like to sing and he immediately accepted. We felt honoured as he said he only does this when he really likes the music, so it was a honour for us and we are very happy to have him!
One of the more intriguing aspects of your music is the way you blend classical and metal music into one singular sound. To an outsider, that combination seems odd. But how difficult was it, really, to come to that balance of old and new?
It’s not easy, as you have to equilibrate all the elements and let each instrument have its own “space”, underlining what you think it’s the most important sequence in each song. Anyway, it’s kind of a natural thing for us to do. I mean, Gorka and I are metalheads since teenagers but both come from the classical field, so symphonic metal is the style we like the most and we feel comfortable with. We have grown listening to both styles so the combination was clear when we started with the band. I love metal because I think it’s a style you can blend with many different sounds, the same happens with classical music. As you say, the combination can be odd, but at the end, classical music and metal are not so far away from each other and both are so passionate!
On the new album, vocalist Zuberoa Aznarez comes into her own, often times commanding the tracks in a way few singers can. What is it like working with a singer with her talents, and her unique style?
It’s really a pleasure. I think that a big percentage that makes people likes a song is the voice, because it’s what you could hear more clearly and what gives you the bigger difference among other bands. It’s a pity that some singers try to imitate other singer, but Zuberoa has and wants to show it’s particular “color”. Also her voice can express a wide range of emotions that helps a lot to achieve the right sound on each song.
The new album features some of the most ambitious songwriting the five of you have been a part of. With only two years between albums, how did you manage to write 12 more intense tracks, and create such rich soundscapes?
Thanks for the compliments! I’m not sure… as I said before we changed the way of working in the moment we decided to write a conceptual album. After we decided the story and the kind of songs we needed to tell it, each one of us started to work on a song or two by our own. When we finished it, we forwarded the song to the other band-members and then started to work together on the final arrangements when needed. We all had to feel that the song was completely finished and that it really expressed what we wanted. It is not easy when we are 5 people with different points of view, but fortunately we all agreed! We make a good team hehe
I was surprised that sometimes the song came itself, maybe it’s because it’s easier to find the inspiration after feeling or believing on what you try to tell…
As you tour and play the festival scene (the Metal Female Voices Festival being a prime example), the response has been overwhelmingly positive. What has the experience been like for you thus far, and has there been any single show that stands out from the rest?
Playing MFVF was an amazing experience, we shared many great moments with fans, organizers, stuff and other bands. We are very grateful that Phil, promoter, gave us that chance. There is a very special atmosphere there, a very direct contact with the audience and everybody at Oktoberhallen is so lovely! We cannot wait to come back for the 10th anniversary this year, it will be blast!
Every show is special, but I have very good memories from our show in Mexico. The audience was so warm! I remember they started to shout a lot when we went on stage and I thought that something bad was happening haha but it was only the way they enjoyed the shows!
In an interview a few months ago, American symphonic black metal musician Dan Klyne asserted that metal musicians should be looked as "composers" instead of just guitarists and song writers. Based on the music you make, would it be safe to say that you agree with that contention?
Haha, well somehow yes, but, I wouldn’t say that I’m a “composer”. I feel that “compose” an opus is something more complex and reserved to a few people, if you see what I mean. But I totally agree that we are not just players or song writers, we have to be also arrangers and sometimes sound engineers, producers… we have to know about musical aspects that are not exclusively from our instrument. We write music for orchestra or choir and this is something that not all the bands do. Maybe in every “symphonic metal” style you need to have a clear overview of what you want to write, otherwise you are in risk of writing a mess! I mean, it’s not only take your guitar and play a riff and then add the voice and the drums, you have to be more careful as there are lot more instruments.
To that point, you have worked with some of the most prestigious choirs and orchestras along the way, something that few true metal bands can say. For a group that specializes in classically influenced symphonic metal, what did those collaborations mean to you on a personal level? How did they inspire your work?
We have studied music since years and for me, a lover of metal and classical music, it was like a dream that becomes true to have the opportunity to work with such a professional musicians. I wouldn’t say they inspired our work, haha, they just play what we have written. Seriously, it’s really important to record with so talented musicians because they understand and can express perfectly what we expect from them.
With the new album out everywhere music is sold, thanks to the folks at Napalm Records, and shows booked throughout the year, what comes next for Diabulus In Musica? What can we expect from the next album?
For the moment we are focused on playing as much as we can. “The Wanderer” is still too recent and we haven’t think anything about the next album, but you could expect anything ;-)
Thank you so much for taking this time out for us. We appreciate it greatly, and can't wait to see what comes next.