Hails and welcome. How is all going up there in Dublin? I bet it's wet as hell, right? What will you be listening to while answering my questions?
SABBAC: I think schizophrenic would be the best way to describe the weather right now. We’re getting every season crammed into one day. . .and right now, I’m listening to some Mott the Hoople.
As far as I know you recently finished a tour across northern Europe with Dead Congregation. How was the experience sharing the road with Anastasis and his mates and what was the best part of that? How were the new songs received by the audience? And, among the other great bands you shared the stage with, which ones surprised you the most?
SABBAC: The tour was a lot of fun. A lot of booze, a lot death metal and hilarity. Also pretty stress free and well run thanks to Daniel (Killtown Bookings). We seemed to hold our own each night and it was cool sampling the local brews and whatever else we could get our hands on. . .you know what they say, what happens on tour stays on tour. As for bands. . .Undergang, Bones and Incarceration were particular highlights. . .also about all I can remember right now. The tour was a while ago now and my memory is fukking useless these days.
I've been impatiently waiting for your first album, as the previous EP was simply crushing. Taking in mind the success both previous releases and your live shows got, from what I've read, did you feel some pressure when it came to create your first album? Are you very self-demanding when it comes to your songs and how they match in context of a release?
SABBAC: No, not at all and I’ve said this before. . .ZOM do what we do for us. No one else. We don’t feel pressure and we certainly don’t stress ourselves when it comes to the writing process. When it’s ready, it’s ready. Simple as. We’ve always had our basic template and work well from that. . .the album is just really a continuation of that with slightly sharper song writing. Despite our best efforts we’ve somewhat improved as musicians and with that ideas have become more ambitious.
The album has been released by Invictus Productions (who already released your demo both on tape and vinyl) and Dark Descent Records on CD, and will later appear on vinyl format. How was this alliance forged and what's your opinion about their work so far? Do you think the most recent Irish underground Metal history would be the same if Darragh and Invictus Productions weren't there, among others? I would definitely recognise his great taste when it comes to supporting bands and releasing their stuff, no matter the style.
SABBAC: It was all a “spit and handshake” type deal really. Obviously we know Darragh, we’ve worked with him before and he’s amazingly dedicated and passionate about what he does so it makes it all the better. I doubt anyone would know of this band if it wasn’t for him in the beginning. He’s been incredibly supportive throughout and he’s really done more than his fair share for the scene over the last while. . .but he’ll tell you himself, that’s what he does and he’ll do it until the end. Matt from dark Descent has that same commitment and passion too so it’s easy to work with them both for sure and we’re delighted with what they’ve done for Flesh Assimilation.
When finished listening to “Flesh Assimilation” for the first time I was a bit confused as, despite it was very clear I would love the record, I had a lot of different thoughts in my head. The reason, apart of a certain progression from the previous stuff, was that I found a complex and wide variety of influences that weren't as clear on your demo and EP. Did you think a lot about the path to take for the first full-length or just let everything flow as it came out? What did you want to avoid from your previous experiences?
SABBAC: Well like I said, we got a little better at playing. For instance, I’m not a drummer. . .I pretty much started drumming in this band. Took me a long time to learn shit and progress at the instrument. I still fukking suck right now but I’m better than I was so I can afford to try new things. Even if that’s just playing blastbeats for a little longer. We were and still are quite comfortable in where we were take our influences from. When it came to actual writing for Flesh Assimilation, the only thing set in stone was that we knew we were going to write an album. That was the only plan. We also know that all of us are on the same page when it comes to our influences and all three of us write for the band so there was never really a shortage of ideas or riffs. It wasn’t so much about avoidance of past endeavors as it was trying to build and improve on them.
In fact, while keeping the primal raw and chaotic feeling, there's a lot more focus on the riffs and everything is more discernible, which in some way makes it sound more classical, although the record sounds very actual at the same time because of its intensity and production. I've definitely found a lot of Thrash references this time, pointing to Slayer and Dark Angel as the primal suspects (although Celtic Frost is very present in the slower parts). Although those are driven to a point of intensity closer to stuff that came out of countries such as Australia or Canada. Did you find the need of some degree of groove and heaviness? I bet you have must have verified the good effect it has on stage.
SABBAC: Not really, not that much thought went into any of it. Again, we all write for the band so there’s a lot of ideas. . .really it was more of a case of what we liked, what we wanted, what moved us. That’s how we’ve always operated. We don’t give a fukk if you like it or not. We do this for us. That’s the attitude. Always has been. . .but hey, if you want to break your neck to it and go crazy at the gigs then go for it! It would also be fair to say we spent a lot more time with the mixing after the initial recording was done. Definitely more time than we spent on the demo or 7”.
And choosing Mr. Jack Control to do the master of the album could neither be an accident. I find a lot of references on “Flesh Assimilation” to raw Hardcore Punk, no matter if it comes from Sweden or Japan. The D-Beats, the corrosive and reverb loaded vocals, the catchy riffs ... I don't know if you would agree on this, as a lot of extreme Metal bands seem to have some problem with that … Although I saw one of you wearing a Mauser shirt, which at least should give me a hint ...
SABBAC: Well the other two guys had worked with him before with a previous band and were happy with the result so it was an easy choice and one less thing to organize. I think the whole “punk vs metal/metal vs punk” thing is kind of funny to be honest. I’ve definitely had people speak against the band on account of its “punk roots” but at the end of the day it’s all rock’n’roll to me. If someone is too fukking retarded to pick up on the musical similarities of Discharge and early Celtic Frost then what the fukk do I care!? And that’s not to say I haven’t encountered punks sneering at the metal heads either but again, the way I see it it’s much of a muchness to me. We don’t limit ourselves or our record collections to the opinions of others.
Still around the same subject, I'm surprised to see the good results when that guy takes over the mastering of a Metal record. I'm thinking about the last Darkthrone or Sun Worship LP's, and I really think it should happen more often that a Punk producer produces or masters a Metal LP. There will definitely be less digital sounding Metal records out there. What do you think?
SABBAC: Yeah, well that’s why we went with him. We’ve enjoyed a lot the stuff he’s worked on for a long time now. It was a safe bet. CTHON handled the communication there and whatever he said and asked for worked fine with us. . .but this is all a matter of taste of course.
I still haven't been able to read the lyrics of “Flesh Assimilation”, as I'm waiting for its vinyl release but, according to the titles of the tracks, everything seems to keep the same kind of cosmic horror vibe you used on your two previous recordings. Are you the kind of band which gives more importance to the match of music and lyrics, or is there, in the end, some kind of message which still represents a part of your inner selfs?
SABBAC: You won’t ever get to read the lyrics. They won’t be printed. Even I haven’t read them come to think of it but I know where the others are coming from with regards to the visual image projected. There’s no message but Flesh Assimilation is a loosely based concept album of sorts dealing with an alien lifeform harvesting the dying earth in its final throes for any and all organic material. Essentially erasing any and all traces the human race from existence.
I actually find some kind of strong ties between your music and the one other new bands such as Antediluvian, Witchrist or Beyond create, and I'm not speaking about a similar writing, but the vibes, the abstract and primitive atmosphere, and the search for a deeper and more evil feeling than the usual stuff we can find in Death Metal, especially when it comes to most of the old-school trend. It's not necessarily tied to some kind of philosophy, belief or whatever, but to an absolute feeling of darkness and chaos which was very present on the most brutal creators of the genre, and an absolute burst of aggressiveness. What do you think about this? Do you manage to find many bands that give you the creeps such as the first Sepultura, Slaughter Lord or Necrovore did?
SABBAC: I don’t care really, none of this factors in my or our collective thought process when it comes to ZOM. Again, we know what we want. We’ve had a strict template from which we work from. . .we all know what is what. We were never about invoking rituals or sandalwood incense. . .we wanted to be the aural equivalent of you getting your teeth smashed in. This isn’t intelligent music, it’s primitive. No thinking.
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who was completely astonished by the artwork of “Flesh Assimilation”, which in fact is a very visual way to capture the huge progression of your sound, from that very primal form to how this album crushes everything prior. The cover was drawn by Zbigniew Bielak, a Polish artist who already showed his talent on the last Demonomancy or Azarath works (amongst many others such as Absu, Watain or Mayhem). Why did you choose him and what kind of instructions did you give him to get that weird piece of Giger-esque machinery?
SABBAC: We didn’t chose him. He came to us. . .and at a time were we had already had several artists turn us down due to schedules etc. so it was perfect really. He originally contacted Invictus offering his services and after I had some email discussions regarding our vision we had for the cover he all agreed he was the man for the job. The initial idea for the cover was conceived between myself and CTHON with references ranging from Akira to Tetsuo: the Iron Man. Bielak picked up everything immediately and loved the idea and went with it. . .and what we got in return we were damn happy with it despite the awful wait but hey, can’t rush art right!?
In the last years there's been a small but very strong wave of new extreme Metal bands from your country, such as Wreck Of The Hesperus, Malthusian, Vircolac, Urnfields, Fuil Na Seanchoille … who next to other older bands such as Primordial, Abbadon Incarnate or Mourning Beloveth have shown an immense sense of good taste and have released small jewels for the extreme Metal underground. But it surprises me to see that, in a similar way as the core of extreme bands from London, that scene seems to be pretty incestuous. Aren't there any more musicians in Ireland with a decent musical taste or you like to keep it small and close?
SABBAC: Well of course there are plenty of other musicians but finding likeminded people isn’t always the easiest task and if you’re all already friends then why not start a band. That’s pretty much how it works in my mind. With regards to ZOM, we’ve all know each other for years and played in bands with each other before so it was easy to build the band from that.
Actually, I've got the impression that this new wave of obscure and extreme Metal that has come up in the last ten years or so, be it Death, Black or Doom Metal, whatever, has achieved to be successful where a lot of classical bands failed. I mean, not loosing their path, their darkness, their rage … And maybe that's due to the fact bands are not expecting to sign for a big label and start living from music. What do you think about this?
SABBAC: Honestly, I don’t. I don’t think much about that shit at all.
What new records have you been digging the most lately, whatever the style? And what old stuff have you been re-discovering lately?
SABBAC: Off the top of my head. . .that Stone Dagger 7”, the new Occultation, Randy Uchida, Antwon’s Fantasy Beds mixtape has been getting a lot of plays, Grand Funk Railroad, MC5, Anti Cimex, Perturbator’s Days of Darkness, GG Allin ’78-82, Speedtrap’s Powerdose, Run the Jewels, Cheap Trick’s Dream Police.
What will be next in ZOM's path in the upcoming future? When will I be able to get the vinyl version of “Flesh Assimilation”? Will there be more touring maybe? I know you'll be in Portugal for the SWR Fest in Barroselas. Have you already been getting ideas for new songs or will you take some time to just get in the right mood to write some new sonic violence?
SABBAC: We’re slowly getting back into the writing process but there’s nothing concrete planned right now other than a small handful of gigs over the summer and our Beyond the Gates appearance in Bergen, Norway in August. We all play in several bands between us so we’re quite busy outside of ZOM a lot of the time. . .but there will be something. At some stage.
Cheers, and thanks a lot for your time. Good luck with whatever comes in the future. Last words are yours.
SABBAC: Cheers for your interest in the band, it’s much appreciated. Drink Satan, worship beer and support your local drug dealer.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.