Norwegian extreme metal act, Zustand Null debuts with a tremendous album entitled Beyond The Limit Of Sanity, and to know more about the new album, its story, the writing process, and others, I had the pleasure to chat with two of the band members, Matthew G. (vocals and guitar) and Max E. (guitar).
Hi guys, welcome to Antichrist magazine. It’s my pleasure talking to you. How are things going?
Matt: Great thanks! It’s good to hear from Antichrist again.
Max: Hi, Carla! Things are going great these days, finally having moved in and started to find our place in a new rehearsal room as well as the album finally being out. Never a better feeling than to finish something that you’ve worked with for years on end, and finally start something new with a fresh creative spark.
Finally, your debut album Beyond The Limit Of Sanity is out. First, what is the story behind the album?
Matt: Yes, finally! After the 2017 EP, we wanted to expand the concept to a full album. The songs from the EP were rerecorded, with a number of changes, particularly in the vocal delivery and overall production. I think in the time between these releases we really found a sense of what Zustand Null was as an entity. As for the concept, all of the lyrics flow around the ideas of a state between life and death, asleep and awake. (An) insanity brought about by this state of nothingness. Certain songs touch more solidly on some core themes, but as a whole, I guess it became a bit of a concept album. Even if the concept is intentionally vague. There’s definitely a lot to read into there.
Max: I agree with Matt here! The concept of the band name and the album itself is intentionally vague, but also purposely as to draw parallels and build a wider frame of mind thematically. The idea of Zustand Null itself is a boundary; a condition or state in between two extremes, being its life/death, sanity/insanity, past/future, order/chaos, etc. Say, the undefined grey in between the black and white. As Matt mentioned, a lot of the themes of this album specifically revolve around life/death, sanity/insanity, and reality/fantasy.
So far, what was the album response from the media, and the fans?
Matt: The response has been great. Longstanding fans have shown tremendous support and many have commented on the leap from the EP to the album in terms of quality. We’ve also been gaining a lot of new fans, both through word spreading online and from shows we’ve played around Norway. Reviews have been slowly emerging, and all have been very positive. It’s been great finding them and noticing that overall, no one seems to be able to label us with a solid genre. One will say it’s black metal with thrash, another will say they can’t hear any thrash influence, and that we’re more death than black metal. I think it’s great that our blend of metal has people confused, and ultimately calling the style unique. Actually, being called unique these days is a huge compliment!
Actually, when did you start writing and recording Beyond The Limit Of Sanity?
Max: The writing process is a bit difficult to define for me, as I tend to make pre-productions of all the riffs/songs in my home studio and finishing the skeleton of the songs at random before bringing them to the rest of the band. But, for some of the songs, like those from the EP and some riffs for the other songs, have been continuously written/rewritten since the project was started back in 2008. So, it has been a very long time in the process and has been a process following me through many, many years. After the band was “restarted” in 2017 however, we got a bit more productive, and the songs that were mainly written after that are “Parasomnia”, “The Mirror Maze”, “An Ocean Of Nightmares”, “I Will Be Your Eyes” and to a certain degree “Stranger Than Myself”. As you might notice there were a few changes to a couple of the songs that were rerecorded from the EP to the album as well. As for the recording for the actual release, it can quite clearly be marked when Magnus entered the studio to record the drums, which was in March 2019. All other instruments and vocals from the pre-productions were rerecorded after that recording session to go perfectly with Magnus’ style. On top of that, the mixing process also took some extra time as we were still searching to find really how we wanted to album to sound like. I have to say, I’m very happy with the result, and has been a proper manifestation of all those years of writing and rehearsing.
Was the Covid pandemic a (small) barrier, releasing the album?
Matt: It actually was a huge barrier for us! We had just changed drummer and had been working hard on the new songs. We felt ready to play as many shows as possible that summer, and get into the studio, but then everything closed down. We couldn’t rehearse, or play, and a lot of the album had to be recorded from our home studios.
Luckily things started to open up again when we needed to meet together to work on finishing the album. Of course, that year, a lot of musicians that could tour had decided to write and record, so as the world opened back up, there were huge backlogs and delays at vinyl pressing plants. So we ended up having to sit on a finished album for over a year before we could put out a physical product. Physical media is quite important to us, so we didn’t want to release digitally, with the CDs and vinyls coming out later, so waited till we had those, and released all formats at once. It cost us time, but the situation also gave us time to make sure things were done properly.
Two of the songs, ”Existence Nihil” and ”At The Limit Of Sanity” are actually songs from your first EP At The Limit OF Sanity, definitely, the sound of both songs is a bit different. Is Beyond The Limit… like a continuation of the EP?
Matt: We actually re-recorded all of the songs from the EP! The slight change in the titles was a way of showing that the album was the next step from the EP. Not really a continuation, and not just a rerecording. But definitely, an expansion of the Zustand Null concept started on the EP.
Max: I have to agree with Matt here; I think it’s important to see the album as an expansion of the EP. It’s not really a continuation or rerecording, but more as an actual part of that “era” as an expansion on the same themes and ideas. Also, it was a way for us to give the songs from the EP a proper recording and release, and let them shine and sound how we wanted them.
”Existence Nihil” is definitely one of my favorite songs, I like the ending phrase, ”Zustand Null”! What’s your favorite about the album?
Max: Thank you! I have to say that’s a difficult one for me. As mentioned before, the songs have been written and rewritten over a long time period, so listening through the songs is like time travel back and forth from 2008 to 2017 for me. In that regard, all the songs have some kind of favorite place for me, but I might have to say “Stranger Than Myself”, mainly because it has a good mix of old and new riffs – some that were written all the time back in 2008/2009 and some being written as late as in 2018-2019, so it’s like a schizophrenic timeless trip over a whole decade. It’s more of a personal favorite because of that.
Matt: ’’Ocean Of Nightmares’’ is probably my favorite. The lyrics were a little more personal, and the song really flows, even on the strange time signature parts (which I really forced myself to learn to sing over, since I really wanted vocals there!). Also, the opening riff of ”Parasomnia” is awesome!
Max: I have to add with Matt here that I also really enjoy ”Ocean Of Nightmares”! Remembering back that this was actually the first completely new song we started rehearsing together in 2017 after we knew songs that ended up on the EP.
Is a bit funny, and interesting too that, some of the songs I recognized a little by the time I was at your rehearsals, during my trip to Olso back in early 2019! Hehe!
Matt: That was a fun visit! I think by then, most of the songs were nearly as they are on the album. It’s great you recognize them, they must be at least a little catchy! We’ve actually moved from that rehearsal space to a more professional studio setup, so in the future, it should be easier for us to write, record and experiment in the studio!
Max: Hopefully the new rehearsal room also means we will be able to record and release new albums a bit more frequently as we can do all the recording work ourselves there. On a side note, we’ve already started rehearsing songs for the next release! One of the “good” things about the pandemic is that it gave us a lot of free time to write riffs, so we have quite a bunch of songs and new material to work with already.
You had a few shows already back in December if I’m not wrong, then, in order to promote the new album, are you planning a tour or more shows?
Matt: Just at the end of corona in 2021, we played with 1349 in Oslo, which was a great comeback after lockdown! From there, we have played a handful of shows in Oslo at different venues, and last year we broke out of Oslo to play in Bergen and Legend Metal Festival in Trondheim. Since the album launch, we had a release party and have played one show in Oslo, supporting From The Vastland. That was all we really had planned for now. We feel we’ve played a lot in Oslo in 2022, so for 2023 we want to prioritize getting out to the other cities again, and maybe even get abroad. I think the main focus now is to work on new material, since we’ve already started on some songs, and Max has over an album’s worth of demos ready (I can already say, musically, things are only going to get better after Beyond…!). So this year we should manage another release of some kind, and hopefully, we can get on the festival circuit next year.
What’s your opinion on the black metal scene today, especially the one in Norway?
Matt: That’s a tough one! I personally don’t think there is a scene in the way that there used to be. Black metal as a genre has expanded, and become accepted by the mainstream now, much like punk back in the’70s. Once something anti-establishment becomes accepted by that society, it stops being a movement. I know a lot of people that are fine casually hearing some black metal in the middle of their Rock playlist on Spotify. Mayhem has been on the TV, and Satyricon and Enslaved on the daytime radio. It’s just so watered down. Of course, there are still people that live for their music and black metal. It’s maybe not a coherent scene anymore, but this kind of people will gather at the black metal bars and talk music all night. There are also plenty of bands still playing real black metal and a lot of very dedicated musicians in Oslo in the broader extreme metal community. As for Zustand Null, I wouldn’t say we were black metal, but we seem very accepted as a key force in a growing wave of underground extreme metal bands in Oslo.
Thank you guys for the interview, was nice talking with you, and of course, I hope to see you soon again, and hopefully, next time, to a show!
Matt: Hope to see you again too! Thanks for the interview.
Max: Thank you! Hopefully, you’ll be able to finally see us live in not too long, if you’re able to catch us at the next possibility!
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