When you‘ve been around 30 years into the scene, probably you have a lot to say. Especially if you are Archon Vorskaath of Zemial cult, your words have a special value!
This Is Black Metal: Zemial have been present in the scene for almost 30 years, though you have made few releases, each one sounds unique. So let’s first talk about your latest offering, “The Repairer of Reputations”, which I consider it your most personal work. I think that you have made your prog rock/kraut/70s (Magma) influences clearer than ever! What are your thoughts about it?
Archon Vorskaath: The Repairer of Reputations is my most ambitious work to date and I do feel that the mission has been accomplished. I really enjoyed writing and recording it and it is my favorite piece of the live set list, though it is the most demanding piece to perform.
Obviously, this not classified as heavy metal, as it is different in structure, sound and different in the approach in general. Of course, the playing is also something completely different. However, a connection exists in how dark this piece is. The link between all of the music of Zemial is no longer to be found in how heavy the music is, but rather in how dark the atmosphere it invokes is. This tears down the limitation of any one genre and opens up the possibilities for writing something more expressive.
I already have composed an entire album worth of music within those parameters which I intend to release under the banner of Zemial. Yet I am still undecided as to whether that will “work” so to speak.
TIBM: Any plans for a physical release of “The Repairer of Reputations”?
Archon Vorskaath: Yes indeed. Due to the fact that I am working on another album project at present as well as working on our touring commitments, the album that will include the Repairer of Reputations will not be completed until we return from tour in autumn 2018.
TIBM: Also it’s the first time that your lyrics don’t concentrate on mythology or “dark” themes, since you have decided to make an “musical adaptation” of a 19th century novel. Do you enjoy literature?
Archon Vorskaath: I beg to differ. This theme is as dark as any theme may ever be. All of what we refer to as “dark”, stems from within the human psyche and our perception of that which is hidden, unusual, marginal and beyond our understanding and/or control. This story is steeped in the kind of darkness that may possess and overwhelm man himself to the point of inevitable doom. Hence its instant appeal and subsequent use for Zemial.
I love literature, particularly that of the late 1800’s and of the early 20th century.
TIBM: I think that “Face of The Conqueror” was something like a landmark in your discography. Heavy/speed/epic metal influences were more present than before and this made your sound progress into the future releases. For me this EP should be considered as a milestone in Heavy-Black metal genre!
Archon Vorskaath: Every Zemial release has been different to the one preceding it. There is always something different I feel I want to express as a concept, hence the constant change.
For “Face of the Conqueror” I wanted a Thrash and Speed Metal release in the vein of Sodom, Celtic Frost, Destruction and Razor (before the term Black metal was used for this type of music). And I think it turned out exactly as planned. The title song is one of my favourite moments of Zemial.
Raw, yet dark and dire.
Zemial – Face Of The Conqueror 
TIBM: Any plans for a re-release on regular vinyl of “In Monumentum”?
Archon Vorskaath: Yes. I do want a black vinyl edition and I may re-mix or re-master the album.
At any rate, people have been asking for this for some time and I do want it as well. However, I am starting at the beginning, with re-releasing “For the Glory of UR” on vinyl at last. We are aiming at making it happen for our upcoming North American tour 2018.
TIBM: Considering that you constantly alter your sound, what should we expect in the future?
Archon Vorskaath: I already have 2 albums of material almost finished, and that is in the ‘Repairer of Reputations” vein, with more heavy metal, more Mellotron, more electronics, synthesizers, old world influences, darkness and more darkness.
And I also have a complete Black Metal album waiting to be recorded.
TIBM: You mentioned few days ago, that Proscriptor will join you on stage for a few shows. That would be only in US soil? Will you also collaborate on any album? I think that it’s been 24 years since you last worked together on Equimanthorn!
Archon Vorskaath: Indeed. Absu and Zemial have had a long, intertwining history and we have decided to take it a step further. Proscriptor will join Zemial as lead vocalist for a number of shows that we will announce in due time and may also be involved in recording vocals for the next album.
We are also extending our collaboration with my involvement in Absu. I am providing the Mellotron and synthesizers for the next Absu album, most of which is already recorded.
My last contribution to Absu was in 2008, to their homonymous album Absu, providing percussion and vocals.
TIBM: Since we mention live shows, I think that you perform more often now. Any comments?
Archon Vorskaath: We do. I find it quite pleasurable at present
TIBM: I was present on your live performance at the Arcane Angel fest, back in September 2017. Though there were some issues with the organization of the fest, your performance was remarkable! I just wanted to mention this. Some of your material, such as “Repairer…” or Pharos are meant to be played on smaller gigs, there are many emotions that cannot be fully achieved when you perform on larger audiences. I mean that I would like to see Zemial on a small bar, sitting with my drink in my hands, closing my eyes and feeling the transcendence of these tunes… What are your thoughts on this?
Archon Vorskaath: Thank you. With all the shit that went down on that Saturday evening, it was very difficult for me to enter a performance mode and relay the story of each song as I should.
But if that was in any way unperceived by the audience, then I am quite pleased.
I agree with you in that small to medium sized venues, bring the listener closer to the band and to the direct energy emitted by the band. I realized, to my horror, after having played at large capacity festivals, that most of what we played was not our sound and touch, but that of the P.A. and the judgment of the engineer at the time. This will work fine for some styles of music, but when music is dynamic, complex, and narrative in style, I feel that immediacy is part of the experience.
The Repairer of Reputations in particular, is a story to which I have put the music and it is always better to sit near the bard, around the fire, as tradition has it for such moments.
Zemial – Pharos [from the album Nykta]
TIBM: Though you have gained the respect of many throughout the years, unfortunately your acknowledgement isn’t the same as Rotting Christ, Varathron and Necromantia for example. Also, your consistency is remarkable, you haven’t released anything mediocre. I think that is totally unfair, because each release of your own set new and high standards in the scene. Why do you think that happened?
Archon Vorskaath: For the first 20 years of Zemial, I continuously chose to stay away from the mainstream.
The most vivid example of course being that of refusing Osmose Productions on three occasions. Herve had approached me during the big boom of Immortal, Rotting Christ, Enslaved, Impaled Nazarene, etc., but I refused the offers again and again, because I wanted to stay underground and keep my music for the few who were really into it. Instead of focusing on promoting Zemial, I worked with other bands and in other musical genres, as my interest in music was becoming broader. I also began studying percussion during this time and many other collaborations took place as a result of having taken that path.
Hence, my input with the Zemial has been concentrated and very filtered. I prefer to have released little music of depth and quality, than lots of music devoid of those qualities.
This has allowed me to explore many other different musical paths without having a commercial expectation looming above me all the time.
As nice as some sides of being popular may be, I still play music because it is something I need to express, rather than something I have to do to satisfy a record company or an audience.
Fortunately, I also make my living from being a musician and from the choices I have made.
TIBM: Apart from Zemial, you are a steady member of Agatus as well, since you appear in every release. Given that you are brothers, how is it that you have ended up forming two different bands and not just one, within which to pursue your musical vision?
Archon Vorskaath: We are two different people, two individuals with similarities, but with many differences as well. Being brothers and growing up together, it was quite natural to play music together. However, we had different ideas and we both wrote music that we felt was very much personal. So, this led to the creation of two groups really. Seeing as I was also interested in playing the drums, Agatus was an opportunity for me to try my hand them.
There have been some tremendously difficult time in having chosen to be a one-man band, but it is something I do not regret. The learning curve that has ensued is of singular value to me.
Besides, the history of both bands is quite satisfying. Of course, we also did form two musical projects in which we both collaborated with others as a band: Alpha Centauri and The Watcher.
TIBM: You have also taken part in projects that have nothing to do with Black Metal, such as Stone Cold Dead, Alpha Centauri and the collaboration on “Eternal Voyage”, I might have forgotten some! What can you say about your involvement to each of them?
Archon Vorskaath: Yes, there are more projects. Some are completely unrelated to rock music altogether.
Stone Cold Dead is the project of George Bokos (ex-guitarist of Rotting Christ, Nightfall and others) and Charis Pazaroulas; a classical double bass player.
They had decided upon a concept of hiring 3 drummers for each of the 3 parts of their debut album. So they contacted me to do 3 pieces. It’s a very modern kind of sound and the playing is very detailed. Certainly the heaviest of the projects you mentioned.
Alpha Centauri is a band that I formed in Australia with my brother in 1998. I really wanted to play some epic heavy metal in the old way with some smart riffs and arrangements. A rough demo was circulated and somehow made its way into the hands of Fenriz of Darkthrone who absolutely loved it. He kept telling people about it in interviews as his main recommendation despite the fact that we hadn’t released anything official yet. We will play some Alpha Centauri music live as part of the Agatus set at Up the Hammers Festival in 2018.
Eternal Voyage was a project that I was invited to form with trumpet player Markus Stockhausen, son of the great composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. The best way to describe it is a vertical learning curve.
Markus called me and asked if I wanted to play a concert at the Cologne Philharmonic. I gladly accepted and our first show was in front of 2,500 people.
The concert went great and so we formed an improvisational jazz ensemble featuring trumpet, flugelhorn, flute, bass-clarinet, voice, piano and drums/percussion. We did a few major profile concerts and then we recorded a completely improvised album. The musicianship in the ensemble was phenomenal. Very exciting and transformative times.
TIBM: The last few years, a lot of demos of the early 90s scene have been re-released. Do you think that the same could happen with the Nocturnal Death’s demos as well?
Archon Vorskaath: I hope not. They have played their role and it is just as well that they stay within distant memory.
TIBM: One question you might find a little boring: how difficult was it back in early 90s to play and record with an extreme metal band in Greece? How were the relationships with other members of the scene?
Archon Vorskaath: In our case and in the case of most people I knew it was very difficult because we had no money for decent equipment and we had no facilities. It was hard to practice as a band and very difficult to develop our own sound, as nobody had decent amplifiers or drums. Most bands used whatever a recording or rehearsal studio might provide. We only brought a guitar along and the occasional distortion pedal. That was all.
Relationships with other members of the scene were what you might expect from humans. Some bitch, some get along. Some are honest, some are full of shit. It’s the same today. Humans are humans and those characteristics are to be expected.
TIBM: As we are approaching the end of this interview, let me ask you about any future plans of yours.
Archon Vorskaath: We begin touring with a few shows in France, then we play in Greece, then the Ukraine, then we play USA and Mexico, before we return and do a European tour with Proscriptor on lead vocals.
In the meantime I plan to record a new Zemial album or two, to celebrate 30 years of introspective vastness via this musical entity in 2019.
TIBM: Thank you for answering this interview!
Archon Vorskaath: My pleasure.