Zornheym is a Symphonic Extreme Metal band from Sweden. They have been around since 2014 and their debut album, “Where Hatred Dwells And Darkness Reigns” was released in 2017. Now they have a new album in the making and I had the pleasure of interviewing Tomas Nilsson, alias Zorn (who plays lead guitar and bass), who kindly answered some questions for Blessed Altar Zine about the band and also about himself.
Hi Tomas, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Working on Zornheym’s new album keeps you very busy for sure. First of all, how have you dealt with these last 15 bizarre months? Have you spent more time dedicated to music, for example?
Zorn: First off, thank you for your interest in myself and Zornheym! Personally, I must say that it hasn’t affected me that much. Sweden has stayed more open than other countries so I have been able to go to the stores, shipping off merchandise orders, etc. I do enjoy long walks and outdoor exercise in solitude, something that has been possible to do as well. I work as a teacher and the schools have remained open here so work-wise it has been business as usual, with some restrictions of course. For Zornheym, well we have missed some shows, but on the other hand, we got a lot of extra time so we managed to finish off the new Zornheym album a lot sooner. I have also started composing the next album.
Zornheym’s debut album, “Where Hatred Dwells And Darkness Reigns” was released in September 2017. The lyrics talk about stories from the asylum, voices talking inside inmates heads… Who’s the lyricist writing them, and where the inspiration for such themes come from?
Zorn: I am the main lyrics writer. Scucca has however been a great source of creative and language input. The inspiration comes from real cases, urban legends, myths, TV series and our own sick and twisted imagination. I watch a lot of TV shows about serial killers and mentally disturbed people. I got the idea of making a concept about asylum in my mid 20’s. Zornheym’s epic music and great ambitions were the obvious chance to bring out that idea and to make it come to life.
Musically, Zornheym delivers Extreme Metal driven by orchestral arrangements and epic choruses. Can you talk a bit about the process of composing the music? I mean, what comes first, lyrics or music? And how do all guys in the band put things together?
Zorn: Usually the music comes first. With the second album I had the general concept planned out, so the concept kind of decided the tempo of the new album. I do however write dramatic music so it is always easy to make the lyrics evolve out of the existing soundtrack. Our work process is very effective. I compose the song and make a pre-production recording of it. Then I send it to Bendler who starts working with vocal lines. When he feels ready I feedback and present my ideas. After that I take the track to Scucca and we start going through orchestral arrangements that I have done. He gives feedback on them and maybe suggests some different instrumentations etc. After that Steve goes through my basic drum ideas and arranges the drums after them. When we have gotten this far it is usually time to swap out the nonsense lyrics with the real wording. When I and Scucca go over the lyrics then we might do some minor adjustments of the vocal lines. After that, the track is recorded at Wing Studios.
Along with the music, there’s a graphic novel that followed the release of ‘Where Hatred Dwells…’ Who had the idea of doing that? It came naturally after the album edition, or the idea was there since the beginning?
Zorn: I got that idea after I stumbled across the talented Anu Bring (@ArtbyBring on instagram) during the making of the first album. I approached her about the idea and she told me that it was her long time dream to make a comic. So we decided to start working on it together. Since the stories are grand we felt that this was the perfect way to expand it and invite the listener deeper down to the depths of the asylum. Right now there are 3 parts that explain the concept. The lyrics, the Doctor’s journals inside the booklet of the CD, and the graphic novel.
Now, let’s talk about Zornheym’s upcoming album. What’s its current status? Are all songs already mixed and recorded?
Zorn: All songs are composed, recorded, mixed and mastered. We have also recorded the first music video for it. The last mixes will be sent over to the label today.
Can you say something in advance about it to your band’s followers? It will be in the vein of your debut album, with more creepy stories from the asylum and that bombastic sound? Do you have in mind to launch it soon? There will be some guest musicians on it, maybe?
Zorn: The second album is also taking place at the asylum. All our albums will do that. I would say that the new album has more of everything from the first album. It is more orchestral, more guitar driven, more grandiose, heavier, faster. There might be some more heavy metal influences on it and some really nice parts where Bendler gets to show off his clean vocal skills. The new album will be released this year, that’s all I can say for now. Since everything is done and we have started recording a music video, you should guess that things will start to happen sooner rather than later. There will be lots of guest musicians of course, since we are using real strings and a real choir. Thanks to all of them the album has a real majestic sound! We’ll have string people who have worked with Dimmu Borgir and the Swedish philharmonic. A lot of talented people have played on this album!
More than a year with no gigs nor festivals must have been really tough times for you. As a musician, do you have any gigs booked in a near future? And as a metalhead, what’s the next concert you want to attend?
Zorn: We actually played one show at the “Raise your Horns” festival in September 2020 in Denmark. That was awesome, even though there were tons of restrictions. Like the audience had to sit down, they couldn’t sing, etc… We have yet another show booked in Denmark in September 2021. I hope that it will happen of course! I’m always trying to adjust to the circumstances. So now when we can’t tour, then I do other things with the band. I write music, fix with music videos and promotions etc. There is always stuff to do. The worst thing you can do is to sit and be depressed over things that are beyond your control. As a band leader I need to stay creative and keep pushing the band forward.
I do however understand that people are depressed about it, and as a metal head I think it sucks that I can’t go and see a show. My last show I went to, except the festival we played at, was Symphony X in Stockholm. They were fantastic!
Would you say that all these pandemic times have had something positive? Well, at least you and the rest of the members in Zornheym have produced a new album. Do you think that these months of isolation have influenced your music in some way?
Zorn: Hopefully it will have brought back a bigger appreciation for live music and art among people. I prefer to look at life in a bright perspective, so I hope that we have strived forward during these troubled times. Like you mention, we managed to finish the new album and have already started working on the next. Like I said earlier, I haven’t been that much isolated, so I don’t think the music or the lyrics has been affected by the pandemic.
Talking about your other band, Aktiv Dödshjälp (which means Active Euthanasia), what’s its current status? Is there something new cooking? How would you define your music with this band, for those who are not familiar with it?
Zorn: Aktiv Dödshjälp has been inactive for 10 years, ever since I moved to Stockholm. Before I moved I actually had a whole album more or less composed and ready. When we were recording the new Zornheym album I thought it was time to resurrect Aktiv, so I asked Steve Joakim to record the drums to one “new” song. After that it took me some time to book Roberth’s vocal session and to get Madeleine Liljestam to record her parts. The song turned out great and the mix is ready now. We’ll probably record a music video for it and then release it. However, since everything went so smoothly with this song the urge to record a few more songs woke.
Now, back to the origins. At what age did you discover Metal? Which bands were the first ones that made ‘click’ in your head?
Zorn: Hmm I think I was around 7-8 years old. It started with Twisted Sister’s “We’re not gonna take it”. After that I got introduced to Guns n’ Roses and Iron Maiden by my friends at school.
Enjoying Metal is a thing, but when did you first come up with the idea of being in a band? Was Devian the first one in which you played?
Zorn: No, I joined my first band when I was 12 years old, the band was called “Music crusaders”. The funny thing is that all four members of that band are still playing music in one way or another. After that there was a period where I formed a new band every week. The first band that I released something official with was called “Suicidal Seduction”. A mixture of melodic Death/Thrash metal. Think you can find some songs on YouTube with Suicidal Seduction.
You were in Dark Funeral as the bassist for a few years, though you don’t play in any album. Did you do any gigs with them?
Zorn: I did several shows with Dark Funeral, probably about 50-80 gigs. I got to play all bigger festivals in Europe and we did one South American tour, one North American tour and one Asian tour.
As a guitar and bass player, which are the musicians that mostly inspired or influenced you?
Zorn: I see myself mainly as a guitar player and composer. When it comes to guitar my main influences are Yngwie Malmsteen and Marty Friedman. I especially like how Marty builds melodies and his way of thinking. In general I get very influenced by all kinds of sound tracks and orchestral scores.
As a bass player I more try to play with the song and not “over play” and be all over the place. Being one united with the drums is really important.
Thank you for your answers, wishing the best for you and for Zornheym to come, is there something you want to add?
Zorn: First off, if you made it all the way here, thanks for checking out the whole interview. The new Zornheym album is a real juggernaut that you don’t want to miss out! By far the coolest album that I have been a part of. Make sure to follow our social media pages and check them regularly for updates about the new album!
Interview by Sílvia
Check out the fantastic video they did for their song “The Opposed” and keep your eyes peeled, for the new Zornheym album is coming soon…
For more about Zornheym, please visit:
Check out also Aktiv Dödshjälp:
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