When it comes to Sweden’s industrial/black metal pioneers Diabolicum, and especially their rampaging latest disc ‘Ia Pazuzu’, utterly negative adjectives are all that can describe them. Given the opportunity to pick the brains of founding member Sasrof, it came as a surprise then to realise that as well as a penchant for nihilism, the band does also have a sense of humour (albeit a suitably dark, perverse one)…
AN: First up, I’d like to congratulate you on the brilliant ‘Ia Pazuzu’, an album I certainly didn’t expect to pop up in a reviews list any time soon. Have responses in magazines and on the internet lived up to your expectations for it?
Sasrof: Well, I was absolutely sure that the world had passed us by and that what we had produced was an album which would be greeted with as much appreciation as an ISIS run airline. From what I can tell from the information streams it seems as I was wrong.
AN: I recall a few conversations with misanthropes who absolutely worshipped ‘The Dark Blood Rising’. Was there demand from the black metal community over the last fourteen years for the band to return, and did you originally intend to produce a follow-up much sooner?
Sasrof: We were quite far into production of what was supposed to be our third nail back in 2003, but bad choice of studio, even shittier choice of producer and the fact that life has a way of constantly sucking balls, threw a big wrench in our grinder. Also the pathetic industry practice for bands and labels to vomit out a new album every eighteen months had reached its climax by that point. All this combined led us to take a long break from releasing any new (or old) material to the public. In the end, it was not so much of a demand, but a need, for us to rise again.
AN: To me, the structure of the tracks and production (particularly the drum sound) were upgraded to massive effect on ‘Ia Pazuzu’. Are you entirely satisfied with the record, and do you view it as the natural progression of the band’s existence or as the marker of a new phase?
Sasrof: Considering how much time we spent working on this thing, I better be satisfied with it. I consider IA PAZUZU to be in essence the same band that recorded Mori Voluntari in a small cell at the Mental Hospital in Östersund 20 years ago. The only difference being that a few life lessons have been learned and some grey hair earned.
AN: From my first encounter with Diabolicum, It has struck me as being a vehicle of pure nihilism. What does the band represent on a philosophical and musical level as far as you are concerned, and what fuels the band’s need to create such hateful art?
Sasrof: When it comes to what we want, have said, and what fuels us is our earnest belief that this tainted little orb would do much better as a halo of dust, waiting for the greedy jaws of iniquity. The music is a way of channelling these ideas into a decipherable narrative.
AN: Now it appears that Niklas Kvarforth lent his considerable vocal talents to ‘Ia Pazuzu’, as he had done previously on the 2005 split with Angst. How did working with him come about, and is he still an active member of Diabolicum? Also, just out of curiosity, is he as challenging a character to work with as his reputation might lead us to believe?
Sasrof: The vocals on our 2005 split were handled by Wrathyr of NAGLFAR/BEWITCHED.
I’ve known Niklas for many years now and when we were a vocalist short he offered his services. He is not an active member of the band as Shining is his main priority, which is absolutely fine by us. Niklas is a pro, an absolute sweetheart and the most passionate of all my lovers.
AN: Along the lines of that previous question, does Diabolicum now have a stable line-up that you are able to move forward with?
Sasrof: The core line up is me, Gorgorium and Likstrand. We are also in talks of recruiting a fourth permanent member to handle keyboards and samplers live, but he/she will be revealed at a later point.
AN: Given the massive gap between album releases, has recording/promoting/releasing an album changed significantly since you last did so? And how supportive has your label, Code666 Records, been in making ‘Ia Pazuzu’ become a reality?
Sasrof: I have kept my ear towards the rails so I had an idea what changes had been done. Besides a minor shock when I found out that the vinyl version was going to be released at the same time as the CD, we didn’t run into any unpleasant surprises.
We might as well have released The Dark Blood Rising last year as far as Code666 is concerned, their support and belief in us has neither halted nor lost any momentum.
AN: One particularly cool thing I did see was the special edition box set for ‘Ia Pazuzu’. Could you talk us through the concept behind it and indicate where maniacs might expect to get their hands on one?
Sasrof: Besides getting a really nice box that actually turned out exactly the way we designed it, they get a fancy little package with the album, a poster and bonus CD titled “The Queen of Sitra Ahras” which is an unreleased promo from 2000 of which only one track was used for our split with Taiwan. Just to make one thing clear, these are not “unreleased” songs but demo versions of tracks that would end up in quite different versions on TDRB.
AN: Getting back to the music, there was an aspect on ‘Ia Pazuzu’ which really made an impression on me: namely, that techno part on ‘Genocide Bliss’. Can you envisage incorporating more stuff like this in future, or perhaps even some heavier electronic sounds?
Sasrof: That great interlude was masterminded by Fabban of ABORYM. I have no problems exploring both elements you mentioned on future material, it all depends if the song leads us there.
AN: Indeed, can you recommend any essential electronic/industrial music which might open the ears of more sheltered metal listeners such as myself?
Sasrof: Check out the tracks “Do as You’re Told” and “Ravensbruck” from the early ‘90s NY Power Electronics Act FINAL SOLUTION.
AN: Getting back to metal, the likes of Mysticum, Aborym and Diabolicum are widely acknowledged as kings of industrial black metal. What was the impact of first hearing these other two bands on you, and what do you make of how they have evolved?
Sasrof: I’m actually quite fascinated with the drive and artistry that Fabban has commanded the legion of ABORYM, even though music wise they are not always diving in my favourite parts of the pool. They keep it fresh and new without ever leaving that sick world of theirs.
With the exception of a few tracks here and there I haven’t gotten around to listen to the new MYSTICUM album yet.
AN: Are there any new industrial black metal or straight up black metal bands that have impressed you recently? And what, out of interest, do you make of Watain’s monumental ascent considering that you recorded a split together way back in 2001?
Sasrof: INQUISITION’S “Nefarious Dismal Orations” was not only the best album released in years, it’s among the best albums ever. MORTUUS’ “The Grape of the Vine” and MACABRE OMENs “The Ancients Return” have been rolling non-stop this last year.
Regarding Watain I find it pleasing to see them do something creative instead of running around town, causing trouble.
AN: Going further back in time, is there any intention to reissue your debut or – come to think of it – the second album for those who missed it back in the day?
Sasrof: We have no plans for any re-releases at this moment. Not that we are opposed to it, we just haven’t considered it. If someone really wants them in a physical form, there is a whole second hand market out there if you just dare to Google for it.
AN: What are the immediate plans in the aftermath of the release of ‘Ia Pazuzu’? Can you foresee any touring in support of it, for instance?
Sasrof: We have received a few gig bookings, but no solid tour offers yet. Besides that we are focusing on answering media and ze public.
AN: Finally, can you assure us that there won’t be another fourteen-year wait between Diabolicum albums?
Sasrof: Daddy will be finished, when daddy is finished.
(Live shots Diabolicum Electrowerkz 2005 Pete Woods)