When Zornheym played at Musikhuset Posten in Odense, we talked to them about the upcoming album, and about how they offer breathtakingly delightful Symphonic Extreme Metal with great King Diamond inspirations for all of us!
Please introduce the band for the listeners, who haven’t yet heard of it?
Zorn: Zornheym is a concept band from Sweden, and we play some sort of a symphonic and metal fuse with melodic death metal and heavy metal. All our lyrics content is based on an asylum called Zornheym and first album is about different inmates that are confined within the walls of the asylum. The second album that’s coming out on the 22nd of October is about the sleep experiment and that album is called the “Zornheim Sleep Experiment”.
Sweden has been open during the Covid-19 situation, yet the only concerts that you have played during the Corona-pandemic have been “Raise Your Horns”, and now Bhaal Fest also, here in Denmark. How has it been to play during all the restrictions?
Bendler: Strange, I mean, when we played in Bornholm last year everyone was sitting down on chairs, so they invented mosh pits with chairs. Zorn: And chair banging or chair pits or something like that. Bendler: It was kind of strange but fun, the audience had fun regardless! Zorn: But we were kind of jealous when we saw the pictures from this year at Raise Your Horns because then you have, you know, the fence, and people were standing up and everything looked cool. But, I mean, when we’re going to look back at it, it is going to be cool to have actually done a show during the restrictions, yeah so it’s better to play it than to skip it.
Do you have plans on promoting the new album by touring?
Bendler: Hopefully. Zorn: Hopefully, I know we are gonna do some shows here and there, some shows are in the pipeline but it’s kind of hard now because all bands want to go out on tour and a lot of places have shut down during the Covid situation so we have some stuff coming up, but… Bendler: I think the goal is to make the tour about the album of course there is lot of other people out there now who wants to make their voices heard and wanna show their music. There are artists who has waited now for two years, and we are a small band, if you want to call it, so we are gonna find ourselves in a lot of competition and a way through it all. Zorn: But shows are coming!
How did you guys find each other, how was the lineup created?
Bendler: Actually, it was Zorn that found me. Zorn: I started the band back in 2014 and more or less on my own, and because I had this idea for many years to create this concept work and then I first found Scucca the guitar player, and after that I was lucky to find Bendler. We actually grew up in the same town but I knew him as a guitar player back then, but then I remembered that he had done a guest performance with Scar Symmetry on a live show in Sweden. I went back to check it out on YouTube and I realized that he has a very powerful voice so I started writing to him. Bendler: You contacted me and wanted some stuff tested to see if my voice held and would fit the idea of his vision. So, the same day I sent it back, and it was a clear check almost the same day. Zorn: It sounded perfect, so, I mean, he was the obvious choice. The first album was recorded with a studio drummer and when we were doing our first show in France, the concertmaster of the string orchestra that we used on the first album, recommended his cousin: and that’s our drummer today and then everything pretty much fell into place after that first show.
What other projects are you guys involved in? Is it hard to find time to get together around Zornheym?
Bendler: The distance is the hardest thing to get working. Three places in Sweden with several hours between us if we want to practice before tours and albums, but that’s the toughest part, I think. Zorn: And everyone is working with different stuff, so some are working weekends, and some have like ordinary day jobs, so we always have to plan everything very good to be able to make it happen.
What bands are you listening to? What has been the theme band for the Covid period? Any guilty pleasures?
Zorn: I guess you have been listening to a lot to Iron Maiden. Bendler: I am an Iron Maiden fan so been listening to them regardless, their new album as well. Zorn: I have been checking out of course the new Maiden album and lately I’ve been listing a lot to the new Avatar single “Going Hunting”, and so I’m pretty excited about their new album. I heard the new track from Unleashed this morning, it sounded very good, very thrashy actually.
How is the Zornheym sound achieved? How do you compose the music, and what are the different members’ roles in the creation of the music?
Zorn: I usually write like a big chunk of music like guitars and like a template for how the orchestra is going to work, and then I send a pretty strict-down demo to you. Bendler: So I can start to work on vocal patterns and the clean vocals, so I do all that, the rough blueprint, you can call it. And then it goes back to Zorn and he shares it with the other members of the band and they sort of get their input into it and so it builds up slowly. At the same time, we are developing the ideas of the concept so it can be adapted to the music – so you don’t write the whole music and then adapts the lyrics to the music, you want to have the story in the music while you create it. Zorn: So the music kind of follows that dramatic evolvement of the actual story. Usually, when we’re happy with it, we go onto to the next song pretty fast actually on this album. The second album actually took a long time to write and record, we were in the studio for two years even though we weren’t there every day of course. But since we are writing out like all the stems and everything in it on score for the classical musicians, it takes a lot of time to write everything down. Bendler: We have almost 400 tracks. Zorn: So, it took a while to get the mix perfect. Bendler: because we want to go all in on orchestra, so it takes time to plan, get more people involved and then we have the other stuff like artwork, coloring books and all this. Zorn: And the music videos as well, we want them to be like a bridge between the music and the story that you get. The music is supposed to be like a soundtrack and the video like a short movie with a cinematic effect to it – and that you’re getting a glimpse of what’s going on inside the asylum, basically. Bendler: You can take the Zornheym music and listen to it and enjoy it, but you can also go into it and explore it all the way, so both ways. Zorn: If you’re curious there’s a lot of stuff to discover in the music: in cd booklet there’s usually notes. On the first album there’s like doctors-notes about each and every patient and the new album is more like one story about the whole sleep experiment. For every track there’s just going to be like session notes where you can follow the whole experiment and then we’re going to release a second graphic novel where you’re going to be able to follow the whole story through that. Bendler: The chapters are even named after the songs on the album so you can listen to the music and read the comic book at the same time. Zorn: So, there’s a lot of layers.
What are your inspirations for Zornheym, how did you come up with the concept, and where do your musical and story inspirations come from?
Zorn: I mean, when I was 19, well maybe 18, I bought my first King Diamond album Voodoo and I was like blown away about the whole concept that he constructed around that album. I always thought that this story would be such a good movie or TV-series, or you know, you could do so much more with it. And that started bugging me so in the end I started like constructing this concept in my head.
I started thinking, like, you could do this, you could do it in a graphic novel version and you could have a lot of text inside the booklet and stuff like that. Eventually, you know, with the budget and everything we have today, we can maybe do 5 to 10% of the whole idea that we have. There’s so many more ideas that’s like growing, that we need to try and find audience to actually accomplish – but story-wise, it’s a lot of inspiration from King Diamond and then of course we read a lot of urban legends and a lot of actual cases about serial killers and mentally unstable people.
The new album is inspired by an old urban story about sleep experiments that were conducted during the aftermath of the Second World War in Russia. We basically took that idea and lifted it into the Zornheym universe and then did our own twist on it, and musically, I think we have a lot of different inspiration.
Everything from bands with sounds like Halloween and Blind Guardian and symphonic music or soundtracks. And more dark stuff like the Swedish band Dissection also I am inspired by Iron Maiden and I know a lot of melodic stuff.
For a long time, you have chosen to be loosely connected with Non Serviam Records. Why did the choice fall on Noble Demon when you released your new album?
Zorn: We were signed for one album with Non Serviam Records and when we were debating on looking for a new label, we were actually contacted by Noble Demon. The things that they offered us were very good, so we accepted that. And I mean, Patrick the label manager, he has over 10 years of experience working over at Nuclear Blast, so that’s why I was like, yeah, we’re gonna be in good hands with him.
What are the future visions for your band? What can we expect from Zornheym? Is the lineup complete or could you see yourself adding members, who knows maybe a bass player, cello player or something like that?
Bendler: The eternal question. Zorn: I think the end game is to make Zornheym this big thing where we are four core members, but we could totour with a string quartet and a small choir, and brass players. Maybe we have actors playing on stage and a lot of pyro, and it’s going to be like a spectacle more than just a show. There’s a few steps left on that road, but that’s like the end game. When we’ve done that, and we can go around to like different big concepts with that, then we’re going to be like yeah, we’ve done it.
Zorn, you have previously said that you saw Zornheym moving into a direction of using more and more real instruments. While also getting deeper into the concept you started with. Would you say you have achieved it with “The Zornheim Sleep Experiment” and what can we expect of the new album?
Zorn: I would say that the new album is even more grandiose than the first album, we’ve been very lucky with the string people that we’ve been using. One of them used to play in the Swedish Royal Philharmonic and another of the ladies have played with Dimmu Borgir on one of their albums – and so we managed to get like really skilled people. Bendler: That’s an upgrade, for sure. Song-wise is more grandiose and then the first one was recorded differently, now we have stepped up. Zorn: And we’ve used like an guitar orchestra as well because at some parts there’s like 11 or 12 guitars playing at the same time. So the production is very big, and I mean, if we can wish for something for the next production, I guess that’s finding some brass people to start including to widen the whole orchestral prospection.
What can we expect from the new album, and will you have a release party?
Bendler: We haven’t talked about a release party. Zorn: No, we have talked about inviting some friends and listen to the album, but we haven’t said anything about doing it on the release date. You and I have loosely been talking about that if I should come down to you, and that we should do some live stream stuff. We have in the past been streaming and playing some acoustic versions of the songs and maybe do something like that.
Now when the restrictions are going away in Sweden at the end of September it could be doable, but I guess that it would take some planning and we haven’t rehearsed the whole album yet after we finished it so it might be a little bit tight on time, yeah, but it would be fun to do something. Bendler: Something spectacle. Zorn: I would say that it’s more grandiose and if you look at the album as a pizza it’s more of everything it’s like more ingredients and more toppings. I think the album is more melodic, it’s more brutal, at some parts as well it’s slower but it’s also faster and… Bendler: We have broadened ourselves in some way.
On the upcoming album “The Zornheim Sleep Experiment”, do you guys have a favorite track, and why is it your favorite?
Bendler: Well, I enjoy “Keep the Devil Away”. The first single and the second one is great tracks, the relation with it it’s good, fun to sing it. I mean there’s growling of course and it’s so very variated through the song – there is growl and there are calm sections so it’s good fun to do it, that’s my relation with that. Zorn: And then at the moment I might say “Corpus Vile” and the opening track and the reason for that is actually that I worked really hard on that song. Because the song is written in every guitarist’s favorite key E, where a lot of open strings is used, and then in the end of the song we have a key switch. Since Bendler is a singer, he got to pick the key and he picked a really tricky key like C minor, so that really messed up everything for me. I think I spent like one weekend with arranging the last and final chorus to that song. I spent so much time on it, but I think that it turned out really great. It’s like one of the highlights on the album for me so right now I think I would say that one, because there’s so much time and frustration and passion invested in it. Bendler: Because of me! Zorn: But in the end I think it was worth all the trouble that I went through.
On “Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns”, each songs represents a story of an inmate, and on the newest album “The Zornheim Sleep Experiment” we dwell further into one story. I have read you’re already working on the concept for the next album, what can we expect there?
Zorn: We have like two or three different ideas for the next album, we have already started working on new songs but we’re still talking a little bit on which direction to take the concept. Of course, the concept is just going to be on the asylum but it’s good to know that we have like two or three different ideas already, so we know that we’re not going to be running out of ideas. But I think we have enough pre-production to add three or four new songs already, but the concept is where we haven’t clubbed it yet.
Will we be seeing a graphic novel in the newest release?
Zorn: Yes, there is going to be a new graphic novel and we actually released that lyrics video yesterday and that showcases like parts of that graphic novel. But the graphic novel is probably going to open up for pre-orders on the day of their release because Anu (Bring-Saari) has really outdone herself because she’s putting out so much work on each page now. So it’s been taking a little bit more of time finishing it, but I think the result is going to be mind blowing so it’s going to be worth the wait.
Is there something I somehow forgot to ask, you wish to answer?
Zorn: If people that are reading this haven’t checked us out, we would be very happy if they took the time to do that, and if they are into your national (Danish) hero King Diamond, there is a lot of cool stuff to discover in the Zornheym music universe. So if you like the story telling of King Diamond and melodic yet brutal music, you should check Zornheym out because I think we have a lot of cool stuff to offer. Thank you very much to Zorn and Bendler for taking the time to answer our questions, we would like to encourage people who do not yet know of Zornheym to check them out, they have so much to offer with a lot of passion, and it will be exciting to hear their new album.
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