Immortal Guardian singer, Carlos Zema, offers a deep insight about the long awaited sophomore album PSYCHOSOMATIC
Official Site – Facebook – Bandcamp – YouTube
Immortal Guardian is one of the most interesting bands that have emerged in recent years on the international power metal scene. Although their debut album, AGE OF REVOLUTION, came out in 2018, by then the group already had international tours and a huge fan base in various parts of the world. Its enormous technical and compositional quality made the announcement of his new album set off the alarms of all fans of the genre. PSYCHOSOMATIC will be released this February; it was recorded remotely by each member of the band and according to vocalist Carlos Zema, it is the best sound the band has achieved so far. The Immortal Guardian singer talks about this and much more in this interview.
A little over ten years have passed since the release of your first demo, what has changed in the band, in which aspects have you evolved?
ZEMA – In my opinion, the band has evolved in songwriting, lyrical content, musicianship, and several other aspects, including production. Since then, SUPER METAL years, we were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with several producers and the most renowned, accomplished and important songwriters of our time. Our way to compose songs has also changed a lot. Most of our compositions were written by me and Gabriel, through these years and we both have found very objective and productive ways to work together, us and the rest of the guys in the band have understood our strengths, weaknesses and best approaches. That makes a huge difference when writing songs together, for sure.
Why do you call your music “Super Metal”, what identifies it?
ZEMA – The name was actually given by our fans. Initially, our fans, thought that we were too heavy to be a power metal band, having harsh vocals and we were too melodic to be a thrash, death or black metal band. Simply because we basically held all on the influences we had from Classical, Death, Black, Power and Prog Metal, going through all the possible sub-divisions in the genre, and it became this huge “Metal Buffet” with everything in Metal. So our fans baptized it as Super Metal and that is the reason why we decided to call our first EP that.
You guys spent your first four or five years releasing work independently until you released Zephon in 2014, how different was it for you to work freelance and then become part of a label?
ZEMA – We’ve reached a point as a band, that we needed an extra point of view and strategy to move further, doing stuff by ourselves could only get us so far, by doing what we were always doing, without any expert guidance. Although we conquered lots of things together, we opened for a few bands such as Judas Priest, Dragonforce, Kamelot, Symphony X, Sonata Arctica, Slayer, Metal Church, Soilwork, Steve Vai, Dragonforce, Amon Amarth, Firewind, and many more. We have heard that we were the first band to play during the competition at the X-Games, we played at FUN FUN FUN Fest, SXSW, and we headlined in South America and Russia, and even made history playing in other events with our infamous: “ShredSled”. Then we found ourselves at a tipping point. Where there was the time to evolve and work with some old-schoolers and more experienced people in the business. We were, at the time, already talking to M-Theory Audio for a few years and we found them the most truthful and honest people, besides being super professional partners. Then it all became a no-brainer, when it came down to making a decision, in who we would be working with next. After being on the label for a few years, we had a chance to tour with bands such as Marty Friedman, which we went on a full run around the lower 48 states, as well as with Exmortus, and we have had many wonderful things to share with these guys. It has been really amazing.
At what point did the band decide to take advantage of the bad moment of the pandemic to create the new album and how did you find the inspiration to make music?
ZEMA – The original plan for the band at the beginning of the year, was going to NAMM, then I was going to do this tour in South America with the Philharmonic Orchestra, and as soon as I was back, We had dozens of shows scheduled for 2020, so the band had full force and we were ready to kill it on the road. Thirsty for jamming together, bringing Metal to the masses was really what we all had in common, in such difficult times. Even though we had an album ready to go by that time, the theme of the album did not match with what was going on in the world. Since we are all professional musicians, we all at the same time, faced lots of unexpected changes within our universes, including tour cancelations, complete chaos in our music careers, as far as scheduling and perspective for the future. So it almost seemed like those difficulties, made our work a lot more meaningful and profound. And we certainly did not lack motives and inspiration to make a remarkable piece, modestly. All these things just fed the fire we already had burning within the members of the band.
Did you feel any kind of pressure to keep up due to the success of your debut album?
ZEMA – Definitely not, we were surely surprised with the acceptance of the album and everything, but we are always getting ready for the next step in the band’s career. At the time the album was released, we were battling with jobs and living arrangements, etc. We have always revolved our lives around the band, in order for us to make it possible for Immortal Guardian to be ready for touring and everything. So the actual “pressure”, has always been present in our regular daily basis, LOL, if you ask me. And it all at the end of the day comes as extra inspiration for all of us.
How was the recording and composition process in the middle of the lockdown, did it cost more work than in your previous work?
ZEMA – The process hasn’t been easy, as working remotely with over 2000 miles between band members, can really slow down the process. Taking into consideration the fact that Our drummer is based in Montreal, Canada, our bass player and producer in South Texas, during the beginning of this period of pandemic I was in Brazil and Gabriel in Las Vegas. On top of that, we all use different DAWs (digital audio workstations). But thanks to technology, the internet and the entire band’s dedication towards this album, we establish a strong DIY system of production and recording, where we were able to accomplish, in my opinion, the best sounding album of this band’s history, so far. Although, we faced lots of unexpected changes within our lives, and to be honest, everything conspired for us to sit at home and produce music. That was not a better time to do it. Because we were already working together in a certain level, long-distance, we got all geared up to make it happen. So we questioned ourselves, why not? So it actually ended up costing a lot less then trying to fly everyone in and make it all happen in the same place. And honestly, it might be the best way to do this, after all.
Has working in this way allowed you to discover new composition or production methods that you could use in the future?
ZEMA – Definitely! The fact that we all needed to learn how to record ourselves with professional quality for a producer to have the ability to mix and master afterward, made ourselves a music making machine! We now are able to record our ideas instantly and share them with each other, we can make band videos in 24h, with a very decent full audio and video production. All these things might have not happened if that wasn’t for Lockdown. Which is sort of crazy to think about. Although we all knew that an on-line presence was vitally important, after this Pandemic blew-up, it became very clearly proven that this ability to be independent producers, for each one of us in the band, was extremely necessary to be acquired. So yes, this has been a brand new way that we discovered, to create new compositions and produce, through different methods that we are for sure, going to use in our near future when working in our new material.
Considering that you have shown great creativity during the lockdown, what are your plans to promote the album this year?
ZEMA – We certainly will continue to be creative! LOL… not being able to tour, leaves us no other choice. Although we hope to have the ability to know what is coming as the new normal, and what is the role that the “live music” will play in this new era of mankind, we will try our best to be present and expressive in the scene, through the internet and our creativity needs to speak louder than most of the stuff out there. Otherwise, we will be, for sure, obfuscated by the thousands of things going on today.
The content of your lyrics is very thoughtful, how important is it for you to write lyrics with that type of content?
ZEMA – We have always been very concerned about the message we carry within our music. We could have chosen to be superficial and catchy, but the message, for us, is just as important as the music. We have been influenced by the most amazing poets of our time, Dio, Ozzy, with bands such as Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Savatage, Children of Bodom, and many others. Some of those lyrics, lifted us up from the rotten bottom, from very difficult times, and brought us a very new perspective in life. That happened with our fans as well, we have heard several stories of overcoming difficult times, with the help of being inspired by our songs. There is no money in the world that could give us more satisfaction and realization that our music has for sure been “heard”, not only listened.
Do you think music should be just entertainment or should it be committed to a message?
ZEMA – Definitely “the message” is extremely important to us as a band. Many artists can get music out with random lyrics, but if you think about it, “most” of the successful bands out there, the ones that really made it big, they made it because they had a message, because they were part of people’s lives, they had a real message to evolve their music around. Of course, we have plenty of exceptions, but we would never like to be that band with a bunch of empty notes carrying no message. It’s just a personal preference.
Musically you achieved something very interesting, how was the composition process; was it a contribution from everyone or did it fall on someone in particular?
ZEMA – Gabriel and I have always been the main composers in Immortal Guardian music, as well as our former manager Brett. Although we have always been very open to ideas from the other members. Every now and then, we have some ideas from the rest of the guys. Lately, because of the way we have always written music somewhat changed a little bit, with the Pandemic and all the stuff going on at the moment. I feel like our new album, PSYCHOSOMATIC is for sure a whole new world for Immortal Guardian as a band in terms of sound! For this full length, the band has become a lot more audacious, aggressive and meticulous. We have reached a very solid and heavy rhythm, with a huge sound in terms of grooves, with a very complex work in terms of melodies, harmonies and riffs, and a lot of that has to do with Josh and Justin being in the band. The band has become a more modern band, and yet still kept the Metal integrity. Though this time, more experienced and more precise! I even dare to say that, in my opinion, in this album, the band has become a lot heavier and more melodic at the same time. Compared to our last 3 albums, we still have the essence of the band, but now it is a different story.
Your story is very curious because by the time you released your debut album, you already had extensive international experience, in what way did that experience help deliver a debut album with the quality of AGE OF REVOLUTION (A.O.R.)?
ZEMA – The first main concern on A.O.R. was how this music would be heard live through PAs of a venue. Since we started writing these songs we were thinking about the way these songs have an arena sound. That was what I think was the main differential in terms of the sound of the album, for sure. That for sure helped with the performance aspect of the music, as well. The second focus I feel we had with the A.O.R., was to be more consciously focused on how we could perform the songs live. Sometimes getting too complicated instrumentally the whole time, can result in a very challenging live performance in terms of stage presence. I think this was one of the main aspects in our compositions that have changed in A.O.R. In the albums before, we have worked with great producers and many other albums I have recorded with other projects as well. I always find that a little too much. And after voicing that out a little bit, I realized that Immortal Guardian became a lot more conscious in terms of how the music would be performed live. That in fact helped with the energy of the songs, the aggression and the power of more impactful songs.
In 2016 the band traveled to Russia, what was that experience like and why was the State Department and the US Consulate involved?
ZEMA: The experience was certainly unforgettable! The band was a part of an International Cultural Exchange through the American embassy and Russian government. These cultural exchange programs have existed for years, but this was the first time that the band had a chance to participate in such an incentive. We were welcomed by the American diplomat and consuls that took us out to many historical places and took care of everything for us. The festivals we played were multinational festivals, with bands from all over the world and the reception was the warmest we could ever have expected. Super professional crew on stage, huge and very energetic crowds! They all knew most of our songs and sang along with the band, what an awesome experience!
Although the band has its HQ in the United States, Brazil has been a great development territory for the band, how has your experience been in that country?
ZEMA – That was one of the best and certainly, one of the most different experiences Immortal Guardian has ever had so far in our careers. This was the first time I took an international project back to Brazil, my homeland. We were headliners in all the festivals we played and the festival promoters have organized everything very well, to accommodate the band the best way possible. So that being said, it was amazing, everything went as planned and all of us were treated very well. The roads were certainly not the same and the driving had become at some points, very scary for most of the guys. But for me, it was just another day, to be honest. LOL… But the biggest thing about playing back in Brazil was the audience. All the shows were completely packed and with all the force of expression, the crowd never stopped trying to kill each other. The energy is through the roof! They’re certainly very passionate and explosive. That is very contagious, so I feel like the band was giving their very extreme best the whole entire time, because you have no other choice when you see the crowd going that crazy. Since then, we still have hundreds and thousands of fans that have been following us on-line and they keep asking us to go back to Brazil. That love is unconditional and we value that very much, as we can not wait to be there again.
I have a question, did Immortal Guardian (I.G.) play with an orchestra in Brazil or what happened?
ZEMA – Not yet with I.G.! I have a band in Brazil called Heaven’s Guardian and we have started a project together with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the State of Goiás. This idea was brought up when we were celebrating the 20th year of the band by producing a live DVD with the orchestra, and we have been performing with them every year since then. With the production of Top Link, and having always very special guests in every performance we have had the opportunity to have so far. It is a big event and very historical, as it was the first time in history of South America that an authorial rock band has performed with a whole philharmonic orchestra. So that really put this project in the map and in the books forever.
You have shown great quality logistically to play in other countries, why haven’t the conditions been met to fulfill your dream of playing in Wacken?
ZEMA – We just have not, so far, had the opportunity to get in touch with the promoters of the festival, but this is our goal for these next two years, let’s see if we can make this possible. Now with this whole Pandemic going on, it’s going to be quite challenging, but I believe we have overcome more difficult challenges.
Congratulations on your new album and thank you for your time, do you have any words for the readers?
ZEMA – Thank you so much for all your support and for the opportunity to have us here with you today. It is an honor for us to be a part of your interview and to have a chance to be heard by your readers. Well, thank you all for reading this interview and for participating in this vehicle of support of the metal scene! If you are a Heavy Metal fan, please, check us out in our media channels and support the band by participating with us in the Pre-order campaign for our new album: www.immortalguardian.com/shop
Thank you so much for the space and for the opportunity! Keep on rocking my friends! All the best to you and yours in this promising year that has just started! Take care.