ZVIJER is a new interesting revelation in Black Metal. The band comes from the city of Banja Luka, their discography is not yet very rich, first it was a demo and a single, and then came the time for "Vječnost Truleži" debut album from 2017. Just this one convinced and fascinated me to make contact and interview the band. From my point of view, it is the best BM band in the Balkans, I recommend their recordings, the band call themselves as Balkanian Barbaric Black Metal. Lyrically they are dealing, similar as our Malokarpatan, with the dark aspects of Balkan folklore, so with various demons, witches and other superstitious beings. ZVIJER has already managed to release "Živi Varvarizam u Najcrnjem Krugu (Live At Dark Circle Festival V)" live album, but they are currently working on the "Praznina" mini album, which should be out at the end of this or at the beginning of next year. Enough information about this band, the more you learn from the interview. The vocalist Knjaz answered the questions.
Greetings to ZVIJER band in Serbia! Could you first reveal why you have chosen this band name? What does it mean, symbolize to you and how it corresponds to your philosophy? What about logo, who is its author and has it a certain deep meaning to you?
KNJAZ: Greetings to you, Mortuary.
Zvijer is not from Serbia. Band was founded in Banja Luka (Republic of Srpska / Bosnia) but now we have members from few towns. I am founder and only member from original line-up and I am still from Banja Luka, but both of our guitarists and a drummer are from Rijeka, Croatia and our bass player is from Zagreb, Croatia.
I choose that name cause there is a old custom here, where old folks calls all creatures of the night (bats, wolves, bears,… etc,) simply “zvijer” (eng. beast). Night and dwellers of the night had big influence on my lyrics so that kind of choice for name became quite easy for me.
As I mentioned before; night, night creatures, and all side-stuff of the night, like rain, thunders, solitude, mists… etc. always had a big impact on my perception and my writing for the band, from that simple reason I think I took perfect name, under which I can put my thoughts and visions.
Logo was made by my brother O. from Bosnian black metal manifesto Obskuritatem. I always like “old English type” logos like Bathory, but I wanted to have mix of old-school but still unique in a way. Than O. came with an idea to customize “old English type” font and it came perfect in the end. I am highly satisfied with visual power of our logo.
Your music is built on the pillars of the second wave of Black Metal, when this genre became most famous for the wider community, even though it was probably not at all intentional or wanted. How did you perceive Black Metal in early 90's with all the famous names from Dark Throne and Mayhem starting, and Emperor or Dissection ending? Do you like also the first wave with names as Venom and Bathory?
KNJAZ: Yes, our riffology on the first full-length’s inspired with Second Wave of black metal. We wanted to do that kind of riffs on rhythm guitar and to cover it with melodies from solo guitar. I think we made perfect combination at the final result.
Normally, I admire aforementioned bands but I personally like bands like Hellhammer, Sarcofago, (early) Kreator, Sodom, Blasphemy, Master’s Hammer, (old) Bathory, Beherit. I think that all evilness in black metal came from that bands and I really like that. That savagery and brutality in their sounds. I found that type of violent outburst very inspiring for creative process.
Your music is full of madness, darkness, barbarous rage, but also a mythological touch in the background. How would you describe all the important aspects of your music, whether from musical or spiritual view? Is the mystic atmosphere important to you as well or you are satisfied with aggressive attitude only?
KNJAZ: Thank you for kind words, man. I also think that we succeed in attempt to mix barbarism and vandal attitude from Balkanian plains with mythological touch also from Balkanian dark folklore, that is from music’s side of album. From mythological side of an album, we wroted about mythos from Balkanian folklore, stories about misanthropy, solitude, worship of the night, undead and vampiric stories in our nations.
Since we started works on our second material, we gave bigger space to atmosphere and mystical touch on album, but we will try to keep certain level of barbaric puls that beats in us, since our Balkanian plains are very well known with barbaric side in people.
First you have released " Svi putevi ka smrti vode" demo '13, then the "Heretical Balkanian Sabbathism" single and then came the " Vječnost truleži" album. Have you perceived an increased interest of foreign fans since the debut? Which countries are your fans the most responsive from?
KNJAZ: Also, I want to add that we recorded and released live album called “Živi Varvarizam u Najcrnjem Krugu (Live at Dark Circle Festival V)”, where we played with bands like The Crown, Dickless Tracy, Belphegor,…etc. Album is available free on our youtube channel. The biggest response we received from Slavic lands like Poland, Czech Republic, Russia,… etc., probably ‘cause they are familiar with this type of dark folklore from where we drain our inspiration for the songs. From some unknown reasons to me, we also received warm receptions from fans from lands like Brazil, Australia, USA, Germany and Finland. I am really glad that fans from all around the globe dig our music and our album.
For Black Metal is, and always will be, essential lyrics as well as music itself, while in some other Metal genres they are often as clichés or for fun. Your lyrics are definitely interestingly conceived and I believe you take them seriously. Could you describe some of the mythological and superstition beings in your region?
KNJAZ: I agree with you, lyrics always were and forever will be a very big aspect in black metal genre. When we started with Zvijer, we wanted to present some of our native evil side from this part of the world. Slavic paganism is our history and our heritage and we choose to write about Čort, he is the son of Slavic god Chernobog which is presented like Satan in Christian folklore stories. But soon we started with Čort themes, we decided to add misanthropy in it, cause accordingly to Slavic mythology Čort hated humanity and frequently stole little children and drink their blood. But the crown of our writing inspiration came from themes like vampirism and night terrors, which are glorified in our dark folklore. Stories about vampirism, about deadly dancing virgins in the night who are bloodthirsty, and stuff like that. Here almost every village carry at least one “vampire” story. “Vampir” is the only Serbian word that is internationaly recognized, but not without reason.
In one song from first album I wrote about story that I’ve heard from one guy in my village. He tried to hang himself because he has heard how girls sing and also dance around hangmans tree in the night. Really creepy and magnificent story.
I do not know if you have heard our Malokarpatan band who also devotes themselves not only to the darkness of our folklore, but also to its entertaining aspects, or more precisely, to its grotesque side as alcoholism and acts coming from it. How do you look at all the superstition beings you heard about in youth from your old parents? Do you remember any particular case, a story that had a strong impact on you?
KNJAZ: Yeah, I have heard for Malokarpatan, I have spoken with Adam from band, few times, cool fella. They really made a great stuff with this one “Nordkarpatenland”, really interesting and unique album. I can’t see nothing wrong with that aspect in lyrics. That is cool if that is a part of your history. I like when bands sing about natavism from their heritage.
My late grandma knew quite big number of horror stories from our folks past. I remember stories about “Drekavac” (eng. Screamer) from my childhood. She told stories about small creature who will jump on backs of people who are willing to walk alone in the night. He will jump on your backs and ride you til your death and no one ever lived to speak about how Screamer looks. Really cool story in our folk.
Do you think people have once had deeper relationship to demons, goblins, ghosts or revenants than today? Do you believe when people once lived in their dark dwellings in villages, close at streams, mountains, alongside the cemetery and the cross roads, they were closer to the spiritual and by modern way of living, big population, or modern techniques these beings vanished in us? Or would you attribute it to a more rational way of thinking today?
KNJAZ: Of course, I can agree that people in past times possessed more fear and respect for night dwellers. But yet again, if you like that kind of life and spiritual food, you will be able to cherish them even in this modern age of capitalism, technology and over-population. There are certain things/events that can’t be explained on rational way of thinking, so I am not so drastic on either sides. Some stuff we can bring in rational explanation, but others are better to stay in circles of mystery and irrational ways.
All these scary phenomenon's are often associated with visions, dreams, nightmares, sleep paralysis and other sleep disorders. Do you have any experiences with sleep paralysis, when did you feel you could not move, while your body was asleep? Sleep paralysis can be scientifically explained by the fact the part of the brain is "waking up" in the middle of the night, but the part of the brain responsible for the muscles is "asleep". This phenomenon can also be explained in occult spheres, but a little differently ...
KNJAZ: Now it will be around eight years how I am suffering from insomnia. I usually sleep only two, three hours per day. But I remember the time when my problems with sleep started. I had episodes/nightmares where I am awake and I can’t move a muscle or put scream out, really fucked up and shitty situation from mental aspect. But during the years I learned how control that situations and now, in fact I am cool with that episodes in my night-life.
What do animals mean to you from a mystical and mythological point of view? It is well known that animals such as snake, cock, dog, cat, owl, spider, goat, chicken (kobold), cuckoo are somehow special. Why do you think people gave these animals some magical qualities and believed that when they heard some of their sounds, or they did accidentally encounter them in certain circumstances, they were afraid and trying to be careful?
KNJAZ: Through our history and in our mythology also, few animals really take cult-status. Wolf is a symbol of wisdom in Eastern European tribes, bear is the symbol of strength and stamina, raven is a negative symbol of death and similar situations.
I think probably people in dark ages tried to find some comfort and solace in their problems if they put some magical and mystical strengths to animals.
I always looked on bears like on the most powerful and beautiful residents of forests and mountains. Really magnificent animal.
Do you consider your music as metaphysical? Are you trying to use music to say something more than just to do a good instrumental work, rhythmically harmonize it and compositionally finalize it?
KNJAZ: For me, Zvijer’s materials are always in metaphysical spheres. I can’t explain to people what I feel when I listen our works. That is for me like mix of mental orgasms blended with aggression, violence and paradoxically also smeared with serenity and ultimate nirvana of mind and flesh.
We use music to speak about our history and stories of our ancestors. We think that we can brought back that stories out of oblivion through the our audio/visual creations.
How has you always been affected by darkness or night? Do you feel completely different feelings in the dark than in the midday? Does it have a special inspiration for you and ZVIJER? Do you think when some of our senses are numbed in the dark, there is opening something we cannot feel and perceive in the middle of the day? Are you empirical or spiritual, or how would you define it more precisely?
KNJAZ: I feel easier to be myself and write music and lyrics in the night. Darkness of the night always were a good encirclement for work on black metal music and an atmosphere in it.
I think I can’t define that precisely. Some specific situations seek some experiences from empirical part of life, but others are more require spiritual sight on the matters. I like to look on my way of thinking and perception like on medley of empirical and spiritual in one, that way of acting led me quite good till now.
Ok, that would be all from me, hope you liked the questions. Wish ZVIJER a lot of dark inspiration and hope we'll ever see you at some event where you play true Black Metal show!
Thank you for your time, your interest in Zvijer and quite interesting questions in this interview, Mortuary. Keep your head down for new material from Zvijer, which is coming soon.