One thing I’ve noticed over the last couple of years of doing the Vault is how easy it is to become – frustrated? disillusioned? burned out? – by the sheer amount of music that ends up in my inbox on a weekly basis. I’m unsure of exactly which descriptor to use in the previous sentence because my reaction has nothing to do with the fact that so many people are sending me promos – it’s because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to give each of them the attention they deserve. I have no idea how many hidden gems I may have missed as a result of being overwhelmed by emails, and that genuinely bothers me.
Luckily, I didn’t miss this Zifir album when it landed in my inbox. Part of the reason for that is that they have a hook that no other band that’s landed in my inbox has: they’re from Turkey. That alone, though, isn’t enough to make me take notice. A band can have an intriguing back story and still not be very good. Zifir tick both boxes. Their most recent full-length Kingdom of Nothingness is some excellent Norwegian second wave-influenced black metal that’s both true to its roots and builds off of them in engaging ways. Simply put, Kingdom of Nothingness is a fucking awesome album, and Zifir deserves a much bigger worldwide audience.
To that end, I had the privilege of chatting with the band via email about their history, their most recent album, and what the future might hold. Listen to their most recent album below while you check out my interview with the band.
Indy Metal Vault: So I always do a bit of research before I write interview questions so I can avoid asking the same questions that everyone else has asked. In the case of Zifir, though, there’s not much out there at all. I know the band’s been around for a little over a decade, mostly as a duo. In that span you’ve released three full-lengths and a split with Belgian outfit Cult of Erinyes. And, most significantly, you’re from Turkey. It’s this last part I find most interesting, since I don’t know if I can name another metal band from your country. What is the metal ‘scene’ (for lack of a better word) like in your part of the world? Is Zifir part of a larger metal community in Turkey, or are you basically on your own as a band?
Zifir: Greetings and first of all thank you for this interview. Yes, actually Zifir has been around more than ten years and we’ve had three full length and one split CD. Both band members have their own experiences from former bands. About Turkey, I can easily say that we have a really solid scene and there are really cool bands from each genre, and some of them are having gigs and tours across Europe, and even some played in the USA. I mean, we are not alone.
IMV: What was you first exposure to black metal? For the most part, Zifir’s sound is seems rooted in the Norwegian Second Wave, along with what sounds like it could be a bit of Polish influence – there are moments on Kingdom of Nothingness that remind me a bit of Cultes des Ghoules. Was it the Scandinavian/Eastern European bands, or was it some other source? Is it easy to find black metal albums in Turkey?
Zifir: It isn’t a big secret that Zifir is heavily influenced by Norwegian wave. This is true, and you also get the feeling when you listen to our music. We always take this as a reference. About the Polish influence, I can say that when Zifir released our first album in 2007, there were not many bands with this enchanting and ambient style. So, most of the influence is from Scandinavia but for sure we are from the Middle East so we have a touch of it in our music. And yes we have metal shops and you can find extreme metal albums. The scene is really well established in Turkey. There are also record labels and underground organizations for many extreme events.
IMV: I don’t want to dwell too much on where you’re from, but I have to admit that I know very little about Turkey aside from what I see in the news, a lot of which has to do with government crackdowns on media freedom and blocking access to parts of Wikipedia, and the country’s controversial record in terms of human rights. I’m not looking to turn this into a political discussion, but I am curious as to how difficult it is to function as a black metal band in Turkey. Are you able to be fairly open about the fact that you’re in a metal band? Since Turkey is a secular country, I’m guessing you don’t need to worry about your ant-religious lyrical content?
Zifir: Basically it is legal to buy CDs, going to concerts for sure. This is very much same as Europe. For sure, due to some security reasons many festivals and underground events were cancelled or postponed. But this is everywhere now…About the political situation, it is the same madness raining on the globe now. We have a different name for our leaders, but they act exactly the same. A lot of things have happened since last year, but we are still alive. About writing anti-religious lyrics, we never slow down, always full forward and sharp, as it is supposed to be. So far we have not had any issues, most probably because it is not mainstream.
IMV: Okay…let’s talk about Kingdom of Nothingness. It’s been out for a little over three months now – what’s the reaction been like so far? Have you been paying much attention to the online reviews?
Zifir: We have received a lot reviews and we believe this will continue for some time. Kingdom of Nothingness also appeared on several radio stations across Europe and USA. This was something quite new for us. The most prominent one was that Fenriz of Darkthrone played our song in his radio show. Distribution is also going well and we have new album available in Europe and the USA on prominent labels. Let’s say so far so good.
IMV: Compared to some of your earlier albums, especially Protest Against Humanity, this new record seems much slower and moodier overall. It still has its share of aggressive moments, but the standout tracks for me are the ones like “769,” “Echoes From Nowhere,” and “A Crowded Nothingness” – the ones that are carried by sinister, mid-tempo riffs instead of the more traditional tremolos-and-blasts. When you were writing the album, were you aiming for something a bit different this time around? Or was that something that evolved naturally as you were working on it?
Zifir: Fully agreed with your comment that we have much more aggression on the album, very much parallel to what we live and feel in our lives for sure, that reflects the mood. As far as results, KON came out of much more darkness, aggression and bleakness…This was a natural evolution in the process of making of the songs. Here we are speaking about a four-year time period.
IMV: What was the recording process like for Kingdom of Nothingness? It sounds a bit cleaner than Protest Against Humanity, especially the guitar tones. Did you do anything differently this time? Do you record in a studio, or are you more of a do-it-yourself kind of band?
Zifir: Playing the guitar was much different than on previous albums. This may be the reason for your sound perception, because the general set up is the same. But KON has more slow/mid-tempo and tremolo riffs. The recording set up was also same, drums and vox are always recorded live in the studio, and the rest of the recording we do in house. The same is true for mixing and mastering as well. This is something Onur (Vox) has a certain expertise in.
IMV: The cover art for Kingdom of Nothingness is stunning, and fits the overall mood of the album perfectly. How closely did you work with Vergvoktre, the artist responsible for it?
Zifir: We are so lucky that we found him on Internet and then contacted for the artwork. We just sent him an email explaining the idea of the front cover and then he sent back the first draft, which was really unbelievable…I still can’t imagine anyone that would understand our concept better than him. We were really glad to work with him and we will continue to work with him for the upcoming releases. He understands the story behind and all details which are merged into our black metal madness.
IMV: This is your first release with Norwegian label Duplicate Records, and if I’m not mistaken it’s also your first release to come out on vinyl. How did you end up signing with them?
Zifir: Yes, this is correct. The first album release with Duplicate Records and first vinyl for Zifir. We had initial contact with Duplicate Records in December 2016, and really had some very effective communıcation and signed in two months. I can say that this process was quite efficient and so we did well. It was really quick, but all professional at the same time. We discussed a lot of things about the release at the same time (titles, track list, sound etc.).
IMV: So what’s next for Zifir? You’re not a band that plays live, right? Any chance that might change at any point?
Zifir: The priority is to focus on making the next album, as we are more into manifesting rather than playing live. But if we find the correct people, the plan is to have some live performance in the near future. For sure this depends on the availability of a line up. On the other hand, we already started making new songs and the plan is to finish the recoding in 2018.
IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions. I’ll leave the last word to you – anything else you’d like to add?
Zifir: Thanks for the interview again. Follow Zifir and spread the malady!!
“When the lights of paradise go dark, you will be begging to be enlightened by the lights of hell”