(Comrade Aleks has it right — Затемно (Zatemno) is an out-of-the-ordinary black metal band. Almost everything about the band raises questions, and so Aleks asked many of them in this new interview.)
Russian black metal project Затемно / Zatemno (“After Dark”) appeared in Sergiev Posad in 2011. Back then its members were Vasily Suzdalsky (vocals, guitar, drums, accordion), VVurd (guitar), and Japetus (bass), who left the band in 2018. The accordion is not a typical instrument in this genre, although you might remember two bands that occasionally add it to their arsenal, but Zatemno is an atypical project in itself, even if we’ll leave the accordion behind.
The EP Into The Ashes / Во прах (2016) and the full-length In the Noose / В петле (2019), released by the British label Aesthetic Death, gave many black metal fans something that is now difficult to find – an original concept and non-trivial musical solutions that fit well into the black metal format and ideology without unnecessary antics and pathos. It’s something that’s better to be experienced personally.
Alcoholic delirium as a method of communicating with the other world, the voices of devils pushing for suicide, the gloomy spirit of the Russian hinterland, and black anger were also embodied in Zatemno‘s second album In Hell / В аду (2022). Vasily labels it as “obscurantism and cemetery jazz”, and we had a conversation with him, as I don’t really know what that means.
Hi, Vasily! What’s up? What’s new with Zatemno?
Salut! We don’t relax our perishable bodies… we’re working on a new album.
Let’s start from the beginning. You formed Zatemno in 2011, but only in 2016 released your first EP Into The Ashes. Did it take so much time due to schedule conflicts with other projects?
That’s it, we fussed over other side-projects in addition to working on Zatemno‘s debut. That was the reason for delay…
Your recent release In Hell (2022) is built around some avant-garde black metal inspired by folk with a pinch of “Russian rock” — that’s quite a unique combination. What shaped the concept of Zatemno?
There was no intention just to “combine the incompatible”. That was rather influenced by the mentality we are locked in. As for the musical background we cannot highlight any definite bands — there was no wish to search for inspiration on the side.
In short the musical idea of Zatemno can be articulated as “obscurantism and cemetery jazz”.
I bet we have enough time to discuss this concept in detail – what do you mean by “obscurantism and cemetery jazz”?
I’ll try to explain. What we are dealing with is the so-called “all-people demonism”; this idea has no relation to Russian folklore, by no means. We project demonic images through various prisms of everyday martyrdom. For instance, in the song “Razluchnaya” / “Разлучная” the protagonist has an alcoholic delirium and he’s possessed by evil spirits. Thus he found himself in a noose (this is a simplification, but nevertheless).
Also the aesthetics of Zatemno are based on the cemetery entourage. The vivid example is the song “Cimeterovaya” / “Циметеровая”. It was partly inspired by the case of “The Russian Puppeteer” Anatoly Moskvin. Such a catchy story.
However, do you consider Zatemno as part of the black metal scene? Do you keep in touch with other bands of the genre?
Zatemno is black metal, no matter who yaps there in the corners.
We keep in touch with the members of Blackdeath, especially with Colonel. And also collaborate with Polish musicians, and we should mention in particular Michal from Furia, who was engaged in sound engineering of the album In Hell.
Accordion and balalaika give a special authenticity to the sound of Zatemno, which is already very original. Were you sure from the beginning that both instruments would embed into your music? Was it easy to incorporate them into the band’s sound?
The balalaika appeared on the album accidentally. While recording the second part of the song “Razluchnaya”, there was a need to achieve a certain atonal sound using acoustic strings, and suddenly such an instrument was at hand. One of the melodies to the same song was also recorded on the balalaika. The accordion turned out to be exactly that instrument that gave the missing tragic impression to the music of Zatemno, and there was no problem to install it into musical canvas.
Thus, have you involved Alexander into the band as a regular member to make the accordion an integral part of Zatemno’s sound? Why not as a guest musician?
The accordion was an integral part of our music from the origin of Zatemno. And Alexander was invited to the project while working on In Hell. As a result, he became a permanent band member.
Your first album In the Noose was released via the British label Aesthetic Death Records. How did you get signed to this label?
During the active phase of our label Death Knell Productions, we exchanged releases with Aesthetic Death from time to time. At the same time the album In the Noose was just recorded and we suggested our material to Stewart for release. We sent him the recorded music and in a while it was done.
Your music and Russian lyrics create a specific atmosphere that listeners from other countries may find difficult to understand. What was the reaction to the album In the Noose? How often have you received feedback from abroad?
The album was reviewed on foreign internet sources. And if I remember correctly, feedback on In the Noose was quite positive. But as a rule, everyone referred only to the musical component just because of the language barrier…
How seriously do you strive to bring your music to foreign listeners?
It is hard to convey our material to a foreign listener in full — again due to the language barrier. Our lyrics are full of speech turns written in an archaic style and idioms, thus the lyrics will be greatly simplified in translation. But it will not suit us to perform a simplified version of the songs with translated lyrics, because the mood and expression will no longer be the same. However we are interested in distributing our work abroad, but it seems that most listeners perceive the atmosphere of the musical canvas in a general sense, without going into details.
Are you satisfied with your collaboration with Heidens Hart Records? Were there any problems with the release due to the current situation in Russia?
Yes, we are very satisfied. The CD turned out to be very high quality and was released by Heidens Hart Records on time. Many thanks to the publisher!
You return to the theme of suicide with In Hell just as it was presented on In the Noose. Are all the songs completed into the concept story? Which role does alcohol play in it?
In fact, the album consists of four separate mystical stories. Alcohol appears only in “Razluchnaya” and “Studyonaya” / “Студёная”. For Zatemno the theme of alcohol is just a detail, symbolizing despair and a bottomless emptiness inside the protagonist.
The guest vocals on this album are performed by Colonel Para Bellum from Blackdeath, and as far as I know, you have formerly collaborated in the band Ordo ad Chao. And Colonel not only provided vocals, but also wrote some of the In Hell lyrics.
Colonel contributed significantly to In Hell. In addition to performing vocals, he wrote the final monologue to “Razluchnaya” and it was his idea to create a new interpretation of the famous Russian song “At Dawn” / “На заре” by Alyans as a part of song “Razluchnaya”. But the overall concept of the album was formed without his participation.
Some black metal artists focus on Satan and everything related to satanism. There is also a certain pagan subgenre of the black metal scene. And there is also a narrow segment focused more on folklore, on all these prejudices, than on religious aspects.
We do not profess the inherent traditions of classic BM. But the Devil lives in our verses and meanings.
All members of Zatemno play or have played in Cage of Creation, which seems to be your “main” band. Its recent EP I Am Void II was released in 2021. Will you now devote more time to Cage of Creation, or do you already have some new ideas for Zatemno that you would like to record as soon as possible?
Two Cage of Creation releases are being prepared: a reissue of the self-titled trilogy as a compilation album and a split album with the Swedish band Ehlder.
We are also completing the recording of the final mini-album of the I Am the Void-trilogy. Once again, we are working on a new album of Zatemno at the same time.
What will the third Zatemno album be about?
It will be the sequel to In Hell and Into Ashes. But it’s too early to disclose details.
Will Zatemno remain only a studio project or do you have plans for live performances?
At the very moment, the project is exclusively a studio project, but someday everything may go differently.
Ok, thanks for the interview.