Hungary is not the first place you would normally think of as a hotbed for progressive rock and progressive metal, but it has produced its share of excellent bands over the years. Now, add Age of Nemesis to that short list, as they have recently released a strong album for Magna Carta Records called Terra Incognita. The album was originally released in 2002 in their native language, but the band decided to go back and re-record the album with all the lyrics translated and sung in English. The results were quite staggering, and many have been talking about this new player on the scene who are influenced from some of the best bands of the 70's, 80's, and 90's, but churn out a product that's fresh and exciting. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo spoke to founding member & guitarist Zoltan Fabian-see what he had to say about all things concerning Age of Nemesis.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: The band has been in existence since the late 90's-can you talk a little bit about the formation of Age of Nemesis?
Zoltan Fabian: I've been playing together with Gyorgy Nagy (keyboards) since 1989. This is our third band together. We formed AoN as NEMESIS in 1997. When we formed we only thought "Let's play together and we'll see what's gonna happen..." Some months later we wrote our first album already, and we eventually released our self-titled debut album by ourselves in 1998. In 1999 we signed a recording contract with GU^LA Records Ltd., and released our second album Abraxas that same year. We didn't plan to be an international band at all...but then things changed and we wanted to show our music to a wider audience. Our first English album (Eden) was released by Sensory, and the second and third (Psychogeist and Terra Incognita) were released by Magna Carta. Because of the fact that we always try to develop, the band needed line up changes. We have our third different line-up now but our intensions are the same as they were in 1997 .
SoT: What is it like being a metal band in Hungary, a country not really known for that style of music?
Zoltan: There was a time when there were many progressive bands in Hungary but most of them changed genre or gave up all together. Most Hungarian musicians have to work a regular job if they want to pay the bills. This is a small country and progressive music is an underground genre here , as it is in the US. Of course there are a few Hungarian bands that have had success abroad in the past; bands like After Crying, Stonehenge and Solaris. The media doesn't help this genre at all, so if you want to achieve anything, you have to do it by yourself. There's no appreciation for real individual music and thought... It's all about money. If they can see some profit in your music, then they will 'help' you, and you can 'play' by their rules…I guess this problem exists everywhere, not only here. They say there's no demand for this music, but I say, if people don't know anything about this kind of music, or other 'kept in secret' genres, how can they decide whether they like it or not? At the same time, I know many young local bands that formed in this genre, and they could become very good, if they don't give up. From a musical point of view, we probably weren't born into the best place in the world, but that means that we're far more enthusiastic than most about everything we manage to achieve.
SoT: The music of Age of Nemesis seems to draw some influences from the heavy metal/hard rock greats of the past as well as the current progressive metal scene. What bands did the members grow up listening to?
Zoltan: We all were born in or around 1970, so we could listen to the best bands in all genres, I think. In our childhood we listened to the Beatles and some Hungarian rock bands… or sometimes Boney M. (laughs) When I was a teenager I was a big Iron Maiden fan, and I actually started playing guitar because of them. I think everyone in the Age Of Nemesis was influenced by them. We liked all heavy metal bands of the 'golden age'. Then we started to explore other styles such as hard rock, AOR, or progressive rock. Huge favorites include: Queen, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Styx, Journey, Toto, Kansas, Yes, Marillion, and Rush. Personally, our main influences are: Ian Gillan, Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate, Glenn Hughes, Steve Morse, Gary Moore, Al Dimeola, Joe Satriani, Frank Gambale, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon, Steve Vai, Allan Hollsworth, Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Randy Coven, John Myung, Billy Sheehan, Deen Castronovo, Steve Smith, Simon Philips, Gregg Bisonette, Omar Hakim, Akira Jimbo… and many more. We like bands that have their own thoughts and feelings: those that can touch our souls…and we'd like to touch many souls as well.
SoT: Terra Icognita was originally recorded a few years back and sung in your native language-how difficult was it to transcribe the album in English and rerecord it with English vocals?
Zoltan: I always write the lyrics in Hungarian first, then our Australian-Hungarian friend, Peter Linka works on the translations. Peter can 'think' in english better coz english is his native language. He told me that it wasn't easy to translate my lyrics because Hungarian is a more difficult language than English. Peter also helps us in the studio correcting pronunciation. After all, we're Hungarian, so that's nothing to be ashamed of, I feel. But we are a bilingual band because we want our lyrics to be understood by a wider audience. And we'll still write and sing the lyrics in Hungarian first on our upcoming albums as well.
SoT: Can you talk a little bit about the concept behind the lyrical content of the album?
Zoltan: The concept for Terra Incognita is based on a fictional story. This is my supernatural story about afterlife. The story is as if we would read it from a dead girl's diary. I imagined what would happen if someone would have a chance to see things in the afterlife. The girl was visited by an angel, who took her to the 'Land Of Lights'; where human souls go after their earthly lives. She had a pact with the angel: she must keep in secret all the things that she felt and saw there. When she was back in her bed again, she couldn't keep the secret and she whispered all the things to her sleeping boyfriend, she thought, she didn't break her oath in this way, because he didn't wake up. In the morning when they awoke, he told her about his 'strange dream' in which she had told him about the angel, and the hope of an afterlife. He was sure that his mission was to spread the word to all people about 'The Land of Lights'. But people interpret faith in their own ways, sometimes for the worse, and all hell began breaking loose. I don't want to tell more about the story, but I think, everyone will find something in this story that is about the human selfishness, blind faith, the pain of helplessness, the pang of conscience...the pain if you lose someone. I know that people won't change, and I wanted to show the biggest faults of mankind through this story.
SoT: The Psychogeist album from 2005 was also very well received by the prog-metal community. Has the band planned on touring Europe or the US to help promote these two releases?
Zoltan: Yes, we always had plans but it seems we cannot do anything by ourselves to make our plans real…
SoT: Has the band been invited to play at any of the various progressive metal festivals that happen each year, specifically ProgPower in Atlanta here in the US?
Zoltan: Once the band was invited to Progpower. Ken Golden from Sensory knows the organizer of that festival. But we hasn't had any released English album at that time yet, and they could pay only $1000 dollars. It would have been very good for an American band but we haven't had more money to make that journey real. Only one of us would has been able to travel there from $1000 dollars (laughs), so Ken advised us to postpone that till next year. Then we broke up the agreement with Sensory, so we had never been invited to play at Progpower again, or at any other festivals.
SoT: When will the band begin work on the next album?
Zoltan: We are working on that already. We have many ideas, so maybe our next album will be double CD.
SoT: Any future ideas for another concept album?
Zoltan: Yeah, maybe the 2nd CD of this double will be a concept album. We have to work much on our music because we want to make that more interesting and we'd like to avoid the comparisons with other existing bands. We'd like to create our own style and that isn't easy nowadays. We'll use our Hungarian roots more than before. I think that will make us different from the other prog bands.
SoT: If Age of Nemesis could play on a triple bill with two other existing bands, who would they be?
Zoltan: In my opinion they would be: Pain Of Salvation and Pagan's Mind. They are my personal favorites, so I think that maybe the other members of Age of Nemesis would probably choose other bands..
SoT: Well, thanks so much for your time Zoltan!
Zoltan: Thank you very much for the interview and thanks to everyone for reading it.
(Click here to read our reviews of Terra Incognita)