ZERO DEGREE – Welcome To The Surreal World
Earlier this year this German melodic death metal sextet released an impressive debut album to my ears with "Surreal World". Keeping the heart of their harmonic impact within the triple threat axe attack while still remaining uncompromising on the harsh vocal front, Zero Degree have a great chance to ascend the ranks quickly and hopefully impress audiences on a worldwide scale like fellow death act Night In Gales have for many years.
I fired off a series of questions to drummer Tobias Dohle so let’s hear his thoughts about the band.
The formation of Zero Degree started in 2006- did any of the members know of each other previously through other bands before starting with Zero Degree? How did you decide to come up with a three guitar lineup also- was it primarily to allow the rhythm guitar to still be present during the dual harmony solo parts?
"When Thomas, Pascal and myself decided to form the band, we already knew each other from playing together in different bands. Andre and Maik were also friends of ours. Sebastian was the only one we didn´t know. Another friend of ours (who knew Sebastian) brought him into the band and until that day we´ re very happy to have him as one of the band’s masterminds.
The idea to start up with three guitar players was the result of many live shows from a couple of our favourite bands. We wanted the same harmonic, melodic and full sound on stage as on a record. We have a lot of dual harmony solo parts – so actually it was definitely necessary to have three guitar players. And we never regretted this decision."
Iron Maiden, Dark Tranquility, and In Flames are three bands that come to mind when taking in Zero Degree’s sound and style on your debut album "Surreal World". What particular albums from these acts do you think shape your way of songwriting, arranging, and instrumental play? Do you mind the natural evolution in sound these acts have made through the years?
"First of all – thanks a lot for the nice compliment. I think one of the most influential albums was "Colony" from IN FLAMES. Tons of goose bump melodies but nevertheless brutal in every single note. It´s a masterpiece! MAIDEN have always had this great style of playing long melody parts. And we love that. So I think we´ve found a good way between melodies and brutality.
The natural evolution these bands have made over the years might not be the best but I think for themselves and other bands it’s a logical process that sooner or later is necessary."
Thomas as a vocalist prefers to use rough screams throughout Zero Degree’s style, not succumbing to any clean/alternative choruses that many in the melodic death metal genre may use. Would Zero Degree every consider alternate vocal approaches down the line- or do you prefer the melodic aspects to come more from the instrumental end as a band?
"We´re really proud of Thomas´s style of screaming. We all listen to bands with clean vocals but we never wanted that in ZERO DEGREE. The guitars create our melodies – the vocals create our brutality. I don´t think that we will change this way of writing songs."
Were there any particular songs off "Surreal World" that required multiple takes to get just right compared to others? How long does a typical Zero Degree song take from initial idea to final completion?
"That´s a good question. We´re all very self-critical. Sometimes a song is completed in a few days. But other times we try to change different parts over and over again. Better melodies, better drums, better vocals. It can take a while sometimes, but often it is a good way to achieve the best result."
What have been some of your favorite shows you’ve played with Zero Degree through the years? How would you describe the band in terms of your performances? Do you have a preference for the studio versus live shows?
"One of our craziest shows was with EISREGEN. These guys can really, really party hard and forced our non-smoking guitar player to smoke a cigarette. Another show with SUIDAKRA was also a great evening with a lot of beer!
We as a band love to play live on stage. There´s no better feeling than to see people banging their heads and sing along to the chorus parts."
Being from Germany and the epicenter of the metal movement for mainland Europe, do you feel like Zero Degree have been able to move further faster due to natural promotional and publicity opportunities- and will continue to do so through Massacre Records?
"We hope so! But we are really at the beginning of getting more into business, so it’s hard to tell if it’s easier and faster because many bands use these promotional opportunities as well."
How are you able to divide your band time from your personal time? I would imagine you have to carve out specific time periods to spend on the band outside of your day jobs- or are you able to make an okay living solely off the music?
"We all have friends, families and jobs in different parts of Germany, so we often have only the weekends for playing shows or creating new songs. But somehow it works fine."
Can you give the readers an idea into the personalities of each member of the band- and what would you say is one special quality that they each bring to the table to make Zero Degree special and unique?
"Basically, we’re all equal. We all have two personalities. During the week we have to work and stuff but on the weekends we are the Metalheads who´re making music and drink beer."
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received through the years about life- and who did you receive this advice from?
"God is a lie!" – from Peter Tägtgren (ha ha ha)
How often does the band get together for rehearsals and songwriting sessions? Have you begun writing material for the second album- and if so, what type of direction do you foresee Zero Degree taking with this? Are you happy with where you are stylistically or do you think you may add other dynamics to the melodic death metal sound?
"We’ve started to write new stuff for a new album already, but no one can say how it will sound in the end at this moment. Like I said – we´re very self – critical. But the melodies will definitely be part of our music. I promise you!"
What are the short term and long term goals you’ve set for Zero Degree?
"Making Metalheads happy with our style of music!"
If you had the chance to sit down and have dinner with any 3 people in the world- either musicians or otherwise- who would you invite and what would you like to talk about?
"Bruce Dickinson – to learn more about fencing and flying planes. Peter Tägtgren – one of my favourite Songwriters and Sean Connery – best BOND ever. And then we would drink German beer and Korn-Cola (special alcoholic drink in our area)."
Where do you see the state of the metal scene in 2012? What tips or suggestions would you give to fans and bands to keep the movement going strong in these changing times?
"I think these are hard times to play good shows but anyway bands should play the style they love. They should not go with the mainstream – because there are too many bad bands out there! People and fans should visit more local shows and support their local bands. I think that will be a good start to see more good bands out there."