ZETAR "The Darkness Within The Light"
By Dr. Abner Mality
They struck first at the great galactic library of Memory Alpha. A storm of pulsating lights in all colors of the rainbow. Beautiful to look at...deadly to experience! They overcame Memory Alpha and brought death to all upon the planet when they couldn’t find what they needed...the perfect mind and body for them to control. But soon the lights sensed what they were looking for, aboard a mighty starship…
OK, the Star Trek fans among you will definitely recognize the above description as the plot of the classic Original Series episode “The Lights of Zetar”. Who would have ever imagined the ghostly disembodied lights would inspire a death metal band on 21st century planet Earth? But that’s exactly what we have with the new band ZETAR. An international band of performers drawing influence from the darker corners of the Star Trek universe…
SOLD! I knew I had to look these guys up, especially after hearing their raw and throbbing debut album “Devouring Darkness”. Austin, TX resident R.G. is the mysterious mastermind of ZETAR. I decided to open hailing frequencies and contact him to get the cosmic truth behind this intriguing project...
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to ZETAR from Dr. Mality and Wormwood Chronicles. You have got to be the most Star Trek-centered band I have heard. Were you into the Trek Universe before you discovered heavy music or has it been a relatively recent development?
R.G.: Thanks so much for taking the time to check out the album and for having me; it’s greatly appreciated! I’ll take that as a compliment, haha! I got into Trek about 7-8 years ago, but have been a Metalhead much longer. I never expected to pair Trek and Metal together, but it just felt natural and unforced when I began creating songs and lyrics. The album explores the encounters with alien entities and ancient civilizations that populate the Roddenberry universe. It’s not about the Enterprise or the crew (sorry, no tales of Captain Kirk or Picard), but the darkness and mystery that they encounter.
WC: Obviously you derive your name from the episode “The Lights of Zetar”. What was it about this particular episode that grabbed your interest?
R.G.: What intrigued me about the episode was the idea of a disassociated collective consciousness floating through space, searching for a body to call home. It’s rather chilling when you think about it. Your physical body… dead, but your mind (along with the minds of others) living on… drifting through space like a ghost for infinity. Perhaps that is the unknown afterlife we all await.
WC: How did you go about picking what episodes would lead to actual songs? I see you also have tracks coming from “Next Generation” as well as the original series.
R.G.: I focused on The Original Series and The Next Generation for this endeavor. I love DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise as well, and hopefully their time will come. There’s so much great content from all of the series, but I didn’t want to cast my net too wide. As for lyrical inspiration, I looked for episodes that explored weird and wild possibilities, often involving telepathic powers.
WC: “Return of the Archons” I always thought was one of the most thought-provoking episodes, dealing with the mind control aspects of religion and also the dominance of artificial intelligence. Do you think the real world is on the verge of creating its own “Landru” with artificial intelligence?
R.G.: I agree, great episode! In short—no, because we don’t need AI to control humanity. People have been controlling one another successfully for a very long, long time. Humans have easily and willingly been manipulated by or controlled by religion, politics, economics, media, advertising, etc., for millennia. We seem to be really good at it, actually. Roddenberry has been highlighting this point for decades.
WC: With “Ardra”, we see how easy it is for a huckster to control society through religion. What real life parallels do you see to this? We currently have people taking horse medicine and bleach to cure disease on the advice of characters not a million miles away from Ardra…
R.G.: I think it’s similar to my previous response. We’re really good at being manipulated by others, especially propaganda. It’s so much easier to NOT think for ourselves, to find scapegoats and blame them for our ills. We’re often afraid to tackle problems head on, because we might have to change our behavior, or admit that our beliefs or point of view was wrong. So we go along with some huckster because he’s convinced enough people to go along, too, and we don’t want to be the side they’re pointing fingers at.
WC: Can you see ZETAR dealing with non-Trek subjects on future efforts? It seems the band would always have a sci-fi component to it.
R.G.: Great question! Yes and no. I hope to keep the Trek vibe alive if people truly enjoy it as much as I do. There are some things I’d like to do that are not Sci-Fi or Trek related eventually, but they would probably still have a cosmic angle to them.
WC: The cover to “Devouring Darkness” is great! It reminds me of the SF art of the 70’s. Tell us about this masterpiece and how it relates to the album’s themes.
R.G.: Thanks for mentioning the incredible cover artwork that we were able to use. The piece is from the master of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the legendary artist Bruce Pennington. I’m extremely grateful for him granting me permission to use it—Thank You Mr. Pennington!!! This painting was used as the book cover for Eschatus, his book illustrating the prophecies of Nostradamus. As soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be the album cover. To me, the painting best represents the song “Ardra,” with the anti-Christ figure portraying the universal devil (Ardra) returning to the planet Ventax, creating mass destruction and hysteria as prophesied in their ancient scrolls.
WC: Musically, you have a sound that’s pretty raw. Most SF-influenced death metal bands have a very technical and precise feel. Did you want to buck that trend?
R.G.:The answer is 100% yes! Many Sci-Fi bands have such a cold, antiseptic quality to them with endless solos showcasing their technical prowess, and then it’s packaged with pitch perfect production that I just find it sterile. It’s just not me. I couldn’t sweep pick to save my life, haha! I like the gritty and grimy. Gritty and grimy records have more personality. Nekkomix did a fantastic job of capturing that element without it becoming a distraction.
WC: Is ZETAR pretty much a studio only band? Have you ever physically met your band mates, seeing that they are in France and Ecuador?
R.G.: Yes, studio only. And unfortunately, no, I’ve not had the privilege of meeting them in person, but I hope to one day. They’re both pretty hilarious and just great people. Very proud to work with them and call them my friends. We stay connected through email and social media.
WC: How did you hook up with T.P. and David to create ZETAR?
R.G.: I found their services online and it took off from there. Some would just consider them “session” musicians, but I see them as much more than that. They’re my bandmates and my friends. They’ve made significant contributions and shaped the sound and the direction of the album as much as my own parts. If it hadn’t been for T.P. 's belief in our work and really pushing the album out to labels, I probably would have been shouting into the abyss like a million other unsigned bands. So I can’t thank him enough for believing!
WC: You’ve got some synth soundscapes popping up on the album. Can you see yourself using more of this style in the future?
R.G.: Absolutely! I love synth stuff and wanted to use more on the album. I think the synth can perfectly capture the vibe of old 60’s Sci-Fi. It can be a bit creepy, campy, and cheesy, but I love that kind of atmosphere.
WC: What are some of the non-metal influences on ZETAR’s music?
R.G.:Well, a lot of music I listen to didn’t worm its way into the album, at least I don’t hear it. Mostly Hard Rock or Classic Rock stuff. I listen to UFO, ZZ TOP, KISS, BLUE MURDER, and AC/DC as much as I do MORBID ANGEL and IMMORTAL. I enjoy Classical music as well as old Motown stuff.
WC: What authors do you draw inspiration from?
R.G.: I don’t read as much as I used to…I got lazy, haha! If anything, I would say that I appreciate the writing style of Cormac McCarthy, as well as Steinbeck and Hemingway. They have a direct approach when they write, cutting away the fat until only the meat remains.
WC: Have you got any new songs written beyond the current album? If so, in what direction are they going?
R.G.: I’m not as far along as I had hoped. Finishing this album was like giving birth; I felt creatively exhausted. Then the plague descended upon us, and my job changed a bit. So it’s been a mixture of excuses really. I’ve been kicking around a few ideas and plan to start recording again soon. Just needed a break.
WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?
R.G.: Oh wow, that’s tough. Definitely legendary heel wrestling manager Jim Cornette—that man has the best stories!!! Could listen to him talk about the “old” days of wrestling for hours! I doubt any other dinner guests would get a chance to speak with him, flapping his jaws!
WC: Have you ever been involved in any kind of a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went haywire, either on stage or in the studio?
R.G.: No, I’m a complete professional, bhahahaha! Sometimes I feel like my entire life is a “Spinal Tap” moment!!! When I was first working on my logo, I thought it might be a good idea to have someone else take a stab at it. So I enlisted the help of a friend that teaches a graphic design/Photoshop class, and had the students create a band logo. It became evident quite soon that none of them were Metalheads. Their designs made the PARTY CANNON band logo look evil!
WC: Any last words for the fans?
R.G.: Hails and Horns to you all!!!