Against all the tides of recent times, Omega Diatribe’s ship has once again switched into a higher gear with their new album ’Metanoia’. We had the luck to sit down for a beer with the band’s creative core, guitarist Gergő Hájer and bassist Ákos Szathmáry in the midst of these uncertain times. The end-result was a conversation about musical and lyrical conceptions, top class producers, lineup changes, loyalty and love. Also about how does it feel when the world can close up around you, yet open up for you at the same time.
Hard Rock Magazin: Metanoia has been out for a couple of months now. How do you feel about the reception of the album?
Gergő Hájer: We can definitely say, that so far this is our most succesful material. The reviews – both the international and the hungarian ones – were certainly proof of this. I feel, that this album will hold the key, that can open up doors for us. Doors for new and great opportunities, once this pandemic passes.
Ákos Szathmáry: The feedback was indeed quite unbelievable. Most of the press gave us very high ratings, and also our listeners are going nuts about ’Metanoia’. It’s an amazing feeling to get all this love, especially considering that during the making of the album we also felt that all the hard work we put into it…it would pay off and we would raise our game to the next level. All the positive reviews are proving us right.
HRM: The album did pretty well on our site too! If I hear it right, your approach during the songwriting was a bit different this time. Could you tell us a little bit about this?
G.H.: It was especially a good feeling to get high points from you guys, given that your rating system is really strict! (smiles) I think it’s safe to say that we were more focused than ever, regarding the recordings. We were very aware about what we want to hear, and how we want to broaden our arsenal on this record. In this we got great help from two person. One was Kiki Diószegi from Stray Heart Records, who supervised the tracking of the vocals. The other one was of course Jens Bogren from Fascination Street Studios who was responsible for the modern-sounding mastering of the album.
Á.Sz.: To be a bit over-simplified: up until now we were mainly thinking in riffs and themes. When we found that one riff was a good fit to a half-ready song, than we put it in the song! (laughs) During the creation of ’Metanoia’ we were more like…song-oriented. For instance we have recurring refrains which was hardly our thing up until now.
HRM: You have – let’s say – softened up your sound little bit. Was it a conscious decision or the end of a more organic process?
Á.Sz.: It’s a bit of both. This is our fourth LP. During the years, we gathered a lot of experiences and we had very clear and serious ideas about how we wanted ’Metanoia’ to sound.
HRM: How does your songwriting process look?
G.H.: Well, it didn’t really change since our debut. Unlike many bands, our songs aren’t conceived during rehearsals, they rather come to be in our homes as well thought-out demos. Then we take them to the rehearsals to get their final form. This method works for us best, since I’m known to be very proactive, when it comes to songwriting. So we always have a wealth of songs that are potentially going to make it to the album. Of course, everyone will bring their special little flavour to the table, and like this the songs are filled up with energy that comes from all 5 of us.
Á.Sz.: Usually when it comes to putting an album together, we are always lucky enough to have a lot of demo-material. Then the tinder-game begins. We swipe left, we swipe right. (laughs)
HRM: So far, clean vocals were unheard in your music, but now they made it to this recent record. Who do we have to thank for?
G.H.: The weight of this noble task has fallen on my shoulders actually. At first I was hesitant, because I already have to step-dance on my pedalboard in some songs, playing all kinds of super-complicated melodies and now I have to sing too. (laughs) With that said, it was still a very exciting challenge to include this element in our music. I was consciously preparing for it, in order to sing as clear as possible, so we don’t spend too much time on corrections in the studio.
Á.Sz.: It was almost at the same time, when Gergő and I started sending these ideas to each other. We actually liked them so much that at some point we started showing them to the rest of the band. We were a bit afraid though what they were going to say. Luckily they liked the idea.
HRM: While your songs still have that gritty, riff-based edge to them, lately you have receorded more and more atmospheric elements too. How did this new approach got into your music?
Á.Sz.: If one digs deeper in our discography, these elements can be found there too, but in the past we only used them as sort of a support, to strengthen our heavier riffs. But it is true that the atmospheric side gets a bigger spotlight on ’Metanoia’.
HRM: The first song to get a clip was Parallel. How did you decide, that this was the right song? Could you tell us a bit about the clip-making process?
Á.Sz.: We really wanted a mind-blowing video as the trailer of the new album so we contacted the team at Thornfields Production, because we knew that their work is exceptionally good. We soon sat down down with their leader, Tamás Tarczi who was very enthusiastic about our music. It was him, who chose Parallel out of three instrumental demos. Not long after this, he gave us a visual presentation that just simply blew us away. It was extremely fun working with such a well-prepared crew, they took a lot of weight from our shoulders, regarding video shooting. The work was split up to three days. One was for the two different shooting sites. Then we had a greenbox day for the various FX that are included in the video and then we had a night-shoot too in an abandoned building.
HRM: Can we expect more songs on screen?
Á.Sz.: We have two more videoclips planned, but it’s not clear, when we’re going to be able to shoot them in these fabulous times.
HRM: The production of an album is always an interesting story with you, but this time it’s even more exciting. Your previous material was mixed and mastered by Tue Madsen, who’s already a well-known name in the genre. The new record was tracked and mixed in Gergő’s studio, but the mastering was the work of none other than Jens Bogren, who’s one of the biggest names in the industry. How did you get in contact with him?
G.H.: These last few years I was lucky enough to take my mixing onto a new level, so I definitely wanted to try myself out with mixing our new LP and the guys were okay with it. We already had an agreement with Tue, that he was going to do the mastering since we were extremely pleased with his work on ’Trinity’. Anyway, one day I opened up the band’s facebook account and there was a letter from Fascination Street Studios greeting me: Jens had been following our work since ’Trinity’ and he saw that we were already tracking the new album. So he wanted to let us know, he’d be very happy to work with us…
Okay, so first of all, for a band of our magnitude it’s already a huge deal that he even knows us…and now he’s saying that he’d be happy to work with us?? We told him, that we already had a deal with Tue, but strictly out of curiosity, we’d send him the demo of Parallel to see, what he could do with it. I recall, that time we were actually on tour and we had to spend something like 10 hours at the Milano airport, when we got the first version from Jens. We listened to it on as many systems as possible, and we quickly felt that this was what we needed. I can’t and won’t say, he’s better or worse than Tue. It was just his approach to our music which was different, and a better fit to how we wanted ’Metanoia’ to sound. When we made it home from the tour, we told Tue that, how ashamed we felt, we would like to give the mastering task to Jens. He was very professional about this and we still have a good relationship with him. So it’s definitely a possibility, that our next record is going to be his work again or someone else’s! (smiling)
HRM: How was it, working with Jens?
Á.Sz.: Both him and he’s team are very nice guys, the workflow was very easy, and he handled our ideas very flexibly. Luckily the work with Tue already gave us enough experience to know, how this kind of distant-work is going.
HRM: Speaking about studio work: can you tell us a little bit about 515 studio, where the trackings commenced?
G.H.: This studio was found by Ákos and me in 2012 as sort of a mobile-studio, where we recorded, mixed and mastered music for ads. In time, we gathered a neat little bunch of gear around us, and it made premium quality recordings possible. All our albums were tracked here along with the Audionerve records.
HRM: Back to the new album! While ’Trinity’ was more of a conceptual record, this new one is much more song-oriented. What inspired the lyrics, what guided your pens?
Á.Sz.: To be honest, we never wanted our lyrics to revolve around the same conception, it was merely an accident last time (laughs) By the way, there were people, who already linked ’Metanoia’ to this recent pandemic, because of the lyrics. They even thought, that the spoken word in the song Isolation was about it. The truth is, that the words are from a movie called ’Network’ (1976) and we already discussed using it way before the pandemic. Our topics are ever-present ones. They work in all eras, because the human race is never changing, people are always tortured by the same emotions.
HRM: Recently the band went through a line-up change. ’Metanoia’ was recorded with your new drummer Richárd Szpuszenik. What happened, and how did you choose him as Tamás Kiss’ replacement?
Á.Sz.: The storyline is the same as always. Tamás left our vessel because he wanted to spend more time with his other goals in life and being part of a growing band was a bigger and bigger obstacle for him. This was of course very hard for us, because we had to part with a friend and find a replacement. Since we have a lot of connections, we aren’t pushed to post ads online, we could be more focused in our search for a new drummer. This is, how we found Ricsi and eventeually ended up choosing him.
HRM: You have been collaborating with Metal Scrap Records for quite a while. How is your relationship with them?
G.H.: We have no reason to complain, they treat us at our level at their roster, and they are especially caring towards the physical material, they hand out. This is a huge plus for us, because even though we live in the time of Sporify-generation, we still hold CDs very important. The booking section of the label however wants to push us more to the eastern side of Europe, while we want to get a name to ourselves in the western regions. So after the ’Trinity’ tour we went on and signed with a spanish booking agency, they are reponsible for our concerts abroad, while the hungarian concerts are our manager, Varga Levente’s responsibility.
HRM: You seem more and more to be a band who are just about to have breakthrough to the international market as well. Do you feel any pressure or responsibility regarding this?
Á.Sz.: It is no secret: we want to get as big as possible on international waters too. One could say, that it was our intention from the very beginning. We were preparing and training for this, and if you’re familiar with the industry, you know that it’s not that easy abroad either. You have to build from the ground up, and it doesn’t really matter, that you’re well-known in your home country. We’ve been trying opening up these opportunities for years and we have had successes here and there, so I would say, that we feel some kind of pressure. We do want to do this, and we just love, when we get to see new places, we are extremely grateful when this kind of opportunity rises, and we put our hearts and souls into performing, even if it’s for an audience of 20.
HRM: The sad truth in Hungary is that you cannot really make a living only by playing in a metal band. So you have to manage having a daytime job too. How do you organize all this?
G.H.: Guys, who tour as intensely as us, get to know, that this is simply the biggest task if you want to keep on playing in a band, and keep that band together. For this you need a couple of things: a certain way of living, a supportive partner, and last but not at least, a flexible workplace. You need all this, to keep climbing the ladder.
To achieve this you have to be very conscious, but also very lucky. We more or less shape our every day lives so that we can keep on playing. and not the other way around. You can’t expect this kind of fanatism from everyone and not everyone can live like this. This was mainly the reason of all the member-changes in our band.
Á.Sz.: It’s been many years, since I went to an actual vacation. All of my free time I devote to the band. You can do this only with love and passion.
HRM: Let’s try to give this an optimistic ending: what are your plans for the time, when the world goes back to normal?
Á.Sz.: Will it ever be though? I don’t think this world has ever been normal at all (laughs). Jokes aside, we want to shoot two more videos, that I mentioned earlier, also we have to make up for all those concerts that’ve been cancelled recently. We want to make people move to the melodies of ’Metanoia’.