Of Thrash and Trueness
CoC talks to Appolyon from Aura Noir
by: Paul Schwarz
A "new" genre has, in recent years, appeared in the extreme metal community. "Retro-thrash", as this backward looking genre has been dubbed, has given birth to bands, such as Inferno and Bewitched, who wanted to re-create the '80s thrash metal feeling, though unfortunately many bands used the same riffs to do so. Many of these "retro-thrash" bands are made up of people who also play in black metal bands in Norway or Sweden. Since any fool knows that the Norwegian black metal scene of the '90s was heavily influenced by '80s thrash bands ("Satanic" or otherwise) like Celtic Frost, Bathory and Venom, it is curious that, with "retro-thrash", some black metallers seem to be stepping back into their past, instead of using their past as a stepping stone to the future. With their debut album, _Black Thrash Attack_ [CoC #21], Aura Noir seemed to be heading down the "retro-thrash" path, though in much more style and with more skill than the majority of the "retro-thrash" scene. Late last year, their second full length _Deep Tracts of Hell_ [reviewed in this issue] saw the light of day on Hammerheart, a new label for the band. Blasphemer, of Mayhem fame, who played bass on _Black Thrash Attack_ and toured with the band, took no part in _Deep Tracts of Hell_. _DToH_ features only Appolyon (Dodheimsgard) and Aggressor (Ved Buens Ende, Inferno), who have been the core of the band right from the start. They have always been a little different, too: Appolyon and Aggressor each write half the songs, sing and play guitar on half the songs (the ones they write), and play drums on half the songs (the ones they don't). Thus, each record is an interesting (though not intrusively noticeable) mix of their two writing, singing and playing styles. This songwriting core of the band has not changed for the making of _DToH_, but the sound has. Aura Noir have added a vicious black metal edge to their sound. They haven't lost the thrashy brilliance of their debut, but they also haven't let their previous musical formula stagnate, so that now, instead of "BTA vol.2", we have the aggressive, thrashy, blackened mass of metal that is _Deep Tracts of Hell_. Appolyon (who I sometimes refer to by his "nickname" OJ), relaxing in Norway's Elm Street (the gathering place for a number of the black metal scene's musicians), happily answered my questions, even though he had to fight off small winged beasts to do so in any comfort.

CoC: Could you give a brief history of Aura Noir, for those who may not know the band, and how the "project" came about originally?

Appolyon: That is always a hard question, because I don't know. I get confused. It's me and Carl Michael (Aggressor). He actually started it and it was meant to be a side-project from -- he plays in Ved Buens Ende. This was supposed to be even stranger music than Ved Buens Ende was. He did some songs, he went to the studio with them, and he wanted me to help him with some guitar stuff, which I did. And, I think, while we were in the studio, he figured that "Hey, I don't wanna do this anyway, so let's just play old thrash metal. No one else does that nowadays and everybody should like it." So, we started playing thrash metal, black thrash metal, and (I can't remember when this was, but should be '94/'95 or something) we released our first album, on the Norwegian label called Hot Records. That was a mini-CD called _Dreams Like Deserts_. After that we did some gigs here in Oslo and since we were only two guys we had to have some other guy on stage with us to fill in. We asked Blasphemer from Mayhem and he wanted to join us, and suddenly he was in the band. Then we changed labels to Malicious Records Germany and we made a new album, _Black Thrash Attack_, with the new line-up and everything. Now we have just released... umm, what's it called? [With sarcasm in his voice as he looks at my t-shirt, adorned by the album cover] _Deep Tracts of Hell_ on Hammerheart Records. Blasphemer is not on that album because he was in the States [with Mayhem].

CoC: So has he left the band?

A: No, he hasn't left, I think now he's back again. Even though he may not be on further albums, he will always play live with us.

CoC: So he will certainly be there for the live playing?

A: I think he will be in the band for the next album.

CoC: With this new album, in comparison to previously doing _BTA_, how do you think the music has changed, how do you think it has developed from _BTA_? I think _BTA_ is a little catchier, it's in a slightly different style.

A: I think, at least, Carl Michael's songs are more complex than on _BTA_. And also, both our songs are somewhat harder -- it is more black metal, actually. That's, I think, only because old thrash metal, the good thrash metal riffs, are starting to get well used by now.

CoC: Used up.

A: Yeah. But there are also some songs that are even more catchy maybe, some of my songs, the slow ones. But I don't know; some people say this is our best album and some people say _BTA_ is the best one. But I think maybe if you put both of the albums together and take the best songs from both of the albums it would be our perfect album or something. <laughs>

CoC: On the album, and in previous times, you've always swapped instruments, you and Carl Michael, from drums to guitar and vocals; why did you choose not to have a concrete "set-up" for doing the band, is it because you both enjoy doing both things?

A: Yeah, more or less, and also it's easier in the studio, 'cause we don't practice that much, so we just make half the songs each. So if he makes a song I will play drums and he does all the rest, and the other way around [for me]. So we don't have to rehearse that much before we go into the studio. <laughs> But it's also probably mostly because we enjoy doing both things.

CoC: Do you think that makes a big difference to the vocals on the album, because there are two different vocalists throughout the album, or do you think it still sounds quite consistent?

A: You can hear, at least now, our songs are quite different. I think it is more the songs [than the vocals]. It doesn't sound that boring, you know, with different vocals. Not that it's boring to hear one vocalist throughout the whole album, but, maybe -- I don't know. <laughs>

CoC: How do you feel Hammerheart is supporting you with touring and general promotion?

A: I think they've done a good job so far. We haven't heard -- we only just released the album, but we have already been on tour, which was the main reason why we left Malicious Records: because they didn't want to send us on tour. We think it is very important for every band to go on tour if they have something to show on stage, and we consider ourselves a pretty good live band, so it's very important for us to go on tour. I think they [Hammerheart] have treated us well, but, you know, it's only just been released, so we don't know anything about -- yeah, I think we sold 3500 after one week or something. [OJ makes a point about the sales which didn't come out on my tape, then adding "at least they're out there". -- Paul]

CoC: That's cool. So, you've also got an upcoming tour with Vader, Malevolent Creation and some other bands?

A: Yeah... our record company guy said that he hoped to get us on that tour. We don't know anything yet. We hope so.

CoC: You said when you wanted to do Aura Noir you were doing old thrash. What, of your older influences, influenced you and Carl to do old thrash, and how does it differ from the other bands you do, like Dodheimsgard?

[OJ is bothered by a fly and attempts to exterminate it.]

A: Could I have the first part of the question again?

CoC: Sure. What were you influenced by when you were doing something that was thrash based?

A: Bands? I don't know if we both listen to them, but Kreator, Slayer and everything. Early German stuff, but I don't think we are just influenced by all of them [but by] good music in general. We think... it's confusing me, this fly shit. <laughs> [More flailing at the fly on OJ's part.] We just make riffs and we try to make as good riffs as possible and it's just coincidental that they sound very similar to old stuff. I don't know how to explain this, I could do it better in Norwegian.

CoC: To put it a different way, do you think Aura Noir fit into being a "retro" band, do you think they belong to a scene which is quite current now, or do you think it is just a retro-thrash band?

A: No, it is not just a retro-thrash band, because there is sort of -- it is sort of a black metal band, but, you know, we consider the old thrash metal bands black metal, or at least very influential, or should be, for a black metal band. People have started to play all this moving shit, not shit, but um... it goes in another direction now, most of the scene, so we thought "Let's do the aggressive thing again", 'cause we think that this kind of music gives us the most black metal feeling.

CoC: Does Aura Noir conflict with your other bands, either yours or Carl's?

A: I was a bit sceptical about Dodheimsgard, 'cause we use synthesizers and now we will use... drum programming on our next album. But I was in the studio, a couple of days ago, and heard at least one of the songs, and did the basswork, and it sounds really great, so I don't think so, I am just nervous that... I -was- nervous that it would sound too melodic and too nice. Because it would be sort of treason or betrayal, to say that in Aura Noir interviews. I think this Dodheimsgard [album] sounds so different, but still very aggressive.

CoC: So what would you say to people who haven't heard Aura Noir, who are thinking of checking them out? Who would you say should check it out and what would you say generally... about the band?

A: What would I say to people who want to check it out?

CoC: Or who read this interview or whatever and think "hmm, maybe I'll check that band out." [I turn my dictaphone off and OJ takes a while to think and kill flies.]

A: If you like old thrash metal bands, you should check it out, at least. If you don't, if you're only into the new wave of black metal, you should either check us or the old thrash metal bands, and maybe them first. Really old, like Slayer, Kreator and stuff, of course, everybody should have heard of it, but really the first album of all those guys -- Destruction, Sodom, whatever. Then check us out. It's really aggressive music, the way it should be played. I think our strongest side is maybe our live act, so come check out the shows as well.

(article submitted 13/2/1999)


ALBUMS
10/19/2004 P Azevedo 6 Aura Noir - The Merciless
2/13/1999 P Schwarz 9 Aura Noir - Deep Tracts of Hell
6/7/1997 S Hoeltzel 7 Aura Noir - Black Thrash Attack
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