Danish Dynamite
CoC interviews Anders Vestergaard of Aurora
by: Pedro Azevedo
Some of our European readers may look at the title I chose for this interview and remember the Danish supporters' chants following their victory in Euro '92, but if you already know Aurora's _Devotion_ you will probably be able to think of a couple more reasons why I chose this title. One of them could simply come directly from Claus Froelund's rather unusual lyrics ("It's Just..."). More significant, however, is the Danes' ability to conjure subdued, painfully tense passages in their music akin to a premonitory near-silence preceding a dynamite blast -- and mold the ensuing blast into some of the best aggressive, technical and somewhat Swedish-sounding metal around (think Dark Tranquillity's _The Gallery_, Opeth and At the Gates). Furthermore, _Devotion_ is also a very emotional album, something in which Froelund's tortured vocals play an important role, teaming up with the creative guitar work and rhythmic patterns. You may also want to know that _Devotion_ was my choice for best record of 2000. Interested? Then read what guitarist Anders Vestergaard had to say and go get yourself a copy of _Devotion_.

CoC: How did this group of musicians become Aurora?

Anders Vestergaard: Aurora's history goes way back to the early '90s. A lot of different persons have been involved under a lot of different band names. Anyway, Aurora as you know us today leads back to the mid-'90s when Thomas Broberg (guitar), Morten Soerensen (drums) and Carsten Terp (bass) over a period, joined Claus Froelund (vocals) and Allan Iversen (guitar). At that time the band was named Aurora Borealis. After the demo _Childhood Memories_ was recorded, Borealis was removed and Aurora signed a record deal with Serious Entertainment. After the release of the debut album _Eos_ in 1998 and the recording of the mini-CD _Sadiam_, Allan and the band parted ways and in the end of 1998 I took over the empty slot.

CoC: What is the main element you possess that you feel can make you stand apart from everyone else in the metal scene?

AV: Well, it's really hard to say. I guess we can be labelled as a melodic death metal band, which isn't that original, but we work with a lot of alternative elements not normally used within this genre, which definitely makes us different! Another remarkable thing is that our music is "pure", we have never followed any musical trends. It may sound like a cliche, but it's really the truth.

CoC: I find your rhythmic section quite remarkable, because it shows both plenty of creativity and a lot of skill. But despite not sticking to easy, conventional solutions, I think it all still works very well and the result sounds very tight indeed. Can you describe the songwriting process that leads to this?

AV: We basically write most of the music as individuals. Then, when one of us has finished a song, he introduces it to the rest of the band and we rehearse it together, and ideas like different leads and fills and stuff are just thrown in along the way. A lot of the time the final result ends up sounding a lot like the basic scratch; we sometimes however rearrange things as a band. Carsten, our bass player, has actually written almost all the songs for _Devotion_, even though he can't really play guitar (and I'm supposed to be able to do so). I actually play a lot of the riffs exactly as he showed me to. I will, however, be a lot more active when it comes to songwriting on the next record and I guess that Thomas will also be so again.

CoC: The vocals are quite varied as well, not to mention rather extreme at times, but always really emotional. As a guitarist, how do you combine your work with that, how does it all come together?

AV: Hmmm, a good question, but I don't really have an answer to it! Basically, the different musicians in the band are just playing what they feel like and are able to. As mentioned, the vocals and lead parts are typically put into the song during rehearsal, after the basic songwriting has taken place. We usually never sit down and plan things, we basically just wait and see what happens along the way.

CoC: How important is it for you that the final result contains emotion as well as musical skill? And what sort of emotions would you say you try to convey with your music?

AV: For me, and I also think that I'm speaking for everyone in the band now, good and emotional songwriting is much more important than the showcasing of technical skills. Of course, technique often makes music more interesting, so it's worth trying to combine those two things. The technical elements within the songs aren't really planned, but we also try do things in different ways, so sometimes things just evolve. There is no point in playing technical stuff just to do it, but if it fits the songs then it's just fine. About the emotions within the songs: when writing music, I guess that you always put some specific emotions into the music, but other people can interpret them in many different ways. I know what emotions I normally work with when writing songs, but the songs can make people feel in a different way than I did when writing them.

CoC: The lyrics are quite out of the ordinary throughout, but work really well once you get used to them... how do you think they fit with what the band tries to express? Can you provide us with some more details about their meaning?

AV: Claus Froelund, our vocalist, is responsible for all the lyrics. The lyrics are basically based on his experiences with and views upon relationships, especially the malfunctioning ones. I think his lyrics are different from the standard, cliche-like lyrics that a lot of metal bands write, and emotionally they definitely work together with the sad and at times twisted feel within the music. Some people may find his lyrics a bit too weird, but I guess that's just because they don't know Claus -- if they did, they would know the true meaning of the word "weird"! <laughs>

CoC: In my opinion, one of _Devotion_'s highlights is the way you use really atmospheric passages, sometimes of considerable length, followed by a very aggressive sequence that sounds all the more aggressive in that specific context. What inspires the creation of such contrast in your music?

AV: Well, we always try to combine different elements in the songs. That way it becomes more original and interesting to listen to. It also allows us to express a wider range of emotions, rather than when the music is just blasting away for four minutes or something; it creates a certain feeling of wild mood swings.

CoC: The last song on _Devotion_ actually reminded me a bit of Anathema, which was rather surprising. Do you find you have anything in common with them at all, musically or in terms of what you try to express? What bands would you say you relate to the most?

AV: I take that as a compliment! I, however, don't think that Carsten has been directly inspired by Anathema, or any other bands, when writing "You" or any of the other songs on _Devotion_. We have been compared to Anathema before and it's no secret (at least not anymore) that they are one of my favourite bands. I think that we have the same sad and at times frustrated emotions in our music, which Anathema expressed very well especially on _The Silent Enigma_, _Eternity_ and _Alternative 4_. It's always hard to compare your music to other bands. As mentioned, we don't try to sound like other specific bands, but a lot of reviewers have mentioned that they hear inspirations from Dark Tranquillity, King Crimson, Opeth and The Cure, among others, which are all bands that all or some of us listen to a lot.

CoC: The record features rather special, eye-catching cover artwork. What's the story behind it, and how does it fit with your music?

AV: The piece used for the front cover was made by American artist Chad Michael Ward, who has also provided covers for Soilwork and Crest of Darkness, among others. We got a big variety of his works to choose from and the picture we used was the one we liked the best! There isn't any direct connection between the cover art and the music; we had never even been in contact with Chad when he made the picture. But of course the creative mind will always be able to find similarities between those two things, especially as there is a dark and a beautiful side to both.

CoC: Regarding the demise of your label Serious Entertainment -- what happened, and what is your situation now? Is there a new deal in sight yet?

AV: Well, Serious Entertainment went more or less bankrupt almost right after the release of _Devotion_. It wasn't really a disaster for us, as _Devotion_ will still be printed and distributed, but it spoiled the promotion work quite a bit! I guess SE just weren't able to pay their bills anymore. A couple of labels have already showed interest in us, but at the moment it's too early to come up with any specific news yet. We, the band, all agreed on not releasing any more CDs on SE even before they closed down, as we all felt that it was time to move on. A small label like SE couldn't really get us any further than where we are standing right now. In many ways, SE was a good and fair label that just wasn't able to put enough work into its bands, and further on didn't have the necessary funds for tour support, etc..

CoC: Assuming you do get back on track label-wise quickly (and I have no reason to doubt that), what are you planning to do next?

AV: We have just decided to enter the Aabenraa studio with Jacob Hansen in early 2001 to demo three or four of the new songs, which we are currently working on. The recordings will not be released; we will only send them to interested labels, etc.. After the recording we will of course continue writing songs for our next album, so hopefully we will be ready to record an entire new album when we finally sign a new record deal. We will of course be going for a better contract this time, so hopefully we will be able to tour some more. Nothing planned right now, as usual we must wait and see what happens.

CoC: Regarding the new material you've been writing, can you disclose some information on how it sounds like at this stage compared to _Devotion_?

AV: I think that it is a bit early to make a judgement about that, as we are yet pretty early in the writing process, with only a couple of songs being totally finished. I guess some of the new material is a bit more melodic and catchy than _Devotion_, but emotionally it's probably in the usual vein. Don't expect some happy party-tunes from us... <laughs>

CoC: Any special messages or final thoughts you'd like to share with us?

AV: Thanks for offering us this interview, Pedro. It's been fun answering your questions. Hope that some of you readers who are into music that is a bit out of the ordinary will check us out eventually by visiting our homepage www.aurora.ms. Well, see you, hopefully! Cheers!

(article submitted 13/3/2001)

5/13/2003 P Azevedo 9 Aurora - Dead Electric Nightmares
10/25/2000 P Azevedo 9 Aurora - Devotion
6/15/1999 N Almeida 6 Aurora - Sadiam
5/13/2001 P Azevedo 5 Aurora - Promo 2001
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