And From the Night Came... Shadows of Old?
CoC chats with Ares of Aeternus
by: Paul Schwarz
After the first wave of good, innovative albums that initially emerges to establish any new style, there tends to be a second wave of inconsequential rubbish which gets signed on the commercial potential which the genre's almost inevitable status as a "trend" tends to produce. After this there is generally a period where many second-wave bands are purged. Thereafter, a few remain from this second wave: those who have through some miracle (though not necessarily a miracle that is "of God") found their way into the hearts of listeners despite their questionable originality or quality, and those who can be generally regarded as "worthy". Aeternus are applicable to this second category, and I for one am thankful that they have been able to continue for long enough to bring their art to the point that it is at now, which is certainly their peak thus far, and bestow upon the extreme metal world the work of violent black metal magic which is _Shadows of Old_, their third album. I had a pleasant chat with singer, guitarist and primary songwriter Ares to discuss the ins and outs of this new opus, and the band's origins and status. So, get comfy, set _Shadows of Old_ up on the old stereo to pleasantly massacre your ears, and enjoy.

CoC: On _SoO_ you seem to have focused your music more sharply than on previous albums, and I also detect an element of death metal style playing that has been incorporated. Would you agree with this assessment of _SoO_?

Ares: Yeah, that's exactly what we did. We felt we needed to do some changes, because in many ways the second and the first album are very similar, you know, but then again different. But this time we wanted to make a really good difference in all kinds of areas. So we changed the sound: I think we managed to do it a lot better; we cleaned it up a lot. We only used two guitars instead of three. We tuned up our guitars a little bit and we added the death metal element to the songs to make a little change. We did it very carefully, because we really don't want to be labelled as a death metal band -- we aren't a death metal band, so we didn't want to do too much of that, but I think we just did enough to give a very positive... breath kind of thing throughout the whole album.

CoC: So you'd still call it "true dark metal", despite the changes?

A: Yeah, we call it dark metal still. I think the changes are just on a kind of atmospherical (sic) and emotional level for me, you know. It's always kind of hard to explain, but I think the experimenting and the brutality in the songs with these death metal themes and the thrashy kind of thing that we used here and there is making everything easier to listen to, and also smashing to the face a little bit more. It's faster and you don't have to listen to it so much to get into it.

CoC: Is this new stuff easier to play live, then? Because I recall when you played in London with Deicide [CoC #38] you did it without the keyboard parts.

A: It is easier to do the songs from _SoO_ live because they are more suitable live not only because of the length but also because everything has been put together in a much better way. Everything is more catchy and we have just been working more strategically with everything. It is very hard for us to figure out which old songs to play when we go on tour. We always argue about it because those songs are long and some of us want to shorten out some riffs, some of us don't, and it becomes difficult to decide what you take out of a song and what you leave in a song. I think that was also in my head way back when I wrote the [new] songs: make them a little bit easier to do live. But you can't only play new songs live, you have to play some old songs. I think in the future we're going to do the same thing and try to step away from those eight minute, nine minute long songs.

CoC: You've certainly done that.

A: Yeah, we're down to four minutes on one of the songs, and that's really not Aeternus, but I think it is a good thing for us.

CoC: And this time the record comes smashing straight in, whereas previously you tended to have long intros.

A: Yeah, because at that time we concentrated on these very long, very slow and deep, deep atmospheres. We created very long songs and very much a wall of sound effect with three guitars and a lot of reverb on them. This time we just cleaned up all that. In a way, we did kind of an opposite thing, if you talk about the songs' atmosphere. That was the whole idea of the album. The first song smacks off with the big bang, and that's something which is really cool, because on the previous albums you had these intros, like the piano intro and the synthesiser intro which went into the first song on _...And So the Night Became_. But this time we just put that fast song first.

CoC: It certainly is really in your face from the get-go...

A: I think that's good, because I know a lot of people who were expecting, you know, it's going to come in with this cool intro and shit, so we decided not to do it.

CoC: Does the album have a lyrical concept, and if so is it based around the music?

A: I can see that there is a pattern [on the album], but I didn't really go for that. When "The Prophecy of the Elder Reign" comes, which is more of like a special song, and then the bagpipe thing, it gave a really good closer to the whole CD. Lyrically, it was just dealing with dark atmospheres in the same way as the music does. We just write about things that we define as dark in our own way. But we've tried to write about some stuff that we haven't written about before because in the past we have, in different ways, maybe repeated ourselves with song lyrics. It is very easy to write about nature and elements and wars and battles, because it is very appealing. But we tried to set that aside and Morrigan did a lot of the lyrics on this album, which was very good because I thought that I was repeating myself a lot, so I figured I should step aside from the lyrics this time. She did a lot of lyrics and that was really good for me, because her lyrics are very inspiring for me when I compose. But basically the lyrics are just about dark atmospheres and things which appeal to us personally, but I think the people who buy the CDs also find the lyrics appealing, and they're not really so deep, you can really get a hang on what it's about. The title of the CD is just a suitable title for our musical style: bringing the elder shadows of the past up from the deep, you know? "The Summoning of Shadows" is the song that goes with the title, I just didn't want to use that "title cut" thing.

CoC: What made you decide to include the bagpipe outro, "The Sunset's Glory"?

A: One of the things was that on all of the other albums we have used a lot of acoustic instruments: flutes and harps and all kinds of shit. And this time I wanted to change that as well. One idea was not to do an instrumental this time, but I was the one who really didn't want to back down when it came to that, so we decided to have a very short bagpipe instrumental as a closer. At the Edinburgh thing, they always end the show or the whole concert with that particular song, and it actually has another title; we put another title on it because the actual title is not really metal.

CoC: What is the actual title of the song?

A: It's called "Sleep, Deary, Sleep". So we used that and it's almost like in contrast to the other instrumentals that we've got, and you picture something much more primitive than the others. The other instrumentals had so much that you could imagine and fantasise. But this is more to the point with the bagpipes, I mean you just picture William Wallace standing there gazing at Scotland, and that's what I wanted: very simple. I think it really worked out.

CoC: A lot of black metal bands (e.g. Immortal, Enslaved) have recently chosen to leave the traditional Grieghallen studio (where such classics as _Pure Holocaust_, _Frost_, _In the Nightside Eclipse_ and _De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas_ were recorded) and move to Sweden's Abyss. However, you have opted once again to record at Grieghallen and use Pytten as a producer. Why have you stuck with Grieghallen when so many bands have left?

A: Well, we were actually among those bands who were going to try another studio, but everything got fucked up there, and we just had to record the CD. So we went to Grieghallen and we knew that it was going to be really hard to make such a big change in the same studio with the same producer. But I think we succeeded and I guess we were lucky as well, because it was a lot of hard work but a lot of shit was just happening without us actually really knowing what we were doing. I mean, we sat there and worked a lot with the different things and we didn't know how it was going to turn out. Then, we were done and we listened to it, and ah, fuck, we got it!

CoC: It's interesting, because I like the traditional production of Grieghallen, but it usually lacks clarity and punch, both of which you -have- captured well on _SoO_. Would you say Grieghallen offers options for different productions?

A: Well, Immortal are a good example, because they've done three CDs that sound completely different at Grieghallen. But I know Abbath really doesn't like Grieghallen, he says that it is not a good place for metal recordings and all that, but it is the same guy who did _Pure Holocaust_ with his band there, and that is still their best CD. In different ways, _Pure Holocaust_ is better than _At the Heart of Winter_. I feel that also _SoO_ shows that that studio is still a potential studio for making a very good metal album. I think that you just have to work really hard and really take your time with Pytten and have a lot of things ready before you go into the studio, because I think there are a lot of people who went to that studio and thought Grieghallen, and this and that, and Mayhem, and maybe they think Pytten is a magician or something. He can't push a button and then deliver a product, you know? Well, of course other studios are easier to work in and I guess Pytten is not a super producer, but he is not a very bad producer either: he is a damn good one. And I guess doing two albums with him, talking to him and knowing him also helped a lot. I don't think we would've managed to do this kind of album the way it turned out if we didn't know anything about Pytten or Grieghallen. We personally know the guy: we've been in his place drinking coffee and shit. We see him everyday and that has a lot to do with things. This time we had a lot of discussions and a lot of meetings with him before we went to the studio; we knew exactly how many tracks we needed for everything. We didn't do that before, we just went in, recorded and that was it.

CoC: Do you find the history that Grieghallen has inspires when you record and work there?

A: I think it's cool. I'm really proud of walking around now and saying that _SoO_ was -actually- done at Grieghallen. Because the big studio now is the Abyss studio in Sweden and people think Grieghallen is from the old days which are over now, and I just walk around and say "Check out our CD". It's still possible to do it, you just have to go there with a really focused mind on what you want. Then it is very possible to get it. I think it is really cool knowing that I have done this third CD in Grieghallen, actually.

CoC: You are latecomers to the black metal scene. What would you say is your purpose? Why are you needed in this burgeoning scene?

A: We try really hard to have our own style and I think that we have succeeded. I think what people really like in our music is that we successfully manage to mix a lot of Norse folk music and Irish and Scottish folk music in the metal. We have a lot of catchy melodies. I think we use riffs and music mixed in with all those usual brutal and extreme metal riffs in a way that no other band does. I think that is what people like about it. A lot of people say what Aeternus deliver is a very deep, deep, deep pounding kind of thing, and they don't mean that we play really slow all the time or growl really low, it's just that the atmosphere over the whole thing is really deep and really dark. When people say that, I feel really good, because that's exactly what we're trying to do. We're not trying to be the fastest band or the most brutal band, we're just trying to do an extremely deep and dark thing. To express all kinds of really dark emotions through music. It's like Abbath said, "Aeternus is the only band that comes from the abyss", and I thought it was really cool when he said that, because that's exactly what it is. If you look down into the caves and into the deep, that's where you'll find Aeternus, you know. We just do our thing. We never walk around saying this is how things are, we don't give messages to people through our lyrics and music and all that. We just create really, really powerful emotions.

(article submitted 15/1/2000)

4/18/2006 J Montague 5 Aeternus - Hexaeon
6/8/2003 P Azevedo 7.5 Aeternus - A Darker Monument
7/3/2002 P Azevedo 8 Aeternus - Ascension of Terror
1/15/2000 P Schwarz 8.5 Aeternus - Shadows of Old
9/1/1998 A McKay 9 Aeternus - ... And So the Night Became
10/16/1997 A Lewandowski 9 Aeternus - Beyond the Wandering Moon
11/20/2000 P Schwarz Mayhem / Aeternus / Red Harvest Declaring War on the Underground
1/15/2000 M Noll Cannibal Corpse / Marduk / Angelcorpse / Aeternus / Defleshed Two Corpses, One God and No Flesh
3/14/1999 P Schwarz Deicide / Rotting Christ / Aeternus / Ancient Rites / Behemoth Dead by Dawn
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