Monthly Archives: October 2012

ROAMING THE WINDS: AUSTERE

After the experimental journeys of the issue seven, Kaleidoscope returned to its roots. Or not so precisely – first time there was a strict theme and red line going on. Because I have been always interested in the borderlands of extreme metal, I wanted to gather different bands which share daring and somehow artistic view to their music. Therefore I picked Triptykon, Fleurety, Austere, Altar Of Plagues, Crooked Necks, Crystalline Darkness, Saros and ColdWorld for these 48 pages. Norwegian Black Majesty was a bit outsider in this group, but as I wrote in my foreword, also the lyrical and spiritual devotion can be considered experimental and artistic. There was also a some sort of an article about this topic including thoughts from Neige (Alcest), Vintyr (Hateful Abandon) and Jan Kenneth Transeth (In The Woods…) which turned out quite well. In overall, I was pretty satisfied of this issue and also the editing those interviews (instead of a basic Q/A structure) was nice change.

The first pick from this issue is the interview with Austere. Although this Australian depressive duo has broken up (by the way, read the end of this interview – quite prophetical!), their legacy lives on in many ways: there are / have been other interesting bands like Grey Waters (why did you quit, dammit!), Germ, Ill Omen and Temple Nightside. Also Austere’s farewell album, To Lay Like Old Ashes has become an epitome of epic, sorrowful metal to me.

 

(originally released in Kaleidoscope zine #8, 2010)

How personal is black metal? Usually the band members are unknown persons behind their masks and aliases, and this can be understood in two ways: maybe they are like priests, who practice rituals and inverted morbid ceremonies with their gowns, symbols and weapons, or maybe they want to alienate themselves from their weak human side in order to reach the darkest essence of black metal and bestial freedom.

But how about being naked, being yourself? Who is more honest, a man who hides behind an evil-sounding moniker and tons of spikes or a man who stands straight and tall against the listener, defending his/her art and words with his own name and soul? Of course the thing isn’t so black and white, but when ‘lords’, ‘azathorghs’ and ‘herr totenkopfs’ turn to ordinary human beings, something special happens.

This is the case with Austere. Entities called Desolate and Sorrow are now Mitch and Tim, and although they still keep their faces away from camera lenses, this is an important step to bring Austere’s emotionally strong and surging music closer to the listener.

– Yes, the reason behind it is simple, we see and use Austere as a personal reflection of our inner anguish and we are not just figures or entities of a lost cause. We have a clear direction which we feel should be expressed if one is to be honest with their self and art, says Mitch, who is responsible for guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals in Austere.

But being totally personal and truthful – everyday and real, you could say – is very hard when you try to transform your feelings and thoughts to such abstract forms as poems, paintings or music. Imagination and life full of strong experiences usually go hand in hand, because art is about being poetic to a certain extent. Mitch says that Austere’s goal is to create an aura and feeling within their music.

– It’s a mirror image of how we feel at any given moment or all of the time. Austere is not the type of band that one can simply ”pick up and start writing/rehearsing for” everyday. These topics are ones we feel we must deal with at the correct moment otherwise it just does not work or ”feel right”. This band is like an ever open book, ready to scribe our thoughts and feelings whenever one sees fit.

So the moment and the certain state of mind are very important for Austere, and it makes me wonder how it is possible to get two minds on the same wavelength in a band. Mitch, whose sole creation Austere has been in the beginning, tells how he needed to appoint a likeminded individual and a capable drummer, and so Tim was asked to contribute to Austere. However, Mitch doesn’t feel that his ultimate source has been changed through this – natural evolution is the key.

– I think his ideas and contribution helped shape Austere the way it is today as I personally come from a very ”black metal world” and I must admit, I am somewhat narrow-minded because of that (although I wouldn’t change this at all). But I came to the realization that if I’m going to be talking about my personal feelings and aura, it must be done right and things must be left to evolve naturally. I think this is where we stand today…

So what would be this inmost idea/feeling/vision behind all this?

– Since both Tim and myself contribute lyrics to the band nowadays, there will always be some variation in the topics we write about. Basically we like to keep the book open so to speak, we like the freedom honest art/music gives its creator/listener. So I guess that expressing what we feel could be considered a ”goal” of the band but doing this is not something that we have to think too hard about and it all comes from within our withered hearts and minds.

So the road is wide for Austere, but as listeners we only see our own reflection from it. Usually it’s just a surface: a metal band playing sorrowful and anguished music. Mitch – as an artist – certainly sees things from a different perspective.

– The emotional landscape is as wide as it can be I suppose, otherwise you’re trapped in your mental prison. It’s impossible for one to feel down every minute of every day nor would I suggest people to try it… It’s like these ”DSBM” rubbish bands playing empty music for an empty army of people who think playing this style of music will get them further in the music world. Who the fuck cares about going places in the music world anyway? If it’s going to happen, just let it all happen naturally…

So are even positive feelings allowed in Austere? This question may sound childish, but in the world of black metal where darkness and sorrow are “total”, “absolute” and “uncompromised”, creating lighter tunes is almost a sin.

– Austere may contain some positive avenues here or there in an unconscious manner (meaning I have not put them in there on purpose) but I think it is fairly clear what we usually express within our music, articulates Mitch.

Let’s get back to genres, which is one of the main topics of this issue.  Austere have been labeled as depressive black metal in most places, but at the same time this “depression movement” has been dragged into mud through countless hollow bands whose music, lyrics and emotions are totally artificial – like Mitch stated above. Therefore Austere wants to stand aside from the whole genre:

– All I will say is that Austere has zero interested in being held to any movement or organization, Austere is expressive freedom and shall remain to be so.

LET’S FLOW TOGETHER

Depression still runs in Austere’s veins, but it’s too narrow-minded to say it’s the only side of this band’s music. It’s not just about being down but also about rising on the cliff and screaming your anguish and hate out to the face of the world. Personally the long songs and their epic feeling fill my mind with visions about wide landscapes and man’s loneliness and indifference in them – how confusion and depression don’t just stay in your bedroom but transform into musical paintings. Austere isn’t just about playing with thoughts inside your mind but also about being in a dialogue with what is around you. Mitch admits that sometimes his environment gives inspiration and physical metaphors for Austere’s music.

– Since I live close to the ocean, I like to sit in a private spot and go over song ideas and lyrics in my head with nothing but the sound of the ocean in the background. So in turn, when I begin composing new songs and ideas at home or the rehearsal room, I reflect back to these moments and write about them in more detail. Although I recently reflected back to a time when I was travelling throughout Europe in the fall and some new ideas came to mind. Although I’d like to add that we are not a ”nature band”, although we do have some references to it in both lyrics and cover art. The link between the seasons of change and the patterns of the emotional scale are interesting to me. One is helpless and the other is constantly at war with itself. Everything has a plus and a minus in the end…

Although Austere’s songs are well-structured and the riffs hit some nerves with their partly grieving, partly crushing feeling, these little spices like keyboards and clean vocals add that certain “something” to the music. How strict and careful are you with these additional elements, and how do they usually find their place in the songs?

– Sometimes we base sections of the songs around the keys/clean vocals and others we don’t. Sometimes in the rehearsal room they just feel like they are lacking something so we re-write a part for it to contain a new element or direction. I believe we are strict with all our songs and ideas, we won’t just put something in there to try something new or different. Everything must contribute and flow together to create a steady atmosphere from beginning to end. Actually, the first album Withering Illusions and Desolation originally was meant to have keys all through it but I decided to not use them as I felt this record was sitting comfortably for me at the time in the state it is today. Eventually we started using more clean vocals and keys up until the To Lay Like Old Ashes album. Perhaps we will use more or perhaps we will use less of them in the future, only time will tell…

Like Mitch said before, he’s coming from the black metal circles, so the general atmosphere of Austere is therefore clear. However, Tim’s vast musical influences are taking their music to new directions.

– Perhaps this contributes to a uniqueness of the band in the end? I don’t know; we will just create what we will and continue on for the same reasons that we did from the beginning.

Some different sideways have been explored, though. The most sharp-eyed have probably noticed how Austere informed about a band called Crimson on their myspace site, and if you have listened to this mystic band’s Fading debut you have maybe detected the similarities between Crimson’s melancholic and acoustic instrumental music and Austere’s mellowest moments. Well, this isn’t just a coincidence, because you can find Mitch and another entity behind Crimson.

– Musically it’s an acoustic piece with subtle keyboards/atmosphere, very skeletal and minimalistic. Music to detach from the world and a bleak soundtrack to the horizons of eternity. To be honest, the original concept/idea behind creating this music was simply for myself and I had no interest in getting it released. I wanted to create something for me to do exactly as mentioned earlier, detach from all thoughts and movements.- But as time went on and the record was finished, I sent it to some people and Total Holocaust Records was one of them. They sway within my mind towards releasing the Fading album basically came from the expressed support and interest from THR which is greatly appreciated. Perhaps others can feel the void I did whilst creating this work.

How important is it for you to release your music to people who you don’t even know personally?

– I don’t think the word ”important” is the correct word as to me. It’s not overly important to make and distribute one of my own releases. The reason for doing Austere is for my own inner sanctum and expression. Basically in the end, making it public is for the few out there in the vast and wide world who can perhaps have some connection to it. But as stated, the most important fact is that for me/this band is that the material must remain to be honest and expressive… This is a natural step for us before we even begin to think about making any steps towards a public offering. Creating a band or song just to ”get it out there” is totally wrong and undesirable in my eyes… I guess the reasoning behind the promotional avenues such as interviews, advertisements and a myspace site is due to helping out the labels who have supported us by spending money and time on us.

But back to Austere. There are no songs in the band’s discography which would go under five minutes, so creating and invoking those important feelings and getting them to flow naturally takes time. Of course we are not talking about just two or three unimaginative riffs in one song, but certain Austere’s songs are taking the borders of monotonic repeating to the maximum. I’m talking about Coma I and II here, which occur as the album finales on the Withering Illusions and Desolation debut and To Lay Like Old Ashes. To be honest I haven’t got into these two lengthy (18-21 minutes) songs, which wander without hurry or tempo.  So Mitch, help me please, what would be a listening guideline for those tracks?

– The idea behind these tracks was to steal the listeners’ thought for the duration of the songs. To attempt to place them in a ”coma like state”. Again, these tracks are quite skeletal and minimalistic which was something I felt was necessary for these tracks/idea but I understand it’s not something for everyone to get into or understand.

INNER AUTUMNS AND INNER SPRINGS

Australia as Austere’s home country and their connection to the nature has been discussed in many interviews. People have thrown typical and narrow-minded statements about how a band coming from such a hot country as Australia can make depressive music or something else as idiotic. However, many haven’t noticed that the artwork of the To Lay Like Old Ashes album was made by a Finnish artist Timo Honkanen. These distant and stagnant images of grass and nature in general suit Austere’s music very well but it also makes me think that in the end Austere’s music doesn’t have too strong ties to the musicians’ heritage – the sorrow is universal.

– Yeah, I don’t believe we have a strong connection to the Australian (or any other for that matter) landscape nor think it really matters for us. These pictures just really took my eye when I saw them and I thought to myself that these would make great simplistic artwork and carry the correct feeling for the album. I didn’t add any textures or colour to them, what you see is how they were taken and I can appreciate that.

So although Austere doesn’t literally walk in the fields and forests to find inspiration, on the metaphorical level Austere uses the seasons and elements of nature to a certain extent. For example in This Dreadful Emptiness the storyteller describes himself as a “like a flower that will never bloom, forever in this dreary autumn”, while the others “bathe in the sunlight of spring”.

– These seasonal changes are a link to the mental states/changes that we all go through frequently. I like to keep my lyrics a little cryptic whereas Tim’s are a little more direct/straightforward, tells Mitch.

Another thing is this general atmosphere of Austere’s lyrics which comes present in the lines quoted above; they are like dream-like visions or hallucinations of the deepest despair, which flow – again – naturally. So it’s a little surprise that Mitch thinks about his lyrics a lot and works hard on them.

– They should compliment everything else and be equally as important to the band as the songs, so I guess these words are of an entirely conscious state. There is always a strong contemplation of words and phrases to get things right, I’d prefer to take the time needed to get everything together and carry to correct atmosphere.

Like Mitch mentioned before, although despair and depression are the main feelings in Austere’s music, the real palette of emotions is very wide for them. So it’s good to get deeper into that This Dreadful Emptiness, song which can be understood as a love song with its comparison of two different entities and their impossibility to match. Well, you Finns know the song Päivänsäde ja menninkäinen (A Sunray and a Troll)… Although the lyrics are written by Tim, Mitch has his own words to say about the song.

– To shed a little light on it, I personally don’t see it as a love song. I see it as a yearning for something that one cannot connect to. I guess the best way to explain it is it’s about someone who has been locked away from the light and warmth and referring to someone/something that hasn’t and drawing a comparison to one’s self. I don’t think it refers to lost love or something but more a state of emptiness.

But is this hollow and sad feeling of your music/lyrics created always in yourself or are there social relationships and disappointments present sometimes? As for myself as an artist the real sorrow and anguish is something very unconscious, not a result of my ´real´ life. I guess I’m more close to that idea of an imaginative author mentioned before, but how is the situation with you?

– The topics I deal with for Austere are topics I have been battling for many years, both in a physical and mental state. Social and other environments are not the most comfortable for me and therefore these things get recycled to me in many aspects of life. This is not to say I feel this way 100% of the time though, that is of course impossible. The mind is a very powerful tool and has the strength to cause many different things to the body. Personally I feel the best way to deal with it all is to take everything one day at a time and not plan too much in advance.

To Lay Like Old Ashes ends with the lines Reaching toward a pale illusion / One which will never become real / Just suppose for a moment / It was not just a dream. It makes me think about life and also Austere as a journey – we go through disappointments and betrayals, we bleed our anguish and pain to the songs to be free of it, but we’ll never be totally clean. But still we go forth… Do you have any explanation to this – what keeps Austere and you going on through these pale illusions and dreams?

– It comes from the willingness to create our blend of expression and personal reflection in a never ending form. Sure, we could hold it deep within our hearts and minds until the day we pass, but the day we do, our “physical” material will not die with us… It shall be left to roam the winds for an eternity.

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THE CHOSEN THREE: SEPTEMBER 2012

Usually I have had some sort of a foreword for these selections, but now I just want to say that Kaleidoscope #11 is almost complete! Expect an impulsive piece of zinestry in the form of two different sides… While drooling and waiting, why don’t you check these three nice releases and have a joyfully melancholic Autumn.

TATIR: Cave of Ephyras… To the Infernal Fields (Kill Yourself Productions / Forgotten Wisdom 2012)

Another hidden gem from Hellas! Tatir was a band which was active in the middle of the nineties, and they released only two demos. Now these demo tapes have been dug up and resurrected with an unreleased 7”. And if you know your Greek Black Metal, you know Tatir: melodic and synth-laden epic black metal which has its clumsiness but still gives you buckets of charm and catchiness. Already the opener song The Drawl of Naiad (from that previously mentioned 7” – check the link below!) cherishes you with guitar solos, blast beats, heavy metal interludes and gnarling vocals – I would say that this song could challenge Rotting Christ and Kawir anytime.

Hmm, I don’t know if I have anything else to say about this actually. The demos work well too – of course the production lacks of strength but the songs themselves and that so important atmosphere carry Tatir to the victory. Yes, the atmosphere – that Hellenic style of being almost sentimental but still being so true and honest that you just have to raise your glass with gods and carry on. Tatir has the strength, the aggression, the feeling – enough said.

SEREMONIA: Seremonia (Svart Records 2012)

Svart Records has been responsible for many releases in my Choisen Threes, and also this list for September has its own Svart thing: Seremonia’s way to the top has been quite quick but this band radiates some sort of impulsiveness so it’s quite understandable. Just a girl and three (well, now four) guys playing hazy psychedelic heavy rock with apocalyptic and pseudo-occult lyrics, that’s Seremonia’s (I guess you have enough brain to find out what this band’s name means) spell to success. Naïve? Yes. A bit humorous? Of course. A bunch of stolen riffs from Black Sabbath? Definitely.

But who cares – this album is good fun, and it has good songs. Like the mastermind, bassist Ilkka Vekka puts it in one interview, Seremonia is a band, where “musicians worse than average play at the limits of their skills”. And that is the charm of this band: Seremonia doesn’t care if they are full of clichés or don’t have perfect timing in playing: they just rock and enjoy it. Be it a pure rock song (Rock’n’rollin maailma – check the video link down below! – and Kosminen ruumisvaunu) or a more progressive piece (Aamuruskon kaupunki and Lusiferin käärmeet), they get my vote. Even the most obscure song, a chanting called Antikristus 666 works just fine. Noora Federley’s monotonic and amateurish singing shares opinions maybe the most, but at least we don’t have a girl called Lilith doing dark angel voices here!

So give this band a chance. Try to get through the surface and listen to the music. Seremonia has a good ritual going on.

And their drummer Erno Taipale has a good beating going on too! Although the man’s first love is a good doom metal band called Garden Of Worm, his impassioned work in Seremonia works too. But how would Taipale describe himself as a drummer? And how does he fulfill Seremonia’s vision about perfect rock’n’roll?

– Unprofessional and relentless, with a sense for rhythm. I’m originally a guitarist who has always dreamed of playing drums. Now that I have the opportunity to play the creativity just bursts when I’m sweating behind the drum kit. That kind of freely flowing raw energy should be one of the core values of rock’n’roll. I think that is the most important thing that I can give to the total vision of Seremonia.

http://www.facebook.com/Seremonia666?ref=ts

Rock’n’rollin maailma video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDtqx4nyBAE

TOLLUND MEN: Door 7” (Bleak Environment 2012)

“Fourteen minutes of romantic outsider dirge-pop” is the description of this seven inch on the label’s web page. Romantic? Are you expecting flowers, kisses and beautiful butterflies? Tollund Men is more about withered roses, cigarette stubs and being that boy who doesn’t get the girl in the end. Yes, this is bleak synth-ridden post punk which is dragged to the moonlight from the dampest cellars and the dirtiest nightclubs. The drums, the melodies and the singing are full of discouragement, and the these songs really lead you into the deepest pits of melancholy. And how softly they make it: Tollund Men don’t have to use screams or screeching guitars. This is authentic post punk, and although their visual side is dangerously close to Bone Awl (and I could bet that this Denver duo has some black metal connections), they don’t try to be anything else what they are. A nice little soundtrack for this Autumn.

But when you play such sweet music as Tollund Men, the band guys must be total babe magnets. A mainman Neal tells the truth about chicks and post punk.

– Girls think they like Tollund Men because they hear a word like ‘love’. so they come see us at whatever shitty place we are playing and watch us with our dark sunglasses mumbling into a microphone and think that I am looking at them when I sing, but usually my eyes are closed. I wish I could fuck them, I wish I could fuck even one, but I can’t leave this corner in the back of the venue, a veil of cigarette smoke shrouding my body and a crippling insecurity chaining me to the wall. I thought that I would definitely get laid but the cards haven’t been in my favor. I should work on my stage banter, calling out to women in the room that I want to meet them after the show, but no one is able to understand my voice anyway. Every once in a while a girl will say something like, ‘I liked the last song,’ and I can only say, ‘Thank you,’ when I should be saying, ‘Prove it.’ All this talk has made me realize how desperate and pathetic I am, so maybe I’ll go to the Mournful Congregation show tonight and try have sex with a dirty crust girl with a garlic scented pussy- after all, it’s all pink in the middle.

http://bleakenvironment.bigcartel.com/product/tollund-men-door-7

INTO THE BLACK FLUX: VIRUS

I have some obsessions that make me swallow anything from certain sources. One of them is the duo Apollyon – Aggressor. Give me Dødheimsgard, give me Aura Noir, give me Cadaver, give me Ved Buens Ende – I’ll swallow every bit. So it isn’t a surprise that Virus, Aggressor’s alias Czral’s alias Carl-Michael Eide’s weird rock/metal creation, has pushed pleasure nerves in my mind. Virus has both twists and a groove, and their songs are like hypnotic mazes where I gladly like to throw myself into.

Virus’ second album, The Black Flux (2008) was a total treat for my ears, and the band made a same trick again with The Agent that Shapes the Desert last year. But as Eide mentions in this interview, every old release turns to shit in his mind with time. Fortunately I can’t agree with Eide in this case: The Black Flux sounds as refreshing and innovative as four years ago.

(originally released in Kaleidoscope zine #7, 2009)

 Norway has spewed very weird tales and mysterious characters, and the story of Carl-Michael ”Czral” Eide is one of them. This multitalented gentleman has gathered fame and recognition in many ways, be it Aura Noir’s furious black/thrash metal, Dødheimsgard’s candid mix of black metal and industrial, Ved Buens Ende’s adventures in avant-garde  or Cadaver Inc’s cold death/black metal. This guy has played drums like a maniac, howled like a wolf, written tons of catchy riffs and of course – dropped from a fourth floor building.

But now he’s here again, harassing our rock/metal nerves with a new Virus album, The Black Flux. And when I say ‘harassing’, I really mean it: although you get very easily hooked by these dangerously soothing riffs, Einar Sjursö’s rhythmic drumming and Eide’s distinctive vocals, it’s hard to categorize Virus. Eide himself describes it “an eccentric rock band, like a mixture of Talking Heads and Voivod”, but you could go with thousands of other depictions… Well, who cares? Listen to this album! Read these answers! Go and blow your mind! C’est la vie!

Let’s get a semantic start: Virus is an effective name for a band but what would be the cure for a virus called Virus?

– Maybe we could play some of our music backwards, and check out if that would reverse things. Maybe our music could be some kinda cure. If they found out that music could cure things, I’d consider starting to play live again. Just the thought of touring hospitals up and down the country is kinda intriguing. Having nurses taking care of catering and helping us carrying our gear back to the tour-bus afterwards. Stuff like that. Cool scenario.

You were on hiatus for a long time and for many reasons. How do you see this time afterwards? Was it all necessary to create such an album like The Black Flux?

– Yes, it was necessary. But not because I wanted a come-back, because I wanted things to return back to normal. This time, though, I wanted to make the best out of it. Having the patience to work with the music until it felt right. Really diving in to the matter of the music, taking care of every detail. I don’t know if that’s because I’m more grown up now, taking things more seriously, or if it was a subconscious thing to make up for time lost. Looking back at that time now, I’ve forgotten most of it. Not because it was traumatic, but because I’ve been looking ahead, taking care of my future and my life in general.

Did you feel that Ved Buens Ende and Written in Waters were a burden from the past to you? I guess it was clear from the start that people will compare The Black Flux to Written in Waters, no matter what would happen…

– To some extent, yes. But I can’t allow myself to throw shit at that record. It would be disrespectful towards our fans. But it’s like this looking back at every record we’ve made with any band I’ve been in; I can’t listen to them without feeling some kind of shame or feeling that they’re generally shit. So I have to admit that I think that the VBE album is shit, when I take a musicians’ critical look at it. The opener is a good song, but it stops there. Anyway, hearing people comparing those albums doesn’t affect me. It’s ok. It’s just a matter of time now, until I feel The Black Flux is shit too, anyway.

How old is material on The Black Flux, by the way? Are there any old riffs going on, or is this purely today’s material?

– A couple of riffs are really old. The two last tracks on the album have riffs that are 13-14 years old.

Although you don’t want to create too strong strings between Virus and Ved Buens Ende, the truth is that The Black Flux is a very distinct follow-up to Written in Waters, despite 13 long years between these two releases. But there, somewhere, is also Carheart, which is standing totally on its own feet. How do you see this effective triangle of albums – is one of those higher than the others in your ranking, or are these just different sides of the same form?

– Yes, I guess they are nuances of the same thing. But I think there’s more of a Written in Waters atmosphere on The Black Flux than there’s Carheart. First of all, on Carheart we were on a special vibe while doing that album. We wanted it to be all over the place atmospherically. We wanted it to be kinda “crazy”, you know. We were focusing more on taking it to an absurd level than on making a focused album.

– When we recorded Written in Waters, I don’t think we knew very much what we were doing. We were too young to be conscious about it. But on The Black Flux…I think we’re just too old now to do things without having some kind of thought behind it.  We wanted this album to sound like the end of the world. Not in an “Armageddon” sort of way, but in a more personal individual way.

And if we broaden our view from this, we can see the wider perspective in the form of different bands: DHG, Aura Noir, Cadaver (Inc.)… Are these bands (or have these bands been) all necessary for you and your growth as a musician/artist?

– Well, of course I’ve gathered valuable experience. I used to be a hungry drummer. I really enjoyed playing drums in the early days, and I really had ambition. Though, after I started “practicing”, I lost my intuition while playing. I started focusing on playing drums correctly rather than instinctively. That’s when I realized that I needed to go back to mainly composing and playing guitar. Especially now, with my injuries, it’s good to have this to fall back on, and this is where my focus lies now.

Do you have still any desire to embark on a fully new musical platform, do something what couldn’t be done with your past bands and projects? Any wish to collaborate with someone in particular, or are you content creating material on your own?

– I’ve always wanted to make film music. Other than that I’ll focus on doing what I’ve done all the time. Composing and recording albums. If some of the musicians I know and admire would like to do a project with me, I’d go for it. But I’m not the typical guy who takes initiative on stuff like that, so they’d have to approach me.

I don’t believe that anyone can be such a chameleon that he/she could transform totally from a band to another, so there must be that same “inner Czral” in every band. What kind of a person is that guy?

– Contrary to what a lot of people would like to hear, I’m quite your average Joe, actually. I feel quite normal, even though I like to write weird music, and to work with different kinds of music. Not too much I can say apart from that, really. Other people would have to fill in.

If you transform musically, there is also a bizarre masquerade going on if we look at the band photos on The Black Flux. I wonder if there is a proper background behind them…?

– Well, only Plenum (the bassist on The Black Flux -ed.) wore make-up this time. Plenum and Einz’ pictures were taken in a studio, while mine was taken outside. What we did on my picture was; we took one picture without flash, and straight after we took one with flash. Then we digitally manipulated the flash-picture of my face on to the picture without flash, so everything except a clean cut-out of my face is from the picture without flash. The reason for my pupils being so enhanced (people think I’m on drugs) is that they’d adapted to the darkness from before the flash. Of course we took some close-ups of my mouth and we manipulated an enlarged mouth on to the face. A little Inland Empire inspired, of course.

And connected to this outlook and making visual shocks: If Virus were play to live, how the ideal setting would be like? Feel free to exploit this in a purely imaginative sense.

– Well, maybe having Tarkovsky’s Stalker going on in the background, and some caged peacocks, mirrors, some midgets running around with flash-lights, Einz in a Elizabeth I kind of dress. Plenum naked smoking a pipe, a choir, two session guitar players in ski-jump-suits, and me in a cool suit looking cool.

The Black Flux sounds very progressive but rocking at the same time which is a very interesting mix. Although the riffs and the song structures are far from typical, many parts on this album stick to one’s ears almost like a hit cavalcade… Did you have this kind of goals during the making of The Black Flux: to make an album which would be challenging but not too abstract?

– Yes, after a while we started realizing that this would become a mix of groovy/catchy and difficult/avant-garde. And we cultivated that. This is the essence of Virus. It’s how we want it to sound. Thank you for saying so.

The drum rhythms are one of the key elements in my opinion: that stomping drumming style gives a nice and simple background for the waving riffs and vocals. Because Einar Sjursö has been in the band from the start, he must have a strong role in your music. How would you describe Sjursö’s style and the bond between you two?

– Einar is the one I’ve played with for the longest time. We jammed together before VBE even, and we know each other inside out. I think our styles of playing have “fused” in some ways. It’s a hand in glove thing going on. He’s got a unique and “unselfish” style on the drums. Very groovy. He’s the best studio-musician around. He did this whole album in nine hours, including sound check. We rehearse only the two of us, and Plenum kicks in during recordings.

I sense lots of abstract, absurd and dream-like vibes on The Black Flux, like a mellow dream under the surface, so easy-going and natural that you could think these songs are coming from your spine, almost unconsciously. What kind of things, happenings etc. were your inspiration while writing this album – or was it just the good ol’ “sit down, take your guitar and start playing” method?

– I just make the riffs, and do some thinking around what would suit them vocal-wise and sometimes around what effects and arrangements would do the trick. It’s basically a sit-down with the guitar at home. Then me and Einar jam and make the final arrangements in the rehearsal room. The rest is done in the studio. It’s very simple, really. This time we got a lot of ideas in the studio. So one could say that the album has made itself in some ways.  But the base of the music lies in the riffs.

I don’t want to get too profound with the lyrics, but I raise one card up. There seems to have been recurring themes in your lyrics from the Ved Buens Ende days, all the way via Aura Noir to Virus, such as deserts and birds of prey such as vultures and condors. Why these exact images and where do they stem from?

– I’ve always had a fascination for large birds, for some reason…  But the lyrics are there to fulfill the musical landscape. It’s a necessity. If I were to do a side-project by myself, it would be instrumental – mainly because I’m not very productive when it comes to lyrics. I find it hard. It’s very rare that it comes naturally. When it does, it’s a pleasure, of course, but it rarely does. Working with the lyrics like we have done now, together with other writers, has been easier and more pleasurable. Amniotic sac and Kvohst are true poets. They are high-level absurdists.

You’ve thrown an impressive influence list on the Virus myspace page: traditional metal, rock and pop mixed with early avant-garde like Eric Satie and tons more. Is this just bragging, a compromise or is the musical background of Virus so wide and multileveled?

– I don’t know to what degree these are influences, but they are stuff we like. We all have really broad taste in music. But since we’re so out there, there’s probably a little taken from everything listed there. Everything from East-European folk music to early thrash metal.

I must get back to Satie who has been popping to my thoughts quite often lately. As said, he was one of the first real avant-garde musicians, making long, repetitive songs which get under your skin in a dangerous way – maybe something in common with Virus there, heh? Anyway, Satie was really breaking the borders in the turn of the 19th and 20th century, but how about today, is it possible to break any borders or is everything discovered and done already? Maybe the personal borders will remain ad infinitum?

– Well, I think geniuses at that time were few and far between. Today, there’s virtually millions of bands, and hundreds of thousands wanting to do something unique. It’s really hard to get noticed for what you’re doing. Anyway, I think most of the borders are broken. The only thing you can do now to stand out is to have a weird blend of things, or just to be really good. In those old days you mention, you really needed to be a bona fide genius to get noticed.  Bona fide geniuses are few. Erik Satie… I mean, he’s something else… He’s a pioneer. And pioneers are VERY few and far between.

Even looking back, can you remember any motive behind going more and more “out there” with your music? Was there a conscious effort to break some new ground and push the envelope, at least inside the musical spectrum you were connected with at the time (the black metal scene)?

– It was never purely a conscious effort. It was, on my behalf, because of my musical background. I was surrounded by music growing up, and a lot of that music was avant-garde. My cool aunt Elizabeth introduced me to The Residents and Holy Toy when I was a kid, for example. My mother listened to foreign folk music. It was all around me while I was discovering “extreme metal” on my own. But I never felt a part of any movement. The black metal boy’s club disintegrated along with Øystein Aarseth anyway. I was never a part of that totalitarian thing. I never minded what the other die-hards that were left in the early mid-nineties did or thought. I was in my own bag, wanting to make something that would suck the listener in. Vacuum metal.

Well, now it’s a good time to bring two bands to this picture: Aura Noir and Infernö, which both are/have been your bands and which are concentrating on the more humorous and loose side of rock/metal. Is Aura Noir, for example, wading in more shallow waters than the more surreal and aesthetic Virus, or do you see any controversy between these two bands?

– The Aura Noir music is something that’s in our blood. We’re on a vibe, or a groove, that’s primal. It’s a totally different planet than the avant-garde. It’s primal, testosterone, banging your head. Rage. You know…. Metal. To me, since I grew up with it, spending all my money on the obvious classics, it’s hard to explain. Metal came to me. Those old records. You know… Hell Awaits, Rrröööaaarrr, To Mega Therion…. I’m all religious about them.

And because you mentioned one of Voivod’s albums and to conclude all this with another semantic dilemma; who’s the god and who’s the dog?

– I’m the dog, and my cat Critters is the god.