I have been following the career of Norways AETERNUS with big interest ever since their demo days and was heavily impressed by most of their releases thus far. This Norwegian bunch was quite obviously trying to be different straight from the start and didn’t just follow the already established paths of their countrymen EMPEROR, IMMORTAL, DARKTHRONE, ENSLAVED or SATYRICON, by playing a similar form of Black Metal. AETERNUS separated themselves from the masses and even decided to label their art with the term "Dark Metal" which stands for deep and very brutal vocals in combination with a raw Norwegian type Black Metal songwriting. The majority of their songs is midpaced and extremely heavy, often with rather long individual playing times, while on their newest full length "Ascension Of Terror" the band speeded things up quite a lot. Time for us to finally get in touch with AETERNUS mastermind Ares for some in depth talking… Here’s the result.
When you started out with AETERNUS in the summer of 1993, you still had a real band line-up going, but that didn’t last too long, if I remember correctly… So, please let us know about the members who were involved in the early incarnation of the band and why you parted ways with them again.
"Wow, I thought this question was dead and buried long ago. There was a bunch of different people coming in and out of Aeternus the first year. Some left, some were fired. The reasons being different things, lack of enthusiasm basically. This is not an important part of Aeternus’ history so we’ll let it to this, alright!!"
In March 1994 you recorded the three songs ‘Fire And Wind’, ‘Sealed Destiny’ and ‘Walk My Path’, which got released as your one and only demo "Walk My Path" later on. Except for the drums, you played all instruments on your own on that demo… What was the reason for that? I mean, why didn’t you just wait with the recordings until you had a full line-up completed again? And who played drums for you at the time? Was that already Vrolok?
"Yes it was him. I played everything myself cuz I had no other guitarist and I wanted to do the guitars as well as the bass myself. Nice and simple. Why wait when we were fucking good and ready you know? After all the problems with different musicians who weren’t into 100% dedication I wasn’t really looking for someone special to help out at that time anyway. I had Erik at my side and basically that was what I really needed for the recordings of “Walk My Path”!"
I remember that you sent me an advance tape of that demo back then, but I unfortunately never really saw its official release. So, could you tell a little bit more about the packaging / visual side of it?
"Cheapest shit ever, it was just a demo you know? Simple, no fancy layout, low cost product, but good enough for its cause. Not much more to tell really."
None of those songs ever appeared on an AETERNUS release again later on (well, except for ‘Fire And Wind’ which you used for the "Dark Rage" picture 7" and "Burning The Shroud" compilation CD). What is the reason for that?
"We always felt the songs were maybe too primitive and perhaps not good enough you know? However with ‘Fire & Wind’ this changed. You never know what will happen with the two other songs of course, but as for now we have no plans to do anything with them. We do however have plans to do a new recording of ‘Warrior Of The Crescent Moon’ as we feel we want to have that song re-recorded and re-mastered with our sound we have today. Why? Because that song is so special and really cool to us."
Was ‘Fire And Wind’ simply taken from those demo recordings or was it re-recorded for the picture 7"?
"It was taken from the demo recordings. I think we mastered it over again. Can’t really remember that too well though."
Will you ever re-release the original demo-recordings in the new future, maybe as bonus tracks or something?
"Like I said, you never know!"
Back in those early days you were still working under your real name Ronny B. Hovland, but already with the release of the "Dark Sorcery" MCD you decided to call yourself Ares. Tell us more about this new pseudonym and why you decided to use it.
"This artist name means alot to me on an emotional level, like when I’m on stage and so forth. I felt different on stage and I felt as being something else so I decided to “name” that being. It still appeals to me so I still use it. It ain’t about being cool or tough or nothing, at a point I guess one could say that, but I learned to sink into it all on highly emotional plane so…"
How did you get together with the rather unknown Czech label View Beyond Records for the release of your debut MCD "Dark Sorcery"? What made you sign with them and what kind of experiences did you make during your co-operation?
"Well, this guy got a hold of “Walk My Path” and he contacted me and said he wanted to do a MCD with Aeternus. For us, that was really big and we went for it immediately. We really wanted to get new material out there and this was our chance so…"
That MCD got re-released through Hammerheart Records later on with a different packaging and an additional bonus track. Why was the original artwork changed for this and when did you record the bonus track ‘In The Darkest Circles Of Time’?
"The bonus track was recorded 11.08-98, mixed the 12th and it was only one recording session to get that song ready or the re-release of “Dark Sorcery”! The artwork needed to be changed as none of us really “loved” the old one too much and with Morrigan’s fine artwork there was no doubt: she had to make a cover for that re-release."
At which point of time did AETERNUS turn into a full band again and how did you get together with the new members exactly?
"I personally felt that Aeternus was a complete band with a good future after Morrigan joined and when we became a trio. We fired the guitarist we had at the time due to his lack of positive ideas and skills. This was in 1996. Morrigan moved to Norway from England, seeking good music and a band to play in, as she was a promising bassist at the time. We had problems with our current bassist’s enthusiasm and it felt very right to get him out of the band when we did. Morrigan liked Aeternus at that time, she told us, and we tried her out and it all worked out 100%. Radek came into Aeternus during the recordings of “Shadows Of Old”. He had been a fan actually for many years and we knew who he was and we also knew he played the guitar. He seemed as a very energetic person and back in ’99 we felt tired of having a session-guitarist on the tours all the time, it was time for a permanent guitarist. He joined as he was good enough and also, he showed passion and lust for Metal all the way, he had the mind for Aeternus’ concepts and ideas. "
At which point of time and for how long did you and Vrolok play with GORGOROTH? Have you just been session members or have they also asked you to join as fulltime musicians? Have you ever considered splitting up AETERNUS during that time?
"Splitting up Aeternus has never been in my mind!!! I played with Gorgoroth as a permanent bassist for about two years; I think it was in late, late 1995 until early 1997. Erik (Vrolok) joined in 1996, he continued after I quit for a while, but I can’t remember when he decided to quit as well. He was a permanent member as well."
You also helped out IMMORTAL at one time, so do you enjoy those kind of activities outside of AETERNUS?
"For sure, it gave me alot you know? I got inspired and I actually enjoyed playing bass a whole of alot."
Even though you decided to label your own music "Dark Metal" straight from the beginning, you still got the biggest response from the Black Metal underground. A fact which is certainly based on the facts that you are from Norway and also used corpsepaint… Do you personally feel comfortable within that scene? What actually made you use corpsepaint for quite a while and why did you stop using it in the end? And do you think that AETERNUS has various Black Metal elements in the music?
"Well, we looked upon the make-up, the masks, as War Paint. This was of course impossible to get into peoples heads as we (as you said) were from Norway and all. This is why we decided to drop that thing cuz we are not a Black Metal band and we will never be one either. There are still Black Metal elements in our music, yes. I guess in a way there have always been, haven’t there? We are comfortable in the Metal scene."
How did you exactly hook up with Hammerheart Records after the release of "Dark Sorcery"?
"Simple, after hearing that MCD, “Dark Sorcery”, they felt that this was what they were looking for at the time (1996) so they offered us a pretty good deal which we accepted."
By now you already have your 7th release out through them (incl. the 7" picture disc), so I guess you’re quite satisfied with the work they’re doing for AETERNUS?! Have you ever been approached by other companies during that period of co-operation? What makes you stay with Hammerheart?
"It was quite clear since we started to work with Hammerheart, that Aeternus were always satisfied with their work and efforts for us. This might be a reason why nobody ever came to us, offering a record deal and so forth. One stays with a label as long as one is satisfied, simple math."
AETERNUS is touring pretty often and quite extensively, so I was wondering if Hammerheart also helps you out in that department?! Is there a specific tour of yours which you enjoyed immensily and which stood out in one way or another?
"Hammerheart has stood behind all our tours and for that we are grateful, it has been good for the band and we have learned alot on different areas. All our tours have been great, some tours better than others perhaps, but basically they’ve all been great all the way. Sound wise, we did best on the Mayhem tour 2000 where we got great sound every night due to the skills of Mayhem’s great sound-guy Spencer."
Would you mind to comment on each of your releases with a few words? What was good, what was bad etc.
"Well all right then! All the way I still stand for the music I’ve made for Aeternus of course. I still love it all and I’ll be proud endlessly. I’ll comment the full-Lengths: On the two first albums I wish the mastering were better at least, that would have given those two albums a lot. “Shadows Of Old” has all that it takes. 100% Metal in the vein of Aeternus. “Burning The Shroud” could maybe contained some more live-songs… but I dig it as it is. “Ascension Of Terror” is devastating, brutal to the point and shows us from a Death Metal view 100%, with Aeternus riffs mixed into it. I feel there’s a perfect originality in there as well. Nothing bad to say about it, it’s complete, raw, intense… what not, you know?"
"And So The Night Became" was the last AETERNUS release which featured Vrolok on drums – what was the reason for splitting up with him and how did you get Erik to replace him? What has he been up to previously?
"Vrolok = Erik! Same maniac man! " (oh shit… how embarassing… – Frank)
With Radek you also added a second guitar player to the band… Maybe you can tell us a little bit about him as well?! Was he necessary to be able to come up with a better live sound or did you feel limited musically with just one guitar only?
"We were tired of using session members all the time when we headed out for tours. Therefore we looked around for a potential, permanent member. We picked him; we didn’t look or think too long actually. Radek is from Poland, he came to Norway as a 4 year old and he’s always been into Metal of all kinds. He is full of life, passion, ideas and loves playing the guitar. As I do, he believes in aggressive performances on stage and that is truly important in Aeternus. He’ll be around for quite some time I think."
Listening to your musical evolution I would say that AETERNUS not only has turned more and more towards the Death Metal genre, you also became a lot more intense when it comes to the speed of your material (especially on the brand new album). Were you tired of performing mainly heavy midpaced material or did that happen by coincidence?
"While working on the material for “Shadows Of Old” it was clear that we couldn’t do another album like the two first ones. That would be nearly boring. So the changes started there. On “Ascension Of Terror” we decided to fuck around with un-original Death’n’Thrash elements and mix it with your typical Aeternus riffs. It worked out just fine; only the Aeternus riffs are shorter and more intense. Yes, we have become quite extreme, barriers needs to be crushed and we’ve always liked the intense kind of Metal so hurling Aeternus into that path was very natural. We’re still into mid-paced and slow riffs as well as melodic riffs; the title track on the new album speaks of that as well as the very heavy song called ‘Denial Of Salvation”. Though no acoustic guitars were used on “Ascension Of Terror” as it was unsuited."
When it comes to your deep vocal delivery I always considered AETERNUS a Death Metal band anyway, with main influences from the US Death Metal scene, while some of the riffing still had this quite typical Norwegian touch (not meant in a negative way). So, would you say that AETERNUS have combined the best of both worlds maybe?
"We’re playing extreme music, we want to be original and I think we are that. Of course some influences exist and they can maybe be heard here and there, but basically, Aeternus has their own style… and we stay true to it 100%!!! If you would have stated: “Aeternus has the best from these both worlds!" I would be very glad to hear it, as it is a way of defining Aeternus in good way."
Even though your bassplayer Morrigan has still performed her parts on the new album, she’s no longer in the band. What happened? And have you already had auditions for a replacement?
"She was tired of it all. People change, don’t they? We are all still friends and we’ll always be… V’gandr from the Norse band Helheim is now the session bassist of Aeternus. He’s a permanent session musician one might say, as I wouldn’t want it any other way. He’s great, well skilled and knows how to be highly aggressive on stage. This is because he believes in it all passionately as Radek and me does."
All of your releases have always been recorded at Grieghallen Studios with Pytten producing. Have you never considered changing studio / producer in order to improve certain things maybe?
"No improvements needed my friend. We get things the way we want it in Grieghallen!"
Who came up with the idea for the "Burning The Shroud" compilation CD and what was the intention behind it? Wouldn’t that have been a good opportunity to re-release the AETERNUS demo, instead of some of the live tracks maybe?
" It was supposed to be a teaser kind of release, before “Ascension Of Terror”, but we never saw that the delays we’ve had with the release of “Ascension…” would be as immense as they fucking were. I can’t recall who exactly came up with the idea, the release was cool though, it has received good reviews and for Aeternus it was good and important to finally get some live-tracks out so people could hear that we are truly brutal, sound-wise on stage."
To finish this interview I would like you to tell us a few details about the new AETERNUS album "Ascension Of Terror"… It was already recorded in June / July 2000, so why did it take so long to finally get that out? How does it differ from your other releases and what kind of expectations do you have concerning its acceptance in the underground scene?
" If you like Death Metal, you’ll like this one for sure. The songs are shorter, more intense. The heavy, pounding songs weight about 2000 tons and they’ll pound your mind. Alot of Death & Thrash elements on this album, though the Aeternus riffs / atmosphere is present. One should just wait and check it out… the delays? Oh man, I don’t wanna think about it all. It belongs in the past now anyways. Both Hammerheart and Aeternus caused delays and whoever caused the most delays doesn’t fucking matter. The CD will be out on the 5th of November 2001. Be ready for it."
Anything else you’d like to mention, any closing comments?
"Well I thank you for your support through this interview. Check out the official Aeternus website: www.aeternus.ch and await us on tour(s) at the beginning of next year if all goes well. The site has always news & updates regarding shows etc. Stay Metal, support it until you fuckin’ die!!!!! "