Rune Eriksen (Blasphemer) has left his permanent mark on the extreme metal scene. At first, in the mid ‘90s with the Black/Thrashers AURA NOIR and then with MAYHEM, a while after the known incidents that took place in Norway, which made him famous to the metal fans. Having closed the MAYHEM chapter a long time ago and the AURA NOIR more recently, Blasphemer continues to offer us quality extreme music with VLTIMAS. TheGallery had the honour to speak with Blasphemer about the past, the present and the future of himself and VLTIMAS!
– Greetings, Rune, from THE GALLERY Web Magazine! How are things with COVID-19 in Portugal?
Rune Eriksen:Things are slowly getting back to normal now, finally..But there are still a lot of limitations around, and if you need to go shopping it’s still obligatory with face masks in the shop, so yeah still some way to go. Interesting how a lot of countries have different ways in dealing with this thing, in Norway as an example, it was never obligatory with masks and hardly no one used them. Sweden did not lock down their country at all, so it’s a very confusing state of affairs. I don’t think anybody really knows what’s going on. Either way, it all feels highly exaggerated to me. We now see the power of the media very clearly.
– The birth of VLTIMAS was a very pleasant surprise for us all! How did this cooperation with Flo Mounier and David Vincent come up?
Rune Eriksen: I used to play with Flo in a different project in NYC/Montreal some years back (2013 perhaps) and I guess it was around that time that I realized how much I missed playing the more extreme side of music. After I quit Mayhem in 2008 I kinda put my BM/DM ideas on hold in order to search for other ways to express myself. That’s when I created Ava Inferi, a band that in hindsight felt more like a diary than anything else, Twilight Of The Gods which was more standard Heavy Metal, then eventually Earth Electric, a psychedelic rock band which is still active. So yeah, I did quite a few diverse things during those years but I guess there was no avoiding a “come back” to extremity, I just had to get the “spirit” back if you get my point. Besides, playing with Flo back then also opened up my eyes for what we could do together musically. We always had a tremendous chemistry while jamming. I also had sporadic contact with David over the years as well, and we actually met up back in 2010 or so planning to do something together, but back then it was not the right time. However, when David quit Morbid again some years ago, I contacted him, explaining the situation with Flo and myself, and voila, here we are. I couldn’t ask for better partners in crime.
– The debut album of VLTIMAS “Something Wicked Marches In” was released in 2019 and received very good reviews. Are you satisfied with the result and the acceptance the album had until now?
Rune Eriksen: Yes, I am very satisfied. We have definitely created a buzz now and we are looking into continuing writing and hopefully even finalizing the 2nd album later this year.
– The sound of VLTIMAS is closer to Death Metal (even though we see some Avant Garde Black Metal elements I would say). Until now you were writing songs based on Black Metal. Can we say that Death Metal is a long-repressed expression, in which you now indulge and complete your vision, as a composer, for VLTIMAS?
Rune Eriksen: I guess you can say that. Growing up I was into trad Heavy metal, Thrash metal and Death Metal before I got into Black Metal. I guess the curve steepened in the mid 80s when Metallica and Slayer started making waves, then it got heavier from there. So there’s definitely a lot of the aforementioned elements in my background. I also think you can hear some of these elements already in Mayhem, maybe especially Chimera. Truth be told though, I don’t really care much for categorizations, especially when it comes to my own music. It’s literally a melting pot of influences in these old bones. Quality is quality no matter genre and I try to be as open as possible, provided it gives me something in return.
– Which is the procedure of composing in VLTIMAS? Do other members participate in the songs or is it only you that composes?
Rune Eriksen: Well, it all kinda starts off with me, as being the sole guitar player this is pretty natural. I come up with a few starting points, like a succession of 2-3 riffs, sometimes just 1 riff as well, and then we start jamming and playing around with the ideas. Everyone has inputs and suggestions in VLTIMAS though, so the music you are hearing is the result of the 3 of us working together.
– Did you use this period of quarantine to write new music? Are there any thoughts for a new album from VLTIMAS? If yes, will it be in the same direction with your debut or it will take a different path?
Rune Eriksen: I have written quite a lot of new music in this period yes, but not more than I would do under normal circumstances. It wasn’t always easy to find the right inspiration during these times, to be honest with you, I guess it was more a time to rethink everything, on a personal level as well as on a professional level, and figure out a way to solve what I/we had planned for 2020. To come up with alternative solutions to all cancelled and rescheduled shows and to move around this Covid-19 thing the best way possible, you know. But yeah, to stay on topic, I always create, and I have created quite a bit for several releases, so let’s see what 2021 brings.
As for a 2nd VLTIMAS album, of course. It is underway. I believe we have all the “skeletons” for the album already and I am due back in Texas in July to meet up with David and Flo in order to (hopefully) finalize them. It’s a little bit early to say what direction it will go, but I feel there is a little bit more orchestral guitar work as well as some slower, more moody moments. But fear not, it will have everything people expect from us and more.
– You took part in a special band, the death Metal project of NADER SADEK, in which Flo participated in the drums and you wrote the music. How did this collaboration occur? Is there any chance to collaborate again in the future?
Rune Eriksen: Well, I was asked to compose some songs and also to provide guitars for the debut EP “In The Flesh”. Flo was already involved in this project as well as Steve (Tucker) back then. After Steve left, Flo and I got paid to create 2 additional EP´s (The Malefic 3) as well as an unreleased EP before we exited the project.
– Besides AURA NOIR and VLTIMAS, do you participate in any other project at the moment, or prepare something else?
Rune Eriksen: Yes, I do have a psychedelic rock band here in Portugal, called Earth Electric. We are currently wrapping up pre-production for our 2nd album, due sometime next year. This album has been long in the works and I am very proud of what we have come up with. Musically, we´ve tuned down our instruments and added a flavour of Doom into the mix, so I am very excited about it. We aim at recording in Madrid with Ola Ersfjord (Tribulation, Primordial) either later this year or very early 2021. Apart from this, I’m just gathering diverse ideas, and who knows, there might be more coming from me next year. But let it be said, VLTIMAS is the main focus at this point.
– Let’s talk now for another band that you participate in, AURA NOIR …How are things with them? There were rumors that they disbanded. Is this true, or are you just having a break?
Rune Eriksen: Aura Noir is pretty much done I believe, well, at least from my side. And I also believe Aggressor is done with it. I don’t like talking on behalf of others, but according to our latest conversations on the topic, he’s also done. We played our last show in Austria, at the Kaltenback Open Air last year.
– Let’s go back in 1996 and the legendary album of AURA NOIR, “Black Thrash Attack”. An album that, when it was released, coincided with the big blast of Black/Thrash sound, from which only you survived and kept on at a high level. What do you recall from those days and what do you think made AURA NOIR to stand out and keep on?
Rune Eriksen: I guess it was the constellation of members involved. Everybody had something to “say” and we were very passionate about it. Not to forget there was some serious talent involved. Both Aggressor and Apollyon are very talented individuals and I guess once rounded out by myself, we had a killer recipe.
– Let’s go now to the MAYHEM chapter. What were the circumstances under which you joined them as a guitar player back in 1994, in a very turbulent time for the band and the Norwegian Black Metal scene too?
Rune Eriksen: Yeah, well, I was hanging around in Oslo in 92-93 when all this chaos happened, so I was familiar with a few key figures in the scene. I originally came from a more Death Metal oriented scene (if you can call 5 people a scene) but once stuff got serious we all kinda surrendered to BM, haha. I was more into the likes of Bathory, Celtic Frost and Rotting Christ myself though, at least initially, Either way, I met Hellhammer in this pub we all went to at the time called Lusa Lotte. Downtown Oslo. (I was there pretty much every weekend, either hitchhiking or cheating my way with the bus on forged weekly passes). So, after a brief conversation with him, I was invited to the rehearsal room to jam. He had heard great things about me and wanted to do something with me on guitar. I might be mistaken but I think it was for Mortem actually. Anyways, we jammed a few times, created some riffs and then all of a sudden the vocalist and I decided to wreak havoc in the rehearsal room (somebody had ruined his microphone), leading us to stay away from Oslo for a period. During this period, I created a BM band on my own, with me on drums. We made about 3-4 songs in the more typical Norwegian BM vein before I got a call from Hellhammer again, maybe about 1 year later, saying “hey, long time no see” and well, the rest is history.
– Your first release with MAYHEM, after the well-known events with the murder of Euronymous and the release of the iconic “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” that followed, was the great EP “Wolf’s Lair Abyss”. What were the thoughts and emotions when you were writing the music for the EP and during the recordings?
Rune Eriksen: Well, I wanted it to be slightly inspired by DMDS actually, to continue the uniqueness that that album had back then. We actually rehearsed all the tunes from DMDS for years before we actually went out to do something. We just wanted it to be as tight and professional as possible before an eventual live run would take place I guess. My first song written for the WLA was a song we (Maniac) called Anno Vampir, heavily inspired by some of the DMDS tunes. That song only lasted a few months before we took it apart and created a different song from some of the riffs (eventually turned to Fall Of Seraphs, originally called Serpent Of Eve). But I believe the first song I did that stayed as intended was Ancient Skin, followed by I Am Thy Labyrinth. By the time “Symbols Of Bloodswords” was created, I had already created my own sound, so to speak. It was a really exciting time, as there was all this “magic” happening around. It was a die hard mentality and we were the outsiders, I mean the whole “scene” was outsiders, like wolves. And you could tell there was a little bit of fear in people. I guess that made us feel special at the time, haha.
– From the premature Black Metal sound of “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” in 1997 you turned into a more Avant Garde Black metal path with “A Grand Declaration Of War”. An album that exploded like a bomb and is praised until today. What thoughts led to that change in the sound? Do you think it was necessary to be re-released in a remastered version in 2018?
Rune Eriksen: I guess by following the vibe of the time as well as my own instincts,. Everything in the scene was unfolding (musically) and bands went on to search for different sounds and ideas to include. We were pushing the envelope, surely. And I believe it was some kind of a healthy race in the scene, at the time, as well, as there were other bands working on some pretty off the wall stuff too. But yeah, GDOW changed a lot of things for a lot of people. Even after all these years, it still remains the best selling album on SOM. That’s an accomplishment in itself.
– It has been 12 years since you left MAYHEM. Do you believe that that period built and stigmatized musically and personally your course and evolution as a musician?
Rune Eriksen: Yes, to a certain extent but I guess more so in the past. I believe most fans have opened up a bit since the 90s and the early 2000s. I’m sure there are many musicians who feel or have felt this way, though. But I get it (from a fan perspective), I see the comfort in it as well as a token of romanticism. But I am of the opinion that true art carves its own path and therefore keeps its authenticity.
– Are there any crazy stories from the past with MAYHEM and AURA NOIR you would like to share with us? I am sure there must be some very interesting “old school” situations that many young boys would like to know about!
Rune Eriksen: Naturally, but there´s been so many crazy moments it’s hard to pick one isolated incidence. And perhaps I should save the most juicy bits for a book in the future.? Either way, I can reveal that the early years with me (in Mayhem), from about 94-99 were the most ridiculous ones, and the few shows we did before GDOW was released usually ended up in arrests at airports, internal fistfights or damaged properties. We were a wild bunch back then, and it went probably a bit too far sometimes. But for me, it was all a part of the path of awakening. These days, my focus is elsewhere and I have no need for this uncontrolled chaos in my life. At least not to the same extent.
– Do you think that the Norwegian scene still has the same influence on the extreme sound that it had in the 90’s?
Rune Eriksen: No, I don’t think so. The “scene” has spread globally and there are many bands out there with their own unique twist both musically and thematically, so no, it’s not the same anymore, in my opinion anyways. But I do know a few good bands who keep the old flame alive, MORK being one.
– What can we expect from Blasphemer and VLTIMAS in the future?
Rune Eriksen: I am very anxious to release the next VLTIMAS album, as I think it will be a big step forward for the band. I also look forward to releasing the Earth Electric record, which is way overdue. Aside from this, I am sure there will be some positive surprises for my followers in the coming year(s). “The truest wisdom is a resolute determination…” – Napoleon Bonaparte.
– Thank you very much for the interview, we hope to see you with VLTIMAS in Greece soon! The last words are yours …
Rune Eriksen: Thank you. We are currently working on getting 2 shows done in beautiful Greece. Hopefully we can make something happen in the 2nd quarter of 2021.
Interview: Nikos Manousis
Cover Artwork: Chrysa Antoniadi
Design & Editing: Alexandros Soultatos
Photos: Pedro Almeida, Tina Korhonen
Date: June 15th 2020
External Link: BLASPHEMER’s Facebook Page