For nearly twenty years Norway’s Aura Noir have reigned as overlords of blackened thrash metal. The band have just released their fifth full length, the filthy and lacerating Out to Die via Indie Recordings, proving that their patented black thrash attack is as ugly and vicious as ever. I spoke with multi-instrumentalist Apollyon, whom you might also be familiar with from bands such as Cadaver, DHG and more recently Immortal, regarding Aura Noir’s latest assault and subsequent plans for world domination.
THKD: Let’s talk a bit about the new album, Out to Die. What can you tell us about the album’s conception? Were you looking to accomplish anything new or perhaps something you hadn’t accomplished on previous albums?
Apollyon: Pretty early we realized that it was going to be a more intense album than it’s successor. We didn’t have any plans apart from that. Our plan is always just to write killer riffs and just see where they lead us. This time was no exception. The only difference was that we were all present from the get-go.
THKD: Are you and Aggressor still responsible for the bulk Aura Noir’s songwriting on Out to Die? Do the two of you collaborate on songs, or do you write separately? How would you compare your writing style to his?
Apollyon: Up until now it’s been like that. We’ve worked separately making riffs and putting them together, and made minor adjustments after we’ve introduced the song to the other guy. However this time around Blasphemer wanted to be part of the whole process. We decided to find whole weeks where we could all meet up at my house where I had a rehearsal room/studio. We live far away from each other and even in different countries so it’s not as easy as it sounds, as we are not blessed with excess neither when it comes to time nor money. Anyway, we had maybe 6-7 of those sessions spread out over a couple of years, where we met up created songs together, recorded them and went back and listened to them until next time we met. I’d say Blasphemer made most of the sketches and then we worked with them until everyone was content.
My writing style differs from Aggressor’s because we have different guitar styles and we also have slightly different approaches on how to make the music sound “Aura Noir”. I prefer his way of course and that’s why I love to be in this band as well, because I get to play extremely intelligent music.
THKD: Can you give us some background on the recording process for Out to Die? How did it differ from that of previous Aura Noir albums, if at all?
Apollyon: I guess I already answered that. I might just add that Hades Rise was made the same way, meeting up for weeks every now and then at my house in the mountains, just without Blasphemer’s help. Besides we had much more material already finished when we started working on Hades Rise.
THKD: You handled guitar, bass, drums and vocals on Out to Die. Do you enjoy handling all of this instrumentation in the studio? Do you prefer any one specific instrument over the rest?
Apollyon: I actually didn’t play any guitars this time, which kind of saddened me as I realized it. My favourite instrument is drums. Maybe because I’ve never had a drum kit. I like to play guitar as well but bass is horrible. I hate playing it. Vocals are always inspiring to do with Aura Noir though.
Apollyon: He moved there maybe ten years ago, so we don’t think much about it nowadays. It’s a hinder alright, but not a big thing. Especially since he quit Mayhem. He recorded his parts in Portugal but he had been rehearsing with us the week before in the studio I recorded the drums. I just needed peace and quiet while recording them and preferred only to have Aggressor with me.
THKD: What can you tell us about the lyrical themes on Out to Die? It looks like you’re still dealing for the most part with the old standbys of death and blasphemy…
Apollyon: Yeah, that’s how we like our metal. Not so much to tell. They are even quite personal but you know. Lyrics can be interpreted in many ways. The most important to us is that they don’t suck or deal with the “wrong” topics, meaning non metal topics such as politics or love.
THKD: Who were some of your primary influences for Out to Die? It seems like quite a few of the tracks have a bit of an old Celtic Frost vibe…
Apollyon: Sure, we love our Celtic Frost. However it’s safe to say that we more or less found our own style now, and we don’t really think of influences before making a new album. But we always use references within the band while the songs are in the making. Typically if we think a riff or a part of a song remind us of something else, we just refer to that song as the “Celtic Frost song” as a working title. There were no “Celtic Frost songs” this time though, come to think of it the only part that would qualify is the middle section of the song “Abbadon”. However there were incidents of name dropping while we were making the songs for out to die as well. The following bands were mentioned. Venom, Dark Angel, Metallica and Death.
THKD: Aggressor, Blasphemer and yourself are all involved in multiple projects, and I know that you took up the bass playing duties for Immortal some years back. Does this make it difficult to find time for Aura Noir?
Apollyon: Not really. Immortal is not a heavy touring band and they don’t need me to make music for them either. It was worse when Blasphemer was in Mayhem but still it’s very seldom, if ever, that we have to turn an offer down because of duties with one of our other bands.
Apollyon: I think it’s the essence of extreme metal. The “black” part is merely to underline that we are not a party thrash band or a political one. But I mean, if we had existed in 85 we would just be “thrash metal”. It’s just that so much shit happened to that genre later in the 80’s and it even died out, so when we revived thrash metal we wanted to make it clear what kind of thrash metal we played.
THKD: How have your inspirations and motivations changed over the years? Do you still perceive Aura Noir in the same way you did when the band was formed in 1993?
Apollyon: I think the main idea is still the same, the desire to make ugly and non polished metal based on killer riffs. We never want to fit in perfectly though, and don’t like to be too predictable either, so if we change slightly it’s only to confuse idiots.
THKD: Thrash metal has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. Are you surprised by this development? Does it annoy you that all these new jack thrash bands are coming out of the woodwork when you’ve been playing thrash for almost two decades?
Apollyon: One thing is all the modern metal sounding thrash bands, that are the same as the modern metal sounding black/death metal bands, totally polished and without charm, destroyers of the genre. On the other hand you also have a wave of cool new bands who, like ourselves, hate the typical 90’s sound (that is equivalent of the 80’s pop sound when it comes to street cred)and try to make something interesting and inspired. I think the future is looking a bit brighter. I have no problems with new metal bands as long as they don’t suck..haha.
THKD: To what do you attribute Aura Noir’s longevity? How have you managed to keep the band lineup more or less intact?
Apollyon: Maybe because we never forced the band upon anybody. Not even on each other. Nobody had the chance to get tired of it. We always waited for each other as well instead of hiring new members or whatever. Never rushed anything.
Apollyon: We think our music often comes out better live than anywhere else, so we enjoy it much. The plan is to do full tours in both Europe and North/South America later this year.
THKD: What else is in store for Aura Noir in 2012? Are you already working on more material or will you be focusing strictly on promoting Out to Die?
Apollyon: Right now it’s enough work as the album just hit the streets, but we plan to start working on the next album after summer.
THKD: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?
Apollyon: Not really. Thanks for the interview!