Virus 2016 – photo by Kim Sølve
(John Sleepwalker of Avopolis.gr returns to us with this rare interview that occurred at Blastfest 2016 in Bergen, Norway, last February. And the timing of this publication suits the upcoming performances by Virus in Greece this month — about which you can find info at the end of the following transcribed discussion. )
What happens when key members of Virus, Dødheimsgard, Ved Buens Ende, Thorns, Audiopain, and Beyond Dawn sit around the same table?
Admitting how unexpected this meeting was would be a reasonable mention, but I think I should better state it turned out into one of the nicest memories an avant-garde fan could cherish. This interview took place during my stay in Bergen for Blastfest 2016; I remember I had to go to a hotel for some press activities and I found there two members of Virus and Dødheimsgard enjoying a cup of coffee. While we were talking about gigs and music, we thought that was a good chance to turn this into an interview (or keep it like a pleasant discussion, taking into account its overall flow).
However, what we didn’t know at that moment was that more people would sit down and join our company, while the interview was still taking place. You could easily tell this resulted in a meeting with a scene, and not with a band, even if some mandatory subjects are unfortunately missing. Needless to say, of course, Czral was a bit too kind — he felt quite sick and his cough was intense, but still wanted very much to participate. This, of course, is one of the rare occasions you don’t really encounter, so I think it is time you should grab your own cup of coffee, for it is quite an interesting read.
To begin with, I can’t tell how happy I am I arrived in Bergen. It’s my first time in Norway, even though I’ve wanted to visit the country for a long time… I’m also glad the main reason for coming here is an all Norwegian-related event, where all of the old avant-garde scene has its own special place. Speaking about bands that present a different kind of mentality, like Dødheimsgard, In The Woods…, Arctrurus, Manes, Solefald… and Virus of course. What are your feelings on this event you take part in?
Czral: I believe it is the kind of festival that peaked up quickly, especially since it only started two years ago. First year was a bit messy, I think. Organisation and the rest are ok, plus it is a rare circumstance having so many avant-garde bands playing together.
Are you going to play live any new Virus material? I remember you played a song at Roadburn last time you were there. It had this pleasant, groovy kind of feeling. Sadly I am not aware of the title.
Czral: We’ll actually focus on the new album this time, so it’s mostly material from that one. I have to say I think it’s our strongest album so far.
That’s quite a statement, because Carheart gets very close to Ved Buens Ende. It’s something nearly that classic.
Czral: Well, speaking about the sound, it is definitely like an original Virus album, you can be sure about that. I know, of course, metal people will always treasure our debut the most, it’s something not easy to avoid. As well as I know I am not speaking objectively, but in my mind it really is our best album with no doubts.
Any hints on the direction this time?
Czral: It is very diverse. Each song has its own special vibe into it and it is supposed to be more linear. Of course, our Agent album was also quite linear in a way, as well as quite thematic. This one, however, is closer to Carheart in the sense of how it’s more diverse all over the place.
One question I’ve always wanted to ask you was about Voivod…
I am curious how their sound was incorporated into black metal’s mentality, presenting more or less a different blend of Norwegian aesthetic. Even though neither Ved Buens Ende nor Virus really is black metal of course.
Czral: I don’t really know about that. We never called ourselves a black metal band.
Vicotnik: Well, it is a part of the scene, in terms of space and time. We were never into the demonic black metal part, even though it did have an obvious influence on us. I guess I was the black metal guy in the band and he was the biggest Voivod fan. So, I guess the main perspective on the music came mostly from Carl.
Your first show in Greece took place at Rockwave Festival. How come you took this decision? Many people wondered why you didn’t prefer playing a club show.
Czral: Looking at it now, I think that was a big mistake. It turned out a bit of a failure. I believe we should play at Eightball Club in Thessaloniki, that would be a great place to host a Virus show. Especially now that we have a new album out in June.
When I saw you playing that show, you were a 4-piece band. It was an ok gig, but some members didn’t seem to fit in much. Petter was not back in Virus during that period, and I think now that you play as a 3-piece, the vibe is much stronger in comparison. The chemistry between the three of you seems to work much better.
Czral: I do think it’s much better now that we’re a trio. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t work, well, it really doesn’t really work, you know… (*laughs*). That is actually a curse when you decide to play as a 3-piece, but also a blessing. It is very effective when it does work, so I say we most prefer it.
Do you think a second guitar was necessary after all?
Czral: It could always be a good thing to bring a second guitarist in. But it is more true to the band’s sound to be the original trio. Of course, there can be some differences compared to the albums, especially on the vocals, where there are many choir arrangements.
I have a question for Einar. You are obviously the perfect fit to how Virus sound, because Beyond Dawn were…
Yes. And I’ve been wondering what’s going with Beyond Dawn. And I’m hoping you might release another album at some point.
Einar: Nothing. Never. The band split-up and the people are scattered. The two main guys behind Beyond Dawn are doing very well in the electronic music field after all.
So, Petter, any news on the status of Audiopain? I hope things are better there.
Plenum: We do have a new album and it will be out soon!
Plenum: We said this year… well, for the last ten years (*laughs*). But, really, it is coming out this year after all. And it consists of 6 songs; always 6 songs. We are almost done writing them by now and it’s gonna be great.
Are you planning to also release a compilation of the 7″/split tracks?
Plenum: Oh, we talked about it with him (*pointing at Einar*). At some point, it may happen!
Einar: (*Looks at him and laughs*). Yeah… we did talk about it, it’s all up to the guys.
Plenum: We’re slow.
Very slow (*laughs*). By the way, Carl, I have to ask you about Ved Buens Ende. I guess you know that.
Judging by the rehearsal you had recorded, I get that you were not fully satisfied with the result. But to be honest I don’t see why not playing live with this band, I’m sure many people would want it. Perhaps if things progressed well, that would result in writing some new material as well… it has helped other bands in terms of chemistry.
Czral: I don’t know what to think. We were never very fixated on playing live.
Vicotnik: I understand the sentiment. There are problems for a Ved Buens Ende show, because Carl-Michael was an amazing drummer and he played the drums on the record. You have to remedy all the things that won’t be the same, so maybe it won’t be working, you know.
But some other members did help the band for live shows in the ’90s.
Vicotnik: Yeah, indeed, and Simen (ICS Vortex) filled in on the vocals.
Did that work out ok? I haven’t heard any live recordings.
Vicotnik: I remember the rehearsals. Carl was always so upset with Simen, because he sang too high (*laughs*)! But maybe one time will be the right time. Never say never.
Carl, what are your memories from 666 International? What are you thinking now what it’s been so long after its release?
Czral: I don’t remember too much from that period. They were very hazy times… I remember learning all the riffs for the album, I was supposed to play the guitar parts. And then I ended up playing the drums (*laughs*).
Vicotnik: It was also a time when we were really creative. And we didn’t really know what we were doing either on an album like 666, we just had some riffs and stuff like that. Then we had good performers, so when it all came together that was the result. 666 International. There was a great drummer like Carl, I was writing the riffs, and then we had a great extreme vocalist like Bjørn on top of it all.
And maybe it came out that way for the reason you didn’t fully know what you were doing…
Vicotnik: Exactly. Nowadays people have a better knowledge of what they’re doing. They’re better at their instruments, they have their own equipment, but I think the nerve is a bit lost, you know, in relation to the old days. We didn’t know what to expect in the old days. It could be anything.
I am under the impression that the red stain on the cover is not blood. What is it?
Vicotnik: Cranberry juice.
I also think Cadaver Inc’s album is very special too for its dry feeling. I wouldn’t call it punkish, but I guess you get the point. It sounds as if you left your instruments at some desert for two days before recording it. What do have to say about this album, Carl?
Czral: Well… I think that, again… it was a very hazy period… (*laughs*). I think when we did that it was back in 2000, 2001 maybe? And truth is, I haven’t listened to it for years.
Really? How come you came up with the idea about the card by the way?
Czral: Anders had this idea…
(Some people came and interrupted us here so they could talk to Czral. However, Bjørn “Aldrahn” Dencker sat next to us in the meanwhile. That was a good chance to change the subject and ask him about his activities).
I think The Deathrip album turned out special. It’s pretty much like Thorns in a way without the electronic elements. How do you feel about the result and is there going to be a new album?
Aldrahn: I’m very satisfied with the whole result. What we set out to do was to create some kind of an old-school, old-feel, black metal-ish thing with a hint of a new touch. So, in that way I think we did hit right on target. And to be honest, you don’t hear these things much these days. All these highly polished sounds, when all things are done very technical is not what we wanted. That’s cool, of course, but we aimed more at a “reset”.
On the new album, it’s almost done, the songs are already finished. The thing is, that I need to learn how to make my own home studio thing. I need to put down the patterns for the demos, it’s something I always do at home, but every time I go through the manuals for the home studio, I feel something itching me. It’s something that’s very boring and I have neither the patience, nor the interest. So, that can take a while, because it’s what needs to be done. I know, of course, it’s not fair for Host, the guitar player, he wrote more than just those songs for the new album in fact. He has so much new material written I guess we’ll have to exclude certain songs.
Does it sound any close to your previous material, or is it something different?
Aldrahn: The new material differs in a somewhat… Burzumish way. That’s why I’m very sceptical about the whole thing. Some of it sounds so much like Burzum that it’s almost like a blueprint.
But with your own kind of vocals it would be something very interesting.
Aldrahn: That’s why I need to finish the vocals and hear the result. Then maybe we can make a smooth change to the whole thing.
I think you might like Cosmic Church’s Vigilia. That guy actually sounds like a wolf. And I think that’s something black metal lacks nowadays, talking about great distinctive voices. Not just people who…
Aldrahn: “Schhhriiieeeckkk….” (Aldrahn is making here this funny sound and we’re laughing). I understand and agree completely. The thing is you sometimes hear these amazing riffs, you really get into them, and then come these, pardon me for saying it, irritating vocals that ruin the whole sound picture.
What about the new Thorns album? It’s been a long wait, but I get it’s probably tiring hearing the same questions about it.
Aldrahn: What I think you all should do is go to Trondheim to the place where Snorre lives, take all this energy and set fire into him. Maybe that will make him get through it. If he had more willpower to fuel his ambitions we would have finished the Thorns album like years and years ago. We already finished the vocals back in 2008. That was basically when the whole album was ready.
I think you were planning to release it through Moonfog? Was that really on the schedule?
Aldrahn: Well, if it comes out eventually, it will still be a Moonfog release. It will be something special, even if Moonfog doesn’t exist anymore. We’ll do something about it anyway, it will still be a Moonfog release.
Any possibility about Thorns playing live?
Aldrahn: I would say it’s not impossible, but of course this guy behind the wheel, he needs to find more willpower to pursue his ambitions. Most of the material now just needs some other mixing, plus some editing, so that’s all, really. Perhaps I might need to redo some of the vocals, but I can do that within a weekend.
To be perfectly honest, the debut is the only thing you have recorded that I’m not too crazy about the vocals. They sound totally focused. It is amazing, but I do miss a bit the classic Aldrahn touch, the one that gets over the edge, you know.
Aldrahn: Yeah, the sound picture in Thorns doesn’t really have the room for all these spastic elements. Thorns is a lot more like militant music, marching through sound constructions. It doesn’t open up for too much, I need to follow the music in some way, even if it may become a little bit dull. Perhaps, I dunno…
At least, I hope I might see you playing live with Thorns someday…
Aldrahn: Yeah, I would love that too. And I think it might be possible. We need to get this album done first and then we’ll see.
By the way, when you came back from the tour you did when opening for Dimmu Borgir in 1999, your voice was kind of destroyed.
When I first saw you live your voice was in perfect shape. Did you take any lessons in the meantime? How do you manage to keep youself in such shape?
Aldrahn: No, it is not really in perfect shape. But it is easy to keep my voice like that. In the past, I never did any rehearsals, I never did any training, I never did any preparations. Now I do that every day. Every single day.
Many people had been wondering how you sound live nowadays, because this information was not really known to the public.
Aldrahn: Yeah, exactly. Well, it’s like running a marathon, you need to have some proper exercise prior to it, otherwise you are going to ruin your physical condition.
As you will see on the following banners, Virus will be playing in Greece with Hail Spirit Noir and other bands later this month of October: