Ava Inferi – Beyond Smoke and MirrorsSaturday, 30th March 2013
Blistering.com: Onyx is a tremendous step up from Blood of Bacchus. Was it apparent during the early stages of songwriting that you had something special on your hands?
Erikson: Well, I realized that I had some strong melodies on my hand, yeah. But it was only in the studio I started to think that it would be a really great album, I mean, I knew it would be good beforehand but didn’t know in what way, if you get my point. So when we started laying down the guitars I realized that it sounded like classic stuff, that each song actually had the potential to become a truly memorable song, and that we could lift the name of Ava Inferi to a much higher level than what we achieved with the previous albums.
When I started writing the album I was also more conscious about getting the material a bit more in your face and structured, as Blood of Bacchus was more like a lot of ideas “mashed” together. Don’t get me wrong, I still love some aspects about that album and some of the riffs and themes presented are still really “up there” in my opinion. Just listen to the passage between 03:45-07:20 or so on “Appeler Les Loups” as an example…I fucking love that part, it’s beautiful, yet heavy as fuck.
Nevertheless, the focus was definitely different this time (under Onyx), and I think a part of it was due to the tour we did in Europe with Tiamat and The 69 Eyes. After playing the peculiar start/stop doom that evaporates our three first albums for 45 minutes a day over a period of three weeks I realized that I just wanted to rock out more, he-he. So as soon as I got home I started to compose and collect material for the next album. Let it be said that we didn’t even finish the mastering on Blood of Bacchus before I was deeply into Onyxso, it seems my mind got unto something peculiar that I needed to put tones to immediately. This urge to let something unfold. However, I was also determined that I wanted to take my time with the album, so nothing was rushed. I believe every little detail is thought through this time…and it worked.
Blistering.com: I read some initial press releases regarding the creation of the album and it sounds like there were a lot of trials and tribulations regarding it. Care to elaborate?
Erikson: Well, there is always something happens of course, that is in the nature of what I do it seems. But then again, I feel there is always something pushed to the limit in all true artistic expressions. For Onyx the only thing that really put me off was my own dedication to the material. Initially we thought that 10 days would be more than enough in order to complete my guitar takes, but it got more and more evident during the sessions that I wouldn’t make it in time. You cannot rush your art you know and with so many “guitar touches” this album needed especially, so we ended up extending our stay a few days more. But during the last days I started to get really fucked up and tired, and I think I kinda broke down after the recordings. I started to play my last needed takes, feeling I was in this strange tunnel, but it was my dizziness of exhausting you know, so after I was done I felt like I was in space or something…just feeling apathy and empty. This has happened before too, so I know its “my thing”, to empty myself so thorough that I am nothing but a walking zombie in the end of the sessions.
My mental stage during work can be described as building a wall or a fortress inside the mind, and during the recording, the pieces “remove themselves” and goes out with the actual guitar work. It’s me letting go off what I have build up mentally in relation to the album or the music I have been working on….Not sure if I make any sense but this is the way it feels nevertheless. Sometimes it puts me off for some days other times even longer, so I usually take things very calm in the following days. For BOB I don’t think we had the pressure with the time and schedules, at least for the guitars, but back then all hell broke loose. We actually managed to hit the front side of the local newspaper two times. 1 was for not respecting the rules of the area where the studio is located, such as no sleep allowance or night time activity, etc. At that time we slept in the studio as we usually worked at very late hours.
One morning the fire department came knocking, as someone had tipped them off. I tried to my best to get out of the situation claiming we just had started to work really early, but the mattresses on the floors and the odour of wine and party couldn’t be disguised. We barely avoided the studio being shut down. The headline nr 2 was due to our guest artist at the time, she actually had a serious accident close to the studio. We were waiting for her to call us, so in the meantime we were sitting in this restaurant in the centre of the village we recorded, just chilling with a beer. Suddenly the phone rang and it was her, saying she was just up the road having crashed into a car, and that there were people hurt. We rushed up to where she was and found her shaking in an ambulance, with two car wrecks on the side of the road. Due to the heavy ice (this was December) she had slid into a car coming the opposite direction. This car had two elderly people, about 80 years of age. It was some truly rough moments, as the old people were injured too, and our guest had gotten her car completely smashed, with her recording equipment inside. But it belongs to the story that she refused to let this “assignment” go despite me trying convince her otherwise, so after a quick stop-over at the empty doctor’s office (!) we went to the studio and recorded the cello parts. The cello was also kinda ruined and it had visible cracks etc but she still managed to get the stuff done. No need saying the cello takes on “Memoirs and Tempestade” from Blood Of Bacchus holds some serious tension. The definition of die-hard, methinks.
Blistering.com: Dan Swano [Edge of Sanity, Katatonia, October Tide] helped out with some of the production aspects, so what was it like working with him?
Erikson: Dan Swanö is a truly great producer and mixer. Before I sent him the files we had some contact via mail, etc so he kinda knew what to expect. I also sent him a few album references that I wanted the sound to shape up after. Those albums were Born Again with Black Sabbath, Elyzium with Fields of the Nephilim and some album with Dio in which I cannot remember now. After a few comments and alterations back and forth when the first files appeared, it was solved.
I’m truly happy with what he did and there are great possibilities we will head back to his studio with new things when the time is due. Also, one thing that meant a lot to me, and also helped me to believe that this album was a bit special, was the statement he came up with in regards to the album he just had mixed. You know it’s always good to have people of fame having a say on your albums, the more positive the statement, the better of course. His was, “Onyx is one of the best albums I have mixed so far. The unique blend of gothic rock and fierce heavy metal just resonates with me on the highest level. A bit like Kate Bush singing on Headless Cross. Passion and darkness in perfect harmony. I am truly stunned!” How can you do wrong with that one? Ha-ha.
Blistering.com: Carmen appears more assured than before, especially on “Majesty” and “By Candlelight and Mirrors.” In your mind, how has she developed?
Erikson: Carmen is something special that’s for sure, and I’m also very lucky to be working with her. I feel that my crooked music really works well with her voice, two contrasts in harmony or something along those lines. Her voice has definitely gotten better and better in terms of depth and expression over the years. By goodness, she had a fab voice on The Silhouette and Blood of Bacchus too, but I feel there is something rich and truly soulful that reveals at this stage. It will be very interesting to see our development here actually, on all levels. I am also confident about the next album naturally. I won’t tolerate anything less than Onyx, and I intend to bring it further down into the deep. It seems to be the lineage of our albums too.
Blistering.com: The new album has some of your most melodic stuff to date. What brought out the great melodies on “Venice In Fog.” It may be your most depressing piece to date…
Erikson: Yeah, I’d agree on that. “Venice in Fog” has something eerie and depressive over it, like a total loss of hope or something. Like an acceptance of “yes, this is it” kinda thing. As all my music, it seemingly comes out of nowhere, I just pick up the guitar and sometimes I get this lucky. But I remember when I recorded it on my PC and I started adding the layers to it, which is this fast-picking stuff, I almost started having visions of a sad romance in Italy or something like that. It was something warm and something passionate that manifested in the melodies I was playing. So, yeah, basically that was the start of that song.
It had a different structure to begin with though, it had some strange tempo changes etc but I deleted those ideas being confident about the phrase “less is more.” I wanted to make it a perfect Gothic doom hymn and I think I succeeded, if I can be so daring in my words. Musically I believe it’s in the territory of old gothic rock, in which I’m very fond of. That added a dash of Viking-era Bathory as someone pointed out to me…although not certain the latter goes for this song, there is a definitive influence in my works for sure.
Blistering.com: It is safe to say this is your most “honest” and challenging album yet?
Erikson:. I feel it like that. I “dared” to confront a different side to me perhaps…
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2011?
Erikson: Playing shows and start to make plans for the next step of the band. I have some ideas but they are too embryonic to mention at this stage. I feel we will head further into what we started on Onyx though, and that’s all I can say for now. Apart from this, I am also a bit busy with Aura Noir, and the recording of a new album. The final takes will be done in a few weeks, when ill be off to the mountains again together with Apollyon, and to his house where the studio is located. We will also embark on a short US trip together with Marduk starting in Maryland Deathfest the 26th of May. After this, I will continue with Nader Sadek for a few shows, and a possible second album for them to wrap the year up with another brutal album with a Floridian friend of mine….interesting and busy times.
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