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Ava Inferi have carved their name in the black stone of Gothic Doom; together with Draconian, the band is regarded as one of the most representative purveyors of the genre. Onyx is also a black stone, and it happens to be the title of the bandís new album. Rune Eriksen answered Doom- Metal's questions.

Interview with Ava Inferi.
Let's start with the usual clichť question: could you present the new album to us, and tell us what old, and new fans as well, will find in it?

R: Well, the sessions for ONYX started back in March 2009, and almost immediately after the tour we did in Europe with Tiamat and The 69 Eyes. At that time, we had barely finished the final master for Blood Of Bacchus, when I went straight back in writing modus. I believe that the tour itself triggered something in me and I felt the desire to continue the search for our core as a band, so to speak. There were a few things that I wanted to add to the new album, such as a bit more streamlined songwriting with an occastional verse/refrain approach, something that Blood Of Bacchus was totally devoid of. I guess the 20 something days on the road made me wanna rock out a bit more, therefore it was a much needed welcome for us having songs like ĎBy Candlelight & Mirrorsí and ĎThe Living Endí as a part of this new album. More straight in your face, more gothic rock, perhaps, but also with a doomy tone and the usual Ava Inferi gloom attached to it. I also think that this album is a lot more live-friendly and that was also one of the things I wanted to achieve as well, without compromising my own vision of art naturally. All in all, Iíd say this album is the definite Ava Inferi album so far, with a perfect mix of all the things we have showcased over the years, but definitely with a touch of a new vibe too. I believe this album will be a door into the band for many listeners, and hopefully it will put the older albums in a new light too.

Once again, Ava Inferi has changed shape and shown a new musical face, different from your previous efforts (there's more up-tempos, for example) yet it's still Ava Inferi to the core: what are those new influences (I detect Gothic Rock/Cold Wave clean guitars) and how did they came in your composition process?

R: Itís no secret that I really enjoy the old 80s Gothic bands such as Fields Of The Nephilim, Sisters Of Mercy etc., and I guess to a certain extent this vibe found its way into the songs somehow, well some of them songs anyway. I believe bands like Fields Of The Nephilim contain a great deal of mystery and not too far from what we try to emanate as well, actually. Another thing I wanted to include is the more dark elements, such as samples from horror movies and variuos bleak and cold guitar sounds that I have been experimenting with in the past too. I actually used the same equipment for the "clean" guitars as I did when I recorded Mayhemís Ordo Ad Chao. This kind of Ďspikyí and crooked Ďfuzz-drenchedí clean sound which was all over that album. I wanted to bring some similar dark vibes here and there, but obviously not going over the line. Itís important that Ava Inferi is what it is as well, so itís all within the boundaries of how I perceive the vision of this band. But yeah, I guess the album is a bleaker approach and has a more relaxed attitude towards the darker sounds than our previous albums. Another thing is the more up tempo parts as it all felt very right combining with our doomier aspects. I feel it gives more dynamics and it distinguishes our style even more from bands doing some of the similar things, I believe. I feel this album is truly unique and in terms of compositions and performance it is possibly my strongest release to date. And im not only talking about Ava Inferi here, more like all of my releases, whatever band....

How would you analyze this evolution of your music (you might want to compare it to your previous/other works)?

R: For me, it is very important as an artist not to repeat myself. I dont think I have made the same album twice and I hope that it will never happen. Itís a part of the process of becoming who you are I believe. It's a part of the learning process. No day is alike, no sleep exactly the same. We are in constant change and so is the world. This is what is the driving force behind my music, I believe: the constant change and the possibilities and the visions that are revealed by this truth. To put it in perspective: I am over 1 year older than I was when I composed Blood Of Bacchus, and many things have changed in my personal life since then, and even more so in the vast world. The wheel of confusion, hehe. In the light of this, Iíd say that itís a more mature offering we present this time around. More thoughts, or at least more diverse thoughts behind it and perhaps more strength and vision on how we wanted it too. Hopefully I will be able to say this about all my future releases. But it wonít necessarily mean that it will always get better and better. There are always unexpected traps and things to learn. The essence of living. But I guess with time you learn to deal with those 'traps' better.

Onyx is the black stone of determination, generally associated to the zodiacal sign of the Capricorn, It's also part of the fundaments of the New Jerusalem (as the Book of Revelations teaches us); why have you chosen this name for the album and in which way(s) can it be related to the album?

R: I chose ĎONYXí as the title simply because of its protecting attributes, yet also it is, as you mention, connected to the zodiacal sign of Capricorn, which again would include me. I wear the stone in everyday life too, and its presence is most welcome. Another aspect was that I saw the onyx stone as something that absorbes all the negative energy surrounding us in our everyday life, and in this case the stone would be this album in which all the negativity is concentrated.

The artwork: hooded figure, in the style of a monk, contrasting with the pagan figure on Blood Of Bacchus. What does it represent to you and for the album? It's the 3rd time you use a feminine figure as artwork, any reason for this?

R: Nah, Iíd say that itís more like a graphic approach to the philosophy behind the explanations and instructions I gave to Costin (the designer) to start with the cover, in priority. I explained in detail and elaborated about the meaning of the title and how it would be reflected in the music, for him to produce an accurate vision. So basically itís based on a brainstorming session with the red line of Ava Inferiīs past albums in mind. A logical continuation, if you want. For me, it represents the wastelands of the mind, and possibly the portal to the world behind ours. The silhouette on the cover is for me the spirit of the seeker or the tormented, protected by the attributes and with the physical evidence of the onyx at hand.

What are the themes that form the backbone of the album this time? (same as always, or some changes?)
R: Horror. In any shape. Itís all pictures of rough times, albeit some of them in a symbolic or pictorial sense, as in the visions we created while composing the album. Also, itís safe to say we didnít give up our pagan or 'thoughts from the old world' attributes either... they will always be there.

'Venice In Fog' is an intriguing title: tell me more about the story involved in this song.

R: The idea for the song came to me in a very 'gothic' period, where I only listened to old 80s Goth. Sad but true, I think it was this that kinda triggered the 'doomy love song' aspect. The opening semi-acoustic riff kinda resembles the glory days of the 80s scene, but the addition of that single string arrangement on top suddenly gave it a different flavour. It started to remind me of some old Italian love stories due to the scale I'm using, and therefore the title 'Venice In Fog'. We played along the idea of the song and came up with a suitable expression for the lyrics and vocal lines too. However, there is always a tragic and spiritual side to our songs on this album, and this one is no exception. The very thought of being ignored by Charon, not being allowed to cross the river Styx, to dwell forever in limbo as a victim of her own will... itís a very tragic fate. A perfect love song... with my kind of ending. No Hollywood here, haha.

Will you do a video for a track, and if yes which one?

R: Yes, we are actually in the planning process of doing a video for the track 'Majesty'. The shoot will happen in Romania in the beginning of February and will be a '70s underground-vibed' dark forest adventure directed by Costin Chioreanu of Twilight13 Media. These days we are finalizing the things needed for locations and props, etc... and so far it has definitely grown to be an interesting project. I believe the video will be done by mid- or late February, and will be aired straight after the release of the album. Keep an eye or three open for it. It will definitely paint a fuller picture of the song too. I can also reveal that we are playing with the idea of doing one video here in Portugal as well, of a different song from the album, but there are no details on this as of now. We focus on ĎMajestyí first and then we will see.

Who is this male singer on 'The Living end' and why? Any other guests?

R: This, my friend, is the one and only Rune Eriksen, haha. I felt it was time to make my debut in the more melodic singing way now. It was actually Carmen who incited me to do it, as I guess she has been hearing my pompous singing at home, hehe. The point is that when I made the track 'The Living End', I had this vocal idea for the chorus immediately. So while Carmen was at work, I decided to give it a try myself. When I played it for her, she really loved it, and then later on that evening we created and added her part to it. I think the chorus has got very interesting as its kind of crossed by melodies. Combined with the riff itself, I think it turned out to sound truly amazing. Itís definitely something we will do on the next album again. Possibly even to a higher extent. To answer your second question: no guests.

What brought this idea, and what do you think of the result? Is this something you think you'll do again in the future?

R: Well, I kinda like it really. I was surprised by my own voice, you know, didnít really know that I could go this deep or whatever. But I truly think it fits the songs and it gives also a different, maybe sensual vibe to it due to the voices Ďdancingí together. I will definitely go further into this now, as I realized there are so many things to be done if Carmen and myself manage to create this environment, like we did on this song. I have already some ideas, so we will see what the future brings us.

Dan SwanŲ again, like on 'BoB': what were your reasons for working with him?

R: Well, back when we did the Blood Of Bacchus album, I wasnt 100% conviced about the sound we got from the initial mastering in Oslo. It seemed to have lost some magic, in lack of better words, and when I by chance saw an add from his studio, I contacted him immediately and asked if he could do a test mastering on the album, to see if it would help with the situation. I got an immediate reply and I shipped him an excerpt of ĎLast Sign Of Summerí; he returned after an hour or so with a perfect sounding result. I was totally in awe about what he achieved, so I immediately called Season Of Mist and told them to stop the printing of the CD at SONY. Iím not joking when Iím saying the old version was some hours away from getting into print. Albeit the promo has the original sound, the actual version in the shops have the upgraded sound from Dan. From this day, I told myself that we would go back to him when the next album was finished. So we did. And may I add in the end here that the sound is super huge. One of the biggest sounds Iíve heard, hehe, yet maintaining the flame of Ava Inferi.

Change of line-up: how did Andrť Sobral came in and what has he brought to Ava Inferi and to the album in general (did he wrote lyrics, melodies...)?

R: Well, Andrť came aboard a year or so ago, but, by the time, more or less everything was written and ready, except for some tiny details. He did actually participate to the melody on Ď((Ghostlights))í and he also did a melody-theme solo on 'The Heathen Island' but that was it. He didnít play on the album, except for that theme solo I mentioned. That was recorded in Ultrasound Studio in Moita, PT, the same place where editing and vocals were done. I think that the biggest addition he brought is the flame and passion to play. I think we totally changed as a live band these last months and it warms my heart to see we are up there where we should have been from the beginning. But itís sometimes difficult to find the right spirited people around here... but then again, I guess that goes for pretty much everywhere. I wonít hide that I can be quite demanding in this aspect. I expect nothing but the best from each and everyone involved. Speaking of changes, quite recently we also got a new bassplayer too. Her name is Joana Messias and brought with her a healhty dose of passion and dedication into Ava Inferi. Finally it feels like we are armoured to the teeth, hehe. I cant wait to get back out on the road!

In our last interview, you told me that 'behind Darkness, there's always Hope... Carmen's angelic touch against my sad and dark music': I do think this is the best way to sum up 'Onyx'. Was this album a catharsis for all the negativity, the bad or dark feelings that used to be part of your life? Is Ava Inferi the light in your personal darkness, the cleansing touch?

R: I guess you can say that. But it's also important to say, in the context of this album, that we went into the dark part of ourselves, instead of holding it off, sort of. Blood Of Bacchus was in the last stage a tribute to life itself, yet I find ONYX to be a portal out of our lives. It has a more spiritual darkness, as opposed to Blood Of Bacchus, which had a more 'Bachanalian' vibe, cleansing the air in order to 'dance drunk on the earth', hehe. ONYX is really not a moralistic album or an album to bring you up, it's more about stories connected to dark and negative forces. Deluding energies which ultimately can drain you and fuck you up. On a side note: we do have our pagan fire too as in songs like 'The Heathen Island' and 'Majesty', which is more an earth-worshipping side from us, along the lines of 'Pulse Of The Earth' from The Silhouette.

Now, a question that is not related to Ava Inferi: the new Aura Noir is on its way, can you tell me a bit more about it?

R: Yes, I can. The album is partly recorded, Iíd say. I was over in Norway for 2 weeks in the beginning of November to start the sessions. We haven't really finished the recordings yet, but we have done the drums. Although I know some of the songs will be re-done, we did a fair deal of work during that period. All the songs are coming from jam sessions we had in Apollyons studio, up in the mountains, and there is definitely a unique vibe to them. Iíd say the album is more towards The Merciless as it is definitely harder than Hades Ride yet, still there are some more vintage Metallica Kill Em All-era in it too. A bit different from our previous albums. Iím definitely looking forward to the final result as I think it will be a gem of Black Thrash Metal!

Any last words ?

We really hope weíll be able to tour a bit in France this time around (note of the Admin: the interviewer is French). It's about time to shine and deliver the magic to our fans out there... Thanks for the support. .........humming 'The world is not enough......'

Visit the Ava Inferi bandpage.

Interviewed on 2011-02-04 by Laurent Lignon.
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