Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen is known in the metal community as the guitarist who replaced Euronymous in Mayhem. He helped continue the legacy of the legendary Norwegian black metal band through the second half of the ‘90s and most of the 2000s. Ordo Ad Chao was his swan song. Since then, he’s played in several bands including Twilight of the Gods, Nader Sadek, Ava Inferi, and his longtime black/thrash group, Aura Noir.
Eriksen’s latest group, Vltimas is arguably the most extreme band since Mayhem. Ex-Morbid Angel vocalist David Vincent and drummer Flo Mounier of Cryptopsy lend their unique talents to the band’s debut full-length Something Wicked Marches In. Although he masterminded the album, each member proved crucial in the album’s final creation. Eriksen spoke with Heavy Music Headquarters about this band, album and career.
Darren Cowan: Vltimas just released your debut album Something Wicked Marches In. How do you feel now that it’s finished and released to the public?
Rune Eriksen: I feel great! It’s been amazing seeing great reviews coming out the last couple of weeks. We have great reviews coming out, getting feedback from the fans and the music industry. Everybody is super excited and maybe a bit surprised with this release. We knew what we had, though. We were very confident. I am very happy to see the album move so well. I feel really great. I think all of us do. We really accomplished what we set out to do. All of us are really happy with the end result. It feels good. We’re going to do all that we can to keep it going, to feed the fires.
What does the band name mean? Is it Roman (numeral)?
Yeah, the “V” is taken from the Roman, from the Latin, but it’s essentially Spanish/Portuguese meaning “the last ones.” The Spanish write it with a “U,” but we decided to change it to a “V” so it looks older. It gives it a more majestic posture. It just looks better. It somehow looks harder, as well. So it’s just a play on that word.
How did the band start?
It started out with me gathering some ideas. Ever since I left Mayhem, I’ve been looking to get more involved in something extreme. I’ve been involved in different projects here and there, and did some guest appearances on records. I had other sub-genres of metal going. It was just calling my name again. Back in 2014, I started collecting some riffs. Having worked with Flo Mounier, the drummer, previously in a project, I immediately felt like he was the right person to join in on this venture.
We started sending ideas back and forth, and the search for a vocalist/bassist started. I knew that David was out of Morbid Angel. I met David earlier on in 2005 or 2006 in Germany. We kept in touch during all these years, so I just wrote him one day. I didn’t have this band in mind, but I just wanted to ask him about doing something. He got back almost immediately. He wanted to do something. Then, I explained that Flo and I had this thing together, and he showed interest right away. Here we are.
Vltimas is your baby. How involved were all the members in the writing process?
Some of the music on this record is quite old. Actually, some of it was made prior to Flo joining the band. Things change when other members come in to the band, dynamics change. The whole vibe or even idea of the band can change. A lot was rewritten when the three of us were together. New ideas came up because when the three of us sat around talking, drinking beer, being social, and put forth ideas. We started getting under our skin. We started developing ideas together and to see where the others are coming from.
I think that although there are some really old riffs here — even though I wrote the music, all of us had an impact on the record. When I’m jamming with Flo, there comes a certain type of riffs. Also jamming with David, having him in the same room, I think where the vocals can be. Also, I’m thinking about how his vocals sound. I’m thinking about his older Morbid Angel records. So, all these things combined are what made the record. All the riffs come from. We arranged the songs together. Both David and Flo are really good arrangers. David has to have his bass for his vocals. So, it’s a joint effort, even though it all stems from me. I’d say everything is a joint effort in terms of the final outcome.
Earlier, you mentioned recording the album in Georgetown (TX). Did you record the album there?
The first jam session was done in Portugal. That was with Flo and myself. Once David got on board, he had the idea of using a studio called the Noiz Faktory in Georgetown. It’s a bit outside of the center of town. He had been talking to the owner of the studio. We rented that for nine days straight. We put our equipment there. Flo and I presented the stuff we had worked on earlier in Portugal. From there, we started working on it all together. As I told you initially, a lot of things were rewritten. The more we were around each other; the more we understood each other. This is a project where all of us sat down and listened to each other.
Something Wicked Marches In is the album title. Was this a variation on the Ray Bradbury book title Something Wicked This Way Comes?
That I do not know. David wrote the lyrics, so it’s more appropriate to talk to him about that. I don’t know where that title came from. I have to admit, though, the title sounds quite fitting. I see the new band as a new entity entering the arena. It is a kind of play on that.
David sings on “Diabolus Est Sanguis.” He also does more choir-type voices. Please talk a little about how he used his vocals on the record.
We hadn’t heard much vocals before we entered the studio. We finished the songs, probably in Georgetown with maybe some configurations from Flo and me before we recorded it. When David came into the studio, he listened to the demos and arranged his vocals after that, but we hadn’t really heard what he had planned. I knew something. There is the refrain to “Monolith.” I knew the clean singing part already.
When you hear it in the studio, with the proper sound, you start to envision how it’s going to be. We were really happy and pleasantly surprised. I knew what David was capable of doing with his vocals, so it wasn’t a big surprise. Some of the things were surprising, but his signature vocals are on there. I know his sense of rhythm and diction is very much him. I knew he would deliver top notch, so these little things like clean singing are like icing on the cake for me. I think it really fits the overall vibe of the album. It creates a bigger and deeper impact. It makes it more mysterious, as well.
Stylistically, it sounds to me like a mix of your days in Mayhem and Morbid Angel. Is that a fair assessment?
A lot of people say this. I understand where it’s coming from, totally. I would also like to say it wasn’t written with any of those bands in mind. It’s like I said earlier, when I jam with Flo a certain type of riff comes out. He’s a very prolific and complete drummer. He’s also a very technical drummer, so we had a tendency to create a certain type of riff. The riffs are a bit progressive, but when I work alone I tend to go towards more introverted riffs, more black metal riffs.
When David got into the mix, I visualized his vocals in some of the riffs. I wanted to have a proper bed for his vocals, too. So instead of channeling old school Norwegian black metal, this is the thing I envisioned in my head. It would sound correct with all three of us. I think it’s a fair thing to say it’s a mix of Mayhem and Morbid. I was in Mayhem for thirteen or fourteen years. I developed my style there, so it’s a part of me. It’s not something I can just take away. If I’m being honest to myself, that’s exactly what comes out.
You joined Mayhem after the death of Euronymous 25 years ago. You mentioned some of the projects you’ve done. For instance, you played in the gothic doom band Ava Inferi. How have you progressed/developed since joining Mayhem?
I think your own development as a person goes along with your guitar playing. I think these two things are tied together. After I left Mayhem in 2008 after the Ordo Ad Chao album, I think I was kind of done with the whole thing. To me, that was the most obscure and darkest thing I have ever done. I think I had hit rock bottom as far as extremity, so I needed a break from it. Instead of looking down into the basement, I was trying to look up into the sky. That’s kind of why I finished my career in Mayhem. After that, I felt I needed to express different thoughts. I wanted to approach things differently. I was trying to seek other aspects of life. Eventually, here I am again. I’m going back to the core of me. This is a very natural thing for me. I also have a progressive rock band called Earth Electric. My heart also pumps for that kind of style. I love ‘70s music more than anything. I hardly listen to extreme music. It’s just another side of me. It’s just part of my personal expression. I feel like combining these two bands makes me a full person.
When you joined Mayhem, it was around a year after Euronymous died. How did you know the band? How did you get in touch?
I joined in 1994. I think it was October of 1994. Before Euronymous was killed, I used to play with Hellhammer in a different band, I wouldn’t say band. We met up in the Mayhem rehearsal room back in ’91 or ’92, probably ’92. We started jamming on something that I think Hellhammer wanted to be Mortem — a group Hellhammer had with some guys at the time. We didn’t rehearse much. It was me and the keyboard player of Arcturus (Steinar Sverd Johnsen). I’m not sure that really was a project. So I played with Hellhammer back in ’92. This was because he heard I was a great guitar player because I went to school with his wife. It’s kind of funny. She wasn’t his wife at that time; she was his girlfriend. There were some rumors…I don’t know if she told him. I don’t really know how this came about.
For some reason, he knew already I was a good guitar player. I was hanging around Oslo since ’91. I was drinking beer on the weekends. I would hitch hike right out of school and go straight to Oslo. I was hanging out, drinking and being part of the community back then. One thing led to another. The project we did together back in ’92 lasted only about three rehearsals. It ended quite abruptly. After that, I removed myself from Oslo for a year or two, again. Hellhammer gave me a phone call. He called and asked me if I wanted to join Mayhem. I was fighting that devilish spirit at the time, so I was like, “Yeah, come on! Let’s do it!” It was at least eight or ten months after Euronymous was dead. He decided to keep on going. He talked to Necrobutcher. He talked to Maniac. Everybody was on board. They just needed a guitar player.
What’s next for Vltimas? Are you guys going on tour?
We have four or five summer festivals lined up. The record just came out, so we are little bit late in the game. There are quite a few things happening this summer. Hopefully next summer will be way, way more. Apart from that, we have some big summer festivals coming up. We are going to play Hellfest in France. We are playing Copenhell in Denmark. We are playing a music festival in Poland. We are also doing a couple one-off shows. After that, we are thinking of doing a Latin America run. We have a full, three-week tour in January 2020. Things are happening. I think we’re slowly starting to prepare to work on new music, as well.
(interview published April 15, 2019)