Interview with guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen | By Brandon Ringo and Kelley O’Death | Photo by Tina Korhonen
Legendary former Morbid Angel vocalist David Vincent, former Mayhem guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen, and Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier have come together to form the death metal super-trio VLTIMAS. Connecting across vast distances from their homes in Georgetown, Texas; Almada, Portugal; and Montréal, Québec, the members have cultivated a crushing debut LP, Something Wicked Marches In, out March 29 via Season Of Mist.
With nine devastating tracks and cover art by renowned Polish artist Zbigniew M. Bielak, Something Wicked Marches In is poised to cast a wicked pall over the spring and summer months. Below, Eriksen discusses VLTIMAS’ foundations, the creation of the new album, and how this fresh venture has become the main focus of these three storied metal veterans.
What was the genesis of this project? How did you end up coming together?
For me personally, it was all about getting back into the genre I have been known for doing since, well, the late ’80s if you count my demo bands. You know, I literally learned to play guitar to death metal records in the late ’80s, so I guess you can say that this style of expression has somehow become my most recognizable voice. So, after a few failed attempts of getting something steady up on its feet, speaking about death [and] black metal bands here, VLTIMAS became the grand solution.
I started toying with some new ideas for riffs already, as far back as 2014, and eventually contacted Flo Mounier about getting something done. We, Flo and I, had worked together before and knew each other well musically, so contacting him was a no-brainer for me. A great drummer who I knew would be the right man for the job.
After a bit of back-and-forth, sending some files over the net, focusing on forging an identity, I got in touch with David, whom I also had met on earlier occasions. I wrote him an email one night, expressing that “perhaps we should do something together when we both have the time for it.” He actually got back to me the very same evening, expressing that he would be interested doing something together. The following morning, we had a conversation and we decided to give it all a go.
Again, for me, David is the definite voice of death metal and a great frontman, so with him and Flo onboard, I knew immediately the potential was huge, to put it mildly.
With all of you coming from established bands, was it difficult or awkward to work through the “new band phase” of this project, or did it come relatively smoothly?
It’s always a bit of uncertainty in the air when the first rehearsal kicks off. You know, although we have known each other for longer than this band has existed, we have never jammed together before—well, Flo and I had, as already mentioned, but with David onboard, it was a new thing, a new experience altogether. I am sure there was some confusion at times to how we could get this going smoothly, but the more time we spent together, the easier things started going, not only from a musical perspective but also from a more spiritual perspective. The key is dialogue.
How did the experience of recording Something Wicked Marches In compare to recording experiences you’ve had in the past? Was there anything different that you weren’t used to?
Not really. I’ve had my share of rough studio experiences in the past, but this one was rather enjoyable. We came in very determined and pretty much prepared, so it was a rather easy ride. The album was recorded and mixed in Orgone Studios [in the] U.K. with acclaimed producer Jaime Gomez Arellano, [who has worked with Ghost, Ulver, Primordial, and] who also happens to be a good friend of mine. So, yeah, taking this aspect into consideration, I knew what I was going into. Besides, the British countryside always puts me in a good mood.
Did you have any preconceived notions of how you wanted your music to sound going into the writing process, or was the sound developed more organically as you continued collaborating?
Both yes and no. Even before the others joined in, I had already composed a few riffs; some of them are present on the record, the opening to “Everlasting” as an example. So, I guess you can say I had the vision of it, but yeah, definitely once we got in the same rehearsal room, some new things came along and some modifications were done to the already-existing ones. Energy forges music, and when I write by myself, it tends to become more “introverted” or a tad more black metal, let’s say. But when we all are gathered in the same space, with more people tuning in to the vibe and giving their energy, opinions, and inputs, it all changes a bit. So, ultimately, I’d say this is the way we collectively sound. Now, the task is to feed this fire and see where we are at when the second album is done.
What was your inspiration for the lyrics on the album? Is there a particular story or theme you wanted to get across?
The lyrics are David’s field, so I don’t want to put too much of my own interpretation out there, but generally speaking, there is apocalypse, from pre to post. We also have a dedication to Lilith, the seductress or the “Mother of Plagues” as she is perceived, in the aptly titled “Monolilith.” Personally, I believe our expression is of joint character; I honestly think we managed to convey the same feelings from a lyrical and musical point of view. Even the artwork itself gives a feeling of a complete unity.
Is VLTIMAS more of a side project or is it your main focus at this point?
No, this is a full-on band, and we will do what we can to bring this as far as possible. I believe I can state for all of us that we have this as our main band at this point. Of course, we will also keep our other bands alive. Flo has Cryptopsy and has a rather hectic year; David is doing I Am Morbid, as well as his country music. I do Aura Noir, although to a lesser extent these days, and I also do have a psychedelic rock band called Earth Electric out on Season Of Mist, who will begin to record album number two this summer. But all things considered, VLTIMAS is our main drive and focus now, and I expect a busy 2020.