Vitam Aeternam, teatralsk og cinematisk horrorrock

av yngve

En god del av oss har kost seg med debuten til Vitam Aeternam den siste tiden, og de jeg har snakket med deler min begeistring. Jeg måtte jo ta en prat med gjengen, og om du henger med får du et bra intervju med folk som virkelig brenner for musikken, som klarer bragden det er å å legge seg i kjølevannet av Devil Doll uten synlige skrammer. Det i seg selv er imponerende. 

Og nå er jo første opplag av lp-en utsolgt, gullversjonen, men det er gjort tilgjengelig et opplag i sølv, så for deg som ikke fikk fatt i den første, eller samler, kjapp deg over til Crime Records og forhåndsbestill HER .

Welcome to Heavymetal.no, life is good? With the press kit in mind, I’m guessing the concept of life, afterlife and the philosophical aspect of being isn’t that simple, he-he, but hey, welcome :).

The band: "Firstly, thank you for the interview and interest! And regarding life... well, life is what it is."

Vitam Aeternam@Facebook

Please present yourself, the background, details etc.:

Jake Rosenberg: "I have been playing piano and synthesizers for 20+ years. In addition to Vitam Aeternam, I also play in an industrial-ish project called Desperate Machines, which features Kevin Moore (OSI, Chroma Key, ex-Dream Theater) on guest vocals. /shameless plug."

Râhoola: "I'm a musical producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, vocals). Mexican. 30 years old. I’ve been working professionally in music since around 2008 with different bands and projects releasing original albums in genres such as rock/metal, experimental, contemporary classical, ambient and hip-hop/electronic.

Studied music production as well as music composition, and had the opportunity to win some state and federal composition awards/grants.
Other original projects: A Flying Fish (2010 - current), Inferzenal (2008 - 2015), Sonomancy (2015 - 2018), Dzonantes (2017 - current). My latest big release was my solo one-man-band’s (A Flying Fish) debut album Carnival of Souls (April 2019). Thanks to such release I had the great fortune of meeting this incredible group of people (Jake, André and finally Mathias) to unearth something as unique as Vitam Aeternam.

Here in Vitam I'm in charge of the vocals, lyrics, concept, co-production, playing keyboards, programming orchestral arrangements, as well as technical aspects such as editing and mixing."

André Aaslie: "Two years ago I finally started up a dream I have had since I was 7 years old. A progressive rock band called Woodwindz. When I first heard progressive rock as a kid I was pretty sure this was my destiny. Well, my real destiny was the fact that it took half of my life to reveal my goal. But the fact that I actually did it with Woodwindz inspired me to think of another dream I have had for years.

Through my friend Roy Kristensen I discovered Devil Doll back in 1996, and Dies Irae and the rest of the catalogue has been a close friend ever since. In the late 90’s I started up making music, and everything I made had some resemblance to Devil Doll, and it still has in Images At Twilight, Abyssic and Profane Burial. But my dream has - since that day in 1996 - been to start a project closer to the universe of Devil Doll, but with my own approach to it. I have started up a Devil Doll project of my own several times actually, and I even composed a black metal version of Dies Irae for Images At Twilight. But it didn't feel right. I wanted to go all in. First of all I needed a vocalist. That's a huge challenge for sure!"

Vitam Aeternam 19 Foto Nick Pitcavage At Rise & Revolt, Elias Terrazas Og Ella Rogne

Bilde/fotografering/sammensetning: Nick Pitcavage At Rise & Revolt, Elia Terrazas og Ella Rogne.

To start off a bit easy, the band’s core is a trio, was it ever a plan to stay this way? As a trio? Or was the concept of including guests always present? Or did it grow, evolve, during the writing and recording process?

Jake: "The original intent of this project was for me to put together a compilation called The Skeleton Man Presents… It was never meant to be a band. I started noticing a lot of bands in the experimental metal scene citing Devil Doll as an influence, and thought it would be cool to create a free compilation that had all of these different musicians compose a song in the style of Devil Doll. I reached out to a lot of people and got a lot of great feedback, but no real action. I thought it would be an easier sell, if I made it real, so I wrote an instrumental demo for the song Coward

I don’t sing, but I recently was in touch with Râhoola because I loved his Carnival of Souls album and felt like he captured everything I love about Devil Doll. He turned around an amazing performance incredibly quickly and we posted the original demo to the Devil Doll Facebook group to see if that would help get people excited. We got a lot of great responses, but still, no one had time to compose something specifically for this project. André was the only person who messaged me who really seemed like he would participate. Rather than having him write something from scratch, we shared another song (Human) with him and asked him if he’d contribute. He did and it was amazing. After André recorded his parts for Human, he said this should be something bigger than a compilation or a two-track EP that gets lost in the shuffle. He was 100% right and I’m glad he pushed us to make this into something more than a one-off demo."

Râhoola : "Hermetics affirm that Chance is but the name applied to unknown or unperceived causes. This whole enterprise wasn’t planned at all… it had a mystical, organic growth. Jake first contacted me via Instagram as he had found my A Flying Fish album in Bandcamp, we started talking about our admiration for Devil Doll, and shared more music in the way. The rest pretty much happened as Jake has already detailed. We never discussed including guests in the beginning, it was something that started to grow and fall into place as each member contributed with essential material and the project’s vision kept getting wider."

André: "As Jake and Râhoola already said, we shared a mutual love for Devil Doll and the rest is a beautiful story. When I first heard the demo from Jake and Râhoola’s first song, I just thought, this is it! This is what I have been waiting for since 1996! As Jake mentioned I contacted him and we started up a cooperation on a new song. It took me only a few days before I started talking of doing something bigger with this project. Jake was a bit worried about this thing being too serious, and he wanted it to be released on Soundcloud quite fast. He also was a bit worried that it was too time consuming for Râhoola to make a whole album. Fortunately they both were convinced that this music deserved a proper release, and then we aimed for a full length album together."

Three musicians, all within the piano, synth area, and programming, a rather unconventional way of building a lineup. At least from a traditional view. Was it ever talk about doing an acoustic rhythm section? And perhaps this will happen down the line?

Jake: "Not for this album. We essentially built the plane on the runway with this one, so nothing was really thought out ahead of time. We just wrote and shared the files and the next thing we knew we had a song. Then from there, we’d try to get guests to fill things out. I personally like the electronic edge to it, because a lot of my main influences fall into that world. I am a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails, Ulver, and Chroma Key/Kevin Moore, who all do a lot of great things with electronics and sound design. I’m not opposed to seeing if acoustic drums work in addition to the electronics. It would have to make sense for the song."

Râhoola: "That’s one of the main things I love about this project! As you mentioned, it’s a rather unconventional lineup, all three of us keyboard driven, and that was one of the key (he-he) ingredients in giving the whole composition, arrangement and overall feel a truly unique vibe. I never felt an acoustic drum kit was necessary, the compositions (most of them originally birthed by Jake) always featured this interesting mixture of acoustic and electronic elements in the rhythmic section, which in my opinion became a trademark signature of Vitam Aeternam. Perhaps some future album/song/section may include a real drummer, who knows, nothing is written in stone."

André: "I admit I was the skeptical one here when it comes to all the electronic stuff. But to my surprise, as the material developed, I enjoyed it more and more. So the rhythm section, acoustic or not, was no issue for me after a while.

But I really wanted more guitars in the music, as I am not used to anything else. When I first heard Bor’s guitar on God Machine, I pictured some guitars from Râhoola as well, but Jake felt it wasn't necessary. Then Jake got Bor to play on the whole album, and the idea of only having his guitar on the album grew on me as well, even if I must have been a pain in the ass for Jake and Râhoola messing with my wish for more guitars all the time he-he. Listening to the album now, I wouldn’t do a thing different. It’s perfect!"

The guest list is a collection of known and lesser known names, but everyone’s contribution is valuable. Was it a matter of we need someone for this part, or this song or we know someone, we got someone, where can they fit in?

Jake: "I wish we put that kind of thought into it! Bor Zuljan was the only guest where we kind of had stuff specifically written for him. We were working on God Machine and I just floated the hypothetical idea of seeing if he would contribute. Everyone was into the idea, so I reached out to Mathias, who had been in touch with Bor a little while back to see if it was something he would do. He told me to reach out and ask and I did.

Bor is incredibly nice and super professional. After he did the solo on God Machine, we sent him the rest of the material. Coward and Human were already finished, so we had to think of places where he could add guitar. I was originally worried it would feel forced or too cluttered, but we made it work. However, Viral Idea was written with an epic guitar solo in mind. Râhoola even sketched out his vision for the solo before it went to Bor, but we took it out to let Bor do his thing. Bor’s great and it was a pleasure working with him on this album.

The guests in the choir were a mix between some people I was in touch with and other people André knew. I am a big fan of Ashenspire and Eternal Deformity, so it was an honor to have them contribute. A virtual choir is a great forum to get everyone to come together remotely. Râhoola did an amazing job providing isolated tracks, MIDI, and notes, so we should share with the guests. It became an easier way to get involved than having to write something from scratch.

In the spirit of this project, we wanted the guests to either be affiliated with or fans of Devil Doll."

Bor (Devil Doll) is an incredible find, mama. And Øyvind, former Dimmu Borgir, is known as well, but Juan Manuel (Cuarteto Cromano) was an unknown, what is his story?

Râhoola: "Juan Manuel is a virtuoso violin graduate from the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza (Superior School of Music and Dance), top musician. I met him some 8 or so years ago as he was constantly playing composition recitals in the Facultad de Música de la UANL (Music University of Nuevo León), the university I attended. He was known for playing impressible challenging violin works from some fellow classmates who were also studying their music composition degrees there and writing music especially in the avantgarde/contemporary music styles. I recognized he had mad talent, besides being humble and approachable, so I asked him several times if he could play some of my works, but for one reason or another this collaboration hadn’t been possible before.

When Øyvind recorded with André a piano/mellotron jam that became the spinal cord of the track Death, I instantly thought this could sound pretty awesome with a dark and jarring violin on top! Astonishingly enough, when I mentioned this idea, André told us Øyvind had had the exact same thought, so we all agreed this HAD to happen.

I then wrote the violin melody, got the sheet music ready and asked Juan Manuel. He had to be the one, this was the right moment and piece for it! The session went really smoothly, and Juan Manuel provided so much passion and emotion in his interpretation of Death, besides sharing his knowledge and vocabulary in extended violin techniques. We then recorded a lot of weird sounds for Coward', some beautiful melodies for Born and some amazing moments for Human, he could really follow my lead when I vocally jammed to some melodic ideas. He is a terrific musician and you should definitely go and follow his projects: Cuarteto Cromano, Trio Siqueiros & Ensamble Noodus.

Regarding Bor and Øyvind’s participation, what can I say? An impossible dream come true!"

Bor’s style of playing guitar is very distinct, did he get a free pass, or was he restricted regarding where and how? I know, you can’t, or shouldn’t, restrict such a musician :).

Jake: "We gave him some initial direction when we shared the song, but then told him to do whatever he thought sounded good. There were stylistic things he did in Devil Doll that we pointed to, but asked that he did whatever he thought would suit the section. The main example we explicitly called out was the panning rhythm guitars at the end of Human. It’s something incredibly unique he does and we felt it would be a lost opportunity, if we didn’t ask. He has a great ear and musical touch. He nailed it every time!"

André: "The melody line Bor plays on God Machine became a sort of leitmotif on the album. You can hear it everywhere, hidden in a music box as well as in the piano. Jake came up with that melodic line, and I composed a piano piece around the theme arranged after the original section in God-Machine. Then Bor came in with his guitar magic. At that point, I was sure we had something really great going on. I think it was around this time we agreed on the band name as well. Suddenly it was real. It’s alive! With the guitarist from Devil Doll on board… Don’t wake me up please."

Vitam Lp 20

And was it hard to work together in order to finish the puzzle? ‘Cause I know you worked from a distance from each other, using three different studios. Arranging and getting it all done must have been an insane task :).

Jake: "It was surprisingly easy! Everything came together in about three months. We shared a similar musical vision and the music fell into place pretty smoothly. When it comes to mixing everything together, Râhoola may say something different because he handled that part!"

Râhoola: "Not hard at all, it has been one of the most (or perhaps THE most) fluid projects I’ve worked on, both as a musician and as a music producer. André and Jake are great musicians and they have a pretty good handle of their respective DAWs and studio instruments, besides the wonders of our XXI century Internet made our communication and file transfer really smooth and fast. For the mixing process it was a bit more complicated as it’s a super ambitious project production-wise; many tracks, many effects, many guests, you know, the works. I needed to tweak a lot here and there before the three of us were 100% satisfied. At the end it was all worth it, as it turned out to be a beautiful teamwork creation."

André: "I have mentioned it a couple of times to Jake and Râhoola; this hyperspeed cooperation in Vitam Aeternam is really bad news for my colleagues in my other bands. Finally, I met up with some guys with the same workflow tempo as myself. So beware! My other bandmates. I’ll be a pain in the ass from now on he-he!"

Râhoola, I loved the vocal range, I even thought there was both female and male vocals :). What are the inspirations for this kind of style? The theatrical and dynamic sound, and the ability to turn feelings and soul into words and music.

Râhoola: "Thank you! Ha-ha, yes, I often get the sometimes you sound like a female comment ever since I first started recording my singing voice. Originally this androgynous nature of my vocal timbre was something that really troubled me. I realized however, that expressing oneself honestly through singing is a matter directly linked to self-esteem, nurture and confidence, so after some 10 years of imitating others, recording, manipulating, and playing with my own voice (plus some helpful yet sporadic private singing lessons) I eventually embraced, and cherished this aspect of myself, and by such act found a fun and honest path of expression.

Inspirations, way too many! But to name some voices/characters that have taught me the most I could obviously speak wonders of Mr. Doctor’s (Devil Doll) approach of connecting with the depths of one’s unconscious mind to produce a set of contrasting and intense theatrical characterizations EVERY WORD HAS A DIFFERENT COLOUR because IT HAS THE RIGHT to be modelled in its own way, Mike Patton’s (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas) versatility and way of creating different singing personas for each of his projects, as well as his extreme use of screams, noises, screeches and overall weird techniques, always pushing the limits! Freddie Mercury’s (Queen) histrionic live performances and beautiful, complex choral arrangements, as well as Hansi Kürch’s (Blind Guardian) tremendous vocal power, especially in his aggressively distorted high voice register and in his epic metal screams.

Beside all these influences, one of the most important elements/techniques I employed was the constant use of improvisation, playing the music and just hitting record, jamming into it, singing first some nonsense, then polishing, then repeating. That RUSH of knowing you may fail and not knowing what will happen pushed a button inside my mind, and mashed up all my influences and experiences into fully articulated words/music along with real emotion.

This project, will it arrive on stage, in the live format? Or was it, and is, and will be, a studio project only?

Jake: "In the spirit of Devil Doll, it’s possible we already played some live shows and handed out very exclusive items that people will be hunting down twenty years from now!"

Râhoola: "Everything is possible!"

André: "I already have a picture of this in my head, and I tried out some stuff on Human in my studio/rehearsal room a couple of months ago. So yes.. everything is possible, even the fact that we already played some live shows back in the days…"

The lyrics and the concept of the band is of a dark matter. I guess it fits the musical colors. How genuine is the darkness? Is it just a theatrical and cinematic scape? Or does it go deeper?

Râhoola: "Even though the music and overall aesthetic of The Self-Aware Frequency may scream BLACKNESS, the actual sentiment behind the concept is really a voyage from darkness towards LIGHT; an artistic performative therapy that consists in facing one’s inner demons, not as a way of glorifying them, but rather understanding and limiting them, all in the attempt of becoming a balanced, mature and well-rounded individual. Carl Jung referred to this process as the integration of the shadow self. In his own words: No tree can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell."

It's all genuine in the sense that every written word has a true feeling attached to it, it contains very personal struggles and insights intertwined with allegorical visions, and could be said it was written in blood. The literary and theatrical mechanisms are of course there to accentuate and dramatize the ideas, as well as creating metaphorical landscapes for the listener to dwell in, but the original seed is SPEAKING TRUTH: personal, grander but also paradoxical truths are explored all over the album's lyrics."

What are the ambitions for this band/project?

Jake: "It is still surreal that this project got to this level. To be honest, just being able to say we’re signed to a label and have physical versions of this exceeds any expectations I had. My main ambition is getting this album in the hands of Mr. Doctor and hearing his feedback, whether it is positive or negative. My other ambition is to get more guests to participate on our second album. Since our first came together so quickly, it will be nice to start the outreach earlier and specifically write things with other musicians in mind."

Râhoola: "As a musical producer, I've dealt far too many times with the corrupted path that new commercial music has taken, and even sadder, with the consequences that such mainstream music have had both in the average listener as well as in the music creators. Imagination, fantasy, introspection, theatrics and thinking outside of the box seem to be forgotten, or worse, REJECTED values by our current collective hive-mind. I believe it's our responsibility as artists to challenge the status quo, and keep creating works that inspire, hurt, frighten, question and astonish people, but mostly, that show vulnerability and raw human emotion. This is my main ambition with music creation (and this album is no exception), to induce within the listener an aesthetically engaging, emotionally cathartic and thought provoking experience."

André: "To make an even better follow up album. 11/10 in Heavymetal.no then Yngve?" (Sitter og venter jeg :) Y).

Read the review HERE, in Norwergian.

Vitam Aeternam 20 Logo (1)

André, I know you have been doing a lot of work in various constellations, but without a breakthrough. Will this be the one? And what’s happening with your other bands?

André: "I will actually answer this question by referring to Râhoola’s answer on the question above. But I don’t see it as a responsibility to challenge the status quo, I just do what I enjoy to do. Is it a 28 minute funeral doom song that feels right at the moment, then I go for it, even if it’s commercial suicide. So, if you mean commercial breakthrough - not this time either I’m afraid. But it’s not only about the music itself, the quality of it, or the complexity.

Another aspect of this is the ability to tour and play liveshows. To some point you can choose to have a sort of breakthrough if you go all in. That means not having a full time day job (as me), don’t have regular expenses (sleep on a friends couch between tours), well you see the point.

Studiowork is what gives me by far the most pleasure, live shows are just a cool bonus. Then I cannot complain about not having commercial success. Just take a look at all the festival posters around. It’s the same bands all over, with the same booking agents and managers. And most of them tours regularly.

As I mentioned earlier. Autumn 2018, with a little kick in the ass from my girlfriend, Lotti, I finally started a project I have been thinking of for about 40 years. The name is Woodwindz, and the music? Classical progressive rock from the 70's with a modern approach. Tons of Mellotrons of course, and the beautiful voice of Lotti Wood.

The new Funeral album is now mixed and finished, and we will announce a new label deal very soon.

We are very soon finished with the new Images At Twilight album. Narrenschiff is tracking vocals as we speak. More guitar driven stuff this time, with lead guitars by Morfeus (ex-Limbonic Art) and Jørn Øyhus (ex-Nordjevel). Much darker material than the debut album, and with some experimental rhythms to it. I’m really excited about how this album has developed the last months! 

Currently working on the debut album of Omnia Moritur. Some drum tracking to be done and then we’ll be there.

The second album of Profane Burial is about halfway finished. And about 80% of Abyssic’s album nr 3 is finished. We are now working on a quite ambitious video.

AND, believe it or not, new Gromth-stuff is still in the making! The one note a year policy in Gromth gives me more time for the one album a year policy in Vitam Aeternam, he-he."

(Puh!!! Y)

And now the album is ready, I’m grateful for being able to spend so much time with the songs prior to the release, and I’m excited on behalf of the band. How do you feel right now? When the release is done, and people will have the opportunity to participate in what you have been creating?

Jake: "Thank you for the support and we’re glad you enjoy the album! We’re all extremely excited to share this with the world and we hope people respond positively to it. We think it will appeal to all fans of adventurous music."

Râhoola: "Thanks, we’re looking forward to that too! We're very proud of all the music, art, and overall cultural product we're about to release."

I wish you all the best on your trip towards greatness :). Any last words, links, thoughts, demands, love, hate?

Jake: "Don’t be afraid to take risks, make connections, and put yourself out there, especially when it comes to music."

Râhoola: "Nothing exists; all is a dream. God—man—the world—the sun, the moon, the wilderness of stars—a dream, all a dream; they have no existence. Nothing exists save empty space—and you!” ― Mark Twain."

André: "Thank you for your review Yngve. Believe me, I have no idea how this album will be received. I don’t even know which people to promote it towards, so your review was kind of a relief. Maybe we will hit a nerve amongst the metal fans? Also, no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks, school’s out forever. ― Hilsen Hjallis Cooper."