Following the release of their awesome debut album “Kings”, Norway’s latest super group could no longer be a secret coveted by a few and Shan Siva got an early Christmas present from founder keyboardist Andre Aaslie in this depth interview about his amazing project now realized in Images At Twilight!
1. Hi Andre, I believe that the idea for IAT goes back to the 90s so what was going on at the time to inspire this.
Andre: The 90s was wonderful times for those of us who are into symphonic black metal. I don’t even know where to start here when it comes to mentioning bands. I started writing for a prog-fanzine in the early 90s, and a bit later in Imhotep Magazine. In 1998 I started in Norway’s biggest metal magazine Scream, so I had access to most of the releases in my favorite genres in those days. What is kind of strange though – and I have mentioned it several times elsewhere – is that the main inspiration for the idea Images At Twilight back in the late 90s was Dark Funeral and Marduk. A lot of bands from that time sounded symphonic without using any keyboards. Listen to “Vobiscum Sathanas” for instance, it’s like you hear the symphonic veil in the background but it’s not physically there. When you listen to the final outcome of Images At Twilight you can of course hear some influences from bands like Limbonic Art, Tartaros, Emperor, Satyricon, Bal-Sagoth, Dimmu Borgir a.o, but the main idea was to add a full orchestra to the haunting unmistakable expression I found in Swedish black metal and the two bands already mentioned.
Andre: In 1998 I actually bought a – at that time – very powerful computer with an aim to begin my vision around what was to become Images At Twilight. Fortunately I didn’t find any equipment good enough to fulfill my visions! At that time there was no sample technology good enough, only modules that is were imitations of real instruments, not samples that are recordings of real instruments. I composed some small pieces of music on keyboard at that time, but then I moved to a much smaller apartment without much room for music equipment. The project was put on hold for a while. I was only planning to live there for a short period of time but then the relationship with my girlfriend at that time ended, and I was kind of stuck in that small apartment until I bought a house in 2005. This house needed a lot of refurbishment so all my money went to the redecoration of this house for a couple of years. In 2007 I started in a new and better paid job, and soon after I started thinking of exploring some new music equipment again. In 2008 my good friend Grimd from Gromth (Khold) showed some orchestration of his and then the ball started rolling. He helped me buying a new computer and all the sample technology needed, and I started writing music for the project I have had in my head for over a decade. I had a couple of pieces of orchestration finished in the winter of 2010, and showed one of them to my long time friend Ole. He had been the vocalist in Gromth for a while and he wanted me to show this piece to Grimd. We met for some beers one weekend in Grimds studio and the monday after he called me up and suggested that we should put our heads together and compose Gromths debut album. The album “Immortal” was released in the autumn of 2011, but right after the album was mastered in May that year I started thinking about Images At Twilight. I wanted to start from scratch, and the first thing I wrote was the two first themes from Ninhagaz.
3. I have to say that I’ve not seen such a mixture between orchestration and the extremes of black metal – hugely commendable in my opinion – so could you explain if there is indeed a link between the two genres? I gotta say that most lovers of classical music would probably scream at the thought ha ha so I’m really hoping your answer will change their mind!
Andre: This question actually brings to mind why I wanted to have the two instrumentals on the album. The two first themes on “Created To Destroy” are sourced from “Ninhagaz” and “Kaizanbar” while the opening and enclosing theme on “Awakening Of The Stars” are sourced from “Lograttin”. This make it easier to understand how extreme black metal and dramatic orchestral pieces fits together.
4. In your composing how did you go about mixing the styles into a unified form?
Andre: I presented finished orchestral themes or/and finished songs with programmed drums to the guitarists and the bassist. They composed their stuff onto the orchestra, and in between played the thing I recommended them to play. Often I hear both the drums and guitars in my head while I’m composing the songs, while other times the guys can surprise me with stuff that I actually hadn’t thought of during the composing process. On Kaizanbar I actually added some dark cello stuff based on a guitar riff that came up. We have now rehearsed together for over three years, and we have built our own studio/rehearsal room, so we now have the possibility to work on the songs more together in he actual composing process.
5. What is your background as a musician – I guessing that the success of IAT’s unique sound is no doubt based on this skill and experience!
Andre: The truth is that I have not much background as a musician! As mentioned earlier in this interview I didn’t release anything until the Gromth album in 2011. I wrote some keyboard stuff in the 90s, but I haven’t used any of that stuff really. I was playing different instruments as a child and a youth, but that’s it. But when I finally started to write music again back in 2010 I practiced a lot on the piano as I was playing together with skilled people. I guess my main talent is composing, and I just need to practice a lot to be able to play the complex shit I compose live he he.
6. What attracted you to black metal in IAT rather than the other extreme styles like death metal, deathcore, industrial etc.
Andre: As mentioned initially I have been a journalist for a long long time, and black metal – primarily the symphonic part of the genre – has always been my favorite style of metal. I’m very into death metal as well, but even if I have played bass in a couple of other projects for a while I’m not by far good enough to play the kind of death metal style I prefer. But for Images At Twilight it was never any doubt of what style of metal that would fit all the orchestrated stuff.
7. There’s a definite air of quality and stylishness in IAT which seems almost the antithesis of black metal especially in its moribund outlook – when I listened to the songs it took me back to my fjord land trips where I felt myself in a cabin surrounded by majestic mountains like on the album cover, rather than being a depressed 17 year old kicking over gravestones in the rain heh heh
Andre: The music in Images At twilight is more about the big epic sound than the grim early 90s style of black metal. I like that style very much as well, but the whole idea and the vision behind Images At Twilight was to not holding very much back concerning huge orchestrations as well as high speed extreme metal. I have other bands and projects that deals with other styles within metal and sort of redeems other desires I have in music.
8. That quality seems to be carried through to the star line up so again was this deliberate rather than working with unknown musicians?
Andre: Fortunately I have been involved in the Norwegian metal scene for a couple of decades as a journalist and I have regularly related acquaintances in the scene on a tons of concerts, festivals and at parties. That helps when you finally start gathering the right people for a band of course. To find a drummer who could manage to play as fast as this music demands, and at the same time be able to perform it live with a “click” (metronome) in his ears to all the orchestral playback, was the biggest challenge. Anders Faret Haave from Blood Red Throne and In Vain was the right guy in the end. He’s a world class drummer, and I know he really enjoy the challenges he gets by playing in Images At Twilight. I also needed guitarists who could cope with this tempo, and at the same time be able to compose their stuff to fit all the orchestrations. Viti from Hinsidig, Bolverk from Ragnarok and Tom Arild Johansen from Perished and Bloodthorn was in the end the right guys to take on this challenge. Narrenschiff was the man to complete the puzzle. He turned out to be the right man to express the epic lyrics with his huge range of vocal-abilities. Then we mixed the album for a period of over a year with Devo of Marduk-fame. He’s is also an important puzzle in this. It’s quite crucial to work with the best people, especially when you have as high expectations and ambitions as I had when I started this project.
9. Personally I found the material really epic, and battle ready befitting a Viking theme so why the extra terrestrial concept?
Andre: That’s just the idea Bjørn Nørsterud came up with. As he said in another interview; -“Kings is a concept album about five kings that ruled the earth thousands of years ago. It all started out when I heard the music that Andre wrote, and I wanted to have an equally epic story to match it. So I abandoned the lyrics I had written, and went all in with this concept. Its inspired by old Sumerian myths and legends, and also the translations of Zekariah Sitchin. The chapters are there to clearer understand the story. The singer, Narrenschiff, had to do some changes to the story, in order to make it easier to sing, but the essence is still there”. I think Bjørn could have written a Viking theme or other epic themes as well, but as you may hear, it’s a lot of horror and sci-fi influence in the orchestration as well, so I was really pleased when I first read the lyrics. On the next album we’ll perhaps have a very different lyrical approach, we’ll see when we have wrote some more music.
10. Speaking of battle, there seem to be some really big dudes in the band, so I’m almost wondering if we need to wear body armor to see you live?! When’s that gonna happen by the way….
Andre: Ha ha ha. You just came up with a splendid idea for new merchandise! People can buy Images At Twilight body armor to invent getting beaten up by the big guys in the band after the concert he he. Well we just came home from a ten days long European Tour with Master. Now we are working on a concert in Oslo to launch the album at home as well. Then we are talking about going on a Norwegian tour perhaps together with another band from the Indie roster. We are constantly searching for festivals and new tours.
Ok Andre, thanks again for your time!
Andre: Thank you very much for the interview!