by Niklas Göransson
After almost a decade’s hiatus, Sweden’s In Aeternum return to the stages. Death metal free bird David Larsson talks departure and return, fallen comrades, the turmoil of trying to keep a functional band together and the hard life on the road.
– In 2014, a friend of mine and I recorded a song under the moniker COVEN OF DEATH. It reignited my desire to play, which in turn set the ball rolling.
Once guitar player and vocalist David finally decided to put IN AETERNUM back together, his first move was reaching out to old members.
– I first spoke to our old drummer Perra (Karlsson – DESTRÖYER 666, NOMINON) – then rang up Claes (Ramberg, bass) to ask if he was interested in giving it another go. Both of them were.
The biggest question was filling the vacancy of second guitar player, with the previous occupant having been discharged on allegations of crimes against metal.
– He played well enough I suppose, but after our 2007 tour with ROOT I happened to see videos of our set and was horrified to discover that the man had his hair tucked behind his ears. On stage.
An air of righteous indignation permeates the ensuing silence.
– Not okay, he continues, completely unacceptable – needless to say he was fired at once. He didn’t really fit in to begin with but that was the last straw.
While searching for a suitable replacement, one name that kept coming up was Joel Lindholm (ex-DEGIAL, SHINING).
– I approached him about it, he was keen so we started rehearsing and played our first gig February 2015 in my hometown Sandviken. After seven long years, the desire to play had returned.
Why did it disappear in the first place?
– I was infinitely fed up with being constantly ripped off by labels and promoters, it got to the point where I simply refused to play.
He’s had better luck with Singapore’s Pulverised Records, who released new EP “The Blasphemy Returns”.
– They’ve done precisely what they said they would, which is far more than I can say for past labels. We don’t even have a written contract, only a verbal agreement.
Although this is a rather unorthodox approach, David explains that since contracts always end up breached anyway there’s no point of going through the trouble of drafting one.
– They paid for the studio and agreed to give us a set number of copies of the record. That suits us fine; you never ever end up seeing any royalties either way so why even bother.
The new MCD features an interesting choice of a cover version; a song of the old Swedish black metal band WAR, whose second album “We Are War” (1999) David played guitar on. Other members that participated in this project include Peter Tägtgren, Mikael Hedlund and Lars Szöke from HYPOCRISY, It and All from OPHTHALAMIA and ABRUPTUM, and the late David ‘Blackmoon’ Parland from DARK FUNERAL and NECROPHOBIC.
– It’s a tribute to Parland, who was a good friend of mine. We knew each other for a long time and got along really well.
What are your memories of Blackmoon?
– Only good ones, though admittedly we had our ups and downs. “Nuclear Armageddon” (third album, 2003) was initially supposed to be released by Hellspawn Records, Parland’s old label, but for some reason he didn’t like the sound. He wanted us to re-record it, which wasn’t going to happen – we told him to take it or leave it.
Long story short, the album was released by Agonia instead and they ended up not speaking to each other for several years.
– Then I ran into him at a MORBID ANGEL gig in 2006, we put the whole thing to rest and more or less picked up where we left off. He was a great guy. To be honest it hit me pretty hard when he was no longer among us.
A little known fact is that Parland was in IN AETERNUM for a short while.
– He played bass on a gig in Sandviken. As we were preparing backstage he vanished, it got to the point where I started getting concerned for the show. Two hours later he turned up again; ‘Where the hell have you been?’ Turns out he’d gone to the toilet in a different part of the venue, only to find the lock jammed once he’d tended to business. Finally, he panicked and simply kicked the door down in order to get out.
He seems to have had a knack for misadventures; I recall a few incidents driving up to The Abyss Studios to record the second WAR album.
– Ah, yes – first he managed to collide with an elk, wrecking the car and almost himself as it came toppling over the hood , crashed through the window and landed on the passenger seat next to him.
Alas, the automobile adversities didn’t end there. For his next trip up, with All in the passenger seat this time, he took his newly purchased replacement car which was little more than a rolling wreck. Stopping at the off-license, he was denied alcohol acquisition since he’d forgotten his ID – at 29 years of age. Flustered, he returned to the vehicle, got in and slammed the door shut in anger. The sound of the car door coming off its hinges and landing on the asphalt reportedly did little to elevate his mood.
Are you in touch with All these days?
– Haven’t heard from him in 15 years, he vanished entirely. As did It – until he popped up in Finland a few years later that is, with that magnificent new band of his (8TH SIN).
During the hiatus, there was a period of three or four years where David didn’t even touch a guitar
– I had no motivation whatsoever. Taking it up again was fucking hellish; fingers bleeding, arms burning. It took several months to get back on track.
At least that shows dedication.
– Indeed. I’d say that we sound better today than we did nine years ago. Probably because we have nothing to prove these days, we’re only doing it for sheer enjoyment. We don’t play any gigs that we don’t want to; if anyone in the band isn’t up for it we won’t do it.
David says it’s too early in their comeback to tell if the things that drove him into dormancy have improved by now.
– We played Danish festival Metal Magic in July and the deal we got from them was really good. It shows that they at least understand and appreciate the value in booking a band – that it costs us money to travel somewhere for a gig. So far, so good.
The first time I recall seeing IN AETERNUM live was in 2001, at the now legendarily messy Swedish festival 2heavy4you.
– 2heavy4u was without a doubt the coolest festival Sweden has ever had. Total fucking mayhem, I dare say that everyone has an unforgettable memory in one way or another. I remember that in order to even get our money, we had to threaten the dodgy promoter with physical violence.
The festival saw the first gigs on Swedish soil from bands such as DESTRÖYER 666 and ROOT.
– And NIFELHEIM played their first ever gig; they threw out the entire spine of a cow which landed right on the head of Jon Necromancer from USURPER. Blood, chaos and booze sums it up pretty good.
This gig marked the end for the classic IN AETERNUM line-up from the first two albums.
– For the development of the band it was the best thing that could have happened, but at the time it wasn’t especially pleasant.
The fine tradition of metal calamity was upheld when they embarked on a 2003 European tour with Australian bands GOSPEL OF THE HORNS and RAZOR OF OCCAM.
– It was a three-week minivan tour, with two chauffeurs that spoke only Polish. The bands got along great and we’re all still friends to this day.
The same can’t be said about the bands’ label manager, who was along for the ride.
– We most certainly did not get along. No outright violence but not far from it – we do not like each other, at all.
There exists a rather peculiar picture stemming from this tour.
– That was from the gig in Budapest; we may have been a bit tipsy. I had a fever, so in order to be able to play at all I put away rather manly amounts of hard liquor. That’s when I took the decision to liven up the GOSPEL OF THE HORNS show a bit. Another memorable evening, also in Hungary, was spent in what turned out to be a gay bar without anyone but me noticing.
Do you have an operational ‘gaydar’?
– Most definitely not. It was blatantly obvious – they played nothing but eighties disco and there was not a female in sight. We sat down, ordered beers and … sausages. When “YMCA” came on, I asked the others if they noticed something amiss here. ‘What do you mean?’ Eighties disco, men only – we’re drinking in a gay bar. It ended well enough though, no molestation or unauthorised buggery.
The following year, IN ATERNUM were announced for a tour with DEICIDE, AKERCOCKE and MYSTIC CIRCLE.
– We thought it was killer. It was supposed to go for four weeks, so we rented one of those mobile homes for 1000 Euros per week. Shortly after arriving in England, almost having had our roadie arrested for vandalism on the ferry over, we got word that DEICIDE had cancelled the entire tour.
The reason was that frontman Glen Benton had a bit of a tiff with the guitarists, the Hoffman brothers, who subsequently ended up leaving the band.
– This left us with a 7000 Euro bank loan and very little to show for it. We made it to London and played a show there, despite talk of a few more it never happened – not much to do but return home. Agonia had promised to chip in 2000 Euros in tour support but unsurprisingly, I never saw a cent of that.
David’s favourite tour was April 2005 with ARKHON INFAUSTUS and BELPHEGOR. The Italian date featured an additional few bands; bassist Claes recalls watching the sound-check of Norwegian band GEHENNA.
– One of them was frantically trying to tune his guitar; he must have been at it for at least 15 minutes – without using a tuner. Finally, their keyboard player lost it, hit a keyboard tone and snarled ‘This one!’
Having made a mediocre first impression, things soon went further downhill.
– From stage, David continues, and why I have no idea; one of them threw a water bottle right in the head of ARKHON INFAUSTUS’ sound engineer. This did not sit well with the Frenchies.
He notes that relations did not improve when the Norwegians later requested access to the Frenchmen’s supply of contraband, and did not take no for an answer.
– After some bickering the ARKHON guitar player lost it and proceeded to kick the GEHENNA vocalist in the head. High five on that one, what a bunch of fucking clowns. ARKHON INFAUSTUS were a great band to tour with, I liked them a lot – total maniacs. BELPHEGOR were cool too, though a bit more ordered. Well, besides the Marseilles date when we got Barth (bass) and Hemulth (vocals) drunk as fuck in the middle of the day, then dragged them along into town.
Coming across an enormous fountain, David deemed that some spontaneous splashing about would be in order.
– Until the police showed up and informed us that it was a monument commemorating the Second World War. Having narrowly avoided arrest, we decided it was time to evacuate.
The same year, IN AETERNUM would receive lucrative marketing assistance from a highly unexpected party.
– We’d put out a MCD called “No Salvation” the year before. As artwork, we borrowed an image from that Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ. And when I say borrowed, I mean stole it straight off.
The disputed cover shows the messiah in a state of distress, strolling along the Via Dolorosa with his cross on his back.
– A super-formal letter arrived to our label, warning of impending lawsuits unless the sale of the album was halted immediately. The only thing that ceased was the advertising – we didn’t really need it any longer since the story ended up all over the metal media. We kept selling the album, at an increased rate at that. Cheers, Mel.
Any plans of future tours?
– There’s been talk about doing a European one in spring, possibly with LUCIFERICON from Holland, I’ve also been speaking to SACROCURSE about a few dates in Mexico together. We hope to have a new album out by then. It’s our 25th anniversary next year so we might try to organise something special, a lot depends on Perra who has a really busy schedule.
Besides being a musician, David also has a background as a concert promoter and has in this capacity hosted many memorable spectacles in his hometown Sandviken, approximately two hours’ drive from Stockholm.
– My favourite must have been DESTRÖYER 666 in March 2003. The after-party lasted until 11am, when the DESTRÖYER boys had to leave for a gig in Gothenburg. The only thing in the way of booze left at that point was moonshine, flavoured with squeezed lemon.
Another memorable episode was the local newspaper sending a reporter to cover one of the concerts.
– Yeah, David reminisces laughing, I forget which gig that was …
IN AETERNUM has a long-standing tradition of four-stringed fluctuation.
– I’d thrown out my first bassist before we’d even recorded the “And Darkness Came” (1997) MCD. His replacement was equally worthless; we had to re-record about seventy percent of his attempted contribution to the debut (“Forever Blasphemy” 1999).
After further embarrassment on the subsequent tour with IMMORTAL, something had to be done before recording follow-up album, “The Pestilent Plague” from 2000.
– I took the liberty of buying him an instructional video on how to play bass; ‘Perhaps you could have a look at this, pick up a technique or two?’
– Not in the slightest. He was really offended and refused to even watch it, so he was fired. His successor could play but had a personality that almost saw him literally kicked out three days into the MALEVOLENT CREATION tour in 2001.
I glance towards 2005 to present-day bass player Claes, a giant of a man. That one looks a bit harder to evict.
– Big bad monster, David confirms, but no need for that – he’s the first bass player that’s really fit the bill.
– I’ve picked up a thing or two about playing bass in the past 11 years, Claes informs me.
At the time of the interview, David is a bit banged up from a recent motorcycle accident.
– Ten days ago now, he explains, I was extremely lucky – if you’re hit by a car doing 100 kilometres an hour you really shouldn’t survive. I was stuck in a queue behind a tractor when these morons rammed me from behind.
What’s the damage?
– Nothing broken fortunately but my neck, back, collarbone and shoulders are fucked up. Better than death or paralysis at least, my bike was completely wrecked.
Besides metal, motorised velocipedes are David’s other big obsession in life.
– A perfect union. Take JUDAS PRIEST for instance, Rob Halford entering stage on a bike. Same goes for MANOWAR – it’s clear for all to see that motorbikes are heavy as fuck.
David describes himself as a fifty-fifty hybrid between metalhead and biker. It’s from the latter scene he’s picked up the biggest part of his outlook on life.
– Do exactly as you please, with not a care in the world about what others may think about it – but be prepared to take responsibility for your actions. That’s my philosophy. I never let anyone tell me what to do, believe or think. If someone has a problem with that they can get fucked, consequence be damned.