Aura Noir’s Apollyon is truly a legend in the extreme metal world. This veteran artist has more than earned his place in the history of Norwegian music. Having performed with the likes of Dødheimsgard, Immortal, Cadaver, Lamented Souls, and others, Apollyon boasts a catalogue of must-hear offerings.

The news that Apollyon, Infernö’s Bestial Tormentor, and Darkthrone’s Fenriz had teamed up in a band dubbed Coffin Storm came as a major surprise. This trio will be unleashing their glorious debut, Arcana Rising, on March 29 via England’s renowned Peaceville Records. Arcana Rising stands as a beautiful tribute to the graves of the ’80s. This wonderfully individualistic triumph combines thrash, doom, and heavy metal, promising an epic journey, as gripping as it is wicked.

In celebration of Arcana Rising, we sat down with Apollyon to discuss the album. We also touched upon some of Apollyon’s other musical accomplishments. Please enjoy the result of our conversation.

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations on the new album! I really love it. Obviously, you’ve known Bestial Tormentor and Fenriz for quite a long time. You collaborated with Bestial Tormentor in Lamented Souls. Could you please describe the evolution of your friendship with those two amazing artists?

So, we’re all from the same little town, Kolbotn. However, we all went to different grade schools. You have like five in the area, and we all went to different ones. And then, you have three high schools, and we all went to different ones. But then, we meet up in college because there’s just one college there, but Fenriz didn’t go to that college. So, that’s where I met Bestial Tormentor, in the first year of college. We started the band immediately, I think, or within a half year or something.

I had seen both before… Obviously, the Darkthrone guys were famous in the area. I saw them play live at the local cinema in ’88, I think, when I was in eighth or ninth grade, I guess. But the Darkthrone guys are like one-two-three years older than me, and that’s a lot when you’re thirteen, and they’re sixteen, you know. So, I met some of the other Darkthrone guys before, but the first time I met Fenriz was the day before they went to record A Blaze in the Northern Sky. There was a party that a friend of mine hosted, and all the Darkthrone guys were there, and they were about to enter the studio. So, me and Bestial Tormentor, we were down at the gas station getting some, I don’t know, crisps or whatever, and we saw the Darkthrone guys drive into Creative Studios wearing like corpsepaint, and it was a very “wow” moment.

May I ask whose party it was?

It was a guy called Kjetil Aarhus.

Oh, he helped out with Black Death. [He was also the one who gave Nocturno Culto Fenriz’s phone number after realizing that he would be a match for Darkthrone.]

Grutle from Enslaved also came to that party all the way from the west coast, and so he was talking about starting Enslaved, I remember, because he was in Phobia back then. It was a good-good party.

That’s amazing. Wow. So, you started working on Arcana Rising in 2021, but you and Bestial Tormentor composed the title track twenty years ago. This album surprised you because you thought it would be doom, and it is doomy, but it’s also thrash and heavy metal. So, I was wondering what surprised you the most during the creative process.

Probably Bestial Tormentor’s riffs… I thought it would be more doomy. I had like two hours of riffs that I had recorded that were kind of Lamented Souls-ish. I ended up using a maximum of two-three of those, I think. The things he had made were more thrashy. And we just went in that direction… Or not thrashy, but, you know, some of the stuff we did could have been mid-tempo Aura Noir stuff. I think the stuff I do on the album is not that Aura Noir-ish, but maybe some of his riffs are actually a bit in that direction. That was probably what surprised me the most, plus the fact that we had Fenriz sing on it. I wouldn’t have expected that to happen. I dreamt about it since the ’80s.

So, I would obviously think that Fenriz agreed due to the strength of your artistry and also because you’re a really cool person. It is still really surprising that Fenriz is part of the band because I think the last time he made a full album with other musicians outside of Darkthrone was Valhall’s Red Planet, which was recorded from 1999-2003. Do you think this was maybe partially a matter of asking Fenriz at the right time?

I’m not really sure. I would never have asked him because I know he normally hates to be asked, you know, and he gets asked all the fucking time. So, I wouldn’t have dared to, but Bestial Tormentor obviously did, which was fortunate for me. But he had played on some of the demo tracks we had recorded, and he obviously thought they were okay. I think it helped that we’re both from Kolbotn, and I said: “Yeah, we will only have Kolbton people here.” He’s really nostalgic these days and extremely into Kolbotn for some reason. But, yeah, it’s a nice place to grow up at least.

So, what would you like outsiders to know about Kolbotn?

It’s really close to Oslo, so I grew up a five-minute walk from the Oslo border, but it’s much more quiet. It’s like a suburb. You have all the forests around and even the fjord goes down there as well, so you can do whatever you want. And because it’s so close to Oslo, you don’t have all the prejudiced people. It’s when you get further out that people beat you up in the local bar because they’re afraid you’ll run away with their girlfriends or whatever. You don’t have that in Kolbotn because it’s like a ten-minute train ride to Oslo, so everyone goes there instead. But, yeah, that’s about it. But we have nice forests and lakes and things.

And Mayhem’s Deathcrush was recorded in Kolbotn at Creative Studios as well. Did you give Fenriz suggestions when he was working on his vocals, or did you just let him do his own thing? Did you have a lot of discussions about what you wanted?

No, not really. Maybe we had like a couple of places where we suggested things. I think I went to his place like three times to record songs. The first time, he had this idea that he didn’t want to hear any of the songs before he recorded them because that’s what he thought the first vocalist of Candlemass did on the first Candlemass album. We all had Candlemass in mind for some reason, I don’t know why. But so for the first session, he wrote lyrics and made vocal lines for three songs, I guess, like running back and forth to his bathroom in between… We played some parts, and then he said: “Wait-wait, hold on! I have to run to the bathroom and try to sing.” So, that was done really spontaneously. Three of the songs are done that way. But for the next sessions, I was allowed to send him the songs before he recorded them, so he was well-prepared. I mean, the main thing that I did was maybe to have him sing more than one take on the songs for some of the parts so that I had something to play around with because, you know, this is not a live band, so we can do whatever we want. So, I could just throw two-three-four vocals on top of each other when I felt like it. I love his vocals, and it was a cool thing to do while mixing.

You just said that Coffin Storm is not a live band, but is there any chance that you’ll perform live? I know that it wouldn’t be something that we would expect of Fenriz, but, you know, he has a habit of surprising us.

Yeah-yeah, I know he likes to surprise, but at least not right now… I don’t see that happening really, and it was kind of one of the things we said, me and Bestial Tormentor, when we got together: “This will not be a live band, and it will not be Lamented Souls because that would set limits in a way.” So, I don’t think there will be any live thing ever, no.

So, you produced the album. Did everything go smoothly with that?

Not really. I don’t do so much producing these days with all the technology available. If I wait like two months before I open the studio, I have to sit all evening waiting for things to download and update, and it just takes away all the creativity and fun. But, yeah, in the end, I managed to sit down every night for a couple of hours and do stuff. So, it was good in the end. The drums were recorded in the rehearsal place. Initially, I thought we were going to a professional studio to record the drums maybe, but the other guys liked the sound that I had made from just the four microphones in the rehearsal room, so we ended up using that. And I’m happy with that, but it would have been much easier to have them recorded in a proper studio, just to have the drums sound right and all that.

Well, you wouldn’t want to upset Fenriz because I’ve seen him complain a lot about drums that sound too polished. You know, he likes the real “shabby” drum sound. So, you wouldn’t want to upset his expectations.

No, I just would have maybe placed the microphones differently, I guess, if I knew that it was going to be the actual recording. There were so many cymbals, and when you record in a small room… The overhead microphones were placed really tight to the drums, so it was difficult to get the toms out without getting too much cymbals. There are a lot of cymbals on the album, but, in the end, I don’t really care. At least, it sounds raw in a way.

Yes. So, what would you say was the biggest challenge during the making of Arcana Rising?

For me, it was definitely just trying to make it sound good, you know, the mixing and all that. That was the biggest challenge for me. There were lots of different recordings or sessions. There were like one and two years between sessions, so we didn’t have the same guitar, the same amplifiers, or the same drums, not even the same cymbals, but we just tried to make all the songs sound slightly the same. That was kind of difficult.

Do you think that the space in between helped you reflect and perhaps bring more to the album?

Yeah, that always helps, I think. I think even Fenriz went in and did some parts again from his first session to the one he had a year later. So, I mean, that always helps. I love that with all my albums, to wait like half a year or something after you record them to just listen because, you know, the moment you’ve recorded everything and mixed, you think everything sounds cool. But when you listen to it for a while, there might be some things that you want to change after all and that are maybe not as cool as they were in the heat of the moment. So, yeah, I like to wait and have some space in between.

What are your plans for the future with the band? Have you begun working on more material yet?

Yeah, we did. We actually have very much material, but we lost our rehearsal space. Was that before Christmas or something? All rehearsal places always get torn down or, you know, turned into offices or whatever after a while. And that happened to us now, so we’re in between rehearsal places. But, yeah, we definitely have more material. I think we were on the, I don’t know, third or fourth song before Christmas, so there’s more to come. We just haven’t really played much in a little while.

That’s great to hear that you have more coming. Peaceville is really amazing, and they have the best PR person, Austin Griswold. It’s my understanding that Peaceville is really good about giving artists creative freedom. So, how has it been for you to work with them?

That’s been great so far. Fenriz sent them, I think, one song after the first recording session. I don’t know when that was but some years ago at least. And, after only having heard the one song, they just said: “Yeah, we would like to release this.” But they haven’t really pitched us anything. I think I was the one who set the deadline because I was mixing too much. It was like: “Just give me a deadline, and I’ll finish it by August-something.” But, yeah, it’s been good, and in my career as an album-recording-and-releasing musician, they’re the only label that ever paid us royalties two times yearly. The rest of the labels, they don’t even give us statements or anything. There’s just so much bad stuff going on in the record business. So, when I heard that Peaceville were interested, we didn’t really look anywhere else because, you know, even if we haven’t been on Peaceville for a long time with Aura Noir, they’re still the only one who sends us statements and whatever royalty they owe us like two times a year. They’re definitely good guys, one of the few.

Fenriz has guested with Aura Noir — Bestial Tormentor too — and he sang on a Cadaver track when you fronted the band. You’ve made guest appearances with Darkthrone. I was wondering if there’s anything you’d like to say about those little collaborations back and forth.

I don’t know, maybe I can say about forth; I don’t know about back. We love his vocals and lyrics too, so that’s why we have invited him. I don’t know about them, but I’d like to think that maybe it’s because I’m from their hometown, and they think that’s a cute thing, and maybe they even think my vocals were okay as well. And, obviously, they signed Aura Noir to their label back in the day when they had this sub-label of Peaceville. Yeah, of course, I will say yes if they ask me to contribute to Darkthrone again, and I don’t know about the other way around.

In the past, you’ve played with Immortal, for example, but, to me, it’s especially interesting that you performed with Dødheimsgard for three releases starting with their sophomore album. On the EP Satanic Art, you got to be momentarily known as “Mr. Nebulous Secrets.” I love Satanic Art, and it represents a very important moment for black metal. So, is there anything you would like to say about working with Dødheimsgard and Vicotnik?

Yeah, at least that EP was, as you’re saying, the pinnacle of the black metal thing that Dødheimsgard did for me. We made like four different kinds of black metal. It changed a lot in the beginning there, didn’t it? Actually, Vicotnik had asked me to be in the band like before the first album, I guess, or sometime around that. But I was in the army way up north for a while, so I came back in ’95, I guess, and joined them. But, by that time, they had kicked out Fenriz, which was terrible for me because I obviously wanted to be in a band with him. Dødheimsgard’s second album was more, I don’t know, thrash-inspired or whatever. And then came Satanic Art after that. It was really fast, and we had Galder join from Dimmu and a more Thorns way with the riffs and all that, very typical Vicotnik long riffs. But, yeah, I was super happy with that. It was really good.

So, you’ve made a lot of great guest appearances for bands like Vesen and Gorgoroth, whom you played with live as well. One project that I love that’s really underrated is Secht. Could you please speak a bit about participating in their album?

The thing was that Daniel [Vrangsinn of Carpathian Forest] and Dirge Rep from Gehenna sent the stuff around and said: “Do you want to record anything?” As it happened, we were in the studio with Aura Noir, I think. It must have been around the time when we recorded The Merciless, maybe in 2004 or 5, I can’t even remember. And, yeah, we just listened to it, and we were told we could do whatever we wanted, and I just sang some weird shit. We made some stuff while in the studio, but I haven’t really listened to it much afterwards. But now that you mention it, maybe I should.

Yeah, it’s not like anything else. And, of course, it has the “Narcotic Black Metal” label, and I really enjoy that kind of thing. Anyway, last year, I spoke with your Aura Noir bandmate Blasphemer about RUÏM’s Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja. He’s nominated for a Norwegian Grammy for that. Is there anything you’d like to say about his nomination?

Yeah, he’s a great musician, and I wish him all the best. When he started Mayhem, it wasn’t that easy for him because, you know, it was just difficult taking over for Euronymous and stuff. But we were on his side from the get-go, and I think it was within a year that he joined Mayhem that we asked him to join Aura Noir as well. He’s an amazing guitarist. We tried to make all the most difficult riffs we could, but it just takes him one second to learn everything. I remember back from The Merciless album. I had made stuff that I found a bit tricky. I think he had moved to Portugal by then. But then, he came in the night before and just learned all the songs and just played everything in one take. So, he’s a very amazing dude to have in your band. And, obviously, it doesn’t matter if he lives in Portugal, he doesn’t have to come to rehearsal because he can learn everything, you know, before we finish playing the riffs. Yeah, he’s very incredible, I must say. I visited one studio the other day, and the guy said: “Do you know, your guitarist, he was in my studio once?! He’s the best guitarist I’ve ever had inside this studio.” And he’s had all the big bands in Norway in his studio. And he’s like: “Everything is perfect the way he plays. And everything in one take always.” He was amazed, and that was not a metal dude. He’s just a normal rocker.

Wow. That’s incredible. Is there anything that we didn’t discuss that you’d like to cover?

I picked up the vinyls one hour ago. That’s nice. One of them is black, and one of them is orange.

Those look amazing! Thank you, Apollyon for your time and the great interview. I urge people to go out and buy Arcana Rising because it really is fantastic.

(Order Coffin Storm’s Arcana Rising HERE.)