Ex-Mayhem Legend Blasphemer Discusses RUÏM, Says Fans “Know Where This is Coming From”
Founded in 2020, RUÏM is the groundbreaking new project of the legendary Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen and the stellar French drummer César “CSR” Vesvre. Blasphemer is known as the architect behind classic Mayhem releases that signify what the genre has to offer. His other bands, past and present, include Vltimas, Mezzerschmitt, Aura Noir, Earth Electric, Twilight of the Gods, Ava Inferi, Nader Sadek’s eponymous supergroup, Testimony, etc.
RUÏM’s debut, Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja, expands upon Blasphemer’s Mayhem-era legacy. It was a natural reflection of Blasphemer’s perfectionism, dedication, finesse, and ingenuity. While Blasphemer has provided vocals for other groups, it’s worth noting that he lent his voice to Black Royal Spiritism.
We were honored to have some time to chat with Blasphemer as we get closer to the release of Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja. The following is our conversation with the man that many hail as black metal’s greatest guitarist and composer.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja. I love the album! Is there anything you would like listeners to know in advance?
Nah. I think if people are familiar with my background, they kind of know where this is coming from. Yeah, I just want people to basically give it a shot.
This was inspired by the discovery of old riffs from ’98/’99. So, how did you find these Mayhem-era riffs?
Yeah, well, the thing is there’s a guy, who’s actually a friend of mine, Finn Håkon Rødland. He told me that, for some reason, he managed to get ahold of a tape that I had recorded some rough ideas on, you know, like post-Wolf’s Lair Abyss — something that I did before we recorded Grand Declaration of War. So, there were some ideas that were not used and some ideas that I recognized that were already in some of the songs on Grand Declaration. So, he sent this thing to me — he digitized it, and he sent it to me through email.
This was right at the beginning of the pandemic. And, as everybody else, I was kind of stuck. So, I had started working on the second Vltimas record. But since we are the kind of band that likes to jam together in the rehearsal space, I felt there was no need for me to continue on, you know, purely on my own writing the songs. I wanted everybody’s input. So, in that respect, I just started toying with the idea of doing something different — something that I could control without depending on anybody. I wanted to do something to kind of tie in my past with black metal, or with Mayhem, and maybe make a full circle, so to speak. So, that’s how this thing came about.
And, yeah, I’ve been in touch with Peaceville for a long time because I have some records that I’ve been a part of. I talk with them at least a few times a year. So, I mentioned this idea to Paul [Groundwell] over at Peaceville, and he’s a big Mayhem fan as well. He thought this sounded like a really fucking great idea… So, I sent him one riff, and he said: “Let’s do this!” The funny thing is, that riff didn’t even make it to the album, but it will be on the second. But, yeah, that’s how this thing happened and unfolded. He gave me a record deal based on that. So, then, I had to find a drummer. And, yeah, that’s how it started, actually.
Did CSR write the drums on his own, or did you write them for him?
The thing is, I got in touch with a friend. I didn’t actually know the guy before I met him face to face for our first session, but I knew a friend of his. César plays in a French band called Thagirion, and I know the main guy… I asked if he knew any drummers that could be a part of this journey, and he said yeah. He had a really young but up-and-coming drummer that could really fit this thing. He has the right ideals and right spirit for this kind of music. So, yeah, I got his phone number, and we talked for an hour and basically just decided to try it out. Obviously, before I saw him, I saw some video footage and stuff like that. So, I knew that he was more than capable.
So, I called him up, and I flew over to France during the pandemic and met him face to face, stayed there for like five/six days or a week, and we just started working on the songs that I already had laid down the foundations for. To answer your question directly, it was kind of a joint effort at times… So, yeah, some things he wrote on his own. For some things, I kind of dictated how I wanted to hear them. Since I’m writing all the music, all the guitar riffs, I also have a very strong idea of how I want the drums to sound on specific riffs as well. And other things came naturally as a result of us playing together, you know, just enjoying playing. There was a lot of that happening, actually. So, it’s kind of a record that is alive. It’s breathing. You know what I mean. It’s not rigid and stiff… Everything is a process…
Yeah, and it was amazing because CSR’s drums were perfect for the music. So, it was surprising that you’re new to collaborating with each other.
Yeah, I mean, he’s a great drummer, and I’m really happy I found him. And, for me, it’s really-really amazing that the two of us have played together as a band, or as a duo, basically, for such a short time and we still have this chemistry.
And, of course, it was really liberating for you to handle everything else yourself, right? I mean, in Mayhem, you were writing like everything, except the lyrics. So, you basically had free rein…
Exactly. It’s basically the same thing because I wrote the records that I play guitar on in Mayhem. I wrote everything on those. So, this was obviously not a big problem for me. I haven’t had too much experience with vocals, but I knew what I wanted to hear. So, that was the most challenging aspect of this session. Yeah, it was like a trial by fire, essentially. I did record most of the vocals, actually, two times just to ensure that the right intensity was there. So, it took me a while. But, yeah, writing new lyrics, writing music, doing bass and everything… and all that concerns the concept was quite a task, I must admit. It kind of burned me out in the end. I got really-really drained once the album was finished. I’m still kind of recovering, but I don’t really have any time for it because my schedule is really hectic. So, you know, I just gotta push forward.
Of course, you have a ton of incredible things happening, so I can imagine that you’re extremely busy. You just went to Metal Threat Fest with Aura Noir in Illinois. That must have been fun.
Yeah, that is correct. I was there with Aura Noir, and that was the first show of the year. I’ve been writing the new Vltimas record already. We are about to enter the studio as well. And this happened after my album was done. So, I’ve been doing a lot of things, actually. But, yeah, I was also present at Metal Threat and will continue to play with Aura Noir the rest of the year. We also have Maryland Death Fest next year as far as I remember.
To get back to RUÏM, you mentioned your vocals — how much was planned versus spontaneous? I assume you knew exactly when you were going to add clean vocals and when you were going to try different approaches?
Actually, I knew where I was going to put vocals because, I mean, I did my pre-production at home, and I was walking in circles, you know, like Uncle Scrooge does when he thinks. That’s basically how I work when I’m really focusing on something. That’s essentially what happened. I knew where I wanted to put the vocals, but I didn’t know exactly… I had figured out some of the intention as well, of course. But the clean stuff, for example, on a song like — well, it’s kind of a more gothic vocal in a way — “Black Royal Spiritism”… And then, of course, you have “Ao Rio,” which is a Portuguese-sung one and almost sounds Bathory-Viking-era-ish. That was basically done on the spot in the studio. I was just trying because screaming over such moments as that would just be weird, in my opinion. I think I tried to give every song what they wanted and what they deserve, you know, what it called for.
So, yeah, it took some time, as I mentioned to you earlier. I also spent a long time correcting lyrics along the way and once I was done in France — the album is recorded in France. I went over three times. I spent like three weeks the first time, ten days the second time, and ten days the third time trying to finish everything. But, essentially, I ended up doing the final vocals on most of them, not all but most of them, here in Portugal.
I love the vocals on “Fall of Seraphs.” What made you choose that song from Wolf’s Lair Abyss? What made you want to go back and reinterpret that one specifically?
Well, first of all, I must also add that the vocals on that song are actually done by Proscriptor from Absu. I don’t know why it wasn’t written anywhere… So, that is not me. I invited him as a special guest. But the reason to bring this song back is I really love the first EP — it’s really vicious. It’s really a nasty EP. But I wanted to see how it could sound with my current mood or current state of mind, actually. And also, it’s one reason to tie this thing in with my past in Mayhem as well and maybe make a full circle out of it, you know. I feel like I’ve come full circle with this theme now, mainly because this is the first black metal thing I’m doing outside of Mayhem, actually. My other bands are not really that black metal. We have Aura Noir. We have Vltimas. And I also have a Portuguese rock band. So, it’s all different kinds of things. But I felt like tying this in, bringing this song back, and hopefully making an even better version of it than is on the first ’97 release. So, yeah, that was the reason why I brought it in. I really feel that this record is some kind of a full circle, and maybe I can expand further and put all these things behind me. And I feel like maybe I needed closure. So, yeah, maybe this album is that kind of closure. And now, I feel a little bit more free, you know.
Exactly! So, you’ve been asked about maybe reuniting with Mayhem… I don’t really think there would be a reason to because this album is perfect on its own, but would you maybe ever consider reuniting with Maniac or Attila for something?
Yeah, well, I think you nailed it there by saying that I don’t need to do that. I really don’t need to do that. This is my debut, and who knows what the second will sound like. Hopefully, I will keep surpassing myself, obviously. But, yeah, I definitely don’t need the band. They don’t need me either. They have two great guitar players, and they’re doing well. So, for me, that is completely out of the question. I don’t miss that thing a single bit. That’s an understatement, by the way.
As for Attila, you know, I have a lot of respect for him, and I think we have mutual respect for each other. I actually met him in Finland not so long ago. That was super cool! We always had a good crazy creative vibe. So, I never say never, but it would obviously never be a Mayhem setting. And, as for Maniac, I don’t know, he’s doing his own thing as well. I have a good relationship with both Attila and Maniac, actually, probably the best out of everybody in the band… or whoever was in the band. So, yeah, cool guys. Great talented individuals and artists. Nothing but respect. But I think that train has left the station in terms of collaborations, I do believe. So, I don’t see the need. But then again, who knows what tomorrow brings, right?!
Right. You mentioned that you don’t know how the next record will sound. But this is the first part of a trilogy. So, is there anything you would like to share about possible plans for the next two parts?
Sure. I mean, first of all, the titles for both the next records are complete already. That was almost the first thing I did, even before recording the first record. So, there will be a concept throughout the trilogy. I already have two songs for the next record. And, as I told you earlier, the riff that I ended up sending to Peaceville didn’t make the first record, but it will definitely make the second one. I think it’s gonna be a bit more moody perhaps and probably a little bit more organic. But, for me, this is a great kickoff and, you know, like a fist in the face. So, yeah, I haven’t really started thinking too much about number two yet other than possible song titles. And I also have the album title. But, yeah, as I told you, I have the concept, not that much music, two songs — one instrumental and one long one with a bit of vocals.
That’s pretty much what I can tell you at this point. And I need a little bit of time to… I need some distance from this one before I can start on the next one. Besides, I have other things to do as well. So, I will take my time, but I hope that it will be out by early 2025. And then, I will probably do some special one-off festivals as well. So, I’m gonna build it to the stage at a certain point.
Do you have any idea who your live members might be?
Yeah, but it’s probably more unknown French guitarists or bass players. There’s an opportunity for a Portuguese guitar player here, you know. I like to keep it with people who have the right spirit for this, and, obviously, they need to have some kind of technicality. They need to be able to play this stuff because not everything is super simple, you know. It’s quite complex, some of this stuff. And it’s quite fast. And I’m very picky with the people I work with. So, yeah, for sure that’s going to be a challenge, and it’s gonna be a search, I’m sure. I have some ideas, but I don’t want to reveal any names.
It would be great to hear lesser-known talents. So, I would like to ask: with Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja, what was the biggest challenge that you faced?
Well, obviously, it was made during the pandemic, so that itself was a challenge. You know, it’s like, one thing is that you’ve been locked inside your own apartment. There were times when we couldn’t even exit. No one could. It’s like, okay, you can go to the supermarket, but you are not allowed to go to Lisbon. I live in kind of a suburb of Lisbon, just across the bridge, but we were not allowed to go to Lisbon at one specific point. So, you can imagine that everything is blocked off, essentially, and you’re sitting here with this monster of a record. That itself was kind of a mental challenge. The other challenge was to get to France where my drummer rehearses. He rehearses in the east of France. So, I had to fly to Lyon and then take a train from Lyon to Dijon. And, you know, with all of the problems with the health attestations, all the certifications that you have to show, it was a nightmare. I never really knew if I could come home back to Portugal because, suddenly, if I caught something in France while I was rehearsing, I would be put in quarantine for like twenty-one days or whatever it was, you know. So, everything was a gamble. It was like you couldn’t really relax. It was complete nonsense, of course, but that’s what it was.
Apart from that, also on a more spiritual level, working with this kind of music is very challenging in itself. I always felt that when you deal with these things, then you have to mean what you’re doing. You have to mean what you sing about or what your lyrics are about. You have to mean it. So, when you go very-very deep into these things, then it can drain you, you know. I became very drained and very tired, essentially — maybe not so much doing guitars and the bass, because that is a bit like cake for me, I’m so used to doing those things, but the vocals. As I mentioned earlier, I recorded them two times. The first time was in France — well, not everything was recorded in France, but I started doing them there. And, you know, it’s quite dense. Some of the lyrics are quite dense as well… And every word has a meaning, everything means something… It was like a process of fighting through something, you know. It’s like hitting a wall, and you have to break through it. So, yeah, that’s one thing that’s more like the spiritual… or maybe the artistic rough part that I went through. But I think the most annoying thing was actually the restrictions that were put on everybody during the time. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t fly freely, couldn’t do anything really. So, there was a lot of file sharing at one point.
Wow. That’s a lot to overcome. I really like that this album was an international effort. Regarding the lyrics, did you just know intuitively when you wanted to use English versus Portuguese? There was even a little Norwegian.
I’m singing a lot about spiritism and especially Brazilian-originated, yeah, let’s call it spiritism. And the hymns that are sung to these entities are obviously made in Portuguese, which the Brazilians speak — they speak Portuguese. So, that’s why I want to keep within that tradition, you know — to be very close to the lore of these energies. The Norwegian one is kind of a one-off. It’s a loner. It’s a kind of stand-alone track. It’s not really a part of any concept, but it was something that I wanted to do. I mean, I am Norwegian. Why not, you know?! And also, the lyrics are, as I told you, a little bit off the theme, and it’s more about the feelings that I had back in ’94 when I first started Mayhem. So, it’s a little bit of a look backwards in time. I tried to evoke some of the feelings I felt back then. And that’s why I think this song is probably the most primitive of them all, maybe except “The Black House.” So, yeah, it was done purposely. As for the English, I do believe that it’s hard to get away from the English language in terms of singing and communicating. It’s kind of the go-to language, isn’t it?! So, yeah, I knew where I wanted each language in a way. I just wanted to play different characters. You know, the Portuguese character is supposed to be a greater energy; the English one, well, probably me; and the Norwegian one is me when I was like twenty-five years younger, something like that.
Was it hard for you at all to translate your spiritual beliefs into music? Did you face any difficulty with that at all?
Not really. I thought it was super exciting! And it’s a little bit unique as well. I think that ever since I did my first extreme record from maybe — the first one was Black Thrash Attack [with Aura Noir] and then Wolf’s Lair Abyss… I think all of the releases that I’ve been a part of and been playing on and/or composed, they always are a little bit different, or at least that’s what I hope. And, you know, it’s not that I do things differently to be different. It’s just that I feel like I’m outside of everything. First of all, I don’t even listen to extreme metal, except for maybe some old Darkthrone once in a while. Or Bathory. Or Celtic Frost. But that’s it. I don’t listen to any new music. I just listen to my prog records from the ’70s. And some Judas Priest, obviously. Some Kiss. Black Sabbath. But, you know, I never really listen to anything extreme. It’s just… I live in my own little sphere, my own little bubble, so to speak. So, what comes out is natural to me.
Yes! So, I guess it’s probably a really good that you maybe live far away from certain people with a group black metal mentality… This brings me to a bit of an unusual question: before you joined Mayhem, you trashed their rehearsal room, so you hid away for a few years before Hellhammer gave you the call and said: “Hey, do you want to join the band?” Do you think that it was a good thing that you had some time to develop, not completely on your own, but away from the center of the scene?
First of all, you’re very well-informed. Yeah, that’s a funny story. But, you know, for sure it was a good thing at that time… to get away. I also kind of started some kind of a black metal band. I was actually playing drums at the time as well. So, I had some friends coming over once in a while, and we drank a shit ton of beer. We would compose some very Nordic-sounding black metal, you know, quite melodic, actually. It sounded pretty good, but, as you said, suddenly, Hellhammer called me, and I just jumped on the opportunity. But even when I was in Mayhem, of course, I was always hanging around where everyone was — maybe not to begin with because I wasn’t old enough to get in some of these pubs, but eventually I became old enough, obviously.
But I always felt like I was kind of on my own, you know. And I wasn’t following any of the more common paths of that time… or maybe not common but what the majority was doing. I was always doing my own thing. Sometimes, even after Mayhem rehearsals like in ’95 and stuff, I would still just jump on the train and hitchhike my way back to where I grew up and meet up with my old friends, you know, sit and smoke hash for a couple of days. So, I was always going out of that city or the circle of everybody because I never really felt like I was a part of anything. And I think that is what is essentially shining through in my music, I hope and I do believe that.
It definitely does! This record is obviously beyond brilliant, and it just stands alone. It doesn’t sound like anything else, except your work. It’s instantly recognizable as yours, but, again, it stands apart from everything else.
The thing is, I do feel that there’s a red line in my work, no matter what I really do and what kind of music genre. After Ordo ad Chao, I guess, I really needed to distance myself because that record was really draining. And I eventually quit the band like maybe one year after or something. I wanted to pursue something else because it was too much of not being able to look through any windows, you know. It felt like a dark room all the time, being in that band, for me, in the end. So, I did a few other things that weren’t very successful because, probably, I tried to just do completely different things. I did some guest stuff. I did some death metal things as well at one point that didn’t really follow up the red lines that I already kind of established within the Mayhem camp. But this one, I think it’s easy to hear that it comes from the guy who was a part of those three full-lengths and that one — the 12”, you know.
So, you mentioned Ordo ad Chao. A while back, you said that winning the Norwegian Grammy, the Spellemann Award, didn’t really mean that much to you — that you don’t need someone in Oslo to tell you that you’ve done a good job, which is completely correct! But, looking back, do you think that it was a positive thing that Ordo ad Chao was recognized in that official way?
I don’t know what to tell you. It’s like I’m not opposed to these Grammy Awards at all, but maybe I just felt like… I don’t know. It was a bit peculiar for me to think about the fact that that record won and not like Grand Declaration or Chimera, which are kind of more accessible in their own way. Ordo ad Chao is a really-really disturbing piece of music — it’s like, how could this possibly win?! So, I was not sure if it was because of the music that’s actually on the record — the art being created — or if it was to give like a pat on the back. And maybe that was one of the reasons I said that back then. I know it’s a great record. But I do not know if everybody on the jury, which kind of consists of just regular music lovers and some metal people, of course… You know, for them all to kind of decide that this is the best, I always felt that was very peculiar. Of course, it is the best. It was the best out of them. But you kind of have to be deep into the record to understand that, you know. And I just didn’t understand that those people actually could sense that it was the best record.
I mean, I’m not, again, if I get nominated with this one, sure I’ll go and I’ll be happy. So, I guess it’s not really about that. But then again, there’s something to the statement as well that I don’t really need anybody to tell me I did a good job, you know. I appreciate people coming to me and saying that, of course. It’s always great. I love to hear if my music had some kind of an impact on people. That’s amazing. It really lifts my spirit too, you know. So, that is one thing, but yeah… I think you understand where I’m going.
I do… I also think it is important in a way. Even if not everyone voting understands the meaning, they will help put your art into the hands of people who do. Are you afraid that maybe with this record some people will say, “Oh, that sounds really awesome,” and not grasp the depth of it?
You know, I think that people will always… I think there’s a lot of people still struggling to get into the first single out. And I think it’s really-really hard to tell the truth for a lot of people. So, you don’t really know if it’s genuine or not sometimes. But, yeah, back to Ordo ad Chao, that that record even entered the charts in Norway was completely strange for me, especially after we premiered a single “Anti,” which was the last song, prior to the release. And still, I think the album almost came tenth or something in the Norwegian charts, which was completely crazy. And, yeah, I don’t know how many people actually were into, or are into, this record for the right reasons.
And I’m not sure how many of my followers now with this band will be into it for the right reasons, you know, because it is kind of complex. And it’s a deep record. I put in a lot of emotion. And there’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in it. And I think it holds a lot of darkness too. So, it is something to crack through. But I do certainly hope that people give it a shot. This is another peak into my creativity and into where I stand on certain subjects, you know.
Yes. I do think that people will be into this for the right reasons. So, one of the best moments of last year was when Peaceville’s 35th-anniversary compilation, Dark Side of the Sacred Star, was released. You have the second track on that right after Mortem. What was behind your decision to choose a different mix of “O Sino da Igreja”? Were you presented with the option to create a brand-new song? And were you a little bit afraid that having this piece of the album in advance might spoil it in some way?
The thing is that we recorded one more track, but I decided not to use it because of an ending that I wasn’t completely happy with. So, I will re-record it for the second one. Yeah, I think it was as simple as showing Peaceville, or Paul, that, okay, we’re done with the recording. This is how it sounds. And this was the song I sent to him. And he was like: “Oh, great!” Then, suddenly, in the same email, he asked me if I would be willing to give one song to his compilation. And I was like: “Yeah, alright. What about this one then?” You know, I already kind of sent it to him. It was not done. It was a mix still, but I wanted to give him a taste of what the album would sound like. So, I think it was as simple as that, really. I didn’t think more about it. Besides, all the songs that were completed are on the record, so we didn’t really have anything more. But I think you’re on to something as well. I didn’t really want to spoil the… because, again, the album has a theme, you know. It will, as I said, be part of a trilogy. There will be a theme throughout all three albums. Having a song that is not on the record would seem a little bit, I don’t know, maybe out of it.
Pre-order Black Royal Spiritism – I – O Sino da Igreja here.