I recently caught up with Jake of Æther Realm to talk about the bands’ upcoming album, “Redneck Vikings From Hell”. The guys had also planned on kicking off a North American tour next month in support of the release, but as with the current situation with Covid-19 and the CDC regulations and guidelines, they recently made the announcement that they are postponing the tour. You can support the band by keeping an eye on Naplam Records Coronavirus band updates page, and by picking up some merch.
Hey, Jake, how’s it going?
Thanks for taking some time to speak with me. I know things are a little crazy right now. How have you guys been doing?
Well, you know this thing is kinda hitting everybody. It’s not like woe as me or anything. Everybody’s having problems right now. We all have day jobs thankfully. I work in a pharmacy, so I’m still going to work. I still have the income coming, and Tyler works for a graphic design company so he’s working from home. So it’s not hurt us as much as it has with some other bands. We’re, doing all right.
That’s good. Are you guys going to make any announcements about what you’re going to be doing with the upcoming tour?
We’re looking at Friday. Everybody sort of knows that’s the elephant in the room right now.
Do you have any ideas about how long you might postpone it?
Yeah. I don’t want to announce dates yet. Mainly because we just don’t know how this thing’s all going to go down.
Are you thinking of rescheduling for this year or are you going to push it into 2021?
We’re trying to do this year.
I wanted to talk about the upcoming album, I know you recently released some new singles. The first song, “Goodbye” is a great indication of your distinctive sound that embodies musical influences that are not strictly associated with death metal. The opening guitars almost have an arena rock vibe. How far did you take this album in terms of exploring different influences?
That’s a good question. I think that we have always sort of been all over the map. I dunno if you’ve listened to Tarot, but on that album, we have songs like the “The Devil”, which is like sort of technical death metal almost with the main verse and chorus section.
And it’s a very long song. Not the longest one we have, but it was like eight minutes or something like that. So that co-exists on that album with something like “Temperance”, which is mostly acoustic and some normal vocals instead of screamed. So we’ve always sort of been all over the map with in terms of style. I think this one is the same in that sense.
We wrote “Goodbye” almost 18 months ago, I want to say. Because that was one of the first ones we put together. I was thinking about while we were writing it, we’re just kind of figuring out what we’re doing with it, and I was thinking about bands like Amorphis in that sense.
My vocal range is pretty low. I can’t hit all the big Wintersun Jari Mäenpää high notes. So we’re kind of trying to play to our strengths in writing stuff that is more fit for a lower range vocal performance. So we’re thinking of something of that. As the song came together, we started thinking about how it sounds a little bit like HIM. Ville Valos of HIM.
And it was sort of a scary thought because the metal community can be very ruthless when it comes to like, perceiving a band as selling out or do something different. We sort of labored over for a little while. We just thought, why don’t we do it? But at the end of the day, we kind of came to the conclusion of let’s not worry about what the metal community is going to think about what we’re doing. Let’s just make the stuff we want to make as we’ve always done.
You know, they’ll either like it or they don’t like it. We didn’t go into writing that song by saying, let’s write a butt rock anthem. It was more just how it came out. I think we still got some of those melodic death metal riffs in that song that we’ve had on previous albums, but, we’ve got this big old arena rock chorus. I’m happy with it.
How did you end up working with voice actress Erica Lindbeck for the track “Slave to the Riff?”
I guess the main way that happened was that Heinrich and Erica went to middle school together, and we hit that point in the song and we sort of knew that we needed something there. I thought, what if we like hired a voice actress or voice actor on like Fiverr or something to do this thing. Heinrich just said well, you know, I could ask Erica if she’ll do it. So he did and she said yes. So very good on her for helping an old friend out.
On this album, it seems like you are going bigger and more Epic than ever. Was this a conscious choice or did the song simply take on a larger scale?
I mean, we’re always trying to sort of go bigger and more than epic. This is what we’re slaving over in the studio. Trying to figure out how to smash our old stuff into the ground and make the new stuff the best we’ve ever made.
So in a sense. Yes. And then we also had a lot of help, which we always do. We always have our friends that can do things that we cannot do. On the last album, it was Dan Müller from Wilderrun who did all of our orchestration and that came out great. This time around, we had our friend Ben Turk of Gloryhammer. He is their drummer and also does their orchestration.
So he did our orchestration for this album. The way that workflow was, is we would usually send them sort of a skeleton of an orchestral track. Like we’ve figured out melodies and we figured out tour progressions and all that. And then he brings it to life by painting in all the detail. Deciding that the woodwinds are going to do this and that the brass section is going to do this. He does his orchestral elements in a very real way. He does all of the individual trumpets and flutes and Piccolo’s and clarinets and all of that to a far more in-depth scale than I ever do when I’m the person putting that together.
Do you think that using someone new for orchestration is one of the key differences in terms of your production with this album over your previous work?
I certainly think Dan would have been competent, so I don’t want to put him down. But it was fun working with Ben and it’s always interesting trying to communicate musical ideas that you’re not sure exactly what you want.
You can hear it in your head, but you can’t necessarily express it. And I think maybe the most specific thing is, there’s a moment in the last song on the album where there’s this little orchestral break, and I was desperately trying to get Ben to understand what I was hearing in my head. It’s this little brass part that happens there.
And I was like, “come on, Ben! It’s like you’re watching a movie, and the scene is in space and you see the moon for the first time. And there’s this horn part that plays like a moon-horn man! “You know what a moon-horn is?” And he’s, of course, had no clue what a moon-horn was because that’s not a real thing. And it turns out that I wanted a French horn to play this section. So that’s always fun. I think that Ben added a new element to it.
Different people can bring different things to the table.
Yeah! It just comes out differently.
What would you say makes the new studio efforts stand out from your previous releases?
We went into this album from a writing standpoint. We went into this very intentionally wanting to write shorter songs on this album. We said, let’s make a concerted effort to condense the material a little bit. In the same vein like some of my favorite albums. Like “Are You Dead Yet?” by Children of Bodom, “Stabbing the Drama” by Soilwork.
Just stuff like that where the songs aren’t long-winded. They don’t overstay their welcome. They’re just jam-packed all the way through with Tool stuff going on. It keeps you entertained. And so I think the big change from Tarot to this one was that concerted effort to try and condense the material.
And then of course, by the end of the album, we had this sort of pent up need to do some self-indulgent longer-form content. Which is where we have this 11-minute instrumental track, where we kind of get all that out and say, okay, all right, we can, we can still be long-winded if we want to. We wanted to do a bangers album as was how we’d been describing it the whole time. Short, condensed songs.
Unlike some bands in the metal community. You seem to embrace your Southern identity and your roots. Would “Redneck Vikings from Hell” be a good example of embracing the two communities?
Yeah! I think so. What the attempt was, and I think it came across pretty good though, though it remains to be seen until it comes out and people get to say what they think of it. But we’ve spent a long time presenting ourselves sort of in a very similar way to our heroes. Our musical heroes. Our first demo was called “Odin will Provide”. That was born from listening to a lot of Amon Amarth and Ensiferum and, other bands that draw upon that Norse mythology, and paganism.
Tarot, of course, was more of like an occult mystical theme going across that whole album. And one thing that I think you realize at some point doing that for so long, is you realize there’s inherent silliness to a bunch of kids from North Carolina, the United States, starting a Folk Metal band that sings about Odin.
And so what specifically what that song was, was an attempt to reconcile what we have done up until now, and also the people that we are. One cool thing you get to do and when you’re writing music in a band is sometimes you can sort of write your own back story, and turn it into a bit of a tall tale.
That’s sort of what we did. We said, okay, well, we are undoubtedly from North Carolina, and in many parts of the world, someone would listen to us speak and, and look at us and, and look at all the information about us and, and classify us as rednecks. I think that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re incapable of producing the sort of elegant bombastic art that we want to.
It seems like a fun challenge to try and take that stereotype of the old redneck yokal blowing on a jug in the back of the barn, and sort of pair it with this more elegant higher-brow art with the brass and the woodwinds and strings and presenting that whole vibe. It’s smashing together of everything that makes us who we are.
I got ya. How’s the metal alternative music scene in North Carolina?
It has some good bands. We came up opening some shows for a band called Wretched from Charlotte. To me, there’s sort of melodic death metal royalty. But they never got quite as big as others. There are bands like Between the Buried and Me, which also do sort of a smashing together of very different influences all into sort of a melting pot that becomes what their music is. Of course, we have lots of friends in bands that are all doing cool stuff.
They’re spread out all over. At one point they were in Boone, but I think they’re now in Raleigh called As Oceans that I like a lot. We were on the same local record label or regional record label called Primitive Ways for a long while.
Are there any more undiscovered acts that you think need more attention?
Let’s see. I’m trying to think of the name. They have a song called Longhammer… Undrask! They sort of do that Epic folk metal thing as well. We played with them a few times. (Jak shouts to his bandmates) “Who are some other bands in North Carolina I need to be talking about? Mo’ynoq! Black metal from Raleigh, really good. That’s spelled M.O.Y…….apostrophe? N.O.Q. (Editors Note: It’s Mo’ynoq.)
You guy and your symbols. It is so hard for me.
I know man it’s awful!
We’ve given up trying to type the Æ symbol whenever we type our name. At this point, it’s just like. We just don’t do it anymore. Because 17-year-old Jake thought it all looked cool, and we were like yeah, we’re going to be a cool Scandinavian band. And then we realized that we were not that. And also it was a pain in the butt.
How old are you guys?
Now, I’m 28
Okay. So you guys have been doing this for about 10 years.
I get so many interview requests sent to me like every day, and dozens of bands and everyone has some like, sort of wonky symbol in it. And then here I am trying to figure it out. (laughing)
You can abandon the Æ combination. We did long ago.
How many of the new songs are you guys planning to include on your live sets?
That’s a good question. Because when we were planning to smash this tour out starting April 22nd, we had a smaller selection of new songs. Because there is a two-step process of doing an album and that is one, you record it, and then we figured out how we’re going to play it live. Because the recording process is sort of all tied in with the writing process. So we’ll be writing rifts and then we’ll go back and change them. Then we’ll go back into a song that’s like mostly done and take the microscope to the chorus and say, okay, well, let’s change some stuff around here.
So what ends up happening is there’s a lot of bits and pieces of different songs that get recorded at different times. The only person in the band that I would be confident in being able to play anything from the album would be Tyler, our drummer. Because he’s the one that has to do it all at once in a studio.
For bass and guitars and vocals, we can record a verse and then chill. Then, later on, we can record a chorus and then chill. So later we go back to the verse and change it. When we were planning to start this tour on April 22nd, we had I want to say three or four new songs we were playing.
And then that was mixing with some Tarot stuff. And then something from the first album. But now that we are going to wind up with more time, we may change that up. We may go heavier on the new stuff because I’m just excited about it. The main thing is I want to make sure that we can play it all tight enough live so that it is a good experience.
Because you can always go into it and like not really be able to play it for the first three shows, and then you kind of have it down. But I’d like to have it down the whole tour. I’m always thinking about that when trying to design the setlist.
How much time do we have to get tight with all the material. And it’s pretty challenging material too. Takes a little bit longer than maybe some bands to get tight with it.
That sounds great! Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans?
You know, always classic shout out to the TMHC. Depending on when this drops, hang tight. This coronavirus shit has got us all fucked up. Stay indoors, wash your hands, well you don’t have to stay indoors, but stay away from big crowds of people for a while. As a pharmacy tech, I’m always nervous that we’re going to have some elderly patient that comes in as somebody who’s going to be asymptomatic and give it to them without knowing. So I think that the safer you could be right now. Just hold on tight fans.Pre-order The New Album Aether Realm Bandcamp Aether Realm Facebook Aether Realm Instagram