Members of Dark Aeturnis from Flowing Wells, Santa Rita and Sky Islands high schools are, from left, Cheyenne VanAlst, Austin Kruger, Josiah Cooper and Dalton Spencer. Their music draws on Norwegian black metal and melodic death metal. Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star

Dark Aeturnis lead singer, guitarist and lyricist Austin Kruger said the young band's music is unquestionably dark.

"Our image is extremely influenced from the Norwegian black-metal scene," Kruger said, including "the black and white ('corpse') makeup."

Kruger didn't want to dwell on the attention given church-burning and Satanism allegations levied against some of the founders of Norwegian black metal, which started in the early '90s and in this country is often parodied.

"If you type in 'black metal' on YouTube, you get a bunch of people making fun of it. Everyone is trying to outdo each other on how evil they can be," the 15-year-old said.

Dark Aeturnis, with members from Flowing Wells, Santa Rita and Sky Islands high schools, has also been influenced musically by melodic metal bands such as Cradle of Death and Children of Bodom.

Keyboard player Cheyenne VanAlst and co-lead guitarist Dalton Spencer contributed to the melodic metal sound. "Dalton is the king of harmonization," Kruger said, referring to the twin guitar leads the band often uses.

Still, asked the most common themes of the band's original songs, Kruger didn't hesitate or apologize.

"Darkness, to say the least," he said. "The overall elements are usually darkness, death, hatred, brutality. It's fun. I like horror movies. They give you that feeling, 'Am I safe? Am I as secure as I think I am?' "

Kruger has an affinity for the grim lyrics he writes and sings in a guttural metal delivery.

"As a kid, I wasn't interested in going out and playing football. I was sitting in the corner reading about bats. I had this fascination with morbid things. It's about things that go bump in the night."

The band is also unusual in yet another way, at least for its Battle of the Bands appearances, as it is playing without a bass player. The group's regular bass player is not in high school - and so is ineligible for the contest.

Kruger said their solution to playing without a bassist is to rely even more heavily on their dual-guitar arrangements. Kruger and Spencer play guitars tuned to a lower-than-standard pitch, not unusual in metal, but also use an even lower C tuning on some songs.

"We played a couple of shows without a bass player," Kruger said.

Besides the Battle of the Bands warm-up show at Club Congress last month, he said the band has played club shows at the Rock, DV8, Skrappy's and the Bum Steer in the last year.

Getting ready for that is more than just perfecting the music, because the band puts a lot of effort into its appearance and stage show as well, Kruger said.

The band members, except for drummer Josiah Cooper, wear makeup on stage. They also dress in all black, much of it leather, including boots and spiked arm sleeves.

Spencer, in particular, is adept at whipping his waist-length straight hair in time with the music.

"Me and Dalton practiced synchronized head-banging watching Behemoth (a Polish death-metal band) videos," Kruger said.

He said the band's members want to record some of their new songs and re-record some of those on an EP they did last year.