Since I found out that Altars split up and decided to review their only album "Paramnesia" I remembered that I also have this interview, which was done two years ago. Well, it was never published on this blog, so now it's time to give it to you.
Greetings there! It is just awesome that I have this possibility to ask Altars some questions, because - and believe me this is not ass kissing thing here! - I truly think “Paramnesia” belongs to the best death metal records of the recent years. It is truly killer stuff, so the more I feel happy that I can interview you! So, are you ready for the interrogation? Play some killer tune - I have the new Incantation LP on the player when doing these questions! - and let’s start!
Thanks for having us, the pleasure is ours.
Good, but I hope you’ll be more talkative with my next questions! So tell me, are you actually surprised with the reactions “Paramnesia” gets? All in all Altars is small, relatively unknown band from some another world, but I only heard killer opinions on this LP! What expectations, what vision did you have when recording this album? What brings the biggest satisfaction for you, now when the dust is slowly going down and you can look at everything from a bigger perspective? You know, I feel like many bands nowadays suffer for too large ego and often have no idea what an underground extreme metal band should stand for. They want to be huge stars, I feel like it’s not the case with Altars. Tell me if I’m wrong though hehe!
It’s certainly been surprising; it’s great to see such a positive response to Paramnesia, we’ve perhaps for the first time really felt that support and interest from people, it’s a great feeling and we really appreciate it. We’ve always been an underground band, and we’re quite happy doing what we’re doing. We do what we do with a certain level of professionalism and we had a very strong vision for this album and what we wanted it to be, and even then I don’t think it’s perfect. We don’t care for trends, fame, ego’s or conformity - we’re just interested in making music, and realising these visions as best as we can.
As close to perfection as “Paramnesia” sounds, I wonder how was it like to compose such album? How many songs or riffs did you have to throw away in the process of writing it, was it mainly the work of one composer or the group effort? Finally, how did it all develop in the process and where does the influence come from? What approach did you have when starting doing this record?
It was a pretty painstaking process. Some songs were written very quickly (Husk took a short session in the jam room) while others took weeks or months. The sheer number of riffs or ideas that were thrown out in search for what felt ‘right’ is high, I can’t give you a number, but the composition process has always been fairly slow in Altars, although recently I feel it’s increased in pace.
When writing Paramnesia, songs would normally start with a riff or a number of riffs, from there we would begin putting drums to the music and normally further riffs will naturally flow from there. We wanted that spontaneity that happens in the rehearsal room.
Do you think that for such music as yours, intuition or spontaneity plays an important role? Or it is just better when the whole process is planned, carefully organized, so you know how many fast or slow parts there will be, etc? I would rather see it as sort of going with the instinct; some would just call it - however dull it would sound - listening to what your soul or heart whisper you?
It is very much a process of intuition and instinct. Writing music can at times be some sort of spiritual process, I try to rely on these feelings that pull my mind and fingers in one direction or another in order to create different sounds, shapes and colours that form our music.
It’s interesting that I honestly was not so impressed by your demo, which was released as a split with Heaving Earth. It just lacked something what would really strike me hard, that powerful and mesmerizing factor, which “Paramnesia” has. So, I can be only happy that the whole impression is so much better with the album, but do you think it’s just matter of production differences between both releases? How do you see that split and also, you can tell me how did it actually happen you ended up on this cassette?
The split came about from Gab (Nihilisitc Holocaust); he had the idea for the split and orchestrated the whole thing and we were very grateful.
It was recorded by a friend of ours studying sound engineering at university. He had limited access to a studio at the university, so we went in at night and recorded from 10pm to as early as 4am so that we could get the room for as long as possible. We didn’t have the money or the best equipment in the studio, and as we never intended to release the recording (except as a free download), we were happy with it as is.
I quite like the ferociousness of the recording, there are some things that came out well that weren’t captured on the album, and vice versa.
The fact that the music of Altars can be described as kind of old school death metal and thrown to the same box with bands like Ignivomous, Mitochondrion, Portal, Incantation, Disma, etc may be a good selling point today, as these bands get a lot of deserved recognition. Do you feel as a part of this old school death metal movement? From my point of view, yes, all these bands, and Altars as well, play music deeply rooted in the traditions of the genre, but at the same time they’re delivering something new; you know, the aura, the atmosphere of the music is even darker, more hypnotic and powerful; it is almost like a trance sometimes, when you confront these bulldozing riffs. How do you see this evolution of the genre? Hmm, it’s like evolution through coming back to the roots; Ouroboros death metal hehe!
I think you make a good point regarding the cyclical nature of music. I think music always returns to its roots. Our music has these old school elements, but brings a number of more modern overtones to the genre. As we’ve matured as musicians, I feel we’re are less and less concerned with genre’s, definitions, and more interested in making whatever we feel like, because we can.
Paramnesia is a word, which describes disorder of memory, when the reality is mistaken with fantasy. I wonder then if something like this is not a bigger and bigger problem among people; you know, teenagers are so deeply closed in four walls, behind their computers, in virtual worlds and games that soon they have no idea what is going on outside, what is white and what is black. And then some of them go out with a shotgun, thinking this is yet another game they play!
Technology is another tool we can use for good or evil. Balance is the key in life, and by making mistakes young people will be able to learn and grow into adults. The world is changing at a very fast rate, and it’s easy to be afraid of things we’re not yet familiar with, but this doesn’t necessarily make them worse.
I’ve just watched an excellent, unfortunately just one seasonal, TV series titled “Flashforward” Have you seen it? What do you think of an idea, that we can see, get to know a minute of our lives from a distant future? Would it be a blessing or curse for us?
I’m not familiar with the show; I guess this is kind of like the idea of ‘Paramnesia’ or ‘Deja-vu’, except that in your example this is a real thing that happens. I personally think that would be a curse.
I’ve read somewhere that the album is mainly about “life, death and rebirth”. That brings a question how do you imagine an afterlife, if anything like this exists and more so, do you believe in reincarnation? Are such and other concepts of Buddhism familiar and close to you and the concept of Altars?
I’ve studied Buddhism at Univeristy (from an Anthropological perspective); I’ve also attended a Buddhist Wat and undertaken meditation, but I’m not religious or a ‘follower’ of any religion so I don’t believe in an afterlife as such. I simply find the concepts of Buddhism fascinating, and their ethos was an inspiration for this album.
Are there any philosophers, who inspire you also, when writing the lyrics?
That was very interesting answer! There are many opinions that the world needs cleansing, needs to restart, erase the population and come back stronger and changed. What do you think of this impossible theory? If a total war just happened now, would it create more chaos and violence or it would really have cathartic effect on the remaining population?
This is not relevant to our music, so respectfully as a band we do not feel it’s our place to comment on this.
Actually it all brings me back to memories from some awesome sci-fi movies, about post apocalyptic world, like Mad Max, Water World, Terminator, I am Legend, Matrix… What do you think of such cinema? Which films are your favourites? Have you seen Polish comedy Sexmission, where the world is inhabited only by women, because “men were responsible for all wars and crimes” and in such world two male scientists wake up from hibernation? Haha, can you imagine to be in this world hehe?
Haha, I’ll have to look it up. I enjoy a lot of weird ‘arthouse’ films, but sometimes you just want to watch something simple to relax to, it really depends on the mood, time and place.
Vinyl, demo tapes, fanzines… they are the essence of metal underground. Are you collector of such stuff? Tell me then what are your recent purchases and also the most precious items in the collection? And how do you perceive the whole download thing? I personally think that downloading can be OK, if is controlled and goes in hand with extensive support for bands and labels (which means also buying the physical copies of the music, merch, etc).
Some of my favourite ‘rarities’ are in-fact CDs, original copies of Demilich’s - Nespithe, and !T.O.O.H.! – Pod Vladou Bice. Both are classic albums obtained through friend’s within the ‘underground’.
I like to collect vinyl, I’m not so crazy on cassettes but like all format’s I think if you really use that format as a canvas to do something special, then they’re great.
I’ve enjoyed a number of fanzine’s over the years, I’ve thought about making one myself a few times but it’s not something I’ve ever become deeply involved in.
People are afraid of downloads because they are new, I think we’re just really beginning to learn how powerful they can be as a new medium.
You’ve been in good hands of two awesome underground labels – Nuclear Winter and Blood Harvest. I am especially a great fan of the latter; have been collecting their vinyl for many years now and that collection grows and grows. Tell me what’s your impression on working with these two labels? Are you a vinyl maniac? Which of Blood Harvest previous releases you have and enjoyed the most so far?
It’s been a pleasure to work alongside both labels, being from the other side of the world we don’t necessarily meet these people or know them in person, most contact is through email.
I was fortunate enough to meet A.V. from Nuclear Winter/ Dead Congregation when I was in Europe. A great band, great label, and he did a superb job with our release.
Rodrigo/ Blood Harvest has also been fantastic to work with - I mostly have their Australian releases - I’ve always been a big supporter of the Australian underground and Blood Harvest has released some quality Australian albums.
Tell me how such massive, heavy music sounds live? Is it difficult to recapture the powerful energy of the record, the mammoth sound, the feeling? Which songs / parts you like to play the most and give you the biggest energy – those fast, blasting parts like “Descent” or slower, heavy stuff like “Khaz'neh” (at least some parts of this song hehe)?
My favourite songs to play live are Husk and Ouroboros (Paramnesia, part III). Husk is so simple, and powerful. There are parts in Ouroboros that give me a feeling that can’t be replicated in any other setting.
We’ve been told that live, our music doesn’t really come across as Death Metal, it’s more like a Doom or Drone concert: it’s a highly physical experience, the music grabs you and the slower pulsating bass pulls you inside and beneath the wall of noise.
You’ve played only in your continent so far, right? I believe it must be frustrating to live so far away from Europe and US and not be able to tour with so many occasions… On the other hand Australia has created a solid and worthy underground scene with some exceptional, fantastic bands, my favourites being Ignivomous, Altars, D666, Portal, Atomizer, Beyond Mortal Dreams and few more… What’s your view and relationship with the scene?
The scene is quite incestuous as there a fewer people playing this sort of music in Australia, we’ve had the opportunity to play with some of these bands and have seen many of them live over the years. It’s a bit strange as we are still first and foremost fans, and still look up to many of these bands. It’s a bit like being the ‘new kid’ at school.
I must take this opportunity and ask you also about two earlier releases of Altars, one being a demo from 2008… It is quite often that the early demo recordings are far from the musical style (not to mention quality) of full length albums, as the band did not set yet for particular sound/style and was still searching for their identity, they may also seem more immature, so how would you describe this demo to me?
Exactly as you’ve just described it: there were some great ideas, but ultimately it was a very amateur effort, the songs were written when I was very young and still maturing as a songwriter. We had very little money and recorded it in just a weekend, we’ve come a long way and matured a lot since then.
And what about the split with Tzun Tzu? How this one came to be and what can you say about your song “Nepenthe / Sepulchure”? Is this split still available anywhere? Tzun Tzu is another band of Alan Cadman, am I right?
This song was written as a standalone track so it was a little different, it was initially supposed to be a 4-way split 7” but plans changed. When the release was delayed it eventually came out as a split with Tzun Tzu and on CD instead of 7” as originally intended. Alan is now drumming in Tzun Tzu as well, but he wasn’t at the time. That recording was our first time in a studio as a band, again, looking back we hadn’t really matured yet and it was in the years after this release we really began to develop our songwriting skills, and we still are.
What about some other bands, which some of you play like Cyclonus, Monomakh and Sarsekim? I understand that Altars has priority over them all? How often do you rehearse with Altars and I would also like to know if you already focus on writing new songs for some upcoming recordings?
Monomakh and Cycolnus are projects of our vocalist/ bassist Cale Schmidt. The original Monomakh recording also featured Alan on drums. Sarsekim is another band with Alan on drums and our ex-bassist Jon Dewar on guitar.
I’ve recently moved to live in Melbourne, so now both Cale and I are living in Melbourne and Alan is still living in Adelaide. This changes things and our dynamic a little bit, but I’ve been working on new music for our second album. We just debuted a new song live when playing with Undergang (Denmark) and Cauldron Black Ram on their Australian tour.
The focus from here is to finish the music for our next album with the view to get back into the studio as soon as possible.
OK, we shall end here… I believe that all the best is still to come from Altars and if the next album will be better than “Paramnesia” then the world will fall! Just give me some idea for the new songs, which I hope have already been composed and share some upcoming plans of Altars with the readers of Panzerfaust zine! Mega thanks for this interview!!!!!!!!
Thanks so much for taking the time to interview us. The best is certainly yet to come. We’re looking forward to finishing and recording our next album; we’re looking forward to sharing it with you. Cheers.