And while the quintet may have cut their teeth in hardcore punk and extreme metal bands, including JR Ewing and Obliteration, life in the slow lane seems to be working out… as founder, guitarist and vocalist Andreas Tylden explained to Richard Holmes.
rushonrock: Your first release, Dødsønske, was cassette-only and built up a real buzz for Altaar in the underground – why choose to promote your music in this way?
Andreas Tylden: When Dødsønske was released, Altaar was just a solo project with myself playing all the instruments, recorded in my living room and with limited access to proper equipment. I had just started out working with this project after my former band had split up, and wanted a physical format to hand out to friends in the underground – going back to roots, totally DIY with handmade covers, the cassette format and the whole lot. At that time Altaar wasn’t too serious and was more like a hobby exploring, for me, new musical territories.
rushonrock: The new album, Altaar, was very well received by the press on its release in February – has the reaction to it surprised you at all?
AT: We are all totally overwhelmed by the response and did not expect that at all, being a debut album, as it were. It has been received well all over Europe and the UK, which did come as a surprise. ?I am very grateful and do not take anything for granted. It’s a bit weird because I used to tour the shit out of a band to build up momentum. With Altaar we haven’t played that much live yet, except for a handful of shows in Norway and a few handpicked shows in Europe and the US.
rushonrock: Many of Altaar’s members have a background in punk and hardcore, including yourself – so what attracted you to doom?
AT: I have played in many different styles of bands: punk, hardcore, heavy metal, black metal and even 60s freakbeat. When starting new projects I always try to do something new and never repeat myself. I’ve always had great love for doom metal in all its forms. I must admit though, seeing the Japanese band Corrupted play a (close to) three hour long set in London some years ago convinced me to worship doom even more in Altaar and evolve our sound further to what became the album.
rushonrock: Which musicians have been your main influences, both inside and outside the doom/drone scene?
AT: I guess you really can’t hear it musically, but in state of mind and mood we are very much influenced by late 60s psych bands such as The Attack, The Byrds, The Move and Les Fleur De Lys, and of course early prog, such as the first albums by Yes, Emerson, Lake And Palmer and King Crimson. I like to think that the band performs like a contemporary doom band, while sound-wise we try, or at least, want, to sound like those bands from that golden period. The entire record was recorded with a Rickenbacker 12 string, old Vox amps and a Slingerland drumkit from 1971, not to go all trendy and ‘garage’,but in order to capture a certain essence and to capture our wide range of influences.
rushonrock: Your music has a lot of ‘space’ in it, rather than just featuring riff after riff – why do you use that approach and what do you think it brings to Altaar?
AT: I don’t know what it brings to Altaar because it simply IS Altaar. I guess it’s a cliche, but when I started writing the material it all came very naturally. I didn’t plan to make long songs at all. When we play the record live it feels like 10 minutes – and at the same time like an eternity. This is the ‘space’ you are talking about, I believe. However, we did have to consider structure and radically rethink dramaturgy in order to making it interesting. I’ve said this before in other interviews, but it is always important to keep the listener in mind as well as ourselves as performers when making music that is demanding on several levels. On that note it is also very important for us to create moods rather than, as you say, a riff in its traditional sense.
rushonrock: Renowned Norwegian illustrator Sverre Malling collaborated with you on the artwork for Altaar –why did you use him?
AT: He sort of chose us! He is a friend of ours and we feel very honoured as he is one of Norway’s most prominent artists. His drawings are simply brilliant and the actual cover fits very well with the music; the abstract versus the solid, those two obscure figures versus the two songs on the album, all thedetails when you take a closer look, and the references…
rushonrock: Are you currently working on any new material, and if so, how will it differ to the two ‘movements’ on Altaar?
AT: I already have lots of new material for the next record. Hopefully we will start recording early next year. I have no idea how it will turn out, but want to explore the idea of doing shorter songs and experiment with tempo and mood even further. Also, back to your initial question, the only negative reaction to the (current) record is that it’s too short, so I guess the second ‘difficult’ album will have to be a double album, then!
rushonrock: How does your music transfer to a live environment, and what do you feel is the best way to experience it?
AT: I love playing live and Altaar definitely need to be experienced live. In the past we did a lot of experimentation and improvisation and were nervous about how the new material would turn out live, but it works very well. Normally we project images and/or film while playing and use a lot of candles and incense. To us it’s more like a ritual rather than a ‘traditional’ rock show.
rushonrock: Are you planning any shows in the UK at all, and if so, what can fans expect?
AT: Nothing’s planned as of yet, but I’d really love to play the UK again. We book our own shows, so get in touch! What to expect? I don’t know – it’s going to be loud and heavy, but also mellow and calm: an orgy of sound, colour and emotion.