(Comrade Aleks brings us this interview with Evan Paulson of Saskatchewan’s Altars of Grief, whose fantastic new song from their split with Nachtterror we premiered here not long ago.)
The official press-release of Canadian label Hypnotic Dirge Records announces with justified enthusiasm: “This summer, Altars of Grief and Nachtterror — two Saskatchewan-based Blackened Doom bands — will collaborate on a new split vinyl with new material from each band. The vinyl split, entitled Of Ash and Dying Light is set to be released worldwide in a limited edition 10″ vinyl, as well as digital, on Hypnotic Dirge Records in early August!”
Well, I have not too much to add – you already heard a song from this split as Islander shared it with NCS readers a few days ago through “An NCS premiere” section, so I’ll just give a floor to Evan Paulson, Altars of Grief’s guitarist.
Hail Evan! I was glad to discover Altars of Grief with that promo of your forthcoming split-album Of Ash and Dying Light with Nachtterror. How did you attract the attention of Hypnotic Dirge Records, who will release this record in August?
Hello Aleks! I am glad you were able to check out the split! Hypnotic Dirge Records got in contact with us around the time when we released our first music video, “Only Our Scars”. Nick messaged me and was wanting to do some stuff for future projects, and ever since then we have been working together and it has been a real pleasant, very professional experience.
I know that Altars of Grief have self-released the full length This Shameful Burden, yet I haven’t listened to it yet. What is it? Is it the kind of dark blackened doom metal as you recorded for the split?
This Shameful Burden is a dark record indeed; it’s not as emotionally suffering as Of Ash and Dying Light. The lyrical side tells a story, and as well has some personal experiences for This Shameful Burden. For Of Ash and Dying Light, the music was focused 100% on emotional impact as well as the lyrics.
Well, what has changed your approach to music? Did the first record help you to rid yourselves of those emotions and allow you to start composing songs for a split refurbished from the past?
Oh absolutely, with This Shameful Burden it definitely got rid of a lot of emotions, but with this split coming up, I really wanted to dig deeper into the emotional aspect, and it worked out great! With “In Dying Light” and “Your Heaven” you can definitely hear it and I’m very proud of my accomplishment for what I created in the music.
What was your intention when you started Altars of Grief? Did you see it as a real artistic unit with a lot of space to experiments or did you have some example before your eyes to follow?
Our main intention was to make Altars of Grief a side project to go to when we had nothing to do in our main bands, but as time went on our main projects started to fall apart and Altars of Grief quickly became the main primary focus. On This Shameful Burden, there wasn’t a whole lot of experimentation, but as time came on for Of Ash and Dying Light, the music became a lot more melodic and more fresh ideas came to the table for more experimentation.
Altars of Grief “The Plague That Haunts the Darkness”
Do you have some bands who have played an authoritative role or who have shown you an example of how to work, how to create, how to struggle maybe?
We’ve watched a band from here called Into Eternity gain international success, and it’s inspired us to be the best most professional group we can be. As well, we are hugely inspired by Psychotic Gardening.
Do you plan to support Of Ash and Dying Light with gigs in Canada or outside of it?
It’s ideal to get out of Canada and tour as much as possible, but of course you have to work around everyone’s schedule. We all have full-time jobs, so it’s not as easy to just to go out and do it whenever we want. We like to be prepared for the worst, so we have some cash in our pockets, and not be in the red.
I caught myself thinking that I heard nothing about metal fests in Canada. Do you have some?
We sure do have some festivals down in Canada. For around our territory we got Farmageddon Open Air, Calgary Metalfest, Armstrong Metalfest, and Loud as Hell, just to name a few around the area.
I always think that split-albums are kind of conceptual works, as bands who take part in them have to complement one another. Did you discuss something with Nachtterror before you recorded your songs?
The idea of doing a split came from the fact that both bands write about similar concepts lyrically, and musically are very focused on creating tragic soundscapes.
What are the essential elements of Altars of Grief sound? May the band exist without clean vocals or – vice versa – without black metal parts?
The thing with Altars of Grief, basically we write whatever we write, and the goals we had before are completely different from what we have now. We experiment more than ever, so there is no specific formula to have an Altars of Grief song. We don’t go with, “There needs to be a fast part here, it has to be doom here.” It’s more what we are feeling that specific day when we get inspired.
How do you see the strong sides of Altars of Grief?
The strong side of Altars of Grief is the members — everyone in this band has the same mind set, we are all on the same page, and we all share the same goals. It’s not one person who focuses on Altars of Grief to get successful, everyone has the same focus, which is absolutely beautiful.
Evan, please name the most expressive song on the new album which best incarnates the real face of Altars of Grief.
The most expressive song is “Your Heaven”. It is the most painful / emotionally suffering song we have written, the lyrics have the same intensity as the music. Musically that song absolutely destroys me to play — I put in so much depression and personal experiences into that song while writing it, and it messes with me mentally. But it is very therapeutic at the same time. It’s that kind of song that causes stress, but by the time you are done playing it, all the stress is gone and you feel 10 pounds lighter.
Altars of Grief perform three songs for this split album — the third one (“Room of Angel”) is a bonus track. Will it be included only on the vinyl edition?
No it won’t be on the vinyl (download only). We wanted to focus on releasing our own material, and also wanted to avoid any legal issues.
Evan, thanks for your time – that was my final question. Let’s sum up – what can your listeners expect from you in 2015 and where will they be able to hear Altars of Grief?
Thank you very much Aleks for the interview! So far, for what we got lined up for 2015, we are doing an Alberta run, with Nachtterror and Numenorean and Ye Goat Herd Gods in July. Then in August we got a couple shows in the Saskatchewan and Manitoba regions in August, with Numenorean. Then we head off to Victoria in September to go to Breakout West because we got nominated for Best Metal Album of 2014. Hopefully, we’ll do some shows in between and take a break to write the next album! You will be able to hear our entire split online on July 10th on our Bandcamp! Support your scene, go to shows, buy merch, and help the underground stay alive!
Of Ash and Dying Light is available for pre-order on limited-edition 10″ vinyl as well as digitally. Pre-orders are available now at this location.
Great interview Aleks! I like all of the introspective questions about lyrical themes and the emotional content behind the songs. I first heard “The Plague That Haunts The Darkness” on the Subartic Nocturnes comp that Hypnotic Dirge put out back in February. “This Shameful Burden” is a grim but beautiful record. Can’t wait for this split!
Thanks for feedback mate!
Can’t wait to hear the whole thing on Friday!
cool interview! the artwork for “This Shameful Burden” is fantastic 🙂