(Comrade Aleks presents his interview of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mats from the Swedish band Ereb Altor.)
Ereb Altor is a band that doesn’t need a special introduction. It was founded in 2003 by two members of Swedish traditional doom outfit Isole (Mats and Ragnar) to channel their inspiration by Bathory (of the “viking period”) in a new direction.
Cyclone Empire released the fifth Ereb Altor record Nattramn in April 2015, and this new work continues the line of the two preceding albums as the band holds onto the combination of epic Viking metal with both doom and black elements. I was lucky enough to draw the attention of Mats, and he patiently answered my questions.
Hello Mats! As Cyclone Empire has released Ereb Altor’s “Nattramn” album in April 2015, I suppose it’s general news by now. But let me start with another question — what kind of questions make you tired when you do interviews?
No question makes me tired, I just delete the questions that I don’t like or as in many cases the questions that are impossible to understand due to bad English.
No one can force anyone to answer any question and I like that freedom.
“Nattramn” is the fifth album for Ereb Altor and you still keep your brand, developing the band’s conception and improving your skills. Do you feel it as a challenge — to create a record of new songs with some recognizable yet fresh content?
It’s always a challenge to make a new album. A new album HAS to be better than the previous ones, and if you feel you can’t make it better you will have to make it different or wait for more inspiration to make it complete. I know it is always an individual person’s point of view if it’s better or not, but it has to be better for me. I always write music for myself in first hand.
I also think it’s boring to repeat yourself too much, a band has to evolve or else it’s no point of releasing new material.
The band is pretty active, and it seems that you’re always busy with recording sessions or touring. How do you keep such a good form to deal with all of this?
I live and breathe with my music. Every single day I am working with/for my bands somehow. I have only two REAL things in my life that I really care for and that is my family and music.
I admit it has been some hectic years with Isole and Ereb Altor, 11 albums and 3 EP’s in only 11 years. And since 2009 we have been touring more and more.
Still my inspiration thrives, and I feel that I have more to give to the world of music. Let’s not call it a day just yet.
Ereb Altor keep a proper balance between doom and black metal elements on “Nattramn”. Could it be that finally you have turned to the “black” path at last, for example?
The third album Gastrike is the most harsh and black album we have done so far, since I felt that the lyrics on that album needed a darker soundtrack. At this point I don’t think Ereb Altor will turn more Black than we did on Gastrike, but I can’t say for sure. It all has to do with moods and I usually write an album from a clean slate. Only the future can tell for sure.
I have to admit, though, that personally I am more fond of the Epic style of music with big soundscapes and vocal harmonies. Spicing the huge wall of sound with some fierce harshness is intriguing and makes the music more dynamic in my opinion.
How do you share the composed doom parts between Ereb Altor and Isole?
I always work with the band separately. If I am writing an Ereb Altor album the parts I write will be for Ereb Altor, doomy or not. I simply focus on one band at the time. I don’t write albums simultaneously except for Gastrike and Fire Meets Ice, which were written almost at the same time, but both of them are Ereb Altor albums.
And to me the two bands are quite different, even the doom parts.
Ereb Altor’s songs mostly tell stories of Northern myths and beliefs, as we know this topic is popular in metal culture, and some bands are labeled as pagan because they share its conception, more or less. What about you? Is it all a kind of metaphor for you or something more personal?
I am finding myths, legends, and old stories fascinating and I am interested in history and religion. I believe these myths and stories reflect our music well.
I am not worshipping the old Gods of Northern mythology like a religious man, but it’s our history and inheritance and I think we should shed some light on these topics since we hardly study North mythology in school even here in Sweden.
I also find the late iron age very exciting, a lot of things changed here at the end of the first millennium and the beginning of the next.
The last couple of years I have been exploring the folklore myths from Scandinavia and I am still reading everything I can find in this subject.
Ereb Altor will always be connected to our Scandinavian heritage.
Ereb Altor – Midsommarbolt
Some pagan bands have strong anticlerical positions. Do you share that? How important is the role of the church in Sweden?
Sweden is not a very Christian country anymore and it hasn’t been for a long time in my opinion. Still, churches have a big place in our history and the Devil and the Christian God are always present in our folklore.
I rarely visit a church and I have departed myself from the Swedish church. You see, most people still get baptized here in Sweden even if we are not a very religious country and then you automatically will be a member of the church, but when I grew up and could choose for myself I chose to leave the church.
I read in some of your interviews that you’re inspired by Swedish poetry. What was your favorite book in school?
Yes, that’s right I enjoy Swedish poetry.
School… it’s so long ago I almost forgot I went to school. I think I mostly read fantasy like Tolkien back then. I didn’t read that much poetry back then but I remember reading some Stagnelius, which might have brought me in the direction towards poetry.
I read a really good poetry book by Karin Boye recently though.
Both of your bands Ereb Altor and Isole are really prolific, and through this you constantly have feedback from listeners and journalists (or something like that). Do you tire of the constant attention to your person?
I am not reading all the feedback and I don’t answer all interviews I get. I suppose I am not the most social person either. But yes of course I can get a bit tired of it at some point. Sometimes I just try to fly under the radar, so to speak. I am not a frequent user of the social networks and that helps to get some distance from everything.
You always get a lot of reviews for your records; do you feel disappointment from time to time? Or do you feel that people mostly understand your message and resonate with your music?
I never feel disappointed even if there are so many errors in some reviews. It’s only just one person’s point of view and everyone is entitled to have their own taste.
I suppose it’s always good to be visible in the never-ending stream that we call the internet even if not every review is well-written or good, still it’s publicity.
Do you have some ambitions toward tours or future releases after twelve years on stage with Ereb Altor?
We have just recorded seven Bathory covers that will be released this year and I am working on new material for the future.
Ambition is a part of the engine that helps us move further, and I will always have an urge to go on bigger tours and play bigger stages. Performing on stage is the place where I feel alive the most and I can’t see myself getting tired of it.
As you understand, I need to ask you about Isole. Do you have some news about it to share?
We just finished the last show we had scheduled at Summer Breeze Open Air and we will start working with our “new” drummer Victor Parri for real now, to create some Isole magic for the future.
Thank you for your answers and your patience. Odin speed on you and Ereb Altor!
Keep the Flame Alive!