Good evening Shadow and many thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Let’s get right to it: you have just re-released your self-titled debut which was originally released via Christhunt in the year 2004. Were there any difficulties in getting the rights for the music back from the label? Or were you always the owner of the music and could have re-released the album also earlier? If so, is there a specific reason why you decided to re-release this first full-length album now in the year 2019?
Hi! I have rights to all Black Altar recordings, so it wasn't a problem. I decided to release this CD in my Odium Records again, on the 15th anniversary of its original release by Christhunt Prod, as a digipack, with new lay out and new mastering. I don't know what Christhunt Prod distribution looks like and if they still have this CD, but I have my distribution channels, I'd say more official. In addition, I wanted to have many free copies at hand, and not have to exchange or buy my own CDs.
The album “Black Altar” was re-mastered by Satanic Audio whose mastermind has worked together with some rather famous bands during the last years, like, for example, Behemoth or Blaze Of Perdition (which are extraordinarily great). Why did you go to Haldor Grunberg for the re-mastering? Which of his works do you find the most inspiring?
For some time I watched this studio and its owner and I knew he was really good at what he does. Therefore, when it came time to mastering, it was my first choice. I gave him a free hand and quickly he did a good job. I am most pleased with the end result. I think that both Behemoth and Blaze of Peridtion are one of his best productions, although in case of Behemoth he wasn't involved in mixing or mastering but he was one of the sound engineers.
Shortly staying with the topic of the re-mastering: why was it necessary to re-master the first album? What where the greatest problems in the sound according to your ears? Where did you see its flaws?
The debut album was the last major production of the cult studio Selani from my city, where Vader or Behemoth recorded their albums as well. However, all production was a little too dirty, packed and distorted. Haldor added a lot of medium frequency to it, changed a few things and it sounds much better now.
When you listen to these songs of classic black metal in the year 2019, what kind of emotions do they stir up in yourself? Do you look onto those days with nostalgia? Or how do you judge these days of your career about 15 years later?
For sure those were completely different times. Black Metal was not so commercial yet, it was surrounded by a nimbus of mystery and worship. There was no Facebook or any other popular social networking sites at the time. I'm not sure if even youtube was already there. Everything was more honest and serious. Today we know how it is. However, I'm not going to complain strongly, you have to adapt to current reality. Today's media offers much more opportunities for promotion and communication.
“Black Altar” is what one might consider an old-school inferno since the visuals, the song titles and the music itself is rooted very deeply in the traditions of black metal. Can you remember the moods and the overall atmosphere when these songs were written? How do you have the feeling that you yourself and BLACK ALTAR have evolved artistically since the year 2004?
The atmosphere did not change significantly. I certainly knew then, that the debut album is a milestone in the band's development and the music it contains is definitely something new and the best we've created so far. It has new, very good musicians who have always influenced the style of Black Altar. It is hard for me to notice some big differences apart from the fact that the Black Altar style is already formed, generally people know what to expect from us. There is some natural slow evolution there. The songs are of higher quality, but in general the core of the style, the assumptions I had when setting up the band and my passion did not change.
On “Black Altar” we can hear the two musicians Lord Von Skaven (guitars, vocals) and Antichrist (drums) – do you still have contact with these two band mates? How are they doing? Are they still active in the heavy metal scene?
Yes, I am still in occasional contact with them, recently even often. A drummer who is also a good guitarist often helps me with various things. However, he has not been active in music for years. Guitarist Lord von Skaven plays all the time at home, but switched to drums. Both are very talented, but somehow without the ambition to use their talent more widely. It can be said that Black Altar was their only real band.
A new release is in the pipeline, namely a split with the Norwegian black metal guys from Kirkebrann. It has been quiet around these guys since 2015. Is the split together with BLACK ALTAR also a sign that they are going to be more active again? And why did you specifically want to do a split-release with Kirkebrann? What makes their art special?
Yes, Kirkebrann is now preparing a small publishing offensive. Their new album will be released in the first half of 2020, split with Black Altar and another one with different band. So 3 publications in a very short period of time. The fact that we do split is rather a coincidence. A friend of mine from Norway, from Svikt band, who I once lived with for over a week in Bergen, talked to me and mentioned that he was mixing their album. We came up with the idea that it would be nice to do split with them, Kirkebrann also liked the idea, and then we started to set the details. I've always liked their music, it's not revealing, but very solid Norwegian black metal.
You have already mentioned that some bigger changes are happening in the BLACK ALTAR bandcamp – Lars Broddesson from Funeral Mist, (Ex-Marduk) and Mauser (Ex-Vader) joined your ranks as session musicians. How may we imagine your collaboration? Do you do all the song writing and they are “simply recording” the material? Or do you also involve them in the song writing? And how did you get into contact with guys and convince them to join the ranks of BLACK ALTAR?
The musicians you mentioned cooperated with me on the split with Kirkebrann. Lars recorded drums and Mauser is the sound engineer, in his studio we recorded and he arranged and recorded the bass parts. I composed the material together with my guitarist. I met Lars more than 10 years ago, when after the concert in my city Marduk had another day off and I took them on a full-day trip to visit German bunkers, because those passionate about the Second World War. Mauser is generally from my city, so we've known each other for years, but we got to know each other better in London, where he has also lived for about 10 years. In addition, he has now joined Black Altar on a second guitar.
Concerning your releases: can we also hope to hear another full-length of BLACK ALTAR any time soon? Or are you going to focus on smaller releases in the future?
The new album will not come out soon, we only have 2 songs. Next material will be a small split with the Norwegian Vulture Lord, who returns years later with an album composed by Nefas before his death and with a new composition with the musicians of Urgehal, Carpathian Forest, Beastcraft, Endezzma and Thornspawn. And I will have the great honor of releasing this album for them. In the meantime, we will also be working on songs for our 3rd record, because 11 years have passed and the time has come.
Concerning the live-front: you have mentioned that you are also going to play your first live-gigs with BLACK ALTAR in the near future? Is there already something more concrete that you can tell us? For example, a date on which we can see and hear you?
With the intention of touring was with me for some time already. I've had tour offers from South America, Japan and various festivals, but I've been forced to refuse for now. Recently, I even had laser surgery on my eyes to see better on stage because I can't wear contact lenses. Such an impulse that pushed me to specific actions was the proposal from the big black metal festival Darkness Guides Us from Glasgow, where the organizer insisted that we should play on the next annual edition in November. Due to this, I would take a year to prepare, I agreed. So it looks like this great moment has come and Black Altar will play the first concerts in its career.
Shortly staying with that topic: why did you decide to start playing now? What made the difference? And can you already tell us how the setlist of these live-gigs is going to look like?
A major obstacle was this eye surgery, I finally decided on it. In addition, after moving to London, I have much more possibilities both in terms of line up and playing concerts. Every few days there is a good concert here and I could often play as a support for large bands or as a main band for smaller ones. Set list contains mainly songs from the first 2 albums.
Many thanks again for your time and your effort! I wish you personally and for BLACK ALTAR only the very best!
Thank you Jonathan!