1. Hello Shadow and many thanks for taking your time to answer my questions! Let’s get right to it: Your last release appeared in the year 2013, but now a new release is being prepared – namely a split-release with the now defunct BEASTCRAFT. What can you tell us about the coming split-release? Who came up with the idea and why did you specifically want to celebrate the birthday of your band with your comrades from BEASTCRAFT?
Hi. I was the initiator of this split, it was some time ago already. Urgehal guys told me once that Beastcraft members were huge fans of Black Altar. That is why I got in touch with their vocalist Sorath Northgrove who also liked the idea. We were discussing different details through the years. At first it was supposed to be a 10'' split released as a vinyl only, but as time went by the idea was getting bigger, there were more compositions coming it and that is how it turned out finally. The split was planned to be released on the 20th anniversary of Black Altar but I decided on making a video clip for "Tophet" which made the whole thing wait for nearly a year. There is a total of 12 compositions here, some of them are new, some old but never published before or in special versions. All is nicely issued on every possible carrier also with a box limited to 50 copies that includes different rarities from all the period of Black Altar's existence.
2. Which brings me to a more general question: What is/was your relationship with BEASTCRAFT in general? How well did you know Trondr Nefas and how well do you know the other guys?
Generally speaking I knew the guys from Urgehal, especially their guitarist, Enzifer. Some years ago when I traveled to Inferno Fest in Oslo, 3 members of Urgehal came to pick me up. We spent a very good time. I got to know Nefas several years earlier while Urgehal were on tour with Shining. Let's say Beastcraft is mostly Nefas and Sorath Northgrove.
3. Musically your part of the new split starts slow with a very atmospheric intro followed by the stomping ,Tophet’, a very dark and sinister track. Could you tell us how the song writing for the intro and ,Tophet’ came along? When and where did you write them? And how do you in general compose songs?
At the very beginning "Tophet" was not the part of the slip, it was supposed to be used for another release. I have to uncover one secret here- I was dealing with a really serious health problems. There was of a possibility that I suffered from ALS which is the most dangerous disease on earth and I knew that there was not some much time left for me. That is why I put "Tophet" on that split as well. Due to the fact that I'm leaving in London it took me some time to work on it, the distance didn't help either, just as finding proper musicians and writing lyrics. Later there was almost a year spent on creating the video clip. That is why everything got prolonged. I remember that the day before recording vocal lines my medical check- ups almost proved my illness, I knew that these were probably my last recordings ever, so you can image what kind of emotions are put there. Luckily, later my vase was taken by the best medicine professor in Europe (from Oxford) who finally excluded the previously mentioned disease. I feel healthy and ready for recording many more stuff in the future. The track was written by the guitarist Horizon, lyrics were prepared by me. When it comes to composing I play myself many riffs and when I come up to something interesting I'm picking it up, joining it with other riffs, analyzing and mastering til I'm fully satisfied with it.
4. On your last releases Horizon has always played the guitars – is that also correct for this split? And if yes, how much influence did he have on the song writing for your new songs?
Horizon recorded guitar parts for my split with Varathron/ Thornspawn and the "Suicidal Salvation" EP which was supposed to be a split with Shining. Most of the compositions from these releases are his works but we rather cooperated on session rules, he was never a member of Black Altar really. He did not record anything for the new split being busy with his private occupations.
5. You also mentioned in a recent interview with Dayal Patterson that you have a new drummer in your line-up. What can you tell us about him? Who is he?
He is no one famous, but very good and probably the fastest in England. However I did not make any final decision when it comes to line-up yet. There are different scenarios in my head. It is also a matter if I play live, if not maybe I will take all the line-up from Sweden and Norway and that is where I might rehearse from time to time, the time will show.
6. It’s interesting that you include a remix of your song ,Tophet’ done by the Greec Electro/Industrial heroes PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE. I once did a longer interview with them and enjoyed very much talking to them. How did you get into contact with them? And why did you think that your song might sound interesting played in an electro style?
I was in contact with them for some time already as I really liked their earlier remixes. I released their MLP as digipak and 7'' vinyl, the material with Niklas Kvarforth on vocals. Later I was the one invited as a guest musician. When it comes to a split with Beastcraft, I thought it might be interesting to hear their electro/industrial version of "Tophet". It came out very well I must say.
7. You also cover a BEASTCRAFT-track, namely ,Pentagram Sacrifice’, which one can find on their first album “Into The Burning Pit Of Hell”. What makes this song so special to you that you wanted to cover it? And what influence did the whole first BEASTCRAFT-album have on your music and your art in general?
"Pentagram Sacrifice" cover was recorded for a tribute for Nefas that was released by some Russian label in a strictly limited amount. Among the track that weren't taken by other bands, that was the one that appealed to me mostly. The release of the split with Beastcraft was a perfect occasion to add this track to the whole material. I was trying to get as close to the original trying to achieve as much underground sound as possible. Beastcraft as a band did not have any impact on me as Black Altar perform different kind of stuff. My inspirations came from first Norwegian Black Metal acts.
8. You got some really cool guests on the album – ranging from James Stewart of VADER to Acerbus from ONDSKAPT. Do you know these guys since a long time? And how did the collaboration with them work? Did you actually meet in a studio or did they record their parts in their home recording studio?
Yes, the choice of musicians is very interesting, and what is even more, is the fact that they have all performed only in Tophet. At that time I thought that it was going to be my last composition ever so I wanted to make it special inviting musicians that I value and knew for a very long time, for ex. V. Priest- 20 years already or Acerbus who is one of closest friends. Each one of them prepared his parts in his own country. James recorded the drum parts in Poland, during the session for the latest Vader album. Apart from previously mentioned there was also Sorath Northgrove from Beastcaft and Nihil from Furia who was also the sound engineer for the whole recording process of this track.
9. You have prepared a video for your song ,Tophet’ which should be out soon and which was shot in different countries (England, Sweden, Norway, Poland, and the United States). Please tell us more about the video clip. Why did you choose this specific song? And why was it necessary to film different shots in so many countries?
I've picked up this composition as it is the best and most representative for what Black Altar stands for. The rest of the stuff is created in such a way to get most closely to the old, raw and obscure 90's sound. It perfectly match with Beastcraft compositions. What's more, the title track "Winds of Decay" was originally written by the end of the 90's and now recorded just for this release. It's mostly inspired by old Norwegian scene. The video was recorded in so many places due to the fact that the invited guest were unable to came to London on the appointed date. That is why each of them prepared his parts in his own country.
10. Let’s talk about the cover-artwork and especially about the side which deals with the BLACK ALTAR-side. One can sort of see a satanic priest whose head is slowly dissolving (only the snake tongue is really visible) and who has two demons sitting on his shoulder. Could you interpret this picture for us? It is, in general, obvious that occultism and Satanism play an important role in your art. But what message is exactly spread in the songs on the split?
The author of the cover art is Nestor Avalos from Mexico, who has a very characteristic style. This cover art was almost done when I contacted him, so it was not meant to be for that release. I really liked the concept of it, the author made several changes for me, for ex. added those demons on both sides. I think that the cover matches with both the lyrics and music. When it comes to the lyrics theme, "Winds of Decay" treats about the upcoming doom and the victory of the forces of darkness. Everything will turn into ashes and Death will be the everyday companion. "Tophets" tells the story of a biblical demon Moloch that was fed by his followers with bodies of firstborn children thrown into Tophet valley.
11. You mention a lot of times that the ideology of black metal is very important to you. Can you elaborate that for us and our readers? What does black metal mean to you? What message shall it spread in general? And are there also certain forms of aesthetics and musical standards a band should fulfil in order to be called a “black metal band”?
It's a quite complex subject, but in short: black metal is not only a music but also ideology and a way of life. There are many bands that focus on music only. They spend hours working on their releases trying to make them as polished as possible, with a plastic sound. Knowing them personally you realise that they have nothing in common with a image they represent live and on photos. It's only a good fun for them and a will to make a career and so on. Black Metal goes with some sort of aesthetics and when, for example, you see a cover of a new English Black Metal band Sacred Son with a photos of a band member standing on a sunny beach smiling you know that something is wrong here. It not matches with a raw Black Metal. It can be the best one possible, but when such things take place it makes the band not serious in what they are doing.
12. As you have also mentioned in the interview with Dayal Patterson, you have never played live with BLACK ALTAR. Might this now change?
That is right, during all those 21 years I have not played a single gig with Black Altar. At the very beginning the rest of the band members were against playing live. When they left I was not able to find a proper line-up. Later I was too busy to find time to rehearse or so. Since I moved to London 3 years ago some more opportunities showed up. I'm planning to gather a suitable line-up and slowly begin playing live. There are a lot of offers but needed preparations will take at least a year and I will not start the thing being not perfectly prepared.
13. On a more personal note – you have now moved from Poland to London. How came this about? And do you think that it will be easier to create art with BLACK ALTAR in England than in Poland? Did you face problems with religious authorities in Poland? Or was that never a problem for your art?
I felt quite well living in Poland but I realized that I could not developed there as much as I would like to, I started searching for new opportunities. Religion in Poland never bothered me, and I never cared about it while composing. I once lived in London and I knew that it's a perfect place for musicians. I have a lot of friends there, there are concerts every day, I have a great job as a security manager in a very prestigious place, that is why I'm happy about my decision.
14. What can we expect in the near future of BLACK ALTAR? Do you plan on recording and releasing a new album any time soon?
In the nearest future I will be busy promoting the split with Beastcraft. Later I want to issue a vinyl version of the latest "Suicidal Salvation" EP also re-releasing it as a cd digipak. There will be also a limited, wooden box version. Next thing will ba a reissue of a debut album with new mastering and cover art. In a meantime I will compose some new stuff and try to gather a new line-up. There are also plans for a split with a well-known Swedish band, but it's too early to talk about it, and a work on a 3rd full-length Black Altar album.
15. Which books are currently lying on your nightstand?
Every day I bring a bag of books with me to my work. Mostly I read 3 books at the same time, alternately. There is different stuff among it. Due to my latest health problems I got interested in a subject of healthy eating, holistic medicine and energy. Apart from that there are some books on occultism or the motivating ones.
16. Many thanks for your time and your effort! I wish you personally and for BLACK ALTAR only the very best!
Thank you very much my friend! It was a pleasure!