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Interview Altars of Grief (English)

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While the long winter nights are slowly falling upon the grounds of Saskatchewan, the members of Altars of Grief have had the kindness to talk about their last album Iris with me. We’ve explored the main concepts of this record and learnt precious information on one of the best Doom album of this year. 


Radio Metal Sound: Why have you invented the genre ‘’Prairie Doom’’? Because actually the lightness of the word “Prairie” contrasts with the original weight of Doom. 

Altars of Grief: I don’t think we’ve created a new genre, so much as the description “Prairie Doom” just really encapsulates the band and what we’re about. We’re based out of Saskatchewan, which is a prairie province in Canada. And, I’m sure none of that sounds particularly miserable or foreboding to anyone who’s never been here. But, the winters here are long and harsh and it can be a terribly isolating and desolate place. Especially for those of us who live outside of major cities. There’s a lot of history here, too. Spend a day driving down some old roads and you can find entire, abandoned towns. This location has really worked its way into and inspired our music in a number of different ways. 

Radio Metal Sound: All the members of the band are involved in the vocals and yet you don’t encroach on the others. How do you manage this balance within the band? 

Altars of Grief: It just started happening organically over time. Someone would come up with a small layer or idea while we were practicing and over time this sort of vocal “wall of sound” approach just became a part of us. In the case of Iris, there were certain songs (Isolation, being a good example) where I took this into consideration and went out of my way to write multiple layers when we were demoing. Then, over time, the guys would put their own twists on things. But, more often than not it just happened naturally. And, we’ve found that each vocalist in the band has something a bit different to offer. Our bassist, Donny, for example, does a low guttural vocal that could lift concrete - it’s absurd. This is especially noticeable in the title track and Voices of Winter. Our guitarist Erik has a crazy ear for clean vocal harmonies and has an incredibly versatile range. If you have these things at your disposal and the music is open enough for them to be used, then why not?  

RMS: How do you keep a coherent melodic composition between the morose slowness of Doom and the speed of Black Metal? 

AoG: I think it’s effectiveness comes down to arrangement. Dynamically, the genres really do complement each other quite well, even if it doesn’t seem like it on paper. And, there really aren’t many bands, in my opinion, that can pull off an album full of 10+ minute, crawling doom tracks without it getting a little tedious at times - unless you’re Bell Witch!  

RMS: What motivates your will of leaving the traditional patterns of Black and Doom Metal and creating real concept-albums free in their melodies as in their storytelling? 

AoG: This band has always placed a lot of emphasis on emotion in the songs we write, with a lot of it coming from a very real place. Depression, grief, sorrow, anxiety, hatred, resentment, alienation... Emotions are complex, so it only makes sense to try and express ourselves accordingly. 

RMS: Iris underpins a desperate analysis of your region. Could you develop its social context in order to clarify your musical choices for us French? 

AoG: We wanted to write a story that felt like it could’ve taken place in the past within a small, rural community in Saskatchewan. To summarize, this concept is centred around a father with a terminally ill daughter who’s placed more faith in her religion than in him, because deep down he’s struggling with his own issues of addiction. Which, isn’t necessarily location specific on its own, but with recurring themes of winter, isolation, religion and some of the descriptions of locations and with Travis Smith’s fantastic artwork, I think we were able to create something that felt like home.  

RMS: Since your first single Only Our Scars in 2014, you’ve released three albums and you’ve shared the scene with some famous bands such as Insomnium or Dark Tranquility. How do approach your success? 

AoG: We’ve just always worked hard to ensure that whatever we release - whether it’s music, videos or merchandise - is of the best quality we can make it and I think that people appreciate that. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to our label, Hypnotic Dirge Records. It’s a very small team of guys, but they’ve put in an immeasurable amount of work for us over the years.  

RMS: Last but not least, what are your future projects with Altars of Grief

 AoG: We’ve started writing new material with the new line-up, but it’s still a little too early for me to say what’s next at this point. Other than that, we’ve all got other bands and projects that we’d like to work on, while we continue to push Iris. This winter will likely be fairly quiet, but we fully intend to stay productive behind the scenes. 


If you want to support the band, you may buy the album with Bandcamp or with Hypnotic Dirge Records. You may also follow the band on Facebook to be aware of its news, it’s more than deserved!

Par Baptiste - 09/11/2018

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