ALTAR OF OBLIVION (Eng.)

– Hello, thanks for answering to our questions. How is everything going right now with ALTAR OF OBLIVION?

Things are going quite well, thank you. A couple of months back, we released our 5 track “Salvation” EP and now, our second full-length has just seen the light of day so we can’t complain. Two months ago, I moved to Greenland where I’ll be living for about a year which means we probably won’t be able to play any live gigs until I get back again. This November, however, I will return to Denmark for a couple of days and possibly, we will be able to pull off a gig before I leave for Greenland again. As of now, we are focusing on promoting the band and our new releases the best way possible, among other things by answering a lot of interviews.

– You will recently release your sophomore album. Due to this I guess some people won’t be familiar with you yet so, first off, could you please make some history of the band?

Altar of Oblivion were formed by rhythm/lead guitarist Martin Meyer Mendelssohn Sparvath and drummer Allan B. Larsen in late summer 2005 under the Name Summoning Sickness. In order to complete the line up, the band, or “duo”, inserted advertisements in local music stores and sundry music forums on the internet which did not turn out fruitfully. The band then decided to seek its fortune elsewhere expanding its search to all far regions of the tiny Kingdom of Denmark and ended up recruiting bass player and nicotine addict C. Nørgaard. Subsequently, only in need of a suitable singer, Martin Mendelssohn Sparvath turned his eyes towards Copenhagen to ask Mik Mentor, with whom he got well acquainted doing his military service, to join the band which he keenly accepted. With Mik Mentors unique abilities as a narrator and courier of doom, enabling him to portray our epic philosophy with great and deep-felt passion, the gloomy paths of the future seemed to be paved. In 2007, after the completion of the line up, the band, now carrying the more apposite Name Altar of Oblivion, recorded their first material in the shape of a self-financed and self-produced demo entitled “The Shadow Era” which landed them a deal with American label Shadow Kingdom Records. With the guitar being his main instrument, Allan replaced the drum sticks with the six-string in 2008, after which Altar of Oblivion went into the studio to record their critically acclaimed 2009 debut album “Sinews of Anguish” produced by Lars Strøm who, besides nailing the mellotron parts, also filled out the empty spot in the drum department. After the release of “Sinews of Anguish”, Altar of Oblivion started searching for a permanent replacement for Lars Strøm which in early 2010 finally led to the recruitment of drummer Thomas Wesley Antonsen who got his baptism of fire at the band’s debut gig in April 2010. His first recording task within the frameworks of Altar of Oblivion was the 5-track EP called “Salvation” which serves as a teaser for the sophomore album entitled “Grand Gesture of Defiance” that was released in the summer of 2012.

 

– What are the main musical influences for ALTAR OF OBLIVION?

AoO consist of five very different people and our musical inspirations vary from person to person. When listening to our music, I would say our main influences are Ozzy era-Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Metallica and Candlemass.

 

– And how did you come up with the band’s name?

Actually, the name just popped up in my mind while listening to Coven’s “Witchcraft: Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls” LP whose reverse side contains a sacrificial altar. I have always felt a little “attracted” to the word “oblivion” as it, besides having a somehow nice, round and cold sound, also emanates an aura of ambiguity, mystery, obscurity, secrecy and vagueness. Furthermore, the name Altar of Oblivion has a nice flow and thus, I hope it will be much easier for people to make a mental note of it. When I first coined the name Altar of Oblivion, I was obsessed with World War II and had to that point only written lyrics about this theme and I wanted our band name to reflect the lyrical content: thus, the Altar of Oblivion is the literal altar (with the altar being a battlefield) upon which the soldiers and civilians during battles of World War II were sacrificed by their leaders who stopped at nothing to achieve their goals. The word “oblivion” in this context refers to the soldiers and civilians who perished and sunk into oblivion amidst the horrors of war. Moreover, parallels can easily be drawn to the present day as numerous sacrifices are still being made throughout the world in which repression, suppression, censorship, dogmatism, veils of secrecy etc are still omnipresent.

 

– After a superb debut album as “Sinews of Anguish”; what are your expectations with your new “Grand Gesture of Defiance”?

I am glad you like our debut album. Actually, I just listened to it earlier today and it was in fact better than I remembered, haha. I expect the new album to pick up some new fans both due to the fact that the album is more melodic and commercial and because the promotion this time will be more extensive.

 

– In fact that debut album was critically acclaimed and you created quite a buzz into the underground so, after such a good feedback both your album and demo got; have you worked under more pressure or could you say you’ve rather had bonus motivation to top over your previous releases?

In fact, we didn’t feel any pressure at all as we knew we had grown as a band enabling us to perform better in the studio. The material for “Grand Gesture of Defiance” was written back in the summer of 2007 so it was written two years prior to the release of our debut album. That meant we knew what we were dealing with and we all felt pretty secure that we could do another good album. As an artist, you are (hopefully) always striving at surpassing your previous releases which was a big motivation to us. We learned a lot recording “Grand Gesture of Defiance” and I am already looking forward to be releasing more music with these guys.

 

– “Grand Gesture of Defiance” is a conceptual album about an imaginary religious group called “The Vultures”. Could you please elaborate a bit on this?

“Grand Gesture of Defiance” is a conceptual album about an imaginary, totalitarian religious group called “The Vultures” that through cryptocratic gatherings and decision-making processes is trying to attain world domination. A nice little conspiracy theory depicting the leaders of the world as figureheads, serving merely as puppets for an influential secretive elite, and who despite holding significant titles wields little to no influence at all.

 

– As this is a conceptual album, has the songwriting process differed this time around?

Until now, all our releases have been conceptual and nothing has changed respecting that. However, when we recorded the new album, our producer had more influence this time and he contributed to two tracks on the album, namely the instrumental “The Smoke-filled Room” and “Final Perfection”.

 

– I personally see this record as confirmation to the fact you are a solid promise into this genre in Europe. What do you think you need to make the ultimate headway?

Thanks for the nice words. I think we are heading in the right direction but we still have a long way to go and we just have to keep on working and getting better at what we do. We still have a lot to learn and we are facing the future in high spirits. Hard work, passion and dedication are all keywords and time will tell if we have what it takes.

 

– In fact with this new opus you have perfected your own recipe. Could we say evolution is a constant process for ALTAR OF OBLIVION?

Since our 2007 “The Shadow Era” demo, we have certainly come a long way, and “Grand Gesture of Defiance” is certainly a step in the right direction. We are still very green behind our ears and I wouldn’t say we have perfected our own recipe as I still room for much improvement in our music. As earlier stated we learned a great deal recording “Grand Gesture of Defiance” and I see this album as our first album, we made as a band.

 

– “Grand Gesture of Defiance” is shorter than your previous CD. Did you want to get something shorter and more intense or did this just come naturally? Do you think this a good way to keep interested the listener from start to end?

As stated earlier, “Grand Gesture of Defiance” is a concept album, and when I wrote the material, I ended up with approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes of music which was too much music to fit on one album. Therefore, I decided to split the concept into two short stories, and someday, part two will be released. The pre-production had a running time of about 45 minutes but in the studio, we rearranged some parts and made them shorter. Also, we skipped the album intro which was an instrumental piece called “New World Disorder”. In the end, the album turned out a bit shorter than expected. With the new album, I think we succeeded in crafting six individual pieces of art of which the listener hopefully doesn’t grow tired within the first many listens. I, at least, haven’t grown tired of the album yet, haha.

 

– All this being said; what are the main differences between your new piece and your debut album?

The songs on the new album are more dynamic, better produced, better prepared, better arranged, shorter and more compact and in-your-face.

 

– And how could you describe “Grand Gesture of Defiance” in just 3 words?

Majestic, powerful and Epic.

 

– The cover artwork is just superb. Would you mind to tell who crafted it, how did you work on it and what did you want to express through it?

The talented Bulgarian artist Dimitar Nikolov who has created a great deal of artwork for bands signed to our label Shadow Kingdom Records, is responsible for the “Grand Gesture of Defiance” artwork. Prior to making this visual pearl, I sent him the lyrics for the album, sent him some cue words, and shortly described our musical style and lyrical theme etc. after which he came up with this great piece which reflects the content of the album perfectly. Actually, he was also in charge of the “Sinews of Anguish” cover art and I hope we will be using him again in the future.

 

– The Danish scene has always had as references MERCYFUL FATE and KING DIAMOND, but most of the rest of Heavy Metal bands from Denmark remain in the underground so, how is nowadays the Metal scene like in Denmark?

In my opinion, Denmark has always been a “less developed country” regarding good music. Of course, there are a few exceptions but they are rather few. It is almost impossible to grasp that such a good act like Mercyful Fate came into existence on Danish soil. Mercyful Fate were “born” in Copenhagen which is very close to the Swedish border so maybe King Diamond and co got a little infected by the Swedish superior force, haha. In general, I think that too many Danish musicians need to be a little more visionary about their music.

 

– Talking about such, I’ve read certain reviews where reviewers compared you to KING DIAMOND or MERCYFUL FATE. How do you feel about it?

As king Diamond and Mercyful Fate have been personal favourites of mine for a long time, it is of course an honour to be compared to these acts. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say the similarities are that obvious apart from originating from the same country. Both the vocals of King Diamond and our singer Mik Mentor are very unique, theatrical, recognizable and charismatic but apart from that they are very different sounding. One of King Diamond’s trademarks is his falsetto and to this point, our singer has only used that technique in one song, namely in the chorus of “The narrow Gates of Emptiness” from our “Salvation” EP. However, you hardly notice it as it has been mixed very low.

 

– And finally, what the near-future plans are for ALTAR OF OBLIVION?

My future hopes and goals are to rehearse more often when I get back to Denmark, to release more quality albums, to keep this line up going and in general to spend some more time with the other guys. Being away from everyday life in Denmark really puts many things in perspective and I have learned a great deal of things about myself and the Greenlandic nature and culture. Also, I have been composing some new tracks, among others some AoO-songs with a Greenlandic twist in form of lyrics inspired by the fascinating nature, the solitude and feeling of isolation you feel up here.

 

– That has been everything from my side, thanks once more for your time. If you want to add some final words; last lines are all yours.

Thanks a lot for sending me these questions. It is always a pleasure answering questions about my biggest passion in life. Thanks for promoting AoO and good luck with “Queens of Steel” in the future.

 

Sergio Fernández

sergio@queensofsteel.com

 

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