Friday 8 June 2018

ALBUM PREMIERE & INTERVIEW: Los Angeles sludge masters Ancient Altar return

Hailing from Los Angeles, the land of the unrelenting sun, Ancient Altar’s combination of crushing doom and stirring melody packs a weighty emotional punch that few bands can match. Since the release of their last album “Dead Earth” nearly 3 years ago, a devastating album featuring those classic Sabbath worship riffs, mixed with a side order of gnarly sludge and agonised vocals, Ancient Altar has gone through somewhat of overhaul both in terms of their line up and their overall sound. The band is now a three piece featuring bassist Scott Carlson and guitar player Barry Cavener splitting vocal duties, along with drummer Geoff Summers and whilst the slow burning doom/sludge sound remains, their new record “Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras” released today hints at a more traditional doom approach and even features more melodic vocal lines. 

So after a 3 year absence, it is gives me great pleasure to welcome Ancient Altar back to THE SLUDGELORD, as I recently hooked up with guitarist/vocalist Barry Cavener and bass/vocalist Scott Carlson to chat shit, talk about their history, influences, their new album and what the future holds for the band.  Oh less we forget, before you dig into the interview, you can also stream their new album “Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras” below.  You’re welcome.  

Guys, welcome to THE SLUDGELORD, the new album rules, but before we get to that. Can you give us an insight into how you started playing music, leading up to the formation of Ancient Altar?

Barry: We’ve all taken different paths to get us where we are, but as far as the formation of Ancient Altar, it was birthed from the ashes of Iron Mtn. Scott, Bill, and myself had gotten to point where we felt Iron Mtn had reached its logical conclusion, so along with our drummer at the time Tom, we started Ancient Altar.

After our first album and a tour, Bill moved to Seattle, we parted ways with Tom, and Etay and Jesse joined the band. This is when things started to pick up for us. We toured a bunch, recorded “Dead Earth” with Toshi Kasai, and had the opportunity to play Psycho California. Building on the momentum from all of that, we made the trek up to Oakland, CA to record with the Evil Wizard of Rock, Greg Wilkinson. It’s during this 4 day session that we recorded what has become our latest album, “Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras”.

Since the recording, Jesse and Etay have moved on, we’re now a three piece with the addition of Geoff Summers from Batillus on Drums, and we’re currently writing for our next album.

For folks unfamiliar with your band, are there any bands on the scene past and present that you would use as a reference point to describe your band, and who or what continues to inspire you and push you to try new things?

Scott:  Individually, we’d say that Jesse is influenced by bands like Elder, Etay likes more of the straight ahead doom such as Corrupted, Barry is greatly influenced by Drive Like Jehu, and Scott counts Iron Maiden as one of his biggest influences.  In the past, people have compared us to Neurosis, Yob, and Kylesa. The direction that we’ve gone with this album and beyond is to incorporate somewhat of a traditional doom element, specifically with Barry’s vocals.  For lack of a better reference, think Candlemass. In terms of what brings about inspiration and desire to try something new, that not only comes naturally to all of us, but also personnel changes can’t help but to modify in terms of musical approach, sensibility, etc.

What can you tell us about your new record “Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras” and where do you feel it sits within the context of current doom scene?

Barry: Lyrically, the album comes from a place of helplessness as far as humanity’s place in the universe. We struggle against ourselves and each other, but the inevitability of the loss of control over our own lives is something that we only think about in a passing sense. No one wants to talk about their mortality, and grasping certain universal truths seems to be something that people would rather ignore.

“Cosmic Purge talks about the theoretical “Reverse Big Bang”, which to me represents a complete cleansing of absolutely everything that has ever been, so that the universe can start over again. It serves as a warning to pay attention to the world around you, because it can end at a moment’s notice.

“Foie Gras” is about when we create something as a society and it turns on you. You can view it from a Sci-fi point of view where we create an Artificial Intelligence that ends up ruling over humanity, but I think it works extremely well in the context of who and what we create as a society and how inevitably it comes back to bite us in the ass. You can see this first hand in the political monsters we as a society have created, and how they’ve turned on us.

To be perfectly honest, we don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about how our music fits into the doom scene.  We’re just trying to make music that we feel strongly about, and if it does or doesn’t work with a scene is secondary to feeling good about our creative output. One thing we do appreciate about the doom scene currently though is that the genre of doom is much less of a narrow definition than what it used to be.  Everyone from Khanate to SubRosa is considered doom.  It’s good to be considered part of a genre with less dogma than some of the other types of music out there.

Does anything spring to mind when you think about the completion of your new record and how is the mood in the camp at present?

Scott: We’re just excited for people to finally hear this. It’s been a long, hard battle in many ways to get to where we currently are.  Personal issues, line up issues, any various other factors have made it even more of an uphill battle than it usually is, but that makes our resolve and commitment all the more important, and the achievements even more satisfying than they’d normally be.  Also, we’ve changed our sound quite a bit since our last release, and we’re looking forward to having a more current representation of our sound out there for people to hear.

Barry: We’re all really excited about the prospects of what’s to come.  We’re in the middle of writing for our next album, we’re playing some amazing shows, and we’ve got this album coming out that we’re really proud of

What stands out as your overarching memory from the recording sessions?

Barry: The bonding experience of spending four days working on nothing but the culmination of all of our hard work is the best memory, in addition to getting out of town to record, and also spending so much time with Greg and his wife Fern were all great aspects of the creation of this recording.

With you new record in the bag, how is your schedule shaping up over the next 12 months?

Scott: We are currently working on new material, with hopes of recording a new album before the end of the year, to be released next year.  With the challenge of balancing members’ schedules, it sometimes makes shows and tours challenging, but as always we plan to play locally and tour as much as is possible within the next year.

Finally, do you have any last words?

Scott: We definitely want to say thanks to anyone giving us a listen, and also a sincere thanks to THE SLUDGELORD for always having our back, and for all the hard work they put into what they do.  Jesse and Etay, who are no longer in the band but are still considered family, deserve a big amount of recognition as well for what they did to get us to the point we’re at.  Thanks to everyone who’s supported us up to the point.  Please buy our stuff.  Being in a band is a money pit.

“Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras” is released on their own label Transcendental Records and is available via their bandcamp here.  A vinyl release will be issued via Black Voodoo Records later this summer.

Band info: facebook || bandcamp