Motto about AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD from Spain: “Ritual metal for those who can hear the whispering darkness.”
Interview: Heolstor – Vocals, Guitars, Drums, Djembe, Keyboards
Hello Heolstor, can you explain to our reader how it all started with AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD?
Hello! AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD was started as an outlet for all my ideas and compositions that didn’t really fit any of my other projects. It’s essentially a synthesis of everything I’ve done as a musician in the past 25 years, without limiting myself to a particular style. I take what fits the idea behind the band’s concept, regardless of what musical genre it belongs to. Essentially, AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD is the purest expression of who I am as a musician.
You have a lot of music project. When did you start having your first ideas as AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD and what contributed in that?
I’ve had ideas for this sort of project for many, many years, and I’ve recorded a lot of similar things that never saw the light. But one day everything clicked, and I started composing song after song, and ended up with the demo I sent to I, Voidhanger Records which later was re-recorded and expanded upon to become “Through doors of moonlight”.
What influences your music and lyrics?
The number one influence is nature. I know it’s a black metal cliché, but that’s all I need for AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD. I picture in my head the image of vast, primordial forests, ancient cults worshiping forest deities, the fragility of mankind in the face of nature’s power, and try to translate that into music. There’s of course the influence of bands such as ULVER, EMPYRIUM, ARCKANUM, THE SISTERS OF MERCY and DEAD CAN DANCE, to name the most important ones.
Please tell us more about your new album “Heart of Silence”, what are the main differences if compared with debut?
I think “Heart of Silence” turned out a little bit more black metal than its predecessor, but that wasn’t really by design. Overall I think it’s a better album because it feels more cohesive and the sound has matured, it’s easily recognizable as AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD and that’s what matters to me. I think I’ve managed to keep the elements that made AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD interesting in the first place, and refined them. People seem to agree.
Your music is full of change and dark spirits. What does “Heart Of Silence” represent for you, and with what emotions has been created?
“Heart of Silence” simply continues with the band’s themes of ritualism, atavistic worship, and nature. It is music created to serve as a background to rituals and meditative states, to loosen yourself in the energies I tried to concentrate in every note and lyric. All my music is always highly emotional because I’m an emotional person. Black metal is probably the most emotional genre that exist, and it’s the perfect tool to move people; you can go from vitreous hate to absolute depression really quickly. I think there’s a direct line between black metal and the romanticism of the late 18th century. Both are deeply dramatic, emotional, and linked to nature and the individual’s experience and their connection to a world they reject.
“Heart of Silence” is very symbolic title for album. What is it really all about and what did you try to express by this title?
It’s just a reference to that point when you’re sitting alone in meditation where you reach your true self and the world outside simply vanishes. Time and space lose their meaning while you are within your heart of silence. I think it was a nice title for the album because there are plenty of moments in it that can push you to that inner world. Or at least, that’s my goal.
Tell us a bit more about the songs and the writing globally speaking? Have you any special system?
As a matter of fact, the way I work with AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD is pretty different to how I do it with my other bands. When I sit to compose for AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD, I usually start from either a vocal line that has been stuck in my head, a sort of mantra (like the opening track, “Listen”), or just start playing around with the keyboards, trying to find some sound that inspires me. Once I have either of those elements, I start adding percussion, and from there I build the rest of the song. It’s a very organic way of creating music, and I enjoy the process.
I prefer the mix of the different vocals but how do you manage to make them blend into the complete production? Is it hard work for you?
That’s all the magic workings of Simón from The Empty Hall studio. Once I record the music I let him tinker and do his thing. He sends me his progress and I give him my opinion and some input, but generally what he chooses to do with my music turns out to be exactly what the music needs.
How do you see today’s world underground metal music and Spain scene?
I think it’s as vibrant as ever. You have a nice mix of older bands that have kept doing their thing since the 90s, and a lot of newcomers with cool ideas. Even more than back in the day, it shows how this is something we do for the love of it and not to make any money or fame from it, because it’s much more difficult to do so nowadays than it used to be. Yes, you can be huge on Spotify and YouTube or whatever, but that doesn’t really translate into sales. The vast majority of bands don’t even cover expenses, yet they keep doing what they do because there’s a hunger, a necessity to do so. I think that will never die, it’s part of what makes us human.
What is your relationship with the underground media and other metal subjects? Are you satisfied with support your music projects? Is it difficult these days to get a contacts?
I must admit I don’t really do much to promote my music, which is why it’s great to have a label such as I, Voidhanger Records. They do a great job at promoting my work, and so far all the reception has been outstanding, making AT THE ALTAR OF THE HORNED GOD my most successful project to date. Overall I’m pretty happy with it all.
What are you enjoying right now? This could be anything – sport, movies, travel etc. Have you any hobbies without music?
I spend most of my free time boxing and reading, with some occasional TV show here and there. I’m a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy so there’s a lot to watch now, more than I could ever hope to finish. I’ve been enjoying the new Walking Dead spin-offs, for example. Most of my time though is spent working, but I can’t complain.
Please, can you tell me something about lifestyle in your homeland? Madrid is a dream for a lot of people in the middle of Europe. You know… Winter is coming soon 🙂
I must say I really dislike living here. I hate large cities and Madrid is specially tough because it has horrible summers and really cold winters, since it’s 800 m above the sea. It has the worst of both worlds. I’ve spent most of my life out of Spain, and I’m only back here because of personal reasons, but I don’t think I’ll remain much longer. Summers are simply brutal, and they’re getting worse. I’m not the right person to ask about Spain, I’m sorry, I can barely consider myself Spanish since I grew up in the US and lived all across Europe. I do have the stereotypical traits from someone from Southern Europe (outgoing, friendly, etc.), but that’s about it. Even most people here think I’m a foreigner when they first meet me.
Have you ever been if Czech Republic? Do you know of any metal bands from CZ?
I’m afraid I only know Prague, which is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As for Czech bands, of course! ROOT and MASTER´S HAMMER are an absolute classic, and I’ve always loved INFERNO and MANIAC BUTCHER. CULT OF FIRE is another outstanding Czech band. I probably know more, but these are the ones that come to mind now.
Heolstor, thank you very much for your time. For the end, could you please give us a message for my readers?
Thank you for your questions! And to your readers, thank you for taking your time to read about my work. Stay true to yourselves!