Now a trio for the first time in their career, Swedish outfit Ereb Altor mark a lineage that spans well over a decade despite having issued their first album, By Honour, in 2008. Their mission on that record was an almost singular homage to their countrymen forebears in Bathory, taking that outfit’s seminal Viking approach and recontextualizing it into powerful melodic Euro-doom. For the core duo of founding multi-instrumentalists Crister “Mats” Olsson and Daniel “Ragnar” Bryntse, it was a departure even from their main project, Isole, which had released its debut just three years prior.
From 2008 on, both acts would continue to exist almost independent of each other, and Ereb Altor continued to develop a personality distinct from that of Isole on their second album, 2010′s The End, which pushed further into the epic Viking style and kept the plod and melodic presence of its predecessor. Some of the novelty had gone out of their loyalist approach, but Ereb Altor‘s sophomore installment still showed they weren’t a fluke or a one-off tribute band to anyone who might have thought otherwise. That Ragnar and Mats would be joined by a full-time drummer, Tord, for their third album was much less of a surprise — makes for easier touring, songwriting, etc. — than that album itself wound up being.
The record, which was released just at the end of June, is called Gastrike, and while it holds fast the epic nature of Ereb Altor‘s songwriting, it also shifts away from the doomed sensibilities of the first two albums toward a harsher black metal feel. Songs like “Dance of Darkness” or the blistering closer “Seven” (also the seventh track, as it would almost have to be) rip into a side of Bathory‘s sound perhaps more commonly heard in the overall sphere of the metal underground, but which is a marked turn for Ereb Altor as a unit. That they managed to do it so well speaks to both their level of devotion and the universal nature of quality metal songcraft.
Hoping to get some insight into what might have prompted the change in direction, I hit up Ereb Altor for the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. Ereb Altor seems to be really branching out with Gastrike in terms of the band’s sound. Was there something purposefully you want to change from By Honour and The End? Were there any shifts in the songwriting process from the past albums?
Yes, it was our purpose to have a different approach on the new album. It’s been in my head right after the release of The End. I had an idea of building a concept with stories from the area where we live. Dark myths, legends and ghost stories and therefore the music had to sound darker to fit the concept. We haven’t changed the way we write songs and I think you can hear that if you listen carefully, it’s all Ereb Altor wrapped up in a black coat.
2. How involved was Tord in the songwriting and what does having a full-time drummer mean to Ereb Altor? Does having Tord in the band open up the possibility of doing more shows? How does it change the dynamic between the two of you?
Tord was only involved with some thoughts and input about the actual drumming since all songs were already written when he was recruited. We needed a good drummer and he was the right man for the work. He’s a good musician and he will probably be able to help out in more ways in the future and the fact that it’s easier for us to do more shows nowadays. The dynamic between Ragnar and me are the same as usual.
3. What does it mean to you to be moving away from the Bathory Viking metal style, or do you see Gastrike as a different interpretation of a similar idea?
I think we needed to move away a little bit to avoid repeating ourselves. I still think there’s some flavours of this particular style in our sound though. Perhaps it has some influences from the earlier works of Bathory as well.
4. Tell me about balancing time and musical ideas between Isole and Ereb Altor. When Ereb Altor started out, it seemed like a side-project paying homage to Bathory, but as the band has put more music out, it’s become a distinct entity of its own. How do the two bands relate for you? Is there ever material you write that you’re not sure which band it would work best for?
To me Ereb Altor never was a side-project. I always write songs specific for each band and most of the times I’m not writing for both band at same period of time. I just put focus on one band at the time. Both bands are very close to my heart and none of the band means less to me than the other one.
5. Is there any way to tell yet what the future holds for Ereb Altor? Are you thinking of Gastrike more as an experiment on the part of the band, or do you think Ereb Altor will continue to work more on the side of black metal than doom? Or is genre not a concern for the band at all?
Genre is not a great concern, I will follow my instinct and do what’s come from inside. As I mentioned Gastrike is a little bit like a concept album and I will probably not abandon the epic touch completely. Actually I had almost a whole album sounding like the first albums but without lyrics and to me the lyrical concept of Gastrike didn’t fit that music. My vision is to unite these two styles but only future can tell how Ereb Altor will sound for sure.
6. What’s next for the band? Will you tour for Gastrike before going back to work on Isole? The last couple years seems to have been a back and forth with a release each year. Is that the pattern you want to keep going for the two bands?
We’re working on getting a European tour for Ereb Altor right now as well as some festival appearances. I can’t reveal anything at the moment. And I already have lots of ideas for the future sound of Ereb Altor.
When it comes to Isole I think we’ll start writing material quite soon but there is no new release planned at the moment.
Actually a new Ereb Altor album feels closer somehow.