Hailing from Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh, IRON ALTAR play an unrelenting brand of metal that kicks like a mule on crystal meth. Sophomore album ‘PROMETHEAN’ drops on September 29th and we caught up with guitarist Dan Drever to talk about all things IRON ALTAR-related.
What are the origins of IRON ALTAR, how long have you been playing together?
The band has existed since the tail end of 2015, we released a self-titled EP in 2016 and almost immediately the lineup completely changed. Three members left in quick succession and their spots were taken really quickly. It all happened in a matter of weeks. Our current lineup has remained the same since with the exception of “Handsome” Greg Armstrong joining us on bass this year!
What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe IRON ALTAR?
The new album is pretty unrelenting, there are a few moments of calm but they’re short-lived before you’re getting pummelled again! Our live show is very much the same! Riffs, blasts, and thundering double kicks.
How did you feel performing your first gig as a band, and how was it?!
That’s a hard one to answer! Speaking for myself, I (Dan) remember thinking I was going to faint! I used to do a little bit of backing vocal and hadn’t quite figured out how to play, shout, and breathe. Our first gig in the current lineup was actually Bloodstock this year. Greg played his first show with us supporting Heriot in Glasgow at the start of the year but I fell ill and couldn’t make it so they played without me, making Bloodstock the first gig with everyone present!
The new music scene is bursting at the seams at the minute with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out to build a name for themselves?
I think everyone has to try to be the best they can be, It varies so much, you see bands taking so many different approaches and I guess they roll with what works best for them. For us, it’s been about working with a producer who would help elevate the songs we spent so long and worked hard on and having some killer artwork/merch to boot. We wanted to represent ourselves and our music in the best way possible.
Your sophomore album ‘PROMETHEAN’ lands very soon, what goes through your mind in the run-up to releasing new music? Are you nervous? Excited? Both?!
Personally, I’m a little apprehensive for release day as it’s taken years to get to this point. It’s been the best part of a year since we recorded it and the writing process took several years on top. Once it’s out it’s out! But I’m exceptionally proud of this album and excited to see how it’s received! I think the time and the work have paid off.
What was the gestation period of ‘PROMETHEAN’ like? Any particular track give you headaches during the recording process?
Our process usually starts with myself or Neil bringing some song ideas to the rest of the band and then writing as a collective with a basic structure to start with. We must’ve worked our way through about 20 songs. Some don’t get past the first round, some formed complete songs really quick and others are worked on for months. I think ‘Megalith’ may have had the most variations of any of the tracks I can remember how many times parts were rewritten or edited out!
Having the band’s name, album title, and individual song titles in CAPS is a statement of intent, was that always the plan?
I think some words just look better like that. Iron Altar doesn’t look as cool to me as IRON ALTAR!
In what ways do you feel that the band has grown since the debut album ‘Pillars Of Blood’ was released in 2018?
Pillars was written and recorded almost out of necessity or a “that’s what bands do” mindset. There are great songs on there but we didn’t spend nearly as much time honing the songs as we did on the new album. We were gigging, we wrote some songs and recorded them. This time round we knew we wanted to go and spend several weeks in a studio with songs we’d worked really hard on and make them the best they could be.
‘MEGALITH’ was the first single from the album, what was it about this one that made you choose it as the lead single?
We had always discussed doing three singles in the lead-up to the album release and if I’m honest Megalith wasn’t in my top three! I’ve since seen the error of my ways! When we were recording with Lewis (Johns) two or three of us were in favour of this being the first single with the music video, he completely agreed and when playing the songs for friends they also said Megalith should be the first single. It’s a great track with all the right ingredients of a great metal song. It even made its way onto the BBC Radio 1!
How are the new songs sounding live? And on that note, how was your Bloodstock 2023 experience?
Bloodstock was amazing! The whole weekend was incredible! It was my third time so It felt really familiar and to be playing was literally a dream come true. There was lots of pacing about on Sunday when we were due to play that night and several set run-throughs sitting in the van in the car park! I think we performed well and the feedback we received was better than we could’ve hoped. The tent was bigger this year and it looked busy. It was quite daunting to be on at the same time as Zeal & Ardour. The songs are sounding great live, we’ve played a few shows now and it’s all the new stuff we’re playing. I think we bring a pretty high-energy show that suits the songs to a tee.
We have to mention the incredible cover artwork from Kelvin Doran of Serpent Tusk Studio, what guidance did you give him for the artwork? And what was your reaction as soon as you saw the completed piece?
Kelvin is a top lad! He did a shirt for us when we released a single called ‘Cruor’ a few years ago. He’s worked with massive bands like Slayer, Mastodon, and Decapitated. He’s incredibly easy to work with and super humble. We gave him some colour references, the album concept, the lyrics, and the songs. He came back with the finished piece the first time if I remember correctly. I expected it to take a little while to figure out if I’d like it but as soon as I saw it I was blown away!
As well as some stunning t-shirt designs, and a deluxe CD version, you have also produced a version on cassette; physical product seems crucial to the band.
Without physical merch, we’d be even more in the hole than we are now! Doing cassettes was something we were a bit unsure of in the beginning. We’d seen a lot of OSDM and Black Metal bands do it but it seems more and more bands are releasing on cassette. When Dan Dolby from Trepanation Recordings agreed to release the album it was his suggestion to do a run. It’s a great one to tick off the bucket list as I never thought I’d have music released on cassette!
As a grassroots band, how important is Bandcamp, especially on “Bandcamp Friday”.
Bandcamp Friday is fantastic and hopefully, it will continue! BC has always been a great platform for bands, it gives us somewhere for our music to be streamed and merch sold in one place with fairly minimal fees. We’ve tried other platforms but with our growing merch range it makes sense to stick to BC as you’re not restricted to ‘X’ amount of merch listings.
In terms of a similar audience, which band out there at the minute do you feel IRON ALTAR would be best suited to open for?
We’ve always found that we’ve been able to float between genres when it comes to a lineup, and varied bills are becoming more popular but I think we’d be a really good fit for ‘Conjurer’ as we dip our toes into similar styles.
Excluding yourself, which new band would you like to see break out and become a success?
We’ve been listening to ‘Burner’ a lot since discovering them last year. They tracked their new album with Lewis Johns too, so when he played a snippet of a track to let us hear an example of a mix we were like “Who is this?!”. They’re a great band and amazing live! Also our bros in ‘Dog Tired’ their latest album ‘The Red Verse’ is an absolute belter!
What are your own first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
I think it would’ve been me standing in the middle of my room as a kid with my guitar on, amp turned right up and TV blaring with an ‘AC/DC Live at Donnington’ DVD. Seeing people play to that crowd was mind-blowing as a kid!
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
We literally just had a two-day festival across three venues in Edinburgh; Sonic Dissonance. I didn’t see as many bands as I would’ve liked but shout out to Mastiff who were phenomenal! The lineup was incredible!
The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
Doja Cat – Hot Pink. I imagine everyone else in the band will say “Who?”.
What would be your album of 2023 so far?
Burner – It All Returns To Nothing. I’d be very surprised if this isn’t my most-played album of 2023. Amazing production and every song pounds you with riffs.
Where can people next catch IRON ALTAR live?
Oct 12th – Little Buildings / Newcastle
Oct 13th – The Gryphon / Bristol
Oct 14th – Alma Inn / Bolton
Nov 16th – Voodoo / Belfast
Nov 17th – Pharmacia / Limerick
Nov 18th – Fred Zeppelins / Cork
Nov 19th – Sin E / Dublin
Dec 15th – Flying Duck / Glasgow
Dec 16th – Legends / Edinburgh
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?