ASHTAR talk about their upcoming “Ilmasaari” vinyl release on Throne
“We wanted to create a certain atmosphere that spreads through the whole album”
Switzerland’s female-fronted Ashtar is an exotic and perfect blend of pagan Black Metal and Doom, with a distinctive European trade mark. Actually they come from a country worldwide known for its high mountains, snowfalls and Celtic Frost!!!
Ashtar’s debut album is the perfect record to listen to at night with candle light, while outside a snowstorm is blazing. You can recognize elements of Celtic Frost, Ludicra, Bathory and Sacrilege. While Ashtar develop these influences one step further and mold their own sonic brand by adding acoustic guitars, strings arrangements and didgeridoos.
“Ilmassari” is a haunting magick album, so rich and dense you’ll spin it several times in a row.
Both Nadine and Marko have been playing in several bands for years, so when creating Ashtar they didn’t feel the need to arrange a demo or else, they aimed at a debut album instead!
As soon as they sent me their debut album’s promo, I felt the absolute need to offer a vinyl release for this stunning record. They kindly introduce us to “Ilmasaari”: “We wanted to create a certain atmosphere that spreads through the whole album. All six songs are the result of jams we did with guitar and drums. When we started to rehearse, we didn’t know where Ashtar would lead us, but we knew that we wanted to stay a duo though. In the end our sound became a mix of black metal, sludge an doom. «Ilmasaari» is, by the way, Finnish and means «island of the skies». It’s the name of a place in Finland, where Marko spent his summers as a child – a place where time stands still and you’re very near to nature”.
Even though they’re a four piece live wise, this album seems to be recorded by only the two core members of Ashtar. Aren’t you curious to know how they recorded it? Witch Nadine will clear it out: “For our first live gigs we had two guest guitarists who did an awesome job – and we will continue as a four piece in the future when it comes to playing live. But the songwriting and recording process for «Ilmasaari» was a thing between the two of us. As drummer or bassist in our former or parallel bands, we wanted to contribute other parts to a band in Ashtar than just the rhythm section. Every single note, every riff and every instrument on this album is played by us. Marko played the drums but also a lot of lead guitar parts as well as the famous didgeridoo part on «Collide», and he did some clean vocals on «Moons» and «These Nights Will Shine On». Witch N. did all the lead vocals and played the bass, most of the rhythm and some lead guitars – and the violin on «Collide». Recording the six songs took about two weeks, divided in several sessions from December 2013 to April 2014. It was a big challenge but worked very well, and it was a satisfying experience for us. We can only recommend recording at OSA Crypt in Greifensee, Switzerland – Mäthe Imboden did a fantatstic job! And so did Greg Chandler of Esoteric. We knew him from musical collaboration in the past and transferred the album to him to Birmingham for the mixing and mastering process”.
Wouldn’t be surprising for a band based in Switzerland to use several languages. English, French… Finnish? “We just like how «Ilmasaari» sounds. And the place has a special meaning to us as a couple… Finnish is an expressive language for heavy music, as the example of Ajattara shows. But unfortunately, Witch N. can’t speak Finnish, and since she’s the one in Ashtar to write the lyrics, they are in English or French. But who knows, maybe in the future there will be songs in Finnish too”.
Artwork plays an important role here too: “Sin Dünki from Antï Graphic is a friend of ours who’s into the Zurich black metal scene just like the guys from the OSA Crypt studio. We wanted an artwork that represents our music in the best way possible. And as Sin came up with that old illustration of the Czech artist Alfons Mucha, we instantly were exalted: It’s equally morbid and bizarre but not black-and-white, it’s mystic and a bit fantastic too … of course, the vinyl format always offers other possibilities for the graphical realisation”.