Interview: Kat Gillham (Nine Altars / Thronehammer)

As most of you know, there is a circle of bands that we – and let’s be honest about this – have grown particularly attached to over the years. One of them is without question Thronehammer, who Aidan and I were able to see live together twice last year. Against this background, we were of course extremely happy when we heard that Thronehammer frontwoman Kat Gillham is releasing an epic doom metal album with Nine Altars this year, entitled The Eternal Penance, on which she exclusively uses clean vocals. With the release of this record, vinyl version on Journey’s End Records, CD version on Good Mourning Records coming up soon, it was high time to chat with Kat about this record, the eventful year 2022 and all sorts of other topics. As always, there’s plain talk!

André: Hi Kat, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How are you doing? Have you had a good start into the new year?

Kat: Hi André I, am ok, thanks! It has been an alright and quite relaxed start to the new year overall, just trying to keep myself occupied with positive activities on these cold dark winter days and nights. 

André: Which album did you listen to before answering my questions? And which record did you buy most recently?

Kat: The last record I listened to before starting to answer this interview was the new Ahab album The Coral Tombs. The most recent album I bought, if we are talking about an individual album, then it was Arð – Take Up My Bones which I bought in Durham Cathedral when Mark the man behind the band performed choral versions of songs from his album with a choir there a few weeks ago which was just amazing, couldn’t think of a more perfect place to buy that album! But the most recent purchases were a bunch of CD’s in one go which I picked up from a local char shop, 40 CD’s in total including ones by Babylon Whores, The Gates Of Slumber, Reverend Bizarre, Darkthrone, Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost etc, a friend had donated a bunch of his collection there so tipped me off about them! I will never get another charity shop bargain like that ever again! 

André: Let’s take a look back to 2022: My colleague Aidan and I really enjoyed your performance with Thronehammer at the Hammer of Doom festival. That was one of the best concerts of the year, I have to say. How did you experience this gig and the festival in Würzburg in general?

Kat: Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed our set in Würzburg! It was absolutely amazing to play within the hallowed walls of the Posthalle again and share a bill with so many great bands, sharing a bill with Candlemass and The Skull with Scott Reagers and Karl Agell singing for them was quite something! A doom dream come true! I was backstage about an hour before our set and was walking towards the stage to check out Stygian Crown and Karl Agell and Ron Holzner (I’d met them both the previous day) came walking towards me and so we stopped and talked a bit and then Karl introduced me to the guy with them and is like “This is Scott” and I looked at him and thought “OMG, it is Scott Reagers!”. I was also carrying around an old faded 80’s Candlemass Epicus Doomicus Metallicus shirt in my bag in the hope of getting it signed and was watching the Candlemass set with Götz Kühnemund and he took me to their dressing room after the set and helped me get the shirt signed by the whole band! It was awesome to meet the Candlemass guys and even have a little chat with Leif Edling! It was an amazing experience and weekend all round and the crowd response during the Thronehammer set was just mind-blowing, so awesome! They were so energetic, responsive and vocal singing and shouting along to our songs etc! It is always great to be in Würzburg, a place with very special memories and it was where Thronehammer played our first ever live show in May 2019 at the Immerhin venue underneath the Posthalle when we toured with Lord Vicar

André: In 2022 you were also on tour in Germany with Thronehammer, in this context we saw you in Oberhausen. How did you experience this trip through Germany? 

Kat: It was so great to get back out to Germany and get on the road across the autobahns of Deutschland again after over 2 years of not playing live due to the pandemic. We had great responsive crowds on both tours we did in 2022 but some standout shows and crowds were in Oberhausen, Karlsruhe, Nürnberg, Villingen-Schwenningen, Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig and also Dornbirn which was our first ever show in Austria. We got to share stages and bills with some awesome bands on those tours such as Wheel, Cross Vault, Eremit, Fleshcrawl, Disgusting Perversion, Groza, B.S.T., Spiritual Void, Sauros, Goat Explosion etc. Very cool and successful tours altogether, we didn’t lose money which is always good! 

André: Let’s move on to the debut of your new band Nine Altars, The Eternal Penance. First of all, please tell our readers how this new project came about.

Kat: I had been wanting to do a band in the more traditional and epic doom metal style for quite some time with 100 per cent clean sung vocals so I started coming up with riff ideas and got together with my friend Charlie Wesley who is also in Lucifer’s Chalice and Enshroudment, we soon got Nicolete from Uncoffined onboard on lead guitar then added bassist Jamie Thomas into the line-up a little while later. We spent the lockdowns rehearsing the material and eventually we hit the studio in December 2021 to record the 3 epic songs we had crafted. We were thinking of writing a 4th song but decided to just stick with the 3 we had written and well rehearsed, the album clocks in at just under 35 minutes which might seem a little short to some people but it is better to record 3 quality long songs and keep people eager to hear more than rush writing another song just for the sake of adding more time to a release, it is quality not quantity plus plenty of bands have albums in-between 35-40 minutes and some bands release albums that clock in at under 30 minutes. 

André: Which bands would you describe as sources of inspiration?

Kat: For Nine Altars we look to bands such as Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Sorcerer, Revelation, Penance, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, The Obsessed, Witchfinder General, early Black Sabbath and 80’s Iron Maiden for inspiration. 

André: What is the meaning of your band name?

Kat: It is a reference to The Chapel Of The Nine Altars in Durham Cathedral. I just thought it would make a perfect name for a doom metal band! 

André: After a few playthroughs, I am already very sure that The Eternal Penance will be one of my favourite albums in 2023. Even though Thronehammer sound different, I think Nine Altars are also characterised by a very intense atmosphere and deep emotions that you don’t experience with many bands. I suppose such a recording process must be very exhausting for you…

Kat: It is good to read that you are enjoying the album so much! The recording process was quite a straightforward process overall, I laid down the drums very quickly in one afternoon, we did an extra session for guitar tracking then the vocals were recorded last over a few sessions. The vocals were probably the most exhausting to record personally but I am very happy with the result, they sound strong, powerful and emotive which is what I was wanting to achieve vocally. 

André: Especially “Salvation Lost“ is very captivating for me. Do you also consider this track to be particularly well-done?

Kat: Yes I do, it has a good mix of tempos and a very cool Sabbathy groove in the middle. Kinda like a mix of Sabbath, Pentagram and Maiden

André: Are you planning to go on tour with Nine Altars?

Kat: We’d love to play live eventually, we are currently learning a drummer the songs so I can just focus on singing live. Hopefully by summer we can get out there and do some shows. 

André: On our blog we always deal with political topics. Aidan and I really appreciate that you are always clear about these things. Would you agree with me when I say that many more metal musicians should take a stand on current issues?

Kat: Definitely. Too many people sit on the fence and are happy to stand in the grey zones of politics and be apathetic when it comes to choosing which side of the fence you want to be on. Libertarians I find especially amusing and perplexing. Pick your side, you are either against conservative bigoted right-wing fascist bullshit or you support it. If you aren’t anti-fascist and are ANTI-anti-fascist then what does it make you? For another example. 

André: Especially in the last few years, some icons in our scene have attracted attention with sometimes completely idiotic statements. Where do you personally draw the line: When does a band vanish from your collection because you can no longer listen to it in good conscience because of the political attitude of one or more members?

Kat: I still listen to classic Solstice, The Obsessed and Amebix etc but I am totally against the verbal diarrhea certain members who are/were involved with these bands have been spewing out in recent times to do with conspiracy theories, holocaust denial, anti-vax propaganda, whining about wearing masks and being a general Covidiot etc and some of these idiots have sided with the far right basically. Very disappointed in Rob Miller especially who I thought was more intelligent than going down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole route etc but he sadly proved to be a fucking idiot. Such people have clearly lost the plot and are like old men yelling at clouds. They complain about being “cancelled” but some bullshit and bigotry deserves cancelling and challenging, fuck that absolute moronic mentality and I have no problem in calling out such people. There is freedom of speech and then there is FREEDUMB of speech. These kind of people are confrontational with others but do not like it if others are confrontational with them and challenge them, they just end up blocking you etc like the cowards they are as they cannot handle being challenged. I still listen to those bands because there is more than just 1 idiot involved in the writing and recording of the music so I can still enjoy listening to AmebixArise or the first 2 Solstice albums and demos for example as not all members share the same batshit crazy views. Those old recordings are the hard work of other people too and I personally know a bunch of ex-Solstice members and they are good guys. It is their music and musical legacy too. The past few years have especially brought out the stupidity in quite a lot of people who have chosen to spend so much time with their heads down rabbit holes and on conspiracy theory channels and sites. 

André: Are there developments in the metal underground in general that you look at with concerns?

Kat: It still concerns me that NSBM is still a thing and that bands such as Mgła get to play huge festivals whilst having close connections with openly fascist and right-wing bands and musicians, their own music might not be NSBM but they are in bed with such people and share stages with them. 

André: Last question: Which Black Sabbath album do you like the most?

Kat: Vol. 4 is definitely my favourite Sabbath album with some of my favourite Sabbath songs on it such as “Snowblind”, “Wheels of Confusion”, “Supernaut”, “Cornucopia” and “Under The Sun”. Great album with a great sound and overall vibe. 

André: Kat, thank you for this very interesting interview, with which you once again proved that you name things – a quality that, as I said, we really appreciate in you! We wish you and your bandmates in Thronehammer and Nine Altars all the best for the year 2023. I am confident that we will see each other live again soon.

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