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Yaroslavl's Halter have been silent for a while, but their recent return with third full-length 'The Principles Of Human Being' prompted Comrade Aleks to go in search of frontman Alexey for a chat about the band's history and status.

Interview with Halter.
"The ancient Russian city of Yaroslavl is known as the birthplace of almighty Epic legend Scald. But there's one more Doom-oriented formation - Halter. Well, they've played tough, unsentimental Death/Doom since 2009, and you may have heard their debut 'Omnipresence Of Rat Race' (2013) or sophomore work 'For The Abandoned' (2015). There was no news from their side for a while, but Halter have finally returned with new material. The band's third album, 'The Principles Of Human Being', promises the despair of Sisyphean toil after seasons in a cobweb of troubles: they'll tell you stories of Hiroshima's scapegoats, and human paths from where nobody returns. Frozen Light Records and Moscow Funeral League released the CD version just two weeks ago, so we decided to discuss this fresh and hot piece with Halter frontman Alexey Pyshkin."

Halter new line-up: 'Ottar' Kudryashov (drums), 'Wad' Uglanov (bass), Roman Dmitriev (guitars), Alex 'Curche' Pyshkin (vocals), Dmitriy 'Mid' Pyshkin (guitars).

Hi Alex! How are you? How is the situation in Yaroslavl, considering the new quarantine restrictions?

Glad to welcome you! God had mercy! In our province, it was relatively calm all the time, even during the period of the strictest restrictive measures. In big malls like Globus, you wouldn't be served without a mask, but in other places, everyone wandered around as they pleased. But, of course, the most burning topic is about concerts: during the quarantine period, of course, everything was canceled...

A month before you caught the right moment and took part in the Doom Over Yaroslavl festival. How was it organized?

While negotiating the release of our third album on MFL Records, the label owner and founder of WDISS - E. S. - expressed a wish to play in Yaroslavl. I immediately picked up on this idea, especially since mass events were allowed again at that moment. It was easy to reach an agreement with the club; it was a bit more difficult to complete all the equipment list that would meet the requirements of the headliner's rider; there were some problems with the selection of a line-up. Eventually everything went almost perfectly, except for a small overlap with the timing...

Did you notice if there were more people than during regular gig in those times before the Covid shit was launched? I'm meaning times when we didn't have to wear masks all the time and gigs were a routine thing.

Indeed, there were quite a lot of people who were hungry for extreme music gigs during the restrictions, but I must note that this fest was not a completely routine event: in Yaroslavl, for the first time, Funeral Death/ Doom Metal by WDISS was played live! For the first time either Yaroslavl was visited by Inner Missing from St. Petersburg – one of the most famous Gothic metal bands in Russia. This line-up made it possible to attract music lovers from two near-doom camps at once.

Halter - 'Sisyphean Toil' (Official, 2020):

Did you try to use this opportunity to play a few more gigs, as it was obvious another lockdown was approaching?

Until recently, we were still not ready for doing live gigs, as we suffered guitar player change: Igor Rusakov decided to suspend his musical career, focusing on his family. The fest we organized spurred us to speed up our "workin' out" for going live, however, we were just able to get into the right shape with the new guitarist Roman Dmitriev, who, by the way, recorded and mixed our new album in his Studio. Well, now that the epidemic situation is getting worse again, it is difficult to plan anything certain.

Frozen Light records have released Halter's new album 'The Principles of Human Being' a week ago, and there was a five year break between that and your previous big work 'For the Abandoned'. How did the band spend this period?

Almost immediately after the release of the second album our friend drummer left us due to family problems. With the new one - Alexander Karakin (who by the way was not completely new – he was the first drummer with whom we started to write our first two songs back in 2009 before we even called ourselves Halter), we decided to sort out the old material, as we didn't want to leave the concert activity, focusing only on composing new material. As a result, our cooperation with him did not work out, and so we were thrown back for a whole year, since the same thing had to be repeated with the next drummer – Alexander "Ottar" Kudryashov, best known for his drumming in Scald, Tumulus, and a number of others.

Live, 2020. (Photo: Vyacheslav Kornilov).

So now you can put a label on your CDs – "featuring original Scald member"! : ) How did you take Scald's reunion?

We all love their legendary album Will of Gods Is A Great Power and look forward to a full-length follow-up! In addition, we realize that Scald is the only band in the history of Yaroslavl that has received wide international recognition, so we only wish them success with a new vocalist!!

How did you work on material for 'The Principles of Human Being'? And who offered the main ideas for the songs this time?

Some of the material was written before the release of the second album and then just brought to mind. The rest of the songs were composed in a typical way for us: someone brought the main riff or a couple to the rehearsal, someone immediately threw a continuation or development, and so the skeleton of the composition was ready. In the course of further rehearsals, it might seem that you can add this or that feature here, and then slightly trim the number of riff repetitions... So now it is difficult to recognize whose specific ideas are involved in each song, although we can say for sure that 'Hiroshima's Scapegoats' is almost entirely composed by Igor Rusakov. And let's not forget that 'As Nobody Returns' is a song that was given to us by David Unsaved from Ennui, although it was pretty much reworked by us.

Did you search for some features this time which could polish Halter's individuality? How do you see the band's core elements?

We have never tried to imitate anyone, neither to follow the fashion, but we have never puzzled over how we could become like no one else. We just initially chose to play guitar-driven Doom/Death Metal based on strong riffs, powerful bass and heavy growl. Also, our specialty has always been filigree melodic guitar solos.

And what are the album's highlights from your point of view?

The majority of participants over the 'Seasons', 'Cobweb of Troubles' and 'Sisyphean Toil' in descending order. But I think all the songs are good! How can we choose among our own creation?

Halter - 'Cobweb Of Troubles' (Official, 2020):

The artwork for 'The Principles of Human Being' has an interesting scheme, showing some central points of human nature. Who's the author of the cover? How did you figure out this scheme?

During one difficult period of my life, when general fatigue, lack of sleep and accumulated stress gradually turned into a depressive state, I began to come up with an obsession about the template, schematic, almost mechanical activity of people around me, and myself. We fight and push against each other, like some spare parts of the same mechanism, or parts of some electronic board... So the idea was born to name the album "Principles of human existence", to type a certain number of words denoting basic emotions, character traits, behavioral aspects, and place them on a certain electronic scheme... The author of the implemented idea is Vadim WAD, our bass player. It seems to be a Pinout diagram of some TV lamp.

Good idea actually... You are always careful concerning Halter's lyrics, what kind of themes did you choose for your texts this time?

As always, the themes of the lyrics are my personal experiences and events in the world around me. If we focus on each thing separately, then: 'Sisyphean Toil' symbolically depicts our civilization as a factory in which they are trying to build something perfect from human raw materials, but everything is spreading out again, does not keep in shape, the material becomes limp, and all the works go to waste; 'Seasons' and 'Spring Morning' – about the crisis of personality, emotional experiences, fear of the future; 'Cobweb of Troubles' - about the phenomenon of the appearance of young suicide bombers; 'Human Path' - about how bravely and uncontrollably humanity is moving towards its end (I'll hide Lemmy's influence when writing this song, hehe); 'As Nobody Returns' - words on behalf of the surviving member of the group Dyatlov; well, everything is quite simple with 'Hiroshima's Scapegoats'.

Did work on this material help you to get rid of those negative states you're talking about?

Being a member of a band, creating music and lyrics, any creativity in general, fills life with meaning, saves from bad thoughts, stupefaction and anger.

Live in 2017.

You've also released the digital single 'Времена года' ('Seasons'). Does it stand aside from other new songs for you?

This is just the Russian version of the album version of 'Seasons'... The poem was written by me back in the 90's and suddenly it perfectly fit the size, so we decided to try it, although I rarely like the sound of the Russian language in extreme vocals performance. We originally planned to use this version as a bonus track on the CD edition of Principles..., but the publishers considered it too much.

The band is tightly connected with the Moscow Funeral League and Frozen Light labels. What do you think... can a Death/Doom band get proper attention here in Russia being outside of this community or outside the Solitude Productions circle?

I am sure that an album released on a label with such a solid reputation, as well as huge promotion and distribution opportunities, as Solitude Prod., has a better chance of getting wide distribution. On the other hand, there is the well-respected GS Prod., as well as the booming label Sathanath Records, which is not limited to only one style... So, there are still some opportunities to get decent support without being in the areas you specified

Thank you for the answers Alex! That's all for today, let's sum up - what are your plans with Halter for the rest of 2020?

Next April, we are looking forward for an exciting adventure (as well as a serious challenge) - a European tour with Clouds, Woe Until Me and Who Dies In Siberian Slush, in which we will play ten or eleven sets in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. All our forces in the remaining months will now be devoted to preparing for this. Nevertheless, of course, we will not forget about making new music, so as not to allow such long breaks between releases!

Thank you for the interview and your continued support! We look forward to the continuation of Doom Metal Lexicanum and wish it to follow as soon as possible! Stay Doom!!

Halter - 'Keepers Of Persistent War' (Live, 2016):

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Interviewed on 2020-11-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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