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Noltem - Ethereal Escapist Music

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Max Johnson (Guitars /Keyboards) ‘’ I started writing music under the name of Noltem in 2003 or 2004. The “Hymn of the Wood” demo came out in 2005. These songs were the result of my first attempts to write music as a solo artist. I had only performed as a guitarist in a couple of local bands up until this point.

Noltem disbanded for quite some time. the idea and or inspiration for it to return?

‘’My friend Bob Davis was releasing some really interesting hand-made cassette tapes from 2013 until 2015 (the label was called “Ritual Ugliness Productions”). He was a fan of the demo and contacted me with the idea of re-releasing a new cassette. We thought it might be appealing to include an un-released song as a bonus. I decided to resurrect some old material and record a full EP. This is when I got in contact with John in 2014 and then Shalin in 2017 or 2018. Here we are today.

The idea to create such individual sounding music.

‘’I have always tried to write music which acknowledges the great bands of the past, while simultaneously attempting to create something enduring and unique. My greatest influences have already mastered their respective styles. We’re not interested in being a clone band.

‘’I’ve honestly never considered any kind of geographical boundaries while writing music. I can’t really imagine working within such a narrow mindset. If it sounds good, then we’re going to experiment with it as a band and see where it takes us.

Was the process to create Illusions in The Wake a long one?

‘’From start to finish, it took me about two years to write the 6 songs. We spent another two years arranging things as a band and recording the tracks. Unfortunately, it took another 1.5-2 years to see the music officially released to the public.

Would it be fair to say your music carries the foundations of Black metal, but then moves into so much more?

‘’That is absolutely a fair thing to say. If you compare our music to a classic black metal album, then there really isn’t much in common aside from the vocal style and some tremolo/blast beat sections. The demo tape and “Mannaz” have a little bit more of that black metal influence, but it isn’t really what I want to write anymore. We aren’t getting any younger, and I just want to push myself to my creative limit wherever possible

Do you still consider yourself an extreme musician?

‘’I don’t really think of myself as anything, to be honest. I just play guitar in a band which happens to perform “extreme” music. None of us consider ourselves to be a part of a “scene” or anything like that. I hate to label myself in that kind of way. We’re just musicians, that’s all. I write and perform a lot of mellow acoustic music, and all of us in the band listen to just about anything.

Noltem carries none of the "ëxtreme"music cliches, intentional?

‘’To continue what I was saying above, we really don’t think about how we present ourselves to the world. We’re just 3 friends in a band. I got over the bullet belts and stuff like that many years ago.

Are people surprised when they discover you are an American band?

‘’I’ve actually never heard anyone say that before. I think as far as quality goes, the line between European and American metal bands has been blurred for quite a long time.

Atmospheric Black metal is used to describe you. Is it accurate? More like escapist music where you take a journey?

‘’Yes, I suppose that’s the easiest way to describe our music (or at least up to and including “Illusions in the Wake”). There’s a lot of heavy metal and melodic death metal influence as well, along with several other styles of music. We never tried to fit into one single category, because honestly this band is difficult to describe. I am flattered to hear these songs described as “escapist music”. That’s a high compliment in my opinion!

Is that where the inspiration for Beneath The Dreaming Blue comes from?

‘’It’s a reference to being underwater. I won’t spoil any of the lyrics, but they’ll be self-explanatory once they’re available.

Is this also the foundation for your artwork?

‘’Honestly, we stumbled upon the cover art out of pure luck. It perfectly fits the atmosphere and the dreamy, ethereal nature of the music.

Your original inspiration to play black metal and does it still move you?

‘’The original influences for Noltem go back to Agalloch (mostly the first two albums, as “Ashes Against the Grain” hadn’t been released yet), Vintersorg, and early Opeth. I still regularly listen to these bands, and they will forever be an important part of my life. All this stuff was very formative in my early days as a songwriter

Should we all undertake a journey to escape and find ourselves?

‘’Your journey will always be different than mine, so it’s impossible for me to say. That being said: everyone should get lost in the woods at least once in their life…

What else influences you? Do Current events and media cause an adverse reaction to what your creating?

‘’Noltem has never been (and will never be) based in reality. As we said before, it’s music for escapism. I do my absolute best to avoid watching the news or reading about current events online. It’s never benefited me in any way whatsoever. While I appreciate fine art and literature, I wouldn’t say that it has a direct impact on the music. I have used poetry from Robert Frost and George Sterling for lyrics, but it was more of an afterthought. I’m never focusing on lyrics while writing music. It always comes after.

Plans for the future and other projects?

‘’We’re currently in the process of writing album #2. I’m hoping to start recording in 2022. Other than that, I don’t have anything going on. John is in several other bands which are releasing albums this year as well. Keep an eye out for his band Pyrithe! They’ve got an awesome album on the way…

Tops 6 albums of all time?

‘’That’s always a really difficult question to answer. My responses change with time, but here’s my current list:

Agalloch – “The Mantle”

Agalloch – “Pale Folklore”

In Flames – “The Jester Race”

Dissection – “Storm of the Light’s Bane”

Obsequiae – “Suspended in the Brume of Eos”

Solstafir – “Masterpiece of Bitterness”

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