In the mid-2000s, guitarist Enrique Jimenez was playing outside the usual circuit of rock clubs and DIY spaces in town, on stages in northwest Aurora and southwest Denver. And that exploratory spirit has benefited his current band, Altas. Formerly known as Panal S.A. de C.V., Jimenez formed the band with his brother Israel on drums and Juan Carlos Flores playing additional guitars and keyboard. They changed the name to Altas (Spanish for "heights") in 2014 in order to usher in a new chapter of the group's history. Altas's debut full-length album, Epoca de Bestias ("The Age of Beasts"), which the band will release this Saturday with a show at the hi-dive, reflects the fruition of the trio's experiments in sound, songwriting, textures and arrangements. The music is entirely instrumental, but Altas's songs have always suggested a cinematic narrative and vivid imagery.
A co-release between Sailor Records (which is handling the physical product) and Altas's own Ocaso imprint, Epoca de Bestias sounds vast, futuristic and menacing in the casual way of a large, mythological animal.
"It's a reference to the age we live in," says Jimenez about the album title. "We think we're highly evolved, and there's still a lot of base-level stuff going on everywhere, and it seems to keep on continuing. People killing people, people doing really horrible things to each other. Things that never seem to go away, no matter how civilized societies become. As a species, we can't seem to get past it. I don't know where that comes from or what a specific solution might be, but it's there.
"Until we're gone, I don't think that's going to stop," he continues. "Eventually our reign over this particular era is going to end. Just like every other species in any other era." That apocalyptic narrative plays out over the course of the new album. "The track order reflects that theme," notes Jimenez. "And it's kind of a journey through how we write music."
With song titles like "Aokigahara," "I Am the Night," "You Knew I Was a Snake" and "Superfund," it's clear that these guys have been pondering the fate of the human race as it embraces its own self-destruction. And yet anyone who has met the members of Altas knows they're not exactly a group of doomsayers; in fact, they're some of the most supportive members of the Denver music community. That spirit partly explains the special guests and collaborations for this album-release show.
Those guests include Meghan Lillis, formerly of Lightlooms, who played piano on the record, and Cherie Cobbs of Plume Varia. "It's not going to be your traditional vocal arrangement, but it's something we've wanted to do to try it out," says Jimenez. Josh Felice of Deep Grey will also provide visual accompaniment for the evocative songs. The result is sure to be an experience worthy of the band's lofty new name.
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