I had assumed the name "Altar" was a derivation of "Alternative" resulting from them interpreting their musical philosophies as being an extension of contemporary musical movements. That element may be there but it turns out they are a Christian band and place themselves in the Korean genre of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I believe there are many people like me who would prefer musicians just delivered their message without bothering to pidgeon-hole themselves. (That's going to be done by the critics and public anyway.) Anyway, watching this band and soaking up beer at a bar I was completely unaware of their perspective. The message doesn't seem to be overt. They just are a good, modern rock band.
For me the strong point of the band is guitarist Lee Chi-won. He is obviously very skilled but shows remarkable taste and restraint in his solos. He also gives plenty of space to the other guitarist who is also very competent. During live performances he will succumb to classic showmanship, playing the guitar behind his neck or going into the audiencce to borrow a bottle or glass to use for some slide playing. I think he is a talent to watch and he will develop as he gains experience.
Their debut album has been released recently. My first impression is that the cover design while attractive should be placed up there with the original Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers album. (It featured a pair of jeans with a real zipper which damaged the record inside.) The Altar CD is a cardboard package that requires the user to dig deep inside the sleeve, firmly pinching the CD to retrieve it to play. This puts fingerprints all over the CD, ensuring it will need cleaning soon. If you purchase the CD in a shop, I recommend you open it in the shop to check the CD is in good condition. At least the designer will be able to claim membership to the same club as Andy Warhol (designer of Sticky Fingers). Cover design not withstanding the CD Altar/Alter is well produced and features high quality music. The range of style is more adventurous than their live performances and features styles they describe and techno, roots, funky, grunge, etc. There are moments which hark to the ever popular (in Korea) Heavy Metal. One nice feature of the CD is a multi-media track featuring mini-bios and a video for one song Monkey. All in all, Altar/Alter is a very impressive, sophisticated debut album.
They produced a second album which I think was released around early 2000. I haven't heard it but was told it was to be a double album with some material from the first album remade. They are still performing around town as a four-piece band. Chi-won's plans to start a blues band have not eventuated. --MichaelGlass
The band is; Cha Myeong-jin; bass guitar and Vocals 차명진 Hwang Jeong-kwon: Drums 황정관 Yang Jin-hee: Keyboard 영진희 Kim Seong-kwan; guitar 김성관 Lee Chi-won; guitar 이치원