Black Metal is rooted in legendary bands like Venom, Hellhammer, Bathory, Beherit, Mayhem and Darkthrone. But few have lasted and fewer still have released consistently strong recordings that matched their initial fire and promise.
Finland’s Archgoat are a band that in no uncertain terms helped lay the foundation stones for what we recognise and love as Black Metal today. Rejecting any attempt to conveniently pigeonhole them, this is a band who are defiantly independent, and who have crafted some of the most enduring and consistently excellent Black Metal ever released. Always true to their Satanic beliefs, Archgoat have built a formidable reputation as a live act, and down the years have firmly established themselves at the very top of the genre.
I talked with founder member and guitarist Ritual Butcherer about the legacy of this seminal band first formed in 1989 in Turku, Finland.
Hailz Brother and thanks very much for agreeing to this interview with Seelenfeuer Black Metal Magazine.
Archgoat have been around for a long time now. In your opinion how much has changed in the Black Metal world since the late 1980s?
Pretty much everything is different today compared to the years the music and the scene started. The main idea from my point of view was to create something that was our own and the music was in this sense an extension of the band’s members – it was personal and, in a way, reflected like a mirror the souls who crafted it. With the passing of time, the idea was turned upside down and it seems like new bands only ended up sounding like somebody/everybody else, showing zero interest in creating their own personal take on the music. Of course, it is not totally black and white and it still surprises me sometimes that some bands positively emulate that original atmosphere. The scene was very closed and difficult to enter and involved people who were in the scene because they sought to be there instead of accidentally ending up there. In my opinion, the scene has been mellowed year on year with people leaving it and being replaced by new people with new ideas and so on. The bands today all fit into this little stupid sandbox with all the limitations and expectations that kill originality. I notice this quite often when hearing that Archgoat is something other than Black Metal, because people re-engineer what was to reflect what is. What is also very different is the scale of things with bands, international tours and so on. Back in the early 90s there was almost zero possibility to play abroad, which has fortunately totally changed for the better. We played our first international show I think in 2005 in the UK, and nowadays play more often outside than in Finland.
What were your main musical and non-musical influences at the time Archgoat began? What were the early ideas behind the band?
In terms of the early musical influences I would name bands such as early Carcass, Possessed, Celtic Frost, Sarcofago and so on. Basically, we listened to our favourite bands and wanted to create music that we would like to hear. Outside of musical influences alone, most of these bands with their Satanic images and lyrics were opening a world for us that we had not heard of before and were eager and hungry to learn about. This led us to order books about Satanism and the Left-Hand Path, and with the years passing led us to create our own philosophy and eventually way of life. With these two worlds – music and philosophy – we wanted to be more extreme than anybody else and the result was the birth of Archgoat.
As Satanic artists what does Satanism mean for you? Do you think Satanism is becoming a more accepted and realistic way of life now?
It is a way of life from which I draw my inspiration and that reflects what one can see in Archgoat. The band is an extension of the members and not vice versa. My view of Satanism has changed over the years and deepened to be something that is guiding my path in all aspects of my life. For me it is a very realistic way of life. Being accepted is a bit of a strong expression, as geographically the differences are big. Speaking only from my own point of view, I can say that I do not have any wish to talk about my philosophy with random people or see how accepted it is as I am very private person.
Being a Satanist myself I am very enthusiastic about exposing the total degeneracy of Christianity and similar insane creeds. Do you think Christianity is finally dying, or simply undergoing a temporary crisis?
Everything in everything is in constant motion – the sinus curve is a good example of this with its ups and downs. In times of crises, people need something to explain things or give answers. Christianity is this safe harbour for insecure people who do not want/wish/are capable of thinking and evaluating the world themselves. It is not going anywhere and is basically running around in the same little circle. Since the middle ages this religion has been against science and the arts except the religious forms. I have a very strong sense of disgust for this religion of anti-science and stupidity. The whole point of this journey called existence has been for me to challenge things and affect the world instead of being passively affected.
Who is the main creative force in Archgoat? Do you start writing with lyrics first or does it start with the music?
For over a decade I have been creating all the music and lyrics for Archgoat so that would be me. As a guitarist, for me the riff is the king. I start creating a song from one simple guitar riff, which I then start to develop by “trial-and-error”, seeing how it functions with the next riff and so create a concept for a song with its structure and drum ideas.
The lyrics are the last thing I add to the songs as a musically complete song has to “speak” to me about what it is about, and from this “discussion” the lyrical aspect is honed.
Going back to your early releases. The Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) ep was released way back in 1993 but sounds really fresh and dynamic all these years later. At the time did you imagine that you would create such timeless music. Why do you think it has endured so well?
Thank you for your comments. Sound wise – in my opinion – this release has been almost like my Moby Dick that I ran after and tried to catch. Of course, there has to be some kind of evolution happening but the basic sound of Archgoat is what really makes the release dynamic. Real people playing in a live environment with real instruments and all recorded with an analogue 16-tracker. The minor fluctuations in tempo only add to the live feeling it has. I think that release in a way represents the early untamed Black Metal that had the element of surprise in it. We purposely left some material out because we wanted the release to be perfect. We adopted a mind-set of “no fillers, only killers” and used the best material we had composed at the time.
There seemed to be something of a hiatus until you released Angelslaying Black Fucking Metal in 2005 and quite a change in the sound. Why the long break from releases and how did you develop the band’s sound to bring about this change?
Angelslaying was recorded as an LP in 1993 and due to our break-up with Necropolis Records, we decided not to release it at all. The scene had grown overnight into what we felt was an avalanche of Darkthrone copyists who came to the scene with the mentality “music first”, and this had nothing to do with Satanism.
This was the start of the sandboxing of Black Metal because suddenly everyone sounded the same, and even the old bands like Archgoat, Beherit, Blasphemy, Sarcofago were suddenly lumped in with the newly invented “standards of Black Metal” and defined as something other than Black Metal. This environment was something that we decided to depart from. In a way I would say that at first Black Metal was played by schoolyard bullies and suddenly by wimps who were bullied and pushed around. When in 2003/2004 we decided to get Archgoat back on track we had the Angelslaying master tape and decided to release 3 songs from it as a mark that we are back.
Whore of Bethlehem was a real landmark release, and I remember playing it to death. Again, your sound seems to have evolved considerably by then, what led to that? And why the direct focus on the ‚Mother of Christ‘?
That was a really hard release to do because the last time we recorded anything had been over a decade previously and decided to make everything as DIY as possible. We recorded in our rehearsal room with a friend of ours taking care of all the sound engineering related things. I remember using exactly the same setup as I had for Angelcunt, but the guitar sound turned to something absolutely different which again proves that the best things happen unexpectedly. The heavy, low-end sound of Angelcunt was replaced with a chainsaw like guitar sound and a very distorted overall sound, which suited us quite well. Also, we did not want to mix the release too much but rather to keep it primal. The title song is a very straightforward insult aimed at one of the most sacred things in Christianity, and was purposely chosen to represent the ideology Black Metal should be about – instead of the tree hugging pagan nonsense the scene had reverted to.
You have a pretty formidable reputation as a live act, what drives your live performances? What do you aim to achieve when you play live? Which gigs in particular stand out for you?
What drives us to play live? We see Archgoat as a prophet who needs to stand in front of people to preach about the rebel Angel. In a way to lead from the front being on stage, being who you are and presenting the message that makes this band exist. Also, we like to play live – even after all these years – so a live show is for us to direct the energy of our music to people and get back the energy they are investing in being present. The shows that stand out would be the very first one back in 1990 where I remember being so nervous that my legs where shaking. Then maybe I would say 2005 in the UK when we played Slimelight as our first foreign show ahead of the European tour. In 2018 we played an Asian tour, which was really something special because of the die-hard intensity of the audience. Maybe I need to add the two 30th anniversary shows also as we played over 100 minutes and 27 songs or so which was the end-result of a lot of planning and hard work and rehearsing some songs we hadn’t played live in over 20 years. There really are too many to mention.
The artwork is really special on your releases, who does the design for these and how do you decide on the design and look?
I always do the designs myself. The design is always focused on the main theme of the album and the details are added after that to make it complete. The twin moons are for me the element I always want to include in the art as it is a symbol of duality for me. A long time ago the main “look” of the art was already clear and the covers are like follow-ups of each other.
To me The Luciferian Crown seemed to have more of a Death Metal feel to it. Was this a deliberate decision on your part, will you develop this further?
I am a bit puzzled by this comment. I composed one song for Luciferian Crown, “Sorcery and Doom”, which is the story of a Finnish Shaman and deliberately chose some very Finnish sounding heavy riffs for that song. But other than that, I really am not picking up your view as this release – like always – is composed based on the same freedom of expression, and never sandboxing the compositions by the rules created by people who really have problems understanding what black metal is all about. The next album will be created in a similar way, being totally unconcerned about outside views.
After so many years together and so much achieved what comes next for Archgoat? Is there a new release planned, and how soon do you think it will be before you get back to live shows?
Well, I am at this very moment at the airport flying to Finland to record a new album so yes, there will be continuity. The release will be announced by Debemur Morti very soon and will be the main theme for the late 2021 European Tour. My expectation is – in the light of the Corona vaccinations – that the tour will happen and everything will fall back from a sporadic 2020 to normal by late 2021 and so on.
One thing is for sure, Archgoat will continue to deliver the most blasphemous, brutal Black Metal possible, relentlessly and unflinchingly for a long time yet. It is indeed refreshing to see a band who remain indifferent to musical trends and are so totally focused on delivering real Black Metal art, and not some pale, insipid imitation.
With a new album due for release by Debemur Morti this year, and live shows to follow, Archgoat will again set the standard for everyone else to follow, although few will. Amid the Covid chaos, unrelenting religious and political stupidity and the wholesale, bovine moronity of the masses, we are truly lucky to have them. Long may the eternal black flame burn ….