For some of our loyal Vault Hunters, all I really need to do is say ARCHGOAT. Frankly, it really should only take a mention of the legendary Finnish black metal band’s name to make damn near all of our readers lose their shit. When it comes to black metal in that part of the world, there’s Archgoat and then there’s everybody else – and it’s been that way since the release of the Jesus Spawn demo back in ’91. That’s a lot of years and a lot of blasphemy, and if you call yourself a black metal fan but don’t have any appreciation at all for the music of the Puolakanaho brothers–better known to the faithful as bassist/vocalist Lord Angelslayer and guitarist Ritual Butcherer–then I’m just going to assume that you discovered ‘black metal’ thanks to some shit like Ghost Bath.
With their fourth full-length (and something like fifteenth release overall) The Luciferian Crown due out on September 14 from Debemur Morti Productions (preorder here), I had the opportunity to chat with Ritual Butcherer about the new album, his conception of Satan, and a few other topics. Give it a read below, and then snag a copy of The Luciferian Crown – it’s quite possibly the strongest thing the band has ever done.
Indy Metal Vault: So first off, thanks for the interview. I’ve had a chance to give The Luciferian Crown several close listens, and it’s an outstanding album. In fact, it’s very possibly Archgoat’s strongest collection of hymns yet, which is saying a lot – both because of how strong your discography is as a whole, and how long you’ve been at it. There was that break between ’93-’04, but even taking that into consideration you’ve been creating your particular brand of angelslaying black fucking metal for nearly twenty years. What keeps the obsidian flame burning after all these years?
Ritual Butcherer: The pleasure is mine. I think that during all these years playing in Archgoat has become a lifestyle or larger than life journey for me as well as for Mr. Angelslayer. What was years and years ago three separate subjects, philosophy, music and everyday life, has during all these years merged into one that is way of life for us. But the big thing there is that we enjoy playing in Archgoat today like when we started. I can say that the journey of Archgoat very well represents my journey in many ways – the philosophical growth and being something that the external trends or gimmicks don’t change. The rock in the stream.
IMV: I’ve read several places that you don’t keep up on the current black metal scene, but I’m guessing you’re at least aware of the fact that there are a fuckton of bands out there right now playing a style of black/death metal—or ‘war metal,’ as some call it—that sounds a lot like Archgoat. Do you find it flattering in any way that you’ve had that sort of influence on younger bands? Or do you feel like they’re ripping off your sound?
RB: That is largely result of me prioritizing my limited time, and of course the number of new bands make it impossible to pick and listen to but very few of them – normally bands whose members I know. I know that there are bands calling Archgoat their influence like I am calling Celtic Frost my influence. I am happy if my creations bring people strong emotions and can form a base from where one can grow their own musical entity. I don’t have any problem if bands want to imitate our sound, but would very strongly advise them to make their music their own instead of Archgoat imitation. There is this saying “just like but not quite,” which quite well sums it up if you don’t bring your own soul into your own music.
IMV: There are a couple of things that immediately struck me as being different about The Luciferian Crown compared to your last couple of releases. The Apocalyptic Triumphator was a somewhat heavier take on the classic Archgoat sound – brutal, downtuned riffs, fast tempos, etc. Your half of the Lux Satanae split showcased the more punkish side of the band – short and nasty. The Luciferian Crown sounds more varied by comparison, and includes some elements that I don’t recall being all that prominent in Archgoat’s music: the guitar solos in “Jesus Christ Father of Lies,” the prominent keyboard accents on “Star of Darkness” and “The Luciferian Crown,” the almost death/doom feel of “The Obsidian Flame,” the prominent bass on “I Am Lucifer’s Temple.” I know you handle all of the songwriting duties for the band – did you go into this album wanting to do something a bit different, or was that just the way the hymns took shape this time?
RB: The variety in The Luciferian Crown is a controlled development, I would say. I wanted to compose a multidimensional album because it is more interesting for the band as well as for the listener when you can find different elements, complexities, and atmospheres. I took more time to compose this album and for the first time I used recording software to try different things at home, which obviously gave me the platform to try “new answers to old questions.” About four months before recording I discarded four ready songs that were originally going on the album and composed new ones to replace them.
For this album there were a few riffs that I have carried with me for long a time, and then these four that came right before the recordings, so these “different eras” of composing also brought the variance. One big factor was Mr. Goat Aggressor, whose bag of tricks has a depth I have not encountered with people I have played with. He brought some very good ideas that I was happy to involve in the songs. The fine-tuning of the songs was something I really liked because things flowed very naturally and without forcing anything into something, which you can hear on the record.
IMV: One thing that hasn’t changed, and I’m assuming never will, are your lyrical themes: anti-Christianity and Satanism. I’ve interviewed a number of Satanic or occult-influenced bands, and it’s rare to find two with the same approach to the topic – some are theistic Satanists, others are LaVeyans, some combine it with Gnosticism, others with Lovecraft, etc. Not to get too philosophical here, but what does Satan mean to you? Does a band have to be Satanic in order to be black metal?
RB: If I would feel like changing these lyrical aspects I would do it in another band, but with Archgoat these themes will always stick there as the main concepts of the band. I think the rarity of finding identical views within this philosophy is the richness of it – Satanism is not force-fed and ready chewed religion like others, but it really challenges the devotee. As I experience it, Satanism is a “one man with his God” religion rather than processed baby food of compromises.
For me, my journey in this philosophy has changed my understanding many times as how I see Satan – in the beginning of my journey I was worshipping a cosmic power that was external but whose fire I felt inside me. During the years the fire was growing and I suddenly had my moment of enlightenment when I was consumed by this fire, and noticed that the external fire was now an internal one and one with me. The journey to catch this fire was my Promethean climb, and the fire inside me was something people call the Tree of Knowledge.
As far as I understand it, you can’t make black metal if you are not Satanic because for me this genre is the most philosophical or religious music there ever has been. If you are not one with the power and don’t know Him you sing about, how can it be real?
IMV: I somehow didn’t realize this, but you’ve worked with Werwolf on several of your more recent releases: he produced The Luciferian Crown, as well as The Apocalyptic Triumphator and 2011’s Heavenly Vulva (Christ’s Last Rites) EP. What’s he like as a producer? How did that working relationship come about?
RB: I think it started firstly because he likes our music, and secondly the recording guy – Teemu Welin – had worked with him and he suggested that we should use his services. These gents came together to record Heavenly Vulva, and we had good recording sessions and his ideas were interesting – some we did incorporate and some didn’t – but I liked that somebody from outside whose judgement I trust was there to give us opinions and ideas. We have now probably recorded with the same team four times and I don’t see a reason to change that because things flow well when everybody knows the system, as I really don’t enjoy the recording sessions too much.
IMV: Since the subject kind of fascinates me, is Archgoat the sort of band that’s really picky about their gear? What do your studio rigs look like? How close are they to your live setups?
RB: We haven’t recorded at a studio since 1994. After that all our recordings have happened at our rehearsal place, so there is no studio rig for me. I have been recording the albums with the same equipment I have used on stage if I have had the possibility to bring my amp head along. For the guitar sound, I have used the same Zoom multi effect pedal since 1993’s Angelcuntrecordings. I recorded The Luciferian Crown using a Gibson Flying V (with ’57 Classic and BurstBucker 3 humbuckers) and Marshall JVM 410H amp head. I really wanted to bring the warm and heavy sound from these two traditional brands because it just suits our down-tuned, heavy sound.
IMV: Archgoat has some of the most distinctive artwork in all of metal – I don’t even need to see the band’s distinctive logo to know when I’m looking at an Archgoat album cover. You’ve been working with French artist Thorncross since as far back as 1993’s Angelcunt (Tales of Desecration) EP. How did you first hook up with him? How closely do you work with him on the concepts for your cover art at this point? Do you give him lyrics or anything, or do you trust that he just knows what you want?
RB: Our co-operation with Chris started when we back in old days saw his Goatlord cover. It was so different from the other artists’ work and we really felt that he would be perfect for us, so we just mailed him and that’s how things started. The first time we worked together in 1993 we sent him a detailed listing of the items we need to be on the cover. Due to a tight release schedule and as there was no Internet we had to trust him and have the MLP printed without seeing the cover. It turned out to be perfect except one thing – we as Finns thought that naturally the angel was a female, and Chris as French thought it had to be a male. So it turned out to be an album cover where the wrong hole was drilled. Funny and educational story.
But seriously, since 2004 I have been sending him very detailed sketches to work with, and he sends me different draft phase versions for review and that’s how we work. I think that is something that makes our covers really ours because the concept comes from us – but Chris being the great artist he is always comes up with great ideas about what would work, and he understands what Archgoat covers needs to have. This is something I really value. He has once drawn an art for us without any sketch or anything and that is the Whore of Bethlehem-era Crusader. For that I mailed him the lyrics and asked him to create an artistic form of what this album was all about.
IMV: It’s been about a year and a half since you last toured the States, closer to two and a half years since you did an extended run of North American dates. I don’t know if you keep up with these sorts of things, but I think it’s safe to say that things are a bit different in the US the last time you were here: tightened visa restrictions and threats of violence from groups on both ends of the political spectrum seem to be making it unnecessarily difficult for some bands to tour over here. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the subject. Does Archgoat intend to come back over to tour behind The Luciferian Crown, or does it seem like it might be more of a headache than it’s worth?
RB: What good comes out when politics get into music? For me, black metal is philosophical and Satanic music. It is not about politics, which is for controlling the masses. And bringing politics into this genre from inside (NSBM) or outside (Antifa) is just big nonsense in my opinion. I see these Antifa things as totally mindless and idiotic acts of vandalism, and actually representing something they loud-mouthy oppose as something the right wing does. These people are targeting bands arbitrarily and based on opinions, not on real facts. I don’t have respect for the kind of people who anonymously threaten venues if certain bands play there and don’t openly drive their agenda. It is cowardice, I would add. We are already starting the planning for 2019 and we will tour during that year, so let us see where we land. Of course we won’t let these moronic anarchists affect our works.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists – anything else you want to add?
RB: Thank you for the interesting interview. As we are the spokesmen of Lucifer, we will start touring to amplify the words of the Devil like any good preacher would do. See you on the road!