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Album Review: Archgoat – The Luciferian Crown

I understand that it’s commonplace to use the word “legends” when writing a review or promo, even when the band in question doesn’t deserve it. However, until now, I don’t think I’ve reviewed a band that’s warranted the often-hyperbolic title more than Archgoat:  unquestionable champions of the Finnish black metal scene and truly a household name among the relevant communities. 2018 brings us Archgoat’s The Luciferian Crown, an album very much in line with what’s heard on Heavenly Vulva (Christ’s Last Rites) and The Apocalyptic Triumphator in terms of sound, but the composition shows obvious signs of growth and experimentation. This is a band that’s notorious for their consistent output, and while The Luciferian Crown shows off some new angles of blasphemy, it’s the same band that we all know and love (or at least should know and love).

The Hellenic black metal influence, absent in some tracks and blatant in others, is the most pleasant addition to the Archgoat sound that I picked up on in this record. The band sounds more confident on The Luciferian Crown, and when they dive into one of their trademark slow tempo sections, they often stick around for longer and let it really soak the atmosphere thoroughly. Aside from being longer, these slow sections are more abundant in general, allowing the tracks to properly marinate in this warm, spiritual atmosphere that Greece is famous for. See the track “Sorcery and Doom” for an especially blatant example of Archgoat’s new flavor of doomy riffing.

I personally prefer the doomier side of Archgoat, so this record was extremely satisfying on that front, but it feels like less of a conscious decision by Archgoat to slow things down and more of a symptom of the band mastering their craft. There’s certainly no shortage of the traditional black/death assault that the band is renowned for, and the core elements such as vocal style, guitar tone, and production are damn near identical to what they were on the last few releases. That being said, the tracks themselves showcase a willingness to experiment.

It’s subtle enough (as in, you probably won’t be floored by the differences), but I appreciate their ability to branch out in terms of song composition and, figuratively speaking, make The Luciferian Crown take up as much space and cover as much ground as it organically can.  There’s war metal aplenty, the aforementioned Hellenic-style sections to chill you to the bone, and the track “The Darkness has Returned” even has something of a punky kick to it. Yet every track, every section, every individual riff even, feels like it’s there for a reason. Even the intro track feels like time well spent on the record.

This confidence of Archgoat’s (coupled, naturally, with competent songwriting) gives The Luciferian Crown a markedly cinematic feel. The song titles don’t seem to follow any particular narrative (whereas The Apocalyptic Triumphator actually did have some feeling of progression), but this unusually dynamic take on their album structure makes the release feel more meaningful. The narrative may not lie in the tracks explicitly, but the actual musicianship feels like it’s going somewhere, actually leading up to something. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I feel that the uniqueness of each track and this overall feeling of significance and power that the record carries should invite listeners to become more invested in the intricacies of the record, percieved or otherwise. The (also slightly Greek sounding) track “Star of Darkness and Abyss” in particular carries a ton of weight and strikes me as some of the most theatrical work Archgoat has put out to date.

To sum it up, The Luciferian Crown is a ten track showcase of how Archgoat has improved their ritualistic sermons of black/death metal and essentially made everything that was already great, now even better. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that Archgoat put on another kickass record, but in case you needed someone to say it, here I am.

The Luciferian Crown releases September 14th via Debemur Morti Productions.

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