2020 has been a key year for ARKHON, who without much promotion, have managed to get the demo “Devoured In A Dark Dimension” to be reissued by Unholy Domain Records of Italy. Did you expect things to happen so fast?
“I would even say that it took a while to happen, since originally there was another session destined to be the demo, but we were not completely convinced how the result was turning out, so we discarded it. This demo must have seen darkness a long time ago. For now, things are just beginning and we hope that ARKHON continues to attract the attention of important labels, like the one mentioned.”
We are in a time where Death Metal leads the world. There are many bands, many labels and that leads to oversaturation. What do you think makes ARKHON a different band?
“We have created many songs, several have been discarded. We demand that our compositions have the sufficient level as the bands that we like and we follow. In the beginning we took those bands as a reference but we looked for our own sound, seeing where this takes us. The idea is to keep in essence, the darkness and brutality of Death Metal, although sometimes being stuck between dark riffs for many hours, can be challenging for sanity.”
The members of ARKHON have had previous experiences and are part of other bands today. Does that influence the construction of a solid and defined sound? Or is each history different?
“Each story is different, each one has had a different school. We have all learned something from previous experiences in bands, some more than others, but our musical development was always something personal and influenced by bands we listen to, rather than our previous bands. I mean, none of our previous bands sound or will sound like what we do in ARKHON, because our idea is to develop our own vision of Death Metal. We have always been attracted to Death Metal and it is the first time we totally identify with a band.”
Tell us how you came to assemble the 4 tracks that make up “Devoured In A Dark Dimension”. I describe it as a mix of bands like IMMOLATION, MORBID ANGEL, GOD MACABRE, but in their demo era (MACABRE END in the case of the latter)! Do you agree with the appreciation? Is that the classic amateur / primal sound that surrounds you when composing?
“Regarding the sound of the demo, the idea was to achieve a cavernous, heavy and dark atmosphere. That may be the relationship with the demos you mention, and of which we consider ourselves followers. Actually, that is the best time for those bands, still on the way to maturity, however many songs sound even better on demos than on albums. Perhaps live recorded Metal better exposes a raging band that activates mosh and violence. The best way to honor the bands that we follow is to take them as a starting point, and do our version of Death Metal.”
I come from a generation that saw mysticism die in the Metal underground because of technology “fault”. You, as part of a new generation, what do you consider to be the pros and cons that a band faces to promote itself appropriately in these years? Without a doubt, your vision is totally different from mine.
“Before, the underground was transmitted by word of mouth. Only those who were in that environment knew the contemporary bands that emerged and gained notoriety, but if they appeared on TV or radio, they were considered commercial bands. There was no Internet. If we take that to the present, the internet does not have the same punch as in its beginnings. Many bands were hung but that does not mean that they are now established bands. The underground you are referring to has already died, there are bands that do not need promotion on the networks because they are good and they promote themselves without having to appear. The Internet is a medium that favors bands, but the problem is in overexposure, appearing for pleasure without having anything to say. The use of the internet for the band must be linked directly to the music.”
What do you consider to be the elements that make Death Metal special? And on the other hand, what elements should never be mixed with Death Metal? Do you think there is an option for bands to emerge that innovate in the genre or has everything already been written?
“Death Metal has heaviness and darkness in the sound of the instruments, brutality in the execution of the songs, complexity and creativity in the composition, with variations in speed and progression in its changes. Aura of terror, chaos, darkness and brutality that immerses the listener in a new world. On the other hand, we believe that elements that do not contribute have appeared, such as slam or pig squeal, since the style begins to vary, adopting new currents that destroy the essence of good Death Metal. Nothing is said, there is always an option for new sounds to emerge, but every change brings controversy.”
ARKHON has had few live performances; are concerts an important issue as a band? There are bands who prefer the studio to the concerts due to the lack of criteria of the organizers and the quality of the equipment. What is your position?
“We prefer to play concerts with serious organizers, who care about equipping the sound correctly, since Death Metal needs a certain level of power to be able to make a presentation as it should. However, there are those who build their concerts with poor quality equipment, forcing the musician to invest in more equipment to be prepared for these situations. But a band does not advance that far, currently, when performing live. Just the satisfaction of the ritual that means exposing ourselves to other beings and seeing their reactions to our band. We tend to be more active in studio. We are constantly composing new songs and recording demos for future productions.”
As fans of the genre, how do you see bands that exaggerate aesthetics and the occult “message” leaving music as secondary? Sometimes I despair as they praise bands that are shameless copies of INCANTATION or MORBID ANGEL; Is it a lack of background or is the trendfollower so strong these days that it dictates the popularity of the bands?
“For us the search for a band aesthetic, although it worked for ALICE COOPER or KISS, that does not go with us. We will always go to play with the same clothes we rehearse with. We prefer to focus on improving our compositions and executing the songs well. Originality must be maintained. We would not feel comfortable showing ourselves in a way that we are not. Perhaps the bands that copy even the covers have become so obsessed with sounding like some band, that they lost the compass. They may have attracted the attention of some, but cannot be consolidated by constant comparison.”
What is coming for ARKHON is the participation in a compilation of Latin American Death Metal bands through Dybukk Records and a 7” by Crypts Of Eternity Productions! Can you give us more details about it? Many bands avoid talking about their future plans, perhaps for fear that a streak of bad luck will cancel their plans.
“We are rehearsing and honing the songs, both from the EP and the exclusive song for the compilation of Latin American Death Metal bands, which will all be part of the same recording session. It will be ultimately a kind of separate puzzle that is completed between the Crypts Of Eternity EP and the Dybukk Records compilation.”
Now that new releases are coming, how is the composition work within the band? How do you decide that a track is ready or has to be discarded? Are there “discussions” between the members so that their ideas are the ones that take place? How is the chemistry inside ARKHON?
“From the beginning of the band, we have dedicated ourselves to recording our own riffs, because inspiration arises at any moment. So we have been able to put together a lot of songs. Despite having a defined basis for a theme, changes can arise to arrive at a structure that satisfies all members of the band. We tend to be quite critical of our compositions, so generally one of our songs has to be at the level of the bands that influence us, otherwise it would probably be discarded. Some discussions may arise between us, but that’s how teamwork is. Besides, we get along well. In rehearsals there are beers, lots of conversations and lots of music.”
Among the new tracks of the band, it is ‘Prison Of Nightmares’ which surprised me because it marks an evolution in ARKHON. It’s traditional Death Metal; with the dense atmosphere, speed in the precise moments, devilish vocals (in the best Ross Dolan style) and that feeling that slowly crushes our skull! Is ARKHON a band that tries to go further in relation to its last period of composition? It is a very complicated task without a doubt.
“You said it yourself, that’s the idea of the band, to find your own sound. Obviously the future job is not going to sound like the previous job. Proof of this is the topic you mention. You could see it. We try to constantly evolve without leaving aside the essence of Death Metal, which is not an easy task since it implies getting a little more involved with the composition, knowing your instrument more, improving your technique, and soaking up new sounds that are brought by the new bands. We demand ourselves to improve as musicians, but we do not force ourselves to sound different from others, it is something that happens alone. ARKHON has his own personality, identity as a band.”
Have you investigated the American underground scene that was in the shadows when classical bands exploded worldwide? I perceive a lot of that darkness and honesty in ARKHON. What bands in your opinion should have had more “luck”?
“SADISTIC INTENT must have been headlining years ago, although it fell behind due to not having released LPs. D.V.C could have had a better fate as well, with tremendous jewels they brought out. But the best example is IMMOLATION, because they have released several albums, in which an excellent evolution in their music can be appreciated. Few people value works like the “Unholy Cult”, and their musicians, who reach a compositional level that few have reached.”
Tell us about the choice of the name, I know that the concept has a lot of meaning for you and it is not just a simple name that “sounded good”. Did you know about the existence of the Italian band ARKHON INFAUSTUS?
“It is a name that was chosen for the concept it has in the background. ARKHON means archon in Greek. For them it meant, ruler, or master. But they saw it on an esoteric level, rulers on an inter-dimensional level, who are invisible to people and move the strings of humanity’s destiny. We knew about the existence of ARKHON INFAUSTUS, but being a totally different band from ours, it does not prevent us from calling ourselves ARKHON.”
We live in a time when labels seek to inflate prices for wooden boxes, accessories, etc., leaving aside the most important thing, which is music. Do you appreciate those editions? What do you look for when choosing material for your collection?
“These type of editions occur with established bands. We want the acquired material to have a good sound. It is the most important thing. The visual material, while helping to shape the band’s worldview, we take it as something not as important as the sound quality.”
At the local level there are a series of unfortunate events that make the banger look like a jerk. Metal courses at the university, exhibitions where they tell the half truth, ridiculous people’s rings and I stop, otherwise I would write the whole zine about these absurdities. Why are these people looking to benefit from Metal? The real underground in our city luckily has not been contaminated with that garbage. How do you feel when you see all those degrading acts that only dirty what has been built with effort? Do you think there is a target audience that eats the lies of these people?
“Metal has ceased to be exclusive to one sector for a long time. It has reached out to all kinds of people lately. There are those who seek personal benefit in this, seducing followers, many newcomers, who are looking for a place to belong, forgetting what is essential, which is music and the worldview of bands. Music in general should be seen more deeply. We respect Metal. Many bands that make Death Metal are fans of the style, like us. Here it is useless to pretend, because people realize it. We are not governed by that kind of thing.”
How are the alliances going internationally? I know there are people interested and proposals, how do you handle this? Without a doubt it is important to interact with labels, bands, fanzines and others. Is the whole band or only one person in charge of seeing this theme?
“Having little promotion on the internet, we have come into contact with foreign labels, such as Unholy Domain Records from Italy, Dark Blasphemies from Spain, Testimony Records from Germany, Trauma Records / Bells Of Acheron from Colombia, Dybukk Records from Mexico, as well as bands and fans of the genre, from all over the world. Any of us can review the messages and proposals we receive and we analyze them as a group to decide what to do.”
You have played a cover of MORBID ANGEL live; are the covers permanent in the future? Some bands see covers as something negative, but as fans of the genre I don’t see anything wrong with paying tribute to bands that influence them. This is personal; would you consider ‘Into Nowhere’, ‘Ripped From The Cross’ or ‘Brave’?
“In the beginning, the covers we played were to have a longer setlist. It is also a good way to establish a more direct connection with the attendees and could make it a memorable one. We believe that in the future, it will be more interesting to take advantage of each presentation to show more of the own themes. As for the covers: ‘Into Nowhere’, obviously!!”
Let’s touch on the theme of the lyrics, does “Devoured In A Dark Dimension” have a concept that we have not noticed, that unifies the title, the cover and the lyrics? How important are lyrics in Death Metal? Some think that being not understandable they lack weight but I think they show a lot of the band if they are analyzed in depth. What do you think about it?
“You’re right. There must be a degree of knowledge to be able to express the lyrics in Metal. We could not be pigeonholed into a single topic since we cover many areas, but to give you an idea, they are topics related to the world governed and directed forever by darkness, the eternal duality in the cosmos between light and darkness, the nature of reality and our role in it. We base our lyrics on the negativity that devastates this world and others, human negativity, energetic negativity and their destructive and decadent consequence. That not only speaks of us as musicians, but as knowledgeable humans, asking ourselves questions and knowing the closest thing to the truth. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth making a band.”
I have presented ARKHON as one of the new bands with the potential to transcend in Death Metal. And you, not only locally, what bands have you found with the same feeling towards the genre as yours? Is there a new band you would like to split with?
“We appreciate your words and we will do our best not to disappoint anyone. We believe that ASTRIFEROUS (Costa Rica) stands out above some other bands that we have heard. Their particular style motivates us to improve ourselves more, and it would be excellent to be able to share a production with them.”
We come to the end of this interview. You know you have my full support in your activities. If you have anything to add, the following lines are all yours! Long live the Metal of Death!
“We thank you for the interesting questions that you asked us, since it has allowed us to express various aspects that we consider transcendent for anyone who wants to follow the band and know what this is about.”
Interview: Mauricio Garcia Castro