Written By: Nameless_n00b_01
Before I put in a word of critique, please indulge me in an exercise in audiation. Take a look at that cover and imagine for a second what sort of music album artwork like that might be trying to sell you. Can you hear those buzzsaws and blastbeats? Can you hear the imprecations against God, the divine order and all the fools that stand by it? Chances are you already have a pretty good idea of what’s being packaged here, and it ain’t fucking glam. Archgoat proudly wear their hircine hearts black and bloodied on their studded-leather sleeves and what you see is pretty much exactly what you get, for better or for worse.
Archgoat formed in 1989 under the joint helm of twin brothers Ritual Butcherer (guitars) and Lord Angelslayer (bass/vocals). They recorded a few demos and an EP in their native Finland before breaking up in 1993. They got back together in the mid-2000s and released 2006’s Whore of Bethlehem, an album unapologetically rooted in the aesthetic sensibilities (and production values) of early ‘90s extreme metal. Since then they’ve put out two more records, each maintaining the basic template of their sound intact—a fast-paced, stripped-down and highly aggressive form of black metal not dissimilar to I.N.R.I.-era Sarcófago. The vocals, however, are decidedly more death-tinged, with Lord Angelslayer emitting inhumanly deep, bowel-churning growls similar to those employed by Antti Boman of fellow Finnish deathsters Demilich. Vocals aside, the band’s other most striking characteristic is their use of samples to flesh out their music and give it some personality. Though certainly well-versed the style, Archgoat’s previous albums haven’t done much to separate them from the blackened death pack in terms of originality. The Luciferian Crown, unfortunately, continues this trend as the group does its utmost to continue mining a decades-old sound with some diminishing returns.
This theme of treading over worn ground is immediately evident throughout much of the first half. Case in point: “Jesus Christ Father of Lies” and “Jezebels Black Mass Orgy,” the album’s first two proper songs, have near-identical structures: furious, high-octane verses interrupted by slower, more relaxed sections that double as outros. In conjunction with the fact that they both employ very similar tremolo-picked chromatic riffs and blasting patterns, the first minutes blur into a largely uniform slog, a sentiment which was unfortunately carried out throughout most of the record. The Luciferian Crown’s second half sees the band more willing to ease off the gas pedal a bit and ride out a groove, but without the urgency of the black metal sections to support them, slower cuts like “The Obsidian Flame” sound deflated and even slightly out of place given the breakneck pace of the opening half.
That lack of cohesion is ultimately what brings the album down. Tracks can feel disjointed, with the tempo changes frequently stymieing rather than aiding the dynamics of the music. The tempo changes can work, such as on “Sorcery and Doom,” where the slower outro is effective and cathartic because it’s preceded entirely by brutal passages given enough time to develop their ideas. “The Messiah of Pigs,” on the other hand, doesn’t ever slow the pace, but the group mixes in enough rhythmic variety to create a sense of progression, with powerful double-bass drum runs punctuating the choruses and giving them some extra oomph. Unfortunately, these highlights stand in contrast to most of the other tracks, where Archgoat can often seem like they’re running very angrily in place. The arrangements lack a deft-enough touch to be consistently engaging, which made even the relatively short 35-minute runtime a chore. The last track rather unceremoniously fizzling out also did little to make the experience a memorable one.
Which isn’t to say that The Luciferian Crown is all bad. Archgoat delight in trying to make their audience uncomfortable, and when the spooky samples, filthy riffs, and belching vocals come together effectively their music can be fun in a B-horror film sort of way. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything here as morbidly satisfying as the high points of previous records, with the production feeling a bit neutered by comparison due to some oddly quiet mixing on the vocals. If you’re a fan of theirs and just want some more Archgoat this might scratch your itch. If you’re looking for some good old-fashioned songwriting to go with your black metal, however, you might not get what you’re seeking here.