Founded just before the dawn of the second-wave of black metal, Archgoat spawned at an exciting time—when black metal was just beginning to forge its own sonic identity rather than just being speedy heavy metal with blasphemous themes. Their contemporaries included groups such as their fellow Finns in Beherit, Blasphemy over in Canada, early US black metal such as Profanatica, or the short-lived original incarnation of satanic blood drinkers Von. Taking influence from Brazilian thrash that pushed the very limits of aggression in the form of Sarcófago, metal history would later re-label the previously listed acts as bestial black metal, a sub-style created to differentiate the deeper tones, chaotic drum assaults, and growled vocals from the colder, thinner guitar tones and icy shrieks of black metal made popular by the infamous Norwegian scene.
What is so fantastic about this period of time is that the “rules” of black metal had yet to be established. The scene spread largely through tape trading, and black metal was essentially in its wild west phase—an open frontier in which bands were free to define the sounds, ethos, and aesthetic of a blasphemous, primitive, and grating style of metal.
Secondly, Archgoat pulled off what few bands throughout metal’s history have been capable of emulating: returning after an extended period of inactivity as though no time at all had passed. The band called it quits around 1993, after being fatigued by the scene’s commercial state and following a dispute with their label over what was supposed to be their debut full-length. In 2004, the band reunited and released the unfinished album as an EP titled Angelslaying Black Fucking Metal. The following year, Archgoat finally released their first proper full-length, Whore Of Bethlehem, which proved the band could sustain LP-length release, and cemented Archgoat’s legacy in the blasphemous halls of black metal as a whole.
Fast forward fourteen years later to 2018, Archgoat have finally unleashed their fourth full-length studio effort, The Luciferian Crown. While disciples of the band know what to anticipate at this point, and with last year’s release of The Eternal Damnation Of Christ EP further solidifying expectations, any new Archgoat material is typically reason for excitement. Part of the magic of the band is that they are able to work within their self-constructed restraints to deliver albums that stand on their own. Each recording has a bit of its own character—from the darkest, rumbling depths of The Light-Devouring Darkness to the duality of the Right Hand Path/Left Hand Path sides of The Apocalyptic Triumphator.
After the customary opening invocation, “Intrantation,” Archgoat set fire to their congregation with “Jesus Christ Father Of Lies.” Ripping through the bestial blast-beat driven verse, the band quickly gets to the good stuff; the slow, ominous riff preaches imminent doom. The real treat here is the soloing that coincides with the juggernaut riff—a rare element for the band, and a surprising find so early in the record. The song ends with accentuation on the slow riff with drawn out choral synths hovering just out of reach of the snarling beast. This track encompasses everything so great about Archgoat in a relatively brief 3.5 minutes.
On the fourth track, “Messiah Of Pigs,” Archgoat starts pushing the momentum forward, almost focusing in on a more thrash-based riff in the chorus, which hints at the real shocker in the record, “Darkness Has Returned.” A total standout, this track is easily the thrashiest (and most punk-adjacent) thing Archgoat’s done to date. It’s well-placed on the record, though—enough to shake things up a bit without deviating too far from the rest of the record’s flow.
The band draws heavy on the doom grooves as the end of the record draws near. The title track and album closer “I Am Lucifer’s Temple” contain back-to-back examples of Archgoat’s Sabbathian roots that place sinister riffing over a lurking, rhythmic pulse—it’s the same approach that inspired so many to go down a darker musical journey in the first place, and it’s delivered here once again with the striking blow of a hammer across the nails of a cross.
Throughout the band’s career there has been a steady increase in polish as far as the production is concerned. Archgoat clearly has confidence that their actual songs will create the intended atmosphere, rather than the typically lo-fi production often leaned on in the past. The clear differential between instruments here makes for a more digestible listen, and fans should rest easy knowing that the sickly dampness of the guitar tone remains forever intact. Sprinkle in the whippings, pig squeals, church bells and general cries of agony and you’ve got another example of Archgoat achieving masterful mood-building across 36-minutes.
It would perhaps seem easy to write off The Luciferian Crown as a safe play from Archgoat, and the majority of the record is admittedly… familiar. Despite this, the band continues to join the flames of passion and brutality that have been burning since the earliest days, and each album continues to stand on its own as a testimony to the archaic and animalistic desires of mankind.