Ahead of the release of their debut full-length album 'Realm of Eternal Night' on Clobber, we thought it was about time we caught up with ARGESK and asked them some searching questions. This band have caused a bit of a ripple across the extreme metal landscape and the announcement of this record has been turning heads everywhere. We spoke to Matt (in isolation) as the world battles the coronavirus.
Firstly, for those that don’t know, tell us all about Argesk. When did you form and what has your journey from then to now been like?
Matt: Argesk was formed on Samhain 2017 by four individuals united by a common love of black metal. The project began with a series of jam sessions with Leth and Dillon, playing around with riff ideas I had, before moving into the practice room after getting in contact with Bob (drums). We briefly had a rhythm guitarist, Graywinter, who was with us for our first few live shows and recorded our demo but had to leave for personal reasons. This led me to become more inventive with my guitar playing to ensure that the riffs could be replicated with one guitar. We were welcomed into the Manchester metal scene with open arms during our first few performances, all taking place at Aatma (a charmingly dilapidated venue located in an alley of the Northern Quarter), and quickly found ourselves opening for the huge names of Ghost Bath and Akercocke. Since then, despite a few setbacks, we've gone from strength to strength, having garnered positive live reviews and a strong reputation in the UKBM scene. With our album set for release with Clobber Records, we are sure our presence will only continue to grow.
You have forged a loyal following in the Uk extreme metal scene and have played some memorable live shows. How do you feel that Argesk fits into this scene and what do you want your music to say to people?
Personally, I feel that we have carved out our own niche within the scene. We primarily play melodic, keyboard-laden black metal, but we also have songs that will appeal to fans of death metal, thrash, DSBM and even electronic elements. Though I feel we are carrying the torch for the 'British' black metal sound championed by those who came before, I don't feel that anyone else plays exactly the kind of black metal that we do. Our sound is a marriage of the old with the new, the grotesque with the grandiose, the triumphant with the despondent. It is empowering and cathartic – designed to inspire those with whom it resonates. I wish to share the immense catharsis and satisfaction I gain from writing and performing this music with souls who identify with it.
Your phenomenal debut album ‘Realm of Eternal Night’ is due out on Clobber Records on April 17th. Tell us about the writing and recording of this record. How do you approach this as a band and as individual musicians?
Writing for this album actually began while I was in a previous band, Glaramara, which contained members of Thy Dying Light. I was performing vocals for Glaramara but also writing riffs for future songs, which never came to fruition due to the logistical nightmare of trying to be in a Barrow based band while living in Manchester. I decided to look for musicians in Manchester with whom to work on these creations, and the rest, as they say, is history...
We began by jamming the songs with Leth and Dillon, with them writing their keyboard and bass sections around the riffs I had already created. We then brought these gestations to the practice room, where Bob laid down the immense, blasting drum beats that were ultimately recorded. The exceptions to this were 'Adversary', most of which was written by Dillon, and 'Spellbound By Candlelight', which is entirely Leth's own keyboard composition. Lyrics came after the music, with me improvising screamed and growled patterns and working on lyrics around these pre-existing meters, often based around a particular theme or subject matter. Most of the lyrics for this album were written while on the bus to my office job... In terms of the actual recording, we got in touch with Rik Simpson, guitarist and vocalist of Bob's old school death metal band, Austerymn. Rik has his own home studio with a very professional setup, and was very keen to help us with the project. We recorded the drums first, with me and Bob going up together to lay down guide guitar tracks and the drum beats themselves. Afterwards came the final guitar tracks, bass, keyboards and vocals.
The full process took the best part of a year, with Rik also mixing and mastering all the tracks, spending countless hours on making our creations the best they could be... and we are very happy indeed with the end result.
Do you have a theme when writing a record? What are you inspirations lyrically?
While not a concept album in any form, an overarching theme of 'Realm of Eternal Night' is that of self-empowerment. There is a strong Satanic ethos to the record, of walking your own path and following your own rules, not being dictated to by the expectations of society or religion. This album is for the misfits, the outcasts, those who don't fit in... a call to arms for the disenchanted.
Inspiration for the lyrics on this record came from the writings of Crowley and Anton LaVey, Bram Stoker (and Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation), JRR Tolkien, inversions of Biblical tropes and the Christian creed, and traditional black metal aesthetics. 'In Their Image' was partially inspired by the TV series 'Westworld'. 5. What plans do you have for taking this record out on the road for the live audience - ignoring the current constraints caused by coronavirus....?
Once the current plague has abated, we aim to take our music to every corner of the United Kingdom we can... London and Scotland are two places we would particularly like to play. We would also like to branch out into Europe, to play the Scandinavian countries whose bands have inspired much of our music, and even further afield with the right promoters and lineups.
Which bands do you admire the most in the current UK scene? Who have you enjoyed sharing a stage with?
The UK black metal scene is in great shape at the moment, and there are many bands we admire and would love to share the stage with. Personally, I have most enjoyed sharing the stage with Akercocke – masters of their craft and completely down to earth – I enjoyed chatting to Sam and Jason. I always love sharing the stage with Deus Mori, Thy Dying Light and Andracca, who are all good friends of ours, great musicians and very supportive.
Old Corpse Road are one of the best bands in the UK scene at the moment, and Steve does a huge amount for the UKBM scene. I also really love Ninkharsag, Deadwood Lake, Formicarius, Thus Defiled, Abduction and Wolvencrown, and would love to share the stage with all of these. I'd also love to support Cradle of Filth...
Which festivals do you enjoy the most and what aims do you have as a band for festivals that you think you would be an exciting part of?
The obvious choice for us would be Bloodstock – members of the band have been to the festival many times and loved it, and I've pictured us playing their stages many a time. Their lineups are always diverse but with a strong extreme metal element and a fun ethos, so it would be brilliant to be part of that.
Other festivals I enjoy and would love to play with Argesk are The Blackwood Gathering, Legions of Darkness, Incineration in London and Warhorns. I'd also love us to play Atmosfest, North of the Wall and Eradication Festival, as well as European festivals such as Hellfest, MetalDays, Wacken...
Outside of music, what and who inspires you and why?
Nature is a big inspiration for me – I love being outdoors and away from the bustle of city life. I find being away from people, alone in nature rejuvenating. The natural landscapes of the Lake District, as well as solitary reflection in wild woods and ancient caverns, have inspired my compositions every bit as much as the music I listen to.
In terms of people who inspire me, I would say writers, filmmakers and artists who capture the imagination though their own mediums, whether it be visually or through the written or spoken word. Those who are inspiring me at the moment are those in the NHS and the healthcare professions who are risking their lives daily to help the populace to recover from this pandemic and prevent its spread.
What’s next for Argesk?
While we wait for the pandemic to pass so that we can resume our live performances, we aim to promote the album as best we can through online mediums, spreading it far and wide through cyberspace. We will also be printing and selling merchandise to accompany the album, including t shirts with the spellbinding artwork by Artem Demura. We aim to take the Realm of Eternal Night on the road as soon as we can, and to resume writing, recording and playing new music...
We have already begun work on songs for the follow-up release to the album, and have been playing a new song, 'Tempest' live. This is a very ambient piece, much of which is inspired by Summoning, but the second half is more reminiscent of 'Enthrone Darkness Triumphant' era Dimmu Borgir. Dillon is also working on a thrashier, punkier song with the working title 'Hail Satan', and I have many, many riff and vocal ideas in store. This is just the beginning for Argesk!
Thank you for taking the time to interview us. To the readers, we thank you for your support and hope you enjoy the album.