Archaios is the first Dominican Republic band that I encounter, and their sophomore album, The Distant, has certainly left me wanting for more, with the perfect balance between aggressive chugging sections and soaring melodic guitar solos. We talk to the band to find out more.
HMT: Greetings Archaios! Congratulations on the band’s release of The Distant. The album has garnered generally positive reviews even before its official release date. How does the band feel about this?
It’s great to see that all the effort we put on finishing this album is giving us positive results. “The Distant” is being appreciated and recommended by journalists and people who have a solid background as reviewers and are known for being very selective when it comes to recommending music to audiences. This is absolutely amazing and assures us that we are on the right track, musically speaking.
Before we move on, would it be possible to tell us a brief history of the band? How did the formation of the band come about in 1994, and how did the band name “Archaios” come about?
Of course, the band, as you stated, was born circa ’94 under the name Legion. Two other guys that I barely knew and I were looking to form a band, and we did have a common friend who introduced us. We started jamming and we liked each other’s styles. Next thing we know we were performing live, playing covers of our metal idols: Slayer, Hypocrisy, Carcass, etc… After many lineup changes and many years of playing we had the urge to create something of our own. We had some material written so we headed to the studio to record our first album “Out Of The Shadows…”. This was sort of a compilation of some of the music we wrote during our first years, but it all worked well as an album. After many hard times, we’re finally releasing, with a new line-up, our second album, “The Distant”.
As for the band’s name, we knew a name as generic as “Legion” wasn’t going to work out for too long. To be perfectly honest, it lacked weight and presence visually as well as phonetically. We wanted something we could call our own, something “unique”, that could represent the challenges and the difficult times that we have endured. We changed the name just before releasing our first album. We had many ideas, but the name Archaios seemed very strong and very meaningful to the band’s trajectory. It gives us some kind of longevity.
Being from a very conservative country, how did the band’s exposure to metal music happen, and how did the interest in metal begin?
Ok, we have to go waaay back to our roots. In my case, I first started listening to Metal music thanks to my older brother. He introduced me to bands like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue and many other bands, both metal and not so metal. This was the greatest legacy a brother could ever give (in my opinion). I started to feel the need for more heaviness and speed and went ahead and entered the realm of extreme metal. This opened up doors that I never thought existed and learned that this was my life. Since then, metal has been the only constant in my world.
The band’s exposure to metal was always there. We wanted to have a heavy band but at the same time we were really looking to be different sound-wise. That never changed along the way.
The band was formed in 1994, yet the first release was only in 2006 in the form of “Out of the Shadows”. What was it that caused such a long gap between the formation and the first release?
We started out as a cover band, and took us some time to realize that at some point we were going to need original material. At that time (late 90’s /early 2000’s) there were no studios that worked with metal music; most of the existing recordings by other bands were the product of experimenting with people with no knowledge about how to record a metal band. Besides that, we always had budgetary problems; we couldn’t even afford to pay rehearsal studios, just imagine a full length recording.
Gradually, some of our band mates started venturing into the realm of recording, that’s how some of our first demos came about, but for a full length album we needed quality and we really didn’t want to compromise our sound as this was something that was going to be there forever. Once we felt the time was right and of course, our pockets were ready for the odyssey we went to the only studio available for metal recordings at the time, “The Torture Room Studios” which had a very decent quality despite hardware and equipment limitations.
Let’s now talk about the band’s newest album, The Distant. The first thing that strikes a person who is familiar with Archaios is the change of band logo on the album. Was there a reason behind the change in logo, and if so, what was it?
Actually, I wouldn’t call it a change per se; it’s more like an addition. Basically, we were looking to have something a little bit more mature, solid and readable (laughs), something that would capture audience’s attention very quickly, especially new audiences. At the same time, we felt really identified with the old one, that’s why we kept both, because it represents and means a lot to us. If you look at the new album’s artwork, the old logo is there in a more subtle way, but still reminding people who we are.
The Distant is a nice blend of melodic death metal with neo-classical styled guitar solos. Where does the band draw inspiration when writing the music on The Distant, and what are some of the band’s musical influences?
Well, there are a lot of things that influenced us when we were writing music for this album or whatever we are composing. Some of those things are the bands that we have listened to over the years, consciously or subconsciously. We tend to pay very detailed attention to song structures and arrangements from a lot of bands and this definitely adds some sugar to our final product. Bands like Blind Guardian and Soilwork are a great inspiration but we really try to have our own thing, our own sound and signature. I mean, we don’t want to be a copy of another band, we like their music and respect them as bands and musicians, but we have the urge to not be like them but to bring something new to the table. I think that’s where being from a place like DR [Dominican Republic] comes into play and gives us another musical perspective. We don’t really listen to Merengue or Bachata (DR’s original latin music) at all but these are types of music we hear everywhere we go. That we don’t like it doesn’t mean there aren’t really good musicians in those areas, we definitely are touched at a subconscious level and it comes out whenever we are writing new material.
Also, are there any running concepts behind the lyrics of the album? If so, what are they?
There is somewhat a hidden concept, it was not intentional at first but the lyrics in a way follow some sort of ongoing idea. This is the first time I talk about this. Most of the meanings behind the lyrics are related with personal experiences and existential thoughts. A song like “Nightshade”, tells the story of something I experienced one day: a man who was left to die in a hospital for not having any health insurance. I felt the need to talk about this and show it to the world, hoping that our leaders feel the shame we feel when something like this happens. “Legions (In Remembrance Of…)”, reflects the way I feel about the band. It’s also my personal tribute to music and to any musician in the world who makes a living out of this: for the years of touring, to the importance of being very close and feeling respect for each other, famous and not famous.
I wish to keep it as a mystery for now but there is something else going on the lyrics. I’ll let you know the next time we talk…
The band also mentions that there is a sense of existentialism in the lyrics running throughout the album, and it almost sounds as if there is a spiritual aspect of the music on The Distant. Where does the band draw inspiration when writing lyrics, and why delve into such a deep topic?
I find inspiration in real stories and cases of injustice I see every day in the news, TV, and personal experiences as well. I can even say that the lyrics from one of our songs came true in my life, and I really saw it coming but there was nothing that could be done to prevent it from happening. I think the existential part of the lyrics is precisely on the personal reflections about life, the uncertain and the search for something beyond our reality. If you carefully read the lyrics of the last three songs, it’s almost like a trilogy about going there, to the beyond, the uncertain. However I think that in general, these lyrics could be pretty straightforward or be understood from different perspectives and points of view, which gives them a sense of ambiguity.
The album artwork is also fascinating, depicting a man with his eyes bleeding and scratching himself. What is the concept behind the album artwork, and how did the artwork come about?
The album artwork was developed by Brazilian artist Carlos Fides and it was not conceived for the album, but it adjusted and fitted perfectly to the album’s music and lyrical themes. It is so well-fitted for this that it even conveys specific words and feelings expressed in the lyrics of some songs. You could say that it was custom made but amazingly it wasn’t. We felt so indentified with it in the first place because we have cried blood tears to get to where we are today and yet, we still feel we don’t have a voice in our own country. We carry our band’s name with all the pride in the world, yet we still feel like it is a burden we shouldn’t be carrying. But that is the way it is in Dominican Republic, where society labels metal heads as heralds of the devil and purveyors of corruption and mayhem. That is why I think this artwork is the best representation of our feelings and the music on this album.
The Distant is released under Dark Canvas Records. How did the deal come about, and how has it been working with them so far?
Ramon Martos, Dark Canvas Records’ owner, has been really close to me for more than a decade. His dream was always to do something good with the Dominican metal scene, like promoting it overseas, as he has never doubted the quality of the material forged in the DR. I believe one of the main reasons why the deal came about and why he chose us specifically was the kind of background the band had, I believe his first band to sign had to be very consistent and constant, a band that wouldn’t stop playing and fighting for their goals for any reason. We feel very “at home” working with Dark Canvas.
The band has also declared that 15% of the sales of The Distant will be donated in the rebuilding of Haiti after last year’s earthquakes. What was the reason behind doing so?
Well, Dominican Republic and Haiti share the same island for centuries. We have history together, good and bad things. As a band we’ve been waiting for the opportunity to do something to support Haitians at their time of need. I think giving a percentage of the album sales is the first phase toward greatest things to come. Many great things have come from movements and initiatives like this one, Hear ‘N’ Aid and other massive concerts for a cause started out like this. We really feel the Metal community can do great when it comes to getting together to help people in need around the world, people who have been through events like earthquakes and other natural disasters. It has happened in the past and something should be done in regular basis for situations like this.
With the release of The Distant, what are the short term plans and goals of Archaios? The band has mentioned that it is preparing for the first series of concerts outside of the country. How is the preparation and planning coming along so far?
We are really into promoting our new material everywhere we can and we have been working on this very hard. We have been working with different booking agents and preparing ourselves to rumble international territories sometime in 2012. We will be releasing all the info as soon as everything to become is signed on paper. But, be sure we will try to go everywhere we can. We are not aspiring to have comfort or amenities while on the road, if sleeping in a van or under a bridge is what it takes to make it, we’ll make it work.
Being one of the few metal bands out of Dominican Republic, would it be possible to tell us and our readers more about the metal scene there? What are some of the bands that we should check out?
Our scene is small but very consistent. We’ve been always under the attack of authorities, politicians and most of the society. However, the scene is been around for almost three decades. Despite of this, not many people in the world believe that there is a Metal movement in Dominican Republic. Probably, something similar happens in other parts of the world like Asia, Africa, etc…There is a lack of credibility within Metal audiences about the fact that countries beyond North America or Europe can produce not good but great metal. For most people the exceptions are Sepultura, Angra, Orphaned Land and a few others and that is not the reality.
Dominican Republic is one of the most active producers of Metal bands in the Caribbean and Center America. There have been very good bands that have succumbed the realities of living in a Third World country without resources to even make a decent recording. I would like to mention some bands (active and not) that have been able to make a couple of excellent recordings (albums or just singles) and that are or were killer while on the stage. For example Merodac (Melodic Black Metal) AD Bestia (Thrash/Death/Black Metal) Abbadon RD (Heavy/Thrash Metal) Ivory (Death Core), Necro (Thrash/Death Metal) and the list goes on…
We have come to the final part of the interview, the last words are yours!
I just want to say thanks for the opportunity to let know your readers about Archaios. I want to invite people to listen to part the album at http://www.archaiosband.com/home.php?mod=mediaMusic and to give a chance not just to the band but to other Metal bands coming out from parts of the world that are not North America or Europe, especially from Third World Countries where opportunities are more limited economically and socially for Metal bands. Metal fans are probably the most open-minded music fans in the whole world. I think it’s time that most of them open their hearts and ears towards new things that are happening in other territories of the world.
Album Review: Archaios – The Distant