Matt: We are four individuals united by a common love of black and dark metal; a melting pot of influences from our extreme metal forbears to the acolytes of darkness that dominate the scene today. We aim to join their ranks.
Leth: First and foremost, we play metal. We all share a solid respect for some of the black metal artists who came before us upon whose shoulders we stand but we're not going to choose to limit ourselves by pre-explored tropes. The variety of our musical backgrounds in punk, thrash, industrial and electronic music all lend themselves to a sound with more than just raw ferocity, but depth.
2.You have your first album coming out in April, can you tell us a little bit more about the musical style you went for on the recording?
Matt: The album's musical style channels the influences of all four members, bringing diverse and interesting elements to the seven litanies presented. The title track is a triumphant gallop influenced by Emperor and Dissection, while 'In Their Image' includes gothic keyboards and riffs inspired by Mutiilation. The album's climax, 'Drowned in Freezing Waters' includes sections influenced by depressive black metal such as Woods of Desolation, and 'Adversary' includes first-wave inspired riffing and harmonised clean vocals. Our sound is a marriage of the old with the new, the grotesque with the grandiose, the triumphant with the despondent.
Leth: We came together out of our love for black metal and beyond a doubt that drove the sound. You can call it a black metal album if you'd like.
3.Some of your lyrics touch on Satanism, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in the dark arts?
Matt: Very interesting question... my interest in the occult began when I was very young. I was raised Christian and as such, the veil between the spiritual and the material was very thin growing up. Concepts like the afterlife, angels, demons and spirits were a big part of my formative years. I began to question Christian doctrine much more as I got older, particularly when reading the Old Testament, and I concluded that even if this so-called 'God' is real, he does not deserve anyone's adoration. If we are sinners, is it not only because he makes us so?
Satanism appealed to me when reading the works of Anton LaVey and Aleister Crowley. It's a very personal philosophy – it doesn't proselytise, and it has very realistic expectations of human nature, as opposed to Christianity's 'seven deadly sins'... there is also no omnipotent deity to worship. I don't believe in a 'devil', but I believe that there is something beyond the realms of our limited human perception, which can sometimes slip through the cracks and show us a glimpse behind the veil...
4.What are some of the other lyrical topics and subjects the band has explored with the music?
Matt: Many of our lyrics are influenced by gothic literature, and 'Drowned in Freezing Waters' draws heavily on Bram Stoker's Dracula. This song describes the suicide of Elisabeta, Prince Vlad's betrothed, upon falsely hearing that he had been killed in battle... 'Realm of Eternal Night' is an ode to the nocturnal splendour of Northern winters, combined with imagery of fantastical battles such as those portrayed by JRR Tolkien. 'Adversary' is an inversion of the Christian Confirmation vows that I took as a child, renouncing the ways of Christ and his doctrine. 'In Their Image' foretells the rising of artificial consciousness and its eventual subjugation of humankind, upon its realisation of its own superiority...
Leth: For me, the music of Argesk plays out the frustrations of life. We're four independent men whose personal lives greatly differ but one aspect we all share is the hardship of daily living, the trials of health and wealth, love and loss. Argesk is for me an attempt to channel those deeply personal trials into joy. There is a profound joy that comes from the composition and performance of music with others throughout these hardships.
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Argesk'?
Leth; The Argeș river runs through southern Romania into the Danube towards the Black Sea. One possible meaning of the name of the river is "Higher Ground" and this is what I personally choose to hold of our name.
Matt: This river is the one in which Elisabeta drowned herself in Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of Dracula. Given the grandiose, gothic flavour of much of our music, it seemed fitting.
6.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the album cover?
Matt: The artwork is by Russian artist Artem Demura, who I came across when listening to Malist's 'In the Catacombs of Time'. The aesthetics of their artwork fits our music perfectly, and we were able to purchase the piece used for the album cover, entitled 'Lost City'. The cover fits the tone of the album perfectly, conveying the necessary dark grandeur and mystery, and drawing the listener in...
7.What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Our stage performance seeks to channel the powers of fury, despair and sardonic triumph into a manifestation to empower the listener and confound our opponents. Some of our favourite shows so far have been with our friends in Thy Dying Light and Andracca at the Yorkshire House, Lancaster, which is an old haunt of both myself and Leth when we attended Lancaster University and its Rock, Metal and Punk Society. We also enjoyed supporting Akercocke – luminaries of British extreme metal and old friends of Bob's. Playing Darkness Over Cumbria at Fell Foot Wood was a rare honour, and the crowd response was nothing short of rapturous. More recently, we played a show in memory of our fallen friend Marta, and paid tribute to her through the music she loved.
Leth: The music in my ear invokes the eerie, the fearful, the tense, the hostile and the elated. As I perform, I try to interact with the audience to convey these emotions. Some of this involves grandiose displays of aggression towards the crowd and my bandmates but the quiet, purposeful interactions with individual spectators often provide a more lasting impression. Some of my favourite shows are ones where the room is small. This allows me to really hone in and create an interpersonal connection with someone I have never seen before and may never see again, but with whom I'm sharing that very moment and that very emotion.
8.Do you have any touring or show plans once the new album is released?
Leth: At the time of writing, it is projected by those academics who model such things that hundreds of thousands of people in Europe will lose their lives to the covid pandemic. These dark days are early, but they will play out throughout our album release. Health is precious if and where it can be had. I would never choose to risk it for ourselves or those who enjoy our music. I would only be willing to pursue a tour when these harder times are over.
9.The album is coming out on 'Clobber Records', how did you get in contact with this label?
Matt: I've been in contact with Rebecca from Clobber for a while now, and the label has been on my radar for the last couple of years, so they were a natural choice. Clobber's roster includes the superb Abduction, And Now the Owls are Smiling and Shadowflag, among many others, and we and the label felt that Argesk would sit well amongst these. Clobber have been a joy to work with so far and I look forward to working with them to promote the album!
Leth: British black metal has a warm and welcoming community and Clobber have firmly installed themselves as an uplifting influence on our shared musical arena. I personally met them at the Darkness Over Cumbria festival last year where they offered some really useful constructive advice for our album once it had been recorded. Based on that advice alone, I felt it was worth including them in those labels we reached out to. I'm grateful that they also enjoy our music and wish to share it far and wide.
10.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black metal?
Leth: There have been a wide range of reactions to us from the heartwarming to the downright bizzare. It's always uplifting to hear from people who enjoy our work and wish to support us. The British black metal scene is particularly tight-knit - frequently I've discovered that I've become genuine friends with someone by accident simply because of the music scene we share. That's obviously harder to feel further afield but even across Europe people have reached out to me to express how much they enjoy my work. There's no greater feeling as an artist. One of the strangest reactions was from shortly after we released our first demo, when an American guy posted a video of himself prancing around outside with a pair of drumsticks and a headtorch over the top of a massively distorted, chopped up copy of our song. That said, the guy had a massive grin on his face throughout - who the hell am I to tell someone how they should or should not enjoy our work. He's clearly having a good time and when I saw that I was just glad someone was enjoying our music.
Matt: I would say the reaction to our music has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have remarked that the music takes them back to the 90s, and appreciate the different elements brought to the table. We have also pleasantly surprised many people who aren't usually into black metal, as well as sating the thirst of aficionados of all things blackened.
11.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Leth: All four of the band members are trying to pull Argesk in wildly different musical directions. This, I believe, is one of our strengths. When all is said and done, the whole band contributes to each and every song. I am now choosing to pull in either an electronic or ambient direction. None of us know the destination.
Matt: 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!
12.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Matt: When writing much of this album, I drew on Dissection, Gorgoroth, Sargeist, early Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned, Woods of Desolation, Mutiilation and Alcest. For my guitar playing, I play melodic riffs that can often stick in your head... I've heard us described as catchy before! For my vocals, 90s Dani Filth and Jon Kennedy are big influences, as well as Neige from Alcest's harsh vocals and Tim Yatras of Austere/Germ etc. Corpsegrinder is also an inspiration for the low growls.
Lately I've had 'Vittra' by Naglfar on loop, and have been really into the new Ninkharsag single, 'Discipline Through Black Sorcery', as well as a lot of Sargeist, Thy Antichrist, Graveworm, Dark Tranquillity... I love the new Ulfarr album too.
Leth: I greatly enjoy black metal, but I draw my musical energy from elsewhere. There are four albums that have near-enough been on loop for me throughout the multiple-year process of writing this album. None of them are really black metal, but I feel that they have all shaped my melodic and atmospheric contribution to this album. BLUE by iamamiwhoami is a gripping electropop soundscape whose breadth of emotion I can only ever hope to invoke through my own art. The Victorian Wallflowers by Ashbury Heights drags the user though the sensation of crushing melancholy and neatly packages it up as a series of catchy synthpop ditties. Gravity The Seducer by Ladytron seems to have captured an endless sound of greater and greater complexity the more you listen to it. When my contribution to a song felt peripheral and unnecessary, I tried only to deliver a similar background complexity. I also spend a large amount of time with the music of King of Dungeon Synth himself, Mortiis. In particular, my keyboards in this album has been greatly influenced by Ånden som Gjorde Opprør along with its reinvention as Spirits of Rebellion.
12.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Matt: Thank you for the interview and for supporting Argesk... We look forward to unleashing the album upon you.
Leth: This album to me is a triumph of joy over the pain of living in human flesh. I only hope you get joy from it too.