The prefix ‘arch’ denotes the highest in rank or office. An arch rival, for example, is the rival that presents the greatest challenge to a protagonist; an arch villain is the baddest badass currently working. In the ‘real world’ being the highest ranking goat might not seem to be a particularly laudable achievement, but in the world of black metal it’s basically like being head guy of all times. To attain this dark rank one is presumably required to attend a satanic seminar designed to realise ‘ultimate horned potential’ and participate in an orgiastic chanting circle of corpse-painted IT administrators shrieking “We’re number 1! We’re number 1!” at the top of their polyp-riddled lungs.
“Heavenly Vulva (Christ’s Last Rites)” is the 2011 release from those perennially seedy Finns Archgoat. If there is one thing Archgoat do well, it’s gurgle forth slimey and unsettling blackened death metal. By now they are pretty much elder statesgoats of the occult metal scene and have never been the type of band to change their sound significantly. Bestial down-tuned blackened death is what they do and you can always count on them to deliver the goods.
While you might not use the word ‘good’ to describe “Heavenly Vulva”, as you’d expect from the title and the cover, you could rather accurately use words like crepuscular, deviant or malodorous. Despite all that, and while the ‘goat have never embraced abrasive production, the production on this EP is noticeably slick. Slicker than your average, you might say. Not so much slick like an investment banker as a rotting corpse overrun by slugs, but overall this palatable production ensures that what you have here is an endlessly accessible record.
Which is a bit of a problem for me.
As good as this release is, and it is certainly that, it’s also a good exemplar of much extreme metal not seeming very challenging these days. Part of the reason In the Nightside Eclipse is considered such a seminal extreme metal record is the raw nature of the production, which is anything but aurally pleasing, at least in the traditional sense. Of course there is a fine line between ‘challenging’ and downright crap, but part of what should make occult bands genuinely challenging and not just purveyors of B-grade horror (though admittedly that is a legitimate pursuit also) is how aurally challenging they can be. This record, while musically sound and absolutely odious in sentiment, is confusingly easy to listen to. But I guess that’s a good problem to have.
Those of you who already have their tickets to Evil Invaders V next year had better start practicing your chanting now.
2. Blessed Vulva
3. Penetrator of the Second Temple
4. Goddess of the Abyss of Graves
5. Day of Clouds
6. Passage to Millennial Darkness