Two decades of hard work, hungry attitude and heavy metal have shaped Santo Domingo natives Archaios. Their second full-length album, The Distant, is a voracious piece that captures struggle through pummeling percussion, gutturals and technical precision that has been garnering the respect they deserve. Every note is hard hitting, but not overbearing as the Spanish Caribbean skids have sought out everything from financial support to quality production since their formation in 1994. Recently signed to Dark Canvas Records, its no wonder Archaios stand as poster boys of the local scene, for their fight against conservative society is strong and audible in their inevitably Merengue-tinged death metal, while their commitment to philanthropy in neighbouring Haiti is pure affirmation of heart and soul.
In a call and response interview with lead guitarist and founder Eric Cruz, I ask a few questions to provide the global scene with background knowledge, and others to ponder on why Archaios weren’t placed on the map a long time ago.
What inspired Archaios to start a death metal band in the Dominican Republic?
Eric Cruz: I think it was the common affinity around extreme music that the original line-up and I had. We didn’t want to just listen to Metal music, but also to play it. I always had the urge to be creative through music and Metal has been, at least for me, the best way to channelize those creative needs. Composing aggressive material has always given us a wider range of emotions, for us is a way to reflect our feelings about the things we see every day in our conservative society: narrow-minded mentality, corruption, conservatism and many other things.
What cultural aspects can be heard in your music?
You can find some folkloric and typical rhythms and melodic patterns here and there, but many were never included there intentionally. Most came out in the composition process as a subconscious element that molded some initial ideas. We are not big fans of our original musical genres Merengue and Bachata, but without any doubt it shows in our compositions. We cannot avoid listening to such music in a country where you go out and the first thing you hear in the street, a store, in a taxi or a restaurant is Merengue and Bachata. This stays in our subconscious and in a way or another comes to life when we are composing music or doing something creative.
The Distant is such an extreme, virtuous record and Archaios is labeled the premier metal band of Dominican Republic. Why has Archaios received that title? What was the main inspiration for the sound of The Distant?
I think we’ve been labeled as the premier Metal band of Dominican Republic, because we’re the first band that has showed an extremely serious work ethic towards internationalization. Others have tried before us, but nobody has had the kind of endurance and persistence that we have showed for almost two decades. Believe me, is very difficult in a country like this to keep going for more than a decade as a Metal band without having resources, support from a label or recognition from the outside world. I think the main reason is that people in the scene tend to identify with us. Despite all the obstacles we’ve had to endure we’re still here giving a good fight.
On this album we tried to have our own sound and tried to be as original as possible. I think we have succeeded in getting a different result than the trending Metal bands out there nowadays. We’ve done this without losing quality or compromising with the current trends. This was the main inspiration on this album: to be different without leaving behind our influences. We wanted to keep on mixing aggression and melody but in a more sophisticated way than our previous material and sticking to our form of composition, which has worked well for us in the past.
Who are some of your influences? Where did you discover/obtain this music?
We have many influences, everyone listens to different styles of Metal and this resonates a lot in our sound. Some of us like old school European Metal, others like Black Metal, Power Metal and other genres not even related with Metal. Besides that, as I mentioned earlier, we are heavily influenced by everything that happens around us both musically and culturally, consciously and subconsciously.
I in particular discovered Hard Rock and Heavy Metal at an early age thanks to my older brother. Consequently, I opened myself a new path to more extreme genres of Metal. In Dominican Republic you usually buy Metal CDs via mail order, the Internet or at some select stores. But the cost of music is really high; a CD usually costs double or triple of the price you pay in US or Europe. This happens because of the inflation and the taxes applied to everything that is imported.
I remember that one of the things that changed the panorama of Metal in DR was a compilation CD named “A beauty in Darkness Vol. 1” and another compilation from Hard Rock Magazine. This happened in the 90s and introduced us to many bands and styles that opened up our perspective to new things bands were doing. Around that time, many bands in DR started copying almost riff by riff the music of the bands on those DC’s. There was only one copy of each of these CDs, but I think it’s a clear example of how things worked at that time, those DC’s were going from one hand to another, influencing everyone, that is the way we usually used to consume music before the mp3 days.
What does your lyrical content cover?
We tend to talk about things everybody feels attracted to and identifies with such as personal and internal struggles, etc. Many things that are part of our personality that we still struggle to eliminate. We really don’t set out a limit on the subjects we talk about but you can be sure there’s always going to be some protest and a personal, not political, point of view of unjust situations and experiences, these include subjects about the many questions we ask ourselves, be it spiritually or regarding other people’s behavior.
Let’s discuss humble beginnings. What are some career highs and lows? Where did you develop the name Archaios? Where is it derived from?
We started out as many bands do; playing covers of the bands we grew up listening to like Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Death, Kreator and many others. But then decided we really wanted to have something original, our own material. In a country like ours, everything is about being humble, it doesn’t matter how popular you are, and even established artists in our country (besides some exceptions) are sometime short on resources. So imagine how it is for a Metal band which music is not precisely the most loved genre of the island.
About the name Archaios, at the beginning we called ourselves Legion, and it was a nice name but a little bit generic for our purpose. At the time we felt our music reached some level of maturity we started looking for names. We came up with a very interesting name that struck both phonetically and visually. The word came from the Greek language and it represented well the place we live in as well as all the effort and struggle we’ve had to go through.
Do you believe heavy metal provides solace for those living in struggle? If so, in what ways?
Of course it does. I strongly believe that people who are part of the metal culture can find solace in it. People find acceptance and friendship regardless of your economic possibilities, religion, ethnicity, etc. We are one united mass, and although there are rotten apples everywhere else, it is still a great medium in which you can express yourself and forget about your problems, the problems in society and go home with a different mindset that is more subtle and open-minded. It is very important to have your own thoughts, to have your own ideals and personality and by following a remote controlled mass I don’t think you’d discover who you really are. I’m not saying Metal is the only way to achieve this, but it gives you a different point of view about things, mostly in a society like ours, where everything is so straight and conservative. You might end up being part of the big flock that does things just because, not asking yourself if this is what you really like, what you really want, where you really want to be headed.
What is your favourite aspect of the Dominican Republic?
There are many cool things here like the weather, its sunny beaches, our very attractive women and our more than excellent beer!! Another good thing is that everything is close by, you want to get together with friends and everything is less than 20 minutes or half an hour away.
Dominican Republic tends to give you the feeling like there is no other place on earth like it, and it is the truth. Most Dominicans, despite being ultra-conservative, are very generous and kind and this environment makes you feel right at home. Dominicans are very inclined to party and we tend to celebrate everything we can and are always ready for a round of beers any day of the year!
What is your favourite aspect of North America?
North America has what we’ve never had in DR, options and opportunities, the real chance to play a different crowd every night, share the stage with different bands, the opportunity to live life as it was meant for a band like us. You are paid to do what you love, no matter how much. Most of the shows we do in DR are free and rehearsal money comes out of our own pocket.
The States are very open to different cultures. What you never thought possible to have in DR exists in a day-to-day dosage; things like venues for playing, coverage from radio stations, TV stations, sponsorship opportunities, excellent studios and countless other things.
What goals does the band have for the future?
Right now, we are working very hard promoting our new full-length album The Distant and we are in the middle of discussion about a North American Tour. We have a couple of things we are working on. Also we would like to be more involved in things related with charities especially for people in Haiti, we share the island with that nation and let me tell you, the situation there is really critical after the earthquakes. We would like as a band to spread the message about this and work harder to create a bigger conscience about this in the Metal community. We will begin doing this by donating 15% of the album sales to this cause. We hope more people and bands from around the world will join us.