After having reviewed most of their discography, it’s now time to meet Azaghal and their leader Narqath. Here’s what he told us about his main band and his many side projects.
Hi Narqath, thanks for giving us the opportunity of this interview. Before speaking about the new Azaghal album, I would like to take a look back at your first step into Metal. Which are the albums that marked your musical taste? When did you decide to create your own music and what were your ambitions and expectations?
Narqath: I first got into Metal at a very young age and the first albums I ever liked were “Shout At The Devil” by Mötley Crüe and the early Wasp stuff. From there I moved into Thrash and stuff like King Diamond. Then, after an awkward Punk phase, I discovered Death Metal in the early 90s. We started playing originally inspired by the early 90s Death Metal scene in Sweden, and from there we moved to Black Metal. We didn’t have much ambitions or expectations back then, we were just happy to play and express ourselves and our thoughts. And not much has changed, we still have no ambition to be succesful or anything like that, it’s still mostly for our selves that we do this.
“Madon Sanat” has been released in February by Hammer Of Hate Records, so I think that you’ve received many feedbacks. Are they positive or negative? How are your feelings about this new release?
Narqath: All the feedback has been positive, the promotion hasn’t been as good as we hoped, so I am sure a lot of people haven’t even noticed the release. All bands always say that their latest album is their best, but when I say it regarding “Madon Sanat”, I actually mean it even now six months later. Extremely satisfied with it, wouldn’t change a thing.
What can you tell us about the title? I don’t know Finnish language, but it should sound something like “The Worm’s Words”. What’s the meaning behind it?
Naraqath: The “Worm’s words” is a spell/incantation from the oldest known spell book in Finland called “The Black Book”. It is about cursing/wishing ill-omen towards your enemy. We have taken some liberties with the text, but majority of it is from the original text.
Though Azaghal used to record new albums almost every year, this time we’ve had to wait a lot more to have a new full-lenght. Why has “Madon Sanat” taken so much time? Have there been any problems or you just needed to take a break?
Narqath: We had a few line-up changes: we’ve a new drummer called Lima (who plays in Sawhill Sacrifice too) and a new guitarist Ruho (also in Scarecrow and Hautakammio). And beyond that, I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the previous album “Nemesis”, so wanted to take extra time to make sure that everything is exactly the way I want it on this release. Beyond that, I’ve been very busy with everyday life like working and other meaningless, yet mandatory, crap.
The thing I’ve liked the most on “Madon Sanat” is the production, with guitars that come out raw but extremely powerful and also with the distorted bass of Niflungr that’s perfectly listenable. Are you satisfied with the final result? Is it what you had in mind before entering the studio?
Narqath: Beyond the drums and vocals, I actually recorded everything at home, so I had endless time to achieve the exact sound I wanted. So yes, this is exactly the sound I had in mind, raw yet crystal clear.
Another thing that pleased me so much is the vocal performance of Niflungr, which seems to have been improved a lot in the last years compared to what he has done on “Nemesis”. What do you think of him? What kind of contribution every member of the band has given to the album?
Narqath: I agree with it, he is now way more comfortable in the band than during Nemesis. I write always nearly all of the music, and I have the final control over everything. Having a new drummer has helped and motivated us a lot.
My favourite tracks are “Varjokuninkaat”, with its folkist chorus riff, “Uusi Maailma, Uusi Mahti”, with its particular acoustic intro and slow tempo and “Ruton Enkeli”. Are there any tracks you are particulary proud of? What can you tell us in general about the songs on “Madon Sanat”?
Narqath: I am proud of all of them, my personal favorites being before mentioned “Uusi Maailma, Uusi Mahti” and “Madon Sanat”. “Varjokuninkaat” is actually a cover of Paradise Lost‘s “Shadowkings”, but due to copyright issues it only says “inspiried by Shadowkings” in the booklet (Varjokuninkaat means shadowkings in Finnish). There is also a lot of detail paid into all of the lyrics, worked on them for nearly two years.
On “Madon Sanat” there’re some little contributions from ex-members of the band like Varjoherra and Kalma/V-Khaoz, so I suppose you are still in good relationship with them. I’ve always considered Varjoherra as one of the best vocalist around, so I would like to know why he left the band.
Narqath: Yeah, we’re on good terms. Varjoherra left the band to concentrate on his family, which I can respect. V-Khaoz plays in Oath nowadays, which is a killer band, check it out! We also have a split coming out with them soon.
Speaking about your previous albums, and “Nemesis” in particular, which are the main differences between them and “Madon Sanat” and what has not changed? Where do you see the band heading into musically during the next years?
Narqath: The main difference is that on “Nemesis” we tried going the usual “composing songs at the rehearsal place, everyone can contribute” way. I decided it didn’t work, thus I composed everything by myself for the new again, hehe. We have a split coming out with Oath soon, so that is a good indication where we are heading with Azaghal. It will always sound like Azaghal, but it’s also quite a bit different from “Madon Sanat”. Hard to explain in words. The basis is always there, but somehow it is quite different and less traditional.
As you may know, I’ve reviewed almost the whole Azaghal discography, so I wanna ask you if you have a favourite record and what’s your opinion about your previous albums if you look back at them. Beside, what do you consider the most underrated release of your discography?
Narqath: My personal favorites are “Omega” and “Madon Sanat”. Perhaps the most underrated being “Luciferin Valo”. It somehow went under the radar completely and a few people aren’t even aware of it. It is, to be honest, not among our best releases, but it has quite a few great songs on it.
Have you made any gigs to support “Madon Sanat”? Is there a chance to see you playing in Italy?
Narqath: Yeah, we’ve played some in Europe and in North America. We were supposed to play a minitour in Italy now in October, but our drummer is busy touring with his other band, so it had to be cancelled. Hoping to return to Italy soon to play again!
Putting aside Azaghal, I want to make you a couple of questions about one of your numerous side project, Wyrd. You have just planned to release a new album; what should we expect, especially since “Kalivagi” has been published so long ago?
Narqath: Just finished mixing the new Wyrd album some days ago. “Death of the Sun” will be out on Moribund Records late ’15/early ’16. Expect something completely different than “Kalivägi”. Wyrd started off as my solo project, but it has since grown to a full band and we’ve just made a sort of “comeback” playing in Steelfest Festival in Finland this year. Taster for the album will be online soon enough.
Something that always fascinated me is how you can handle so many side project. I mean, if you are playing just for fun and you come up with a good riff, how do you decide if it suits better for Azaghal rather than for Wyrd or Svartkraft? Moreover, where have you found all the inspiration for such a great number of recordings?
Narqath: Well, I have slowed down a lot in the last few years, due to being busy with work and personal life. I usually always first have a theme or lyrics ready that I wanna compose music to, then I decide for which project it is most suitable for. Don’t really have a rational explenation for this, since I know that a lot of the songs could be interchangable between projects, I just go by my instinct. For now I am concentrating only on Azaghal and Wyrd. Ah, well, there is a new With Hate I Burn coming though, hehe.
That was the last question, thanks for your time. Last words are yours.
Narqath: Thanks for the interview. Check out the upcoming Azaghal split with Oath, and the new Wyrd album “Death of the Sun”. You won’t be sorry for doing it!