Ceremony of Opposites
CoC chats with Agamoth of Abgott
by: Jackie Smit
Okay, so 2006 wasn't exactly a battleground for black metal's heavyweights, but in a year that also saw releases from the likes of Gorgoroth, Darkthrone and Satyricon, it was nevertheless surprising to find one of the genre's bona fide gems coming from the relatively unknown Abgott. Natives of Italy and now permanently based in the UK, the band garnered some acclaim with 2004's _Fizala_, but certainly nothing like the gushing aplomb that's already been showered over their most recent effort, the frankly stunning _Artefact of Madness_. Described by some as a cross between the violent precision of Mayhem and the epic bombast of Emperor, Abgott's latest platter of misanthropic symphonies has all the makings of a genre classic. Sat in the legendary Garlic & Shots on a typically rainy Friday night, the London pub's rustic interior proved an almost perfect setting for me to put the band's affable front man, Agamoth, on the CoC hotseat.

CoC: _Artefact of Madness_ is undoubtedly one of the freshest and most exciting black metal records I've heard all year, but purely from a business point of view I was quite surprised by your decision to sign with a label as small as Helvete & Hate, as I'd imagine that the likes of Century Media or Regain would be scrambling over themselves to put this out. What was the reasoning behind your decision?

Agamoth: To be totally honest, I never believed that a bigger label would take care of a young band. We're on our third release, but we're still a pretty young band, and because of that I decided that a younger label would look after all the small details and help us out along the way and invest their money correctly when it came to promotion. Bigger labels don't need a band like us to support the older bands they have on their rosters. But you never know what the future holds. We're taking things step by step. Right now we're very happy with Helvete & Hate. The results for the new album have been stunning.

CoC: Well, I think you have the new record to thank for that more than anything. It definitely improves on the last album significantly and cashes in on the potential that Abgott have arguably always shown on your previous releases.

A: Well, I'm a big black metal fan, and with Abgott's first release I really just wanted to pay tribute to the bands I love. Besides that, we produced the album in Italy and we didn't have the finances to make it sound like we wanted to. With the next one, _Fizala_, that was a more experimental record. I went crazy with time signatures and sounds, and unfortunately I think that again with that record the production was not strong enough for the music to have the sort of impact it could have had. With _Artefact of Madness_, we sat down and decided to invest more on the production and just do justice to the music. I'm not saying that with any arrogance whatsoever, because I'm sure that there are other bands out there who are much better than we are, but for me it was just a case of making us sound as good as we possibly could. So there's a big step between this album and the previous two, and I think that's mostly down to the production.

CoC: Sidetracking for a moment to _Fizala_ -- I mentioned potential earlier, and that's undoubtedly a fine example of what I was talking about. Would you consider re-recording that album with a bigger production budget?

A: We've definitely considered it, and the guy that produced _Artefact of Madness_ (Alex Azzali) actually asked us if he could do it. So it's definitely something that we may do in the future. We'll probably do a bit of re-arranging as well.

CoC: In comparison to _Fizala_, _Artefact of Madness_ is a much more straightforward, aggressive album. Was that intentional?

A: Definitely. That's exactly what I wanted. I mean, I'm into jazz and fusion, and with _Fizala_ I wanted to bring those elements into what I was doing with Abgott. With _Artefact of Madness_ I wanted a record that relied more heavily on traditional metal. I'm a metal guy at heart and I said: "Metal must come through and I need to squeeze my signature onto it as well", and I think you can hear it. We have some of the weird tempos that we had before, but we also paid a lot of attention to groove and to solos. Another thing with _Fizala_ was that it had to have a lot of bizarre atmospheres and untraditional time signatures purely because of the concept of the album. Lyrically, I was concentrating on Aleister Crowley and as I was going through what I had written, I realised that the music couldn't be very melodic. I wanted to create something that would make the listener uncomfortable, and I think we succeeded in that.

CoC: Do your band members ever get involved in any of the writing process or is this purely your own project?

A: It's all me, but that's just how it's happened to turn out so far. On the new album, we have a song called "Black Light Scenario" where myself and our drummer and our guitar player came up with some ideas together. But generally, when I pick up a guitar I come up with ideas and I just tend to work much faster than all of the other guys.

CoC: So why has there been a three year delay between _Fizala_ and _Artefact of Madness_?

A: Basically because I moved from Italy to London and I had to reconstruct the band and put it together from scratch, which took a little while. It's not easy to find musicians who have a great attitude and good virtuosity. But right now, I have a drummer who blows me away every time I see him play, and I'm so impressed with everyone else that I'm working with, and the reason for that is because everyone in the band is a professional musician who studied music. Some of the guys are teachers, as am I, and this is what they do for a living.

CoC: You went back to Italy to record the album though?

A: Yeah, and the reason for that was because the producer was a good friend of mine and the studio in Italy just had an absolutely fantastic setting -- it's on a lake, on top of a mountain, and there isn't anyone nearby for several kilometres. So we could pretty much be left alone over there -- just us and the music. Then when we were doing the album and I heard how good everything was sounding, I was just really confident in the decision that we had made to record there. It's raw, but you can also hear everything; if I play a note, I want you to be able to hear the note, you know?

CoC: For a black metal band, there are very few references to Satanism or obviously occult sources in your lyrics. Were you conscious of the fact while you were writing this record that certain purists would perhaps be inclined to question your credibility as a result?

A: To be honest, I believe in being individual and I don't believe in passing off someone else's ideas as my own. Again, I don't mean to sound arrogant or anything like that, but I believe that if you want to stand out you have to have your own ideas and go against the grain. Historically that's what happened with Mayhem. Euronymous came along and said that he'd had enough of the death metal scene, and of course you know what happened after that. I took that idea and said to myself: "I can't be a new Darkthrone, I can't be a new Satyricon -- if I'm going to do Abgott, then I just want to be myself." With the Satanic point of view, I feel that in certain things I am so rebellious that I can labelled as a Satanist, but I don't belong to any sect and I don't belong to anything or anybody. I belong to myself and I'm my own person. Also, I don't think that you can concentrate on something that's invisible, you know? I don't know who Satan is. As human beings, we have bigger issues to concentrate on than that, and human beings are far more evil than Satan. The concept of this new record is that madness is part of our beings, and it's in every person's heart. On the album I talk about paranoia, dementia and how some people will turn on and become aggressive towards others purely to indulge that desire they have to be destructive. I don't think that you can stick with the whole "I love Satan -- let's kill everybody." That's been done to death and we don't need it anymore. There's no point in saying that anymore.

CoC: Now that you've moved to the UK, how are you finding the local scene over here? Have you found it difficult to raise your profile and get yourself into circulation?

A: No, not at all. It's actually easier than in Italy. People in the UK grew up with metal, and besides that, New Wave of British Heavy Metal is why I wanted to move over here in the first place. I love Iron Maiden, I love Judas Priest -- I love all of that stuff. On top of that, the UK has a far freer point of view when it comes to music than does the rest of Europe. There's very little religious attachment to anything, and if a kid decides that you're worth spending £12.99 on, then they'll do it. If they come to a concert, they come to have fun and that's great. I mean, we love being appreciated for our art and for our music, and I know that there are people who say that they want to be necro and they want to be true, but everybody wants people to enjoy what they do. If that's not the case, then nobody would make music. I make music so that I can play live, and if people don't like it then so be it, but if they do then I'm happy. The UK music scene is great as well. You have bands like Akercocke who go out there and they do their thing and they have that individuality that makes them great. They're doing what they do to be themselves. I really believe that there are a lot of great British bands out there who have something to say musically; some of them are still young, but give them time.

CoC: So, with an amazing album out and a lot of good reviews giving you a fair bit of momentum, what are the plans for Abgott now?

A: Well, we had our first official gig on the 18th of November in London. We also have a video out that's available online and then hopefully we'll be going on tour in the new year with Impaled Nazarene. I'm not one hundred percent sure about that yet, but whatever happens, we'll definitely be playing a lot of live shows in 2007. Basically I want this band to have an agenda, and we have a lot of good people helping us now, so I'd definitely expect to see a lot more of us in the future.

CoC: Any last words from you before we wrap this interview up?

A: A big thank you to you and to everyone who has given the new album a chance. I hope everyone who picks up the new record has fun with it, and I hope that everyone who comes to our shows has a great time.

(article submitted 26/12/2006)


ALBUMS
9/8/2009 C Beskeen 8 Abgott - Godfather in Black
10/5/2006 J Smit 9 Abgott - Artefacts of Madness
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