Without the luxuries most musicians take for granted (ownership of their own equipment, availability of rehearsal space, places to do live shows, etc.) Dominican Republic’s Archaios have perhaps climbed the steepest mountain of any band we’ve covered for Blistering. Their story has similarities to that of Sepultura, another Third World band who fought through immense poverty and corruption to become an international force, but the Seps were the masters of timing and had a monstrous metal scene to bolster their cause. Archaois has little, or any of that.
Their story is described in greater detail below by guitarist and founding member Eric Cruz, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention how excellent their 2011 release The Distant (Dark Canvas) is. An amalgam of the finer aspects of mid-90’s melodic death metal, The Distant is a mature, well-honed effort, one with plenty of melodic gall and brutal moments to boot. It’s the product of a band that has clearly done their homework and is nowhere near their ceiling.
With their remarkable story to tell, we snagged Cruz for a round of email questions that not only details their struggles, but their altruistic nature where they established a fund to donate to the earthquake relief in Japan and Haiti. How could anyone not get behind these guys? Read on…
Blistering.com: Considering your geographic locale, describe some of the regular hardships the band endures. Is it easy to arrange rehearsal? Hard to find a decent place in which to record?
Eric Cruz: When we started, back in the mid ‘90s, we didn’t have a place to rehearse. We used to go from place to place, friend’s houses, abandoned spaces with electric light and even some building roofs. When we finally found a regular place we had to take our amps and gear with us as the place was set up for Merengue bands to practice (typical Dominican music). They didn’t even have drums and this was a burden because we had to pay taxis to move our equipment from the studio and back. On top of that, we had to spend almost half of the time we rented setting up everything and then put everything back to how it was before. This doubled the cost of rehearsal. Let’s not even mention that we had a very limited budget for any of these things. Sometimes we even had to borrow instruments as we did not have everything available at the time.
Nowadays, things have changed a little. Rehearsing is not much of a problem for us. We do it every week. We would like to do it more often but our drummer lives in the north side of the country, far from the rest of the band and is a hassle for him to come more than once. Gas prices are prohibitive these days. Here in the Dominican Republic, we pay the double of what people in United States pay for a gallon of gas, so you can imagine.
Almost the same goes for recording; the only difference is that we STILL don’t have a place that works with metal in order to deliver a good high quality sound. We have been dealing with this issue since forever. However, it is possible that soon some things change regarding this matter. We have been working on building a studio for these purposes. It will take some time to finish it because the economic limitations we need to overcome in order to achieve this.
Blistering.com: You’ve been around since 1994, so how difficult has it been to get Archaios off the ground?
Cruz: Well, let me tell you, we have struggled in every way you can possibly imagine. We have struggled against the conservative media, against the church labeling us as Satanists and against the general perception in Dominican society that everything that is outside of what they consider acceptable, is somewhat hazardous and negative. We have also economic and geographical limitations and zero support from the outside world. These are some amongst the countless other bullshit we have had to put up with. So, after all these things, being able to start having some recognition in the international scene is the first sign that despite all the harshness, everything we’ve had to endure was worth the sacrifices.
Blistering.com: When people see a band like yours coming from a country like the Dominican, they’re instantly going to point another band with a similar story, Sepultura. Were they any type of inspiration upon your formation?
Cruz: Of course they served as an inspiration, as many other bands too, but I don’t think it resembles the same situation. Some bands can live off of music in Brazil. They have a huge scene over there and despite all their socio-economic problems, that country is still considered one the most important markets of the world. I mean, I’m not trying to diminish the efforts of Brazilian bands, they also have their fair share of problems but at the same time their metal tradition has been recognized outside their territory for decades. Let’s just mention Sepultura, Angra, Krisium, Dorsal Atlantica and that will give you an idea.
In Dominican Republic you can plan a couple of gigs two days in a row and you’re going to see 80% of the audience that came the first day on that second show, even if you plan that second gig in a different location. We have a very limited scene fan-wise. Brazil is huge! There are bands in Brazil that never made it outside and still find huge success in their country. On the other hand, Sepultura didn’t have to spend almost 20 years fighting for their music to be heard and get worldwide exposure. They were really young when they first got signed. I was watching bands play their music in ’89 and then I was moshing and playing their music in ‘93 or so. That gives you an idea that for them, the path to international recognition was relatively easy. I don’t think it’s the same story, not even close, ha-ha. Of course, we’ve been admirers of Sepultura for a long time and they set an example that became very influential for everybody that came after them including American and European bands.
Blistering.com: Obviously, the metal world is much different now than it was back then. In your case, how crucial has the Internet been in helping get the band off the ground?
Cruz: The Internet is one of the best tools available today to promote your band and make connections around the world at a very low cost. But it still has obstacles; you need to know your way around it to be able to do some things and there’s always the limitation that is a “virtual” medium. That doesn’t allow you to travel and play in front of a live audience or being part of a tour and things like that. Having said that, we recognize that without Internet we probably wouldn’t be able to achieve some of the things we’ve done so far.
Blistering.com: Is there much of a local scene? And if so, what’s it like?
Cruz: Our local scene consists of at least 2,000-2,500 metalheads. But not everybody can go to concerts because there is too much pressure in society and some people fear to lose jobs and other things if someone else discovers their love for metal. Some people just buy CDs, some just stay at home and listen to the radio. Others play in bands or help to promote the scene. We are a very united scene. Almost every band helps each other out if they have any kind of problems onstage and for rehearsals or other stuff.