Friday, 4 June 2010

Arkaik - Reflections Within Dissonance


Release Feb 2010 - Unique Leader Records

Let's face it; with any Unique Leader band you know what you're in for. It's unlikely to be sloppy and simplistic and is probably going to have sections that make you wish you'd never picked up that guitar in the first place. . . if you play that is, obviously. Arkaik don't disappoint.

However, the first thing you'll notice about this release is nothing to do with the music: The artwork is amazingly well executed (as you'd expect from Par Oloffson) and grabs your attention immediately; pulling you in to decipher a logo which in that classic metal tradition is so hideously disfigured in the spelling department that linguists within a thirty mile radius spontaneously combust from a mixture of shock and disgust. I'm not sure what misspelling has to do with being metal . . . never have been, but Arkaik certainly seem true beleivers as far as this issue is concerned.

The music is both brutal and technical and manages to be truly inventive. edged with a progressive feel which is only exacerbated by surreal lyrics, this isn't a release that lets up in the name of 'experimentation'.

The casual listener may feel like this has all been done before - after all, it's just another Californian tech-death band, right? Well, while there is some truth in that, the sheer anger and ferocity on display by this lot does a fair bit to set it aside from their counterparts. Each song stands alone as a well-crafted composition that is far more than an experiment in the whole number of riffs to song ratio thing.  Something that this band have been erroneously accused of - in my opinion, at least. While I've been caught out - after months of having this stashed as a mainstay on my mp3 player - by riffs that I'd missed or forgotten about the first few times round, I find this helps maintain the albums feel of freshness long after other releases may have gone a bit stale . . .or even mouldy.

But what is this display of technical proficiency without something memorable to bang your head to? Well, Arkaik offer up a bit of that too; elements of melody and groove are there - most notably on The Divine- but maybe a bit too infrequently for some listeners. Neo-classically inspired riffing mixes with more traditional fare, odd time signatures, tempo changes, unexpected breaks, a bit of groove and the occasional melodic hook to nail the track down and stop it escaping all over the place.

The bass also plays a crucial role in a few places by lifting the track.  In a manner reminiscent of Caspersen, Eric Cohen adds a new dimension by complementing guitar riffs or in the vein of Webster adding little showcases of mini bass solos that serve to break up a track like Womb of Perception; bridging riffs that would otherwise have seemed a bit disjointed.

The master-stroke of this album is not to stick to a formula. At no point do you feel like you're listening to a set of riffs that have been given the same treatment as the previous two or three tracks. Each song evolves in a way which feels perfectly organic for that track itself. If there's no need for a solo, there isn't one; if it'd work then Arkaik have thrown one in, which is both an approach that I love as well as one that isn't often practiced by many bands who feel like they need to add a chug or a breakdown or whatever it is to a song purely because they haven't had one yet. All too often this can leave a track feeling either unfinished or, at the very best, patched together.

This is not an album for everyone. It's certainly not an album for the casual listener. If you're looking for something with a tried and tested song structure and a few simple riffs to bang your head to then move on. If, on the other hand, you're looking for something with a dark and vehement atmosphere that continually keeps you listening in anticipation of what's going to happen next and throwing your instrument down in disgust that it's unlikely that you'll ever be good enough to play some of this shit . . . if you're that kind of masochist, then this is for you.

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