IX & I: The Quintessence Of Algaresh
posted on 6/2010 By:
Much like fellow Aussies North and Astriaal a couple of years ago, this New South Wales duet has delivered a striking brilliant display of music that will flirt with my year end list. Except rather than bristling black/death metal, Arkheth has delivered an almost 2 hour, 2 CD (5 tracks on each CD) effort of truly epic but solemn symphonic black metal that is arguably one of the best examples of the genre I’ve heard in many years.
Rather than a slick, polished, over-produced sound, the heart of Arhketh’s second album is a more mystical, organic, primal affair that’s rooted in the likes of early Emperor (Hordane’s Land and the track “Inno A Satana”), early Dimmu Borgir (For All Tid/Stormblast), Abigor’s Verwüstung / Invoke the Dark Age, Arthemesia’s underrated Devs Iratvs and Keep of Kalessin’s more epic, regal moments. Throw in some gorgeous female vocals scattered here and there and some utterly stirring, epic but darkly medieval synths (not gregariously gothic or pompous), and the whole effort has a truly classic feel about it.
Trying to dissect almost two hours of brilliant music is always a challenge, but I’ll try my best: the almost 5-minute intro track, “The Conception And Creation”, heralds the album's start with dramatic war drums and horns before “Chronicles Of The Ancient Narwynd” delivers a 13-minute exercise in majestic keys, black croaks/rasps, melodic tremolo-picked riffs and some of the superbly placed female vocals in the midst of a slow melancholy mid-section. Then the end-of-song climax at 10:10 is simply breathtaking. One track in and I’m stunned, but the template is set for the rest of the very-lengthy album that never wanders or wanes. Frankly, even with 10 long songs, I’m surprised that I never got bored, (though the only track that didn’t truly wow me was “The Dewy Eve Upon the Eminent Foreland of Arg’thorn”) but instead waited for the next sweeping, sumptuous, brass- and string-laden transition.
Other stunning highlights include the rousing mid-paced march of “The Breeze that Stirs the Snow” and “Faint Whispers in the Heart of Orion”, which, due to the transitions, pacing, riffs (my god, that opening riff!!!), female vocals, tinkering synth work (check out the shift at around the 4 minute mark) might be one of the most melodic, varied, epic and downright brilliant songs in this style I’ve heard. Frankly, the 5 songs on the first CD could be a superb album as they stand, but the second CD gives us the stern groove halfway through “Where the Wind Blows Ether”, the two elegantly somber female refrains in “The Well Ov Urd” and finally the 17-minute closer “Upon The Golden Walls Of Dreaming”, which is my second favorite track on the album; It’s literally 17 full minutes of sheer, blistering grandiosity, especially the four-minute-mark shift with female vocals into killer militaristic march and almost Viking chants. It closes with a draining sense of melodic, epic grandeur that will leave you breathless.
On the very minimal downside, with 10 songs all flirting with the 10-minute mark and over (the aforementioned 17-minute closer), this isn’t a quick, easy listen. Then some blatantly sloppy drumming from Tyraenos (who performs much better keyboards and vocals) slightly tarnishes the otherwise excellent musicianship, and the production could have been a bit fuller. But it doesn't change the fact of how damn good this ambitious album is, ambitions that are fully realized, exceeded and result in an album that should be mentioned as a classic in the genre in a few years.
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