posted on 4/2011 By:
Several months ago I did a brief unsigned feature on Arkhum for Hails and Horns Magazine. I recall checking out the band's Myspace page, listening to some demo tracks and kicking out a few sentences about the promising Portland band and their blend of technical death metal and black metal. Now I don’t exactly remember the band’s sound, but based on this, their debut, it appears that there’s either much more of a deathcore sound than I remember or they’ve added it since I last checked them out.
The logo and cover was the first sign there was something amiss, and once the super-guttural ‘reeeeee’ vocals kicked in, I was actually a little taken aback, considering my first exposure to the band many months ago. However, once I settled down and just started listening to Anno Universum, it became apparent that the founding brothers Parker (Kenneth - vocals and Stephen - guitars and vocals, who has also served in brutal death metalers Pathology) are very skilled, very ambitious but also very susceptible to outside influences.
My initial comparison was Scholomance (remember them? That was back when The End Records was good) meets Whitechapel, and I’ll stick with it. Busy, intricate and complex black metal with some prog/experimental tangents and nary a predictable note in sight mixed with super burly and breakdown-filled death metal that, due to the vocals, tone and overall presentation, yes, could be construed as deathcore. Blackened tech deathcore? Blacktechcore? I dunno.
But don’t get me wrong or let my rambling deter you from a very solid 33 minutes of music that at times is very challenging and progressive. And while the deathcore element is melded relatively seamlessly, it tends to dumb down the sometime pseudo-intellectual, cosmic elements that are intertwined with the other influences. For example, George Clooney quotes from Solaris mixed with pig squeal vocals and breakdowns just don’t quite mesh fully (“Obviated Geocentrism”).
After the intro “Appellation”, the first real track “Grief Urchin” will let potential listeners know everything they need to know about Arkhum’s anomalous sound. Squealing, burly deathcore vocals and loping injected with swirling tremolo riffs, twangy, proggy bass lines and even a brief acoustic flourish. Those that decide to stay and are intrigued by the style will be greeted by moments that awe and confound in equal parts. “Bloodgutter Encircling” seems to find the balance and blackened and proggy side dominating a little more (even a piano piece plays the song out), and the result is a more cohesive, cosmic and challenging listen that hints at something special if the band streamlines their myriad of influences. The same can be said for standout “Nilpulse” where the deathcore vocals are more backing vocals and the underlying bass work is Obscura-ish amid the blackened furor.
When Arkhum is ‘on’, they are an intriguing prospect with the potential and skill to make some waves across a broad fan base, but their insistence on "reeee" vocals and some rather superficial deathcore hues amid some excellently done blackened tech-death needs to be rectified (see “Expendable Biomass”).
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