The Arcane Order – Cult of None

I was glancing through recent metal releases to find something new. My sampling wasn’t going very well. I guess I was in one of those moods where everything sounded so unoriginal and derivative. Then I came across The Arcane Order. I had never heard of them, but they caught my attention with their heavy yet atmospheric sound.

They seem to be classified as melodic death/thrash around the internet. I can’t come up with anything better, but this can be a bit misleading. They have a lot of progressive and atmospheric elements and maybe some post-hardcore. Most songs are over 7 minutes long, which they use wisely to develop their material through these various styles.

The Arcane Order excel at shifting in and out of these different sections and styles while keeping a coherent whole to each of the songs. Sometimes they enter a fast riffing section, sometimes they have some laid back chugging under atmospheric synth sounds. Despite the variety, there is never any question it is the same song.

The harmonic motion is usually pretty simple, often centering around a I/IV or I/V idea. Normally this type of thing would get old in such long songs, but they create interest by layering in all sorts of details whether it be driving bass line, changing textures, or non-chord tones in rhythm guitar.

These long songs often build to some big climactic point. They mostly do a good job driving the song motion to these points, but there are a few times where they play too big too early which spoils the suspense. They also do a good job developing from their simple base chords to something much more interesting and complicated to keep the long songs from dragging. That being said, there are definitely moments where the repetition went on a bit too long (“Exo Reign” is my least favorite track for this reason).

Overall, this was a solid release and a nice change of pace. It is hard to come up with similar bands (maybe I just don’t listen to enough melodic death). I’d recommend this for people who like TesseracT. It is far less proggy and djenty, but the atmospheric build up is similar. I’ll give it a 7.5/10.

Here’s a sample:

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The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal

My experience with The Black Dahlia Murder has been pretty weak. Back when Everblack released in 2013, I decided to better acquaint myself with their back catalog before doing a review. I looked up people’s rankings (no one agreed) and picked the two that seemed to be fan favorites (I don’t remember which now). I couldn’t get into them for some reason and felt basically the same about Everblack.

Enter Abysmal. In the past two years I’ve forgotten basically everything I’ve listened to by this band, so I came to it not knowing what to expect. I was kind of shocked. Ignoring the cheesy string orchestra opening and closing, this seemed like it would be some solid melodic death metal.

This album is definitely not pushing any boundaries as far as melody and harmony are concerned. The riffs are fine. They do the job and get a solid amount of development throughout the songs. The song structures themselves are pretty formulaic, but that’s to be expected. Like I said, it is solid and standard. That doesn’t mean it’s boring. In fact, many albums I have to force myself to come back to. I had no problem throwing this on throughout the week.

The biggest negative for me was the consistency of style. Some songs break into almost a rock beat which ruins the intensity and heaviness setup by earlier sections. Also, songs like “Re-Faced” have some strange soloing. The solo introduces some jazz influenced ideas which are totally absent in the rest of the song. The sudden shift in style is awkward. And as already mentioned, I never like the use of strings (especially synthesized) to open/close an album without them being something consistently used throughout.

I know, I criticize for not pushing boundaries, and then when they do something unusual I criticize again. You can’t win. That’s not what I’m saying. Some of the solos are excellent: technical, wild, and introduce chromaticism in a way that is consistent with the rest of the song (see “Stygiophobic”). It is the consistency that makes it awkward and not the attempts at originality.

Overall, I can’t think of much to say about this. I’ll probably give it a few more listens, but like all other BDM releases, I’ll forget everything about it in a few months. I can pass the time easily with solid but generic death metal like this, but it isn’t going to make for something I return to over the years.

I give it a 6.5/10. Here’s a sample:

Technical Metalcore Double Review

While making my best of 2014 halfway list I did some searching to see what other people had. I had to immediately discount half of them that contained Behemoth. The other half had two albums that came up quite a bit. I was not impressed. I don’t like bashing albums, so I’ll try to do this delicately.

The first is Inanimate Existence’s Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement. It starts with some synthesized orchestration. This always makes me cringe. Orchestrated elements play such a tiny, tiny role in this album that the whole concept of starting with it makes no sense to me. It seems really out of place.

Once the album gets going it is actually good for awhile. The songs are your standard technical death metal fare. The riffs don’t go off on huge tangents for too long. There is rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic complexity. I was actually pretty excited at the start. It has what I want form a good tech death album: the playing was tight, it kept my attention, and kept me guessing at what was coming.

One thing that was bothering me was that the production was really weird. The vocals in particular just sounded off. They were mostly inaudible growls. The guitar tone was off as well. The distortion isn’t an effective dirty death metal sound. It’s something else. Something didn’t sit right about the production, but I could overlook this if this was the only problem.

The mood changes quite a bit in the fourth track. This song has the middle section slow down into almost a ballad with clean female vocals. Something weird happens after this point. Slowly some djent and metalcore elements start entering. It doesn’t have the djent sound, but those same sorts of groove patterns start creeping in. Little by little we lose the complexity and interesting bits. Instead we are left with a bunch of repetition and tonal stagnation.

I assume this was intentional, because it is done with skill so that it doesn’t happen all at once. The change is subtle. For example, there are sections of the next song that sound like the opening material, but there are also segments that are based entirely around two notes.

I like the idea of some of the neo-classical elements they put in. Many of the songs have a “development” section where they take melodies, fragment them, and then reuse them in various ways. Though the idea is good, it just doesn’t work well for me. A good development section doesn’t just cleverly reuse old material. It has to develop and have direction. Theirs seem to just sit there not heading towards anywhere. By the end of the album we’ve progressed to such a different place that it sounds like Cynic playing video game music (seriously, is that the Mega Man theme?).

Overall, this album is pretty good. It isn’t going to make any top whatever list for me. It has a lot of potential, and good ideas. I just couldn’t get into large portions of it. Here’s a sample:

The other album I saw pop up on a lot of lists was Allegaeon’s Elements of the Infinite. Despite being quite different from the above album, they start the same way. The opener starts with acoustic guitar turning into a fully orchestrated piece. Actually, this is pretty awesome. This is real orchestration rather than a cheap electronic imitation. The transition to metal is pretty seamless, but I can’t help but wonder again: Why? Orchestration appears here and there on the album, but is extremely minor. It isn’t as conspicuously weird on this one, so it I won’t say it is an actual mistake in judgment (like the last one).

This album may have a lot of technical playing in it, but it is quite straightforward. It was a fun listen the first time through, but I can’t get into any of the songs very much. This is an oversimplification, but I feel like a huge amount of the technical playing is just arpeggiating on repeat really fast. The metalcore grooves are too repetitive for songs of this length. This makes neither the soloing nor the accompaniment all that interesting to me.

I’ve seen a lot of people call this “melodic death metal.” When melodies are happening, I think the album is fine. With the number of people praising this as absolutely excellent, maybe I’ve just lost my mind. It sounds very generic to me. I can’t really remember anything about it when it ends. There are moments that I get what people are talking about, but I can’t praise a whole album based on a few small parts. Maybe I just don’t like melodic death metal.

Overall, I have the ability to enjoy listening to this when it is on. It has nice solid playing and a better sense of direction than the first album I reviewed. I just probably wouldn’t have put it on this last time if I weren’t reviewing it. Here’s a sample: