'Aspirations And Reality'
Release Date: June 17th 2016
Roger Berzerk Fauske
Back to the Nordic climes and Finland for this one and here's another band on the impressive Inverse Records roster. This is Arkadia's second album, coming a couple of years after the very impressive debut, 'Unrelenting', and unrelenting is a good name as since then they have done three major tours including fifty club and festival gigs in Finland.
So it is time to see how this one stacks up against its predecessor and this won't surprise you if you listen to even a few bands that come out of them there cold parts up north, but Arkadia's brand of death Metal is no straightforward concept, mixing the hard edged music, menacing growls and rhythm piledrivers that grab you by the fleshy parts that hurt most with melodies and catchy riffs that you are probably more used to hearing in the more classic rock arenas.
But contrary to the opinion that seems to be held by far too many, death Metal doesn't have to mean death of the melody and the approach on offer here works to great effect. Granted, as far as death Metal goes, Arkadia aren't at the extreme end of the scale but they can mix it with the best of them in the beef stakes and that is what makes the transitions to the more melodic parts so impressive – in some cases you can't even tell it is coming; seamless really doesn't do it justice.
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The album opener 'Aspirations And Reality' is an immediate and perfect way for the guys to showcase their songwriting and musical ingenuity with quiet beginnings a la early Metallica, belting, rousing riffs and growls mixing well with a military mood from the drums and a mid-section packed with thoughtful and, at times, even melancholic guitar.
'The Luring Madness' is more in your face and making a beeline for your throat but still packed full of layers and more than enough stomping rhythm to get all your extremities tapping.
'Small Town Syndrome' gets the mix of death and classic spot on with a catchy and inspiring guitar line behind the vocals on the chorus and there is another one of those shifts with an unexpected but decidedly cool bass line lighting up the middle.
'Foundation' takes yet another twist with some punk elements thrown into the mix and some synths add to the effect of the track, a mix of styles and influences that may not on paper appear to complement each other but they make it work very well indeed.
Think of Van Halen's 'Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love' heavied and sped up and you have something approaching the beginnings of 'Thorns'. Naturally there is a load of attitude stirred in with it and after the beginnings speed, speed and... oh yes... more speed.
'Kaatiala' is different, especially for this genre, as it is an instrumental, and not surprisingly, given the preceding tracks on the album, it is executed very well indeed with some uplifting and catchy guitar work, so many in fact there are more hooks than at an angling convention.
'Spitting Image' keeps its destination up its sleeve for quite a while, teasing and hinting more than once with its thumping rhythm and catchy NWOBHM-esque guitar leading to a semi epic with the now familiar mix of styles working to great effect. Once it decides on its course, there is a very nifty pre chorus affair that provides the hook before tempestuous and thundering vocals grab it by the balls.
'Forgiving Is Weakness' is one of those with all the quality of a tsunami, coming at you in waves, some gently meandering and some crashing through everything in its path, the guitar in the middle quickening things up before the flood.
So to the final one on this offering 'To Those It May Concern' and when I say this one is one of the more standard rockers, I don't want to give the idea it is all very formulaic... far from it - it just has less surprises. It is catchy and memorable, a theme running through the album, the guitar is full of expression and emotion and the growls fit the mood very well leaving the harshness aside. There is a very long outro and it is handled well with atmospheric ambience being the last thing you hear, evoking memory and thought. All in all a good closer.
Musically this is a very good album with so much going on (and impressively clever too) and the band have taken a big leap from the good debut album from a couple of years ago.
Aside from the musicianship, the song writing is of a very high calibre and never do you get the feeling that any of the songs have been just thrown together – clearly a lot of thought has gone into every single phrase.
Guitarist Mikko Järvenpää told me they are much happier with this one and have managed to put so much more into it and it is hard to argue.
It may well come under the banner of death Metal but for those not totally immersed in that genre there is still a ton to admire and I can guarantee a fan of just about any flavour of rock and Metal will get something out of it.
Vesa Ala-Louvesniemi – bass
Antti-Jussi Valkama – vocals
Mikko Järvenpää – guitars
Mikael Leinonen – drums