It is hard to know how much of a secret or renowned French band Arcania is in their homeland but outside their borders it is probably fair to say that the quartet is still an undiscovered treat. But that could and should be about to change with the release of their striking second album Dreams Are Dead. A stirring and thrilling brew of multi-flavoured thrash with just as rich essences of progressive metal aligned to darker extreme tendencies, the twelve track creative riot has the potential and weaponry to thrust the band into a far brighter and wider focus. It is a proposition which offers enjoyable familiarity but also inspiring and refreshing invention to make it stand out from the crowd. It is an album which though not flawless also gets more addictive and anthemic with each and every encounter giving evidence to Arcania being one of the really exciting emerging propositions.
The band began in 1999, formed by vocalist/guitarist Cyril Peglion, bassist Guillaume Rossard, and drummer Gabriel Georgelin. A couple of demos followed as the band grew in presence but it was dealt a devastating blow with the tragic death of Georgelin. The trio regrouped and decided to carry on, their debut self-titled EP being released in 2004 to great responses. Numerous line-up changes occurred over the years before in 2008 guitarist Nicolas Alberny joined the band which was followed by the recording and release of first album Sweet Angel Dust a year later. Again the release was well-received and led to the band sharing stages with the likes of Gorod, Kronos, Trepalium, Ultra Vomit, Black Bomb, and Born From Pain as well as playing festivals such as Hellfest 2012, ), Motocultor, Hell’Oween Fest, and Les Metallurgicalles. The departure in 2012 of Alberny to join Gorod saw the entry of Niko Beleg into the band, the line-up which entered the studio last year to record Dreams Are Dead.
The album’s Intro is as so many other bands seem to open up their albums with, an orchestrated epically rising portentous piece of music and very appetising; a start which despite its lack of originality brings a twinge of excitement and anticipation to an already awoken appetite. Its chilling haunted close is instantly swamped by the fiery start of Watch us dying, guitars and rhythms launching themselves at ears with urgent voracity. The track immediately has attention enslaved and senses under-siege before settling into a more ordered sonic and rhythmic tirade driven by the excellent vocals of Peglion, his great tones almost sand like in texture and invasiveness. The energy and attack of the encounter never relents in force and hunger yet embraces inventive guitar enterprise and a great almost schizophrenic design from the drums of Olivier. Arguably there is nothing new on offer but boy is the track gripping as it sets up the listener for the brilliance of next up Rise and never fall and the album as a whole.
The third track also has no intentions on making a gentle coaxing, every element of the band and sound cascading down upon the senses like an avalanche. Virulently seductive grooves wind from within the invigorating tempest alongside wiry hooks and shorter lures from the guitars. It is a rigorously magnetic enticement beneath an exacting tsunami of rhythms which as the vocals unveil their narrative, ignites the imagination like a mix of Slayer and Bloodsimple. Peglion mixes up his delivery throughout though saving the best of his lures for the roaring chorus which is led into by a great guttural expelling of malevolence. Musically the track matches his delivery in crescendos and potency but adds compelling flames of sonic invention and more of those deviously addictive grooves. It is a glorious track and no surprise that it is the one leading most into band and album right now through its video.
The following Face in the Mirror has a darker breath and face to its initial provocation but one which is tempered by restrained but certainly predatory riffs and melodic intrigue. The chorus as with its predecessor’s, provides an anthemic contagion whilst the twisting landscape of the track enthrals and sparks thoughts as a new wave of hunger hits passions already lit by the album. Its reinforcing of the strengths of band and album already impressively paraded is matched by Dreams are dead, whose arguably stronger progressive intent and adventure brings further rich hues to the release. Though not always given as much clarity as in this track, the technical aspect of the sound across the album is as riveting as all the other inciting colours and here forges an almost mesmeric temptation within the storm of the forcibly evocative song.
Another pinnacle is sculpted with next up Inside the crowd, a blistering suasion which from its fiery and earthy start suddenly whips out impossibly infectious and addictive strains of guitar forged toxins. They are honed into delicious short grooves courted by climactic riffs which in turn are aligned to ridiculously catchy and anthemic vocals from Peglion and the band. The track continues to pull out twists and turns across its scintillating creative body, each move unpredictable but seamlessly masterful and soaked in contagion whether marching with almost military precision over the senses or unveiling an atmospheric elegance and emotive expression. There are moments the track brings thoughts of October File to mind but it is a wholly unique track which takes best song honours
The breath-taking instrumental Dreams end all days floats in next to show another impressive element to the band and its songwriting. Nearing eleven minutes the piece is a mouthwatering adventure giving the imagination and emotions a wealth of melodic colours to paint their own evocative canvases with, to which the guitars add their poetically skilful and inspiring hints. For personal tastes the song is too long for where it is upon the album as before its finale you are locked in an urge to investigate the next track. It would have made a sensational closer for the album but with another instrumental waiting there, it is where it is.
Both Suffering for an answer and Scar in our mind keep things burning brightly for Dreams Are Dead though neither matches what comes before them. The first of the two carries a slight Testament feel to its more melodic classic metal air, within which vocals and the whole design of the track from rampaging rhythms and throaty bass enticing to the constantly developing weave of guitar emprise captivates. It lacks the same unpredictable element though which pushed earlier songs into something startling but despite its really annoying fade-out the song is a richly pleasing encounter. Its successor rides a thunderous tirade of beats before the guitars unleash ear smothering flames of caustically melodic rapacity, a proposition which again deeply satisfies without lighting fires.
The closing Days ends all dreams is a sultry smouldering finale to the release, again impressive in its craft and expression but easily second best to Dreams end all days. Personally putting it aside for another release, though it makes a good book end to the intro, and closing with the first instrumental would have been more successful. Nevertheless it makes no difference to the success and immense pleasure unleashed by Dreams Are Dead, the album a powerful wake-up call to the world to the presence and might of Arcania.
Dreams are dead is available via Great Dane Records now!
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