It is a frustrating fact for music lovers, media and deserved attention that with the massive landscape of artists and releases to navigate year on year you are going to miss out on encounters which would have left a deep and lasting impression and indeed pleasure. It is an inevitability which you can only hope luck or fate will intervene upon or as for us in the case of the debut album from Ukrainian groove metallers Arhat, a member of the band gets in touch to introduce themselves. So it is with thanks to guitarist Anton Skrebov that we now share one of the finest metal debuts heard here in recent times.
Kyiv hailing, Arhat emerged in 2017 soon drew keen attention in their home city with their multi-favoured sound. It is a proposition as revealed within Dead Life which is as embracing of extreme and death metal to its groove metal bred seeded breast as it is of progressive and hardcore essences; it all married to a lyrical tapestry marrying “cruel modern reality and oriental mythology.“ The band’s release of their first demo, Mantra, and subsequent single, Stately Ruins in 2018, led to the band performing further across the Ukraine and at festivals such as the Black Sea Metal Festival and the United Metal Festival in Belarus. Now with the recent release of Dead Life we can only expect the band, once the world escapes the pandemic of course, to breach the shores of new landscapes and certainly provoke their keen attention.
Opening with the Intro, Edge Of The Abyss, a piece of intimation as melodically and worldly seductive as it is darkly sinistrous, band and release swiftly rewarded rising keen intrigue with the quickly compelling trespass of the album’s title track. Dead Life immediately winds an intoxicating groove around ears, the invitation cast by Skrebov proving irresistible even as the far more rapacious swings of drummer Dmytro “La De Vill” Sychov align their senses shaking touch. Similarly the bass of Anton Inov has an inherent carnal breath to its own lure match as that within the throat scarring tones of vocalist Alex Sitkoff. It is a venomous and contagious mix which was soon burrowing under the skin, persistently led by that unrelenting nagging groove as it marked out the album as something to subsequently devour.
And feed we did as the following Freedom uncaged its individually ravenous trespass and its successor Outcast sprung its almost instantly addictive trap. The first of the two is pure predation, a controlled but untamed beast only chewing on the senses as again bitterly swung rhythms and acerbic grooves invade. Yet it too proved virulently persuasive and magnetically compelling in its design and craft with the second of the pair still managing to eclipse its richness and might with its Asian meets oriental hues and unpredictable imagination. Our favourite track only increased its grip and temptation by the twist and turn, again that mix of metal nurtured flavouring an alluring tapestry across a grooved strapped heart and its enthralling hostility.
Stately Ruins instantly prowls ears as beats jab and Sitkoff infests air with his potent vocal menace, all the while Skrebov weaving another tempest of grooves and riffs which entangle and court each other with gripping imagination and dexterity. Never relaxing its stalking of the listener, at times only escalating the threat, the track marks another major moment in the impressive landscape of Dead Life which the song, Arhat, soon matches with its rhythmic fertility and emotional intensity, a drama echoed in every syllable, note and beat cast by the quartet. With the guest siren tones of Kapshuk Kateryna also a compelling lure, there was no denying the wants of the track.
The grand breath of Maximalism envelops ears next but it is soon under the thicker textures of primal rhythms and almost viscerally earthy grooves, a subsequent conflict between the contrasting elements making for another captivating infringement especially once the demon stirs within Sitkoff.
The final pair of Danger Of Death and Mantra impressively brings the album to a gripping conclusion. Most tracks are cored by a groove which persistently tunnels from first breath to the last, a varied familiarity which never wears thin and as here only increases the hunger for the invention and expectations defeating enterprise which wraps it. The closing track, which again features the vocal prowess of Kateryna, is pure temptation and drama from its first stir, a dawning of suggestion and majesty which soon leads to the darkness bound, intimidation fuelled earthly instincts of the song. Though maybe not as immediately enthralling as those before it, the track reveals the broadest and most intricate side of the Arhat sound and creativity to wholly enthral.
It is a fascinating end to what is one striking debut; Dead Life a release any extreme and groove metal fan should explore and surely a spark to eager attention for the band across at least European borders but as we started with it is so easy for major moments of temptation to be undeservedly missed. We hope you don’t let this one escape.
Dead Life is out now; available @ https://arhat2.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 12/02/2021
Copyright RingMaster Review