Arkaik – Labyrinth of Hungry Ghosts
This album is one I was beyond excited for. Despite the fact that I’d only heard their one-off single ‘Supernal Flame’ prior to this, Arkaik have made a strong impression on me and when I heard a new album was coming, I knew I had to take the chance and experience a full-length from these maniacs. Luckily, they lived up to the expectations, and although my brain is kinda drilled and battered at the moment, it is also overflowing with serotonin.
The new monster they have unleashed is called “Labyrinth of Hungry Ghosts”. It is composed of 8 tracks summing up 47 minutes, which is quite compact, but given their extreme approach to composition and delivery, I can assure you that’s enough. In fact, for some it will be too much. Arkaik’s style is undoubtedly modern technical death metal, and I’m talking the type with a hi-fi sci-fi edge. It has an extremely polished sound, topped up by cybernetic sound effects and futuristic samples, sounding like a quantum-computer generated killing machine rather than a group of people. And to diversify the blend of sounds a bit, I’m hearing subtle tendencies of djent and deathcore as well, particularly on the opening track, ‘The Orphion Descent’.
Arkaik – The Orphion Descent ( Click here if the video does not play )
The technical abilities of all band members are, quite unsurprisingly, off the charts! I would say the songs ‘Labyrinth of Hungry Ghosts’ and ‘Abode of the Deceiver’ are the strongest in demonstrating the sheer madness that these guys can produce in terms of speed. These songs are absurdly fast, almost cartoonish, but don’t lose the monstrous vibe and sound that the music otherwise delivers. On the drums, Nathan Bigelow is a blasting machine with an incredible sense of groove and dynamic. Despite moving at the speed of light squared, he can deliver groovy, headbang inducing rhythmic patterns that will get you to headbang almost instantly, and I mean from the first audition. Of course, these songs take several listens if you want to fully absorb what’s going on, but there are plenty of moments scattered throughout the album that are so madly infectious, getting you instantly hyped. I would mention the opening riff to ‘Wayward Opulence’ and the chopped djenty riff in ‘The Orphion Descent’ as some of the most instantly satisfying moments on the album.
On guitars and bass, hyperactivity is the main drill. Regardless of whether we’re talking riffs or solo sections, the guitar parts display constant motion, never taking a break or settling into any clear patterns for more than a few seconds. But each new musical idea is as satisfying as the previous. Instead of making their music difficult and undigestible, they made it complex by piecing together riffs and ideas that would otherwise be extremely appealing if repeated more times at once. And thus’, the balance of madness and enjoyability is attained. Also, there’s a subtle sense of theme and melody infused into the riffage that gives the instrumental parts so much character and life, despite sounding like a cyber-monster. This album is probably what death metal would sound like if it was composed by an A.I. with a keen understanding of feelings and dopamine triggers.
Arkaik – Wayward Opulence ( Click here if the video does not play )
The solos are generally short lived and absurdly fast, showing more shredding and sweeps than you will ever need, but also have brief moments of more open melody. They focus on the technicality, but are musically coherent, directed and very well integrated into the songs. I pick the one in ‘Eminence Emergence’ as a favourite. But apart from solos, we also see some melodic themes in a few songs, namely ‘To Summon Amoria’ and ‘The Vertical Road’. In fact, there seems to be an evolution throughout the vibe of the album, as the first songs sound more cybernetic, technical and oppressive, and the tone tends to get slightly more melodic and organic as the album progresses. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s madly technical and precise all the way through. But especially on ‘To Summon Amoria’, the main lead theme is a breath of fresh air, and the fact that there is also use of flute and violin on this one, gives it a particularly natural sound that really caught me by surprise and boosted massive points for diversity.
‘The Vertical Road’ is probably the least technical (meaning VERY technical) and most progressive, displaying the blasting only in the beginning and ending of the song. The majority of it though, is based on more moderately paced yet incredibly volatile and complex rhythmic patterns, and it’s still spurting flurries of technicality all across the song to keep the tech-meter on the red line despite the variety in compositional style.
Arkaik – Labyrinth of Hungry Ghosts ( Click here if the video does not play )
On vocals, Jared Christianson, plays a big role in why their sound is so explosive. He has very good pronunciation, and knows how to properly articulate his parts to sound very accurate, delivering a scream/growl performance defined by aggression as well as precision. For the most part he stays in a middle range that actually sounds quite human, but does not shy away from the really filthy guttural noises when breakdowns call for it (‘Wayward Opulence’). The production also plays a big part in making the album sound so massive. Despite everything being mathematically precise, they unleash a huge amount of energy and sound like a constant barrage of hyperspeed noise when they come together.
And one last thing to make the chaos-fest complete, is the ending of the album, which I don’t want to spoil But I will say it sounds like the exit from the labyrinth was found, and shows the most unexpected use of samples and sound effects. In fact, the entire final track seems to bring a more notable layer of orchestration, making the sound more epic and cinematic. At the end, your brains are blown and your soul is happy. Arkaik is in the leading league when it comes to technical death metal, and they sure will impress many fans of the genre with this new album, out through The Artisan Era on March 11th!
- The Orphion Descent (05:32)
- Labyrinth of Hungry Ghosts (04:37)
- Abode of the Deceiver (04:57)
- Broken Glass Apotheum (05:49)
- Wayward Opulence (06:24)
- To Summon Amoria (06:21)
- The Vertical Road (07:15)
- Eminence Emergence (06:47)