"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Arcane Grail - "Arya Marga" (CD)

Arcane Grail - "Arya Marga" CD cover image

"Arya Marga" track listing:

1. Arcane Grail (5:00)
2. of Snake and Raven (3:48)
3. Autumn Wed Us, Sinned and Lone (6:24)
4. Renaissant the Reverie (6:09)
5. Sorrow of Forgotten Pride (4:24)
6. Imprisoned in the Greatest War (2:59)
7. Die Sonnenhymne (1:35)
8. Iniquitous Yoke (3:43)
9. Svyatoy Graal (5:05)

Reviewed by on June 20, 2010

"With equal doses of symphonic black metal and melodic death metal, along with bouts of pure opera, 'Arya Marga' is a disc that has it all and then some."

Russia’s Arcane Grail is currently deep in the underground of the symphonic metal scene, but that’s likely to change soon with a recent signing to Hunter’s Moon Records and an album as strong as “Arya Marga.” Like many bands with strong symphonic ties, it’s hard to precisely nail down where Arcane Grail lands in the metal genre name pile. With equal doses of symphonic black metal and melodic death metal, along with bouts of pure opera, “Arya Marga” is a disc that has it all and then some.

The opening track starts with a strong bass line, something lacking in nearly all black metal releases, and then brings out the female opera style vocals, giving the impression that this is a Gothic “beauty and the beast” band. That idea gets pummeled to bits when the crushing death metal drums come out of nowhere, and suddenly a high pitched black metal scream is leading the music alongside frantic keyboard work. The best part is that it all absolutely fits, and at no point does it ever feel scattered or lacking in unity.

There are easily five or six distinctly different types of vocals found throughout the album, from an Angela Gossow style death growl to clean male singing and pretty much everything in between. Most of these come off flawlessly, but there is one style that will take some getting used to. The black metal shrieking is noticeably much higher pitched than the average scream, and goes for a much more epic style. It’s almost like the bastard love child of power metal and black metal, and brings to mind the bombastic vocal work of bands like Siegfried. After a few listens, they work exceedingly well with the music, but on the first go around it almost seems a little comical at times. The delivery may unfortunately be an acquired taste that won’t get through to everyone.

“Rennasaint the Reverie” is a track that reveals exactly what the epic style has to offer, as it almost seems like “epic” isn’t a grand enough word to describe the track. The male and female clean singing, the black metal shrieks, the death growls, and the keyboards are all meshed together in a stunningly inspiring way. Everything about the song hits that swelling and grandiose tone that makes an audience feel directly involved in an epic construction, instead of just hearing a series of connected sounds.

A few songs break from the main style to try something new, and the results are generally worth the effort. The opening to “Autumn Wed Us, Sinned and Lone” almost sounds like something from an RPG, with an emphasis that leans towards folk metal. “Imprisoned in the Greatest War” again throws the listener off balance in the beginning moments, with the sound of marching and a bomb falling, but then heads straight back into melodic death metal with symphonic black metal touches.

The only track where the album ever loses the flow is “Die Sonnenhymne,” which consists solely of female opera vocals, with no backing instrumentation. Unfortunately it’s a bit jarring with all the other sounds going on around it, but at less than two minutes it’s not a particularly major break from form.

“Arya Marga” has a wide range of interconnected styles, but Arcane Grail blends them together without a loss in focus. The band’s storytelling abilities, effortless jumps between genres, and inspiring sound have earned the album a place near the top of the symphonic metal world.

Highs: Effortlessly switches between melodic death metal, symphonic black metal, folk, opera, and more.

Lows: The female vocal interlude is a little out of place, and the bombastic black metal shrieks are an acquired taste.

Bottom line: A stunningly well put together mix of symphonic black metal, melodic death metal, folk metal, and opera.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)