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Arkhum - "Anno Universum" (CD)

Arkhum - "Anno Universum" CD cover image

"Anno Universum" track listing:

1. Appellation (2:12)
2. Grief Urchin (2:47)
3. Obviated Geocentrism (4:52)
4. Obsolescent Husk (5:02)
5. Bloodgutter Encircling (6:26)
6. Officious Hoverer At L-Point 2 (1:08)
7. Nilpulse (5:52)
8. Expendable Biomass (5:25)

Reviewed by on August 25, 2010

"Arkhum has already established a professional sound that brings to mind the more technical oriented death metal acts such as The Faceless, Augury, or Obscura."

Like a mystery planet suddenly popping into view on an astronomer’s telescope, Oregon’s Arkhum is a band that just appeared out of nowhere. They aren’t on the cover of any metal magazines, they haven’t been filling arenas across the nation, and they don’t have a devoted fellowship across the globe defending them on message boards. No one would guess any of that based on the band’s debut album “Anno Universum,” however.

Despite being essentially unknown in the greater metal world, the band must be doing something right, as they managed to snag Agalloch bassist Jason Walton to mix the album. Arkhum has already established a professional sound that brings to mind the more technical oriented death metal acts such as The Faceless, Augury, or Obscura. The instrumentation on all of the tracks is nothing short of stellar, with smooth transitions flying between styles without skipping a beat. From black metal to death metal to heavily melodic metal and back again, “Anno Universum” forges relentlessly on to ever greater heights.

The opening track gives a brief taste of the album’s atmosphere, using a fuzzy and spacey set of sounds before hitting full force with the screams and guitars. The opener also features both of the vocal styles to be found on the album: a massively deep death growl and a snarling black metal rasp. Most of the songs stick to one or the other, which shows one of the few downsides to Arkhum’s sound. While the black metal side of the vocal work is spot on, the lower pitched vocals are pretty much standard death grunts that lack the body and range necessary to complement the guitar work.

Always trying to keep the formula fresh or up the ante, pretty much every track offers something that the other’s don’t. There are sudden bursts of progressive flirtation, brief moments when the bass breaks through the wall of guitars for a little groove, and an instance of George Clooney explaining that humanity’s existence is nothing but a mathematical probability. “Officious Hoverer At L-Point 2” is an atmospheric interlude that not only fits on the album, it’s also exceedingly creepy, using a growing sound that feels like something from a horror movie.

The show stealers on the album are easily “Bloodgutter Encircling” and “Nipulse.” They showcase the interesting use of different styles and musical talents of the band, with the unexpected introduction of piano on “Bloodgutter Encircling,” and bombastic guitar work that seems like a hyper metal version of glam rock on “Nipulse.”

“Anno Universum” is surprising in its level of depth and complexity for a debut album from a band that hasn’t hit anyone’s radar yet. There are only a few stylistic issues to be worked out, such as overly abrupt song endings and a few vocal issues. The technical death metal crowd or fans of blackened death metal in general will have a new go-to band if Arkhum can keep gaining traction and garner the recognition deserved by such a standout debut release.

Highs: Highly proficient guitar and drum work that heads into technical death metal territory, along with lots of experimentation.

Lows: The songs end a little too abruptly, and the death metal style of vocals doesn't quite match the rest of the music.

Bottom line: Technical blackened death metal from a band that's not on anyone's radar yet, but hopefully that's going to change.

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)