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

Arcane Grail - "Tribute to the Past" (CD/EP)

Arcane Grail - "Tribute to the Past" CD/EP cover image

"Tribute to the Past" track listing:

1. Prelude in E Minor (0:54)
2. Cemetery of the Lost Souls (3:50)
3. Goetia (4:37)
4. Dogs of God (5:54)
5. Sacred Gift of Love (9:23)
6. Farewell, Norfolk! (Aria cover) (5:21)
7. Ros (Ashen Light cover) (4:26)
8. Love You to Death (Type O Negative cover) (4:46)

Reviewed by on February 10, 2012

"Arcane Grail is still mixing up several different types of metal on this EP, starting with the base of operatic and symphonic black metal, which is the most prominent style present, and then blending in death and folk music."

With the last full-length album seeing its release back in 2009, it was about time for the bombastic Russian troupe of Arcane Grail to let loose with more symphonic metal madness. Instead of launching into a full new album, the black metal act decided to pay respect to the bands that have inspired Arcane Grail with a new EP aptly titled “Tribute to the Past.” This isn’t an all-covers release however, with five new tracks available to tide over fans until the band launches a proper full-length follow-up to “Arya Marga” (reviewed here).

Compared to the last full-length album, “Tribute to the Past” is overall more upbeat, but also less epic and out of control. The main vocal work remains the same screechy, fast paced black metal scream that seriously leans towards the theatric and the grandiose. There is less variety in the vocals this time around however, with only three or four styles present (including female singing and death growls), rather than the absurd amount of different screams, growls, and clean vocals used in earlier releases.

Arcane Grail is still mixing up several different types of metal on this EP, starting with the base of operatic and symphonic black metal, which is the most prominent style present, and then blending in death and folk music. Things start off a little more restrained, with the third track “Goetia” where the crazy, zany, over-the-top music really comes forth.

Three cover tracks wrap up the EP, each taking a slightly different direction. The Aria cover “Farewell Norfolk!” has a fun thrash meets folk vibe, while the Ashen Light cover tune takes the symphonic elements and moves them towards an electronic sound. Last up is Arcane Grail’s rendition of the Type O Negative classic “Love You To Death,” which changes gears as the band tries to match the original sound rather than putting on a unique spin. The vocals don’t completely work for the track, but the addition of symphonic strings definitely adds something worth hearing.

Unfortunately “Tribute to the Past” doesn’t have as much of an emotional punch or grand scale as “Arya Marga,” and oddly the production seems more muted and less lively than before. Despite those issues, the EP still has plenty of Arcane Grail’s trademark sound and is a great interlude for fans needing a symphonic black metal fix.

Highs: More of the bombastic, theatric style of Arcane Grail's symphonic black metal.

Lows: The release is less epic in scale and the production is less clear than on the band's prior album.

Bottom line: Although less grand in scope than earlier efforts, this EP offers more unique symphonic black metal, as well as several interesting cover tunes.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)