12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew
Transcending Obscurity Records
Although the album released in February and The Grim Lord is behind as always, Australia’s Arkheth are one of the best damn black metal acts I’ve heard in decades. Noted as an experimental/avantgarde or whatever you’d like to classify them type of act, this is one of those bizarre occasions when putting in too many bells and whistles manages to pay off. To the point that I don’t see how this would work live and carry as much impact, but go figure.
In any case, we’re talking about a mixture of symphonic black metal and saxophone, along with various soundclips and full-on atmospheric moments. It is a record where the keyboards hold quite a bit of power and perhaps an industrial soundscape act like Coil holds just as much of an influence as Arcturus, Secrets Of The Moon and possibly even Portal. In a way, I’m even getting touches of Sigh and The Meads Of Asphodel here and there, which only adds to the soup of various sounds unleashed in this magical concoction. The vocals sound best when they’re coming from the slime monster that these guys managed to ensnare in their home country, after battling back the mile high huntsman spiders. Though it would actually make sense to me that the vocalist himself might be a mutant hybrid of man and huntsman spider. For all I know, the entire band could be made up of huntsman spiders.
This certainly sounds like something that huntsman spiders might write, especially if those spiders were listening to a lot of classic Satyricon and Candlemass; even though Sabbath is heard thundering on “Where Nameless Ghouls Weep” which I believe also features literal thunderclaps. Now that, I have to get up out of my chair and give a round of applause for, as it is the most deliciously pretentious thing I’ve ever heard in this genre. We’ve always used the term “thundering doom metal” but I daresay that Arkheth might be the first band I’ve ever heard to mix thundering doom riffs with actual samples of thunderclouds. The strikes of lightning during the saxophone bits only manages to make me smile wider.
There also might be some Primus and Mr. Bungle floating around here in the way that this kind of music is played alone. Some would say that these riffs and melodies are played terribly off-key, unapologetically off-key if you will – but that all seems to add to the mystique of this act.
The only weird thing about this recording though, is that I keep being reminded of Ancient. Throughout most of the listen, these early era Ancient influences keep popping up for some reason (please go watch their videos, some are hilarious) and I can’t exactly find a reason why. Though what I can tell you, is that although the production value is a bit raw in some areas; this might still end up being one of the best albums of the year for me. I can now add Arkheth into my selection of “Cool Ultra Pretentious Grim Lord Bands” along with Sigh, The Meads Of Asphodel, Thy Catafalque and Bal Sagoth.
Though before I forget, these Australian huntsman spiders also sing and rather well, I might add. The record isn’t completely inundated by black metal, lizard shrieks and literal claps of thunder. I actually would have liked to hear more clean vocals on the disc, now that I know these arachnids sing as well as they do, almost with an approach similar to Agalloch – yet another ingredient in the Arkheth pudding. I’d better end this review now, before I end up turning this observation into a cookbook for the band’s formula by throwing in possible Solefald and Ihsahn influences – Oh, no! I just did. At any rate, you can check out this unbelievably awesome piece of music right here at the link, and it’s available in many formats. Though there should be an “embossed in solid gold” option, so that the record can be put onto a fine plaque with the words “Probably The Best Experimental Black Metal Release In Ten Years” etched into it.
(5 Tracks, 41:00)
Purchase HERE (Bandcamp)