Arkhum: Anno Universum

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Arkhum: Anno Universum
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Arkhum: Anno Universum
Black Metal, Brutal Death Metal, Technical Death Metal
Vendlus Records
February 15th, 2011
Release length: 33:45
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In what is a decent collage of Black Metal and Brutal Death Metal ideas, Arkhum bring their first full-length, Anno Universum, to the masses. Originally released overseas in 2010, Vendlus Records picked up this release for a broader audience. The group formed back in 2007, and since then issued a self-released EP, as well as a single one year later. Anno Universum shows the band at their tightest sound yet, but the question is whether this music is earth shaking, or just feels more like a cluttered mess of Death Metal stereotypes laced with some intricate Black Metal influences.

One of the things that immediately stand out with Anno Universum is the band’s interest in Science Fiction based material, or as television is now trying to force a SyFy (si’fee) pronunciation through idiotic television marketing, coming off more as a slightly Blackened, and heavily non-Melodic approach to foundations settled by acts like Hypocrisy and The Faceless, leaning more towards the latter then the first when it comes to the music itself though. “Appellation” sets the tone with an audio sample that just sounds rather generic, being a female voice that is supposed to be a computerized voice discussing facial recognitions before floating into dead air that is meant to reflect space before going into the actual introduction music, leaving us with two seperate introductions. The second of the two shows the band’s stronger Black Metal roots as they try to create an evil atmosphere to go along with the upcoming material, and in a way it works, as this second introduction bleeds nicely into “Grief Urchin” with a harsher, more Black Metal vocal tone. However, pretty much all traces of that Blackened approach to the music seems to get lost in space as “Grief Urchin” slams in with highly technical Brutal Death Metal.

The technical aspect of this shows off the aforementioned The Faceless structuring, but really focuses on bringing the bass into a higher, twanging pitch, putting a strong emphasis on that instrument moreso then the other guitars and the drumming. The complex bass chords take the music into another direction, much like listening to an album by Atheist, and it does greatly help out with the impact of the music. The Brutal Death Metal sound of this recording is intense, but doesn’t necessarily come off as all that different or jaw-droppingly inspiring then many other bands in the same style. While this track is simply well-done-but-not-too-original Technical Death Metal, it’s the following track, “Obsolescent Husk”, that really shows the band’s ability nicely. The music doesn’t simply rely on creating intense music with intricate guitar work, showing a wide range from the band that both displays the Brutal and Technical aspects of the style, but also manages to include that Blackened sound from “Appellation”, especially in the vocals, which is an area on this album that seriously needed some variety as it’s mostly deep, borderline pig squeel gutterals that simply cannot be understood.

But none of this is to say Anno Universum is a bad album. Many of the tracks on here work well with the aforementioned intensity and overall brutal intensity. The drumming on many of these songs are fantastic and transition nicely throughout the song, and the guitars genuinely go between a more common Brutal Death Metal sound with more technical musicianship. There’s a decent amount of variety, but by the time you hit “Bloodgutter Encircling”, the album starts to feel a little repetitive through the use of the deep gutterals and random breakdowns that try to mask themselves as fluid parts to songs that often just feel awkward or forced, such as the one in the song just listed. Throughout the album, there are also other audio samples, or just randomly placed keyboard moments that are extremely questionable. Again, “Bloodgutter Encircling” features oen of these keyboard moments, though it’s not the first on the recording to do so. While the song itself is still a strong track, though sometimes feels a little forced at moments to sound as brutal as possible, especially with the breakdown the band utilizes, this slow paced keyboard section just appears out of nowhere at the end, and doesn’t even suit the song as a closer, especially since the following song, “Officious Hoverer at L-Point 2” is a great abient instrumental track that captures the typical tension-inducing Science Fiction b-movie atmosphere, which should have been the opening track on this release instead of “Appellation”, period.

The band is at their best on this recording, however, when they really entrust the technical aspects more to the bass, and they tone the speed of the material down. The faster stuff with more complex guitar chords makes it seem like the band is pushing too hard to be both Brutal and Technical Death Metal, and it honestly sounds forced sometimes. “Nilpulse” is one of the few tracks that shows the group’s abilities to weave varying sounds, using the technical bass performance as an enhancer to the music and not a crutch, and offering both the Black Metal-esque rhaspy vocal approach against the deeper gutteral vocal approach. With this, the music becomes much more enjoyable, and even sounds far more complex in a more natural, fluid manner. It’s sad that there aren’t many other songs like this one, though “Obsolescent Husk” does manage to come close, but just not as catchy and does feel a little forced.

Anno Universum is far from a bad album, but it’s just riddled with cliches that stem not only from the Brutal Death Metal world, but also into the Deathcore universe. During the gutteral vocals, you can’t help but see images of the vocalist cupping the microphone to try to sound deeper in a manner that dates back to early releases from acts like Through the Eyes of the Dead and, to this day, still sound horrible and amateurish. Against that, the music stems mostly to technical guitar work that has plenty of smooth transitions, but often becomes more an atmosphere of forced brutality and methods to implement a Deathcore sound with breakdowns that try too hard to sound like a natural verse but clearly aren’t. The true songs on here that show the band’s potential are few, and show a band with plenty of potential that simply needs to be recognized. Other then that, Arkhum‘s debut full-length is a somewhat strong Brutal Technical Blackened Deathcore album that feels cluttered, forced, but manages to have a little more bite then bark.

01. Appellation – 2:12
02. Grief Urchin – 2:47
03. Obviated Geocentrism – 5:02
04. Obsolescent Husk – 4:52
05. Bloodgutter Encircling – 6:26
06. Officious Hoverer At L-Point 2 – 1:09
07. Nilpulse – 5:52
08. Expendable Biomass – 5:25
Overall Score: 6.5/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by Vendlus Records via Earsplit PR.