Thursday, 8 October 2009

Arcana Coelestia - Ubi Secreta Colunt. 75/100.

As a nation, Italy seems to be obsessed with black and gothic metal bands. Almost every band I’ve come across from Italy has played in either one of those genres, some times a hybrid of the two. Of course, it has a lot to do with what I intentionally scout out because, as I understand, Italy has a strong, but departed heavy metal scene that died out a number of years ago, only to be revived in the modern era by those who intentionally try to discover the best gems of the years gone by. Arcana Coelestia are a modern band, with modern elements that make them accessible to newcomers and novices when it comes to the funeral scene. This is a sub-genre of doom that is plagued by unbearable bands who tend to drift into the ambient, rather than exhibiting any experimentation by way of focusing a lot on the doom aspects in return. Although funeral doom is meant to compose of numerous ambient touches, bands often lose sight of the fact that this is also doom metal, not funeral metal. In my search for the best funeral doom band, I’ve come across many that focus far too much on providing a dank atmosphere through ambiance alone.

Although that might be achieved, by focusing all their might on the role of the keyboards, the band tends to lose a lot of its direction and thus, the bands sound drastically mutates from a poignant piece, into a problematic piece, stretching the level of tolerance that the listener affords any band that they listen to by boring them to tears with overly sensitive ambient passages that scream about the tedious nature of overcompensating in areas where subtleties need to be imposed on the instrumentation, as well as the atmosphere. Although there are very little gothic elements to be found here, Arcana Coelestia are most certainly a blackened funeral doom band, so even when they’re meant to be playing a primarily doom laden sound, somehow, Arcana Coelestia still manage to draw a lot of attention to the minority of black metal aspects of their debut, ‘Ubi Secreta Colunt’. As previously stated, the band do seem to endeavour towards a perfected hybrid style by drawing out elements from other genres that the listener would not have expected. The main vocals, provided by LS, remind me a lot of the vocals from a gothic band that can also be found on the Archives - The Sins of Thy Beloved.

The male vocals for both bands are akin due to the fact that they take on two forms of portrayal - low growls, which are far more sparse and used primarily as backing vocals, and higher pitched, watered down rasps of a black metal nature that seem to fuse with the doom growls to breed a new variation of vocals previously unheard of in this particular field of metal. One must accredit this band with some plaudits because they’re not typical, instead, as with the vocal portrayal, they have a tendency to be brave in their attempts. It is imperative that the band fuse as much black metal with the funeral side because funeral can become very tiresome in a short amount of time if it negates a sense of variation, which obviously harms the dynamics of the record, and how well it flows towards its conclusions. Arcana Coelestia are, by nature, a primarily funeral doom band. Slow guitars, slow bass and even slow percussion. Thankfully, the production, which is top notch, allows these elements to fuse together into a single hypnotic sound, which slowly entrances the listener as the record progresses. Technicalities aren’t a speciality of this band, but when they adjust the tempos to accommodate a faster, more rhythmic sound, the band do suggest that they are capable musicians and this assumption is solidified by the fact that the bands two primary musicians have a long history with the metal genre, as a whole.

MZ, for example, is a member of both Locus Mortis and Urna, two illustrious bands with already well established careers. Although LS doesn’t appear to have the history to back up his style, he has been with this band since their formation in 2004. Its remarkable that they have been around the scene for so long and still, they get very little attention bar the one review already here. There is no doubting that the primary target here is a funerary sound, as stated, and that is definitely achieved with the repetitious and slow artistic movements of the songs, which drape themselves around the listener like an apparition clinging on to their last sense of mortality before they’re dumped into the afterlife. The slow, often clean sound is likeable, but not very challenging. It does have a certain niche status attached to it, considering funeral doom and even black metal usually have epic layers of distortion as the foundations, but Arcana Coelestia, with this short debut, lean towards an astral ambiance, which fluctuates towards an oceanic sound also, as shown on the delightful introduction to ‘Cult of Solitude’. Considerably different to its peers, but perhaps a little too much. Influenced in part by Esoteric, so for fans of that lovable British band.

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