Monday, 7 June 2010

Odem Arcarum - Bloody Traces in the Virgin Snow (2003) 72/100.

Self produced, or independent recordings aren’t without their problems. In general, recordings of this nature tend to have a bad reputation. On occasions, it can be misleading. Bedroom black metal and some of the earliest recordings in the genres history prove that self producing your own material can be hazardous, but not everyone has cash to burn and studio opportunities knocking at their door. With the arrival of Germany’s Odem Arcarum comes a black metal band who’re looking to quash some of the rumours that all self produced albums are gigantic flops. When I listen to Odem Arcarum’s full-length debut, entitled ‘Bloody Traces in the Virgin Snow’, I can most certainly see the drawbacks in producing your material independently of a comfortable, warm and professional studio with state of the art purpose-built equipment. Not taking the wasteful introduction into account, Odem Arcarum’s solid debut explicitly highlights the problematic aspects of independent records, but it also proves that you can accomplish anything with raw talent and a vision to create.

Using both their initiative and ability to create some profound black metal songs with skilful song writing capabilities, Odem Arcarum are a good example of conquering the problems of self produced material and battling against all odds to provide a glittering show. This debut does what so many other bands in similar positions fail to do and that is create something memorable and that will have listeners flocking back for more. 2010 has been an important year in the history of this band. Their sophomore, entitled ‘Outrageous Reverie Above The Erosion Of Barren Earth’ was released by well established record label Osmose Productions, whom I believe are based in France, only a short distance away. Having purchased numerous items of merchandise through Osmose Productions before, I can certify that they’re a reliable, hard working label that is now host to an up-and-coming black metal band from Germany. Although Odem Arcarum have been around for many years already, and the fact that they have a few established musicians in their ranks (who have played for bands like Lunar Aurora and Secrets of the Moon respectively), they have remained in relative obscurity. Hopefully, having signed to a major label, this is going to change.

Although I haven’t heard the sophomore as of yet, though I do tend to do so very soon, I have no doubts that the band have improved significantly upon the production values. This album does showcase a few problems, such as the off putting percussion, or the occasionally flat sound of the repetitious atmospherics but, for the most part, it indicates that this are no ordinary black metal band and, like associated band Lunar Aurora do, Odem Arcarum have a very mystical sound behind them, one which makes them intriguing to listen to, especially during their slower passages, as explored on songs like ‘... and Thorns became God’, a 10 minute epic. Although these slower sections do highlight the more experimental and pleasant side to the band, there are a few issues with the foundations of the songs which I have minor gripes about. The repetitious sections, which flutter in and out of songs, tend to sound flat given the cheap sound of the production. The percussion seems largely out of place and very, very hollow. Given the emotional sound when it comes to the slower, ambient tinged sections, the percussion definitely needs improving upon, but there is talent to work with. The cymbals and snare, in particular, are lacklustre. The double bass isn’t strong enough and is often drowned out by the guitars and vocals.

I notice the band have changed drummers in recent years, though I’m not sure whether the current one performed on this album. It wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t, though I don’t think the production helped his cause. Ar’s performance is definitely the stand-out performance on the album. He provides vocals (though these are hardly worth writing home about as they’re just typically rasped vocals which don’t vary too much from the standard, or in terms of the emotions they portray), guitars and the keyboards, which dabble in symphonic structures, as shown well on the title track (and, briefly, on ‘Anthem to Decrepitude’), as well as a more mystical black metal base, a sound which is most certainly performed strongly. Songs like this even show invention by integrating some acoustics into the mixture, though they’re sparse. It’s evident from the strength of the material here, in general, that Odem Arcarum would sound much more polished with a more professional production, something which I imagine they have on their sophomore as even the artwork looks more polished. A good debut that could do with re-mastering and re-releasing.

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