There’s something to be said for a band that finds a space, occupies it, and then, without bringing in any outside influences, excels at creating music within their genre. No matter what kind of music they make, when groups show off their songwriting chops by making something noteworthy just by virtue of it being a fantastic piece of writing, as opposed to on the value of the other genres it integrates, it’s a powerful artistic feat. It could be a deathcore band like Whitechapel, or a post-rock band like Caspian, or, even outside of the realm of heavy music, a lo-fi indie band like Neutral Milk Hotel. No matter the artist, no matter the genre, it’s arguably more worthy of merit at its core to create an album that excels by virtue of strength as opposed to by its diversity.
Enter ARKAIK: two albums deep into their career as a band and ready to release their third in a bit over two weeks, they’re poised to take the world of death metal by storm. Their previous releases, Reflections Within Dissonance and Metamorphignition, stand strongly in the category mentioned above of ‘not doing anything new, just being damn good at their job’. Now, after a series of intense lineup changes, lone composer Jared Christianson, the band’s vocalist, is accompanied by two other great writers, guitarists Greg Paulson and Miguel Esparza, and their third album, Lucid Dawn, is being produced and engineered by none other than Zack Ohren, a notably talented and prolific producer. When the album was announced, everyone began to wonder: is the fresh talent going to rise to the occasion? Is the buildup to Lucid Dawn going to pay off in the form of an excellent album? Put quite bluntly, will the third ARKAIK release be the sum of its parts, both new and old? The answer to all of these questions: yes. On their third release, these death metal darlings have risen to the call and crafted a piece of music that stands out as one of the best albums in recent memory within the genre they call home.
ARKAIK continues here on the same trend they have in the past. There’s very little that’s new to the world of brutal technical death metal on Lucid Dawn; the band opts to focus their efforts on writing strong, memorable songs instead of diverse ones. The twin guitars work their magic well, either in the deft technical segments, chock-full of spiraling leads and pounding rhythms, or in the chunky, brutal riffs, where they slow down and give way to some pummeling parts perfectly fit for headbanging. These guys, throughout the course of the album, have a consistently great sense of rhythm: even in the speedy tech sections, it’s still easy to find the beat and nod along. The melodies themselves, although they’re rarely as simple as they first seem, are earworms, and it’s not uncommon to have a particular lead line stuck in one’s head long after the album is over. The drums punch, proudly accentuating the guitar work, the bass slinks and slithers underneath it all, providing a great foundation, and Christianson’s vocal performance is great, his voice sitting at a point in the mix where he is distinctly audible, yet not overwhelming.
Speaking of the mix, the production here is incredibly on point. Ohren’s done a great job of making everything distinct and audible, yet still raw and full of life. Far too often in technical forms of metals, everything sounds overproduced and mechanical, but here, the performances feel fresh and invigorating, all the while maintaining a great level of overall cleanliness.
Although they don’t do anything to stray from the path blazed by previous acts in their respective subgenres, ARKAIK manage to imbue fresh life into their brutal technical death metal through the sheer power of their writing. Nothing feels out of place; every staggeringly complex tech riff, lightning-fast solo and slammy chug hits home perfectly. The simple use of small samples, synths, and symphonics accentuates the album greatly, bringing another dimension to an already powerfully tight band. Standing tall in a field already well-populated with giants, Lucid Dawn hits a brutal techdeath grand slam with its perfect merge of wickedly tight fretboard wizardry and earth-shattering grooves.
Arkaik’s Lucid Dawn gets…