Folks, up here in the U-S-of-A, it’s finally starting to get cold again, and for me, that means a few things: one, wearing black jeans all the time instead of black jean cutoffs, replacing my personality with fun jackets, and listening to a shitload of black metal. The entire discographies of Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, and a few other choice artists are downloaded to my phone the minute I see the first leaf hit the ground. This cold season, though, a new band has entered my life with a 23-minute debut that just completely wallops ass for three tracks, and that band is Arctos.
The reason black metal as a genre houses some of my favorite heavy acts even as it remains my least favorite subgenre of metal overall is actually more straightforward than one might expect: it’s all about hitting a certain sweet spot between emotional grandeur and physical aggression, and when it’s right in that spot, it’s absolutely incredible. The problem, though, is that while it’s easy for bands to be great when it comes to one of these aspects, it’s really tough to balance the two.
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Although A Spire Silent certainly doesn’t see Arctos meddling with emotion in the same vein as, say, Deafheaven or Alcest, they join some great moments of emotional tension and pastoral beauty to their meaty, riff-heavy take on the genre. A chugged guitar, punchy and overdriven, gives way to synths and tremolo-picked melodies; clouds clear above the trees and the sky opens to reveal the cold and distant night sky, stars all a-shining like perforations in the blackness. The music drives a cinematic vision of a forest blanketed in snow – imagine the opening shots of The Revenant by way of Imperium Dekadenz.
While A Spire Silent is, hopefully, just a taste of what’s to come in the future from Arctos, it’s a tantalizing enough 23 minutes that I’m already ready to commit to saying these guys have a bright future. If the temperature’s below 50F/10C where you are, turn this on and crank it: not only is it perfect for the weather, it’s just really damn good black metal.