Tuesday 27 February 2018

Arkheth - 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew

Labels: Transcending Obscurity Records
Formats: CD/Digital
Release Date: 20 Feb 2018


1. Trismegistus
2. Dark Energy Equilibrium
3. Where Nameless Ghouls Weep
4. The Fool Who Persists In His Folly
5. A Place Under The Sun

With the snow falling outside, I felt it was better to stay cocooned in the warm embrace of black metal, though this isn't just any black metal. A glance at the cover art of the third full-length from Australia's Arkheth above should be able to convince you of that. The solo project from Orange, New South Wales released "12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew" last week via growing extreme metal label Transcending Obscurity Records and it's the band's third in fifteen years. This album has garnered a lot of press attention recently but as always I approach in blind, without letting any reviews influence my writing.

It’s fun to delve into an album by a band that you genuinely have no preconceptions about. Arkheth is one such band and “12 Winter Moons…” is one such album. Opener Trismegistus is a rabid mix of both cold black metal and oddly uplifting instrumentation. There’s hints to the band’s earlier symphonic leanings during the opening verse, while the guitar work offers melody and there’s a saxophone adding an extra layer to the music. If Madness were to offer their brass section to an extreme metal band, this is pretty close to how the music would sound (and I mean that in the nicest way possible). The use of samples also helps to heap on atmosphere, which transports the song to another place. 

From the sublime opener, Arkheth moves on to the haunting rock ’n’ roll of Dark Energy Equilibrium. There’s plenty of experimentation with sounds and effects and it creates quite a backdrop. I know that the saxophone has been utilised by black metal bands already (Sigh, the band not the expression!) but here Arkheth uses it to compliment the quieter moments, while the off-kilter craziness is allowed to run free, led by the guitars. The percussion is deep in the mix too but that low-profile actually works better as it sounds more restrained. The weirdness continues on Where Nameless Ghouls Weep, which contains vocals that sound like wolf howls and like a none-to-drugged-up Marilyn Manson. The organ-like keyboard effects only make it stranger too. There are occasions of more straightforward metal in the song, but they are few and far between. That’s alright though as if you’re listening to this, then there’s high chance you’re beyond straightforward metal anyway. 

The Fool Who Persists In His Folly is a strange mix of the downright bizarre and the classical. In fact, I’m past even trying to describe what’s going on. You’ll need to listen to the full record to truly work that out. That’s not a criticism though, more of a nod to just how unique this album is. The album’s final number A Place Under The Sun is initially the restrained song that the album needed. I mean, there’s no way that Arkheth’s experimental madness could have kept pace for another song is there? Well the answer to that is…of course it could! After the song’s first half, which is filled with bleak black metal, Arkheth finishes with a lengthy saxophone led passage that leads into an equally lengthy full instrumental ending. It’s a great way to end to an album that’s completely out of left field yet also very compelling in it’s detail and abstract musicality. May your eyes and ears truly be opened. 

You can stream three of the album's five songs here:-

You can also buy it digitally and on cd from the bandcamp page above.

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