We are told that *dʰg̑ʰm̥tós, the title of the new album by the Swiss band Arkhaaik, is a representation of an ancient Indo-European language that dates to the Bronze Age, and that the same language is used in the song titles and the lyrics. The music itself seems equally to be an attempt to penetrate the barriers of time, to unearth and reimagine primitive rites that might link our modern selves with more primal incarnations of humanity — and with inhuman spirits.
The music’s ritualistic aspects are never far away, especially in the album’s title track, in which the reverberating rhythms sound like the beat of a hide drum, and the tones of other ancient percussive instruments and deep, droning horns join together — along with an array possessed voices — to create a mystical (and frightening) feeling of supplication, ecstasy, and enlightenment.
But while the sense of participating in ancient rites runs through the entire album, the other two tracks portray the rituals through a powerful (and often terrifying) hybrid of “sepulchral death metal, blackened bestiality, and lava-like doom” — to quote the spot-on words of the publicist for Iron Bonehead Productions, who will release the album this coming Friday, July 5th. Today we present a full stream of the album in advance of that release.
Those other two tracks — “u̯iHrós i̯émos-kʷe” and “u̯rsn̥gwhé̄n” are monumental works, the first of them 16 minutes long and the second one 10 minutes in duration. There are through-lines in each of them — rhythmic patterns and structures of sound and mood to which the performers return — but they’re also marked by continual, and usually unexpected, change.
As the longer of the two tracks, the variations in ” u̯iHrós i̯émos-kʷe ” are the more extravagant. In its opening, the music is slow in its pacing and solemnly ritualistic in its pounding drum rhythm, and it’s shrouded in craggy, dismal riffing and groaning bass tones, though that shroud is pierced by filaments of wailing, shrieking tones. The music diminishes into eerie shimmering and ear-piercing ambience, and when the pounding resumes, the music is joined by vocals of skin-freezing intensity, a mix of cavernous growls and heartless snarls.
A lead-guitar melody emerges, which is of such miserable power that it draws the heart further downward,
and then the rhythm and mood continue to change. At times, the drumming becomes more viscerally hammering and the riffing grows both more agonized and more hateful — the chords bray and moan, and cut like knives, with bursts of frenzied violence and extravagantly wretched cries going off like volcanic eruptions in the midst of the suffocating gloom.
The song also shifts into a lumbering, body-moving stomp, the lyrics voiced again in a changing array of gargantuan roars, bloodthirsty shrieks, and fervent yells, and further explodes in a wild melee formed from fusillades of blasting drums and barbaric, berserker riffing. At the end, there’s another of many subsidences, but one that becomes even slower and more oppressive. The music becomes suffocating and yet hallucinatory, growing slower and slower, devolving into an apocalyptic collapse.
Mountainous chords, earthquaking drums, crashing cymbals, and ghastly growls introduce the other long track, “u̯rsn̥gwhé̄n“. Crushing, ominous, and yet magisterial at first, the music begins to build a sense of tension and unease as the pace increases to a titanically pounding intensity. Dissonant and dire at first, the guitars begin to buzz and swarm like a flesh-eating, nausea-inducing disease vector over increasingly frenzied drum munitions and a cacophony of horrid voices.
The music cycles through different sonic, blending moods of utter oppressiveness and cataclysmic doom with sounds of maniacal, near-mindless war-metal savagery — and bursts of rhythmic galloping — and with vocals that are as wildly inhuman and multi-textured as ever.
Arkhaiik is a member of Switzerland’s Helvetic Underground Committee, a collective of bands that include some we’ve commented on before at our site, including fellow Iron Bonehead roster mates Dakhma and Death.Void.Terror, as well as Kvelgeyst (and numerous others).
Iron Bonehead will release *dʰg̑ʰm̥tós on CD and vinyl LP. Look for further info about how to acquire the album on July 5th, at these locations:
HELVETIC UNDERGROUND COMMITTEE: