The best music doesn’t all succeed in the same way. Some of it induces contemplation, setting your mind free to rediscover long-lost memories or to imagine what you might become. Some of it produces a physical reflex so compulsive that it’s irresistible (and you don’t want to resist). Sometimes it provokes such a powerful emotional response that it banishes whatever you were feeling before and transports you, without volition, into intense new feelings that last beyond the minutes of the music.
The song you’re about to hear by the Swiss black metal band AARA succeeds in all of those ways.
That song, “Arkanum“, opens their new album En Ergô Einai, which will be released by Debemur Morti Productions on the 3rd of April, and it’s also the first glimpse of the music that the public will have. As early glimpses go, this one is a stunner, and it happens to include an introduction created by Vindsval of Blut aus Nord.
The album draws inspiration from the Age of Enlightenment in 18th-century Europe, and “serves as a tribute to the duality in man’s pursuit of perfection and the futility found therein.” Of this song in particular, AARA explain:
“‘Arkanum‘ is the prelude to the album. An acoustic spherical intro by V. (Blut aus Nord / Yeruselem) leads the listener into the first chapter of the journey of man’s search for knowledge and meaning in the times of enlightenment.
“For the first time, man is confronted with the idea of the existence of an individual, detached from religion and classes – driving forward the development of science and culture. A constant alternation of emotions and moods in the song structure portrays the rift between new and old, expresses the detachment from the conventional and euphoric mood.
“This is the beginning of a development that will plunge man into deep questions and the demand for significance. Man between the search for meaning and the bitter insight of his own insignificance.”
That is an unconventional inspiration for black metal, but this is unconventional black metal in other ways, too, as you’ll soon discover.
At the beginning of “Arkanum“, when Vindsval weaves his spell, synthesizers and acoustic instrumentation create a mystical harmony of shining celestial tones and moodier meditations. The effect is to induce a reverie. But those musing moments are soon shockingly shattered by a sudden storm of hammering drums, swarming guitars, and throat-splitting shrieks.
Through that storm of intensity, however, a heart-wrenching melody flows, carried by rippling, glimmering tones that don’t quite seem the product of human ingenuity. “Heart-wrenching” may not be exactly the right phrase, because at the same time the melody also seems to manifest yearning and uplifting qualities. Maybe it’s better to simply call out the ethereal clarity and beautifully fluid and morphing character of that melody, and its ability to pierce the heart in the midst of such an extravagant sonic upheaval.
The blasting propulsion of the song is unrelenting, as are the frantic hum of the bass and the unbridled torment of the vocals. The music makes the pulse race in a torrid pace, but the song rockets into the skies, like a hawk exulting in a thermal, with us in its clutches. At the end, it sounds like some angelic host raising their voices in glorification.
Some people may fail to be moved by “Arkanum“. They are dead, or their hearts have turned cold, although their lungs still draw and expel air. Everyone else, prepare to be captured, and maybe even enraptured.
(Perhaps I’ve gotten too carried away, not for the first time. Maybe it’s possible to have a ho-hum reaction without being dead-hearted. No insult intended. But don’t skip over this song or I’ll have to send the wolves after you.)
AARA’s line-up is:
Berg: Guitars, Bass, Synths
The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Chäuer Studios Bärn. The cover art was created by Michael Handt, and the artwork design was done by Naturmacht Studios.