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French black metal, it isn't where it started but given the amount of excellent bands that come from the Gallic country you would be confused to think they created the genre. Arphaxat is not exactly a "new" band, to be accurate you have the co-founder of Deathspell Omega and former Hirilorn member Shaxul and relatively unknown vocalist Draken.
If you've heard the early Deathspell Omega releases like 'Infernal Battles' or 'Inquisitors Of Satan' you'll hear A LOT of similarities to Arphaxat. The main difference being the velocity of the songs are a tad slower than the frenetic pace of those early Deathspell Omega songs. I find it amazing that a black metal band can make ANY music without the use of guitars. And I'm not talking about Dark Ambient. So when I heard that there were no guitars and the former DSO man Shaxul had a new release I jumped all over it.
The songs are all written and sung in French, and if other reviews I stated I loved that. In my opinion it's not done enough. But with bands like this one, Peste Noire and Darvulia we are starting to see a trend emerge and thankfully so. Now having heard the early DSO releases I can't exactly tell if it's Draken singing or maybe perhaps Shaxul himself. Their voices sound so alike that I sometimes ponder the thought of Shaxul doing even the vocals along with everything else. But I'll have to believe it when they say that Draken is the vocalist and Shaxul is in charge of bass and drums.
Which leads me the next thing. The bass is loud and buzzy sounding, a really good black metal shrill sound that would confuse any unassuming person that it's a guitar. So I give him massive credit for pulling that off. What you get here is your classic raw, underground black metal sound. Nothing more, nothing less. It's done very well and with plenty of conviction. 10 songs, all under the 5 minute mark so it's brief and to the point. 'Exorcismes' is perhaps the song that sticks out most to me because of the killer slow bassline in the very beginning. 'Peste Et Possédées' is also another memorable track with a wonderful French verse.
All in all, don't expect anything epic or something life changing. I think the band summed it perfectly on the attached promo paper on the album cover when it says that it's "NOT for open-minded idiots who have no idea what true primitive Black Metal is about! " If you have a thirst for old-school black metal with your basic meat and potatoes ingredients (except that there's no guitar) you will love this. How Shaxul makes this work with a bass and no guitar is quite impressive and they deserve to be listened to.
Obscure is one word that could easily be used to describe France's Arphaxat: For one thing, they have no guitars, which is strange for metal bands on the whole, but a black metal band with no guitars? Looking at this band's discography also shows their lack of activity, as this is only their second release, with their demo being released in 2003. But hey, its extremly likely that this project is just one of a myriad of projects these men are involved in, as is true with a lot of extreme metal acts with numerous side projects.
I haven't heard the demo, but Hell's Headbanger records assured listeners that anyone who had heard it should no what to expect. This statement should reveal a lot about this band's mentality, which is indeed in sync with the primitive black metal attitude of shunning progression, open mindedness, or even decent recording quality.
While I have to admit that the black metal mindset is something I strongly oppose for the most part, I have always been transfixed by the music itself, especially when it leans toward the primitive, droning, raw style that this band possesses in spades.
The music is somewhat predictable, while at the same time sounding strangely different from most bands of this style. This is probably due to the total lack of guitars. Instead, this band opts for a twin bass attack, with one bass being overly distorted playing the role of guitar, and the other a more standard clean tone providing something that sounds a little more lucid and flowing. Both basses are very clearly audible, and the loud distorted bass gives this band a certian grinding, churning, quality absent from many black metal bands.
This band claims influence from the old ways of Bathory and even VON, and these styles are apparent throughout. I'd say the VON influence is very noticeable, as this band often uses simple driving tremolo picked riffs accompanied by the standard black metal blasts and thrash beats, with a certain amount of punk styled drumming for good measure. Vocals are a raspy mid range scream, with occasional spoken word parts here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary. Recording quality is about as grim as one would expect.
Despite this bands obvious nods to the old school, I find their sound to be somewhat refreshing. The music is not nearly as necro styled as one might think. Though not overtly melodic, there are many moments and riffs that echo with a feeling of triumph, giving certian songs a very epic feel, especially on the closing track.
This is a pretty solid release overall, as it is sure to satisfy fans of bestial, necro black metal, while at the same time offering a slightly different spin on a tried and true formula. I guess the lack of guitars ends up being this bands stongpoint, as this gives them an entirely different sound and feeling from similar bands playing this style.