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Okay, The Arcanum is a unique piece by virtue of it's placement in the timeline alone. Here we have what is arguably Suidakra's first structured foray into the excessively melodic style that has come to characterize the band proper. What really makes this interesting is the final appearance of a full-time keyboardist in Voigt, which serves as an interesting counterpoint to many of the proto-Emprise to Avalon compositional stylings at work here. While one can't shortchange Arkadius' deft fingers on the synth (as he has surely proven in the decade-plus since The Arcanum), the keyboard arrangements have a lot more thought put into them on this one. You can truly sense the extra mind at work here, helping to spark variation in the proceedings. Add to this some of the busiest, most melodically rich cuts Suidakra's classic lineup has ever penned and watch the magic happen.
While it still falls slightly short of the relentless riff barrage of Emprise to Avalon, the leads remain uniformly ripe and coalesce mightily with the oscillating power chords and sporadic divergence into lower register territory. If Antonik and Schoenen are anything here, they are busy, refusing to let any one passage stagnate as they hop from neck jerking pit-churners to atmospheric, keyboard-driven bliss like on "To Rest in Silence" and especially "Dragonbreed." The amorphous genre mash-up that signified the group's earliest records is clearly spent by this point, and The Arcanum is the musical equivalent to the light bulb flickering on over their collective head.
Suidakra wastes no time proving this fact, as "Wartunes" is an instant classic opener and is surely heavy enough to live up to it's reputation as the prototypical Suidakra tune regarding both function and form. The first three minutes can be attributed to a five-year-old who slammed a bag of Pop Rocks, yielding unending vitriol until the melodic break comes in and quiets everything down. It is such a spectacular display of contradistinction; basically embodying an archetypical example of the concept of tension and release.
I normally come in at this point and point out what doesn't work, but The Arcanum yields no duff tracks. Worth pointing out are the obligatory acoustic interjections courtesy of Schoenen. "Serenade to a Dream" is absolutely spellbinding, with Voigt's poignant piano lines weaving in and out of the unplugged majesty. Easily the greatest acoustic number Suidakra has ever done, with only "Ramble" coming close to sharing a similar prize. The Skyclad cover "The One Piece Puzzle" is also flawlessly executed and fits like a glove onto the tail end of the track listing.
While Eternal Defiance has brought the heavy keyboard presence back, the atmosphere is still far from the mark set by The Arcanum. The inclusion of Tina Stabel as a centerpiece in Suidakra's modern approach does even more to solidify the fact that the band's greatest days are likely behind them. In my opinion, Suidakra will never be the same without Schoenen, who quit the group amidst growing concerns of friction with his professional career. As it stands, The Arcanum sounds rightfully massive, is rich in archaic appeal, and delivers all we have come to expect from Suidakra - and more. Please don't pass this one up, consider it a stylistic twin to the equally timeless Emprise to Avalon. Both are genre-defining classics.
In many respects, Suidakra is one of the easiest bands in the world to get into. Yet at the same time, there is something elusive about the niche that they’ve staked their claim on. Are they purveyors of Viking, black, death, folk, thrash or speed metal? The answer to this question was fairly ambiguous during the formative period of the mid 1990s amid the explosion of black metal acts in Scandinavia and beyond that were starting to entertain folksy and Viking elements. But by the turn of the millennium a very clear and captivating answer to this question, embodying an equal mix of them all that screams of both coherence and chaos. If “Lays From Afar” represented this fulfilled sound in its earliest form, then “The Arcanum” represents it receiving a bit more refinement and improvement, and the results speak for themselves.
Of all the albums that have been released by this fold up until this point, this album is the most accessible to the current crop of metal consumers that tend towards the heroic character of Ensiferum and Equilibrium. Nevertheless, the character of Suidakra leans much more in the direction of the extreme sub-genres that originally birthed this one, maintaining much of the flowing coldness of the Gothenburg scene while also presenting the infectious folk themes and clean vocal choruses that have come to define present Viking tendencies. It’s not quite as flashy and complex, but it definitely holds its own in the technical department, and more importantly it brilliantly captures the heroic aspects of the style that are not quite as overt in bands like Windir and Enslaved.
Perhaps the greatest influence on this album and one that is often taken for granted by those who like the extreme side of this music is that of Skyclad, whose classic song “The One Piece Puzzle” is covered to close the album off. When hearing the sweet sounds of that overtly Celtic folk melody interacting with the mid-paced, gritty character of the electric guitars, it isn’t difficult to see where fast and furious crushers with a triumphant edge such as “War Tunes” and “The Arcane Spell” come from, as well as the smooth, serene splendor of the acoustic ventures in “Rise Of Taliesin” and “Serenade To A Dream”. In fact, the principle thing that keeps this album primarily in the melodic black metal paradigm is the vile character of Arkadius’ barks and a subtle sense of gloom that filters in and out with the droning keyboard lines and quiet sections.
Generally the early 2000s are seen as the zenith of Suidakra’s long and very prolific career, and the balancing act between bitter coldness and heated warfare that “The Arcanum” displays is a distinctive phase within it that can be easily grasped by anyone who has taken a liking to any album under the Suidakra name after it. It is effectual enough in walking this tightrope that it could equally appeal to those who ate up early and middle era Dimmu Borgir, as well as those who stuck with Quorthon through the first 2 genre incarnations of Bathory. So dust off that old book of Celtic lore and forgotten tales that’s been sitting in the library begging for a read, and see how it all comes alive to the magic inducing tunes of this folk metal mainstay.
My first introduction to Suidakra, The Arcanum has an almost perfect blend of speed, aggression, brutality, folk, and most importantly - melody! I swear these guys are as melodic as it gets in the melodic death metal subgenre. Harsh vocals reign for the most part but often found is a clean vocal segment or backup to the music. The guitars are highly melodic as mentioned before, attacking with speed induced riffs at an aggressive pace. It's hard to classify more what is the main factor, melody or brutality, because of the well formed song structures.
Sometimes it will fall over to the brutal side with the intensity of the drumming overwhelming the ears but other times with the guitar solos and riffing it's purely melodic guitarwork that borders on spectacular. Suidakra have also incorporated keyboards into their music, mostly for atmosphere, which I must say adds to folky vibe of the album which are found in several tunes, most notably with the acoustic guitar bits and lighter moments. Check Rise of Taliesin for pure Celtic folk. Other folk highlights like this are found in the awesome interlude in the middle of Gates of Nevermore with the clean singing, or the beginning of The One Piece Puzzle. The best song on here is probably Dragonbreed, with its awesome chorus and heavy as hell onslaught of melodic death metal purity. Folk moments are also found, but this is almost pure headbang material.
There are very little weak points on this album, but if I had to remark about any then I'd say that sometimes when I listen to this album all the way through, the albums run into one another, sounding if it were the same song. Some riffs tend to lack variety but mostly this is covered up by the constant speed that I tend to love. The highlights of the album overweigh the lower points substantially making this a worthy album to any melodic death metal fan's collection.
Each member of the band add their input well, with outstanding guitar work and intense almost purely brutal drumming. The harsh vocal delivery is nothing special but adequate for the album, mostly growled and indecipherable but the best is during the clean vocal parts giving the more epic feel. The Arcanum is a great album for fans of unique melodic death metal, with its folk elements and influences. Suidakra have a very different sound than most other acts out there of the same ilk and what's best is how they deliver it to the listener with a great mix of melody and brutality, that's all I can say.
Suidakra's music is a gift from the metal gods.
Governed by timeless melody. Speed and aggression balanced by mellow Celtic breaks. Melting elements of death, black, speed and Viking metal into a powerhouse combination. Both rhythmic, and pummeling, harsh and delicate, this band pulls off effortlessly what most bands could only dream of.
I'm not sure, after listening through the entire Suidakra catalogue numberless times, which album I like the best of theirs, because they're all great. Though, I find myself listening to this album a bit more than the others.
From the powerful opener Wartunes, to the Celtic acoustic track Rise of Taliesin which begs you to sing along, to the cover of the classic Skyclad song One Piece Puzzle, this album never lets up.
The keyboards create great atmosphere, the drums are always spot-on, always playing the perfect beat for the assortment of riffs this band goes through, and the vocals are always keenly executed, changing also to fit the riffs as they come.
The riffs are always melodic, yet always raging. Each song gives the uncontrollable urge to headbang, and every soft interlude is mesmerizing.
One of their best. Get it!