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The best of Arakain's groove metal era - 83%

Agonymph, May 9th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Popron Music

Like many thrash metal bands that survived past their first two or three albums, Arakain eventually got bitten by the groove metal bug. However, in case of Arakain, that does not mean the rest of their discography is not worth hearing. While it is true that they did not really find their mojo back until 2014’s ‘Adrenalinum’, their 1999 album ‘Farao’ is actually more interesting than many a groove-influenced thrash metal album, including many by Arakain themselves. The album has notably more melodic depth than most albums in the same style and is also somewhat more dynamic in the tempo department.

In a way, Arakain was on a minor peak in their mid-career by this point, as ‘Apage Satanas’, released a year prior, is considered a minor highlight in their discography. And while ‘Farao’ shares many of the benefits ‘Apage Satanas’ has – a pretty big amount of variation, more melody than on the average late nineties metal album – ‘Farao’ does feel a lot more cohesive. This cohesion is reached without having all songs sound similar, something Arakain battled with for many years after this album. Nearly every song has a memorable riff or melody that sets it apart from the rest.

These days, ‘Do Zdi’ is pretty much the only song from ‘Farao’ that is frequently played live. This surprises me, as it is probably my least favorite track on the album. It kind of plods along with no real notable moments. The ballads, on the other hand, are quite good. The interestingly structured ‘Já Nejsem Já’ in particular, but ‘Rajské Zahrady’ is very much worth hearing too. While I strongly prefer their current singer Honza Toužimský, Aleš Brichta actually sounds really good on these tracks. The same goes for the excellent opening track ‘Už Ho Vezou’, where his vocals in the chorus really enhance the haunting guitar melody.

Although a majority of the songs on ‘Farao’ is still in the midtempo range, Arakain managed to pump just enough variation into the material to keep the record engaging for nearly an hour. What ultimately makes ‘Farao’ better than the average Arakain album is the greater number of highlights. Apart from the aforementioned ones, there is the uptempo, almost hardcore-ish ‘Uhoněnej’, the dark, semi-doomy title track with its excellent riff work and atmosphere and ‘Mám To Za Pár’, which cleverly plays with its tempo feel. While the Middle-Eastern tinged thrasher ‘Šerezád II’ isn’t quite as good as its incredible predecessor, it definitely is one of the best moments on ‘Farao’. And even the more standard tracks often get an interesting twist, such as the chords in the pre-chorus of ‘Global Street Debil’.

‘Farao’ proves that it is possible for a thrash metal band to embrace the developments of contemporary metal without having your songs sounding like they are stuck in the same gear the whole time. There are very few dull moments on ‘Farao’ and some of the songs even rank among Arakain’s best work. It could have been trimmed down by five to ten minutes, but that’s not too bad for an album with thirteen songs and an outro. If there is one lesson to take away from ‘Farao’, it would be that you’d better make your riffs distinctive if you are a thrash metal band looking to slow down your music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Už Ho Vezou’, ‘Farao’, ‘Šerezád II’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog