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Namibian epicness - 100%

MDL, June 13th, 2018

Despite musicianship limitations in Namibia, being this the main reason that led Arcana XXII to split-up, back in 2005, this band do reveal a truly unique musical quality, majesty and potential amongst heavy metal bands worldwide. Broading thematics related with history and ancient civilizations, the band can perfectly assemble such subjects with their very own musical style, just as what can be verified as soon as in the first album's track, "Ramses" (refering to king Ramses, the 1st, 2nd or 3rd, of Egypt, the most glorious pharaohs during the final segment of the kingdom's history) or "Imago Mundi" (a medieval literary work by French theologian Pierre d'Ailly, homonym of that one made by the first archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anselm).

Arcana creates a distinct type of riffing and soloing, that reminds me of music typically associated with the most remote and ancient civilizations of humanity's history. The vocalist Johann Smit holds a fairly versatile vocal, alternating between clean and deep vocal performances, in heavy/power metal's wave and low gutturals, that assemble perfectly with the progressing melody that guitars acquire. The music presents a truly fascinating complexity, in the way the musicians structurate their respective instruments, generating an intense, epic and energetic sonority, which turns out to be definitely admirable, since we're talking about artists coming from a country like Namibia.

It's true that Africa's metal scene has been assuming a prestigious exponent recently, however, we should'nt disregard the frailty of the ways of production and recording available to the musicians, principally on a underground musical scene context (also, "This Burning Darkness" was made in 2002).

Unfortunately, it's definitely in that area that Arcana XXII reveal an evident fragility. The album's production is not bad, actually, far away from that, however, it doesn't seems to adequate to the music's complexity: sometimes, the most intricate solos and melodies acquire a strident and constrained sound. The rhythmic guitar generates a turbid sound and the bass is rarely distinguished between the other instruments, even though it highlights, occasionally, by the heaviness it confers to the music. The drums, on the other hand, reveal a more consistent sound and appear to be less affected from production's frailties, as we can actually verify and appreciate the cymbal's sonorous distinctions. Certain songs appear to be more stricken by the productionwise than others, taking into account "Ramses" and "Burning Darkness"'s brilliance, contrasting with "White Light & Black Spaces" , with a duller sound.

However, for all means, those difficulties are evidently appeased by this band's creativity and musical strength. The energy they arouse through their music is beyond impressing, revealing an opulent repertoire between fast-paced and generally melodic sections, accompanied by an accessible and contagious riffing, along with another heavier and slower moments, in which the vocalist Johann stars his powerful guttural voice, even though this happens also on accelerated parts. In fact, it is difficult, sometimes, to distinguish his guttural vocals from a deeper clean vocal projection, being this another dilemma regarding productionwise.

What makes this band absolutely special, personally, it's exactly their thematics and musiciansip, referring to characters and subjects related to history, primarly about ancient civilizations. From a history student's perspective, Arcana XXII's music is extremely inspiring, as it accompanied me during my investigations about, specially, Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, being those songs that echo on my mind while I proceed with those studies. Having so, Arcana emerges as a special band for me, by both personal motifs and their peculiarity and musical virtuosity. It's a real shame that they had disbanded, regarding the presented reason, by the absence of qualified musicians in Namibia to make heavy metal music. It indicates, evidently, that the band had, maybe, some more ideas to progress with their career, without success, due to such limitation.
Some of their members formed another band, Submission, in the same year of Arcana's demise, 2005, to which I have no opinion to offer, since I've never checked their music before.

I truly recommend this band to every fan of classic heavy/power metal, as a precious and rare gem. Absolutely, the best metal band hailing from Africa.

Highlights: "Ramses", "Burning Darkness", "Afterburner" and "Lobonian Rhapsody".