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Ambient post-BM act Arkuum off to good start - 72%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, September 8th, 2015

Arkuum began in 2013 as the solo project of David "Arkas" Theobald who plays all instruments here. As far as I have been able to find out, the only help he has had is from vocalist Denny of fellow German BM band Zeugen der Leere, itself a very recently founded group. Arkuum's debut album "Trostlos", translating into English as "dreary", might have melancholy and grief at the transience of life and the inevitability of death, and the implied waste of life that goes with the territory, as its themes but the music is far from dreary.

Arkuum's style is minimal ambient post-BM, with a strong emphasis on atmosphere and mood, and melody that captures longing and nostalgia. The music combines sorrow, aggression and sometimes a calm, relaxed attitude that almost (but just stops short of) takes the songs into dark shoegazer zones. Sometimes the music can be very pretty, with tremolo guitars trilling in the background behind the harsh vocals or bluesy lead guitar solo melody and reflecting soft golden light from a dying autumn sun. Occasional acoustic interludes accentuate the sadness and longing in the music.

While the vocals help to give the music a tough edge, I wonder whether the music wouldn't have benefited from having a second vocalist (perhaps a clean-toned singer) who would have alternated with Denny or duetted with him on some tracks. This could have given the album an extra layer of nuance and emotional complexity, and brought out more of the emotion in some songs. One of the album's highlights is the middle instrumental track "Interlude" where, without the harsh singing, the pensive and melancholic nature of the music is on full and glorious display. The album peaks with "Morgengrau" which plumbs darker emotional depths with a stronger guitar sound and the addition of plaintive piano melody.

I don't find much to fault here though the drumming could be toned down a little (or even left off a couple of the instrumental tracks) and as mentioned earlier the singing could be more varied. On some songs Denny comes across as though he's merely chanting the lyrics rather than singing them and trying to draw out the feeling in them. The percussion can be a bit lumbering and this detracts from the emotion in the music.

On the whole, this album is a creditable start to what hopefully will be a very productive and creative project. Perhaps at this stage, Arkas is erring on the side of caution, testing the waters as it were, and maybe with the second album he will show what Arkuum is really capable of achieving.