Album Review: Arcane – Known/Learned
Posted by Irmelinis
Release Date: January 20th, 2015 on Sensory Records
Tracks: 2 discs, 16 tracks
Length: A little over 2 hours
Genre: Progressive metal
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Previous releases: Ashes 2007, Chronicles of the Waking Dream 2009
Recommended for fans of: Pain of Salvation, Dream Theater, Caligula’s Horse, Fates Warning, Anathema
The Australian progressive metal band Arcane shows us that crowd funding is a prosperous concept yet again, hitting the target for their new double album in only three days. Good reputations travel quickly, and Arcane have already been touring the country with well known acts like Anathema, Queensrÿche and Ne Obliviscaris. “Known/Learned” is their third release and a much improved effort compared to previous works. The broken is mended, the unfinished whole. The music flows better, and to hire Sam Vallen (Caligula’s Horse) to be the producer was a great choice for a luculent sound and warm atmosphere. Prepare for an expansive musical journey that echoes life; an abstract, reflective story about a father and his daughter.
For those who feel intimidated by the length, don’t worry, these two albums can be enjoyed when listened to separately, it’s actually what I recommend the first few times. As with any good prog album, it’s not immediately accessible and memorable. There’s a depth in these songs, and in the story as a whole, that requires and deserves a dedicated listener. And in those depths, we will both surely drown…
Known – If comparisons are to be made, Arcane plays in the same heavy league as Dream Theater, but with the delicate and naked emotion of Pain of Salvation. They are often favouring classical piano melodies over electronic synths, which goes perfectly together with singer Jim Grey’s versatile and incredibly beautiful voice. Like a bird quietly diving and rising in the sky his voice travels seamlessly from the most powerful shouts to the finest ethereal tones you can imagine, as if he had an instinct to fly.
The third track gives a good example of this, and of the thrilling variation the album provides – this is not a band that keep singing the same tired old song. Ending with a grand chorus “Instinct” treads so soft and lightly down into “Womb (In Memoriam)” – a haunting song that inevitably makes me think of the tune Pippin sings in the movie LOTR: The Return of the King. The peace in the silence, it’s very touching. When it changes into “Selfsame” and the acoustic guitar starts playing there’s always a little tear in my eye. A strong trilogy of songs.
The jazzy drums breathe quietly and darkly in “Holding Atropos”, carrying words of surrender and goodbyes. Even here when the music goes dark and the singing sorrowful there’s a hopeful feeling present, and as we drift toward the end it arrives at the turning point. “Learned” is a heavy 23 minute long latin-inspired grand finale. The best moment is the line “We… we are.. we are still learning…”, repeating throughout the song, it’s a comforting realization, both on an individual level and on a societal one. We are still learning and we always will be.
Learned – The second disc focuses on flowing tranquil songs, for reference there’s a slight similarity to Pain of Salvation’s acoustic albums. Keyboard player Matt Martin’s enchanting piano melodies are still frequent, giving the music a wonderful melancholic tinge and a fuller sound. Mr Grey’s voice is highly emotional but far from fragile and continues to trace endless roads in your skin, even more so when complemented by a tasteful bass line passing softly by, as heard in the memorable “Nightingale’s Weave” and “Eyes For the Change”. This disc is full of highlights difficult to describe in words as they have to be experienced. Listen closely. There are surprising details in these quiet songs, like a deep ocean mirroring the stars. Usually it’s the lyrics one finds thought provoking, here it’s the music and the compositions. What rings true for the whole album though, is that it could have been made shorter, for a greater impact. That’s not to say any of the tracks are of lesser quality or feel out of place, they are not. There is so much substance in each composition it makes it hard to recall everything you’ve listened to when it reaches the end. Don’t crack the camel’s back… with too much goodness at once.
Conclusion: Arcane blows an ambitious fresh breeze into a traditional and technical genre, refilling it with emotion and philosophical reflection. “Known” and “Learned” create a natural balance and unity, and benefits just as much from being listened to separately. Although a bit lengthy, here’s a record that stays true to its own unique sound and never strays from its concept, containing music and lyrics that will last for a long time to come. It’s going to be exciting to continue to follow this band in the future.
Your work is done. Home is right here.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Recommended songs: Instinct, Selfsame, Hunter Heart & Home, Nightingale’s Weave
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About IrmelinisA friend told me that I was delusional. I almost fell off my unicorn.
Posted on January 20, 2015, in Album Reviews, News, Tales From Bandcamp & Full Album Streams and tagged Arcane, Australia, double album, Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, Progressive Metal. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.