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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:00|
I seem to get assigned the bands that are so far from my usual expertise in writing and music listening, that I have to force myself out of my little musical comfort zone. I also seem to be single-handedly covering the Calgary metal scene from afar (note to self: at some point, book a trip to Calgary). This time around, I'm covering Calgary's own The Unravelling, and their debut album 13 Arcane Hymns. Aside from my the occasional forays into Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, as well as a bit of KORN courtesy of my roommate, my exposure to metal has been rather limited. I have always assumed that it is "that loud music" (channeling my mother), and not really a musical form. Chron Goblin in 2010, and now The Unravelling have gone a long way to changing my opinion towards metal in general.
The Unravelling formed in 2006 with vocalist and lyricist Steve Moore teaming up with instrumentalist Gus De Beauville. It may have taken them four years to complete this project, but it ends up being an album that does not allow much room for improvement. The time it took for them to create also allowed for them to perfect -- a real rarity for most debut albums. 13 Arcane Hymns does not come across as a debut album. It feels like an album a band would put out if they were together a lot longer than the four years Moore and De Beauville have been collaborating.
With obvious influences such as early Nirvana, Tool, and even a little Alice in Chains, there's a sense that the band is drawing from a broad palette of musical influences. 13 Arcane Hymns is described by lead singer Steve Moore as thematically "...about digging yourself up after being buried alive...," and it's a message that he says has been resonating with fans and listeners alike, a sentiment that I completely agree with. In thirteen tracks, this duo manages to cover a lot of deep material. Drawing on their own collective personal experiences, 13 Arcane Hymns comes together as a surprisingly cohesive whole. It is difficult to tell when one personal experience turns into another, and the band is rather coy lyrically about who is experiencing the emotion or situation, leaving the work both enigmatic, but also rather inviting at the same time. You don't have to get caught up over who's who and can just get to enjoying the album.
Many of the songs on this album are bass driven, something this rhythm guitar lover finds a huge plus. Yes, they are a metal band, but there's a feeling in listening to the album that the band was cognizant that the meaning of the songs would be lost in a wall of sound effect that often turns listeners (including myself) away from this genre of music. The really outstanding songs on the album include the opening track "Move Forward Until You Are Dead," which can only be described as being a rebel-rousing number, the bass-laden "Revived," and "Unscripted Disclosure".
My favourite songs from the entire album, though, are "Becoming Chaos" and "Victory Song." "Becoming Chaos" is a particularly noteworthy number that features a great drum and bass backing track, with a vocal delivery by the lead singer that is reminiscent of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who is known for singing in staccato with the rhythm section. "Victory Song" comes at the very end of the album, and it's a song that I not only envision closing a live show, but imagine would be a great crowd pleaser as well, with its sing-along ability (do metalheads "sing-along"?), and the great chanting lead-in giving the band the opportunity to build up anticipation during an encore. The rest of the album is not without its merits, but when listening to the album for this review, these were a pair of songs that I came back to several times; they grabbed my attention, and they wouldn't let me go.
The Unravelling are definitely a band worthy of a listen. At the time this article was written, 13 Arcane Hymns was available for free download off of their website. Grab it, but remember to support them during their live performances, and don't forget to pass the word along to like-minded music lovers! I may not be a self-professed metal lover, but I do know what I like, and this band is definitely worth your time.
Check out Mike's contributions to the Local Tourist Ottawa blog at www.localtouristottawa.com.