Album: 12 Winter Moons Comes the Witches Brew
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Release Date: 20 February, 2018
Right out of the gate, let me say that I applaud Arkheth for delivering something very different and very strange. It’s a mix of Black Metal with lots of Avant-garde touches, not the least of which is the frequent and explosive saxophone that comes along here and there, squeaking and squonking, adding a layer of jarring weirdness that complements the music and lyrics. Now, the real question to answer here is, does it work as anything other than just being odd?
Arkheth is essentially a one man band, consisting of Tyrone ‘Tyraenos’ Kostitch, who plays all of the instruments, and Glen Wholohan, who plays the aforementioned saxophone. They are from Australia and there must be something in the heat down there that has inspired this cacophony of madness that unfurls before the listener from the very first notes of the first song and continues onward, saturating the entire release. Don’t be too confused, though, as this is a very “cold” sounding album, very true to its Nordic roots in Black Metal. There’s lots of shrieks and atmosphere and plenty of swirling guitars and tinkling keys. Arkheth offer a nice base of traditional Black Metal to build their sound on, and even if the weirder parts were stripped away, you’d still have something that rocked.
“Trismegistus” opens the record, with chains and the moans of someone suffering, before transitioning right into the Black Metal. Some whirling keyboard comes in, reminding me somewhat of old Covenant, and then Mr. Kostitch adds his snarling, goblin vocals. Pretty familiar stuff here, done well, but nothing really new. And then, at the 2:28 mark, that damned saxophone comes in, adding a layer to the sound that is both bizarre and warm. And then seconds later, we get into an odd time-signature switch, and from this point forward, you’re pretty much on your own. You’ve opened the funhouse door and you have to decide if you’re going to plunge into the depths or not.
“Where Nameless Ghouls Weep” offers some prime Celtic Frost groove over a bed of atmospheric strangeness (including howling wolves and keyboards and tortured vocals). It is a nice piece of cold blackness that worms its way straight into your brain. The song ratchets up a bit at the three minute mark, getting faster and more whimsical (and, somehow, darker at the same time) and it builds from there, before dropping back down at the five minute mark. This one has peaks and valleys, layering lots of atmosphere to give it a good punch.
“A Place Under the Sun” starts off like a soundtrack, building into itself, the guitars politely fading up and in, the keyboards singing their siren song. The song has an epic feel to it, reminding me a lot of Vintersorg, kind of cosmic but earthly at the same time. There’s a personal, introspective quality to the track, and when that saxophone makes its reappearance, the effect is both soothing and melancholy. As a closing track, this is an almost perfect way to end the record, offering a soft comedown from what has gone on before. You’ve had your mind and senses wrecked and now you’re getting some soothing balm to calm your frayed nerves.
All in all, this is a good record. If you’re in the mood for something different and unique, something that is going to challenge you more than it moves your feet, then you could do much worse than cracking this one open. There’s a lot of Black Metal here, and a lot of darkness, but there’s also a good helping of mirth and tease, and kudos to Arkheth for pulling off that combination with style and wit. The saxophone may be a deal breaker for some of you, but I would encourage you to give it a go. It really does fit, even though every time it came wafting in, the image of the sax player in the movie Lost Boys would pop into my head, and I would kind of chuckle a little. Don’t take it too seriously, have some fun with it, and you might just find you’ve got a cool little addition to your collection.
2. Dark Energy Equilibrium
3. Where Nameless Ghouls Weep
4. The Fool Who Persists in His Folly
5. A Place Under the Sun
Total Playing Time: 41:07