Arkaik’s Metamorphignition is Both a Stepping Stone and a Launching Pad

  • Dave Mustein

If Metamorphignition were a real word, it would accurately describe this album’s impact on Arkaik’s career: the beginning of significant developmental change. Metamorphignition is both a stepping stone and a launch pad, firmly establishing the band’s unique sound while pushing the boundaries of the genre. The release is an impressive demonstration of the band’s distinctive tech-death as well as a huge step forward in terms of songwriting from 2008’s Reflections Within Dissonance.

Arkaik’s palette has been expanded, now prominently featuring a blackness that was only hinted at on Reflections. It adds texture to the heaviest sections and complements the frantic shred, lending a strong sense of cohesion to Metamorphignition. The previously unstructured transitions have been organized into patterns of memorable phrasings; this album is comprised of songs, not loose collections of riffery. They’re gripping tracks, possessing focus and catchiness alike. Some of the technical phrasings even occasionally groove, hooks woven into the snaking bottom end. The interchange between instruments is a frenzied, precise dialogue, sounding like the symmetrical process of millions of pieces of data being slotted into their correct places.

The guitar leads flirt with melody even though they’re not outright melodic. They’re more concise & memorable themes than messes of expert noodling. The notes definitely direct us; they’ve got a sense of urgency to them that keeps us on edge. Listeners are dragged forward by twisting little phrasings and crushing rhythm parts intertwined with blackened chords. Guitarist Craig Peters slowly introduces and manipulates themes throughout the songs, sliding smoothly between tremolo picking and string skipping in tracks like “Blade Grasp Priesthood.” As with any good tech-death release, the guitarists’ abilities are monumental, and the album gifts us with plenty of mind-blowing solos.

But though the guitarwork is strong, the strongest presence on Metamorphignition is that of drummer Alex Bent. His synchronization with the other band members is absurd, paralleling and pounding under the guitar breaks. It’s most clearly demonstrated in the frantic rolling interchanges on “The Laughing Prophet of Doom,” one of the most intense sections of the album. His snare fills fill the gaps and give new dimension to otherwise straightforward death metal passages. Bent has also seriously amped up his rhythmic skill, building on the ideas established on the band’s previous release. Stuttering rhythmic fills and beats in odd time signatures abound in comparison to the straight blasts, simpler beats, and persistent double bass kicks of Reflections. Listening to the album, you can almost feel the hundreds of complex patterns becoming etched into Bent’s skins.

Jared Christianson’s growls aren’t a standout feature in textural terms, but they perform exceedingly well as a percussive element, often slotting perfectly between laser leads. On and off, they follow along with the drums or guitar, making it feel like the whole band is charging in one direction together. His voice rolls over the top of the mix, adding to the general affect without taking anything from any of the other instruments. It sounds especially good in between the band’s stop-and-start bursts that often build to thundering processions.

Metamorphignition is brutal as well as technical, but it doesn’t constrain itself, allowing some passages to venture beyond the boundaries of normal death metal riffery. The songs are more memorable, and they’re fiercely enjoyable to listen to. As the title track growls, Metamorphignition is “a screaming abyss of beautiful cacophony,” and it’s one I’ll definitely be coming back to again and again.

Arkaik’s Metamorphignition is out now. You can listen to the track “Soliloquies Of The War Machine” here, and purchase the album here.

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