Monday, August 27, 2012

Arke - EP One (2012)

Manchester, UK based Arke give you so much to love. No, not in that "more cushion for the pushin'" kind of way. From their sense of humor, to their ability to craft one catchy groove metal track after another, these four deranged sociopaths can do it all. Their "Shatner" EP, one of our most listened to short form albums of the year (even though it is nearly two years old), established this four piece as a force to be reckoned with. On their new outing, "EP One," recorded live this year, they give you four more tracks of heavy grooves to make sweet love to... or pet your cats to.

The opening track, "Instrumental #1," is exactly as advertised. Despite the live recording setting, the mix is beautifully constructed, with lead guitarist Taz Dirania's unique style shining through in groove after groove. But the foundation is key here, as a rumbling bass line and steadfast drumming are the support beams for the layered guitar riffs. There is plenty of fuel for the fire, with every passing section drawing you further into the flames. Carrying an instrumental isn't a small task to undertake, but the team of Dirania and Craig Ross manage to do it with gusto. When you play well enough to make a nearly seven minute guitar based track, and make it feel like half the time, you are doing something right. Much like their previous work indicates, these four are not short on catchy riffs and foot stomping aesthetics. But more than that, they find a soulfulness in the vocals of Dirania, as is evident on "Katastrophe." Somewhere in that raspy shouting voice is a bluesy weight, even when delivering classic lines like "Fuck all your games." This is where Arke are at their best, creating an almost doom instrumental, with more invested vocals. There is something to be said for a song that is so intensely groove laden that it makes you feel as though you are standing right in front of the band, even when you are thousands of miles away.

By the time you have reached "Live Through," you have already been satisfied in every way musically possible. But right from the onset, you can be assured that this is far from over. That signature Arke stomp kicks in, no pun intended, and you will find it nearly impossible to resist banging your head to the beat. Dirania lets loose on the vocals, even brandishing a few effects laden clean passages, as well as a more deep scream and growl. Bassist Chris Wood stars throughout, with his earth shaking notes echoing for what it seems like is an eternity. But if you want a cross section to pull out and label as "Arke," it would be the two minute outro, one that gives you everything from the down tempo build up, to a freakishly played guitar solo. The science of the closing track is something Arke has mastered to this point, and "Reward" is no different. Taken from the 2010 "Shatner" EP, and played with every bit of blood, sweat and tears you could expect, this is a fitting end to a blasting outing. Even the vocals evolve in the live setting, with gritty screams carrying you from chorus to verse. And the solo that was so wildly impressive before, is taken to new heights, as only Dirania could.

In fifteen years as a rabid metal fan, digesting countless numbers of bands, albums, songs, and shows, I have never come across a band that can play a heavy groove like Arke. Take that at face value. There is nothing more you could want from this EP, or the previous one for that matter. Whether you are looking for an album to blast in your car with the windows down, or something to show off to your friends, you will find it here. And somehow, for all their talent, they remain humble enough to have fun doing it. And that is a good sign of things to come. Just think; this is only "EP One." By the time we get to "EP Ten," you may be looking at the most prolific groove metal band of all time.


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