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Poema Arcanvs : Transient Chronicles

Poema Arcanvs' new full-length shows a band in all its maturity.

The internet can be a marvellous thing, at least as far as finding out strange and obscure facts is concerned. For example, by any geographical measure you might choose to use, Chile has far and away the highest density of Doom bands of any country in South America (Brazil actually has more, but spread over ten times as large an area and twelve times the population). And if that indicates the relative importance and maturity of the Doom scene, the veteran Poema Arcanvs, as one of the better-known Chilean bands, is somewhere near the top of the league table in representing an entire continent. Which, in turn, attaches some importance and expectation to their album releases, of which 'Transient Chronicles' will be the fifth full-lengther. Of course, having already carved out a reputation for creative, exciting, diversely-influenced melodic Death/Doom on previous releases, there's a pretty high musical standard to live up to as well!

As of this moment, unfortunately, release information is a little sketchy. The album was originally announced as being with Australis Records; the band subsequently told us they were looking for a label - indications are that this is still the case, hence this review is of the high-quality promo download and accompanying e-packaging. Presumably, there may be changes prior to any final physical release - but hopefully not to the superbly-illustrated and informative packaging, unless it's to add the lyrics for completeness.

Anyway, the album's about the music, right? So let's start by saying that you wouldn't mistake it for anyone else: the trademark mixture of Claudio Carrasco's distinctive vocals, Igor Leiva's indefatiguable guitar-work and Luis Moya's inventive drumming cascade through a series of complex, shifting song progressions. Bassist Pablo Tapia, making his recording debut, fits well into that framework, adding to the percussive depth that drives things along.

Anyone familiar with previous works will know that their very complexity can detract from the instant appeal associated with simple, punchy anthems - more satisfying rewards are to be found in the slower burn of repeated listening and growing appreciation. 'Transient Chronicles' follows that route: for me, at least, an initial, half-attentive blast through speakers failed to completely grip me - a subsequent session with headphones and no distractions revealed far, far more of interest. It also led me to investigate the band more fully, having previously only had a passing acquaintance with their output, and to the conclusion that this is a subtler, less aggressive beast than previous outings - still dramatic and dynamic, but in a way that suggests refined evolution from the sound of 'Timeline Symmetry'.

That's not to say that the album lacks heaviness - it has that aplenty, in amongst the many directional shifts and transitions that mark Poema Arcanvs' gloriously anarchic way of mixing in whatever influences and directions take their fancy. On balance, though, it seems to be holding to a slightly mellower, more Progressively-inclined baseline, with moments that wouldn't sound out of place on something like a Pink Floyd or Twelfth Night opus woven into the general mix. Claudio's excellent clean vocals give, in places, a Trad Doom feel: sometimes echoed by Igor's riffing, sometimes contrasting against a more typical Death/Doom guitar sound. Equally proficient growls, of course, make a number of appearances, particularly on the relatively straightforward 'Lambs'.

Subtlety shows in the few background textures which add embellishment in places: probably keyboard, although it's difficult to say categorically that they weren't done with guitar or voice. These add a nice, rounded touch to pieces like the beginning of 'Default Song', or the conclusion of 'Fading', but it must be admitted that's a long way from tracks from the early 2000s that routinely made such brilliant use of piano or keyboard as a full contributor. That leaves much of the instrumental workload to the guitar - and, to a lesser extent, bass: fortunately, something that the restlessly flowing, constantly-changing fretwork has risen to cover quite magnificently.

Perhaps the only negative comment to be made is against the first track: 'Us, Those Half Dead'. Compositionally perhaps the weakest moment of the album - in that it never seems to quite gel the disparate elements of the song, rather than being oversimplistic - I don't really like it at all, and found its position as the opener quite a hindrance to getting into the album at all. That's a shame, particularly when the roiling, pulsating introduction to the immediately-following 'Stream Of Debris' would make a perfect - and far more representative - lead-in.

Well, that's a lot of words - but, in all fairness, it's a complex album to explore. Without much in the way of preconceptions to draw on, I'd say it was a positive step along the trajectory the band have been taking (although the question for longer-standing fans might well be whether they approve of that post-'Iconoclast' direction). The inspired willingness to mix, match and constantly evolve any given track as it unfolds is a refreshing and laudable approach that largely works well. There are several standout tracks in their own right - 'Stream Of Debris', the Spanish 'Inquilinos', 'Fading' and 'Default Song' are all highlights - but there is more to be discovered, with a bit of patience. Well worth a listen, at any rate, but be prepared to concentrate to get the best out of it.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Us, Those Half Dead
2. Stream Of Debris
3. Fugitive
4. Inquilinos
5. Fading
6. Omniscient Opponent
7. Lambs
8. Default Song
9. Our Little Blood

Duration : Approx. 57 minutes

Visit the Poema Arcanvs bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-03-13 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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