Today, I’m going to talk about an album – one that’s been rocking the very core of my soul since minute one. Boasting each and every element I like, it instantly blew my mind and became a favourite…
I have to tell you, it’s the kind of the music that I’ve been craving for… Yes, I’ve given it a thousand spins and still can’t get enough!
That’s what happens when I stumble upon a brilliant quality CD like this – from the get go, I thought I wanted to, nay, needed to absorb its every note, look into each and every nook and cranny. My words will not be up to the task to describe my fascination over it… But hey, a girl’s gotta try…
Breaking it down into four topics is the way forward I reckon… The band, the cast, Samuel Arkan & his genius… and the theme… yes…
Let’s start with my new hero, Samuel Arkan – there just is something magical about this guy and his catchy hooks and clever harmonies. His production is a perfect blend of exciting arrangements melding complex instruments with amazing melodies in a flawless formula. His ingredients are all gourmet – the vocalists, keyboardists, drummers, his song-writing, all brilliant and prominent specimens of this day and age.
As I said, excellent choice of musicians brought together in such a way that everyone brings a very distinct flavour to the table while no one stealing the spotlight from anyone else. All band members are top notch musicians and you can tell since the blending allows for showcasing of each and every member’s outstanding talents.
First off, the instrumentalists.
Of course, first we have the brilliant Samuel Arkan (Virus IV) on guitars. I’m sure by now you are appreciating his genius. Then on bass guitars, Kristoffer Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation, Dial, Neil Morse) shreds it. Julien Spreutels (Ethernity) is responsible of the brilliant keyboard and piano works in the album. Er.. emm.. the fact that he looks good (check out the video) doesn’t hurt either 🙂 The masterful and clever drum-works are the impressive efforts of none other than Léo Margarit (Pain of Salvation). Now, a guitar god, Christophe Godin, appears out of nowhere (hint: watch the titular video clip at the end of my article here) like a ghost to shred a solo into the very core of your psyche once in a while as a guest soloist as well! All are masterful instrumentalists.
The thick textures, the structure, the sound, the variety, the jaw dropping guitar work, the atmospheric and exciting keys, competent drum work… What this combination yields, coupled with the dazzling vocals – oh, there are many moments of pure vox-gasm there! – is a masterpiece.
Oh yes! The vocalists! Mentioned many many times on these pages; Vocals is the key! It could be a hit or miss depending all on the vocals. Or in this album’s case, I should say, The Cast.
All these guys are doing a phenomenal job at conveying the emotion of their respective roles. The cast works call and responses very well… The diversity in their voices and styles is yet another win. All in all, very well chosen bunch shining brightly throughout the album.
At times, the album gets vocally driven which is not surprising as the musicianship on the background is consistently impeccable throughout and the vocals have the freedom to drive the listener. And, oh boy, these guys have the means to drive you every which way they want – from desperation to hope, frustration to rage, despair to happiness… If it wasn’t for the brilliant musicianship, they could have been singing to anything and it would have been a masterpiece anyway!
So, who’s our cast?
Well, we have the awesome Mr. Kelly Sundown (playing the part of Kallon, the Profiler). As some of you might know, there are times that I get a bit worried about my relationship with him – my fangirlism is about through the ceiling. He blew my mind with Outworld, Beyond Twilight and Darkology in the past and now this amazing album? God help me I say. Oh, and in fact, he was the one who led me to this record – going through his works I found this brilliant gem!
Then the lovely Magali Luyten (playing the part of Esh, the Soul)… Man… She is so metal… I’m not talking only about her voice but also her attitude, the way she looks… You’ve got to love the soaring vocals of this badass female vocalist. She can be so dark – damn, I love it about her! Between you and me, she is my lovely author, lonestar’s fave female vocalist.
I absolutely love Oddleif Stensland‘s (playing the part of Yae, The Body-hunter) work with Communic. He can nail whole bunch of vocal styles from clean to aggressive. If you are like me, you will see on the various social media, video sharing platforms and such that his very nice personality comes through too! Goes without saying, he is doing wonders on this record.
Oh, and let me wish him a belated birthday as it was last week!
Rick Altzi (playing the part of Maymos, The Ghost) is another vocalist with a style right up my alley! Gritty and full of charisma, just the one for the ladies. Rick released a new album with At Vance, which is another record worth checking out. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.
I knew Liselotte “lilo” Hegt‘s (playing the part of Valma The Medium) great work with Ayreon. Slightly out my sphere of interest but I definitely will be paying more attention to her career after hearing her performance on some tracks on this album, especially Shadow Lord.
So, I’ve been talking about a “cast” – as if we’re talking about a play or something, with character names and all. Well, yes, we are, actually.
I always think The Theme can be as important as anything else. I don’t know if it’s just me but if an album has an interesting concept, a theme you can follow, a story with twists and thrill, it’s an immediate win.
Without spoiling it too much for you, I can tell you that the whole thing is a supernatural thriller – it is about a profiler trying to solve a case and as the plot unfolds, unearthly twists are revealed.
As I said earlier, the Song-writing is phenomenal. There’s not a bad, even average song in this batch. All are technical, complex, layered, catchy and all complement to the whole picture. At times, it gets really metal and when it does it just grabs you by your collar and slams you into your speakers so you pay attention.
Move on to the Songs now, shall we? ‘Cause, my, am I growing impatient here…
First Blood is a brilliant track in which we get to hear all vocalists in one song as if they are giving us an idea about what we’re in for. Kelly’s screams at around the 1:12 minute mark are hands down one of the most memorable parts for me! He just nails it! The melody created collectively by Julien’s keys and Samuel’s guitars is just phenomenal. I first heard the snippet of this song in the beginning of the video and fell for it right then and there. That last verse is still something special to me!
Then comes the titular track, Obsessions which quickly became one of my favourite songs of all time. Pure genius and intoxicating adrenaline rush! What can I say? We, the technical people, call this kind of musicianship awesomest pure perfection!
I know I just told you that this is one of those albums you have to hear as a whole for full appreciation and that I wouldn’t suggest one-offs, but if you must, go for this one… Then trust my judgment in that the entirety of the album exhibits a consistency in song quality, sound, musicianship and atmosphere.
Every riff is spot on, pay a special attention to 2:04 minute mark. Kelly and Magali will re-define energy and passion for you. Excellent keys and drum-work contribute towards creating something much greater. And that something does things to me words cannot describe each and every time.
Also, the guest solo by Cristophe is just so tasty that I could chew it to death – that is if it was something physical not, you know, something abstract.
With Gemini Syndrome, things are kept rather simple… but by no means lesser. Mind blowing piano by Julien and Kelly’s vocal performance serve as a pleasant breather. It’s just beautiful… Kelly is showcasing his control of a very wide range here by coming in with some low notes and hitting teeth-rattling high ones right after… Love the transition, love the control!
Here in this song, “the link which binds us” is one of the best lines delivered by the beautiful Liselotte as Valma.
Then, Fallen’s Portrait starts off with atmospheric keys… and wordless vocals suddenly build up to something more aggressive and heavier. Of course, Yae has the floor now and Oddleif’s voice fits the scene perfectly… One line etches itself to the listener’s mind – “eternal are my sins” so damn metal and just before some awesome, brilliantly competent keys to boot!
In The Other Side, the brilliance of keys coupled with Kristoffer’s impressive tapping work is just divine. Add in Lilo’s lovely voice to that formula = mind blown… Especially when Lilo makes her entrance as Valma, the contrast between that dark riff in the background with her voice is just another “holy crap” moment – the harmony is so beautiful… Wonderfully done!
Then the song slowly fades out and comes back with a wonderful bridge delivered by Rick! So dark and so beautiful! And brilliant keys afterwards… Wonderful track!
I feel like I’m repeating myself but it’s not my fault. Another perfect recipe, Shadow Lord follows with its complex and heavy ingredients baked into a catchy tune! In this song, Rick impresses us with his incredible control and perfectly matching grit over the beautiful guitar work. Lilo and him work a beautiful exchange where the nuances are just thrilling between their style and lyrics.
Kelly and Oddlief just stop by in this one which is an impressive touch. These guys know what they’re doing…
Léo’s drum-work is spot on – you just can’t imagine anything better than this. He left me with a feeling of pure awe each and every time I listened to the tune and took my expectations from any drumming to a whole new level. Ah, the “I heard your screams” bit… There is not a single flaw in it – nothing short of divine, I’d say.
And easily one of my favourites, One Chance – the ripping metal tune. The drama, beautiful melodies, killer riffs, the atmosphere, the piano, the story, the feeling! It is just so delicious! The riffs and the beautiful chorus will stick to your mind and you’ll find yourself humming them.
And what about the drum-work? Léo’s phrasing is impeccable… so very tasteful.
Starts off with piano chords before it suddenly explodes into a frantic guitar & drum work and blaring bass. Kelly is a master of inducing emotions, isn’t he? His challenge, “I will chase you into hell” – damn, sounds so real.
Three vocals mixing together, layer upon layer – so rich, so blissful…
All in all, consistently dark, and at times extremely heavy, the songs carry so much tension, drama and emotion you can almost touch them. There is a constant, “rainy” feel throughout. Kelly’s screams work so well with this dark atmosphere!
I’m sure, by now, you can tell but this album does something to me. I can’t really break it into elements more than I have been doing on this page – it’s more of an experience than a sum of instruments, vocals and lyrics. Listened to it million times and I wouldn’t change one single thing about the album.
Listening to this album, when I close my eyes, I can’t conjure up an image of the band on the stage.
The only image I can see is a from a film, a mind-blowing thriller from start to finish.
Overall, a truly remarkable record, chock-full of amazing, epic music. It is a technical showcase while being very catchy, melodic, emotional and more importantly accessible! Should get an award for this!
I mean, really, perfectly, as in zero imperfections. Listened to it million times and I wouldn’t change one single thing about the album. Everything is just pure gold. Even if you nitpick, I’ll bet you’ll have a very hard time finding flaws.
Now, here’s the official video of the titular song directed by the brilliant Damien Brunet! It is magnificent, you have to check it out!
Enjoy and be sure to check my exclusive interview with Samuel Arkan here!