Arcane Known|Learned|2 CD Set
Label : Independent through
Release : 2015
Country: Brisbane Australia
Genre: Progressive Metal/Rock
Jim Grey: Vocals
Michael Gagen: Guitars
Matt Martin: Keyboards
Adrian Goleby: Bass
Blake Coulson: Drums
Guest Bass Players
CD 1/Known: Brendan Brown
CD 2/Learned: Mick Millard
2015 is definitely starting to be a banner year in the world of progressive rock and progressive metal. Many bands are stepping up their game and coming out of the wood work with masterpieces. Australia’s own Arcane are at the forefront with their hand on the standard. Their double album Known/Learned is surely to turn heads. Take parts or Riverside, Dream Theater and Subsignal’s and throw in a portion of TOOL and you have Arcane.
Yet to make even those comparisons to the bands I mentioned above still do not do justice to the utterly organic sound Arcane have seemed to forge for themselves. They have even shared the stage with bands like Soilwork, Queensryche, Anathema to name a few. Although one can only speculate who their musical influences are, you sure can not hear them on Known/Learned as the band has made every effort to form its own sound and identity as to not become pigeonholed or typecast into any sub genre in the progressive rock and metal world. Hopefully this review will wet the curiosity of some to look into Arcane and make a purchase for Known/Learned.
CD 1 / Known
Promise (Part 2) displays some serious orchestration in the intro before going into a straight away progressive metal passage. It also has some killer atmospheric effects as a wonderful backdrop. At about the 1:45 mark , Jim Grey gently floats into this vocal that reminds me of the vibe that Mariusz Duda of Riverside would employ. At about the 3:26 mark a whole other hook and progression explodes. Matt Martin really has some stellar keyboard. At the 3:51 mark, Michael Gagen really takes the track on a whole other time signature making the track sound like two songs in one.
Unturning begins with a killer guitar shred intro. Soon a deep bass drum rhythm section comes in via Brenden Brown – Bass & Blake Coulson – Drums. This is followed once again by the warm vocal style of Jim Grey. Blake employs a lot of snare, tom, double bass drum action. The track them proceeds to a crunchy distorted type progression while Jim almost employ’s a spoken word vocal. Instrumentally the band combines a distorted crunchy rhythm section with elements of a shred laced within it.
Instinct opens with a very dark piano passage with a warm gentle vocal and a light snare in the background. This is soon followed up by a gentle guitar passage. The lead vocals are soon joined by some great atmospheric echoes with backing vocals. The vocals even sound at times like they are gently pumped through a echo chamber perhaps with a megaphone. At the mid point the piano softens and the vocal goes into more of a chant. Then the track really takes off with a heavier signature and a vocal chant register style.
Womb (In Memoriam) opens with a heavy fuzzy style organ like progressive bands of early progressive and psychadelic rock. The warm vocal is much more choral in nature gpoing from a barotone style to a mezzo and alto register leading into the next track Selfsame.
Selfsame has a wonderful acoustic guitar opening the track on top of a gentle vocal. At the 1:50 mark the track transcendental explodes. There seems to be a back and forth of this progression. On top of the atmospheric keyboards there are some serious time signatures and back and forth guitar solos that range from the distorted to the smooth anywhere from the typical 4/4 to 7/8 and in between. At the 5:13 mark the track blisters the ears wonderfully with some serious heavy work heading towards a heavy progression like melodic stalking.
Holding Atropos starts with a beautiful guitar and deep heavy brooding rhythm section. This track carries elements of Riverside’s – Out Of My Mind & Second Life Syndrome with a part of Opeth’s – In My Time Of Need from Damnation.
Keeping Stone Sound On Fire has some really great drum and keyboard work in the beginning. Soon it explodes into a deep detuned progressive metal frenzy with distorted passages and wonderfully execute breaks. The rhythm section is insanely thunderous in its nature. Some of the thunderous rhythm section reminds me of much of Cynic’s work meets TOOL while maintaining great emotion. There is a killer bottom drop towards the end with some serious bass and rhytmic guitar effects.
Learned is the epic of this double album masterpiece. Learned instantly ranks up there with the Fates Warning’s – Ivory Gate Of Dreams and Pleasant Shades of Grey, Dream Theater’s – Change Of Season’s, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence & The Count Of Tuscany as well as Symphony X’s – Odyssey & Divine Wings Of Tragedy.
Learned begins as a slow vocal melody with what appears to be a waterfall effect. Thereafter the drums and piano make for a very unusual yet creative effect. This is all followed up by a heavy distorted crunchy rhythm section with the guitar. The bass also is more percussive in nature than melodic in the intro. Learned takes off with the band in full instrumental harmony with the vocals not that far behind. Their are multiple guitar solos that have a bridge, chorus, verse style to them on the harmonic instrumental side. The band at times have to be math geniuses with their execution and delivery of the time signatures throughout this 23:15 track. Jim Grey seems to be getting stronger vocally as this double album concept progresses. Learned is one of those tracks that when played live will demand the listeners attention as it takes them on a genuine journey especially if the band does it all in its entirety.
CD 2 / Learned
Hunter, Heart & Home has a killer acoustic opening. After which a very deep rhythm section between the drums and bass now played by Mick Millard. Hunter, Heart & Home is a rhythm section players dream in the structure by which it is written. The vocals flow in and out between some great background vocals that appear to be chants at times. The acoustic guitar sections remind me of a lot of Arjen Luccassen’s acoustical portions from Ayreon – The Human Equation project. I really enjoy the auxiliary percussion elements in this one as well.
Little Burden has one serious electric acoustic sections blended with a mellotron style keyboard. Little Burden is perhaps the more simple tracks as far as time signatures and changes in progressions are concerned. The double kick cymbal in the drums puts a perfect backing accent to the track. The guitar solo reminds me a lot of Al Dimeola with the fingering theory employed.
Impatience And Slow Poison takes off with so more masterful acoustic work. There seems to be a more mellow vibe trending now on CD 2/ Learned. Impatience And Slow Poison is no exception. At certain periods there seems to be some jazz influence with the drum work incorparating more snare, tom and cymbal work instead of aggressive blast beats. The piano is totally in time with the drums on this one blending more in harmony than going out on its own to lead the track.
Known ironically is ten times shorter than its CD 1 counterpart title track Learned. At 2:50 it incorporates great acoustic work. Known is a very introspective track both instrumentally and lyrically. Known sounds like they sat down at the stool and just played the entire thing live in studio and with only one take.
Nightingale’s Weave continues in the mellow acoustical vein. Jim perfectly overdubs his background chants to compliment his lead vocal portions. Nightingale’s Weave is one of the most emotional tracks I have heard in a decade. Nightingale’s Weave has a vibe much in the way Transatlantic does with Bridge Across Forever meets Enchant’s – Broken Wave off 2000’s Juggling 9 Dropping 10.
Eyes For The Change takes off with a really deep bottom with the bass and acoustic 6 string guitars. The vocal is soft and warm much like the second half of this double concept has been. The listener can hear a subtle cowbell and even a rainstick effect utilized with the auxiliary percussion kit used by Blake Coulson. The rest of the track has some smooth jazz style guitars with progressive rock signatures and themes.
Keeping Stone-Water Awake opens with a beautiful organ much like what you would hear when you listen to a orchestra and choir. Jim really has more of a Steven Wilson vibe. Slow and steady. Melodic and methodical. This also contains some wonderful spoken word passages within the background. Keeping Stone-Water Awake is a beautiful atmospheric tapestry. It is as if a a person is looking back on life in the first person narrative.
Promise (Part 1) closes this masterpiece with nice finger work on the acoustic guitar and deep dark rhythmic elements. The drum work gives it a semi up tempo vibe while the track remains in the trend of soft melodic bliss. Promise (Part 1) sounds lie the end of a love letter and last chapter of a novel/memoir.
I really enjoyed this journey and concept. Arcane’s Known/Learned. It is definitely one of the best concept albums over the last 15 years. Arcane’s Known/Learned ranks up there with the likes of Dream Theater’s – Metropolis 2 Scenes From A Memory, Pain Of Salvation’s- BE & Remedy Lane, Shadow Gallery’s- Tyranny/Room V combination concept and Vanden Plas’- Crist O concepts. This is definitely a concept many will look back on another 15 to 20 years from now as a inspiration or perhaps a blueprint due to its organic melodic nature. Arcane’s – Known/Learned is a definite front runner for Prog Metal album of 2015. I give it a 5/5 for its sheer orginality and musicianship merits.