I am trying to stick to my resolution of reviewing more metal albums by, shock horror, reviewing a metal album. I know, it hasn’t happened in awhile, but I went away and every metal band in existence REAMED my inbox with requests, and, it’s kinda like when you go to an ice cream shop and there’s thirty bins of ice cream and you have to pick one? You end up running around for twenty minutes trying to decide while the kid behind you bawls his eyes out in impatience? Yeah, it’s a little like that.
Anyway, on to ArA’KuS and Aeterno Elementum.
When Asraiya, one of the ArA’KuS players (you’ll learn about them in a moment) contacted me about their heavy metal opera, I was intrigued but skeptical. I’m a pretty big fan of epic stage shows, but was this going to be as awesome as Repo: The Genetic Opera? What did a heavy metal opera even mean? And would the music itself, when stripped of all the visual candy, stand up to scrutiny?
I’m still digging this album, so I guess the answer was yes.
Aeterno Elementum tells the story of a world descended into darkness – the rise and fall of mankind and our violent purification. While that sounds like the plot of every other symphonic metal album out there, not every other symphonic metal album comes with an entire performance piece – where actors, martial artists, armored knights, aerialists, fire dancers and a myriad of musicians add a life and body to the music. Just look at the ArA’KuS cast!
The music is exactly as you expect, sweeping and bombastic, with a heavy theatrical influence on the song structures and melodies. At first listen I wasn’t taken with the lead male vocals, but after spinning this three times I love everything about this band. ArA’KuS have perfected the depth of sound and layered melodies needed to pull off symphonic metal, and the . Best songs are “Falling”, with a discordant, avant-garde guitar line, and the complex harmonies and stunning drumming in “Conquered”.
The songs work in movements, rising and falling with the drama on-stage, and the pace of the album recreates the three-act structure that makes great stories so engaging. Songs like “Shadows of Twilight” begin with soft, haunting acoustic sections, and soar into musical theatre like you’ve never heard it before. The structure of the female and male vocals, too, is pure rock opera, and pure awesome.
These aren’t catchy drinking tunes. There is some seriously dark stuff her. This is theatre, baby. Theatre with blastbeats. I’m sold.
I’m stoked to have discovered ArA’KuS, and would love to see them taking this show on tour one day. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, check out ArA’KuS’ website to find out when Aeterno Elementum will be performed again. Their album, Aeterno Elementum, is available from their site as a pay as you like download, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try.