Previous Work: Debut
Peers: The Bronx, (early) Mastodon, Kylesa, These Arms are Snakes
The landscape of metal is a confusing terrain currently. Doom and black metal are seeing more widespread acceptance by music taste-makers, with bands like Pallbearer and Yob making their way into numerous end of the year lists. It is into this environment that Arbogast introduces themselves with a record that harkens back to an age when metal, punk, and post-hardcore all lived comfortably together. Their debut album, I, is an excellent effort, and deserves much more recognition than it will get for now.
Starting with the good, “Blasfamous” is probably one of the best metal songs released this year . Coming in at 2:53 but with a 40 second intro, the song is 2 minutes worth of primal fury and bombast executed flawlessly. The blend of speed punk and metal here is seamless, with blast beats and punk beats swirling side-by-side. The song bleeds into the next, “Forming the Flock,” and the speed metal and punk disappear to be replaced by an angular and choppy math-metal attack, conjuring the spirit of a more metal These Arms are Snakes. The album closer, “Soulsfate,” a 5 minute instrumental, will remind listeners of Mastodon‘s early days, especially some songs on Remission and Leviathan.
The rest of the album spends time bouncing between all of these influences (punk, metal, mathy post-hardcore, and progressive metal) and being mostly successful. The fact that this band is a three piece is a testament to the talents of each individual member, although two specific aspects of their individual performances deserve recognition. The vocals are provided by both the guitarist and bassist, Mike Scheid and Aaron Roemig, respectively, and they both make the right artistic decision by sticking with punkier vocals, more yell than growl. The music is better for it, sounding more distinct than if the vocals were more stereotypically metal. But the real glue in the music is the drumming. Any comparison to Mastodon’s Brann Dailor is high praise, as Dailor is one of the absolute most prolific and progressive drummers in the metal game. Granted, drummer Mike Rataj doesn’t get the chance to display quite as many jazz influences or take the lead as often as Dailor, but his drumming showcases power, precision, control, and artistic vision. If the drumming wasn’t excellent, the music would probably not stand out.
The album is good but it isn’t perfect by any means, and fairness requires some critiques. The biggest flaws on the album have to do with sonic efficiency: the 2 minute ambient intro to the album is completely extraneous, neither setting the tone nor building tension. Another point in the album that could be tightened up a bit more is the second song, “Final Throes,” which has a lot of good ideas and will remind listeners of Kylesa, but which is about one verse and one chorus too long. The combination of an unnecessary intro song and an overly long song immediately after that means that the album takes a while to find its groove, as opposed to immediately hitting listeners with compelling sounds. If Arbogast cut the intro, moved “Blasfamous” and “Forming the Flock” to the beginning, and then left the rest of the songs in the same positions, the album would flow a bit more smoothly.
At the end of the day, the fact that the only complaints about the album consist of nit-picking which songs should go where is a good thing. I is a great debut for Arbogast, a blast of refreshing punk-fueled metal in a time when doom, drone, and black metal are taking up a lot of the limelight.