This little beastie sits next to Procession in my listings. Odd as they both play a style of doom. And both come from Chile. And both have these great, haunting, deep, clean vocals. That’s where similarities end, though. Poema Arcanus eschew the epic doom and play a much more doom/death kind of metal but with serious progressive overtones. It’s also their fourth full length amidst a scattering of demos, EPs and singles so you have to assume they know where they are going, musically. It took me three listens to even get the hang of their songs, and when I did I had no idea why I had such difficulty. I think it must be the prog. Or my age.
Let’s take the nine minute plus ‘Iquilinos’ which begins with a kind of gentle building drum and guitar shadowing each other that gives you a sense of trepidation, a gothic curiosity. It whispers beautifully before some wonderful deep, almost religious vocals rise and then are buried in the death style by the slow, crushing riff. This is (unavoidably, to a hack like me) like early Procession gone death metal and very accomplished too but a little dry for me. Then you get the first hints of a quiet style, a little Chilean flourish before an utterly soul rending section which flows perfectly from epic emotional doom into (get this) soft, perfect Marillion then into the death again. It’s a curious mix. Partly successful (the epic, the quiet) partly not (the death).
The following track ‘Fading’ is shorter, and by now sounds like no one but Poema Arcanus but points of reference might be Katatonia with a good sprinkling of Jack Frost in the trembling, deep vocal approach. And a perfectly used out of tune piano (no, it really works). They really are a fascinating band, this Poema Arcanus. The real problem I have, which I suspect many will not, is some of the death sections which seem to lack the core colour of the epic, the prog and the rest. Or perhaps it’s just those other sections are so damned good. ‘Lambs’, which is effectively melodic and proggy death metal with a great quiet section does little for me but sits nicely enough in the running order, if you see what I’m getting at; by this point you know the character of the band and this is simply part of it. And there is so very much to like, and to admire about this Chilean crew.
The score below reflects the problems I have with some of the death sections, a bit of my usual prog aversion, but they do blend and construct the songs so well regardless. Honestly anyone into melodic and progressive death/doom with just a little of the gothic about it really needs to hear this band as they offer them so much. Jack Frost crossed with a progged out death metal band. I’m really going to have to go to Chile and see just what they put in the wine down there.
Rather fine vintage indeed, and one which will take weeks to fully appreciate the variety of flavours beautifully blended into this. Death/doom fans, get your money out.