ArcaniaFormed in Angers, France, in 1999, Arcania spent ten years and a few line up changes (some enforced) and a handful of EPs before they released their debut offering “Sweet Angel Dust” in 2010. Four years later, the four-piece re-emerge with their technical thrash styling’s to bring “Dreams are Dead”.

The album starts off with a dramatic, ominous sounding instrumental number aptly named ‘Intro’ before it launches in to the full on assault of “Watch us Dying”. The frantic opening is a blend of technical guitar work with furious thrash-like drumming and the vocals sound eerily like Gojira – powerfully coarse when clean and crushingly heavy when screamed. The lead guitar work is technically sound and well thought out as opposed to just playing for the sake of playing. It’s a solid opener to the album and the following track “Rise and Never Fall” matches the standards set by the previous track. It is more aggressive in its approach in the intro with heavy, precise riffs and drumming which pounds in a similar style to that you’d hear on a Strapping Young Lad album. The song has a huge crushing sound to it and no matter how much you try to listen to anything else, the drums will always keep your attention.

“Face in the Mirror” follows up with a distinct groove to it, starting off slower than the previous tracks and it keeps up the groove throughout with the heavy riffs and the relentless drums which at times can feel hypnotic. “Dreams are dead” follows with its distinctly Gojira-esque intro with the harmony tapped guitars before breaking into a series of complicated riffs and fills which up the pace to that of something almost death metal like which teases between fast and slow throughout the song. Midway through, a melodic solo section with some harmonies slows the pace just enough to let the crushing and frantic paced breakdown kick in and violently drag the song back to full speed once more. “Inside the Crowd” follows next and its melodic groove with powerful drums just draws you in. The middle of the song slows it down before the four minute mark where the song kicks back in – the drums get more aggressive and the riffs and the solos come out with full force. In parts it seems a little thrown together as opposed to the well thought out efforts earlier in the album, but it works brilliantly, helping keep the interest in this seven-minute epic.

“Dreams ends all Days” follows. It’s a 10-minute long instrumental number, reminiscent of the great epics from the 80’s Metallica albums when the band actually meant something to metal. Starting off with a clean section before the distortion kicks in with some precise harmonies which tease as they build up each time, giving a sense of something bigger to come and as the drums grow more frantic the anticipation stays. The piece twists between melodic and brutal, the drums go from frantic to structured, it never stays the same long enough to allow you to lose interest, something many bands who use instrumental tracks often struggle with and is clearly the stand out track of the album.

“Suffering for an Answer” brings back the thrash groove with the melodic elements laced in here and there. Its vocals are more subdued as in there is more singing than the usual modern-metal styled aggression but it helps build the song well as it storms with a distinct groove towards a twisting solo over a punishing breakdown which leads back into the song which continues its more melodic approach. “A Scar in our Mind” follows and stays in the same style- more melodic than aggressive, utilising clean breaks in the song more and leaning more towards a technical display rather than a full on metal assault as demonstrated by the solo halfway through the song which then allows the band to pull out a big ending with the melodic groove and technique shown throughout the album, closing the song perfectly and setting up for the final track “Days end all Dreams” – another instrumental number. It opens with a clean section and ‘reversed’ like sounding melody line, almost like the start of “Damage Inc” by Metallica which runs throughout the whole track. Piano, echoed guitars, synths, choir-like vocal sounds and slow paced drums keep it more relaxed than the rest of the album and it shows the more melodic side of the band, proving that there is more to them than just relentless drums and precise riffs.

“Dreams are Dead” is a fantastic album which skilfully mixes Thrash, Groove and Melody into one compact package and despite the occasional lapse in concentration, there are moments which will hold your attention and amaze you. These guys are ones to watch and with any luck, their dreams won’t be dead just yet.

(7/10 Fraggle)