Whilst they’ve kept themselves busy with touring with a wide range of prestigious names, such as Muse and Enter Shikari, as well as playing the vast majority of major alternative festivals on our shores, the technical progressive powerhouse Arcane Roots have rarely been one to be seen on extensive headline tours. Never the less, in support of their critically acclaimed sophomore full length, Melancholia Hymns, the south London trio have braced the depths of the van once more for their first major headline tour in several years.
Despite the tense anticipation within the venue regarding tonight’s affairs, there’s a subtle yet prominent level of disappointment in the atmosphere. Whilst initially billed as an opener, Good Tiger were sadly forced to cancel the majority of their dates due to undisclosed personal issues. Considering the group contains various ex members of Tesseract, The Safety Fire and The Faceless it’s understandable that many of the tech and prog metal legion in attendance are left gutted by the news. Never the less, Gold Key (8) certainly make up for the band’s absence. A pleasant and curious blend of progressive rock and classic grunge conventions, the four piece excel in the raising sprits within the sold out Fleece.
Easily the most appeasing element of this band is their unique, home grown sound. With Sikth’s James Leach supplying a continuously thunderous bass line that proves to be the back bone and musical foundation of the act, the group sublimely diverts down various musical avenues whilst maintaining a progressive aesthetic. The group flirts with grungy and at times conventional rock music bordering upon the boundaries of pop oriented elements is wholly engagable; it’s refreshing to see an act within the progressive circle experimenting with musical factors not traditionally associated with the prog scene.
Gold Key - Photo Credit: Andreas Yiasoumi
This is only amplified by the evident contrast between the clean and technical riffs against the rough and distorted bassline, a contrast and maintained juxtaposition that’s presented perfectly and almost forcibly, whilst appearing humble. Their cross genre appeal is also indisputable due to their refusal of stereotypical and conventional prog conventions. There’s no winding song durations or a forced sense of alienation to genre newcomers, and judging from a set like this tonight, it’s easy to see why they’ve found success in many differing alternative scenes.
As aforementioned, whilst it’s not uncommon to see the band featured somewhere within festival line-ups or acting as support, being able to see Arcane Roots (9) headline a show is somewhat of a rare occurrence. In consideration, it’s easy to understand the sheer anticipation within the venue tonight. Beginning the set shrouded in darkness with only a modest, but impressionist lighting set up, they waste no time on petty and unnecessary introductions. The atmospheric introduction of 'Before Me' impeccably resonates their shift to the more ambient and enveloping tones featured in their latest release before diving headfirst in the chaotic 'Matter'.
It’s an atmospheric accumulation of hype and tension that gives way for a euphoric wall of sound that presents what Arcane Roots do the best; causing absolute havoc with their math tinged mature progressive metal. Throughout the chaotic noise, the impeccable vocal talents of frontman Andrew Groves take prominent centre stage. The incredibly beautifully soaring and fluttering vocals that make way for harsh screams are just spotless and done seemingly without effort, and ultimately are another layer within their dynamic and ever-expanding sound. Whist many of the fanbase were concerned over the slight lack of harsh vocals within the new album, this performance easily puts the claims to rest.
Arcane Roots - Photo Credit: Sophia Groves
There seems to be habit of artists stagnating sets by forcing new material into a setlist without consideration of the natural flow. However, Arcane Roots seem to have taken this consideration into account. There’s a sense of fluidity within the setlist with the group performing tracks from all of their releases to date, with tracks from Melancholia Hymns being spaced perfectly and thoughtfully within the setlist. Songs from their previous releases, such as ‘Slow Dance’ and ‘Sacred Shapes’ send the sold out crowd into a frenzy whilst new tracks such as ‘Curtains’ and ‘Indigo’ present the more aforementioned mature tones present within their latest record. The constant and unprecedented introduction to unheard riffs integrated in these tracks is also a pleasant surprise too, and ultimately proves to be a testament to the innovative nature of the act.
Whilst there’s an ever so slight contrast in tone between the releases, the set and tracks seem and flow perfectly whilst flawlessly presenting the prominent evolution in sound and tone. The constant contrast and juxtaposing in atmospheric structures is easily one of the most engageable elements of the set, with even new comers being able to grasp a knowledge of their growth as an act. Even the group themselves appear to be having the time of their lives; authentically revelling in the carnage taking place behold them. Winding up the set with ‘If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves’, which truly shows to be an explosive climax, Arcane Roots easily solidify themselves as a crucial and key act not only in the progressive scene, but in alternative music as a whole.