Live Review: Arcane Roots w/ Grumble Bee & The Hyena Kill | Trinity Centre, Bristol | 8/03/18

Despite it only being approximately 5 months since their last UK headline run, the master alchemists of modern progressive rock within Arcane Roots are back. Whilst many were suspecting their 2017 sophomore record Melancholia Hymns to be a success, no one anticipated how strikingly lucrative the record would be. The record propelled them from curious scene favourites to colossal leaders of their respective genre, with Melancholia Hymns gracing album of the year lists worldwide. Either way, regardless of such an extensive headline run only several months after their last respective headliner, It only seems fitting that the group would want to present such a prestigious album live once more.

Even before the festivities of the night begin, there seems to be an ample air of curiosity regarding tonight’s opener. Whilst the Belgian newcomers Brutus where originally slated to be opening this tour, they disappeared from the line-up just a few weeks prior. Whilst it’s a disappointment that such a promising act couldn’t perform tonight, the Manchester noise rock duo The Hyena Kill (8) fit such absent shoes nicely. Aggressive and confrontational but in a hedonistic way, the duo present noise and distortion laden structures in fashion that’s loyal to the art of noise rock but yet accessible. Considering the more translucent tones present within the work of Arcane Roots, it’s an unarguable contrast in work, but it clearly serves to be a pleasant and fresh surprise to those expecting a more dream orientated act to open.

Credit - GLK Media

It’s a raw performance, but one that’s deeply layered and detailed, with various elements of sludge, doom and groove metal seeping through into the mix. It’s a direct and obnoxious approach to the genre and music as a whole, but it’s just captivating on a primal level, with waves of distortion crash into riffs and sludge inspired grooves. To get a frank idea of their live sound, imagine if Pantera added more contemporary structures to their work and then compressed themselves successfully into a 2-piece act. It’s impressive that a band of this nature can adapt their sound to a 600 capacity venue such as the Trinity and still sound impressive and intimate.

In contrast, Grumble Bee (7) offer a more universally approachable set, whilst still containing and projecting progressive tones and sensibilities. There’s been a lot of buzz (har har) about this act for a while now and judging from the sheer amount of merch being adorned within the crowd they’re certainly the subject of a devoted following. For those unaware, Grumble Bee is the brain child and solo project of musician Jack Bennet, with the majority of his output of work being sonically conventional and appealing for a large demographic. A more contemporary edge is fashioned to his previously stripped back sound, resulting in a refined presentation of progressive alternative rock that’s both approachable to scene newcomers and detailed enough for genre veterans.

Hands down one of most appealing and impressive elements of this act is the fantastic vocal range of Bennet, who’s wavering musty vocals plummet into harsh balanced screams at a moments notice. The way such harsh vocals are perfectly handled is unprecedented and adds an additional level of contemporary extremity to their work. However, one thing that does cause an issue with genre purists is the evident backing track being used to incorporate orchestration orientated elements. Whilst backing tracks are common place within live music, the extensive usage does become distracting after a prolonged amount of time and does ultimately take away some of the group’s polished magic. Despite this, the way the group meddle with detailed, intricate and complex structures live does add entire new dimension into their work. Ultimately, as their group end their set to the roar of their devoted following present, the real treat here is for those who have experienced this act’s evolution over the years first hand.

There’s an undeniable celebratory air looming within the Trinity tonight and with tonight being Arcane Roots' (9) biggest show in Bristol thus far and this show being the final night of the tour, it’s easy to understand why. As the group waste no time on needless introduction’s and jump straight into ‘Off The Floor’, with it’s respective build up and release causing madness, it quickly becomes transparent this isn’t just an average tour. Instead, tonight is a victory lap celebrating Arcane Root’s most successful release so far.

As the dream like tones of ‘Matter’ slide into the distortion speckled ‘Solemn’ before dropping into the progressive aggression of new track ‘Landslide’, one of most visually appealing elements of this set is the illuminations and lightning. Instead of opting for something boisterous, the group opt for minimalist LED pillars that illuminate each member individually. When incorporating the darkness of the venue, it’s a fantastic display of contrast and creativity, with such a sublime production complimenting their unique and honed experimental progressive art. This production comes into it’s own during a surprise performance of the chaotic Blood And Chemistry track 'Triptych', with such lighting configurated to the frenzied time signatures present. It’s a remarkable effect that causes primeval chaos within the front, with silhouettes of dancing shadows adding to the sights present.

Whilst tonight is focused on material from Melancholia Hymns, the choice selection of older cuts does perfectly highlight how this act have progressed over the years, with the slight pop sensibilities of 'You Are' and 'Leaving' being a direct contrast to the group’s established sound of today. It’s something the group seem aware of, almost showboating how they’ve progressed throughout the years, teasing the crowd with nostalgic hints of their past live performances in smaller, less filled rooms. It’s sublime, a confirmation that not only have Arcane Roots mastered their sound, but their live show as well. Every single riff, dynamic structure and crescendo hits and gets absorbed into your very being.

As a frantic rendition of ‘If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves’ leads the way for set closer ‘Half The World’, tonight has been nothing less of a fantastic celebration of their technical prowess. With the promise of a new EP on the horizon, Arcane Roots have not only solidified themselves as an act ahead of the curve, but an act crucial to experimental music as a whole.