A few years back when we originally covered Arcaeon's EP Balance, the first release from the synth clad tech-metal troupe, it didn’t fare overly well. So when the band announced their debut LP Cascadence, it felt only natural to explore how much things had changed since that first outing. It’s also fair to say, after repeat listens to both, that Balance holds up surprisingly well and is a better release than originally credited.
Cascadence takes everything that its predecessor did well and builds on it; songwriting is tighter, the hooks are bigger and the band’s grasp of dynamics and technicality have only improved. Not only that but the band’s own horizons have expanded; the video for Arcadia contains specially-made Gameboy footage from a game the band developed and will be fully playable, available in conjunction with the single. It’s a bold move for a band who are self-releasing their debut and helps sit them apart from the pack in an already-crowded genre.
Even without the gimmicks, though, Cascadence stands on its own two feet with ease. Following the short instrumental opener 'Infernum Demergeris' we’re immediately greeted by 'Origin of Dreams' featuring the polyrhythmic guitar lines and vocals that switch effortlessly between soaring and searing that the band have become known for. Tracks six and seven ('Zenith I: The Reflection' and 'Zenith II: Arcadia' respectively) mark a turning point of the album. It’s a concept album loosely based around colour, where the first half are sepia, orange and dark toned and towards the back end of the album - especially closer 'An Endless Sky' - is purest blue.
This shift isn’t just in the artwork of the album, it’s evident in the sonics too. Second song 'Ghost In the Machine' declares “You are a slave / To the digital age’ whereas 'Zenith II: Arcadia' depicts a utopia in which humanity is elevated above our social, political and other differences. The aforementioned 'An Endless Sky' marks the full progression of Cascadence’s concept; while its opening half is vicious, with barked vocals and angular riffs, the second half is loaded with lush soundscapes and soaring vocal lines that hint at the light (“When I heard you say / This time is ours to be / An endless sky opening”).
There’s elements of synthwave in the synth parts - especially on 'Zenith I: The Reflection' - that enhances the band’s fine blend of tech metal and progressive metalcore. The musicianship on display is top notch and riffs aren’t sacrificed to be technical for technicality’s sake. Thankfully it also doesn’t suffer from the same brickwalled production job as its predecessor - it’s still a loud album, but the dynamics are much more pronounced and there’s more breathing space for the individual elements.
Cascadence is an immersive experience, moving from dark to light across its twelve tracks and 49 minute runtime that never once feels like it. Coupled with the band’s multimedia approach, from the artwork, colour theme, retro Gameboy game and that they’ll be releasing the album in 16-bit music format too - just like the old Sega Megadrives - and you’ve got an album that more than lives up to its ambition and concept. Where Arcaeon go from here is anybody’s guess, but this is a truly astonishing start.
Cascadence is self-released February 12th.