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Arcane - Chronicles Of The Waking Dream CD (album) cover

CHRONICLES OF THE WAKING DREAM

Arcane

 

Heavy Prog

4.21 | 136 ratings

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ScorchedFirth
5 stars (9/10)

Arcane's sound greatly expanded, and greatly matured on their 2009 follow up to 2007's "Ashes". Entitled "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream", it is a concept album following the mysterious stories of different people witnessing a strange appearance, spread over an hour of excellently crafted music. The style of the album is quite broad, and whilst some may think of them as a prog metal band, in truth Arcane are just as comfortable in their dark atmospheric moments, or their eclectic and odd moments as when they turn up the heaviness and technicality to sonically bombard the listener. Hence I think the 'heavy prog' tag they have received here is a more accurate reflection of the breadth of sound the band is able to encompass.

Jim Grey's vocals are one of the real keys to the success of Arcane. Clean and melodic, they can be delicate and pure or intense and powerful. You can detect a bit of Maynard James Keenan at times, but often Grey will prefer a more delicate or a warmer sound. Another obvious key factor would be the keyboards, which are handled with great skill by Matthew Martin, often exploding with virtuoso bombast as well as using a good range of sounds to hold the album together and give it an epic backing. Organ, piano, string backing, all are utilised brilliantly (and in multiple styles), adding a colourful variety to the sound of the album. The rest of the band play their part though, the bass and drums definitely hold their own, they just don't take centre stage as often. Guitarist Michael Gagen can also really shred when he wants to, though he doesn't overdo it.

The album opens with "Glimpse", providing us with some brief narration and then the epic opening, the main theme of which is heard again in the next song. "The Seer" is heavy and compact. It sets up the high level of rhythmic interest that Arcane maintain in other songs. It contains some excellent singing (the chorus is especially catchy), building well in intensity. The more up-tempo parts have a sort of frantic energy to them which I really enjoy. You can see the music video for this song on the band's YouTube page, by the way.

This is followed by "The Malice", with some very complex riffs, that I can find difficult to even keep track of at some points. The sheer number of changes between the strange rhythms, different tempos, and different moods across the broad dynamic range that this song goes through in only 7 minutes (whilst still feeling natural) is just a joy. After this sonic assault, comes the short bridge song "The First Silent Year", which offers a calming more ambient relief that gives the listener a chance to catch their breath before the next song, whilst reprising the theme from "Glimpse" in a softer setting.

"Secret" then opens with some lullaby like tones before we are off again on another musical rollercoaster. Whilst this song contains heavy and technical parts they are interwoven with some more melodic parts throughout, before the two styles combine brilliantly at the end of the song. The instrumental section in the middle of this song is such fun, the keyboards and guitar are spot on in every aspect. Half way through, a creepy sounding child starts singing, which eventually gets turned into the symphonic metallic theme to close the song. Sounds weird, but trust me it works.

"Fading" shows off another side of the band, with soft vocals in the beginning. It takes advantage of the longer length to build more gradually, going heavy on the symphonic keys. I find it moving and actually quite beautiful, whilst still complex and interesting. "The Second Silent Year" is another interlude song, a short and tense solo piano piece, really enjoyable. The piano continues into "May 26", with an odd, even slightly jazzy approach, coupled with melodic vocals and the bass rumbling around in that fun way it often does in this album. For "The Third Silent Year", we get some ethereal female vocals, tribal drums, possibly a slightly eastern feel to it. I have to say, I do like the way these shorter songs affect the balance of the album, they are definitely a good addition, and allow the band to cover some interesting musical ground as well.

Of course, with a few calmer songs now played and the album coming to a close, Arcane decide it's really time to make their weight felt again, and things are given an epic climax in "Asylum: Acolyte Zero". Guitars are heavy and drums are crashing, and this song makes use of every second of it's over 13 minute run time. I especially like some of the more weird eclectic moments they manage to fit in. Everything that I've praised about all of the album is showcased in this song, which provides a fittingly spectacular finale to the album, reprising earlier themes and ideas brilliantly, and the symphonic climax is simply fantastic. We are then left with another short track, "Whisper", which functions as an epilogue to the album. It features only multi-layered vocals, and rounds of the album wonderfully.

But despite all the great songs, most of all what impresses me is how intelligently everything is put together, how well the music flows from track to track as well as within the songs. With all the things Arcane wanted to cram into "Chronicles" it could have gone badly wrong, but they were intelligent enough to structure many distinct ideas into a coherent and very complete-feeling and naturally-flowing concept album. They've certainly set themselves a quite unenviable task in having to follow this album; I for one await their recently announced next album with a great deal of anticipation.

Something that I saw was already mentioned is the similarity to fellow heavy proggers Haken. Given the tremendous amount of attention Haken got for their releases, I'm really surprised that this album seems to have been pretty much passed over, because in my opinion it is superior in essentially every respect. The vocals in particular are much stronger, as well as the overall cohesion and consistency of the album, plus "Chronicles" even came out first! Certainly this album should be of interest to a large proportion of the progressive community.

To sum up, Arcane's "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is another release from the growing prog scene in Australia that proves it may be worth keeping an eye on progging down under for the future. With an enigmatic and likeable vocal performance backed up by a confident and assured band, Arcane deliver on the promise of their debut with a fresh, modern sounding album from the (progmetal-leaning) heavy prog scene, filled with variety and sophistication from start to finish. Most of all, "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is just plain fun, with moments ranging from the big and epic, to the subtle and attractive all seamlessly tied together in a skilfully unified manner.

You can even stream the whole album for free on the band's reverbnation and bandcamp pages (they are down as 'arcaneaustralia' on both), so it couldn't be easier to give Arcane a try. Happy listening, everybody!

ScorchedFirth | 5/5 |

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