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5 stars Arcane are one of those bands that walks the fine line between Progressive Rock and Metal. Their selection to be place in Heavy Prog is clearly indicative of this as they are usually deemed to be a Progressive Rock act. Classifications aside, this is a simply beautiful album.

The album is grounded heavily in the narrative of a protagonist who assumably is of questionable mental state and his fascinations with a mystery surrounding the date, May 26. Even upon listening to the album a multitude of times, it is rather confronting and complex of a concept to truly comprehend, which is definitely not helped without the aid of a lyric booklet.

The lyrical and vocal delivery of singer Jim Grey is pleasant and engaging, yet it holds a captivating mystique that is communicated through the diverse usage of a variety of vocal timbres from smooth middle range, ethereal falsetto remiscent of Ian Kenny of Karnivool and aggressive roar yells in the upper register.

Building upon the luscious vocal melodicism crafted by Grey, the band experiments with key themes introduced early on the record throughout the entirety of the album to craft a piece that is truly unified.

The diverse keyboard palette of Matt Martin is one of the true bridging elements between rock and metal which adds to the schizophrenic identity Arcane have been come to know for in Progressive circles. From the expressive piano of 'The Malice' to the epic orchestral build of 'Fading', this is a truly tasteful player to keep an ear out for.

It is important to not devalue the contributions of the remaining band members as they all play a significant role in making 'Chronicles of the Waking Dream' the refined work it is. Perhaps this is the key to Arcane's success compositionally; having a band with a unique and giften singer that positively gels with the equal and paramount musical contributions of the rest of the band.

'Chronicles of the Waking Dream' is a masterpiece of Progressive Metal that exudes heart and soul and bears no pretense to some of the hacks that have surfaced in the recent years of the genre. This is quite possibly the best Australian Metal release to date. My only hope is to further fathom the detailed concept that underlies this brilliant album.

My personal recommendations: 'Secret'. 'Fading' and 'Asylum: Acolyte Zero'.

Report this review (#292549)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a magnificent album. It has everything a masterpiece should contain: strong melodies, excellent riffing (a bit like Redemption), unusual twists and turn (a bit like Pain of Salvation, although not as dark), loads of variation and above all: lots of emotion. Jim Grey has an excellent voice. In the heavy instrumental parts, the band is as good as any other Prog Metal band. But where they really make a difference is in the more subtle moments. You can listen to the entire album online. I was instantly persuaded to buy it! I like the longer songs best because of the many moods and impressive musicianship. But there is one song that I really can't get enough of: "Secret". Absolutely brilliant. I really hope this band gets more attention because they really deserve it. Just listen to it and you''ll know what I mean...
Report this review (#451105)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars This is my first encounter with the band and what a pleasant experience to discover a unknown band producing a cd of that quality. Strong compositions throught out this cd with a dark atmosphere create by the beautiful and emotional vocals and and the sound of keyborads With some long tracks we have a lot of change of pace that shows the ability of the band to built a tempo where the emotion is growing on you. It's heavy at times and very delicate at others that make me think of Riverside and Pain of Salvation. So, a impressive cd of melodic heavy progressive that stand out as one of the best release in that genre.
Report this review (#517896)
Posted Friday, September 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Love it very much!

This what so called progressive metal band from Brisbane, Australia, impressed me the first time I listened to the music and made me re-spin the album in its entirety everyday. It's to me like the experience of finding Marillion "Script" for the first time in 1983. Well, I do note mean the music of Arcane is similar with Marillion but the experience is similar. When I say progressive metal you might refer to any prog metal band available on planet earth. But, Arcane music is really different than the others. Yes, you might find nuances of Opeth or other prog metal bands but Arcane has crafted and cooked their music with different ways, different souls that make the music is different.

There were two major things that made me blew away the first time I spun this album. First, the sonic production quality of this album is top-notch and at par excellent with what Steven Wilson has been typically doing - especially with his involvement with Opeth. Man... I was totally impressed with this sonic quality because the album basically starts off beautifully with something like a narrative that sounds really nice, it's so ambient in sound. The second thing is the music quality of the album as I could not predict the kinds of music these guys were playing. It's too simplistic to say that it's just progressive metal without really listening to the music in its subtleties. I recommend you to enjoy the album with a decent stereo system or use Sennheiser headset. I am sure you will have great experience and full listening pleasure resulting from combined audio quality and well-crafted music composition.

Don't read, listen!

That's basically what I want you to do. Reading my write-up about this album is nothing compared to how beautiful the music these guys produce through this concept album. At first you might be surprised that this is NOT the typical progressive metal kind of music you have been listening or knowing so far. It's totally new experience, new adventure. There is a possibility that you do not like it. But, that might happen because you do not get used to it. If this happens to you, take another spin over and over. I am pretty damn sure it would GROW on you as you have the third spin or more. Yes there are many heavy riffs you would find - that's why you might label it into progressive metal subgenre. It's fair enough and I don't blame on you on it. Push it harder and you would find the joy of listening Arcane's music.

The opening track "Glimpse" (03:36) is basically an ambient setting that determines the overall tone of this wonderful album. When I say 'wonderful' I am not exaggerating as I am telling you the truth how wonderful this album is. The opening track opens up the next track "The Seer" (05:30) to enter in dynamic fashion with some tempo changes as well as variations in styles. Yes, I can have the smell of Opeth but not really like Opeth. It's different. The first spin of the album I did not realize that I arrived at track no. 7 without being aware that there were transitions from one track to another until track no. 7. It's like enjoying Genesis 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' - I mean it!

'The Malice' (07:21) starts nicely with floating basslines in ambient nuance combined with guitar work to accompany floating vocal work. The music moves into crescendo with highly dynamic riffs combined with orchestral arrangements that make the music sound so beautiful. I love the heavy riffs and vocal scream (clean, not growl). 'Secret' (07:18) follows nicely with great combination of vocal and heavy riffs accompanied with guitar work. I love the interlude part with Hammond organ and stunning guitar solo. Oh my God...!!!! You must listen to this wonderful track!

As far as song, I love 'Fading' (11:58) as this is one of the best tracks of all excellent one. What I consider as PEAK is when the music flows brilliantly to 'The Third Silent Year' (02:29) that serves as a bridge to connect with a masterpiece 'Asylum: Acolyte Zero' (13:04). WHOOOAAA..... This is IT man! I do not believe you would not be impressed with the band when you get into this point! The combined efforts oh musical riffs and orchestral arrangements have made me FLY really. This is really GREAAAAATTTT .....!!!!

Dear The Guys in ARCANE,

Thank you so much for making this wonderfully crafted concept album. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

11. Whisper (01:45)

Report this review (#527291)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars ARCANE is a progressive metal band from Australia. Eh Progressive Metal? Not really, ARCANE drops the metal element more frequently then they use it, in a way similar to recent PORCUPINE TREE but more proggy.

'Chronicles of the Waking Dream' is an ambitious piece of work, as it offers a full hour of near continuous music, strung together with recurring themes and a brilliant rocking energy that pervades the entire album. Due to the excellent clear vocals and the occasional heavy sound it sometimes reminds me of HAKEN's 2011 album 'Visions'. But this albums is more progressive and complex, it is melodious, but more playful and creative compared to HAKEN, which brings me to another highly valued recent Heavy Prog album, namely the 2010 'Excavations Of The Mind' from SKY ARCHITECT. Bonus points for ARCANE for preceding these two references.

If you're a fan of Heavy Prog and the names HAKEN and SKY ARCHITECT won't make you seek out this album right away then nothing will. I must say that too few people have done so so far, but all who did so far reviewed it as a masterpiece. Recommended

Report this review (#576616)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Has it really been almost a year since my 700th review? I've clearly been taking my time completing the last hundred scribblings of mine and now it's time for the that 800th review!

Just like with the previous 7 anniversary reviews, this one is going to feature another album that's close to my heart. Unlike the previous ones, this Chronicles Of The Waking Dream is actually a very recent addition to my collection. An addition that I owe entirely to my friend and fellow collaborator Karl (aka Bonnek) who just so happened throw this recommendation my way on a cloudy September afternoon. Yes folks, it has only been less than three month since I've heard this album for the first time and I can clearly state that this is a definite keeper in my collection.

Talking about an album coming literally out of nowhere and completely blowing me out of water! There are quite a few great albums that I start off as a mere fling and either grow up to become milestones of my collection or just sit there attracting dust. Chronicles Of A Waking Dream doesn't fit into those tow categories. This is one of those rare albums in my collection that I knew would be a huge favorite of mine while listening to it for the first time!

I adore these experiences when it's clear that a band can do no wrong with their material and there are quite a few of these types of instances scattered all over this breathtaking album experience. I just fell in a complete trance from the first Glimpse and was completely mesmerized by the entire duration of my first spin of the record. The album does indeed deliver the goods in both songwriting and performance without overshadowing either one of the two. The first thing that I initially reacted to was the gorgeous vocal performance by Jim Grey. His style isn't necessary original and sometimes even borders on the work of other Post Metal vocalists, but the consistency of his fine work really makes this record shine!

The great tracks keep on piling on top of one another and it does makes me wonder how long Arcane will manage to keep up this level of quality in their output or whether they will stumble upon their next release. Either way, there's really no denying that the band have scored themselves their first artistic triumph with the release of Chronicles Of A Waking Dream!

***** star songs: Glimpse (3:36) The Malice (7:21) Secret (7:18) Asylum: Acolyte Zero (13:04) Whisper (1:45)

**** star songs: The Seer (5:30) The First Silent Year (1:19) Fading (11:58) The Second Silent Year (1:48) May 26 (3:17) The Third Silent Year (2:29)

Report this review (#582974)
Posted Monday, December 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Australian progressive metal act Arcane. The album was released through Arcane Australia in September 2009.

The band released a promising debut album in 2007 titled "Ashes", and the dark and melancholic progressive metal style featured on that album is continued and further developed on "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream". While the debut album featured a 24:15 minutes long title track, which was divided into five parts, "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" takes that concept a little further as all tracks on the album seque into each other to form a regular concept album. Arcane play a layered and keyboard heavy type of progressive metal with both really heavy moments but also mellower emotional sections too. While the instrumental part of the music is impressive enough, it´s the vocals by Jim Grey that really set Arcane apart from most other progressive metal acts. He has a very distinct sounding voice and a convincing emotional delivery.

The tracks are structurally challenging, dynamic and it´s hard to pinpoint just one influence. I think I hear influences from both "classic" progressive metal in the vein of Dream Theater, but also influences from the more alternative part of the progressive metal scene. Acts like Riverside and A Perfect Circle probably aren´t strangers to these guys either.

"Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is not an easy listen and it´s taken me quite a few listens to grasp the full 59:15 minutes long album. There´s simply a lot to take in, but in a positive way. So if you enjoy your progressive metal challenging (not necessarily focused on constant technical playing though) and delivered with great emotional impact "Chronicles Of The Waking Dream" is definitely a recommended listen. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#633274)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Arcane are an Australian prog metal band that will appeal to those who love Riverside or other bands who merge heavy riffs with clear singing and intricate compositions. They have an endearing sound that is creative and moves in unexpected directions with odd time shifts and innovative musicianship. Tracks such as the mini epic 'Asylum: Acolyte Zero' have stunning complex structures, with killer riffs, complex times sigs and inject blends of grinding guitars with delightful melodic keyboards. The lengthy instrumental break features Michael Gagen's polished guitar work along with Matt Martin's keyboard wizardry. Jim Grey does a fine job on vocals, and the rhythm machine of Brendon Blanchard's bass and Blake Coulson's drums are wonderful. The double kick drumming is machine like and the song tends to build into heavier sections with faster singing pentameter at 9 minutes. It breaks into a soft vox and gentle piano, then builds into a symphonic soundscape, and some atmospheric choral voices. This is one of the highlights and really impressed me. Another awesome song is 'Fading' beginning with soft vocals and light guitar touches. The piano is lovely and it builds gradually with lead guitar flourishes and some symphonic keys. When the music fades out there is an a capella section for a moment and then grinding metal riffs break through.

The songs blend into each other to create a seamless musical experience with a conceptual framework that has mystical overtones. It involves a protagonist who is losing his grip on reality, perhaps even becoming deranged, and he becomes obsessed with the date of May 26th to the point where it haunts him and has some enigmatic meaning, though we van never be certain of what it all means. At times it is an unsettling excursion into a mentally unbalanced mind, but musically it is always a sheer delight.

The opening songs feature uplifting piano mixed with darker metal riffs, and the idiosyncratic vocals of Grey. The intro is a disjointed voice explaining the importance of May 26, then the music floats over, very melancholy and soft. It builds to heavier tones and segues into the next track.

The instrumental break in 'The Seer' is reminiscent of Dream Theater, with guitar and keyboard trade offs. Overall this track showcases the style of the band that moves from beauty to darker textures. 'The Malice' has a dreamy feel, and the piano instrumental to follow is beautiful. The climax is with the epic 'Asylum: Acolyte Zero'and then it settles into the closing track, a gentle piece called 'Whisper'.

The style of the album is like Pain of Salvation or Riverside, with beautiful moments juxtaposed by outbreaks of heavy guitars. It is an excellent album and yet another example of Australian prog metal at its finest.

Report this review (#846875)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
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!

Report this review (#905948)
Posted Monday, February 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars On this second album Arcane offer up a musical style derived from prog metal; start with something reminiscent of Dream Theater or Pain of Salvation, put a major emphasis on the keyboards (courtesy of Matthew Martin), and dial back the prominence of the guitars (played here by Michael Gagen) and you might arrive in the same general territory as Arcane explore here. Those who like their prog metal a little harder-edged may find it somewhat soft and melodic for their tastes, but on the whole it's a competent release which should please fans of the lighter end of prog metal or the heavier end of prog rock.
Report this review (#915885)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Part of the burgeoning prog scene in Australia, Arcane stamped themselves as one of the country's premier acts with 2009's "Chronicles of the Waking Dream".

This is a concept album with a narrative that is more implied than outwardly stated. As such there's a wonderful element of mystery to what's taking place. The ideas are carried by the music in the form of moods and emotions as much as by the lyrics and the snippets of spoken word that appear throughout the album.

Production is also amazingly good. Right from the opening track where ominous drums pound across the frantic narration of the album's protagonist, it's evident that a lot of care has gone into crafting this soundscape. For the next hour there is barely a moment of silence as one track blends seamlessly into the next. This is definitely one of those albums best devoured in one sitting.

There's some fine musicianship involved from all members of the band, with stellar vocals from Jim Grey and the guitar of Michael Gagen a standout for me. Gagen's tone on this album is absolutely killer, and he handles the differing styles of pensive melodies, metal riffing and shredding solos with great aptitude.

Aside from the atmospherics and some great melodies, there's plenty of time signature shifts throughout the album to keep things interesting. The impressive thing is that these don't feel forced at all. In most cases there's a very natural flow, all the while maintaining that feeling that you never know which direction the song is going to take next.

Arcane are now working on the follow up to "Waking Dream" with an ambitious double album. Now normally double albums make me nervous. Bands who attempt them often have the best intentions, but inadequate inspiration to pull off such an undertaking. Let's face it, it's hard enough to make one quality album, let alone two at once. But with Arcane, I have no doubts that they'll do it, so much so that I happily chipped in for their kickstarter a couple of months ago. It's very much a case of "watch this space" and I'm sure great things are in store.

Report this review (#1008991)
Posted Wednesday, July 31, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Arcane was recommended by some reviewers who shared my enthusiasm for several obscure prog metal bands from all over the world. Yes, I still consider this metal despite the softer parts. When they are not soft or melancholic, they are definitely metal. Yet, despite enthusiasm from my peers, I think this is good, but not more. I am reminded of Haken with their mix of cinematic metal and more introspective alternative rock with its piano-ish synths and build-ups. Maybe less pompous and more introspective, but ultimately less adventorous. There are some parts that I like, such as the "Celtic prog" break in Mailce and emotional build-up of Fading. But ultimately by the end it gets too tedious for my ears.
Report this review (#1154389)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2014 | Review Permalink

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