05 June 2010

The Unravelling: "13 Arcane Hymns"

I really make no assumption of where great music comes from or what genre it happens to be in. Though I tend to wear my post-punk / shoegaze heart on my sleeve, I honestly listen to just about anything and everything. This includes metal, which may surprise some people. But I think, in general, metal suffers from the same thing as many genres are suffering from right now: complacency. Between metalcore and metal’s own looking backwards in retro-metal, there doesn’t seem to be much out there that offers something new, something vibrant, or something urgently relevant. Of course, that is my own opinion, and others are welcome to chastise me for it, but before doing that, take a moment and discover The Unravelling. Last year, I had the pleasure of listening to and writing about demos recorded by this Canadian duo, and even getting them to answer a few questions for me (links to demo review and interview). And in the midst of all the chaos and my own struggles to find time, I listened to the official release of “13 Arcane Hymns” (15 May 2010 – available in CD or digital download on the band's website). And after listening, I feel the need to restate something I have said before: Gustavo de Beauville and Steve Moore are incredible songwriters, and their proper release proves just how much chops they really have. And when listening to a band like The Unravelling, one thing comes to mind: Welcome to the future.

The musical references here are broad and wide: from Tool to Nine Inch Nails, from Opeth to Dead Can Dance – but there is always something there that is uniquely them. Self-financing their debut release, “13 Arcane Hymns” is a testament that great music does not have to kiss the arse of the corporate music industry. From beginning to end, this duo takes you on a musical journey of different moods and emotions, as this concept album about being buried alive unfurls. Musically, the credit goes to Beauville, who has created an ever-shifting, unpredictable soundscape that is haunting and mesmerizing. Lyrical and vocal credits go to Moore, who is able to not just carry a tune, but sing with passion, and then turn around and scream, howl, and become primal. And it is in that marriage of dual range, dual versatility, that The Unravelling generates both sonic and visceral power. Actually, it is hard to divorce the two – as the music sometimes pummels you, at others sooths you, and you’re listening to the words and the voice, your heart is racing… your anxiety building… as you shift from one mood to another.

Opening with “Move Forward Until You Are Dead,” “13 Arcane Hymns” has this inviting intro, with Moore singing over the guitar arrangement and a building beat, and forty-five seconds into the song, the beat drops and you are completely disarmed. And the track continues to alternate between both extremes: smooth/soothing and hard/abrasive. The third track, “Fire Breather,” the shortest on the album, really demonstrates what these two have learned from Dead Can Dance: big atmosphere, haunting backgrounds, and ambient energy. Further down, “Last Rights Protest” smacks you with its in-your-face power; the song has my favorite guitar work on the album. The eighth track, “In The Safe House,” is simply an incredible song. I will restate what I said about this track before: it is the evidence that these guys can write anything they want, any genre, any mood. This is the one song that stands out the most on the album from the others; it is not just because of its softness, everything about the song is different than what surrounds it. From how it is arranged, to how it was recorded, to how it is sung and played, they demonstrate they are not victims of expectations, nor confined by any complacency of only producing music in one format. The album closes with “Victory Song.” After generating forty-eight minutes of sonic and visceral power that leaves you jumbled on the inside, they create the catharsis you need in this last track. Though only five minutes, this song feels of uber-epic proportion, and everything is here: the thinking outside of the box, the atmosphere, the harshness, the soothing, the harrowing, and the final release.

Why is this a must? “13 Arcane Hymns” is brilliant, infectious, and non-complacent. Not to mention urgent, relevant, and thriving full of energy. In an industry that is marred by counterfeits, musicians buying into shallowly defined genres, and industry whims and trends, The Unravelling compose, recorded, and self-release an album that continues that 2010 trend of pulling that proverbial bar higher. This is more than just any ole metal album; this is evolution, a step towards the future, pioneering new directions for a genre in desperate need of that.

Track Listing:
1. Move Forward Until You Are Dead
2. Becoming Chaos
3. Fire Breather
4. Open Skull
5. Last Rights Protest
6. Revived
7. Unscripted Disclosure
8. In The Safe House
9. Where Will It End?
10. Disconnect-Connect
11. My Resignation
12. Arjuna
13. Victory Song

Keep up with The Unravelling at their homepage (where you can purchase the hard-copy CD or the digit download), MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is “Where Will It End?” from their YouTube Channel: Theunravellingmusic.

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