REVIEW: Arketh - 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew

Experimentation is a word often thrown around within the extreme metal spectrum, usually when a particular subgenre decides to cross with another. You got black metal crossing with just about any genre these days, its almost common to the point that straight-forward black metal has become somewhat rarer. Though, I don't know if there has been more then a handful of times I've truly experienced something I'd call genuinely experimental or different - but Arketh's 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew... It's an album that is promised to have a lot in terms of experimentation, and it aims to take a risk far beyond most other groups and projects.

Australia is really starting to impress me, Arketh is probably the first real Australian Black Metal group I've ever heard and they've got me hooked from the first track. There is a certain bravery about the composition of this album, Arketh is lo-fi but achieves a good deal with a bit with the inclusion of keyboard, sax, and reverb thrown into the mix. Not the first black metal group to use saxophone, not by far, but probably one of the few to use it so consistently and so well. In fact, a good deal of the album includes it – aside from 'Trismegistus', the opening track, which genuinely feels like a ages-old undiscovered black metal demo from the late 80s. For a while I'd thought that maybe the entire album would lean on this for it's experimentation, but it doesn't. Somehow, things keep getting stranger.

To me, 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew seems to get genuinely interesting with the track 'The Fool Who Persists In His Folly'. This track is so odd, so impressive, that I can't even place the words that I generally could when it comes to labelling a group like this. It begins with a bit of sax, yeah, but Arketh really lays in with some spastic guitar work, a really fun section of unsettling laughter, and, oddly, some slower male singing vocals. The album is almost prog-metal at this point, songs begin as one thing and end so completely different that the listener feels as if they've went on some horrifying journey. I'd say it was through the darkness or something to that effect, but I don't even know what I've been going through at this point. I don't know if I really want to know.

I do have some gripes with the album – which I guess is to be expected with something so experimental in nature. I did really enjoy the very traditional black metal vocals on this, the more experimental ones on 'Where Nameless Ghouls Weep' are wonderfully strange, but when the singing vocals come in, and the slower more gloomy bits of writing, 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew begins to fall out of it's groove. I just cannot get behind that final track, it is so slow and so uninteresting in comparison to all that has came before. Why there had to be something like that on the album baffles me, because it leaves a painfully boring stain on what I'd say is one of the best black metal records in recent years.

Arketh leaves a lot for other groups to live up to this year, and will most certainly be a basis for me when it comes to every black metal group that comes my way and claims 'experimental'. 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew takes some noticeable risks and comes out on top with something strange, but compelling for fans of both black metal and obscure music. If either of those are you, or even if they aren't, I highly recommend adding this to your collection.

-KEITH, THE ODD-

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