Arvas - Black Path - (7.5/10)
Published on March 29, 2017
While Norway is of course going to be known for some more “high profile” bands, the group Arvas has been around in one form or another since 1993. Originally under the name Orth, the band regrouped and formed as Arvas in 2001. After some shake-ups in the band, they were in full swing in 2009, releasing their first demo under the new name. Since their debut full-length, also in 2009, the band has been releasing new material every couple of years or so, despite some various line-up changes. 2015 saw the band expand to a more “official” band with more members and release a very strong album in Black Satanic Mysticism. Coming a couple of years down the line, with another couple of differences in the line up, is the band’s fourth release, Black Path via Denmark’s Mighty Music.
One big difference right away in the album is the change in vocalists. Coldbound has now come in to replace departed singer Hexzaldre, with some interesting results. As an overall vocalist, Coldbound feels more versatile, at least in the Arvas camp, having some different range in the screams, and incorporating some deeper growls and even cleans at the end of the album. There are little flourishes here and there such as haunted laughs, or just noises that keep up the interesting aspect of the vocals, making it more than a standard vocal performance, and just let you know that you may no really know what to expect fully. While the prior vocalist worked well for the prior album, the musical shift more appropriate for the new vocalist as well.
Musically, the album still has plenty of the black metal the band always has had, but the music feels less cacophonous this time around, and a bit more thrashy from time to time as well. However, there are still some spots of slowing things down bit, making Black Path a fairly curious record in that it varies enough and keeps the listener on their toes a bit. No two tracks are ever the exact same, which is nice, but also feels slightly odd in some instances. Despite the variety in the music, there are still some inconsistencies as well. There are times where the tracks feel a bit thin, lacking a bit of bottom end, or just lacking perhaps in the production standpoint. On the other side though, there are tracks that are very full, such as “In Solitude I Dwell”, that manage to create a nice wall of sound, and just come across as a more “completed” track by comparison. There are also times where the tracks take on a more epic feel, like they are building and going toward a giant conclusion and reach a nice crescendo, but other tracks just feel more straightforward black metal pieces that do not really give a lot of peaks and transitions. All of the songs are enjoyable regardless of this, but the change from track to track can make the release a little hard to really grasp onto sometimes.
These songs are not generally very long, with only a couple breaching the five minute mark, so any inconsistent aspects of the album do not last too long. Black Path is certainly a breeze to listen to, and has plenty of riffs and interesting vocal lines that allow you to com back for more. This is especially true in the final track, a cover of “Evil” by Mercyful Fate. Covers are by no means new to metal, nor black metal, but where there are bands within the metal spectrum, such a Type O Negative or Six Feet Under, that cover songs more in the style of their own band, Arvas has decided to do a pretty traditional cover. The song sounds older, like it would fit along side albums of that era, and the clean vocal approach is another different take on the album. It is all done pretty faithfully, and the cover ends the release on a fully enjoyable note. One thing to be aware of is the clean vocals do come across a bit more Rob Halford than King Diamond, but they are great either way, so who really cares?
Overall, Black Path is a different take than Arvas had done prior, but the music is no less as intense and enjoyable. For a band that has been around off an on as long as they have, it is crazy to see this is only the fourth album under this moniker, but the band clearly has plenty of talent behind them, and a strong sense of who they are as performers. Hopefully they can keep the line-up a little more in tact until their next release and come back with another album of impressive and slightly quirky black metal.