POEMA ARCANUS' music had suffered a dramatic transformation since their beginnings in the early 90s. In those years they were born under the name of GARBAGE and used to play some filthy Death/Grind in the vein of NAPALM DEATH. It wasn't until 1996 that the first Doom Metal elements began to bloom. Then the band was then re-named as GARBAGE BREED, and they were still known basically because of their Grindcore. If someone is interested in all that obscure, but competent early material of Chile's most famous Doom Metal band (forgive me, MAR DE GRISES), let me tell you that it was re-released a few years ago in a compilation CD that you should own if you're lucky enough to find it.
This introduction about POEMA ARCANUS' buried years was meant to show you the background from which the band developed. Their debut full-length, "Arcane XIII", was Doom under any point of view, certainly inspired by PARADISE LOST and MY DYING BRIDE, but its spirit seems closer to that fucked-off nihilism of Grindcore than to the sweety depressive mood that we tend to associate to melodic Death/Doom. "Arcane XIII" is an album that sounds just like if POEMA ARCANUS were tired of existence, giving up in the fight against the cancers of society that characterized their demo era to sink into an ocean of angry hopelessness.
One of the main characteristics of "Arcane XIII" is its open dissonance. Claudio Carrasco's clean voice is mournful but at the same time raw as fuck, and it doesn't respect the melodic lines driven by the guitar. That creates a tiresome, bucolic sensation that flirts with plain cacophonia, helping to build an underdeveloped atmosphere in which the listener is forced to drown. Except by very few moments, like the beautiful and captivating track "Female Poison", this music is emotionless, and everytime when a gleam of bliss attempts to flourish, it is overwhelmed by a funeral drumming or a dissonant riff.
I won't tell you that "Arcane XIII" is a masterpiece, because it is not. It is a difficult album to get into, I sincerely think it is about 20 minutes overlong and its instrumental performance is rustic, especially if we compare it with the musical sophistication of their later albums "Iconoclast" and "The Teluric Manifesto". But it is an obvious recommendation for anyone looking for original and uncompromised Doom Metal. For me, personally, "Arcane XIII" had been a very important piece not only because of those dark sensations it delivers, but also because it is an amazingly Chilean album. And I am not refering to Pablo Neruda's poems adaptation for some lyrics, or the schizophrenic melancholy that characterizes all the most important Doom Metal bands from this country, but to the way it captures the mood of a nihilist generation, living in a grey, smoggy city and desperately craving for an identity.
Labels out there, this album is SCREAMING for a re-release!
(Online February 9, 2008)