I have always loved FEAR FACTORY and even when the split occurred and the shifting of the line-ups happened, I followed them and found even at their lowest point (“Transgression”) something to love about the band. So now that the band is in the midst of a legal name battle and the members have split into two camps, I feel torn. But this is all just back story to the review at hand. Because in the midst of this legal battle, Wolbers (guitars) and Herrera (drums) have taken the left over music they had created for this long lost FEAR FACTORY album and run it through the mind of the prince of Modern Metal, Jon Howard (main man and vocalist of the heavily FEAR FACTORY inspired THREAT SIGNAL) to create a whole new vision of the genre under the band name ARKAEA.
Honestly, considering that the two bands involved in the creation of this debut album, “Years In The Darkness”, this should be a brilliant masterpiece of Modern Metal proportions, which, despite my fan boy-ism of all members involved, is far from the truth. As much as I want to say that the combination sparked and created all new life in music, this band is exactly what one would expect. A straight up combination of THREAT SIGNAL and FEAR FACTORY, albeit not as good as either.
I will say that I did enjoy the album. From beginning to the end of the album, this band does exactly what one should expect them to do. They combine serious rhythm barrages on a variety of levels with a slightly more melodic side to things (thanks mostly to Jon Howards vocals and the occasionally melodic section on guitars from Wolbers). Unfortunately, the band never really encompasses how much melody a guitar could add (like the soloing and leads from THREAT SIGNAL) and they never really get the solid punch of what those rhythms could do. It’s like they dabbled in both but never took the plunge into them. The lead off single “Locust”, has a great melodic chorus, but the band never really mirrors it with anything for the rest of the song and some of the heavier songs (like “Awakening” or “War Within”), which tend to sound like the songs the members pulled from the lost FEAR FACTORY release, don’t hold their heavier ends once the more melodic sections arrive. It’s a frustrating element of the album and mostly stems from its formulaic approach to writing and never feels complete.
To top it all off, I am actually not a fan of Wolbers production on this album. Normally, he does an amazing job of creating crisp industrial-esque tones without taking away from the musicality of the release, but on “Years In The Darkness” I felt that all of Howard’s vocals could have used a bit more punch on the low end and that the drums sounded a bit hollow. Perhaps he was just trying out some new things to differentiate ARKAEA from the rest of his work but I felt that it was he weakest job yet as a producer and it didn’t help already unbalanced music.
In the end, I did have my fair share of enjoyment out of ARKAEA. Herrera is still a drum God in my eyes, Wolbers gets a few nice punchy riffs in the mix on the heavier songs, and Howard displays a nice basic range but the overall too formula-based writing and a lackluster production just make this one a skip for everyone who isn’t a fan boy of Modern Metal. “Years In The Darkness” should have been a release to blow the genre out of the water, but instead it just floats there for a while and sinks out of the listening cache.
Songs to check out: “Beneath The Shades Of Grey”, “Awakening”, “Away From The Sun”.
(Online August 10, 2009)