Despite never having that big an aversion towards Prog Metal it is nevertheless a genre of music that rarely gets its foot in the door when it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff when I start formulating little year end lists. Not so this year, though, as it’s been quite the banner year for all things Prog, with bands like DREAM THEATER, AMORPHIS, and MASTODON all releasing stunning new albums that will definitely all feature prominently come year’s end. Mexico’s THE ARKITECHT, a relatively unknown band (to me at least...) came out of nowhere with “Hyperstructure”, a masterful exercise in pure Prog bliss that made me an instant fan. Technically this album was released last year so it’s out of contention in terms of this year’s top 10, but it definitely would have given the abovementioned bands a run for their money if it had been released this year. This is simply some really good shit right here!!
Led by multi-instrumentalist Genaro Ochoa, THE ARKITECHT is one of those bands that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve, with traces of AYREON, DREAM THEATER, SYMPHONY X and RUSH being readily noticeable, yet the way all its all interwoven and mixed up manages to imbue the album with a rather unique sound, which is quite a compliment since this is their debut album after all. Now, the mere mention of these names will lead many to assume that “Hyperstructure” is yet another over-the-top demonstration of pompous musical wankery, yet this is not the case at all as this is an album marked by tasteful restraint, with the band only pushing out the boat on the mammoth 32-minute closing epic “Face Thief”. The preceding six tracks all pale in comparison to the album’s climactic centrepiece, though they are by no means bad.
Throughout the first 30 odd minutes of the album Ochoa and his ensemble cast of vocalists keep things relatively understated but that doesn’t mean that there is no veritable boatload of musical nuances and edgy hooks thrown the listener’s way and the quality never dips beneath awesome, whether its the flitting acoustic flourishes of “Blackout”, the delectable mix of 70s organ twiddling and harsh vocal histrionics of “The 20’th Century Feast And The Millennium Hangover” or the burlesque piano touches of the title track. The sound is multifaceted and thanks to the band’s supreme command over both their instruments as well as the song writing the album never degenerates into boredom or shallow exhibitionism. The same can be said of the aforementioned “Face Thief”, a mini rock opera centred around a tale of a serial killer that slices off the faces of his victims, that throws in everything from subtle electronic samples to grand choral effects and grooving guitar passages. There’s even a very enjoyable jazzy interlude around the 19 minute mark that bears more than a slight resemblance to OPETH’s “Face Of Melinda”. Let me just reiterate again: despite its titanic running length this track stays consistently engaging, and makes this album an essential listen.
Try as I may, but I can’t fault this album on a single front. It really is a case of all killer, no filler. True, the first six songs all have a fluid, amorphous quality to them (none in particular stand out) but they all flow into one awesome slice of Prog mastery. The only thing stopping the album from getting a perfect score is the vocals which sometimes cross into very nasally territory that sounds like Mike Patton on a bad day. But this is a minuscule gripe since most of the vocals on the album are handled just fine and mesh quite well with the varied array of underlying musical ideas. All in all this is definitely a brilliant album from a very talented band that should make a huge splash in the Metal world, provided they get proper label support. Excellent stuff guys!!
(Online September 1, 2009)