Take three immensely talented musicians, put them in a turbine and shake them up for a while, then tell them to play the first thing that comes into their head. Voila, you have Behold… The Arctopus. ‘Skullgrid’ is a complete headfuck of an album, its technical fret wizardry terrifying in its complexity. Thank God its instrumental, because I couldn’t concentrate on anything else with such fret mangling going on.
Behold…the Arctopus are metal on the Dillinger Escape Plan/Botch/Psyopus edge of reality, an amalgamation of black/death/math/prog/jazz/anything else really that drips with melody and confusion in equal amounts. Spiralling counterpoint tech death abounds in the titanic ‘Transient Exuberance’, while the title track takes three completely different musical lines and coalesces them into an overload of technical prowess. Progressive is a poor word for what Behold…the Arctopus are trying to do here; this is metal for the space age, where Infinity is calculated via King Crimson-esque prog and demented jazzy breaks. ‘Some Mist’ provides the album’s highlight however, with loose, fusion basslines competing with jazz inspired drumming and chaotic guitar solos to create one inspired, original whole.
If you enjoy metal on the very edge of the spectrum, thrusting out into strange new worlds where Psyopus or early Dillinger thrive, ‘Skullgrid’ is the album for you. Or if you need something to fuck your music teacher up, look no further!
(with regards to the picture, normally I put the album cover, but this is the guitar/bass hybrid Colin Marston plays on this album. It has twelve strings, usually played by tapping and can handle bass and guitar at the same time. Madness)
Being a huge Nevermore fan, I have looked forward to this album since it was announced. It’s difficult to imagine how Nevermore will be able to top ‘This Godless Endeavour’; an album of such awesome technical prowess and unrivalled quality, and yet Nevermore have managed to meet those expectations. ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ will leave fans of Nevermore fully satisfied that their last album was merely the beginning.
The album opens with ‘The Termination Proclamation’, an opener in the style of ‘Born’ or ‘Narcosynthesis’, rife with twisting Jeff Loomis riffs and those otherworldly herald-of-destruction vocals from Warrel Dane. It is instantly recognisable Nevermore fare; thick, labyrinthian riffs layered with a great drumming performance from Van Williams. ‘And the Maiden Spoke’ is another Jeff Loomis tour-de-force, his ever progressive riffs and solos matching with Dane’s tales of the titluar maiden. Dane’s lyrics are another highlight of the album; insightful and thought-provoking as ever, he is without a doubt one the best lyricists in metal today. The best example is ‘Emptiness Obstructed’, where heÂ laments “So the river ends in this calamity we call heaven, is this perfection, are we spinning into the grey again, and transforming into the insane…”. ‘The Blue Marble and the New Soul’ opens with haunting acoustic guitar and piano, a ballad along the lines of ‘Sentient 6′ with spiralling guitar solos and mournful vocals, and the slower tempo ‘The Day You Built the Wall’ refines and builds upon a chugging riff before wrapping it in a wonderfully melodic solo. ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ contains fewer full force thrash songs than ‘This Godless Endeavor’, but the complexity of arrangement has certainly increased, and it is probably the band’s most technical impressive album thus far. The solo work of both Warrel and Jeff have clearly made an impact here; the virtuoso Loomis from his solo album meets with Warrel’s more melancholic side.
It’s difficult to pull a specific song or moment from ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ as a definite highlight; this is a package of consummate quality and ability unrivalled in the progressive metal world. Nevermore have made it more difficult this time for their fans, with more complex arrangements and extra strings to their bow (there is nothing much in their back catalogue like ‘The Blue Marble and the New Soul’). Mix that in with the riff fests of ‘The Termination Proclamation’ and the stunning title track and you have the next step in Nevermore’s unfaltering march to the top of the prog metal mountain. Opeth and Dream Theater watch out, they’re coming for you…