Science fiction, black metal, technical death; it's all here on "Anno Universum" from Portland, Oregon's ARKHUM. "But do they really make it all work in a way that is appealingly cohesive, if not musically appealing", you ask. "Why yes they do," I utter in response. The musical appeal is there as well.
The quintet, which features the brothers Parker (vocalist Kenneth and guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Stephen), does a fine job of weaving black metal causticness, complete with sadistic shrieks, and moderately technical death metal, complete with guttural growls. Opening two-minute track "Appellation" with its creepy intro and its abrasive, rather sludgy, scrape (complete with both vocal styles at once) doesn't quite reveal the black/death one-two punch, leaving one wondering what's coming next. "Grief Urchin" begins to answer that question in earnest with arpeggio swept, USDM crunch that is peppered with some NILE-esque exoticism and just a hint of black metal. A similar, though not redundant, method to the madness continues on through "Obsolescent Husk", serrated guitars and vocal variation abundant. Beginning with airy guitars and chilling screams, "Bloodgutter Encircling" is the track that ups the black metal ante, ending up a six-and-a-half minute exercise in dark melody and savage grace, and inclusive of eerie piano for the track's last minute. Technically arranged and performed (i.e. not over the top), the split between death and black is 70/30 the rest of the way, "Nilpulse" being notable for its NILE meets black metal delivery
It is all over in just less than 34 minutes, which is enough to showcase the band's knack for offering challenging composition in ferocious and relatively compact form, while leaving one with the thought that the best is yet to come. The next album could be the one that results in a much higher level of recognition for ARKHUM.