Album Review- Arcadea, “Arcadea”

A few months back, in a late night Wikipedia rabbit hole excursion, I came across a page about the galactic year- the amount of time it takes for our solar system to complete an orbit around the center of the Milky Way, which is about 225 million years. It was fascinating to be able to mentally demarcate the past and future using these goalposts, because just one galactic year ago was the Triassic period. At the bottom of the article, there is a timeline of the universe in galactic years. In 1 galactic year, the continents may fuse back together into a supercontinent. 12 galactic years from now, the Earth’s magnetic field will shut down. In 15 galactic years, scientists anticipate that surface conditions on Earth will be like Venus. In 22 galactic years, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will begin to collide and form a new elliptical galaxy.

Arcadea was born out of Core Atom’s fascination with questions about what our solar system will be like (and also sound like) 5 billion years, or approximately 22 galactic years, from now. All human life is long gone in our solar system, and has been replaced by a synthetic race of sentient robots called the Arcadeans. To add to the fantasy/magic realism,  celestial bodies throughout the solar system have gained sentience. The band Arcadea seeks to put this scene to music. Core Atoms, the mind behind the concept, decided to use synthesizers and keyboards, as well as voice distortion, to capture a distant, alien, and robotic sounding future. To fully realize his vision, he recruited 2 of his longtime friends, Brann Dailor ( vocalist/drummer from Mastodon) and Raheem (bassist from Withered), to play drums and keyboards, respectively. All three provide vocals, but as one could expect from the album’s theme, the vocals are often heavily processed and robotic sounding.

“Gas Giant” was the first single released from this album. This makes sense, as it has an effective balance of catchy melodies and intensity. While the first song on the album, “Army of Electrons”, effectively introduces the listener to the unique sounds of the album, “Gas Giant” sweeps in with heavy and hummable melodies and esoteric lyrics. “Gas Giant” is a strong, well realized musical statement that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten more traction among fans of the member’s respective bands.

One of my favorite songs on the album is ‘Electromagnetic’. In some of the press for this album, the question was asked: can a band be heavy without guitars? Can it be synth driven without sounding like a video game? This song, to me, has a metal vibe despite the absence of downturned guitars and bass. Raheem and Core’s frenetic synth playing are pushed forward by Brann’s intense drumming, and the vibe is reminiscent to me of a song like “Blasteroid” by Mastodon.

To balance out the bruisers, this album includes several slower, more meditative songs, such as “Neptune Moons” (which features vocals from Brann Dailor’s wife) and “Through the Eye of Pisces”. Both are strangely beautiful and mesmerizing, as the synth sound creates an effective  atmospheric feel (perfect for space music), and a familiar but alien vibe.

On paper, Arcadea sounded like a major risk. Heavy metal doesn’t always have synthesizers, so there was the instant challenge of a potentially limiting sonic palate. But the more I listened to Arcadea, and the more I learned about their motivations for certain creative decisions, the more I realized that Arcadea’s risk paid off in a major way. Arcadea managed to write an intense, epic space fantasy story, with heavy and spacey sounding music that perfectly matches that vibe. If you’re a fan of both heavy, progressive music and the feeling that you get when you hear something totally new and unique, then I highly suggest Arcadea’s self titled debut.

Arcadea’s self titled debut can be purchased here.

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