Founded somewhere in the early 2000s by vocalist and acoustic guitar player Jim Grey, who also fronts Caligula's Horse as lead vocalist , guitarist Michael Gagen and keyboard player Matthew Martin, Arcane started to gain fame in their home region, together with a rhythm section, that could differ from time to time. In Blake Coulson, the band found a steady drummer, but until the release of their third album Known/Learned Arcane did not have a regular bass player. Bass duties on this double album were divided between Brendan Brown; on Known and Mick Millard on side two; called Learned. After the release of this double CD bass player Adrian Goleby joined to become a full time band member.
Perhaps it does sound a bit weird, but after two highly regarded albums in Australia, Arcane's third recording took place through a crowd funding campaign, which smashed the $10.000 dollar goal within three days. As a reward, fans and music aficionados are treated to two albums of impressive music-two albums that each have an atmosphere that completely differs from each other, but still breathe the same emotional power that joins them. The first album; Known, represents progressive rock and metal. It features powerful compositions that are based on the fascinating combination of Michael Gagen's ability to mix strong melodies with heavy riffs and the perfect balancing keyboards and piano parts of Matt Martin. The icing to all the impressive compositions is the overly pleasant voice of Jim Grey, a voice I came to know, when I “discovered” his other band Caligula's Horse and their album The Tide, The Thief And River's End (2013, see review) and got the chance to do an interview with this nice gentleman (see interview April 2014). I guess it is bad that I hadn't noticed this fine vocalist before, for he is absolutely a world class vocalist. OK, back to the music of the first CD. The album's first song is Promise [Part 2]; powerful, intriguing and makes me wonder where Promise [Part 1] might be. Checking the song titles it becomes clear that the first part of the song is the final chapter of the second CD. Confusing? I hope so; if it makes you listen to both albums to finally complete the musical circle, Arcane's mission is accomplished and I am happy. Besides the impressive second part of Promise, Known has more to offer; pure emotional compositions, slightly referring to Pain Of Salvation, but instrumentally drenched in a Dream Theater sauce. Instinct's long instrumental part equals DT's technics, but adds more depth by the use of a super vocalist. Song structures are nicely built so we can enjoy Womb (In Memoriam) as a sort of intro to Selfsame, which has a vocal part that sticks in your head. I wrote in my CH review, Jim Grey has a voice that mixed Haken's Ross Jennings with Muse's Matthew Bellamy, which is absolutely catchy and smooth at the same time. Besides the voice, this song has one of the purest guitar parts on the album; perfect interaction of drums, bass and guitar makes this certainly one of the highlights of this disc. Holding Atropos follows; sweet emotion goes hand in hand with jazzy drumming and a very relaxed guitar solo. Talking highlights, let's add another one; an epic that lasts over twenty three minutes-the title track for the second disc; Learned. It's an absolute pearl that has it all; mood changes, speed changes, impressive solo parts for guitar as well as keyboards and “the voice”. A killer song Dream Theater's been dying to write for a long time. Learned is a twenty three minute roller coaster ride, that easily could have lasted forever, absolutely brilliant!
Now, let's move over to the second half of this nice digipack; Learned breathes the same intensity as Known, but is more focused on Jim's vocals parts. The songs are softer, sometimes acoustically based and combine the progressive rock elements with more alternative sounds and at some points, singer-songwriter influences pass by. It all begins with smooth vocals and acoustic guitars that set off Hunter, Heart & Home. Keyword here is emotion. Little Burden and Impatience And Slow Poison also are strong songs, where the Dream Theater influences are exchanged for smooth voiced Jeff Buckley influences. The Pain Of Salvation style intensity stays, but Learned only reflexes to their acoustic live album Falling Home (2014, see review). The title track of the first CD: Known and Eyes For The Change are pure and naked versions, where the instrumentation is kept to a minimum, which once more shows the incredible vocals of Jim Grey. During this CD, you still get plenty of cool guitar parts and some solos as well, but most of the compositions are piano driven and backed up with an acoustic sounding bass guitar; both creating a special atmosphere. During Promise [Part 1], you really feel the circle is closing, the music still is emotional and smooth, but you feel something is about to come. And sure it does, just play Known after this final composition.
What a ride! Arcane has released an album with two faces, connected by wonderful compositions, great craftsmanship from the musicians and a heavenly voice. All I can say is that I would like to thank our Australian friends for having released such an amazing album. It really doesn't matter how you're feeling, Known/Learned always will suit your mood.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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