The Arcane Order
Distortions from Cosmogony

It’s amazing the perspective you gain in life when you find someone you truly want to spend your life with – that person you feel you were always meant to be with. For those of you who haven’t found that person yet, I apologize for throwing that in your face right out the gate here, especially when all you’re trying to do is find out what I think about a metal album. My bad! Look, I’m not gonna try and pander to you by saying everyone has someone out there they’re meant to find – I’m hardly any kind of fatalist – but I can say in my own experience, the world certainly does provide some solid samples that suggest some pairings are just meant to be, or I guess in the case of The Arcane Order, some groupings (I guess that also applies to some polyamorous folks out there, too? ANYWAY).

The Arcane Order has been kicking around in one form or another since 2006, founded by Danish guitarist Fleming C. Lund (Temple of Scorn and a live guitarist for bands like Raunchy and Volbeat), and vocalist Kasper Thomsen (Raunchy). The two soon after recruited guitarist Kasper Kirkegaard (currently also in Hatesphere). They came out pretty hot out of the gate with two really solid but, ultimately, very under-the-radar releases in The Machinery of Oblivion and In The Wake of Collisions, packing a full-throttle mix of Melodeath and Euro Thrash that certainly did not lack in energy, but perhaps suffered a touch in their lack of variation. The band went relatively quiet for some time until 2015 when they returned, sans-bassist, with Cult of None which, while yet another really solid contribution, still didn’t push the needle on this project a whole lot. But the band forged on, toiling quietly behind the scenes, until 2019 brough the band a major development with the addition of Dirk Verbeuren protégé Bastian Thusgaard (Soilwork) on drums. Then, two years later, the band would replace vocalist Kasper Thomsen with the incredibly talented Kim Song Sternkopf (Møl). Adding that kind of talent to your roster is always going to have a noticeable effect, but we wouldn’t know the full scope of it until this album was dropped – and goddamn if it hasn’t had a PROFOUND effect.

Starting first and foremost, Bastian Thusgaard is a goddamn machine. One whose immense influence from Dirk Verbeuren is abundantly clear in short order. To be clear, it’s not as if his work with Soilwork left any doubt of his drumming pedigree, but The Arcane Order truly puts the man’s work on a pedestal for all to see. He comes hyper-blasting right out the gate on “Cry of Olympus,” a track that sees The Arcane Order deploy an overwhelming, attack-driven fury, layered with some absolutely epic French horn orchestrations that sound absolutely menacing. It’s the soundtrack of impending apocalypse, fires raging and demons circling overhead. The maelstrom eventually morphs its way into some very Strapping Young Lad-esque riffing and drumming-ala-Gene Hoglan that weaves in and out of the chaos and further feeds into the all-consuming nature of the band’s energy. It’s clear that Thusgaard’s drumming has transformed the band into an altogether new kind of beast – even, I suspect, having a huge impact on the riffs Lund and Kirkegaard have unleashed here. It’s a sound that just wouldn’t work with a lesser sort of drummer behind the kit. And all this impact rings clearly before we even hear the effect of  Sternkopf’s first bellowing growls, which come through the speaker as though Lucifer himself has broken ground and emerged to enslave the world before him. His highly expressive, complex vocal stylings genuinely seem purpose-built for the product this new collection of musicians have built, every contribution seeming symbiotic and perfectly in tune with one-another (I very much enjoy Møl, but my gods, this is the band he was meant to lead).

And Distortions from Cosmogony just keeping coming at you with wave after wave of destruction. “A Blinding Trust in Chosen Kings” barrels into eardrums with another round of relentless blasts, but the guitars also introduce the flip side to the chaos in the form of a fantastic, infectious lead melody that gives you that typically Melodeath sensation of being airborne. The combination of the machinegun drumming and these soaring leads makes for a breathtaking experience, somehow making you feel both invincible, but also in the back of your mind aware that everything could just as easily unravel at at any moment. It’s exhilarating! Sternmopf’s vocals go a long way to supporting that overall vibe as well. Tracks like “Favors for Significance” and “The First Deceiver” put his full vocal range on display, at times matching the band’s more powerful stretched with his own bellowing, earth-crushing roars, and at times devolving into shrieks of utter madness that sounds as if he too is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. But my favorite trick of his, as evidence on both tracks, is when he utilizes a tear-talking technique – still heavily distorted – that’s almost like his version of Travis Ryan’s (Cattle Decapitation) “goblin” vocals, except instead of sounding like some horrendous imp screeching at you (I mean that as the highest compliment), this sounds like some hell-born entity towering over you, commanding your fealty lest you suffer its wrath. It’s super intimidating, but utterly compelling.

While I do maintain that the bulk of this album is a ceaseless pounding on your senses, it’d be unfair to say that the band doesn’t try at all to level out the scales for the sake of balance. “Empedocles Dream,” does serve as a nice two and a half minute respite from the carnage at the album’s halfway point, which some may see as a sort of throwaway track, but in the context of an entire album, is completely necessary just to keep you from having to step away and catch your breath. The aforementioned “Favors for Significance” is nothing even approaching ballad territory, but by comparison for The Arcane Order, it is a somewhat tame ordeal, at least ditching the blast beats for a bit and slowing things just enough that you can get your legs back underneath you as you’re trying to keep up with the album’s lightning pace. To that end, it’s also one of the band’s more unnerving tracks, with good use of dissonant notes and subtle synth work to disorient and get your skin crawling.

If anything is going to let this album down, it’s the anonymous packaging, which has kinda plagued The Arcane Order‘s releases from day one. It can’t be THAT hard to get some inspiring album art, can it?? Alas, we’re left with a big ol’ bag of nothing in the art department, and that’s a goddamn shame because this album is phenomenal and deserves something that demands more attention. If you feel the need to be especially critical, the band could maybe stand to take the foot off the throttle a little more often, because the constant full-bore assault can be a bit overwhelming – but being as meticulously and exuberantly pulled off as Distortions from Cosmogony is, I’m certainly not going to be the one to raise too big a stink about it. Chemistry is everything for a band, and it seems like The Arcane Order have finally gotten the right puzzle pieces in place to unlock their full potential, to the point that I sort of hesitate to even call this the same band. The metamorphosis this band has taken is like a caterpillar emerging from it’s cocoon as a fucking bald eagle. I cannot urge you enough to give this release a listen, regardless your thoughts of any of this band’s prior output – I promise you this ain’t your granddad’s Arcane Order.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
June 23rd, 2023

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