One of the longer-running bands in the seemingly boundless Southern California tech-death scene, Arkaik are coming up on ten years now, with Lucid Dawn as their fourth full-length in eight years. Stalwarts of the Unique Leader brutal/tech-death style, the band have proven themselves capable and comfortable in cranking out discs of death that worship The Faceless and early Obscura without being obvious derivatives or daring expansions on the genre. If you’re a fan of the late-2000s tech-death explosion that spawned such scene darlings as Fallujah and Rings of Saturn, Lucid Dawn will be a welcome addition to your colossal collection of UL- and Sumerian-tagged CDs.
After a bit of warming up, Lucid Dawn gets started with the riffy and groove-heavy “Digital Shroud,” which takes a break late in the song to showcase Arkaik‘s rhythm section. Ivan Munguia steals the show with a jazzy bass solo against some of the album’s more creative drumming, which drummer Alex Hernandez-Bent takes a swing at again in an extended fill a few seconds later. “That Which Lies Hidden” continues on the straight and narrow of modern death, with extended mid-paced grooves and harmonized riffing that sound like any band you’d care to name.
“Fleshwalkers” takes a slight detour, featuring an intro vaguely similar to The Black Dahlia Murder‘s “Receipt” and an outro with a definite Opeth-ian vibe, but the song sandwiched in between them has as little to do with either as they do with each other and comes off as a hasty patch between two of the band’s more interesting ideas. Though its brief drum solo again gives percussion a moment alone, the sanitized production of the album, courtesy of Zack Ohren, glosses over the subtlety and warmth that make a drums fun to listen to, and the brevity of these little spills are matched only by their predictability.
Ludid Dawn‘s mid-paced riffing and rock beats may set it apart from the band’s blast-heavy peers but they drain any sense of drama or tension that the band tries to create, especially in the lethargic “Temple Aflame,” which only deigns to close the album after ten minutes of otiose crackling and voice samples. Arkaik‘s vocals aren’t anything to write home about either; it’s not so much Jared Christianson’s reliance on a mid-scream or shout that irritates me – many vocalists don’t do much with their range, and screaming is tough to do – but his lyrics and vocal patterning are about as standard as they come. There are plenty of way less diverse singers – reducto ad absurdum leads us to Jens Kidman – that just put so much more personality into their recordings. Add that to the monotonous loudness you expect from this band and you get a pretty unsuccessful package.
Lucid Dawn comes with its share of decent riffage by competent performers, but lacks personality and blends easily into its overcrowded scene. It’s written, produced, and advertised almost indistinguishably from half of the other technical death metal that slides across my desk, and I’m happy to hear the whooshing sound it makes as it passes me by. I honestly hate writing this same review every month and I really wish people that are this good at playing death metal would try to cover some different ground, but it’s futile to ask for innovation from every release. If you’re content with the sound that Arkaik, The Kennedy Veil, Deeds of Flesh, Eschaton, Inanimate Existence and so many others put their own minimal spin on, you’ll enjoy this album until the next one comes along.