With the absurd amount of music being produced these days, I can only imagine how difficult it is for bands to gain exposure. Metal already caters to a rather niche market, and so it’s understandable that some artists might do whatever it takes to get their music heard. Sometimes, this means that musicians might sacrifice their artistic vision if they feel it will garner greater appeal. Thankfully, Arriver is not one of those bands. This Chicago quartet has been doing their own thing for quite awhile now and their sophomore release, Emeritus, has been four years in the making. The album is a fantastic blend of styles and genres that make for a refreshing listen, yet at the time of this writing, Arriver‘s Facebook page has fewer likes than my sister has friends. If I have anything to say about it (which I apparently do), this is an injustice will soon be rectified! That’s right, I’m here to convince you to go like Arriver‘s Facebook page.
Arriver is an incredibly difficult group to pigeonhole. The band conforms to labels and genres about as well as black metal conforms to Sunday mass. Each of the five tracks on Emeritus are unique in both sound and style. This ends up being the album’s greatest strength, as it keeps things interesting from the end to end. Opener “Liquidators” starts off slow and jazzy, mixing death metal growls with progressive sensibilities similar to something you might find on an Alchemist record. The song’s climax is a fantastic highlight that leads straight into “The Demon Core,” a much faster, higher energy romp that would probably be a ton of fun to hear live.
This diversity continues throughout the entirety of Emeritus. The back half of the record is particularly sporadic, and after listening to “URSa” you’d be forgiven if you thought it was performed by a different band entirely. The song combines the weirdness of Voivod with a Queens of the Stone Age vibe to tremendous effect. The epic 14-minute closer “Emeritus” is perhaps the highlight of the bunch, a complete roller coaster of a track that is proof of Arriver‘s songwriting chops. It’s not easy for such a long track to be a compelling listen, but “Emeritus” earns each and every minute of its run time.
Interestingly, Emeritus is actually a concept album revolving around the events of the Chernobyl disaster. The music does little to link its ideas together but the lyrics definitely adhere to the theme. Each song discusses the disaster in some way, alluding to the reactor’s meltdown, the resulting evacuation or the exclusion zone itself. Knowing the back story behind what is driving Arriver makes each track all the more meaningful, and gives the album a lot more impact as a whole.
There’s really not a lot to dislike about Emeritus. If I had to complain, it would be that some cuts are definitely stronger than others. While I enjoyed the record in its entirety, I often found myself looking forward to the second half more than the first. The first two songs tend to drag after repeated listens and the material lulls in the middle especially, with “True Bypass” being much less interesting than the rest of the tracks. The record actually clocks in at a high DR 9, but I found myself noticing the music sounded rather fuzzy. This loss of clarity wasn’t something I couldn’t get past, but it may be due to the compression used rather than the record’s mastering itself. Either way, the effect is noticeable enough to detract from the enjoyment of the music, which is a shame given the quality of the material.
It’s hard not to root for Arriver. These guys are more interested in the music than they are about appeal or image. The result is an earnest album that I’m happy to have found. It just goes to show how much great music is hidden out there in the metal underground. If you’re hankering for something a little different (and even if you’re not), I urge you to check Emeritus out.