As I sit here on a snow-covered porch, watching the snow dissipate below the rising sun, it dawns on me just how much I dislike the term “post.” I hate Post-It notes, post holes, fence posts, and (the worst offender of them all) post-hole diggers. I hate the terms “post” (position), “flagposts” (they’re fucking “flagpoles”), and “man-posts” (penises). But, for how much I hate all these terms, I hate post-black, post-rock, post-hardcore, and post-metal the most. “Post” to me means “death of…” Why can’t there be a third wave of black metal? There’s already a second. Why can’t we label bands like Wolves in the Throne Room for what they are: Pacific Northwest Metal. Why must we label everything that progresses from its mother genre as “post?” Because of this, I rarely spend much time with these genres. Why am I bringing this up? Only because I’m listening to a band that could very well be labeled as “post.” Minus the fact that Arcade Messiah has so much life in its music. World of living metal, I give you III.
One thing that separates Arcade Messiah from other post-metal acts is the personnel behind it. And by personnel, I mean John Bassett. Every guitar lick, every bassline, every tom, snare, and cymbal hit, and every rare vocal line is his. In only three years of existence, Bassett has released just as many albums. But this year’s III is his masterpiece. In six songs, Bassett weaves a tapestry of instrumental rock and metal that’s not just aurally tantalizing, but visually captivating. Colors so vivid that each inspection unlocks another one.
On the surface, one might compare Arcade Messiah to the likes of Pelican. But Bassett’s intricate songwriting on tracks like “Revolver,” “Deliverance,” and “Black Tree,” proves to be on a different level of progression. Still, the similarities are there – an instrumental delivery that I prefer to the wanking of bands like Jeff Loomis. At the end of the day, every track on III is a complete song. Individual songs grow like a single stem, contributing to the mass vein that creeps and crawls up your exterior wall. The result is an album as fluid as it is complete.
“Revolver” opens the album with some of the best groove the record has to offer. Shifting here and there, unleashing some distant, rock-oriented vocals, and a foot-tapping riff that climaxes just before the song’s end. While follow-up ditty, “Citadel,” stands as its own instrumental experience (layered in a variety of moods and guitar textures), its true purpose seems to be as introduction to “Deliverance.” Arguably the best track on the album, “Deliverance” traverses from the lowest of valleys to the highest of mountains. All the while mixing the aggressive with the beautiful, the simple with the complex. It’s a ten-minute number that opens further and further with each spin. After some gentle strings and gloomy guitar moods, the bass and drums take hold, guiding the melodic passages along the rivers edge while the growing Tool-like licks carry up the mountainside.
When “Sanctuary” brings this journey to a close, we find ourselves upon a plateau—alone, but in peace. On the surface, III appears to be a simple trip, but with each listen, you discover details you never thought existed. This is a quest worth your time.
Tracks to Check Out: “Revolver,” “Deliverance,” and “Sanctuary”