AMG Himself likes to use helpful descriptors to mark band promos on the master spreadsheet so the staff knows what’s what. Having never heard of Arcana 13, my eyes were drawn to his cursory note describing them simply as “Ghost-core.” With my interest thusly piqued I gave Danza Macabra a spin and as advertised, it’s somewhat Ghost-y occult rock, but they make things more interesting by dialing up the heaviness and incorporating a good amount of Khemmis-esque stoner doom along with weird Danzig and Tiamat-isms. They also know how to write a righteous riff and piece together interesting songs that get in your head and stay for a long while. Considering this is their debut it’s a very impressive display of song writing chops and I’ve been caught off guard by just how cool and addicting this stuff is. Steel Druhm likes these kinds of surprises out of left (hand) field.
Opener “Dread Ritual” features a Ghost-ly penchant for recycled Sabbath riffs alongside eerily accurate Papa Emeritus I-III croons, and though both are enjoyable and the song works well, together they conspire to give a false impression of what the rest of the album has in store, at least until the 5 minute mark when things turn much heavier, doomier and more ominous. These jacked up riffs turn the Arcana 13 sound in a new direction and it’s one they utilize effectively throughout Danza Macabre to put some distance between themselves and their spectral contemporaries. “ArcaneXIII” is a standout gem benefiting from burly, oh-so-catchy stoner riffing and a killer vocal performance from either S. Bertozzi or A. Burdisso (my promo materials don’t make clear which is the main vocalist). Imagine Papa singing for Khemmis and you get an idea what to expect here.
The hits keep on coming with the super-hooky “Land of Revenge” with its instantly addicting vocal lines and groovy, spacey guitar-work; and the ginormous riff emporium that is “Oblivion Mushroom.” The former is the most Ghost-centric track and the latter is especially interesting as it shellacs you with one crushingly cool riff after another over its 8-minute run, some of which feel like they belong on a C.O.C. or Down platter. “Suspiria” is a spooky instrumental befitting the titular movie it pays homage to and it packs in some truly sweet riffs and badass guitar harmonies. “The Holy Cult of Suicide” sees a bigger Danzig influence creep in and closer “Hell Behind You” borrows several more pages from the C.O.C. and Floodgate playbook for good effect.
Running just over 53 minutes, Danza Macabre doesn’t feel very long at all and though several songs exceed the 7-minute mark, none feel like they need trimming and none feel like filler. The production is spot on, sounding clear and deep, with the guitars having a lot of heft and the drums sounding organic and live. Add in some cracking cover artwork and you have quite the introductory package from these young Italian upstarts.
The guitar-work from Bertozzi and Burdisso definitely wins the day across the boards, borrowing influences from throughout the doom spectrum while keeping things lively, energetic and vibrant. This is an album of RIFFS and one killer lead blends into the next in a way guaranteed to make you rock your block with the soothing sounds of doom. The Ghost comparisons come from the similarity in vocals, and there’s no denying the Papa poaching going on here. That said, the duo of Bertozzi and Burdisso pull off some striking vocal harmonies, at times giving the music a morose Alice in Chains vibe. They also have a real knack for crafting vocal hooks that dig in deep, especially present on “Land of Revenge” and “Oblivion Mushroom.” When teamed with the skilled riff-craft the vocals become the icing on the mortuary drape and nigh impossible to resist.
Regardless of whether you label this Ghost-core or something else entirely, Arcana 13 is the real deal and Danza Macabra is a very auspicious debut indeed. If you like big, meaty riffs in your retro doom stew, this has all you can eat and a Grade A rating from the Metal Health Department. Definitely a welcome surprise from the land of Argento and Fulchi and an album not to be missed. Boo-urns!