Arcane Existence – Colossus Review

What initially drew me to Arcane Existence‘s sophomore release Colossus was, admittedly, the album cover. The rich, concentrated gem tones, spindly castle, misty forest, and swirly, cyclonic clouds hovering underneath a full moon had me hooked. I can handle this, I thought to myself, hoping against hope that none of my greedy coworkers would slap their name on the promo before I could do a little more research prior to fully committing. After learning that Arcane Existence describes their sound as symphonic blackened death, it was game over. Say no more. This promo was mine. Arcane Existence began as a solo project in the Californian Bay Area. Having just recently finished Anna Wiener’s harrowing memoir Uncanny Valley, the suffocating nature of the Silicon Valley tech bubble was top of mind. What first stood out to me when learning about Arcane Existence was that it was difficult for me to imagine how an album of any creative influence would emerge from such an uninspiring environment.

Arcane Existence started out as the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Kiera Pietrangelo. After eliciting the help of two studio musicians and adding vocals to her instrumental music, Pietrangelo released her debut album The Dark Curse in 2017. Following streams of positive feedback in response to her first album, Pietrangelo filled out her band, and they began work on their first full-length album, Colossus, as a group. The band describes Colossus as an album which follows a journey through a mystical land following a cult’s quest towards reaching the Colossus castle. Pietrangelo, who plays guitar and bass on the album, describes each song as painting a different phase of the cultists’ internal conflicts of breaking through their own mind’s illusions.

Arcane Existence is the perfect blend of the viciousness of melodic death bands like Arch Enemy and the theatricality of symphonic metal bands like Xandria. My first listens to the album were the perfect elixir I needed after a lengthy hiatus from writing for AMG this summer (a time during which I felt very burnt out from an exhausting and isolating year and a half). The influences heard on Colossus range from black metal to death metal, all the while maintaining symphonic elements and putting emphasis on ethereal, operatic clean vocals as well. Colossus features not one but two female vocalists. Jade Ordonez takes charge with her snarly, throat-tearing black and death vocals while Becca McCabe belts out cleans along with playing keys and harp for the album’s thirteen tracks. Many of the tracks jump quickly back and forth between the two vocal styles, resulting in a listening experience that is nothing short of thrilling.

Piano and harp play an essential role on Colossus, introducing the melody in a number of tracks and helping to ground their sound in symphonic territory before venturing off into realms of heavy death (“Sovereign Blood,” “Scroll of Augury”). The longest track on the album, “Colossus,” also happens to be my favorite song on the album. With sweeping guitars and an almost meditative climax, the track strikes a delicate balance between fragile beauty and pummeling heaviness. Colossus” is indeed as mighty of a track as the name indicates. Unfortunately, I cannot sing praises for this album forever. The orchestration tends to sound thin, and I was surprisingly not a fan of the short, transitional pieces interspersed throughout the album. These tracks felt more like filler than standalone, cohesive interludes which stitch various threads of the album together.

As I watch Seattle, following in the footsteps of San Francisco’s Bay Area, gentrify, I hope space remains for musicians and other artists to continue to hone their craft amidst the city’s growing pains. Arcane Existence‘s Colossus is proof that not all hope is lost. The more I research bands for this blog, the more I realize how important it is to learn about where bands come from to understand how their environment helps to inform their work. Despite the sterile and lifeless environment (as Anna Wiener describes) in which Colossus was written, it comes through loud and clear that Arcane Existence is above all else a playful yet hardworking band. Colossus is refreshing and all at once mysterious, dark, fun, and absolutely worthy of an hour of your time.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5| Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: facebook.com/arcaneexistence | arcaneexistence.com
Releases Worldwide: August 20th, 2021

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