Arkheth – Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze Review

Apparently, we’ve reviewed Arketh before. Somehow I forgot, despite that obnoxiously bright and colorful artwork. The Australian one-piece, masterminded by one Tyrone Kostitch, returns four years later with his fourth opus, entitled Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze, and graced with a cover as flamboyant as the last. Recruiting the help of Glen Wholohan (alto and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet), Tarquin Halls-Corbett (additional guitar and vocal work, and bass guitar), Prophanant (second guitar on “Psychonautica”), and Hunter McDonald Gerrand Rogers (string orchestrations on “Patience in the Garden of Fire”), Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze clearly represents an ambitious undertaking. So pick up a fresh pouch of your finest ‘shrooms and your most reliable trip-sitter, and let’s get weird.

Even for I, Voidhanger, Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze is a hallucinogenic odyssey of unreal proportions. In its wild ways of whimsy, I catch whiffs of everything ranging from Ved Buens Ende, Blut Aus Nord, Vulture Industries, and even The Beatles. With an expansive stylistic gamut to manage, it’s bewildering that Tyrone not only concocted a compelling compound with it, but also condensed it into a tight and twisted thirty-seven minutes. Although built upon the back of black metal, Arkheth’s fourth album is refreshingly light and fancy-free, exploring an alien world of psychedelic electronics, jazzy brass, poppy prog verses, and bizarrely catchy choruses with all kinds of song structures. It’s therefore difficult to shoehorn Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze into any general category, which conveniently puts it square into avant-garde territory in Ken‘s infallible head-canon. No matter how you may slice it, one thing is for certain: if weird is your favorite flavor, then Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze is flavor blasted.

Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze’s greatest achievement lies in how immaculately Tyrone and company put it together. Minimal compression, sumptuous guitar and drum tones, an incredibly vibrant mix, and an immersive soundstage conspire to create one of the most pleasurable listening experiences I’ve encountered this year. It simultaneously captures the rawness of Ved Buens Ende’s blackened wiles without sacrificing any of the brightness in the horns, the smoothness of the woodwinds, or the thrumming of the bass and pounding of the drums. Every revisit brings out new details, like the cool little synths in “Neptune Beaches,” the beautiful layering of strings in “Patience in the Garden of Fire,” or the unsettling atmosphere of “Where the Ocean Meets the Sky.” Additionally, the songwriting itself is an especially intriguing experience. While it may appear disjointed or chaotic at first blush (“Kundalini”), it only takes one or two more spins before the logic behind the madness reveals itself. There’s an undeniable charm that anchors all of the disparate approaches and stitches them together such that even the longest songs fly by. Furthermore, an unfettered sense of curiosity and wonder brings distinct and endearing personalities to these songs, and makes even the most awkward phrases somehow enjoyable.

What isn’t enjoyable, on the other hand, cracks the kaleidoscopic vision that Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze magnificently conjures. For me, the primary perpetrator of this threat is none other than Tyrone himself, and his clean vocals. There’s a specific range where his voice is absolutely perfect for this environment (“Neptune Beaches,” most of “Where the Ocean Meets the Sky”). Elsewhere, however, his voice strains and stretches far beyond where he can stay in tune—something that may or may not be done on purpose—and distracts me from this undeniably cool adventure (“Kundalini”). Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze additionally suffers from heavy backloading. The first two proper songs are cool enough, but when I think back on my experience with Arkheth as time passes, those early cuts won’t stand a chance against the potent earworms populating the final three tracks. Compound that with the vocal miscalculations, and Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze leaves a rather poor first impression, which will undoubtedly prevent more people from appreciating its charm.

If you visited Arkheth looking for sick riffs and big grooves, then you’ve come to the wrong gig. Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze is a place for weird excursions into alien worlds hitherto unseen. Nonetheless, if there is one thing that I think most music fans with open minds could agree on, it’s that Arkheth are doing some cool shit, and this album is the proof. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if it catches your fancy, you might get hooked.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2022

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