Arna – Dragged to a Lunar Grave Review

There’s a reason bags of mixed nuts contain a lot of cashews: they have a predictably benign taste, they’re reasonably sized, they’re filling, they’re easy to find, and most importantly, they’re cheap. No one’s favorite nut is the cashew, but equally, no one hates them.1 They’re just kinda… there. Inoffensively, unremarkably… there. Neither inspiring nor off-putting. Cashew nuts came to mind while listening to Barcelona duo Arna’s debut album, Dragged to a Lunar Grave. While Arna may be aspiring to the “epic and windswept black metal” of the promo blurb, what came to mind instead while listening was a bag of nuts, sitting forlornly in an artificially lit supermarket aisle, waiting to be purchased. Which is to say, your enjoyment will entirely depend on how hungry you are.

Arna lists Spectral Wound as an influence, and the perfunctory cover art bears an uncanny resemblance to that band’s recent (stellar) album, A Diabolic Thirst. But whereas A Diabolic Thirst featured an image with depth and nuance, Arna’s is flat and more minimal, and this is a helpful metaphor for separating the two bands. Arna plays old school, furious black metal, but with a much grimier, flattened production, and at a far more sedate pace than the relentless fury of Spectral Wound. It is also, sadly, less interesting. Most of the songs follow a straightforward template of movements that blend into each other, with some occasional respite in the form of acoustic instrumentation. In other words, a formula that is as tried ‘n’ tested as grandma’s grits, but unfortunately, less tasty.

 

The real issue with Arna is that, like the humble cashew nut, it tastes awfully familiar. There’s nothing here to really separate these guys from a myriad other black metal bands in 2021. There’s no especial fury; no unique spin or interesting angle; no original atmosphere. When a band is this unoriginal, the only thing that can save it is dynamic, interesting song writing. Unfortunately, Arna’s sound is deeply derivative and simplistic, with straight-forward chord changes that rarely deviate from simple scales. Blast-beats and double bass enter and exit exactly when you expect them to. Songs crest and fall as predictably as the tides. While there are pleasing moments scattered throughout, the cuts are simply neither original nor memorable enough to linger any longer than exhaled smoke on a sunny day.

On the plus side, this can be a pleasant filler if you’re in the mood for unchallenging fare. The pace never flags, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, and it never aspires to be anything other than a solid slab o’ the good stuff. There’s a real charm to Arna’s unpretentious commitment to the lo-fi, second wave sound, and while the song writing may not be explosive, it’s certainly never dull, either. “Dolmen,” by embracing the more melodic side of the band’s repertoire, is the high-point of Dragged to a Lunar Grave. Unfortunately, it all ends a bit too quickly, and at 29 minutes feels a bit on the lighter, more weightless side.

Dragged to a Lunar Grave, is, ultimately, neither original nor compelling enough to stand out from a bazillion other black metal bands. There is potential here, but Arna needs to find something to separate it from the pack. Everything from the cover art, to the aesthetic of the art, to the gritty production, has been done before, and done better. Dragged to a Lunar Grave therefore resembles the cashew nut of black metal. Too bland for non-fans, and only really useful as filler for the truly hungry.

 

 

 


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 12 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Signal Rex
Website: arnabm.bandcamp.com/releases  |  facebook.com/arnablackmetal/
Released Worldwide: July 30th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. That’s my favorite nut, you nut elitist. – Steel
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