Decipher – Arcane Paths to Resurrection Review

The artwork for Arcane Paths to Resurrection struck me immediately, and not only because it’s cool. There was something familiar about it, and after a little digging, I found that the same artist, Artem Grigoryev, is behind both this and the cover of Suffering Hour’s The Cyclic Reckoning. What’s funny is that even before discovering this, I was thinking about how much Decipher’s debut reminded me of Suffering Hour. It has a similar grittiness, a similar piercing edge to its guitar tones, and similar thrashy energy. But Arcane Paths to Resurrection is no copycat record, and also calls to mind acts from Mgla to Dissection, whilst still managing to be its own thing. As is evident from these name drops, Greece’s Decipher aren’t borrowing from the Rotting Christ brand of Greek black metal, but a rawer, more death-influenced pedigree. Injecting a little disso-death, or thrash, into one’s black metal is one way to spice things up. But in this crowded sphere, can Decipher do enough to stand out?

What Arcane Paths… doesn’t do is mess around. It’s in and out in thirty-six minutes, with songs energetically flitting from tempo to tempo, and with no long intros. There is, admittedly,  bridging interlude “Arcane Paths,” slightly spoiling this description, especially since it includes a sound that I can honestly only describe as a kettle whistling as it boils. However, with its rasping, crackling screams, it is also effectively unsettling and atmospheric. Riffs are punchy and fun, emphasized by a dynamic rhythm section bounding from blastbeat to d-beat (“Altar of the Void”) to bouncing off-beat. Many a tremolo will descend or ascend in between washes of second-wave riffs (“Altar…”). Many a refrain will end with a satisfying guitar (“Chants of the Unholy,”) or feedback squeal (“Penance”). The use of chants and layered howls, screams, and growls (“Chants…” “Enslaved to Be, ” “Sanctum Regnum”) adds to this feeling of trve savagery, and also gives the music more dimensions for the instrumentation to echo around.

Decipher find a great deal of their strength in melodicism, which links the barrages of biting bombast together. Because the reason those tumbling and clanging riffs are so enjoyable is their dark tunefulness. Whether it’s a whining high progression (“Altar…”), classic frosty tremolo (“Penance”), or something in between (“Chants…”), it’s head-bobbingly fun. But apart from these more vicious displays, atmosphere is the conduit and environment for more mournful refrains. Swaying paces and reverb-laden, ringing, high guitars (“Lost in Obscurity,” “Altar…”) open up the black clouds of anger to the grey skies of sadness. Melancholic tremolos rise up (“Enslaved…,” “Penance”) or descend (“Sanctum Regnum”) with pathos. And each often dissolve into or out of blistering, full-frontal blastbeat assaults, granting urgency to aggression, propped up by the snappy drum roll-overs and crashing cymbals as the tempo breaks down again. In fact, everything—not just these somber melodies—from the intruding buzz of feedback, to the crawling bass lines, to the aforementioned layered vocals helps to impart atmosphere, rounding out and deepening the sound.

Arcane Paths… doesn’t slip too far into either raw aggression or ambient tunefulness, but combines them well. It all sounds appropriately biting, and the right amount of fuzzy, and the best of the melodic passages really are beautiful. That being said, the album still feels like it lacks a little flavor. With the more memorable, lurching guitar tricks and spacious atmospheric sections aside, Arcane Paths… doesn’t quite grip with the force it should. Being so short, and including so many fun and alluring elements makes it easy to forgive, but this forgiveness is really more resignation, in the sense that the music is so close to being brilliant. It sounds great, with the production only emphasizing its roughness whilst increasing its atmosphere. The group vocals and irreverent, almost punk-like vibe that creeps in amidst the trveness are a distinguishing mark, especially since the band are also playing otherwise atmospheric music. Yet, there is a power missing in the overall package that would hammer this home and truly envelop, whereas instead one witnesses the show, but doesn’t participate.

This very nearly received a higher score, missing out by just a smidge of missing zhuzh. Considering this is a debut, Decipher have got a bright—or perhaps, more appropriately, shadowy—future ahead if they strengthen their musical concoction.

Rating: Good
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 21st, 2023

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