Seven years ago Arriver baffled us with an album lifting its themes from the Chernobyl disaster. This time the band indirectly lifts the themes from the pandemic and the loneliness of the lockdowns. Hurtling through the universe and galaxies becomes a metaphor for grave inner turmoil. Fusing and bending genres, they whizz you through the protagonists´ journey; “Forging my psyche to soar past the stars, and shatter the breastplate of dawn!”
It is still quite baffling how the Chicago-based band fuses heavy and hard musical genres to tell the story. The guitars use the whole riff register in Heavy and Hard Rock music in between blistering and fast solos. The drums shift from machine gun pace snare drum via virtuoso drumming to timpani-like pounding and the grooves from the bass tie it together. Added to this, there is a growling so deep every Death Metal singer will be envious, and a deep tenor-like vocal line induced with a slight vibrato deep down there. One cannot pigeonhole this music, even the nerdy Metal Archives has given up, just writing: “Genre: Various”. And this is what defines these visionary musicians; they dip their wands into the ponds of multiple genres and deliver an album with mind-blowing twists and turns.
Before the growling vocals open the story on ”Reenactor” with the words ”Orators pay tribute to my life” there is a minute where the music is similar to Callisto´s opening chords on Noir´s ”Latterday Saints” (ok, I´m a nerd…). This calm opener is a great way to throw on a musical counterpoint that yanks the listener right into Arriver´s kaleidoscope of booming sound. The snare drum takes over and it seems like the music rises from its steady pace as the riffs from the bass and guitars drive the song forward. Two vocals, one growling, one clean meet in a duet, and a high-pitched guitar is accompanied by the timbre of the cymbals. It ends with the album´s first very fast guitar solos.
With ”Knot” the turmoil kicks off as the protagonist is hurtling into the void and the music becomes diverse and multi-layered. Sometimes the music purveys a sense of being inside a whirlpool of emotions. Like this song that is accelerating with pounding drums, swirling riffs, snare drum at machine gun pace, and clean and growling voices fighting each other. The same is happening in the other short song on the album, ”Constellate”, where the soloing guitar goes faster and faster and drums pounding on as timpanis add to the chaos as the vocals bursts out “Ascension, transcendence / A conquerer of stars, my seed spills through the cosmos / Defiled, my ego expands”. The track crashes into the heavy riffing and galloping rhythm of the next song, ”Carrion Sun”.
This is one of the feats of this album, the constant shifting of sonics, emotions, and moods throughout the album. The sudden traversion of soundscapes from the tight song ”Knot” to the melodic, more elongated riffing on the song that follows, ”In the Only”, gives an effective counterpoint when the riffs are joined by the grooving bass, pounding drums and clean vocals singing ”New dawn, two suns align / Awake entombed, imprisoned in this string / Ceaseless pulsing, immortal calling / Ageless, I am reborn.” Using this strong and urgent-sounding clean vocal line changes the mood of the music into a more Progressive Hard Rock style as blistering guitars drive the theme forward, swirling behind the vocals. If Dream Theater ever needs to replace Labrie, they can just call Arriver and check if he is free to join.
Combining Death Metal’s growling vocals with music that is definitely not Death Metal is one of the elements that make this a great listen as becomes evident on the song ”Only On”. The song opens with an echoing clean guitar and the deep and wide-ranging massive growling vocals seem to take up what is left of space in the musical sonics, singing: ”The scales of my innocence fall from my eyes / I drift onwards, up past the clouds”. Slowly, a wide soundscape rises immersing the vocals and the strumming guitar. An occasional drum beat signals that the drums are ready to pound. The guitar is engulfed in sound effects and floats along until the growling is back accompanied by a slow riffing bass and far-away guitar riffs. Then the drums and cymbals don’t want to wait no more and pressure the music forward, joined by a high-pitched guitar changing between soloing and tremolo mode before the bottom is drawn away and a wide stretching soundscape ends the song to encapsulate the vocals “All I desire within reach of my grasp / Beyond the next horizon”.
After the twists and turns - from almost standstill and dissonant guitars to impressive diverse drumming - in the song ”Carrion Sun”, we arrive at the title song, ”Azimuth”. It opens with guitars and expressive drumming, the snare drum in the center where the music rises from. The urgent tenor vibrato vocals begin to sing “It has been told, in visions seen / But until now no one believed / The truth now seen, ascendant being / A man no more, the stars attest”. The song´s music describes how the proprietor found rest in another dimension. It is diverse and wide-reaching, ever-changing, rising up, slowing down - and it is fair to say that this longest song is the drummer´s main piece as he is pounding onward, radiating energy and depth into the sonics. The drums constantly change the pace, once nearly blasting away, once using the whole drum set until a part where it all simmers down with only one heavy down-tuned guitar that riffs slowly with the occasional cymbals sprinkling sound over it. A duet of vocals is formed, one high-pitched and one growling, ending the song with “Ensconced amidst the stars / Cosmic avatar / Beyond the Azimuth / The Azimuth”.
”None More Unknown” closes the album. It is a reflective and slow-paced song with clean vocals supported by growls in the choruses. Underlining the pensive mood of the song a melodic and reflective fuzzy guitar soars above the other instruments. The track picks up pace and grows a bit heavier as elongated riffs join. A slight shift in mood as the instruments join the drums and cymbals and surge up to close the album.
After several listens, I can guarantee not to have found all the nooks and crannies this impressive album contains. Every listen seems to give a new impression of the music. Let’s dig deeper.