When I received Emerald earlier this year I found it to be a bit disappointing in its inability to evoke those higher emotions that earlier albums such as Dark Age of Reason and Raspail did. Perhaps there is a diminishing effect to Arcana (SE) that starts to take its toll. Back in the days when I first heard songs such as Source of Light and Love Eternal I was enraptured by the sheer magnificence of the music, of the lingering emotions and the heavenly voices that crowned the whole experience. Now we have arrived at As Bright As A Thousand Suns and musically this album is a work of art, the songs are well composed and the production is better than ever, yet something is missing out for me.
The album is near perfect in production giving it an almost artificial sound. Somehow the digital nature of the album turns into a weakness with lots of reverb and echoes pushing it above and beyond ethereal. The vocals are stunningly beautiful and as usual the voice of Ann-Mari Thim enchants the songs with its angelic qualities and when Ia Bjärgö joins in it is like a pair of sirens beaconing sailors to their otherworldly shore. The dark solemn vocals of Peter Bjärgö fits perfect and balances up the voices of Ann-Mari and Ia to an equilibrium. The instruments are as varied as one has come to expect from Arcana with acoustic guitars, pianos and various strings being dominant throughout the album. The rhythm’s is conjured by a myriad of various exotic percussions masterly handled by Mattias Borgh and Sergio Gamez Martinez.
Among songs that stood out is In Memorian that reminds me in some aspects to the mysterious album Le Serpent Rouge and Infinity that must be the best song on the album with its strong vocals, intriguing rhythm’s and a deep sense of mysticism on top of it all. Otherwise the album is quite what you have come to expect from Arcana, ethereal vocals built around a strong neoclassical core with a good mix of orientalism thrown in for a good measure. Peter Bjärgö is a highly talented musician and his various side projects shows that he is a master when it comes to electronic music yet somehow the whole album seems to be a work of automation rather than love.
Since the various individuals behind Arcana are a extremely talented group I have no way of knowing if the band was working hard or hardly working while putting this album together. It might have been something just thrown together to please the crowd or just something that failed to stand out in the vast ocean of previously released material. I’ll just have to judge the album for what it is, a beautiful, well performed and really enjoyable album that fail to evoke any higher feelings in me as a listener. Others may of course differ but for me this was just not special enough to be granted a higher score. In today’s internet age talented artists that lack the spark will easily be overrun by a group of amateurs burning with passion and this is something that I really love with the spirit of music. You never know when the spark will strike you down but when it does it is the sweetest of feelings and I still remember that lingering sensation that struck me down the first time I heard The Last Embrace.
In the end I would recommend As Bright As A Thousand Suns to anyone in love with the project Arcana, however, should you long for something new and intriguing this might be a bit too similar to the older albums. Arcana is an extremely talented group but perhaps what they have gained in skill they lack in vision. I for one look forward to the next journey to see if the landscape change, for change is always a good thing.
02. As The End Draws Near
05. Leave Me Be
07. In Memoriam
08. The Fading Shadow
09. As Bright As A Thousand Suns