Arbrynth - _Arbrynth_
(Independent, 2011)
by: Dan Lake (8 out of 10)
Australian collective Arbrynth take every opportunity to dispel your doubts about their love of the wooded wilderness. The band's very name and logo design are, um, rooted in unabashed tree-love. The CD cover gazes down an (apparently) autumnal path through a towering forest. The panoramic band photo introduces Dodds, Junty, Tina and Pete posing among the thick, straight-lined boles of an archetypal elvish homeland. Given the visual presentation and musical leanings on offer, the most obvious (and misleading) touchstone for American audiences is Agalloch, but Arbrynth don't actually sound much like Agalloch. The bands' philosophical angles are probably similar, but where the American Northwest band builds pagan manifestos around black metal structures and windswept acoustic folk, the Aussies' sound derives mostly from more modern metal influences -- the meaty growls and thundering percussive antics of bands like Killswitch Engage, the expert blend of darkness and beauty of that mighty wellspring we'll call Opupine Treeth.

Listening through Arbrynth's first full-length effort is a captivating experience. Their seven lengthy compositions (averaging about eight minutes, none falling below six) wander in and out of related musical ideas, transitioning between high-powered heaviness and gorgeous, opaline sorrow with a savvy that most band's struggle to command even when they're four or five albums into a career. The easy flow among sections is assisted by the brilliant overlap of the disparate elements: distorted attacks are invested with folk-inflected chord progressions; charming melodies grow harder edges and refuse to fade away when the electrically amplified instruments threaten to overwhelm. The resulting struggle lends Arbrynth's hour of music an undeniable force and presence.

Vocal performances are clearly highlighted throughout the record, and while the clean vocal passages are often exciting, they also suffer from an occasional anemia, sounding hesitant when the band intends quiet intensity. A sharper, more consistent vocal approach could snap the album's already strained tether to the domain of the very good and set it to soaring into the realm of the excellent.


(article published 1/7/2012)

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