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Arð - Untouched By Fire review

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Band: Arð
Album: Untouched By Fire
Style: Doom metal
Release date: April 2024

01. Cursed To Nothing But Patience
02. Name Bestowed
03. Hefenfelth
04. He Saw Nine Winters
05. Beset By Weapons
06. Casket Of Dust

Arð is a Northumbrian project masterminded by Mark Deeks (also of Winterfylleth), who is a piano teacher, author, and a choir arranger and conductor, among other things. The band’s music is described as ‘monastic doom’. Keep reading to find out what this means.

When Arð began back in 2019, it was hard to expect either that the band would soon be noticed by the likes of The Guardian and the BBC, or that the first press of the debut album, Take Up My Bones, would sell out before it would even hit the stores. And let’s not forget that it got the bronze medal in the doom metal category of 2022’s Metal Storm Awards by you, our users. So, the question is: does Untouched By Fire doom as hard as its predecessor?

Well, ‘hard’ is kind of the wrong word to use for the music of Arð, since their doom metal is rich in layers, with lush orchestration, and very melodic. The term ‘monastic doom’ that they have coined is very fitting, with all the monk-like choirs, the omnipresence of the piano, and the solemn and catanyctic atmosphere. In general, it feels that the piano is the foundation for all songs, and the other instruments build upon it, with Robina Huy’s cello acting as if it has come down from the heavens only to appear in this album, while special mention should be made to Beverley Palin’s pipes on “Beset By Weapons”. The songs are better described as hymns due to their ecclesiastic character, and the music sounds like a combination of Skepticism and Kauan, with a touch of My Dying Bride. There are times when I get the feeling that I am listening to melodic death doom without growls.

As far as the theme is concerned, Arð continue to explore the culture and history of Northumbria. While Take Up My Bones followed the relics of Saint Cuthbert (634-687), Untouched By Fire tells the tale of King Oswald (604-642), who brought the two Northumbrian kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira once again under a single ruler. It’s always welcome to have a fascinating and original story, but as a talented reviewer around these parts claims, “the sign of good music is the ability to both convey and trigger emotion”.

And emotion this album does trigger and convey in abundance, and it does so in an almost transcendent manner. I could easily make a case of how doom metal is capable of actually lifting someone’s spirits while still sounding depressive (it certainly has that effect on me), but Mark Deeks, Kostas Panagiotou of Pantheïst and Don Zaros of Evoken have already presented compelling arguments on the matter in this video. If I wanted to voice some criticism, I’d say that Untouched By Fire is largely a one-dimensional slow burn, but doom metal is expected to be like this; otherwise we’d listen to tech-death. In my opinion, its liturgical atmosphere, its evocative melodies, and its sombre beauty are sure to touch everyone somehow.

If music can be reverence, then this is what it sounds like.

"Prepare for reprisal
Cursed to nothing but patience"

Written on 19.04.2024 by Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud!


Comments: 5   Visited by: 62 users
21.04.2024 - 22:39
poring dark
Thank you very much for your review - it brought me just the right music for this Sunday evening.

I wanted something calm but still interesting, not too demanding.... turned to MS for inspiration and read this review because it was the most recent one. "Choir arranger and conductor" had me intrigued, "it feels that the piano is the foundation for all songs" sounded very promising and everything else convinced me to give this a try.

I listened to the three songs that are already out, and then to their debut album, and look forward to when the entire album is out.

As to the emotion... I found the music soothing and it conveyed an atmosphere of walking near the sea or a large lake, on slightly damp grass, a darkening sky, dry stone walls enclosing fields somewhere in the distance, and the air slowly getting chilly as the sun is setting. Not sure if that counts as emotion, anyhow, I'm grateful to have found this.
23.04.2024 - 09:32
^ Thank you for reading, glad you enjoyed the music. I very much like the description in the last paragraph of your comment, it's like painting images with words.

I first listened to this album on March 25th, a couple of hours after receiving the news of the death of a loved one. Each subsequent listen could not be disconnected from the fact that, in my mind and in my heart, Untouched By Fire would now forever be the soundtrack of someone close to me having passed away, and I very much acknowledge that part of its appeal relies on my own relationship with it, even though the album itself does not deal with loss as such. But everyone can make their own personal associations with music, as long as the music is good enough. It has been a very shitty time, but this album was actually a relief, which is why I included that video of the three doomers talking about how doom metal can be uplifting.
26.04.2024 - 10:52
Rating: 8
A Nice Guy
Great perfectly written review, and a very impressive album this is too, much like the debut is. While the structure is long-drawn, slow, and repetitive, and maybe too monotonous for some I personally find it really works well, the monk chants and the church organ elements make great additions to the doom genre. I have to say, listening to this band play live in an actual Cathedral/Church setting sounds like an experience in a lifetime. I found the news article a very heartwarming read aswel, so thanks very much for sharing that.
28.04.2024 - 22:28
poring dark
Written by nikarg on 23.04.2024 at 09:32

this album was actually a relief, which is why I included that video of the three doomers talking about how doom metal can be uplifting.

I listened to this as well, and found it interesting and relatable.

I am sorry for your loss - and want to <<something between acknowledge and applaud>> that you speak about it.

15.05.2024 - 20:48
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Most interesting review from you in ages. Good job.
I stand whit Ukraine and Israel. They have right to defend own citizens.

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''
I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing

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