Monday 10 June 2019

Arakain - Jekyll & Hyde (2019)

Country: Czechia
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 16 May 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website

I've never heard of Arakain before, but they're hardly new. They formed in Prague in 1982 and, unlike most bands from that era, kept going throughout the intervening years with a reasonably consistent line-up. Guitarist Jirka Urban is the only remaining founding member, but two of his colleagues have been there since 1986. Original vocalist Aleš Brichta left after a couple of decades but Honza Toužimský is coming up on a decade and a half himself. The least consistent role is drummer but new fish Lukáš "Doxa" Doksanský joined back in 2006, so he's already on album six.

This is their nineteenth studio album and it's a strong one even over fifty minutes in length. What's most interesting to me is how they manage to make the album sound so consistent, given that there are many obvious influences in play. Sure, the dozen songs fit in a consistent range from three and a half minutes to exactly five. Sure, Toužimský's vocals certainly ground it too but he doesn't dominate the mix to the detriment of his bandmates. But they throw their net widely, wider than the British hard rock classics of the seventies.

I should emphasise here that Arakain tend to move frequently between heavy metal and power metal elements, but there's a lot more here. Most blatant is the intro to Kiss's Detroit Rock City that appears late in Znal bych rád, a surprising nod for reasons to which I'm not privy. To co chceš mít is more like Savatage and Síť is reminiscent of Pantera, except for its commercial chorus. Kompromis and Sny dávají křídla shift into Metal Church territory, though the latter veers oddly into hair metal at points and even ends on a sort of acoustic note.

Jen vaše ruce is the most overtly different song on offer, partly because it kicks off with a different vocalist, presumably Lucie Bílá, but because it's much more of a hard rock song than a metal one, the only one on the album. The title track wraps up the album in clear metal fashion with a doomladen Black Sabbath feel. That's a heck of a lot of different sounds shoehorned into a heavy/power metal box but there's not a one that feels out of place, not even Jen vaše ruce.

Arakain sing in Czech, which I don't speak. Google Translate gives me a set of generic song titles, like Not Yet, I'd Love To and Just Your Hands. I'm intrigued as to what that's all about. Síť apparently means Network, Hřích means Sin and Signály, amazingly enough, means Signals. There's little in these names to help me figure out what they're singing about. The only hint I have to mindset is a slight look to the dark side, with songs like Sixth Sense and the title track. Who knows?

I liked this album, even without knowing what they're singing, but I didn't like it the way I might expect to like a nineteenth album, especially in this odd year of 2019 when everyone and their dog are appearing out of the ether with a vengeance. I liked it enough to wonder what their earlier albums are like. I see that they may have started out a little closer to thrash and that fits.

The biggest problem the album has is that, even though the band are on the case throughout and the music kept me alert a few times through, but it's difficult to identify one killer track to highlight. Perhaps that's why the album feels so consistent: it's good stuff but it's consistently good stuff that avoids great as much as it avoids poor. If you twisted my arm, I'd say that Šestý smysl or Sixth Sense is the highlight, but I may well call out a different track tomorrow.

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