Thursday 20 July 2023

Arogya - Supernatural (2023)

Country: India
Style: Pop Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 19 May 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | YouTube

I've listened to this album, which I believe is the fourth from Indian band Arogya, a few times now and I'm still trying to come to terms with it. The title track is a great way to open because it gives a good introduction to what they do and does it as well as anything else here. And what they do is an odd amalgam of genres.

For a start, it's clearly commercial, so immediate that it could be used as entrance music for some wrestler or other, especially if they're called Supernatural because that's the first three words, all of them delivered in crystal clear unaccented English with emphasis and serious sustain. It's got a modern metal crunch under it and it finds a grinding nu metal feel as soon as the title's done with, with a harsh and aggressive growl. But then it gets all bouncy and melodic, with a softer, almost a pop vocal for the majority of the song, ramping up in forcefulness for the choruses.

It's quite a mix, as if Arogya want the perkiness of western pop music but the impact of aggressive metal all at the same time. And, while that arguably places them right into the nu metal genre, it seems a little unfair. They're kind of like Disturbed on this track, but both heavier and softer at the same time. On others, they add further elements: some ethnic touches on Desire, gothic metal on Queen of the Damned and Spell and overt electronica on Fade Away. By this point, it's clear these musicians aren't a rock band pretending to be a metal band or vice versa. They're both at once.

And that's when it starts to truly get interesting, because the biases we've brought with us cease to be applicable and we can just enjoy this on its own merits. I tend to like the songs that delve the deepest into gothic metal, so Queen of the Damned, with its bouncy chorus that wouldn't be out of place on an HIM song, is an easy choice, and Spell too, which does many of the same things but has a heavier aspect to it, without losing any of its drive. Forbidden Memories finds the same mindset but also kicks off with a heavy guitar that feels like it's been borrowed from doom metal and spun up in speed.

A highlight for a different reason is the closer, Armageddon, which is slick and commercial and has some tasty harmonies that grow over the length of the song. It wraps up very nicely indeed. Other than that, I tended to find mseylf drawn to parts of songs rather than the songs themselves. I got a kick out of the almost Celtic melody on Prophet and the guitarwork on Drifting Away, whether it's the work of Pawan and/or Mr. G, who are both credited for guitar. I also liked a lot of the electronic flourishes, because they bring character to different songs in different ways. However, the harsher voice rarely did anything for me and some of the more staccato beats left me dry too.

It's fair to say that that surprised me. Often with bands who mix light and heavy, I tend to gravitate towards one or the other, with a few bands nailing both approaches at once. Here, the lighter side is the melodies and the electronica, which I liked pretty consistently, and the heavier side is in the guitars, which I also liked pretty consistently. Where Arogya lost me was in between, with some of the elements often intruding on songs I was otherwise enjoying, kind of like the guest vocals on Evanescence's Bring Me to Life, which was much better as a demo without them.

And that's probably not a bad song to bring up, because Evanescence also combine crunchy guitars and a gothic influence with poppy melodies and electronica, making them an obvious comparison. The difference, of course, is that those backing vocals weren't meant to be there and were forced upon the band by a studio wanting to play to the trends of the day, firmly against songwriter Amy Lee's wishes. Here, Arogya don't seem to be under any sort of pressure to include these elements, apparently simply choosing to do so as an aesthetic decision. Maybe they like the released version of Bring Me to Life better.

And so, I like this album and I appreciate its diversity, merging pop and metal successfully, but feel that it would be better were it to ditch the few elements that don't work.

No comments:

Post a Comment