As someone who has heard many a strange band in my time, there are few who can make me sit up and really think “Okay, what the hell just happened there?”. Behold…The Arctopus are one of those few.
The American trio consists of a drummer, a guitarist and a Warr guitarist. For those of you who don’t know what this is, a Warr guitar is a seven to fifteen stringed guitar-like instrument which covers the range of guitar and bass and is usually played by tapping. It is not unlike the Chapman Stick, but makes picking easier. It is this instrument which supplies one of the components of Arctopus’ originality.
The prolific Colin Marston (Byla, Krallice, Indricothere, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts) is the acrobat behind the Warr and his playing is incredible, often playing multiple lines faster and with more accuracy than many could play one. Mike Lerner (Direwolf) is on guitars here and he can easily keep pace with Marston with no sloppy play at all. Charlie Zeleny (Derek Sherinian, Blotted Science) has now unfortunately left the band, but played some amazing drums on this release, keeping all his patterns very fresh. The infamous Mick Barr (Orthrelm, Octis, Ocrillim, Krallice) also has a guest solo in “You Are Number Six” and Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater fame has a slot in “Transient Exuberance”.
The main thing that sets Arctopus apart from pretty much anyone, is that they never seem to play in a fathomable structure (there are very few times in the release when I can actually count beats), but they somehow all keep playing together. Live videos of the band emphasise this even more, with the band starting a song all at the same time by just looking at each other. The chemistry felt is awe-inspiring.
Oh, and did I mention that pretty much the whole album is atonal? Put this all together and you get something which is very difficult to comprehend on the fourth listen, let alone the first. Notes will seem very random (in placement and in pitch) but when you get to understand where they’re coming from, everything begins to make sense (except from the first track, that will never make sense) and, although it may not seem it, they write down all the material for the album, so they have actually had to learn all of the music you hear. The band know when enough is enough though, and introduce relatively numerous melodic sections into the music. Obviously they make them so that nothing short of a cyborg can play them, but this makes it all the more impressive and makes the music wash over you.
Very few will really get the music and fewer still will enjoy it, but this makes it all the more special to this minority. It is a very well crafted album despite the onslaught of dissonance and crazy structure, but these will mean that I would only recommend this release to those who are looking for something really out there, but that recommendation would also be whole-hearted.
01 – Skullgrid