Review Summary: Not for the faint of heart, or people who don't enjoy impulsive, technically-complex music.Behold... The Arctopus
is an acquired taste; I guess a more accurate thing to say would be that avant-garde metal is an acquired taste. Some people think it sounds like a bunch of guys hitting random notes and doing blast beats, while others find it interesting and unpredictable.
Unpredictable is the name of the game when it comes to 'Skullgrid
', and infact this band altogether. They sound like a mix of An Endless Sporadic
, heavier Buckethead
, and John 5
. They are also entirely instrumental. If that doesn't sound appealing to you, then I do not recommend picking up this album. However, if you have a taste for the weird or impulsive, then by all means I recommend this for you.
Right off the bat, this album let's you know what's in store with 'Skullgrid', the title song from the album and also the shortest, clocking in at 1:07. It's basically a minute of sporadic drumming, and a very weird guitar & bass line (the bassist in this band, Colin, uses a 12-string Warr guitar- but more on that later). Personally, this opening seems like a waste of time and could have been something much better. However, the next song 'Canada' is just that- better. This is probably my favourite track from the album. It's undeniably weird, but that's what's great about it. It has no sense of rhythm or timing, it's just all over the place, with drumming breaks, guitar shredding, and a bass solo here and there. It does, however, feature a melodic section that is absolutely spectacular. My only complaint about this section is that the bass seems kind of off-time with the guitar, but it's such a weird rhythm that it would be hard to have it on time. 'Canada' also features the first of many drum solos by Charlie Zeleny, the very skilled drummer- his fills and double-bassing would make Neal Peart proud. In fact, all of the members of the band are very technically-skilled- guitarist Mike has ore than one blazingly fast solo on this record, and I already talked about the bassist.
'Of Cursed Womb' has an opening riff that will make say "Whaaat?!" Then it spirals off into what B...TA is known for; fast tempo, and sporadic guitar & bass lines, with drumming to match. At 2:59 'Of Cursed Womb' comes and goes without much notability, besides the great section 1:58-2:09. Next up is 'You Are Number Six', which is the longest song on the album at 8:51. I have to admit I was a bit perplexed at how these guys could make a song so long. The beginning of this song shows off how well these guys can play together- the rhythm is extremely weird, yet they somehow stay in time with each other. The section after the intro is absolutely stunning and lasts for a long time. It mainly consists of fast picking and a blast beat/fills, with a guitar solo overtop. The solo dies out and then it's just the rhythm guitar playing one note repeatedly, then comes a wickedly fast drum solo. This track also contains a great guitar solo towards the end of the song- I would be sweating buckets by this point if I were the drummer. Another thing I should say is that I love the bass in the beginning, and towards the end of this song. That note sounds cool.
'Some Mist' starts out fairly ambient- misleading you, but then not after long it goes into another strange high guitar riff. This is, overall, one of the more subdued songs on the album (which isn't saying much). This song has many layers, especially in the outro. Then the next track 'Scepters' throws you back to Earth with a blast beat and a very fast guitar riff, then some extremely fast double bassing by Charlie. This song is one of the fastest on the album (in the beginning at least), then comes another great melodic section with some more fast double bassing that I really enjoy. A superb drum & bass section is towards the end of this song, along with a great guitar solo. The guitar solo lasts almost until the end of the track, which leads into the final song, 'Transient Exuberance'. At 7:37, this is not a short song, and it is the second longest on the album. It has so many tempo changes. It even fades out almost entirely at one point (1:10), but about a second later it starts again. That part reminds me of dinner party music gone wrong. This song features great double bassing, and a wall of sound around 3:22 that continues for a while. Before this, and during, there is an interesting effect that displays emotion. There is another great guitar solo during this song, and it ends on a riff that finishes things nicely, with a cool drum line overtop. And then the album is over.
At 33:33, this is a pretty short album. However, the songs are so high-tempo and technically complex that you can understand why they would have made this album short. If it had been, say, 50 minutes, it would have all run together in a big mess of fast drumming and Warr guitar (granted, that does happen slightly even still, which is one of this albums downfalls). But since it is more compact, each song has more of an identity. Oh yes, the Warr guitar... it's basically a 12-string bass that's played by tapping the notes. If you watch it being played on Youtube you'll see what I mean. And that's 'Skullgrid