Review Summary: Toeing the line between chaos and beauty, but generally more inclined towards pretty melodies than violent crescendos, 'Arroyo' is an impressive, mesmerising, and fairly unique album.
There seems to be almost a surfeit of European bands these days of whom the dubious terms “post-rock” and “skramz” can be applied to. Le Pre Ou Je Suis Mort, Preface To The Dead Sea, Mesa Verde, Aussitot Mort, just to name a few. As unconvincing as those labels are, if you were to use them to describe a band to someone with a fair knowledge of hardcore music then they would most likely, and reluctantly, have a pretty good idea of what you’re on about. Songs that follow a climactic ‘post-rock’ structure, pretty melodies converging and sonically dancing with one another, all the while building to an ear-shattering crescendo of dissonant guitars, crashing drums and coarse screamed vocals. Though the terms “post-rock” and “skramz” may be inadequate in terms of professionalism and specificity, genre-labels are an awkward necessity in reviewing music, and these ‘genres’ can be applied to German quintet Arroyo.
Arroyo’s self-titled debut album sees them evolve from the marriage of ‘post-rock’ and ‘screamo’ that characterised their EP ‘Individuum & Massen’. Kind of. Though they still straddle the divide between chaos and beauty Arroyo have reined in the dissonant side of their music and instead there is a greater emphasis on melody and calm. That’s not to say that the crescendos and the sense of awesome power that was found on ‘Individuum & Massen’ are not present on Arroyo’s self-titled follow up. In fact, every song on ‘Arroyo’ still features what could fundamentally be described as “quiet” and “loud” sections. For example, ‘Segel Setzen’
sees beautiful, lush guitar melodies interweave and intertwine with one another, all the while gradually building towards devastating walls of noise consisting of caustic guitars, crashing drums and agonised, shouted vocals. It’s a tried-and-tested formula (some may argue, “Tired”) but fortunately Arroyo have enough personality to pull it off without sounding too generic.
Somewhat surprisingly however, is that it is in their more subdued moments that the band are at their best. The ten-minute long ‘Zwischen den Trümmern’
may rise and fall, but it never gets too
aggressive, though it still remains intense and interesting throughout with its introspective, and ever so slightly melancholic guitars, and fantastically intricate drumming. In fact the only ‘screamo’ element left intact is the coarse vocals, but rather than sounding out of place they instead act as a counterpoint to the relatively calm climax. On the whole ‘Arroyo’ has more in common with ‘post-rock’ than ‘screamo’, and this is by no means a bad thing as they still offer a personal, vaguely unique take on it. Album closer ’ Und abermals ergreifen wir die Flucht’
in particular is excellent, as it is concise and focussed, and ends the album in spectacular fashion, while the thirteen-minute epic ‘ Hunde werden wie Wölfe’
sees the band use sparse dynamics and atmosphere more successfully than anywhere else on the album.
In a world where ‘post-rock/skramz’ bands (yeah, I know) seemingly have universal dependence on relatively simple quiet-loud-quiet dynamics, it is refreshing to see that Arroyo, a band of whom both these questionable terms can be applied to, take a more calm, considered approach. The danger in doing this is that the band risk becoming just another ‘post-rock’ band, but luckily they just about have enough personality to avoid this. The other potential pitfall is that by toning down the aggressive intensity of the crescendos ‘Arroyo’ could be wholly monotonous and frustrating. While this is occasionally the case, generally speaking ‘Arroyo’ tends to toe the line between chaos and beauty well enough, and overall they have created a fairly unique, enjoyable debut album.