It’s not often that a band from a quaint London suburb with but an EP to their name beats out the likes of Framing Hanley, Frank Turner and Young Guns to claim the crowning “Smells Like Teen Spirit” spot of a Nevermind
covers compilation. You’d think that a more experienced band would be tasked with tackling the prickly nature of a song already covered to death and idolised by a fan-base likely to tear into any deviations from/similarities to the original. Luckily for us, Arcane Roots had a few too many balls to sit back and play it safe, which resulted in the twisted mass of shattering riffs and soaring vocals characterising one of the few covers worth its name. Bursting apart the confines of the original in such a style that at times the song was barely recognisable, Arcane Roots proved they had both musical maturity beyond their years and flair to match their youth.
With Blood & Chemistry
they’ve generally ironed out the minor issues with 2011’s (still excellent) Left Fire
EP, creating a much more consistent and layered début full-length which is more slow-burner than sudden-explosion. This does mean that those incredible moments aren’t as frequent or immense (there’s nothing quite like “Rouen”’s chorus or the skin-crawling end to “You Are”), but big hooks are abound and convulsive guitar riffs-cum-breakdowns often grab control to dip the music into more thunderous territory. Touches of delicate atmosphere are also present (see “Hell & High Water”, “Slow”, “Resolve”, etc) through twinkling broken chords and so Arcane Roots manage to craft sprawling canvases wherein the music takes a life of its own. Seemingly separate songs spring out of others, such as with “Slow” and its soft vocal led ending (which is the best part of the song), or the shimmering finale to closer “You Keep Me Here”. Still, the band are at their best when going all out with the anthems, with opener “Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected” and “You Keep Me Here” sporting the biggest choruses and the former also containing some of the most invigorating instrumental work of the album to help it claim best-song status.
Of course, Arcane Roots are unlikely to explode in popularity any time soon. Infectious melodies are a staple of their sound, but their music has a tendency to descend into a math-like intensity which screams more At The Drive-In than Biffy Clyro or Deaf Havana. With post-hardcore energy, alt-rock accessibility, progressive song structures and math-rock riffs, Arcane Roots are hard to define, but their impressive musicianship and refreshingly high passion are already showing up many of their peers. Blood & Chemistry
is far from perfect, but still developing their style, don’t expect this to be their peak.