For all the drama surrounding the ongoing fued between the 4 members of Fear Factory, you’d think the age old adage of ‘any press being good press’ would’ve helped promote Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera’s new band Arkaea. Nope. This album sold under 1000 copies in the US in its first full week of release, which is stunning when the core of its personnel is from such a legendary, not to mention popular metal act.
That selling total is somewhat strange, as the album strays nary a jot from the classic Fear Factory template of simple machine-gun riffing and solid rhythms. It feels very much like a logical progression from the last Fear Factory record, 2005’s Transgression. It’s filled with off-kilter drum patterns amongst the usual guitarwork. This doesn’t bode fantastically well, because with that aforementioned album, that incarnation of Fear Factory seemed to hit a creative stumbling block pretty quickly. Still, Wolbers and Herrera have had long enough to create some pretty venemous tunes like the crushing, urgent title track, first single Locust and The World As One. The main problem is that the album is just too samey. Too many similar sounding riffs, sparse variation and a rather limited delivery; it’s either groove-laden thrash or slower numbers. Because it features such metal alumni, you almost want it to be better than it is.
Perhaps the biggest plus for Years In The Darkness is the change of frontman, as Threat Signal vocalist Jon Howard has been drafted in to fill the void due to FF vocalist Burton C. Bell’s insistence on not being involved. The fact that these songs were written for Fear Factory, and with Bell in mind is obvious, but Howard is such a good singer/screamer that it’s never an issue. Being one of odays’ best metal vocalists, Howard soars and roars through almost every song on offer here, with momentus choruses in the aforementioned Locust and title track. Still, not even he can save songs like Rise Today. By the time that 12th track begins to play, you literally feel like you’ve heard it twice already on the same CD.
Maybe I’m being a bit too critical; Arkaea’s debut is hardly a bad album at all and has more than enough decent songs. It’s definitely great to hear some new songs in an FF mould after 4 long years, even with a new voice. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Years In The Darkness is that we’ve heard most of it before, and a bit more of a progression isn’t too much to ask from Messrs Wolbers and Herrera. Plus with Bell and original guitarist Dino Cazares seemingly promising a far more extreme, faster Fear Factory album within the next 6 months than anyone’s heard in some time (probably since Demanufacture in ’95), this new effort feels a bit more anticlimatic. Where the band can go from here remains to be seen, with bassist Pat Kavanagh and Howard heading off to promote Threat Signal’s sophomore effort Vigilance soon (reviewed when I’ve heard it), but you’d hope for a more cohesive second album from Arkaea if this group maintains hopes of being a serious band instead of a glorified side project.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt0NF9DQrV0 Arkaea – Locust Video