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Album Reviews : Arcania – Sweet Angel Dust

By on January 28, 2011

Unfortunately my very limited knowledge of anything French beyond the Tour de France, the Eiffel Tower, Snails & Frog’s legs does not stretch to an intimate insight of their metal scene.  Of course I know of the influence that the band Trust, had on the NWOBHM and in particular the thrash pioneers in the early ’80s.  More recently, the quality French band Gojira has gained massive acclaim worldwide with some epic releases in their catalogue. Not to mention, the summer open-air extreme music festival, Hellfest, held annually in Clisson which hosts many of the big names of the metal scene every year. So it is with some naivety that I delve into Arcania’s Sweet Angel Dust unguarded with no preconceptions, or sense of overriding anticipation in comparison to any of their earlier works.

Hailing from Angers in France, Arcania were spawned in 1999 by three 13 year old childhood friends. Tragedy struck the band in 2003 with the untimely death of 16 year old founding member Gabriel, ultimately changing the lives of remaining members Cyril and Guillaume forever.  After recruiting new members they forged ahead as a band. 2005 saw the release of a Self titled 4 track E.P and the years that followed were spent playing live and writing for the debut full length album. Sweet Angel Dust surfaced in 2010, through “Great Dane” records, recorded in the Dome Studio by David Potvin and mastered in Sweden by Peter in Betou (Opeth, Enslaved, Dimmu Borgir, Meshuggah etc.) at Tailor Maid Studios.

The gentle melodies of something that resembles a wind-up music box, intros, “Sweet Angel Dust”, the self- titled album opener.  The band finally fades in mimicking the music box and so we begin. A 7 minute slow heavy grinding affair based around a some simplistic thrash type riffage building to a brief but soaring acoustic midsection. A couple of even briefer up tempo thrash interludes follow that with any luck would lead the listener to what lie  in store throughout the rest of this release. Finally the music box music fades back in and rounds out this somewhat interesting opener.

“No End” follows galloping out of the blocks, with a more standard Thrash feel, featuring some blast beat work and Paul Bostoph like filling that lead into the vocals kicking in. Things slow down into a groovier midsection and feature some bear like growls that pay homage to Chuck Billy.  Things round out with an all too short, shredding solo passage. Along with the opener this track rates as one of better tracks on the album.

“Leave my Mind”, made my ears prick up (and not in a good way either). After a short generic opening riff, we hear what can only be described as a blatant rip off of Metallica’s “No Leaf Clover”, even down to the orchestral stings section. James Hetfield’s low croon is replicated here unashamedly to the point of being embarrassing, Arcadia finally takes the song in a different direction but you don’t really take notice mainly due to what you have just heard.  Whether it was meant to be some sort of salute to an underrated Metallica (post glory days) track, or as an out an out piss-take. It doesn’t take too many more tracks to work it out.

“As we fall”, starts out feeling slightly familiar, but when the main body of this song kicks in, it becomes apparent that these guys are nothing more than quite skilled Metallica fanatics, as with “Leave my Mind”, this track borrows greatly from, “My friend of Misery”. It is a shame really because, a couple of the earlier track show promise and are interesting enough to warrant repeat listens.

The piano/operatic instrumental “Interlude” serves only as a lead into “This Man Failed”, another track strewn with familiar sounding riffs and sections, which I won’t bother referencing other than saying think a poor man’s Trivium trying to sound like?? yep you guessed it…Metallica.

The album comes to a close with “My Funeral” a 10+ minute torturous epic, featuring all the original elements that could have made this album a much better release. There are progressive elements mixed with some groovier thrash moments. They use the closer to showcase their fine musicianship and band cohesion. It is just a shame that it took this long on the album to get to the point. I feel that this fine track will be lost on many first time listeners who will have given up before this track rolls.

In summing up, Sweet Angel Dust, is a truly frustrating listen, Arcania could have hit one out of the park with this release, there are some good tracks here featuring some quite interesting elements and a sound that works. Unfortunately for me, they rely too heavily on replicating the sounds of others in an attempt to get noticed. 5.5/10

Band: Arcania
Album: Sweet Angel Dust
Year: 2010
Genre: Thrash Metal
Label: Great Dane Records
Origin: France

Track listing:

1. Sweet Angel Dust
2. No End
3. Memento
4. Leave My Mind
5. Against My Fear
6. As We Fall
7. Interlude
8. This Man Failed
9. My Funeral    – Reviewers Choice

Reviewed By: Nathan Russell


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.